Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve at home. We're a bit tired out and lazy from travel. Dinner was a low-effort plate of good stuff to eat--prosciutto, gravlax, cheese, Acme bread we brought from Berkeley, along with some wine. I thought about making blinis this year, but didn't get around to it. Store-bought truffle cake for dessert. Catherine has a friend sleeping over, while the rest of her family has the flu. Stuart and I bought some fireworks across the bridge. He set off the mortar, the smiley-faced rockets, and some of the sparkly tank things. Fireworks are going off all around. Our 100-rocket barrage is set for midnight.

Happy New Year!

More Bay Area Eats

Here are a few other food highlights from the Bay Area.

Naan 'n' Curry is one of the many Indian/Pakistani restaurants that are everywhere in the Bay Area. We got take-out from the one on College Avenue in Berkeley, across the street from King Yen (where the redundant Chinese restaurant was.) My brother and his wife did a survey of the low-end Indian joints in the area a few years ago, and this was the winner. Cheap, tasty, and they wrap the boxes containing the curries in plastic wrap, so they don't leak! Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Curry, Baighan Bharta, Palak Paneer (spinach w./ cheese), Naan, Rice. $32. Better than most Seattle Indian restaurants at any price.

Taylor's Automatic Refresher is a high-concept pseudo-retro-drive-in-nostalgia restaurant in St. Helena, which recently opened an outpost at the Ferry Building in San Francisco (with no drive-in at all). The concept is executed very well--everything is excellent, from the burgers to the fried calimari, and they have Anchor Steam on tap. Garlic fries like garlic fries should be, tossed in garlic butter and parsley. I was happy.

La Note is a Provençal restaurant on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley that serves a great breakfast. I had an omelette with ham and cheese. The only complaint anyone had was that the portions were too big. Cafe au lait in a bowl, natch. Richard said that the food is good in the evening; I've never tried it. It's always packed by 9:30am; we got there at 9 and had no problem getting a table. I gather it's harder to get a table on weekends. Parking meters only take 1 hour's worth, which is dumb for an area with restaurants.

Lunch at Pug's Leap Farm

Buche de Pug's Leap
Our friends Eric and Pascal decided to quit their jobs a few years ago and make farmstead cheese on the land on which Eric's grandparents built a house something like 60 years ago. The land is a lovely slope overlooking Dry Creek Valley in Healdsburg, California, now called Pug's Leap Farm, named because Eric and Pascal have had pet pugs for many years. Here is their latest, Oriane de Guermantes, who was a rescue puppy that Eric describes as a cuisinart with legs, giving Catherine a kiss.
It's been fascinating to watch the process of creating a dairy and cheesemaking facility. It's a very small operation, with two people and about 25 goats in the herd, but they still needed the same kinds of permits and variances from the county that they would had they built a giant cheese factory. The goats are the sweetest you've ever met--our kids have known and loved these goats for a few years.
Pascal Feeding Goats
While Eric and Pascal were building up their herd and waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn, they had a problem: they had a lot of goat milk, and not a lot to do with it, because they couldn't legally make cheese to distribute (not even to give away) nor even legally give away the milk. However, goat's milk is easily digestible by a lot of animals, including pigs. So, they got a few piglets, which very efficiently turned a diet that was heavy in goat's milk into hundreds of pounds of pork. The result of all of this pig-raising is that we had the best ham I've ever had for lunch during our visit. This particular ham came from a pig named George Bush. Eric and Pascal enjoyed being able to walk out to the pen and say, "George Bush, you are a pig!" every day until it was time for slaughter.
Along with the ham we had some amazing white beans, some brussels sprouts, a cheese course (of course!) and an Erica Torte that we brought from Katrina Rozelle bakery in Oakland. Also joining us for lunch was our friend James, who is staying in the little cabin behind the house while finishing his novel/history/self-help guide.
Eric and Pascal run a real farmstead goat cheese operation, using only the milk from the herd on the farm, so it runs cyclically through the year. Right now there's no cheesemaking going on, because the goats are dried off during the last weeks of pregnancy. In a couple of months there will be dozens of kids, most of which are bound for other farms. Then cheesemaking will start again.
This was the first year of commercial production. They started off selling cheese at the Healdsburg farmer's market. Later in the year their cheese was picked up for distribution by Tomales Bay Foods, which means that it's available in quite a few high-end grocery stores, and Eric and Pascal don't have to work quite as hard to sell all their cheese. If you're at the Cowgirl Creamery store at the SF Ferry Plaza or Point Reyes, or at the Healdsburg Farmer's market, check out Pug's Leap goat cheese!


