Paris, Part 2

April 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

Second half my Paris re-cap: Vanessa and I ate lots and lots of raw, super fresh oysters throughout our trip. It was crazy how ubiquitous they were and always so delicious (didn’t get a stinker the entire time we were there). Here is a starter before a much heavier meal at seafood-oriented Marius et Janette, right before Dita’s show at Crazy Horse.

We visited the Musee d’Orsay, one of my favorite museums in the world, and got lost in some Impressionist art one afternoon.

Browsed beautiful Astier de Villatte ceramics while shopping on the super luxurious Rue Saint Honore.

Stopped by Cafe de Flore for champagne and potato chips. This is what we loved most about Paris…falling into the leisurely habit of sitting at a sidewalk cafe, people watching and not worrying about where to hurry to next. By the end of the trip, we were total pros.

A crazy good meal at Le Servan, run by sisters Tatiana and Katia Levha, where they’re cooking up some seriously creative and slightly Asian-inflected food in an airy and almost Williamsburg-esque bistro. This was the first time Vanessa had ever had veal sweetbreads (this version was roasted and perfectly tender) and I don’t think she was disappointed.

After Le Servan, we stopped by Prescription for some really great cocktails…I think I had about 10 different kinds of booze this night (something gin + citrus based, their version of a Negroni, their version of a Penicillin, shots of rum and on and on and on) while Vanessa fell in love with their gin + tonics and kept throwing them back. By the time they were closing up shop, we were so hammered that we asked the bartenders for their late night food recommendations and at their suggestion, ended up at a place called Chez Denis in the middle of nowhere that was literally just a bistro open late. Groups of inebriated people were eating full meals with bottles of wine at 5 in the morning and neither of us could comprehend how the French could eat so much but there you have it.

Some more culture…this time at the Musee de l’Orangerie right on the edge of the Jardins des Tuileries, which I’d never visited before. We started with the two stunning circular rooms of Claude Monet’s water lilies, where we just sat there for a long while to take everything in, and then progressed through the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection.

I also really love works by the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, so when I found out there was a standalone exhibit of his works and studio near the Centre Pompidou (admission is free, by the way), we popped by for a quick visit (the atelier is only four rooms). I mean…just look at that! I really liked that he was so particular and personally tied to his pieces that he planned exactly which sculpture went where and even refused to sell pieces that were especially dear to him.

Tasting menu at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in the Saint Germain neighborhood. While not as thrilling as I thought it would be (there were also a lot of Americans there, which made it feel more like a tourist destination than anything else), the service was impeccable and some of the dishes were truly standout, such as this chestnut soup with seared foie gras hidden beneath.

A flower vendor on a romantic rainy day…

The awe-inspiring stained glass windows at Sainte-Chappelle on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of Paris.

My crazy-good braised veal cheeks and buttery potatoes at the homey, modest-looking Chez L’Ami Jean. This meal, even though relatively low-key compared to some others we had, was among my favorites. We started with a comforting Parmesan soup that was perfect for the rainy weather, this as a main dish (goddamn, those potatoes) and then the biggest and richest bowl of rice pudding (with candied nuts and salted caramel sauce) that anyone had ever seen. It was also very cool to see the chef Stephane Jego and his cooks plating each dish in the open kitchen.

More art, this time at the relatively new Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation, which was currently featuring contemporary Chinese artists. Below is a photo of the gorgeous grotto on the lower level.

Our last dinner at David Toutain was another highlight. Everything about the restaurant – the interiors, the ceramics and flatware, the service (our hip-looking server actually lived and worked in Brooklyn for a while) and of course, the food, was incredible. There was a smoked eel dish in black sesame that absolutely blew our minds and the below, perfectly cooked lamb with asparagus and spring vegetables. Amazing. We were so sad our trip was coming to an end.

After dinner, we went to a bar called Le Calbar, where all the friendly bartenders were serving well-made cocktails in their boxers. Yet again, we met some friendly locals and ended up closing down the bar. A great last night out.

Our last day in Paris consisted of a lot of shopping and running errands before our flight. I stopped in Deyrolle, mainly to ogle the gorgeous displays of insects and butterflies, and considering picking up something but couldn’t figure out how to fit a fragile glass frame in my already-stuffed suitcase. So sad.

