Monday, April 14, 2014

Spicy Beer-Braised Pot Roast

This is a kicked-up version of the classic pot roast recipe that adds lots of heat and flavor!  Make sure you remove the seeds from the cherry peppers otherwise your dish will come out super spicy.

1 (4-5 lb.) beef chuck roast
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions, halved
4 carrots, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
2 red cherry peppers, seeds removed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (12-ounce bottle) dark beer (I used Saranac Black Forrest beer)
4 medium, Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 to 2 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 heaping tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 275°F
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Season meat on all sides with salt and pepper.
Once oil is hot, add the meat and brown it on all sides, about 5 minutes total.
Transfer meat to a plate and reduce heat to medium-high.
Add onion, carrots, garlic and peppers and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add beer and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon.
Return the meat to the Dutch oven and add the potatoes.
Add Worcestershire sauce and enough broth to cover the meat with liquid half way. Add mustard, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Cover and transfer to the oven to cook until tender, 3 to 4 hours.
Once meat is done cooking and potatoes are tender, remove from oven. Discard bay leaves and thyme.
Serves 8-10

Porcini Mushroom Cornbread Recipe

I love making this foolproof cornbread recipe. The only difference between versions is the flavor combination. The list of adaptations is endless. I never have a specific idea of the meal I'm going to prepare on a daily basis. My first reflex is to inspect my refrigerator, then go through the pantry and finally mix and match flavors that can complement one another. That's the beauty of cooking.
This time, I mixed crushed hazelnuts, dried porcini mushrooms and roasted garlic into the batter. The pungency from the garlic, the richness from the hazelnuts and the extravagance of the mushrooms created the ultimate, most luxurious cornbread I could think of. Don't you agree?

How to Make Perfect French Crepes (Video)

Bonjour! I'm very excited to introduce you to my new cooking channel on YouTube. It's been on my to-do list for a while but I was never satisfied with the results. It's been almost 3 years since the last time I posted a video, so this "How to Make Perfect French Crêpes" cooking tutorial is one of the first new videos and there are many more to come. 
Let me share with you words of advice my husband Lulu often gives me. It's a saying from Voltaire: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." It's so true. I've finally decided to let go and keep this expression in mind in my day-to-day life. So I finally did it and launched my YouTube channel (PhamFataleDotCom). I tend to want perfection, I searched many editing software programs, multiple camera views and finally opted for my camera phone! In the end, this video was shot in one take. It's raw, mostly unedited footage. 

Glazed Pearl Onion Crepe Recipe

After watching the "How to Make Crêpe Batter" tutorial,  you'll see how fairly basic it is. As I mentioned in the video, I first learned how to make crêpes in kintergarten back in France, and I haven't forgotten since then. After a little practice, you'll be able to adjust the quantities of liquid (milk, alcohol or citrus juice) by eyeballing until the perfect consistency is reached (see video). 
You can fill the crêpes with many possible ingredients. This savory version containedpearl onions that I glazed in Marsala wine, brown sugar, butter and truffle balsamic vinegar. It wouldn't be the same without a bit of cheese, so I started with a thin layer of Gruyère and topped the onions with a sprinkle of French feta. 

Almond Chocolate Cookie Cake Pie Recipe

Have you ever cooked a turducken? In case you don't know what a turducken is, it's a deboned turkey stuffed with a deboned duck stuffed with a deboned chicken. Turduckens are usually stuffed with breadcrumb dressing. Well, the idea for this elaborate dessert is smilar in concept,  but a sweet version. I wanted to layer one dessert into another and create a special, sweet treat: a cookie cake pie.
Somehow I managed to wrestle the whole thing together and came up with a dessert that I think made sense. It consisted of an almond passion fruit cheesecake inside analmondine tart, which is stuffed into a vanilla chocolate slivered almond cookie pie and finally layered on puff pastry dough.
I rarely make exactly the same dish twice. Once you've worked on your fundamentals, you can start to use the basic recipe and create dozens of different variations. This unique dessert is a true reflection of my cuisine. I love experimenting with new dishes and seeing my loved ones enjoying the fruit of my labor. Now all I need is to come up with a clever name for this unique dessert!

Picnic Quinoa Salad Recipe

My husband Lulu, baby Aria and I had a delightful time at San Gregorio beach this weekend. He took care of most of the food; I only prepared a salad. For easy transportation, I cooked quinoa and pre-seasoned it with a salad vinaigrette. I also added carrot, corn, broccolizucchini, sun-dried tomatoes and sweet cheese.

