Saturday, May 31, 2014

Busman's Holiday Part V - In Praise of Parisian Bakery Sandwiches

Parisian Bakery
I'm talking about sandwiches you get from a bakery (boulangerie), not a convenience store. If you love bread, then you must love baguettes. And if you love baguettes, why not get a fresh one filled with something? Le sandwich!

My first meal in Paris this time was actually a sandwich from a boulangerie on the Rue de Charenton -- expertly wrangled as I wandered up from the Bastille Metro station to the hotel. There are so many bakeries that I don't remember the name of that one. But I do remember the sandwich: jambon and crudites (ham w/lettuce and tomato). Nothing fancy, just simply made with really good bread.

Sandwich Army
Yesterday, I came face-to-face with sandwich nirvana at the boulangerie on the corner of Rue Duret. A virtual army of sandwiches sat on top of the pastry display case -- wrapped up, lined up, stacked up, and ready to go. All identified with little signs, like brigades on a mission: rillette, salami, tuna, ham, cheese, roast beef, with or without crudites. And all for 3-3.90 Euros, approximately $4-5.00 or less than the price of a Subway sandwich (which does now appear to have yet made it to Paris).

I had gone into the bakery for a coffee and a crescent or some other small item to tide me over -- but I simply could not resist the call of le sandwich. And, for goodness sake, I had not yet had enough cheese!

Chevre w/Walnuts + Crudites
Emmental, Camembert? Goat cheese with walnuts, yes! The lettuce and tomato sealed the deal, adding the required aura of healthy eating to the stigma of 12+ inches of beautiful baguette carbs. I'd have to work extra hard on an appetite for lunch, but when in Paris you do what you have to do.

And I do love Parisian bakery sandwiches!

NOTE: My all-time favorite Badoit sparkling water now comes also in "Menthe" as in real mint -- think Mojito without the rum (If you can).
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Busman's Holiday Part IV - La Merveilleuse!

Macarons seem to be a-dime-a-dozen these days, figuratively speaking, of cour$e. I still love Pierre Herme's Infinite Rose and Laduree's Pistachio. And I know they both have annual, sexy new flavors. But macarons are everywhere. Shouldn't we move on -- and cherchez la meringue?

Pistachio & Banana Meringues
Meringues -- invented in the late 17th Century and made basically by whipping egg whites w/sugar -- seem to be the new Big Thing. And I do mean big, like the pistachio meringues about the size of a soup bowls that I saw filling a bakery window near the Gare de Lyon. Just can't remember exactly where...

Assembling "L'Encroyable"
Yesterday was about Monet at the Marmiton Museum and then a visit to "Aux Merveilleux du Fred." That's a bakery and Fred is a Meringue Master. There you can watch them create La Merveilleuse from scratch -- a concoction of 2 meringues, filled/hand-swathed in cream and rolled in chocolate shavings. You can also get L'Encroyable (cinnamon) or L'Impensable (coffee). Or the mini sizes...There is also a variety of snail-shaped brioches being baked on premise, like the one we tried w/chocolate chips -- yet another slap-on!

Rachel, Paula & Fred
La Merveilleuse was, well, just merveilleuse -- even after being carried around in its charming little white box for hours as we continued to the Champ du Mars to stalk the Eiffel Tower from every conceivable angle.

My niece -- never one to pass on a chocolate opportunity of any kind -- and I had traipsed down to the Fred location off the Rue due Passy in the XVIth. But it turns out that he, like Pierre Herme, is spreading like wildfire with 5 Paris locations...including one about 3 blocks from where we will be staying the next few nights. And that's only the tip of the Meringueberg!
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Busman's Holiday Part III - Madame Renaud's Cidre Farm

Utah Beach
Booked a day tour to Normandy's D-Day Beaches that included a couple of regional culinary stops to help digest the impact of what happened there. After all, those invasions were all about liberating real people who are still grateful for sacrifices made by American, British and Canadian soldiers almost 70 years ago. Truly beautiful things are happening over there these days...

Madame Renaud
"Vergers de Romilly" is a 17th Century farm located behind the German Cemetery near Isigny-Sur-Mer. Madame. Renaud is the boss and very proud of her efforts, having earned a coveted AOC designation for apple beverages that are produced entirely on site -- from tree, to press, to barrel, to bottle. She starts her tours in orchards where traditional regional apple varietals have been planted to get needed blends of bitter, sweet and sour apple juices. Et quels resultats!