Sigh…last lunch at our good ol’ Cafe Varenne. It’d become our place for morning coffee and breaks in the middle of the day and now, we were having our last meal of charcuterie, cheese and frites. It was a beautiful sunny day and we got to sit outside and enjoy our last bit of freedom before heading home to New York. It was, all in all, a dream trip where we got to eat and drink extremely well, meet some warm and friendly locals, experience art and culture and most importantly, just relax and soak up the beauty of Paris as much as we possibly could. It was so hard to leave (I was thinking about my next trip on the flight back) and settle back into reality upon our return (though I did pick up some good butter and a jar of cornichons at Murray’s Cheese the morning after I got back) but I know that I will be back soon.

 

Bowery Meat Company

March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

A couple days after Momofuku Ko, Artemis, Chris, Tim and I had dinner at the relatively new Bowery Meat Company, operated by the same team behind the scene-y Lure Fishbar and Burger & Barrel. Our reservation was on possibly the coldest night of the year so the idea of tucking into some red meat and red wine sounded perfect. The interior is huge with a mid-century feel (lots of Eames chairs and the like that I wanted to just pick up and take with me). I’m also really digging all of these recent restaurants emphasizing spaciousness instead of cramming as many tables as possible into a given space. It makes a huge difference when you don’t have to yell over the conversation of the people next to you and you’re not elbow to elbow with your fellow diners.

Starters: hand-cut steak tartare with grilled bread and baby romaine, which wasn’t as memorable as some other steak tartares I’ve had and needed more acid or spice to cut the beef flavor (also, nobody at the table cared for the romaine), and Chinese BBQ pork belly with butter lettuce and pickled vegetables, which had good flavor and freshness from the pickles. My favorite starter was the dish of broiled oysters with garlic, romano cheese, bread crumbs and parsley. Normally I favor raw oysters because their flavor doesn’t get lost in accompaniments or sauces but these were barely cooked through and smothered in piping cheesy, garlicky goodness, so who am I to complain? We also received some complimentary croquettes (one meat and one basil, cheese) from our server that were quite tasty.

We also had a middle course of the duck lasagna for two with caciocavallo cheese and parmesan. The portioning is highly misleading because I’m pretty confident this lasagna, which comes out of the kitchen in an enormous, steaming casserole dish and is then divided table-side, could easily put four people of average eating capability in a cheese-carb coma, especially if combined with a magnum of Chateauneuf du Pape. It was SO good, especially on a night that was 10 degrees below 0 outside. At one point, I thought to myself that if I were to ever come here again with just one other person, I’d get the oysters and the lasagna and completely ignore the red meat (keep in mind we hadn’t gotten our steaks yet). I still kind of think that actually. I bet the lasagna would make for some amazing leftovers.

Our mains were the insane and beautiful 20 oz chateaubriand with charred brussels sprouts, parsley potatoes and sauce chasseur. No idea what a sauce chasseur is (a quick Google search mentions a sauce of demi-glace, mushrooms, shallots and sometimes tomato sauce) but it seriously made the dish. It kind of reminded me of salted toffee, with its sweet and savory qualities. I even dipped some of the frites in that ish.

We also shared the Bowery steak (Grub Street did a write-up about this interesting cut created just for BMC) with salsa verde and whipped potatoes; an enormous sour cream and onion hash brown of perfect crispiness, compliments of the kitchen; and a bottle of 2009 Saint-Estephe by La Dame de Montrose. Needless to say, by the time we finished our meal and went back out into the cold and windy night, we were well fortified by some seriously tasty (albeit heavy) food and wine in our system.

And because I hadn’t given enough money to Lelabar at that point, Artemis, Chris and I went and shared a killer bottle of 1989 (my birthday year!) Cos d’Estournel and 2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. There was a point late in the evening, which included a hilarious run-in with a co-worker, when I probably should’ve stumbled home but thanks to Chris’ enabling, I was persuaded to get a bottle of the 2012 Golgotha from Scholium Project in California. Only about 22 cases were made of this period and 2012 was a standout year that yielded an intensely perfumed wine that for some crazy reason, reminded me of those tiny Asian yogurt cartons you sometimes get at the end of a meal in a Chinese restaurant or eat when you’re a kid (not sure where I was getting the yogurt component – possibly because of its three fermentations?). Bizarre, I know, but strangely evocative of my childhood in the best possible way and I could not get this wine out of my head. About a week later, Chris and I went back to Lela and had the very last bottle and in despair, I went home tipsy, scoured the internet, found it at a store in Dallas and ordered three bottles. It will take all the will power I have to not drink them all within a month.

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