Lulu was so thoughtful and took care of the rest. He woke up early, took care of our new puppy Ernest, went groceries shopping, bought a baguette and a wonderful array of cheeses (manchego, out-of-this world truffle cheese, goat cheese, etc.) and packed the trunk of the car with our picnic bag with plates and cutlery. But I think the most beautiful surprise was when we reached the beach. He gave Aria a gift of a lovely beach sand toy set and bubble kit. You should have seen the excitement in her eyes; it almost made me teary.
It was such an incredible day: the weather was gorgeous; it was slightly overcast and the sounds of the waves were very pleasant. The view was spectacular with a beautiful soft sand beach and dunes to the right and a bridge to the left, complete with a creek underneath and a tunnel worn into the rocks nearby. We also enjoyed good food and stayed there for a few hours. My favorite part was watching Lulu and Aria building sand castles. Loved it!

Spinach Risotto and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

“Inferior people talk about others, average people talk about things, superior people talk about ideas.” -Dr. Robert Monaco
I don’t think that I’m alone in that I never met my paternal grandfather. I have a lot of friends who, growing up had just a few or even one grandparent, and I had three, plus my maternal great-grandfather, so I was doing pretty OK as far as grandparents are concerned. That being said, when I was very young — maybe four or five — I was obsessed with knowing everything there was to know about my grandfather.
In retrospect, I think I must have scared my dad a bit with these requests. I didn’t want to know what he was like when my dad was little; those questions came later. But my mother had already had two more children and may have even been pregnant with a third, so I knew that there was a certain amount of time when there was a baby coming before the baby had actually arrived. And I slowly figured out that my grandfather had been alive during that time. He knew about me.
This is the part where I probably scared my dad.
I used to wake up crying, and when one of my parents came in, I would tell them I missed my grandfather, the one that I had never met. I distinctly remember waking up in the middle of the night to see an older man sitting on the edge of my bed, though I concede that it was likely a dream. And just once, when I was ten, someone called the house and I answered, and then man said he was my grandfather; it wasn’t the voice of my mother’s father, and I hung up immediately. For hours after, I wished I had stayed on the line. I still don’t know who it was.
I don’t know what any of this means, nor have I ever really tried to decipher it. After the age of ten, that connection to my grandfather disappeared, and I no longer felt this need to know more about the time where our lives almost crossed paths.
But I did want to know more about the man he was. I draw stories out of my father as best I can, whenever it seems natural, whenever it seems as though he may have something to say. Sometimes he doesn’t want to talk about his father, which I understand. In some stories, my grandfather seems more like a character than a person, a doctor raising four children, a genius who couldn’t understand why no one else was.
He was precise. One of my favorite stories comes from when he first met my uncle by marriage. He was driving, peering through a small window of clarity in an otherwise fogged up windshield. My uncle, attempting to be helpful, wiped the condensation from the inside of the car. My father was terrified, but my grandfather, though he was likely fuming inside, said nothing.

My father has a few triad sayings inherited from his father. One is that you spend a third of your life asleep, so get a good mattress, and a third of your life working, so do something you love. I can never remember if the third part is about finding someone to spend the third part with or doing something you enjoy, so I try to do both.
The second is my favorite. “Inferior people talk about others, average people talk about things, superior people talk about ideas.” I’ve been hearing it for so long that I’ve never questioned it, never really even thought about it except to put it into practice. Talk about ideas. Talk about where you’ve been and where you’re going. Talk about books and art and music. Talk about things you question and things you don’t quite understand.

I’m still sorry I never met my grandfather, but I suppose I can feel lucky that he left behind a strong enough legacy for me to have some idea, however small, of the man he was.
Spinach Risotto with Confit Tomatoes
1 pound cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. olive oil
1 shallot
salt and black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
2-3 cups chicken broth or water, warmed
1 Tbsp. prepared pesto
1 Tbsp. butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Halve the cherry tomatoes and toss them the the olive oil, orange juice and salt. Place in a glass baking dish and roast while you prepare the risotto.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Finely mince the shallot and add to the olive oil. Season with a bit of salt. Sauté until slightly golden, about 4-5 minutes. 
Add the arborio rice and cook until translucent, 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add the frozen spinach. Cook until the liquid is absorbed.
Add the chicken broth or water by the half-cupful, stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Continue for approximately 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender but still al dente and the risotto is thick but slightly soupy.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the pesto and butter. Serve in deep soup plates topped with the roasted cherry tomatoes.