Eccolo is yet another restaurant started by a former Chez Panisse chef, in this case Christopher Lee, who was chef downstairs at Chez Panisse for a number of years. Eccolo is in the space formerly occupied by Ginger Island (and before that, Fourth Street Grill, back when there was very little on Fourth St.) in Berkeley.

The restaurant has been remodeled into a handsome space. For those who remember the godawful din that was Ginger Island, steps seem to have been taken to mute the echo a bit, which was certainly appreciated. The noise level would have been fine except for the very loud people sitting behind me.

For a starter, we shared an antipasto plate. This consisted of some prosciutto, some almonds, sliced parmesan, olives, and an unidentified fried green. I think the proscuitto was house-cured; it was certainly amazingly good.

For a main course I had a veal chop with marrow sauce and a potato gratin. It was a good sized T-bone of veal, cooked nicely, although it could have used a lot more salt. Debbie had butternut squash lasagna with pinenuts, brown butter, and sage, which was quite good. Debbie makes a similar lasagne that's even richer (with prosciutto and bechamel). Mom had the lamb with chard sformato and olive sauce. I think Mom was disappointed that she didn't get the veal chop. She misread the "grilled over grape vines" to mean "made with vine leaves", which didn't sound too good (and wouldn't have been!) Catherine had bucatini with tomato sauce off of the kids menu, which she seemed to like.

For dessert we all had chocolate zabaglione with crushed amaretti. It was creamy with a bit of a sharp bite.

I usually have high hopes for these Chez Panisse spinouts, and those hopes are sometimes fulfilled (c.f. Oliveto while Paul Bertolli was there and paying attention) and sometimes not. In this case, I thought it didn't quite fulfill that promise. The food was good, but not best-you-ever-had great like Chez Panisse achieves routinely. The service was fine, though our waitress had a funny sneer that I figure was just a character trait, not a voluntary demonstration of disdain.

1820 Fourth St.
Berkeley, California 94710


Incanto is an Italian restaurant on Church St. in the Noe Valley district of San Francisco. We met our friends Richard and Elizabeth, who live nearby, at Incanto last Thursday night.

Incanto's interior is a very soothing palette of light neutral colors, with lots of stone and tile. The kitchen is open, but I didn't notice it being too loud. The emphasis is on "California Italian," taking advantage of whatever's locally available, rather than a regional emphasis.

The meal starts with a great fanfare about the water. They filter the local tap water (from Hetch Hetchy, which was according to John Muir as beautiful as Yosemite Valley before it was filled up in order to supply SF with water), carbonate it, and serve it. Richard used to make a joke about asking for "Hetch Hetchy" at SF restaurants when asked whether he wanted Pellegrino or Evian. The joke's on us now, evidently. Incanto also grows herbs on their rooftop garden.

The menu changes daily, though there are quite a few repeats. I started with a salt cod fritter, which was one of the best renditions of salt cod fritter I've had--perfect little cruchy spheres with a salt-cod-y center.

For a main course I had fresh bacon with beans. This was basically a big hunk of uncured bacon served on a pile of white beans. It was bacon-y good.

Debbie had a salad of goose confit, followed by pasta with duck and olives which was amazing. Richard had an agrodolce of branzino, which was disappointing. The sauce was unpleasantly sweet without a lot of balance.

For dessert I had a nut tart which was kind of bitter, and not all that pleasant, I thought. Debbie had olive oil ice cream with sea salt. We had better olive oil ice cream at L'Avant Gout in Paris, but this was pretty good.

They have a good selection of Italian wines, including quite a few available by the glass.