The farm's produits cidricoles include: Cidre (something like oft-dry champagne), Pommeau (an aperitif), and, of course, Calvados (in barrels 4-10 years). The latter -- think sublimely tasty brandy -- is what the region is famous for, along with Camembert cheese. We happily tasted them all.

God Bless America/France
The dynamic Mme. Renaud let us know that the best way to drink Calvados is in a warm espresso cup just after you have finished the coffee (not in the coffee). And that Calvados and Sweppes Tonic Water is pretty tasty, too -- a cocktail called "Nouvelle Vogue." What a treat to visit with her.

Vive la Normandie!

NOTE: Returning to a rainy Paris and to the hotel at nearly 10 pm presented a dinner challenge -- alas, no time to take off for places on my list. Scouting nearby, I settled on a small, bustling pasta restaurant named Giallo Oro at #34 Rue Duret. The Ravioli ai Carciofi (artichokes) were amazing -- OPA!
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Busman's Holiday Part II - From Market to Charles DeGaulle!

Mussels w/Blue Cheese, ETC
Now ensconced on the top floor of Au Trappiste at #4 Rue Saint-Denis -- sitting near the balcony, catching some fresh air and a view of the Theatre du Chatelet (one of my old haunts). It's 8:45 pm, and it won't get dark for another hour here in Paris.

I ordered Mussels w/Blue Cheese d'Auvergne in cream broth w/onions, parsley, celery and white wine. The mussels themselves were fair to middlin,' but the broth immediately gained traction when I started eating it w/a spoon. The Carolus Triple Blond beer on tap was outstanding. I was in the mood for beer, and this place offers 2 pages worth! 

Grand Maman's Shopping Spree
My day began with a visit to the Beauvais Market on the Place d'Alitre. It's the second oldest covered market in Paris; the vendors are clearly top-rate and favorites of an older generation. It is very difficult to look at so much beautiful meats, fish and cheeses enhanced by dazzling displays of prepared foods, when you know you really can't buy much with no where to store or cook...(I did, however, score the dried cepes on my shopping list!)

Check out these tomatoes!

Outside, the two endless rows of vendors -- many North African, it seemed -- selling produce was mind-bending. There were beautiful beefsteak tomatoes that looked liked they had been grown in individual aspic cups, along with what appeared to be cooked beets. Never saw round courgettes before either. Time for lunch!

Tangine w/Olives & More
Walked over to Chez Leon at #25 Rue du Lyon, a North African restaurant that was totally awesome with a staff that was too kind. I ordered Lamb Tangine w/Olives -- right up the alley of any lamb shank lover. It came to table still bubbling under its festive pottery cone cover -- full of vegetables like zucchini and artichoke and accompanied by a dish of heavenly-looking couscous. A glass of red Cote de Rhone and my favorite Badoit sparkling water made the meal perfect -- Double Opa! 

Ceremony at Arc de Triomphe
I would be remiss not mentioning the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc du Triomphe that I came across.  This supposedly happens every evening -- but tonite there were high-ranking dignitaries (did I see Charles de Gaulle?), a military band and many veterans of the Resistance with chestfulls of medals. A run-up to the 70th Anniversary of D-Day perhaps?

What a day! I've only been here less than 36 hours, and so far no rain on my parade...

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Busman's Holiday Part I - Canard Aux Pruneax!

You may just be sitting down to dinner, but it probably won't be quite as good as mine was -- just sayin'...

Training into Paris' Gare du Nord from CDG airport, then Metro #5 to Bastille for a 15 minute walk to my hotel took a lot out of me -- but then again, I was perfectly happy to eat my baguette sandwich from the corner boulangerie in my room w/ the window open and tv tuned to the French Open. Heaven!

I finally ventured back out for a walk-about around 7 -- from the Bastille, to the Place de Vosges, through the Marais, down to the Seine and finally to the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) on the Seine. One of the restaurants on my list was Le Trumilou at #87 Quai de Hotel de Ville, for very good classic French meals at reasonable prices. And it did not disappoint.

Le Trumilou Dining Room
Le Trumilou is a "beautiful" establishment with books and stuff cluttering shelves in the entry way and art work/other period artifacts adorning the unpretentious, proud dining room. I was greeted by a grizzled but charming 50-something, who must be the owner and who spoke some English to complement my re-emerging French. (I really must stop saying si instead of oui!)