Another Salade Niçoise

I suppose it’s been a long time coming, but I had an “aha!” moment yesterday. We came out to Coullons to visit The Country Boy’s family. We drove from the train station to the tiny town that I’ve got no idea how many times I’m visited. TCB asked his mom to pull over so he could buy a pack of cigarettes before the Tabac closed for lunch. He joked that he was going to buy a lotto scratch card instead; he mentioned it by brand name, but I understood. Nostalgie radio was playing Michel Sardou. TCB and his mother were talking about the local mayoral elections, immigration politics and socialism. It was raining. We were parked in front of the red brick town hall.

I don’t know which combination of these elements sent me back to my time in Lille — the rain, the radio, the brick, the background noise of conversation — but I realized, suddenly, that that constant feeling of other-ness that I’d felt during my time in Lille and, to be honest, for most of my seven years in France — was gone.

The music, the buildings, the language… the things that had seemed quaint and new and intriguing when I first got here were now just… normal. Day-to-day. I wonder if I would find America less familiar, now. I wonder if there would be things that would shock me there, the opposite things that shocked me here: long opening hours, modern architecture, lack of smokers. I wonder if I would be charmed by things that I witness in America, the way I was when I first arrived in France and was charmed by the way that people always said bonjour and au revoir and gave bises and stopped to talk to each other in the street.

Things became even clearer in the evening, when we went to a friend’s house for apéro. Drinks were poured, and we sat for at least 20 minutes, just talking, no one drinking, before our friend’s mother finally reached for her glass and said, “Bon.
The rest of us followed suit, lifting our glasses and looking each person in the eye, saying tchin. It’s natural now. So natural that, for once, I didn’t look at it with the sort of navel-gazing other-ness that I usually have when I participate in routines that are normal for others and foreign for me. It was normal for me. So normal, in fact, that I probably wouldn’t have even written about it if our friend’s mother hadn’t looked at me and said, “Vous faites ça aux États-Unis ?” Do you do this in America?

I assumed she was talking about saying “cheers” and clinking glasses. I said that we did, but that it wasn’t quite as obligatory. They all laughed; I realized we were talking about apéro in general.
My answer still stands.

Chèvre, Asparagus, Peas, Arugula

Luckily, I have a Country Boy, who has taught me many things:
- Usually in French apartments, all of the plumbing is connected, so if the sink is blocked, you can cover all the other drains with wet sponges and plunge it.
- If you don’t like the answer you’ve gotten from a French fonctionnaire, it’s OK to stomp around and yell a little bit, but it goes over better when you’re “French since Charlemagne.”
- Cheese has seasons.
- Goat cheese is better when you pet the baby goats first.

These pictures are from last year, but last weekend, TCB and I returned to the farm near his parents’ house where they sell fresh goat’s cheese. We always make a stop in the goat nursery first to pet the baby goats.
Baby animals are very exciting for me. TCB says he doesn’t get how I can get so excited about baby animals. I tell him that I don’t see how he can get so excited about taxis.
It’s very Country Mouse and City Mouse.

Late Winter Salad

Getting to work in the morning has become different in the past few weeks.
For one, I go to the gym before work, which means that I get to the neighborhood quite a bit earlier than I used to, at around eight. I did used to come in that early in the winter, but it was winter, and it was cold, and it was dark, and it was far less pleasant than it is now.
Now, I know everyone.
The neighborhood where I work actually isn’t in Paris, but in Boulogne, a suburb of the city. The street where we work is home to a permanent market, similar to Rue Cler (though far smaller), with two bakeries, two pharmacies, two greengrocers, a butcher, a fishmonger, a supermarket, a café, an Italian épicerie and a charcuterie. Deduce what you will about how the French prioritize.
There is no wine shop, but luckily, the cheese man sells wine.
Much of my work involves filming video recipes, and when we’re filming, someone has to go grocery shopping. While there is occasionally someone else to fetch the last-minute things a chef forgot to ask us for, when it comes to ordering the bizarre cuts of meats, foreign vegetables and fish that our Portuguese fishmonger has never heard of, it’s usually me. And that means that I have made friends with most of the people along the street.
In the mornings, I have time. I have always loved mornings for that. Of course, if you’re rushing into work at the last minute, you don’t have time, but arriving an hour and a half before work begins gives me the luxury of observing the neighborhood in the morning, and it’s the sort of scene you can’t make up.
One of the greengrocers is getting a coffee at the café, already decked out in his uniform brown apron. The café owner, who usually calls me mon ange, doesn’t notice me; I don’t take it personally: I’m out of context in the morning. He’ll say his first bonjour this afternoon when we stop by for a drink before lunch.
The other greengrocer is already at his post, unloading the trucks from Rungis. He calls me charmante.
The butcher, Franck, is having his morning cigarette in front of the closed Asian traiteur. He calls me Emily, and when he writes my factures, he spells it properly. Even the Country Boy’s family sometimes forgets the y.
They all tutoie me except for the fishmonger, but I can’t fault him for it: I know what it is to be overly polite to compensate for the foreignness of the language.
As I walk through this neighborhood that is not mine but which I have appropriated, I can’t deny it.
Spring is officially here in Paris.