I thought the food was generally quite good, with a few misses, in a very pleasant atmosphere. Service was quite good, if a little rushed at the end.

1550 Church Street
San Francisco, CA

À Côté

Last week we had dinner at À Côté in Oakland, California. Our favorite bartender Mike used to work downstairs at Oliveto, and when he moved to À Côté, we followed. We don't live around the corner anymore (*sniff*), but whenever we're in town, we try to make it to À Côté. It's my favorite "small plate" restaurant, serving food in a simple more-or-less French style. We had pancetta-wrapped shrimp served with romesco sauce, which was succulent and tasty, a flatbread (essentially an oval-plate-sized pizzetta) with pears and gorgonzola, not to be missed, a shredded salad of (I think--memory fails me) romaine and radicchio with a creamy caper sauce, and a tuna "confit" salad which was the least successful of the group. We had one (well, Debbie had more than one, but I switched to wine) of Mike's amazing Sangria Cocktails, which are made with spanish brandy, tempranillo (red wine), and citrus juices. For dessert we had the coupe à côté, which was the chocolate sundae of my dreams, along with another dessert that I don't remember at this point.

Unless you have a large party, they don't take reservations. There's almost always a wait for a table, but if you get a seat at the bar, you can have dinner there as well.

À Côté
5478 College Avenue
Oakland CA

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Day

We flew down to Mom's house in Berkeley for Christmas day dinner. Mom made a prime rib with herbs from the recent Gourmet cookbook that I gave her for her birthday. Prime rib is best when it is not overcooked. The Gourmet recipe has one cook it to an internal temperature of 110degF, and then let it stand for 25 minutes. That results in that perfect pink color that one expects from prime rib. Dinner also included mashed potatoes, baby zucchini, a big salad, and some rolls. For dessert, Leila made a gingerbread cake in one of those bundt castle molds. She put whipped cream around the base and dusted it with powdered sugar, so it looked like a snowy castle. We laid siege on the castle, and I'm pleased to report that the castle was sacked. It was served with a compote of apricots, apples, and raisins that Leila said was a Russian recipe. (Perhaps she'll post it!)

Christmas Eve Dinner

A couple of weeks ago I bought some duck foie gras from a woman from Périgord at the Salon Saveurs in Paris. What better time than Christmas Eve dinner to have some artisinal foie gras?
Bloc de Foie Gras de Canard du Perigord
I toasted some baguette and spread some chilled foie gras on top. This was served with a 1990 Ostertag Epfig Sélection de Grains Nobles de Gewurztraminer, which I bought for Debbie's birthday years ago, and which survived our house fire. We were worried that it would be ruined, but instead it was amazing.
Foie Gras on Toast
I was too lazy to get out the tripod, so this isn't the greatest picture. After having foie gras, what else could one have but something with truffles? After checking out a recipe from Richard Olney in the French Menu cookbook, Debbie and I went over to Pike Place market, and bought about 4oz of black truffles from the a woman who calls herself the Truffle Queen, at the all-things-truffle shop. Olney's recipe, for truffled egg pasta, calls for a good 1/2lb of truffles, but we felt that was a bit much. I was way too lazy to consider making fresh egg noodles like Olney would have me do, and couldn't find any fresh egg noodles at the market, so I used Rustichella D'Abruzzo dried egg fettucine, which worked quite nicely. The recipe is pretty easy: slice the truffles 1/4"-1/8" thick, rub a couple of garlic cloves inside a heavy poleon or casserole, put the pot on extremely low heat and put in 1/4lb of unsalted butter (just enough heat to melt the butter, but not enough to cook anything) and add the sliced truffle when the butter melts.
Truffles in butter
Add some salt, plenty of pepper, and 1-2Tbsp of Cognac. Let the sliced truffles bathe in the butter, tightly covered, for about 10 minutes, and then start cooking the pasta (which took about 5 minutes). The idea is to heat the truffles enough to infuse the butter with flavor. When the pasta is ready, drain it well, add to the pot, toss a bit, and leave it for a few more minutes. Then add another 1/4lb or so of butter cut in small cubes and toss together to bind it, and serve. Boy, was it good. Olney says that peeling truffles is a matter of personal taste. This was the first time I've cooked with fresh truffles. I have to say, next time I probably would peel them, because the skin is rather rough and crunchy. One can save the peelings to use in a Beef Wellington.
Egg Noodles with Truffles
This particular menu in the cookbook is followed by a salad and then a dessert, but we had some Pannetone with candied chestnuts instead.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Shopping