Inevitably, I ordered the specialite of the house: Canard Aux Pruneaux (Duck cooked in prunes) -- though the Sausages Lyonnaise and Salade Landaise were very tempting on a menu loaded with intriguing possibilities.
The Boss

The Table is Set
The Boss was every bit as hard-working as the rest of the cordial and efficient wait staff, and after a few minutes he offered me a plate of green olives and salami, which I happily munched on -- not knowing what was coming next: a 10" casserole dish of duck in prunes, a side order of pommes frites, and the ubiquitous basket of fresh bread. The accidental feast was paired with red Bordeaux wine (which I now think should have been the Rhone red).

Canard Aux Pruneaux
The duck was nicely-cooked, and the dark brown sauce was rich and addictive. The many prunes were a delight, and good for me, too:)

The meal was formidable, the place was right up my alley (in addition to being on the Seine!), and I could see myself as a Le Trumilou regular if I spent more time Paris -- Double OPA!

NOTE: The whole meal was 27EU (service compris) and the cafe creme I am now drinking sitting outside at Cafe Louis Philippe a few doors down @#66 costs 4.5EU. But it is the perfect ending to a very long day -- and I just heard the owner Gille's story about how he won the Green Card Lottery to go to the States many years ago, but could never leave. Everyone has a story...and I love my French stories.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Taking it all in, now on to Paris!

I am still absorbing all that I took in at BlogHerFood20014 here in Miami -- inspiring and motivating, so much to do...Did take time to make up a batch of tzatziki for family using Koroneiki Olive Oil, as my Yiayia Sarris is from Koroni...In a few hours I leave for Paris, my 12th visit overall, but not since 1998 (before the Euro!). So you will be hearing from me as I absorb all she has to offer to a Greek Foody, who is always looking to make every meal there count!  A bientôt...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Paula's Breakfast Poutine, and a Greek one, too!

When I first discovered poutine in an early trip to Canada, I was in my total glory...French fries, a light meat gravy and cheese curds (not exactly a snacking option on their own, come to find out) -- how could I ever go wrong? And when stopping by the X Treme Fries truck near the Port Hope Town Hall, I dared to ask for mine with the sweet potato fries. The proprietress looked at me kinda funny, but said OK for just 50 cents more. Delicious, and now on the truck's menu, I think..(BTW: Fries trucks are prolific throughout Canadian towns and countryside,  mostly in one location -- long before food trucks became prolific in Miami!)

Oasis Poutine
After that, I began to not only seek out poutine, but also discover different takes on the originally-from-Quebec dish. You can get poutine everywhere, including McDonald's! Olympus Burger adds Canadian bacon and caramelized onions, along with its Olympus gravy, of course. In Ottawa we encountered Smoke's (a Canadian chain) with so many varieties that I felt overwhelmed and like we were over-stuffing baked potatoes. The Oasis Bar & Grill in Coburg uses lobster for their "Not Routine Poutine" -- delicious and one of my favorites. And Wimpy's offers, among several choices, an amazing breakfast poutine not unlike a one-pot morning dish.    

Paula's Breakfast Poutine
So I decided to make my own on Sunday morning -- with potatoes I had on hand, a can of Carrière "Poutine Sauce" from the local Dollarama Plus, some Empire cheddar cheese curds with red pepper/caramelized onion snagged at the Coburg Farmer's Market, and fried eggs. I nuked the potatoes some so that they wouldn't take too long (who could wait!) sauteing in the pan with butter and olive oil. Then added the previously-sauteed red peppers, hot peppers, garlic and onion -- resulting in something like glorified home fries. Drizzled some of the hot gravy on the potatoes, added the cheese curds, more gravy, the egg, and more gravy. You can add any meat, if you...Paula's Breakfast Poutine -- you, too, will lick the plate!

PS: Just recalled that one year up North I made Greek Poutine: oven roasted Greek potatoes (with lemon, olive oil, and plenty of oregano/garlic), avgholemono sauce and grated kaseri cheese -- OPA!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From Library to Table: Beef Kapama!

Next to food, I love libraries. So when I arrived in Port Hope, ONT, I immediately revisited the Public Library -- with its wonderful collections, events, and view of the Ganaraska River to boot!

There I discovered the 590-page "The Olive and The Caper" (Adventures in Greek Cooking) by Susanna Hoffman, one of the most informative and inspiring Greek cookbooks I have come across. And I have seen/own a few. My own copy is now speeding its way to Miami via eBay!