That being said, I know that’s not the case everywhere else, particularly in certain parts of the States. I made this salad a few weeks ago, before all of the fantastic produce had started popping up, when all I had to choose from was arugula and root vegetables. Still, it was fresh and tasty and perfect for the weather, just starting to warm up.

Late Winter Salad
2 Tbsp. olive oil, separated
2 carrots
2 parsnips
2 cups baby arugula
1 lemon
2 ounces feta
1/2 red onion
1 avocado
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the carrots and parsnips into fries. Toss them with one of the tablespoons of oil and a bit of salt. Roast, turning occasionally, until soft on the inside and caramelized on the outside, about 20-25 minutes.
Toss the arugula with the remaining oil and enough lemon juice for your palate. (For me that’s a whole lemon, but I like lemon.) Season with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice the red onion and toss it in the the arugula.
Halve the avocado around the pit and separate the two halves. Use a spoon to remove each avocado half from the skin. Thinly slice the avocado lengthwise, and fan it out over the top of the arugula. 
Remove the parsnips and carrots from the oven, and place them decoratively in bunches over the top of the arugula. Drizzle any cooking juices over the top. Sprinkle the feta over the salad. Dream of spring… it’s coming soon.
P.S. If I’d had some cilantro, I would have added a bunch of it to the salad… but TCB hates it, so I didn’t.

Asparagus, Radish, Spinach, Buffalo Mozzarella

It may seem strange to post this right after posting that spring is officially here, but I was a little bit late on my last post, I guess, and on top of everything, that exceedingly short period that’s one of my favorite moments of spring is over.
Skinny asparagus are gone.
I hope you don’t find me melodramatic in saying that it is a calamity.
I remember when I first moved back to Paris in September and met the Shoe Fiend; we were talking about all the exciting things there were to do and see in Paris, and she lamented over one thing.
“There are no asparagus here.”
I assured her that there would be in several months, but I couldn’t fault her for not knowing. Hailing from a country where you can get strawberries in December means that seasonality is a relative affair. While the white asparagus that are so popular here in France are seldom available Stateside (or rather, such was the case when I lived there — um — seven years ago [I should probably stop overgeneralizing about the States]), the skinny green ones tend to be pretty easy to find in mega marts for most of the year.
Not so in France.
It was only about three weeks ago that the first bunches of pencil-thin asparagus started becoming available at my local Carrefour. I stocked up, not that I distinctly remembered what was coming. I just knew I had to get my hands on as many bunches as I could. And sure enough, after just a handful of recipes, it happened: one day, there were no more skinny green asparagus. My grocery store had replaced them with skinny white asparagus, and my local primeur was stocking the fat ones that the Country Boy likes boiled with a good amount of butter.
I love asparagus. I will eat properly prepared white and fat green asparagus — prepared by someone else. But when it comes to asparagus in my kitchen, I am a spoiled brat. I want pencil-thin green asparagus. I want them roasted. That’s all I want.
I’m demanding when it comes to monocots.
Now before anyone gets huffy, I’m not claiming that these skinny asparagus are absolutely nowhere to be found. I’ve seen organic 400 gram bundles at Monoprix for 9 euros.
I considered them. At length.
Maybe they’ll make a comeback this spring. Maybe I’ll have to wait til next spring. At any rate, Americans, cherish your asparagus; you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

Czech, please: drunch at Sansho, Prague

Prague is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but, excepting high end French gastronomy clones and beer halls purveying hearty fare, it has never really had much to draw gastrotourists to its regal streets. But a few addresses are changing the way people think about the Czech capital, and at the forefront is undoubtedly Sansho.

Founded by Brit chef Paul Day, Sansho, a modern little table replete with local media types and Brooklynesque tattooed and bearded servers, is making waves. Day, who apprenticed as a butcher at the age of 13, then who worked for three years at a Chinese butchers, went on to be number two at Nobu London followed by a stint at Nahm, (the first Thai restaurant in the world to gain a Michelin star) with David Thompson, and on to open a private club (failed) in Prague. This failure resulted in him opening his own place.

