Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parisian Trains

France preserves their history and their traditions, so La Petite Ceinture, literally "The the little belt", old railroad line  built in the 1800's is now a beautiful greenbelt for walkers, runners, and anyone who enjoys gardens. There are several entrances, and I chose the one most recently restored, complete with an elevator for easier access if you have a bicycle or wheelchair.
Helpful markers on the trail tell you exactly where you are and how far you've gone.
You can also use the modern buildings
or classic old buildings as your markers for where you are or how far you've traveled.
Nature has taken over some of the area
artists have taken over other parts.
Some stretches have bits of both
humans and nature vying for space.
Preservation efforts have struck a nice balance
creating groomed spaces.
The modern replacement rail may not have the charm of the old,
but it has an unparalleled view :)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Baguettes and Viennoiseries

My name is Elaine and I am a bread addict. In fact my addiction is so all encompassing that I may have moved to France for the bread:) My favorite bread in Paris (so far) is the Pain des Amis that I've written and photographed constantly in other posts, but my daily bread is the baguette tradition bien cuit (cooked well done, because unlike my meat, which I like raw, I like my bread crispy). The Fournil Daguerre won the award for best bio baguette last year, so although I love my local Gontran Cherrier, I wanted to compare this winner to what I normally buy.

At the further end of the market street Daguerre in the 14th, the boulangerie has a pleasant corner location with a few seats and tables so you can enjoy a sandwich or pastry sur place (at the shop instead of to take away).

The baguette tradition exterior had a nice chewy crust with the perfect amount of crunch vs. springiness. 
The center was absolutely delightful with the soft air pocketed texture and yeasty flavor that gives baguettes their worldwide reputation. Once you've tasted a baguette like this, you will never be able to eat supermarket bread again:)
A few blocks down Daguerre near the busy metro station where the Orly Bus stops is Moisan, on Ave. Général Leclerc, which specializes in organic breads and pastries. 
Their baguette tradition was far too dense for my taste and didn't have the finesse or flavor of the one from Fournil Daguerre. I did like their pain complet which was meant to be dense and still managed to be flavorful.
It's said that no one does everything well, and while I didn't like their baguettes, Moisan does the best almond chocolate viennoiseries I've tasted in Paris. In my opinion, they are better than La Durée or Eric Kayser. Because they use organic ingredients, the flavors are more subtle, rich, and nuanced than other boulangeries. Sorry about the slightly unsymmetrical form, but I broke off a piece before taking the picture.
Normally, I don't finish my viennoiseries or desserts, but once I bit into this delicate pastry with a perfectly proportioned almond filling, I couldn't stop
until I got to the back with chocolate, and yes it was enough chocolate, and yes, I ate the entire thing!
If one viennoiserie was great, two would better better, right? Yes! Their pain aux raisins was exquisite! A buttery, circular roll of plump raisins in a delicate pastry that somehow managed to be light yet satisfying without the annoying excess of sweetness that some places use as a substitute for quality ingredients. This was the best pain aux raisins I've ever tasted.
Having the two places within blocks of each other means I can get a great baguette tradition and wonderful viennoiseries without having to take a metro from one to the other, and in Paris, that is considered "easy shopping":)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Meal to Be Forgotten

An American, Australian and Englishman walk into a restaurant in Paris and by the time they walk out, the only thing they remember is that they will not be going back.

The setting is beautiful, and it's conveniently located near Notre Dame along the Seine. The wait staff was efficient and professional and they offer menus in English (a big red flag, especially in a location so close to a major tourist attraction).

The tables have hidden drawers which hold the cutlery and napkins. This little discovery was the highlight of the evening.
We had some wine and tapas, starting with the chicken and cheese croquetas. They were warm and would have been excellent with a bit of flavor enhancement which the vegetable salsa on the side did not provide. The salsa resembled cooked down leftover vegetables rather than salsa.
The peppers came with dried mullet slices, raspberries, and white beans. The chef may have been trying to create some unusual flavor combination, but this try did not succeed as it still ended up bland with the exception of the dried mullet slices which added nothing to the dish other than a bit of contrasting texture.
 The zucchini salad looked fresh and was, but again the crime of blandness applied.
The best thing we tasted was the octopus, which was tender and came with a marvelous side of grilled pineapple, but when a side fruit accompaniment is the highlight of the food, that is a sad statement.
My fellow diners wanted more food (I declined after enough bland plates in one night), so they got the Cote de Boeuf. Yes that is as small of a plate as it looks, and the grand total of the small bland plates paired with two modest bottles of Spanish wine came to 54 each for three people, which equals about $70 US for 1.33 plates of tapas and 2.5 glasses of wine. They offer menus for 51which feature paella and several small plates, so you could gamble on a full meal here, but I am not a gambler.
I have no desire to remember this place*, so it will be filed away as a meal to be forgotten. Apparently the chef here changed recently, so all the previous stellar reviews of this place were for the last menu/chef.

*Because of the recent fine of a blogger for a bad review in France, I am omitting the name of this restaurant.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sodam Korean

Now that I've lived here for over a year, I have finally (almost) gotten enough French food to want another kind of cuisine. I had a craving for Korean. Although I knew that the open grills found all over Los Angeles don't exist here, I was willing to at least try to find something good. The Fork is like OpenTable, and when diners ranked Sodam 9.2 out of 10 in picky Paris, I gambled and tried it. 

Like all true treasures, I had to venture outside my known world to find this gem. Their lunch menu is only 13  ($16 US) and includes a drink (in France that means a glass of wine), appetizer and main course. Their salad is not only beautiful, but their sesame dressing is superb.
Their pot sticker appetizer was extraordinary, filled with minced pork and vegetables in a light wrapping, I could have easily made a meal of these
which were served with a sesame soy dipping sauce.
Of course all Korean restaurants include side dishes, and Sodam was no different, except that I missed having kimchee as one of my sides. Kimchee can be ordered as a separate side for 3 ($5 US) but I found it hard to pay that much for what is a free side in the US. Imagine having to pay for ketchup for your fries :/ It looked good and maybe one day I will order it, but today wasn't that day.
Extra points that their rice was not your average plain white.
On one visit I got the bulgogi or marinated BBQ beef which came with it's own personal sized "grill".
Yes, the beef came raw so that you could cook it as long as you wanted. The shallots, garlic, and beef serving was copious and the flavor was very good, although not as pronounced as I would have liked.
On another visit I ordered the spicy (I asked for spiciest) chicken sautéed with vegetables which had a subtly sweet flavor. This was perfect for someone venturing out of their normal comfort zones, but it left me wanting much more heat.
Every time I went, the service was extremely friendly and there were large tables of Korean families who were regulars. I would definitely go back to try more of their menu because it seems this is one of the rare places in Paris that comes close to bringing a taste of Korea to the city of lights.