In Part I of my post on Paris I spoke a little about the people, now it’s about …
The Food –
Myth busting: Contrary to a friend’s popular belief, Parisian cuisine is not all bread, cheese, butter and wine. She forgot the potatoes. I kid! I kid! (Sorta.)
Breakfast/Brunch – I must say I was quite surprised to see that according to the menu – a French Breakfast consisted of a buttered baguette, a croissant and smattering of preserve. I mean were we not in the land of the infamous french omelette? Where’s the jambon (ham) and oui, le fromage (cheese) and other goodness most Americans associate with a breakfast omelette? Yes, it is bread and butter, plus a croissant which is naturally buttery, but really? That’s it?
This gal wanted some meat and since it was closer to lunch time, ordered a Croque Monsieur. For those unfamiliar with this, truth be told, a Croque Monsieur is a glorified grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Oh, but what a sandwich!
What makes it worth it is the Gruyere cheese. This favorite of French cafés and bistros also switches genders and becomes a Madame when topped by a fried egg. And speaking of eggs…
Lesson learned – I don’t know if was just that specific restaurant where we dined, or part of the culture, but one should definitely learn how to say I want my eggs cooked well if you do not like your fried/sunny-side/boiled/scrambled eggs runny. Different breakfast meals with types of cooked eggs, same results. It did not bother me, but J & M were quite perturbed when their sunny-side up egg was served considerably less than, as J put it “crispy”.
A pleasant lesson learned is how they serve coffee. They do not steam the milk Italian style, but it is served hot. You get all the flavor, but do not lose the heat and it’s not frothy like a latte. I actually liked that.
Lunch/Dinner – I had duck, beef, seafood dishes (two as part of multi-course meals), and one sausage dish. We started learning the first night pretty much everything was served with some form of potato, the most common thing being frites (fries). By the fourth day, when someone ordered Moules Frites I was not surprised at all to see mussels served with fries. I will say I took complete pleasure in seeing a bottle of good ol’ Heinz Ketchup (in English!), appear every where fries were served, oh yeah!
The only meal that was disappointing for me a sausage and mashed potato dish from a place which came nicely recommended. I, and the only other person that ordered it, both found it to be overly salty for our tastes and couldn’t eat it. Other than that, every thing else ranged from very good to oh damn this is good.
Late night – Every major metropolis has their hole-in-the-wall 24 places to get some grub, and Paris was no exception. You know the type of place. We’re not there for the ambiance or the nutritional value of the meal. It’s not cuisine – it’s food: they’ve got – we want it – that’s all. The major difference is I’m not getting a ham & cheese crepe at 4am in New York City. I am in Paris after all.
My three favorite dishes:
No. 3: Now tell me – how can something with only two damn ingredients and some seasoning be so divine? That was the caprese and side salad. In season tomatoes at their peak flavor and fresh mozzarella are truly the key here. They were simply wonderful by their selves. With the wonderfully flavorful pesto sauce drizzled across – they were sublime.
No. 2: I wish I had thought to write down the name of the dish. The duck was nicely trimmed of fat, so tender and perfectly cooked. The broth of tiny diced vegetables and raisins was savory. The Parmesan mashed potatoes with a tiny sprinkling of chives balanced well with the duck. It was oh so freaking YUM!
No. 1: The seasoned shrimp and risotto. I need to give a tiny be of back story here. The duck dish above and the shrimp/risotto were both from L’Amazonial and were literally the first french foods to grace our palettes. I had ordered the duck and M ordered the risotto. Typical tourists we are sampling from each other. Each of us gave pause when the risotto hit out tongues. Creamy, cheesy and still somehow perfectly firm. It was served atop of a sauce that tasted a whole lot like the broth served with my duck sans the veggies and raisins. As much as I loved the duck (drool), the was risotto was my first oh damn this is good moment. We all also agreed though nicely seasoned and very delish, the shrimp was a little dry. I presume that seemed to be the style of the dish as repeat orders had the same results. Notice I said repeat orders? After some sight-seeing, when we returned for dinner, three of us ordered the dish and we came back the next day for it. Yes, it really was that good.
Desserts – Oh you didn’t think I was going to leave it out did you? For shame! The bad news – because I choose art over food as my focus this trip I did not make any specific food runs. I know, what kind of fat girl am I, right?! It happens. The good news – I did have a few desserts. I am a fat girl after all. It happens. The two best were an apple galette with vanilla ice cream and of course a crème brulee.
The apple galette was mouth watering on sight. The crust was perfect. Not over buttery, too sweet, not so dense you wanted a hacksaw to cut through it, but not so flaky it turned to dust at the lightest touch. The apples were tender, delicately sweet and just spot on good. The caramel swirls were just – well icing on the cake – lol. The crème brulee – oh what can I say. The sugar topping was expertly torched. If I had a toothpick to get to the edges, I could have lifted the shell as a whole disc. The crème was simply ooh la la riche! And for once not served in some little squat ramekin as generally served at restaurants here in the US, but in a nice wide one. Plenty of torched sugary goodness and even more crème to enjoy.
We enjoyed two three multi-course meals. One at wine pairing event, restaurant and another while cruising along the Seine. Were they delicious in their own right? -yes. The wine pairing dinner introduced me to something called a dorade. The menu card that came with the meal simply called it “Dorade with avocado and mango salsa.” The fish was so delicate in flavor that the avocado and mango nearly washed it out, but it was tasty. I actually looked up the word dorade to confirm it was indeed fish. The river cruise had this interesting soup, pairing a warm puree of zucchini, green beans and Lima beans, with cool pieces of its composite vegetables within. Two unique tastes and textures I would order again. Otherwise the two meals would be unfortunately forgettable were it not for the marvelous company of my dining companions.
Other than breakfast, wine or some form of liquor was a part of nearly each meal. Still, I was not any where near laden down with all this famed butter and cheese and I have to say a part of me is highly disappointed dammit. Perhaps this richness is in the outer regions of Paris. Probably where all the fat Parisians are hiding also. Next trip to France I must go in search of them and their famed über rich food.
Trip-Advisor et al, have their uses as an excellent resources, for where to dine, but please don’t let it be one’s only deciding factor. If I only followed those suggestion I may never have discovered that risotto. Overall, while I enjoyed nearly every morsel that crossed my lips, the meals I enjoyed the most were in the places we simply happened across in our travels. I would suggest the same to other first-timers.
Next – L’Art (The Sites)