Thompson's skills in butchering, wok'ing, and roasting, love of and insistent use of local ingredients, and repertoire of South Asian recipes make Sansho an exciting table, especially in the staid, traditional Czech capital. Star dishes such as spider crab sliders with wasabi mayo, tea smoked trout with green  mango, and pork belly (from rare breed Prestik pig) with watermelon are, as Day says, "updating the Czech palate".

Le BAT, Yariv Berrebi's new Bar a Tapas et Tartares, Paris

One of the more surprising eateries to open up in recent months is this modern spot serving small dishes in a bar space around an open kitchen, wedged somewhere between the Hard Rock Café and Indiana Café (worst "Tex Mex" in Paris). An ovni (UFO) as the French food press would call it, this bar a tapas et tartares has young Israeli chef Yariv Berrebi (formerly of Kitchen Galerie bis) behind the counter live cooking excellent quality produce to crowds of businessmen (lunch), theatergoers (they are open until 11pm weekdays and midnight on Saturdays) and clued up foodies. Prices are reasonable, and although the cooking is (justifiably) a bit less asian fusion than before, Berrebi is an interesting chef to watch out for (although his rapid departure from ZKG was a bit of a shock for some). The 24€ three course menu is a steal.

Moving forward

Cher followers, forgive me for having neglected you, I haven't been updating much lately because of a personal project that has come to fruition and which is taking up most of my (limited) free time with frequent travel to the far corners of the earth. That being said, I will try to keep you all up to date on the Paris restaurant zeitgeist with a bit more regularity (that won't be hard given my recent meagre efforts!), and I promise you that ze project, a beautiful book with a very well known publisher will be worth the wait.

Coretta, Paris

I'm often drawn to unlikely restaurants in out of the way areas, eclectic locations with chefs still trying to prove their mettle, in hastily decorated dining rooms, before the world gastro-press jumps in and with the press of the enter button, make it all but impossible to get it. I like these places pre-buzz. The exciting tables before the excitement.

Coretta is one of these interesting little places. Located on the edge of the trendy Batignolles quarter, overlooking the Martin Luther King parc that would have been the location of the last Olympics game if Paris hadn't failed on their bid, this shiny new duplex is one of the better places to have opened lately in this neck of the woods.

Coretta, named after King's wife, is the brainchild of Beatriz Gomez, who trained at the Michelin starred Grande Cascade before leaving and setting up shop in a forgotten corner of the 8th arrondissement at Neva, which quickly garnered a Michelin star for its delicate, original cooking.

The reasonably priced menu (24 € limited lunch menu or 33/39€ for two or three courses) offers dishes such as homemade foie gras with pommelos, brioche and demi sel codfish with pickled vegetables. Cooking is precise, products well sourced and the wine list predictably natural. Go on a Monday when Beatriz is freed from her duties at Neva and cooks here. And make sure you order the cinnamon bun dessert in advance (we didn't :(   ) , because it takes 45 minutes to cook. And go before the whole blogosphere and Condé Nasties blow it up.

Blue Valentine

The neighbourhood where I've lived for the past few years has gotten its fair share of press and has a plethora of restaurants to choose from, but these addresses are surprisingly bereft of interest (with a few and growing exceptions). Canal-side I find myself going back to tried and true favorites: Holybelly for great coffee and Frenchified Anglo breakfasty comfort foods, Philou, for quintessentially great and simple bistro food with eminently quaffable natural wines, The Cork and the Cavan for the occasional pint (they have the best Guinness in Paris, FYI) and selection of local characters at the bar, and now, Blue Valentine.

Blue Valentine is a quirky little place in a quiet street hidden behind the Canal quays with a chef (Terumitsu Saito) who trained at the Mandarin Oriental, Paris among other places, and his all-Nippon brigade turns out dishes that are like textbook studies in French classics, all rigorously seasonal, and although not surprisingly inventive, this table is a great addition to the new wave of tables from Japanese ex-palace/Michelin star establishment workers.

I had a crunchy asparagus dish wrapped in laser thin lardo followed by an astounding slow cooked lamb dish with white beans that staved off the chill in the air yet almost made me long for the winter again. Lunchtime menu is currently Paris' best value at under 20€. Make the trek.

Les archives du rêve aka Archives of the Dream, Drawings from the Orsay but at the Orangerie.

The Orangerie is currently hosting a show of drawings from the Orsay's huge (80,000) works, selected by Werner Spies, former director of the Musee National d'Art Moderne.  It's almost too much with works by Degas, Seurat, Redon, Cezanne and so on.  Quite dazzling.