Seule Religion: La Consommation
Seen on a sidewalk in Paris...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Prague at Christmastime

Old Town Square at Christmastime
Some of my friends and relatives thought I was a bit nuts to go to Prague in December, picturing a cold, bleak city. However, at this time of year, Prague explodes with lights and activity. The above picture was taken at around 9:30pm on the Old Town Square, after the crowds had died down a bit. But all over the city, there are lights, christmas trees, and groups performing, like this choral group performing on the stage at Old Town Square:
Wenceslas Square also gets totally packed with people, mostly locals going shopping. In both squares (and several others in the city that I saw) there are stalls selling christmas loot, from local crafts and foods to generic items like scarves and those orange hippie crystal lamps that seem to be sold at every flea market and farmer's market on earth in the last couple of years.

If you look closely at the following photo, you'll see a something that looks like an elongated donut on top of one of the stalls. I don't remember the name of it, but it's made by wrapping some dough around a cylinder, then rotating the cylinder (either cranked by hand, or in some cases using a motor, which is probably cheating) above an open flame. The resulting flame-baked pastry is then rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Update from "It is called Staroceske trdlo (Old-Bohemian muff) and it is food from medieval times. And it’s great."
Old Town Square at Christmastime
I gather it's a traditional Czech item--the people making it wear old-timey baker's clothes. I didn't get a close-up picture because I was too busy eating one. As you can also probably see from the photo, they're a popular item.

There are also at least half a dozen "Hot Wine" vendors on the square. This is a a great way to warm up on a cold evening. Another food item I liked was what a stand called "Bohemian Traditional Piglet", which was basically chopped roasted suckling pig on a roll.

Here's the view up Parizka, a high-end shopping street running north from Old Town Square into Josevof:
Looking Up Parizka at Christmastime
And here's a nativity scene made out of straw outside the St. Vitus Cathedral:
Nativity Scene, St. Vitus Cathedral
and another singing group at St. Vitus:
Chrismas Chorus at St. Vitus Cathedral

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Rudolfinum concert hall
I saw a performance at the Rudolfinum concert hall in Prague, which is an imposing neo-classical edifice, with columns soaring up to a very high ceiling. I saw Boris Krajny playing Beethoven's Moonlight sonata, Liszt's Apres une Lecture de Dante, Fantasia quasi Sonata, a couple of polkas and On The Seashore by Smetana, and a couple of mazurkas and Ballade in G Minor by Chopin. It was a good performance, although I've been on a funny jet-lag-induced schedule where I've been taking a nap in the afternoon, and then staying up late, and I didn't do that today, so if you can believe it, I started dozing off during the (very dynamic) Liszt piece. Nobody poked me in the ribs, so I guess I didn't sleep for more than a few seconds.

Beforehand I had a Czech meal: Duck, smoked pork and roasted pork, with red and white cabbage and bread dumplings. Afterward I had some hot wine from one of the stands at the old town square.

Black Light Theater

I went to the Ta Fantastika Black Light Theatre. Black light theatre is a uniquely Czech artform developed in the 60s. I saw their performance called "Aspects of Alice," which is loosely based on Alice in Wonderland, though it uses that as a starting point and has a story about Alice coming of age. Live actors (mimes) interact with elements that are manipulated by puppeteers wearing black velvet, with a black background, so that you (generally) don't see anything but the elements floating in space. The lighting is a combination of black light and tightly controlled spot lighting. Scenic elements are rendered in fluorescent colors (in a wacky 60s style) and different parts of the scenic elements are distinct (such as buildings on a street) so they move and hover and dance into place. They also use candles quite a bit, a few puppets, and (presumably) some wires to make Alice twirl around in the sky. They also raise and lower black curtains quickly, to get elements to appear and disappear apparently instantly. There was also some animation projected onto the performance, either on translucent screens across the front or onto particular elements in the scene. The story is all visual and musical, there's no dialogue. The music is a combination of modern syntho-music and some Czech classical hits (The Moldau from Ma Vlast by Smetana, Slavonic Dances by Dvorak). The person next to me said, "well, that was different!" I had a good time.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Czech Lunch

