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Everything posted by sharonb

  1. Last night I found myself dining at Le Villaret for the second time in a month. Interesting setting in a quiet street off Oberkampf, assuredly the only restaurant in the neighborhood with valet parking. The last time I'd been, I'd had a very positive impression of the food: chunky, thick-cut terrine de museau with nicely stickily sauced greens; savory lamb's tongues with excellent mashed potatoes; cheese "house" (like a small bookshelf contraption) of the very first order. The wine list is excellent but pricy, pricy, pricy. We stepped down a notch for the white (wanting a Meursault, we went with a Saint-Aubin from Hubert Lamy), though did spring for a 2002 Geantet-Pansiot Gevrey-Chambertin after. The service, the first time, was obnoxious, a little withering. That time I was with an American friend and my French boyfriend, so we were speaking English, though there were clearly many other Americans in the room. Yesterday: I walked in from the rain and got indifference and again, those withering stares. Yet when I said the name of the person I was dining with, who is a wine-world bigwig, they indeed changed their tune. I could see the (same) waiter making a strained effort to be more pleasant throughout the evening. The wines we ordered (and this time I didn't get to see the pricing, so didn't have that disagreeable reaction) were stunning. The 2004 Vincent Dancer Meursault "Grands Charrons" was so unbelievably lush and yet balanced, I was awed; we both were. A 2005 J.-F. Mugnier Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru "Clos de la Maréchale" was the picture of seamless, elegant red Burgundy fruit. We drank it alone, though (a half bottle after the full bottle of Meursault) because we opted out of cheese or dessert. The food was, unfortunately, hit-and-miss for me this time. Amuse-bouche: tiny cup of celery soup with parmesan croûtons, nice; the croûtons were flavorful, more than the soup. My first course - six oysters with a dollop of crème fraîche topped with caviar - was unbelievably unctuous. I am usually an oyster purist: no lemon, no shallots and vinegar, just dark bread and butter. But here, the crème fraîche took away the saltiness, amped up a creamy, unctuous feel, and then the pop of the caviar brought the salty, briny note back again. Symphonic. I loved it. My main course, though, was awful, unfortunately - billed as a "tarte fine" of rougets with confited eggplant and mozzarella, it sounded tempting. Well, on the plate, a sodden disc of way-too-thick pastry with sweet cubes of eggplant (the sweetness was very offputting) crushed by thick, rather flavorless chunks of rouget filets, topped by melted mozzarella. A disaster. My dining companion's meal looked delicious, that said, and I believe he said it was. We had both ordered à la carte, because the 50 euro menu included first, fish, meat, cheese and dessert courses with, I believe, even a trou normand or some such, and that seemed too copious. After the main courses we were more than happy to linger and linger and linger over the wines.
  2. Unsullied palate? That's a little too puritanical for my blood... Food and wine together create new and fascinating reverberations; also gives a contrapuntal approach, etc. Not to mention the sheer hedonistic angle. More concretely, it *is* important to me to know what a restaurant's wine list is like. As for Giles Coren, he comes across as a buffoon, but then he gets all Deleuze and Foucault and you know he's laughing up his sleeve. Beard or no. He's Rabelais where Gill is Pascal...
  3. Gill writes well, but is, to my sense, somewhat excruciatingly caustic. Doesn't drink wine - a former alcoholic, apparently - so never reports on that aspect, which is frustrating and gives a strange angle on a restaurant meal. I prefer the Times's Giles Coren. More slobbish, yet with a great offhand knowledge; more truly funny (and self-mocking) than Gill, though not as cutting.
  4. sharonb

    Wine Stores

    I read the information that it had closed on the wine discussion board La Passion du vin a while back. Here is the link.
  5. sharonb

    Wine Stores

    I thought they closed two years ago?
  6. sharonb

    Wine Stores

    Michael, thanks... And good suggestions, too, though the 14th may be too "excentré" for our original poster. *Love* La Cave des Papilles. Margaret, agree about La Dernière Goutte - they also do excellent tastings with the winemakers themselves every Saturday. Other top wine stores: 1st - Wine and Bubbles (rue Française) 2nd - Legrand Filles et Fils (rue de la Banque/passage Vivienne) 3rd - Caves Elzevir (rue Elzevir) 4th - Caprices de l'Instant (rue Jacques-Coeur) 5th - Caves du Panthéon (rue Saint-Jacques) 6th - Bacchus et Ariane (rue Lobineau)
  7. sharonb

    Wine Stores

    Les Caprices de l'Instant, rue Jacques-Cœur next to the Bastille. Picked up a couple of bottles of 1996 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet today. They have a fine book.
  8. sharonb