Le Bistrot du Maquis in the 18th: Classic, inventive and a huge pleasant surprise - That's all Folks.

7.4 Le Bistrot du Maquis, 69, rue Caulincourt in the 18th,, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, is a place my best flanneur-friend-nabe chanced on and I leapt - a good new place on Montmartre - try it.  With some research it was revealed that chef Andre Le Letty had been (alphabetically) at Anacreon, L'Agassin, Ledoyen, Prunier and the Tour d'Argent.  With that cv it might be heaven or hell.

The menu/cartes are, as my old friend and colleague, used to say - "confusigrams."  There's a lunch formula at 16 E and "menus" with 2 courses for 29 E and 3 for 36 E, and a la carte that could run 30--45 E.  But on them it's lotsa cool stuff.

For starters, our French friend, who knows more about food than anyone I've ever met/known, had the terrine of pied de cochon which was both classic and inventive and my buddy down the street and I both had mackerel with excellent marinated vegetables (carrots, fennel, garlic, beets, turnips and the like) with a tomato and ginger sauce - which was both classic and inventive - but which escaped the shuttereye.

Then my buddy had the rognons, Madame our invitee the cod, Madame from down the street & Colette enjoyed the excellent bar with chorizo, and I had three sublime pieces of pintade with a rich creamy sauce.

At dessert my camera began working again and shows 3 excellent desserts:  the compote of mangos, a dish of strawberries in a delicious sauce and an outstanding warm chocolate with ice cream.  All just superb!

Our bill, with 2 1/2 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of Chateldon (don't ask), terrific bread and 3 coffees, was 248.50 E, thus 99.40 E a couple.
Go?  Wow, since BAT and Sur le fil I haven't had such a meal - in a flash, despite the noise levelof 81.8 dB.

Le Chalet du Parc in Yerres (91): Philippe Detourbe resurfaces at the Caillebotte Museum.

As we were headed to the Metro and RER we saw the first run we'd ever seen in our little quartier.
then, in Yerres we saw lovely flowers, wisteria and flowering trees: 

5.5 Le Chalet du Parc in the Caillebotte Park/Museum/Property in Yerres (91), 20 minutes on RER D from the Gare de Lyon then 6 minutes by "F" Bus,, to the Caillebotte park seemed an obvious choice while we visited the new Caillebotte Exhibition.  Philippe Detourbe, whom we've followed from the Barriere de Clichy to his eponymous place in the 15th to L'Ampere, dropped off my radar screen in 2008; turns out he came to Yerres to set up the Chalet du Parc on the grounds of the Propriete Caillebotte - so when i read Heidi Ellison's Paris Update review of a new Caillebotte Exhibition that sounded like a great excuse for a day in the country, why not eat on the site as she had?  The exterior is resembles a Swiss Chalet; the interior is pleasant,  but Colette thought the iPad propped up on the bar showing photos of the interior and various dishes, was tacky.

The amuse gueule was a pleasant enough mousse with bits of raddish and salmon on top, Colette then had a gaspacho of melon with crisp shrimp nems and I a most generous portion of a terrine of rabbit with a fantastic mayo-based sauce - so far, so good, no razzle-dazzle but OK.

For a main, Colette had a very nice piece of mullet with spring peas and carrots and an unexciting sauce and I had a very thick piece of veal liver (not rare enough for me unfortunately) with strawberry topping, braised baby lettuce, roasted baby tomatoes  and spring potatoes.  Again, all nice but nothing to write home about.

For desserts, Colette had a Breton sable with beurre salé (which both of us thought would be or be like the chef's classic caramel sauce at Philippe Detourbe, but alas it was not to be); and I had a chocolate concoction which was OK but did not sparkle.

Caillebotte a Yerres: au temps de l'Impressionnisme - in Yerres - Fabulous.

My friend and colleague Heidi Ellison (of Paris Update) alerted me that there was an impressive new show of Caillebotte's work done while he lived at the family estate in Yerres and we went out on a rather cloudy day today.  But the flowers were beautiful, the park large and inviting  and the collection of exotic pheasants nearby the museum entrance were intriguing.  After lunch we toured the 40 some Caillebottes - they are dazzling.  Many come from private collections and others from famed museums.  I simply loved the show.
3 Wow's.  Until July 20.  For food out there, see my post above for the Chalet du Parc.
Directions to the exhibition are to take the RER D (direction Melun/Malesherbes) to Yerres, get off and hop on a nifty "F" bus that transports you near enough to the Estate/Museum/Property/Museum in no time. Or take 20 minutes and walk - follow the signs from the station to the park where the Caillebotte exhibit is located.  The town of Yerres has done a good job of welcoming visitors to the exhibit.