I had lunch at a restaurant in Josevof: Pork "sparrows" with red and white cabbage and bread dumplings, and a Pilsener Urquell. It's a lousy picture; it looked more appetizing than that!

Prague Jewish Quarter

Today I wandered through the old Jewish quarter of Prague. There's a lot of history here. The first jews came to Prague just over 1,000 years ago. There are a couple of synagogues which have a history of the Jewish people in Prague and the Czech country.
Maisel Synagogue
This is Maisel Synagogue, which contains a lot of historical documents and artifacts.
Spanish Synagogue
The Spanish Synagogue was built in the 19th century. During WWII, confiscated Jewish possessions were stored here, with an eventual goal of building a museum of the exterminated Jewish race.
Prague Jewish Cemetary
The Pinkas Synagogue, from the 15th centry, seen here behind the cemetary, now contains inscriptions of all of the Czech Jews killed in the Nazi concentration camps (77,297 names). The communists erased the names, then after 1989 they were re-written, then the floods damaged them, and now they've been rewritten yet again.
New Old Synagogue
The Old-New Synagogue was built in the 13th century.
Prague Jewish Cemetary
The cemetary is amazing. The Jews were only allowed to bury their dead in this one area, so they had to keep adding layers, and now their are 12 layers. The ground settled, so the tombstones are at all different angles.
The Czech Jews were finally given full rights in the mid 19th century (after about 800 years of persecution, pogroms, and evictions), and in 1897 the ghetto (all but the synagogues and graveyard) was razed and rebuilt in an Art Nouveau style. There were almost no Jews in Prague after WWII (only 10,000 in the whole country survived), and they say there are maybe 1,700 in the entire city at this point.

Mà Vlast

Mà vlast
Mà Vlast ("My Country") is a cycle of symphonic poems by the Bohemian composer Bedrich Smetana, finished in 1879. It is a metaphorical piece about the Czech homeland. If you ever listen to classical "hot hits" radio, you've certainly heard the second song, Vltava ("The Moldau"). Last night I attended the premiere of a new ballet of Mà vlast choreographed and directed by Jan Durovcik, ballet performed by the Prage State Opera Ballet, and with music by the Prague State Opera Orchestra conducted by Petr Vronsky.

I got tickets on the same day, which meant I could only get Kc100 (about $4) tickets. As nosebleed section seats go, these had a pretty good vantage point, to the side of the stage just above the boxes, but the seat had so little legroom that I literally could not sit in it. I had to sit on the top of the seat and lean over the railing. Fortunately we were below the lights, so there was nobody behind us.

The ballet adapts the themes of the music to Czech events of the 20th century, including the Nazi occupation, the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans, and the communist years. The first movement goes in a whirlwind from the origin of man tothe falling of the iron curtain (a transparent screen covered with swastikas, hammers and sickles, crosses, stars, and some symbol I didn't recognize. The Moldau piece was lots of blood, writhing, and doing it. The central focus of the ballet is a couple, a German man and a Czech woman, who are torn apart when the man is forced to leave his wife in 1947. She suffers, alone with her children through the fourth song ("From Czech Meadows and Woods-Seen by a Child"). The fifth and sixth songs, Tábor - Totalitarianism and Blaník - Revolution move from communist housing estates through the revolution of 1989.
Mà vlast
The use of fluorescent lights to represent the outward life of the communist era was pretty effective. When the light switches back to stage lighting, movement goes from regimented and drab to organic. Eventually, during forced demonstrations of loyalty, there is occasional dissent which is brought back into line, and then finally the red scarfs are thrown off, the fluorescent lights go out one last time, candles are brought out, and the totalitarian regime ends. The end.

