October 31, 2009

My First Real Bistro Meal: Salt Pork and Lentils

I kind of made a pact with myself that when ordering out at restaurants in Paris, I would explore the unfamiliar. Yes, I plan on downing some steak frites and soupe oignon gratineé, but I also wanted to experience fare that you can't really find in the states. Today, I made good on that promise. At a small bisto in Le Marais, I ordered petit salé avec lentilles—or, salt pork over lentils.

The pork came out looking like a big piece of holiday ham, but the texture was amazing—it flaked apart, almost like really good brisket. The lentils (french lentils are really something special) were cooked with bacon and carrots and added a rich earthiness to each bite. It was subtle and delicious, and I walked away smiling.

Paris Reunites Me with a Long Lost Love: Taramosalata

Ever since our family traveled to Australia, where this salty, strange, magical dip is somewhat ubiquitous, my little brother and I have been obsessed. (Thank you Nolan, wise brother-in-law.) Made with cod roe, olive oil, garlic, lemon and usually breadcrumbs, this Greek/Turkish marvel has a mild, tender, fishy funk—and is simply wondrous.

Tonight for dinner, I planned to make further progress on the cheeses in my fridge. I bought a fresh baguette in Le Marais (along with a ficelle—a skinny little mini baguette thing—studded with flecks of chorizo: smoky and awesome) and I still had 3/4 of a bottle of red wine in my apartment. Then, I passed a shop selling Greek specialties and got Taramosalata on the brain. I didn't stop, and regretted it. Then. THEN! I was walking down Rue Mouffetard, just a few blocks from home, and I passed another Greek spot. This time, I grabbed some of the pale pink elixir. As of this writing, I haven't even touched my cheese.

October 30, 2009

My First Croissant: Better Than it Has Any Right to Be

As with most delicious things in Paris, this croissant exceeded expectations. On other intake related notes, I realized today that I have been riding the red-wine-café rollercoaster. I have an expresso, then a glass of wine with lunch, then an afternoon café, then a late afternoon verre de vin. It creates some funny sensations. I like it.

It also helped me enjoy the Musée D'Orsay a smidge more. I always forget that I find impressionism such a snooze—everything just looks kind of washed out to me. (I think it's because I have no soul.) Stoked for the Pompidou!

One final Seinfeld-esque observation: What's the deal with tourists taking pictures of famous pictures in museums? Do they think their friends and families won't believe they really saw it? It's the only explanation I come up with.

(For those of you interested in more pictures, check out my facebook. I've been posting a ton.)

October 29, 2009

My First Home Cooked Meal in Paris: Braised Chicken Legs

Braised chicken with leeks, carrots, garlic, cherry tomatoes and red wine. As with most chicken dishes I make, I ended up more interested in sopping up the sauce with bread than actually eating the meat. Still, it was a huge success. A play-by-play in pics, after the jump.

Day Two: My First Market Haul

(Someone is playing trumpet somewhere, and I can hear it through my window. Beautiful)

I still have to get some protein for what is going to be some kind of braised meat-and-veggie dish, but I have returned from my first real food shopping trip. It was fun. And I got CHEESE.

I am also realizing the limitations of my rusty French. Sometimes I think it would be better if I didn't speak the language at all (that's a lie). The problem is that I can clearly state what I want, and in a very servicable accent. I appear to have my shit together, and then struggle with the follow up question. It's awkward. The casual speed and beautiful slurred-together lilt with which French people speak is charming, but makes it tres difficile pour moi to understand. That said, I have been here only a little more than 24 hours, so I hope that will improve.

So, back to the cheeses. One is a chevre with herbs, the other is something creamy and funky. They were awesome. Here's a picture.

October 28, 2009

Day One: A Sandwich Changes My Life

Getting here was a bit of a haul. I took the metro, and I had a huge bag, and I hadn't slept. Fortunately, even though I couldn't occupy my place until 4 p.m., I was able to drop off my bags around 11, and venture off into the city.

And I was hungry. Like borderline quesy hungry. I lectured myself to get the first thing that looked decent (I tend to get really picky when I travel—like if every meal isn't special I've somehow failed), but ended up wandering up and down the Rue Mouffetard, an open-air market street one block over from my new abode.

Finally, something caught my eye. At a boulangerie (bakery) there were some simple—but special!—looking sandwiches. One of them had some kind of soppresata-lookin' cured meat deal going on (a serious weakness of mine), plus greens, cornichons and butter (all things I also like). The woman behind the counter slid the sammy into a slim plastic bag, handed it over, and, as I walked away, I immediately started eating.

I took my first bite out of hunger, not hoping for any kind of transcendent culinary experience. Then I started giggling. Then I almost started to scream.

Now, I love bread. A lot. But I guess I only thought bread could be so good. I had heard tales, obvs, of the special magic conjured by a Parisian baguette, but I had assumed it would be a simple step up. Well, this bread was Jimmy Rollins, and everything I have ever had before was Jonathan Broxton. It shamed them. I simply could not get over it. And don't even get me started on the tart sweetness of the cornichons against the fatty meat!

This is gonna be a great trip. Tonight I'm watching the World Series at a Canadian sports bar called The Moose...

October 27, 2009

Packing for Paris: Culinary Edition

(Tonight I leave for Paris. I'll be there for one month, and hopefully blogging daily. Check back for more of my exciting adventures.)

One of the reasons I decided to rent an apartment in Paris (besides it being the cheapest option for a month stay), was because I can't imagine not being able to troll the markets and cook. To me, it's 75 percent of my motivation for even going.

My studio in the 5e (which I'll be seeing in person for the first time tomorrow, Eek!) had one of the more impressive kitchens in my price range. Though that isn't really saying much—many places had little more than a hot plate, while this one has two small burners and a modicum of counter space. It also has a nice wooden table for eating (and working and blogging) with a view out the sixth floor windows onto the Latin Quarter below.

I'm assuming the kitchen will have utensils and a knife or two—and I'm all about guerrilla cooking—but I thought I should bring a couple essentials to aid in the process. Mostly, that means my little, yellow Le Creuset (which has been in our family for years), a microplane for grating (cheese, obvs) and zesting, a peeler and a small wooden spoon. If I need to pick up a cheap skillet over there, it will be easy enough, along with any other needed supplies. How long do you think it'll be before I'm braising some lapin? Let the experiments begin!

October 6, 2009

This Blog is About to Get Much More Exciting: Paris-bound

I'll be in Paris from Oct. 28 through Nov. 25. I'll be eating—and cooking!—and, hopefully, having my mind blown. Oh, and I'll be blogging, daily.