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  • Parisian Cafés

    December 28, 2013

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    I love Parisian cafes.  I especially love how the chairs and the people always face out towards the street.  Admit it, people watching is fun and a seat outside at a Parisian cafe, with a glass of wine and those free peanuts they give you, is the best way to do it.

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  • gyoza_003

    I love having a husband who enjoys food and loves trying out new restaurants.  While in Paris, one afternoon we went for a walk and ended up at this fabulous restaurant known for their gyoza, appropriately called the Gyoza Bar.

    If you don’t know what gyoza is, which I didn’t before going, gyoza are crescent-shaped pan-fried Japanese dumplings, and  in other words, potstickers.  When Dusty said we were going to place that was known for gyoza I thought that gyoza was one of their specialities.  I wasn’t expecting that this was the only thing they served.  I wish there were more place like this in Omaha, a place known for one thing, that serves that one thing to perfection.

    The restaurant is tucked away in the beautiful Passage Panorama.  The space was very small but zen (what I mean is that it didn’t seem cramped like you’d expect, it was very calm and relaxing).  The entire place includes counter seating for 12 around a bar that holds the very small kitchen (although there’s not much cooking going on since there are only three items on the menu).  We also saw people coming and going out a door in the back so I’m assuming there’s a small amount of setting in another room as well but not much.

    The three menu items include rice, sesame marinated bean sprouts and a choice of either 8 or 12 gyoza.  The dumplings are made with ground pork loin from a star butcher in Paris and everything is prepared fresh and in-house.  The dumplings are grilled to order in one of 4 cast-iron dumpling pans.

    I was so fascinated to watch them prepare the gyoza.  There’s a special pan that is oiled, then go in the dumplings, a little water is added, and the whole thing is sealed for less than 10 minutes. Out comes a perfect dumpling that’s crisp on one side and steamed on the other. And then there’s some delicious ponzu sauce that comes on the side for dipping.

    Dusty ordered 12 gyoza, I ordered 8 and we both ordered some rice.  We had a wonderful lunch and every time I see potstickers on a menu I think back to our delicious meal at the Gyoza Bar.

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  • Lunch at Verjus

    October 22, 2013

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    What a lovely story, an American couple moved to Paris, started what they called the Hidden Kitchen, creating a restaurant of sorts in their apartment, serving spectacular ten-course dinners.  Then they opened Verjus, serving contemporary American dishes that earned them rave reviews. Then came Verjus Wine bar downstairs, serving less expensive small-plates.  And most recently they have opened the wine bar for lunch, serving sandwiches that were inspired by the gourmet restaurant sandwiches they miss from the States.  Each sandwich on the menu gives tribute to a different style of sandwich.  We’ve been wanting to try out all three places so we started with lunch this summer and hopefully will get to try out the others.

    For 15 euros, you choose one of the sandwiches, a dessert and a non-alcoholic drink (ginger beer, “limonade”, flat or fizzy water). Of course they also serve beer and glasses of wines.

    The sandwich choices we had were:

    • Mr. Chang’s Buns (Momofuku, East Village, NYC) – braised pork belly, steamed Chinese buns, hoisin sauce, pickles and scallions
    • Bakesale Betty (The hottest chicken sandwich in Oakland, CA) – Verjus’ famous fried chicken, Morgan’s buns, cabbage slaw with shallots and parsley and spicy mustard vinaigrette
    • Midnight Cuban (Paseo, Seattle, WA) – marinated and tender braised pork shoulder, roasted garlic mayo, cilantro and pickled chilies on grilled baguette

    Dusty had Mr. Chang’s Buns and I had the Bakesale Betty.  As expected, both sandwiches were delicious and the desserts were delightful.  We ate in the wine bar but you can also get everything to go which I would love to do next time because they have some beautiful parks close by that you could bring your lunch to and people watch.

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    Here you can see the entrance to Verjus Wine Bar and if you follow the steps to the right it will lead you to the entrance to the restaurant upstairs.  We’ve always wanted to go to the wine bar (we’ve heard good things about their small-plates) but it’s super small (approximately 12 barstools) and as you can expect is very popular.  The times we’ve walked by in the evening it’s standing room only with a line forming of sorts outside.