Preparing a dinner party for a couple of foodies and wanting to use one of the impressive red wines from Colaneri Estate Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake), I decided on "Beef Kapama" pp. 369-370 -- a dish not unlike Boeuf Bourguignon that I had eaten before, but never made. This recipe calls for red wine, brandy, strongly brewed coffee and honey along with onion, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, whole cloves, bay leaves, salt/pepper.  Being in Canada, I substituted maple syrup for the honey. Reading the notes, I threw in some pitted prunes for good measure... Brown the meat, sauté the onion, bring all the ingredients to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours. The succulent, tender-to-the-fork result was amazing, due mostly to the recipe.

The Kapama was served with baked Greek potatoes (lemon, olive oil, oregano, garlic) and a salad dressed with olive oil and fig-infused balsamic vinegar. And it was paired with Colaneri "Insieme" 2011 -- a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc in the Apassimento Style (meaning some of the grapes were dried à la Italian Amarone-making).

No one was disappointed, and the leftovers just now spoke for themselves -- OPA!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Taco-making party on Cinco de Mayo, a simple celebratory concept even for Greek wraps!

Thinking about Mexican-themed hors d'oeuvres to serve on the eve of Cinco de Mayo, I wondered how about sitting around the table with the makings for tacos and letting everyone build their own. Salsas and other ingredients abound at the supermarkets even in the small town of Port Hope, Ontario -- along with a myriad of large and small soft tortillas, both regular and whole wheat, and hard taco shells, both regular and standing. (For some reason, soft corn tortillas are still not available, and I am not sure why. So I usually bring my own from Miami.)

So that's what we did -- cooking up some chicken breast to pull apart; sauteing steak meat with red peppers, onions, garlic and some chili powder/cumin; prepping some lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and jalapenos; whipping up some fresh guacamole; simmering some beans with onion, garlic, a bay leaf and some bacon (serve whole or pureed); grating some cheddar or jack cheese (alas, no "crema" to be found) and choosing mango/peach and tomatillo salsas to be backed up by a bottle of chipotle hot sauce. Add to that margaritas and cold glasses of Mexican beer with shots of Sauza tequila, if you dare. Our guests loved it!

It's a model easily veganized that you can use for any cuisine that features flat breads and fixings that can be wrapped up in them. Indeed, you can even build your own Greek wraps with various soft tortillas and all the gyro fixings plus other appetizing treats...Opa!

Most importantly, you still have time for your own taco party today -- buen provecho!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Greek-themed burgers in Canada with a hot twist!

Just talked out of the "Labour of Hercules" Challenge, something I would never have expected from a charming hamburger joint in Port Hope, Ontario, called Olympus Burger. You have to eat a 6 oz. beef burger with Canadian bacon, lettuce/tomatoes, caramelized onions, jalapeños, habaneros, and secret Olympus hot sauce -- in 15 minutes w/one glass of water, after you have signed a waiver. If successful you become a "Demi-God" and get a free OB t-shirt.
George and his OB waiver

Well, I was signed up until George described the Scorpion Trinidad (related to Ghost) peppers -- about 20 times hotter than a jalapeno -- that his family grew and used for the sauce. While I truly love and eat hot peppers/sauces regularly, it did not seem like their secret sauce would benefit someone being treated for gerd. Not to mention that only 65 customers out of 189 have managed to complete the Challenge so far. 
So I settled for a 6 oz. beef "Hades" burger with roasted red peppers, jalapenos, and chipotle bacon sauce in a beautiful whole wheat bun; they gave me a side of the secret hot sauce so I could test my mettle. Very juicy, tasty burger -- and hot enough for now, efharisto poli. A combo w/very nice home-cut fries and unlimited pop is $10.50..a very good deal for such quality food.

(Have yet to try the "Olympus poutine" with Canadian bacon, caramelized onions, the cheese curds and Olympus gravy over home-cut fries. Or the "Olympus fries" with feta cheese and special Olympus sauce, very poutine-sounding in itself. And other Greek-themed burgers/sandwiches sound fab -- like Hermes [w/feta], Athena [lamb], Zeus[loaded!], Artemis [chicken], and Hera [vegan]...For even more choices, click here to access the OB secret menu.)

Next time, maybe The Challenge -- or better yet, I might get to see someone else try it :)  In the meantime, Double Opa for Olympus Burger!

NOTE: George's family is from a village near Sparti, and he admits that super hot is not really a Greek thing. Then again, he did not know my jalapeno-addicted father, Steve -- who would have signed that waiver and become #66 in about 2 minutes!