Well, it was a bit heavy-handed, but I thought the staging and dancing were very well-done. Aside from a very uncomfortable seat, I enjoyed it immensely.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I made it to Prague, but spent most of my first day in bed with some sort of stomach bug. (Too many sweetbreads, not enough sleep?) I'm staying in a really nice hotel, called the K+K Central.
K+K Hotel Central
For some reason "good" hotels in Paris always have lovely exteriors, elegant lobbies, and often rather dumpy rooms. Getting to the K+K Central was a breath of fresh air--the room is very nice, done in a modern style with cherry(?) wood and granite. It's small, but well-designed, and the staff are pleasant and helpful.

The first thing I did when I got here was buy some tickets to the Prague symphony. Last night I was supposed to see Maxim Shostakovitch (Dmitri's son) conduct, playing a couple of dad's symphonic works. Unfortunately I stayed in bed instead. There's lots going on, though. Tonight I'm going to see the premiere of a new ballet set to the music of Smetana's Ma Vlast done by the State Opera (I don't know how well those opera singers dance, though...)

This morning I wandered up through the town square, and over the Charles bridge. Here is a slideshow.

Le Coude Fou

Le Coude Fou
I noticed this restaurant as I was walking around the Marais on a day when I decided that all I really wanted was a falafel, and the falafel available on the Rue des Rosiers Paris is really amazing. A couple of nights later I came back for dinner. Le Coude Fou serves simple, classic food done well, in a rustic atmosphere.

For starters, I had the Terrine de Canard avec Figues (terrine of duck with figs).
Duck Terrine with figs
Afterwards, I had Ris de Veau Grand-Mère, which is veal sweetbreads in a white sauce with vegables. The vegetables included carrots, snow peas, and wild mushrooms. These were the best sweetbreads I've ever had.
Ris de Veau Grand-Mère
For dessert I had Nougat Glacé avec Coulis de Fruits Rouges. Nougat Glacé is a soft nougat that's been frozen somewhat.
Nougat Glacé at Le Coude Fou

L'Âge D'Or des Sciences Arabes

I went to an exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris called "The Golden Age: The Arab Sciences." It spanned the era from the 9th through around the 15th century, and was divided into several sections: Mathematics, Astronomy, Geography, Astrology, Medicine, Pharmacology, Engineering, Architecture, etc. As most of my readers probably know, during this era science in the west was mostly stagnant, and the scientific knowledge that came from the Greeks (and Indians, and others) was preserved and advanced in the Arab world during that period. I'm a sucker for old manuscripts, and Arabic manuscripts can be particularly beautiful. I especially liked the ones on astronomy, which had lots of intricate drawings with different colored inks. Photos were forbidden inside the exhibit, but the building which houses the institute is very cool--the south facing wall is all glass windows, with the inside of each covered with these mechanical irises that open and close with the light, and also reflect Arabic/Islamic design themes. The building is even more striking because it's next to some of the ugliest architecture in Paris, the University of Paris Jussieu campus.

ObFood: afterwards I was really cold and hungry and had a fairly generic steak-frites at a brasserie nearby.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Paris Slideshow

Here is a slideshow of photos from Paris.

Update: I added more photos.


I called home (using Skype) from the McDonalds on the Champs Elysees. Along with the usual McStuff, they have a counter where you can buy an espresso and pastry. The espresso comes with a little piece of 70% cacao chocolate.

