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Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Parisian Bistro

We stumbled upon La Jacobine down a narrow cobblestone street in the 6th Arrondissement filled with endless bars and bistros. As it turns out, Paris is filled with affordable eating. With pre fixe menus and limited options, you can get a taste for what each restaurants signature dish is, while indulging in classics like French onion soup, creme brûlée, and cheese boards. 

I gravitate towards the places with long lines, as I imagine what they are serving must be good. At La Jacobine (Rue Saint-André des Arts), I was intrigued by the crowd that surrounded the entrance. While all other restaurants in the area still had empty tables, this place was full. We sat at a tiny table in the corner. For €26 each we had two courses. 

The appetizer came with a generous portion of pâté layered with gingerbread and apricot jam. This combination was incredible, and for this alone I will come back to Paris! The escargot was hot, buttery, garlicky, and divine. I never had escargot (aside from a french restaurant in the Dominican Republic, does that count?) and this experience set the bar high. Each snail (correct?) was piping hot, not at all chewy like I imagine the slugs on my doorstep to be, and flavored so deliciously in pesto sauce. It was much better off they were doused in sauce to avoid seeing them in their true form. 

On another note, I got into my car this morning on my way to work to find a slug wedged into the door crack right above the window. It was a big one. I scraped it off with a stick (okay, someone else did it for me) and I drove off with a slimy imprint of this late slug on the side of my car to remind me of that delicious night in Paris where my eyes were opened to another world delicacy. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

World's Tiniest Wine Bar in Paris!

L'Avant Comptoir

I read about this tiny, standing-only wine bar in the heart of Paris. I was sold when I heard they serve tapas style French plates like foie gras skewers. I'm a sucker for hole-in-the-wall hidden gem types. Each of the menu items are printed on plaques hanging from the ceiling. The staff wasn't too keen on helping us translate so we decided to take a chance on two items that looked good from the menu photos.

A savory macaron was presented to us so delicately, how precious! Right away I saw a chunky, brownie looking piece of meat between two cake cookies and I knew that was blood sausage! Upon the first bite I noted the flavor was tolerable, but had the sweetness of a macaron. I was really confused and borderline grossed out. I'm not there yet. My palate just isn't sophisticated enough for a blood sausage macaron.

Next, a small plate of sauteed pork belly. It was awesome. I tried not to eat so much of the fat, but it was inevitable. We enjoyed a glass of rose with the two small plates. At the bottom of the glass, there was a powdery residue. I'm not sure what that was about, but I drank it anyway.

We tried a chocolate coconut crepe here as well, but I won't even discuss it. It was dry and bland. The man use his bare hand to sprinkle coconut all over it and I just wasn't down for that.

I would give this experience a B. It was not outstanding but I'd be willing to give it another shot! I'm heading back to Paris tonight, stay tuned for more...

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Cheapest Richest Meal in Paris

The setting for the meal was a street bench on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, right across the street from the meat shop Boucherie de Saint Germain.

Hunger struck as we passed a bakery. For €0.60 we got half a baguette. Next door was the meat shop, Boucherie de Saint-Germain. We pointed to the leg of cured meat and gestured to get a couple slices. We also ordered a slab of pate. Both meat items were under €8. With those three simple ingredients, we were able to make a savory baguette sandwich that was crispy, flaky, rich, and creamy. The only thing missing from this sandwich was some kind of sweet fruity jam to offset the saltiness of the cured meat and pate.

In the end I felt like a queen enjoying a pate baguette for under €8.50. It was the greatest meal of the trip, simply because it happened organically, it was authentic, and there was zero tourist persuasion involved. There's nothing like a street bench lunch with a side of people watching.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Me, a Baguette, and Paris

As we all know, the national carb of France is the baguette. In France alone, ten billion baguettes are sold each year. If you educate yourself now, the search for the perfect baguette will be swift and easy.

Make sure you go to a bakery dedicated to bread, and only bread. Forget the food markets where bread may have been sitting on the shelf for a few hours. Go to a place where each loaf of bread has pointed ends, a tell tale sign that it has been hand made. Rounded ends typically means it was machine made, so try to avoid those. The bread should have a crispy hard exterior with an airy fluffy interior. Squeeze the loaf to make sure it's warm and fresh before your purchase. By the time you finish your inspection of the bread you will look like an anal Parisian or a psychotic tourist.

With a crazed look in my eyes and my mouth watering, I inspected the bread at Eric Kayser. This was where I found the best bread in Paris. For €1.10 I was able to buy a whole baguette, and shamelessly eat it on street immediately after purchase. Nothing from New York compares. With multiple locations in Paris, you are bound to stroll upon one of the Eric Kayser locations during your travels. And when you do, I beg you to indulge!

F your diet and eat the baguette on the spot. Do not use portion control, eat it whole because you can taste the culture of Paris when it is that fresh! Eat it right away and worry later! There's always ex-lax and water to wash away that post-vacation bloat when you get home. There is a national campaign in France promoting baguettes by reminding citizens they are a good source of protein and fiber and a vital part of a healthy diet. Though the fact is the French are eating half the bread that they did 50 years ago, it still remains a staple of their daily diet. Do you see any fat French people? I don't. All the more reason to indulge!