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  • pozetto_002

    Our trip this summer to Paris was all about food (really, aren’t all of our trips about food) but since I was pregnant, I made a special effort to try all the desserts and sweets I could.  So, on my bucket list was an ice cream shop I had heard about called Pozzetto.

    The most talked about and maybe most famous ice cream in Paris is Berthillon, but I I’ve already had their ice cream and needed to try something new.  Plus, Berthillon has delicious ice cream but it’s sold everywhere in Paris.  Pozzetto’s has just two locations in Paris and one of them was located very close to us in the Marais.

    I went there twice this summer and still dream about their gelato.  The first time we went, we stood in line and when we got to the window I ordered three flavors of ice cream in a huge cone.  Please remember I was pregnant, it was warm that day and we had been walking for hours, and on our way back to the apartment.  After ordering, the gentleman at the window mentioned something about two spoons and I looked at Dusty and said something like, “oh no, that’s just my order”.  And I ate it all!

    Something I found out that first time we went is that they don’t charge you by the scoop but rather by the cone or cup size.  They go ahead and fill it up with as many flavors as you want!  So, I’m not quite sure what their cone sizes are but I must have ordered a cone big enough that they thought I was sharing.

    I’ve only tried three flavors, Cafe’ Costadoro, Stracciatella and a third I can’t remember, but my favorite was the coffee flavored gelato.  I don’t drink coffee but this ice cream was so delicious.

    From what I’ve heard, all of Pozzetto’s gelatos and sorbets are prepared daily, focusing on top quality milk and the best seasonal ingredients.  There are only 12 flavors at a time, including seasonal classics and some creative parfums du mois.

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  • Le Comptoir du Relais

    October 14, 2013

    Here’s another update from our summer food adventures in Paris.  There’s been a lot written about chef Yves Camdeborde and his bistro Le Comptoir du Relais as well as his little standing room only wine bar, L’Avant Comptoir (located next door).  Maybe these two places are so popular because chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Thomas Keller have raved about them.

    Just a little history, Yves Camdeborde left a three-star restaurant to open his own bistro, La Régalade (one of our favorite places to eat in Paris and in my opinion, has the best rice pudding), which he sold years ago to open Le Comptoir, meaning “counter”. Chef Camdeborde is known as the father of bistronomy, serving high-quality food in a casual bistro setting.

    To get a table at Le Comptoir de Relais you need to make reservations months in advance for a prix fixe dinner on weekdays, or wait in line for lunch or weekends when they serve their “brasserie menu”.  On one of our last nights in Paris we stood in line to get in (I won’t mention how long we waited because I’m a little embarrassed we waited so long but we didn’t have anything else going on and the food looked delicious).  And on a side note, there were two celebrities (BJ Novak from the Office and Ben Feldman, who’s currently on Mad Men). standing in line a few people ahead of us, and if they were waiting to get a table I felt like we could too.  For those wanting to go, I suggest getting there a little before noon or early in the evening to beat the crowd and ensure that you don’t have to wait long in line.

    So, after a very long and cold wait we sat at a very cozy table outside.  In our opinions, the food was delicious, service was great, and Le Comptoir du Relais lives up to all the hype.  It’s worth the wait, and if you’re not able to wait, make sure to stop by Chef Camdeborde’s L’Avant Comptoir next door.

    Le Comptoir de Relais_001Bisque de homard bleu Europeen froide ou chaude (Lobster bisque)

    Le Comptoir de Relais_002Evening Special – Some sort of farro risotto

    Le Comptoir de Relais_003Souris d’agneau braisee semoule et fruits secs (Braised lamb, white beans, dried fruit)

    Le Comptoir de Relais_004Thon rouge rôti <bleue> a la plancha legumes de saison (Seared tuna with seasonal grilled vegetables)

    Le Comptoir de Relais_005Riz au lait cremeux sauce caramel (Creamy rice pudding with caramel sauce)

    Le Comptoir de Relais_006Pot de creme ou caramel beurre sale (Pot of cream with salted caramel sauce )

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    This is the only picture I have of the restaurant, which Dusty took with his phone while we were waiting.  I wanted him to take a picture of the “famous” people I spotted in line and who we then proceeded to watch eat dinner.  As you can see, he only got a picture of the back/side of Ben Feldman and two seats to his right is BJ Novak but he was cut off.  That’s the best he could do without looking like he was purposely taking a picture.  They had several people stop them in line to get their picture taken with the duo but Dusty said I couldn’t ask.  We sat at a table on the left where you currently see a group of women are seated.