Maison de l'Amerique Latine in the 7th: "This is really good, we're coming back when the garden opens" (next week.)

The Maison de l'Amerique Latine in the 7th.  This was my third and most successful meal here since the new chef, Thierry Vaissiere, arrived at the beginning of the year.  Not that the others weren't fine but this exceeded fine.  The amuse gueule was a lovely soup of petit pois and asparagus with samon bits which was a great start.

My former downstair's neighbor and I both started with raviolis of foie gras in a soup that was supposed to be chicken bouillon but seems to both of us to be pure butter - wonderful.

For mains the ladies had:
- A nice piece of bar
- A nice piece of rascasse
While the guys had:
- Lamb nose to tail in a rich sauce that was more lievre a la royale than 7-hour lamb, in brief - fabulous.

To finish up the ladies had a quince parfait and an apple tart and we all indulged in some fine nummies with our coffees.
Our bill, with a bottle and glass of wine, no bottled water, terrific bread and three coffees, was 212 E, thus 106 E a couple.

LA COUPOLE, Paris–In Remembrance of Things Long Past, C

Some strange and generally wonderful things have happened to me because of Facebook. A few days ago, I had a message from a woman I’ll call Amanda, a friend I hadn’t seen since high-school graduation. She wrote from Tampa, Florida, where she is living as a recently divorced real-estate agent and said that she’d decided to treat herself to a trip to Paris, a city she hadn’t visited since a college trip many years ago. “I made out with a boy who followed me for twenty minutes in the Tuileries gardens. It was the craziest thing I’d done up to that point in my life–many more since then!–and he was so incredibly handsome I still think of him sometimes. Who knows? Maybe I need a good dose of Paris, and it would be great to see you again if you’re around.”
I loved the idea that Amanda, who’d been so pretty and prim and smart, had done something as reckless as kissing a stranger in a public park, and her confession made me wonder how well I’d ever really known her. Oh, to be sure, we were friends, as, it would seem, two of the rare kids in the fast-track college program who were even a tiny bit wild, even in those days. What this meant was smoking joints and going to all-night diners in the down-at-the-heels industrial town next to our wiltingly pretty New England suburb in the orbit of New York City, harmless stuff really, but when she went on to study classics at a very respectable women’s college near Boston, I assumed that those rare errant nights in the diner were behind her.
So I said ‘Yes’ to dinner, and she wrote back right away and told me to meet her for a drink first at Le Select, the cafe in Montparnasse, and then we’d go to dinner. “Oh I know you’re a connoisseur, Alec, but let me chose where we go to dinner.” How very sweet–if slightly strange–that our reunion was so natural. The person I found was a strong, handsome woman with a charmingly self-effacing self of humor, a quick wit, and an omnivorous interest in the world. She was physically very little changed, too–lean, tan, blonde as always, and well-seasoned by the many years gone by. So we drank white wine and laughed at ourselves and the past and started catching up. Still, me being me, I wondered where we were going to dinner, and when she saw me glance at my watch, she said, “Oh, you! We’re just going across the street, and I don’t want to hear a word about what you think of the place. I’ve never been, and I’ve always wanted to go.”
So I went to dinner at La Coupole for the first time in many years, and in the interest of a happy night with an old friend, I didn’t get my back up over her assumption that just because I write about food, I’m fussy or fancy or something. In any event, everyone assumes this, and everyone’s wrong. And recently I’d also been thinking about something that’s wrong with this blog, and most other food publications in any format, which is that we’re all so preoccupied with the new that we never go back and see what the old places are like. The fact that Amanda wanted to eat at La Coupole on her first night in Paris more than thirty years sort of underlined this for me, too.
La Coupole - Floral centerpiece
Amanda had thoughtfully booked dinner online and gave her name to the bored man at the reservations lectern when we came in. Wordlessly, he escorted us to a rather distant quadrant of this vast room, and I said nothing, because this was her evening, and I sensed anything I might have said wouldn’t have mattered, since as far as he was concerned we were just another pair of American tourists, those lemmings he contends with by the dozens everyday. Happy though I was in the present, I couldn’t help but hear the rustling of many shed skins as we sat and read the menu, since at another point in my Paris life of almost thirty years, I ate here rather often. To be sure, it was never for reasons gastronomic, but rather because La Coupole was once one of the anointed restaurants of the fashion tribe in the days when I was an editor for a glamorous fashion publishing company, an incarnation that today strikes me as a rather mystifying bit of bad casting and acting.
“I imagine you know this place quite well,” said Amanda. Indeed I do, or did, I told her, yarning about my days on the style circuit and also reminiscing about the Sunday night dinners I used to have here with a bunch of single friends, none of whom live in Paris anymore. I explained that we once shared a collective brasserie reflex, since Sundays could be melancholic, and so we’d often round ourselves up for a dinner round robin style, which was also the unstated occasion to take a shower and get dressed after a day spent in pyjamas. Brasseries were lively and fun in those days, and so a perfect antidote to the morbid flutterings on the wall of a winter’s evening.
La Coupole - Salle
When Amanda flipped her hair back, I was surprised to see a tiny tattoo of a bird on the side of her neck, and she laughed when she saw me see it. “It was a birthday present from a Cuban guy I used to go out with, and when my Mom was still alive, I rather meanly loved to pin my hair up when I’d go to see her in Connecticut, because for her it was a pure horror. Remember, girls with pierced ears were fast, and all of that snotty garbage we were fed as kids. Well, I sort of like my tattoo these days, or most of the time anyway.” We ordered, and I said nothing about the restaurant, but found it embarrassingly deflated, or devoid of any glamour whatsoever. It was almost like running into a friend who’d once been an ace athlete before she put on a lot of weight or realising that the handsome guy who’d been a star on the high school football team had had some “work” done. The passing of time makes some things vintage and others sad. Still, our older waiter was charming in a wry sort of way, and I was fascinated by the beautiful black woman in the back of the room.