    It was really strange and excessive. They plopped our bottle of Puligny-Montrachet in an ice bucket a little ways off. At one point, the sommelier actually came around and said with a kind of exasperated snarl, "I suppose you want me to serve you?" (most of us had finished what was in our glasses). Strange. Later, he refused to let us order a dessert wine by the bottle (there were five of us and we ended up each ordering a glass of the same wine).
  9. Yesterday evening, I continued my exploration of the 5th arrondissement with a restaurant called L'Equitable near Censier-Daubenton. What a strange experience - most of the food was good, except for a spectacular misfire with my main course; the wine list was awful: almost nothing there, and a third of the things printed no longer available (crossed out). The setting was rustic and amusingly charming, but the service was obnoxious. I kind of think that for the service alone I wouldn't go back, though my first course of tête de veau was one of the best renditions of that dish I've had. For the full report, look to my blog.
  10. I don't think you can generalize about offal, and I don't think saying "Ugh" is the best way to... get to know off-cuts of meat. One thing to remember is that cuts such as liver or sweetbreads (by the way - there is no such thing as "beef sweetbreads"; the gland only exists in young animals: veal, lamb) are not fatty. As such, they need more preparation (seasonings, sauces) than fattier meats. You might just throw a steak or a duck breast in a pan with salt and pepper and it'd be delicious; but a skinless, boneless chicken breast needs a little more help. First of all, you don't have to soak the cuts you mention, unless there is visible blood on the sweetbreads, and certainly not for 24 hours. Take a more "organic" approach to the pieces: what might go well with them? What is traditionally paired with them and how are they sauced?
  11. This weekend I was in the Oberkampf neighborhood for the first time in a long time. Since I was there, I decided to walk by (and potentially stop into) my favorite wine bar, on the rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Les Crâneuses. Imagine my surprise to see it (closed; it was a Sunday) now bearing the name Orange Mécanique on the glass pane in front of the closed metal divider. What gives?! This was a great wine bar and always seemed crowded and popular (as well as excellent in quality - not only wines selected with great care and talent, but just three types of comestibles: a charcuterie plate from Meurdesoif, a cheese plate from Androuët and a smoked salmon, herring, etc. plate from some equally well-respected poisonnerie). Anyone know anything about this? Has it gone elsewhere or just off to the pearly gates? Anyone else had a similar shock to recount?
  12. Please send me the five truckloads of tapenade canapés.
  13. My experience in France has always been splitting the check in half (or in equal parts based on the number of people/couples); looking too closely at it is what seems to be inappropriate, but I have never seen people take turns, in restaurants. The only thing that hasn't fit into that category has been when one person really wants to have the others discover a wine s/he likes that is more expensive than usual; that person will say, "This bottle is on me," or something like that, and pay that much more at the end of the meal.
  14. I won't weigh in on American usage, but I can clear up what's going on with the French use of the terms. a) Hors d'œuvre has actually fallen out of fashion and no one uses it anymore, except for at catered-type events or white-glove cocktail parties. The hors d'œuvre in question (no "s" for the plural) are bites served without cutlery, usually standing up. b) In today's fine restaurants, the meal is often preceeded by an amuse-gueule or amuse-bouche. Synonyms. "Gueule" which literally means "animal's muzzle" is slang for "face" but somehow escapes being pejorative in the term "amuse-gueule" (whereas the verb "gueuler" means to shout or complain). c) After any potential amuse-gueule, the first course in French restaurant meals is the entrée. d) The main course is the plat principal, often shortened to "plat." e) Then potentially cheese (fromage) and the easy one, dessert.
  15. I don't have any specific questions; just wanted to weigh in with my sheer enjoyment of this blog. From the first pangs of terrible nostalgic longing for New England on seeing the wintry photos (four years in Williamstown, MA, gave me a taste for those snowscapes) through the delight of your absolutely adorable, perky, smart son, through the different delights of your cooking and descriptions, I have spent many pleasurable minutes reading from page to page. Thank you, then, from someone who intended to lurk, simply...
  16. John, small? (Only joking...) Vinotas, 1. The rue Delambre has some excellent food purveyors (including the poissonnerie mentioned by Felice) - a great cheese shop, boulangeries, and an Italian imports food store. And there is an *excellent* wine store just off the place on one end of the r. Delambre - I bought some wines from Hubert Lamy and Ghislaine Barthod recently... The rue Daguerre, south of the cemetery. Excellent commerçants and the wine store Les Papilles (not to be confused with the restaurant of the same name in the 5th). Very organic-wine based. 2. Wine bars/restaurants - check out Natacha on the rue Campagne-Première or La Cagouille on one of those little streets off Cdt Mouchotte. Le Petit Verdot on the rue du Cherche-Midi. Millésime 62 on the place de Catalogne is pretty good, though a little too expensive for what it's worth. 3. Wine stores - See above. Also, further down the bd du Montparnasse nearer Port-Royal is a great wine store - the Grand something, I forget the name. The guy has older things stashed away in his cellar; get him talking and he'll remember certain things... 4. Cheese stores - rue Delambre. Voilà! And don't forget to head over to the 5th sometime for some Burgundy...