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  • Crêpes at Breizh Cafe

    August 17, 2013

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    We’ve read that one of the best places in Paris to get a crêpe is the Breizh Cafe, located in the Marais.  So I put Breizh Cafe on my Paris Bucket List.  On our second day in Paris we thought we’d try to get our first crêpe fix and were disappointed to learn reservations are a must unless you go during non-peak hours but really, to be safe, just make reservations.  Reservations don’t need to be made really far in advance, just the day before or even earlier in the day.  A few days later we went back with reservations and I must agree that the Breizh Cafe does have (in my opinion) the best dessert crêpe and a high quality galette.

    “Breizh” means “Brittany” in the Breton language and the menu includes some of the highlights of the Brittany region. Breizh Cafe specializes in galettes.  Something I learned this summer is that a regular crêpe made with white flour is called a crêpe, and one made with buckwheat flour is called a galette. Desserts are usually served on regular flour crêpes.  Breizh galettes are made with organic buckwheat flour and filled with organic ingredients and the butter is Bordier (our favorite butter).  The beverage of choice is cider, mostly organic from small producers.

    We went while Allison was visiting so Dusty and Allison shared some hard cider and both got one of the galette specials of the day that had smoked duck, white asparagus, egg, and cheese.  I ordered one of the more classic galettes with ham, egg, mushrooms and cheese.  For dessert Dusty got the recommended caramel au beurre salé avec chantilly crêpe (crêpe topped with caramel sauce and homemade whipped cream) and I got a crêpe with chocolate and whipped cream.

    Hands down, Dusty’s crêpe drizzled with salted butter caramel was the best crêpe I’ve ever had.  Now, there will always be a place in my heart for a nutella and banana crêpe from a street vendor but nothing will compare to the salted butter caramel topping at the Breizh Cafe.  I don’t often regret not ordering something but this was one of those times (even though mine was excellent).  We loved the caramel au beurre salé crêpe so much that a couple of days before we left Paris we went back during one of those off hours and ordered two delicious crêpes drizzled with caramel sauce.  This is the kind of crêpe that you don’t share because it’s that good.  I’m still wishing we would have gone there at least a few more times.

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  • Frenchie Bar à Vins

    August 15, 2013

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    One of our new favorite places to eat/drink in Paris is Frenchie Wine Bar.  I’ve talked about Frenchie a couple of times, the reservation only, 20-seat restaurant with prix fixe menu but I haven’t had a chance to talk about the no reservation, first-come first-serve wine bar across the street.  The doors open at 7pm and if you want to get a seat you should arrive early because before the door opens there’s often a line.

    We went during the middle of the week and arrived shortly after 7pm.  We got a table easily but spots filled up fast.  Once we were seated we were given a lengthy list of delicious shared plates served from the open kitchen and a list of some exceptional wines by the glass or bottle.  Of course, with so many of our favorite Paris restaurants, the menu changes constantly.

    I can’t say enough good things about this place, the staff was attentive and had great recommendations, and the food was simple but inventive.  Everything was absolutely delicious.  The ingredients were fresh and each dish was perfectly portioned.  Our favorite dish of the evening was the warmed spring vegetable salad.  Not something we would order but recommended by our waiter and it absolutely blew our minds.

    Frenchie Wine Bar will be one of our go-to places in Paris for so many reasons including the great food, wine and atmosphere.  I’m just a little disappointed that we didn’t try it out until late in our stay this summer and weren’t able to go back.  It’s no surprise that once people arrive and start eating, drinking and socializing, they don’t leave for quite some time.

    frenchiewinebar_002 frenchiewinebar_003Jambon Iberico di Bellota AOC Dehesa de Extremadura, affine 60 mois (60 months aged spanish ham)

    frenchiewinebar_004Oeuf poche, asperges, Keen’s cheddar, girolles (Poached egg, asparagus, cheddar, mushrooms)

    frenchiewinebar_005Salade tiède de légumes de printemps, petit épeautre (Spring vegetable salad)

    frenchiewinebar_006Tortelli ricotta, petite pois, menthe, ricotta salata, (Ricotta tortellini, green peas, mint)

    frenchiewinebar_007Merlu de ligne de Sain-Jean de Luz, asperges, anchois fume (Line-caught hake, asparagus, smoked anchovies)

    frenchiewinebar_008Nuggets de ris de veau, carottes, arroche (Sweetbread nuggets, carrots, 0rach)