We ordered eighteen Utah Beach oysters, and they were plump, meaty, and wonderfully briny, so the fact that the rye bread they came with was stale didn’t really matter, and if the finger bowls which once might have come with these crustaceans have long since gone missing, they were always a little fiddly anyway, and the plastic-wrapped towelette that replaced them was of no real use either. So we talked, and both of us occasionally ran aground on the sudden incomprehension of the unexpected shoals in our pasts. I mean, how did it happen that I once worked at Cosmopolitan magazine in New York City and regularly used to see Helen Gurley Brown in the hall in a bathrobe with a towel on her head? What prevented me from becoming sad, though, was Amanda’s company, the good oysters, the fact that I like the life I have, and I had a huge admiration for the way our waiter was soldiering on despite the fact that there was an incipient going-out-of-business atmosphere in the room. The brasseries of Paris, you see, have become too expensive and too just shy of mediocre for them to trudge along much longer as they are right now.

Amanda ate smoked salmon as a main course, and it was the only time during the evening that her brightness faltered. “This is pretty ordinary,” she said, adding, “And I don’t know Paris like you do, but this place is all about tourists and people from the provinces, isn’t it?” Pretty much, I told her, wishing the tourists and the people from the provinces well. I ordered La Couple’s ‘famous’  lamb curry, an odd sounding choice, perhaps, for a brasserie, but I remembered having liked it, probably because it tasted like the curry my mother used to make back in the days when none of us knew a thing about Indian food.

My heart went out to the friendly dignified man who showed up in a children’s birthday party Maharajah’s costume to serve the curry, and I couldn’t help but asking him where he was from. “Sri Lanka, Sir,” he replied with just a tinge of knowing bemusement. To my surprise, the lamb curry was good, or at least in the terms of what I once knew about curry when the little tin of Durkee curry powder in the spice cabinet was my own Joseph Cornell like world of the exotic.

We didn’t bother with dessert, because there wasn’t any point in it, and we needed to digest both our meal and our meeting. Even though Amanda was tired, I had a hunch about what her next step would be. “I think I’m going to sit on a cafe terrace and have a Cognac and bum a cigarette off of someone now, Alec,” she said, reading my mind. So we crossed the road and had a hug before I went into the Metro. “Isn’t it nice that we still like each other after all of these years?!” Amanda said in parting, seizing my line again, and aside from recovering an old friendship, I also appreciated the evening for the unexpected archaeology of returning to La Coupole, a place I’d never have gone without her. The meal wasn’t awful, but it certainly wasn’t worth the money we spent, and since guidebook publishing is generally in such dire straits that few writers ever visit the restaurants they write about anymore and just mostly spade over existing listings, I’m glad to be able to tell you that you don’t need to put this place on your Paris Go-To list anymore. Okay, maybe for some late night oysters on a Sunday, but otherwise you might want to take my word when I tell you that it used to be very glamorous.