  17. Robyn, while seafood in markets and fishmongers' must by law display the origin of the fish next to the price, it's true that there is no sure way to know in restaurants (except oysters, which are often noted as being Spéciales, Claires, etc. or from Brittany or whatever). You could ask, definitely. I don't think oysters or bulots (whelks) would ever be imported, but langoustines, shrimp and even mussels (from Spain, mostly) could be.
  18. Julot, I didn't take it away and eat it cold. It is served in bread baskets, warm, at the restaurant Fish. It may be fresh-baked, but to my tastes, there is something industrial about the dough. That was all. So promising, but somewhat lacking.
  19. Hm... Les Papilles, while delicious, has a humungous four-course set meal with no choice... One of the largest meals I can think of. At lunchtime, it's easy to order simply a plat du jour and have done with it. Also good choices are wine bars with plateaux de charcuterie or de fromage. There are many that serve excellent-quality meats and cheeses (two examples, though in "young" neighborhoods - Les Crâneuses on the rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in the 11th and Le Verre Volé on the rue de Lancry in the 10th). Another great solution is some oysters or a plateau de fruits de mer. Régis in the 6th is a great place to stop in. Or l'Arbuci on the rue de Buci, which has an unlimited-oyster (but only oyster) set-price meal. Tapas-type meals are encroaching, as well. Julot - Cosi seems pretty similar to the NY chain, no? At least the bread they serve across the street at Fish and which comes from Cosi is exactly that flat, olive-oil and salt, vaguely industrial bread... One of those things you like but aren't actually that good...
  20. Wow, I went and read the pages from Harper's and must say I am seriously underwhelmed. What Busboy posted in the original post here is more pertinent than everything else in that anemic polemic - filling in the rest drowns out the punch, and makes the author seem like a niggler with an axe to grind. There may be hysteria afoot, but no one has clearly and clear-headedly debunked the allergy factory, if one exists. My prior post here was a little jumbled, but tried to communicate a sense that (from observation) food allergies are absolutely everywhere you look, in the U.S. - and I don't deny that: my mother gets violently ill from milk products; my sister's baby son breaks out in hives from peach skin; my father's business partner's throat swells up if he swallows vinegar - but why are there none over here in France (other than the clearly psychosomatic "allergies" to certain types of wine, which mirror my two cousins' self-diagnosed celiac disease, which makes them feel "sluggish" and irritable after eating flour). It would be interesting to explore the hysteria, or what kinds of manifestations allergies or "allergies" take. 1. The idea that excessive antibiotics have left populations insufficiently hardy to attack certain things. 2. The threshold at which one feels that something is afoot: discomfort? indigestion? (Of course, here I am not talking about hives or one's throat swelling up.) Yet, conversely, in France, society and the government are extremely aware of food-related health dangers. Three or four years ago, there was an outbreak of listeriose from industrially-produced potted meat (rillettes). Seventeen people were sick or died. It was on the first page of every single newspaper and was the headline news for at least a week. It turns out, one of the two people who actually died was a frail, elderly woman whose refrigerator was kept, investigators found, at 63°F (17°C).
  21. Very interesting. I'd like to read the whole article. From my experience, in France there is nothing like this seemingly rampant spate of food allergies amongst America's children (and adults). But I'd assumed it had something to do with diet, artificial XYZ, pollution, who knows what... My sister (in the U.S.) has two young sons who both have multiple allergies (peach peel, eggs, etc. etc.). Yet when my 30-something-year-old cousins came down with celiac disease, or was it lyme's disease, or was it... I started to wonder. My mother became allergic to chocolate when she had children in the 1970s. By the late '90s she was eating chocolate just fine but became lactose intolerant. I think a lot of it may indeed be psychosomatic. The only people I know in France who have something similar are people who can't drink white wine, or red wine... My boyfriend's sister-in-law believes firmly that she is allergic to red Burgundy. Once her husband served her a Côte de Beaune, pretending it was a Côtes du Rhône, and apparently she had migranes for the next two days. I am a skeptic and am wholeheartedly in favor of shining bright lights onto the food allergy world. edited: diet is not spelled with a "d" at the end...
  22. sharonb

    Vile Recipes

    Check out the FoodTV top 100 of the year. There was a hilarious discussion about this at erobertparker.com.
  23. John, Because everyone eats oysters for Christmas and New Year's! So of course the fishmongers have to stay open... I can't count how many people I saw walking around with aluminum foil-covered plateaux de fruit de mer on those days... I love that quirky touch. Also, hallal butchers are open Mondays (as are some nonconformist-types such as the great butcher on the rue Caulaincourt near the metro Lamarck-Caulaincourt), and all the Jewish commerçants are closed on Saturdays in the Marais.
  24. True, don't want this to disintegrate into name-calling! I was just curious, since I have spent most of my adult (i.e. wine drinking in restaurants) life in France, so don't have much experience with American sommeliers.
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