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  • Laduree Macarons

    August 13, 2013

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    I’ve talked a lot about sweets in Paris, especially macarons.  One that I haven’t talked about yet is the Ladurée macaron.  One of the landmark places to get macarons in Paris is Ladurée. In 1862, Louis Ernest Ladurée founded his bakery and in 1952, Ladurée’s second cousin, Pierre Desfontaines, made their first macaron.   They are known as the inventor of the double-decker macaron and are still one of the best-known makers of macarons in the world.

    While on a food tour in Paris we discovered that there’s a little controversy surrounding Ladurée macarons because they are mass-produced.  As with so many products in France and Europe, locally sourced and produced is the ultimate goal.

    Even with the controversy I wanted to try the famous Ladurée macrons and I was so glad we did.  I thought they were delicious and some of our favorites.  Dusty and I tried comparing the macarons we’d had from some of the different pastry shops to determine which was the best place for macarons but ultimately we decided that it just depends what flavor you’re getting.  I would say that Ladurée is at the top of our list and had some of the best tasting macarons.  We tried four flavors, chocolat, vanille, caramel fleur de sel (caramel with salted butter), and the framboise (raspberry).  Our favorites were the caramel fleur de sel and the framboise.

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  • Another item on my Paris Bucket List this summer was to have le chocolate chaud (hot chocolate) at Angelina.  I don’t drink coffee so my go-to hot beverage is often hot chocolate and since Paris is much cooler in June than it is in Nebraska (sometimes even in the 60s) , I thought it would be a nice treat on one of the cooler Paris days.

    One chilly afternoon I ventured out and took a stroll to Angelina for some of their famous hot chocolate and equally famous pastry, the Mont Blanc.  This delightful pâtisserie is composed of a vanilla-flavored chestnut cream, fromage blanc/chantilly (a soft fresh type of cream cheese/whipped cream) and meringue. The ingredients give the pastry a sort of crunchy yet creamy texture.  It was a little piece of heaven and was even nice enough to bring a little home to Dusty so he could try it too.

    We’ve walked by Angelina on several occasions and there’s always a line.  It’s an elegant establishment and what’s amazing is that you’ll see tourists sitting along side locals, everyone loves this place.  Because I was alone and didn’t want to wait for a table, I got my drink and pastry for a emporter or “take away” and walked across the street to the Tuileries Garden to sit near one of the fountains and do a little people watching.  I just have to comment on the beautiful packaging.  My mont blanc came in an elegant box and it was almost like opening up a gift it was so pretty.

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  • Place des Vosges

    July 26, 2013

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    Close to our Paris apartment in the Marais district was an amazing little park, the Place des Vosges.  The Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris and was another item on my Paris Bucket List.  Knowing Dusty was going to be busy with work most afternoons I planned to go the park as much as possible to get out of the apartment, enjoy the weather and do a little people watching.  What I love about this park is that it’s an actual square and you must enter by going through one of the archways that lead you from a bustling busy street to this elegant park.

    Just a little history on the Place des Vosges, it’s originally known as the Place Royale, and was built by Henri IV in 1605.  The architecture consists of nine pavilions (houses) per side. The two highest, at the front and back, were for the king and queen (but were never used). Beneath the arcades are cafés, art galleries, and restaurants.

    There’s a great park culture in Paris.  I’m not an expert but Parisians spend a lot of time at parks.  I saw many Parisians at the park over their lunch hour eating a baguette and meeting friends.  I  saw school-aged teenagers eating their lunch (McDonalds was a favorite) or meeting with their friends after school.  I saw couples snuggling up together on blankets.  I saw parents and nannies watching children running around the square (and maybe next summer we’ll be watching our little bambino crawl around the park as well).  I went to my little hidden park a handful of times and every time I couldn’t help but notice how breathtaking the scenery was.

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