Salon Saveurs


Clotilde had mentioned that the Salon de Saveurs was going on this weekend. It's an exhibition of food and wine, targeted at the retail market (i.e. it's not an industry conference). I went on Monday afternoon, after having a nice lunch. This was by far the largest such event I've ever been to. There were maybe one or two hundred stalls, each mostly a single producer. There must have been at least a dozen producers of foie gras alone. There were also a few foreign food boards and agriculture groups, and some people selling cookware. Most of the stalls had something to taste. I tried several kinds of ham, various dry sausages (what usually gets called salami in the US, but there are dozens of kinds), beans, about 5 kinds of fig jam, pate de foie gras, a few different wines, oils, chocolate, macaroons, and on and on. I had just had a large lunch, so I wasn't starving, and didn't have too many wines, even though there must have been 50 wineries, distilleries, champagne houses, and brewers represented, all of whom were offering tastes. It was crowded, it was hot, I was sweating like a pig, but I'm glad I went.
Since I'm going back to the U.S., I couldn't buy anything fresh that I wanted to take home. I bought some canned paté de foie gras, some pays-basque pork paté, some dried organic tarbais beans (for making cassoulet), some fig jam, and a couple of gifts that I won't mention here. Unfortunately the only artisinal marron glacé (candied chestnut) producer was completely sold out, and that was one of the things on my list. If I lived here, I'd have gone to town.

I came back to the hotel totally exhausted. I was going to lie down for an hour and then go out, but I instantly fell asleep and woke up around 1am. Still a bit of jet I'm writing up blog text which I'll actually get to post tomorrow, unless I go downstairs and pay 15 euros/hr to use the hotel's stupid "internet terminal" (yeah, right). I wish I'd bought just a little saucisson, because it's 2am and now I'm hungry!

Lunch Chez Catherine

I had lunch at Chez Catherine, a restaurant recommended by Clotilde, and of course run by a namesake of my daughter. I should have taken pictures of the food, but I'm still too self-conscious to whip out the camera when every dish comes. Unlike the U.S., there aren't that many female chefs in France.

Since black truffles are in season, I started with the salade de mâche et St. Jaques aux Truffes (mâche and scallop salad with shaved truffles). The scallops were raw and sliced thin. The mâche had a subtle dressing, and there were enough truffle slices that they didn't feel like a garnish. This dish was sublime.

For a main course I had carre d'agneau de cozere rôti, caviar d'aubergine, beginet de courgette, piquillo farci a la compote de poivron vert (roasted ribs of lamb with eggplant caviar, zucchini fritter, and piquillo pepper stuffed with green pepper compote). The parts of this dish worked well together even though they seemed kind of spread out haphazardly on the plate. The lamb had a bit of a brown sauce that had a deep, rich flavor. The parsley garnish was fried until crisp, a nice touch. I drank a glass of Chinon 2003 from a producer I whose name I didn't catch.

Dacquoise noisette, ganache caramel à fleur de sel (hazelnut dacquoise with caramel/fleur de sel ganache) was absolutely amazing. Fleur de sel is,as I understand it, the salt you get when you skim foam off of ocean waves and dry it out. It often comes from Normandy. Caramel made with fleur de sel offsets the almost spicy sweetness of caramel with a slight saltiness of the fleur de sel. This was probably the heaviest use of salt I've had, but it worked well. The caramel was made into a ganache, which was layered with a crunchy layer and a layer with cake and hazelnuts. There was caramel foam also on the plate.

Decor is tastefully modern, no tablecloths. Service was pleasant and efficient. Good coffee. The prices aren't bad, 45 euros for a starter, main dish, and dessert, plus I pad the 10 euro supplement for the truffle starter.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Paris, Day 1

Flew all night, wandered around in a daze waiting for my hotel room to become available. Choucroute with Jarret de Porc at Brasserie Lipp for lunch, followed by Pierre Hermé Mille Feuille with Caramel for dessert. Hotel's "internet access" is a computer in the lobby with a little stool, 5 euros for 15 minutes. No thanks, McDonalds's has free wifi (or at least for the price of a soda...) so here I am talking to Debbie on Skype and posting this.

Photos tomorrow, I promise!

Update: After my McDonalds internet session, I wandered over to the Marais, and had a falafel on the street on the Rue des Rosiers, followed by a tarte aux pommes at a very nice bakery/café not far from there a bit later. This morning, I'm at a cafe near the Opéra, where I found some random wifi.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Now that I've had the first (well, second, really, but the first was just too funny) case of someone calling me names in the comments, here's the deal: I write this blog primarily as a conversation between myself and my friends. You're welcome to leave comments disagreeing with me, but if you call me names I'll probably delete your comment.