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Megan Blocker

Strasbourg, Champagne, and Paris...

101 posts in this topic

That night, we took the metro to the Bourse stop and hoofed it over to Aux Lyonnais, Alain Ducasse's Lyonnais bistro. It was packed and bustling (apparently they had asked our hotel, who made the reservation for me, to call and confirm three separate times), and our table was not ready when we arrived. We were whisked upstairs to a lounge area, and a platter of toast and cervelle de canut (fromage blanc with vinegar, shallots, and herbs - not brains!) was brought to us with our Kirs.

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After only a couple of minutes, we were escorted back downstairs to our table, which was right next to (I mean, like, six inches) from the door. Far from being obnoxious (the whole place was loud and crowded, so it certainly didn't matter), this afforded us an excellent opportunity to partake of our favorite activity: people-watching (No judgment, only speculation!). We noticed that the majority of people coming in, and many, many of those seated around us, were American. Some tourist, some expat - a good deal spoke very strong French, but it was still USA-central.

We ordered our dinners and a bottle of Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuit called Clos Saint-Philibert (2002). I know very little about wine, but this was an excellent bottle (this is why we wrote it down), and went very well with our meal.

Louisa started with a potted foie gras and pork (?), served with pickled vegetables and toast. This was my favorite of the night - the rich, smooth meat and the tangy, crunchy pickles - heaven.

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My entree was a mushroom soup...hiding at the bottom of the bowl were various shellfish. They popped in your mouth amidst the dark, luscious mushroom cream. One the side, andouillette "en croute," (baked into a sweet-tasting bread, really) which I broke apart and ate with bites of soup.

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For Louisa's main, she had the cabillaud (cod), which was served with braised salsify - tons of it, something you would never see in the States, and she got awfully excited about it.

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Yes, that's a roasted garlic clove on top there.

My main was chicken braised with langoustines, which really tasted like langoustine-flavored chicken - which was all good! Baby vegetables were also included in the slightly spicy broth, along with several cloves of roasted garlic - we spread those on the bread, of course.

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A note about the service - it was extremely friendly and prompt, but it seemed a little confused. Different people were constantly stopping at the table to ask us for an order we'd already put in - we felt so bad constantly telling people that "c'est deja fait." Like we'd missed something in the playbook...

A note about the food, as well: Louisa really liked it, but Louisa really likes very salty food. She salts EVERYTHING. I found everything, with rare exception, to be overly salty. Well-executed, interesting, tasty, but over-salted.

That said, we had an excellent time. At one point we started quoting to each other from the movie Clue (a big favorite among my friends), and just couldn't stop laughing. Luckily, it's that kind of place - loud and boisterous (here's Daddy-A's account of a slightly different experience; clearly we weren't there howling over his shoulder), and the only looks we got were the bemused, curious kind. More of an "I'll have what she's having" attitude: if they're having that much fun, bring me some of that langoustine-flavored chicken!

Dessert was a bit of a letdown. We ordered the ile flottante, flavored with rose, which came with a similarly-hued tart. Both just tasted like sugar with red food coloring. Don't know if all the salt dulled our palates (:wink:), but it just wasn't an impressive showing.

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Finally, the check. I have to say, for the quality of the food and the experience with the service, I was a bit disappointed in the price - more than twice what we'd paid at Camille (though take away the bottle of wine, and it was only one and a half times the Camille tab), and neither of us thought the food was as good. However, it was great fun, and it's clearly a hotspot - so it would appear that, as in New York, the most popular restaurants are not always the ones with the best food.

On Saturday morning, after a quick brioche pit stop for me and a palmier for Louisa, we took the Metro up to Porte de Clignancourt - time for the flea market! We spent the morning wandering around the Puces de Paris, drooling over furniture that we couldn't really justify shipping home, including the dining table that will (it WILL, dammit!) one day grace my Strasbourg apartment. :wink:

Afterward, we took the Metro back down to Montmartre, intending to make it up to Sacre Coeur. Ultimately, we were disheartened and thrown out of whack by the closing of the Abbesses metro stop, and ended up just grabbing lunch at a little restaurant on Rue Caulaincourt. Don't remember the name of it, but they made a good lunch! Louisa had the salade Nordique, which had smoked salmon and toasts with fromage blanc.

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I had the hamburger. When I ordered, the waitress had a look of panic on her face as she tried to remember the word "bun" - so that she could tell me there wasn't one. The hamburger was served with excellent frites and a beautifully fried egg.

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Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Dessert was a bit of a letdown.  We ordered the ile flottante, flavored with rose, which came with a similarly-hued tart.  Both just tasted like sugar with red food coloring.  Don't know if all the salt dulled our palates (:wink:), but it just wasn't an impressive showing.

That ile flottante was not (unless specified on the menu, which would surprise me) flavored with rose. The color comes from the ground pink pralines that are mixed into the meringue. The tarte is definitely Frédéric Robert's tarte aux pralines, and it is not rose-flavored either. It will taste of sugar and perhaps a bit of almond. If you expected rose, you certainly were disappointed. Those recipes were given by Alain Chapel to Frédéric Robert, who in turn gave them to the Ducasse house before leaving for Las Vegas.

I agree with you about Aux Lyonnais, I think the food is not great, and overpriced. I've never had a good experience there. I've even had bad ones.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

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Dessert was a bit of a letdown.  We ordered the ile flottante, flavored with rose, which came with a similarly-hued tart.  Both just tasted like sugar with red food coloring.  Don't know if all the salt dulled our palates (:wink:), but it just wasn't an impressive showing.

That ile flottante was not (unless specified on the menu, which would surprise me) flavored with rose. The color comes from the ground pink pralines that are mixed into the meringue. The tarte is definitely Frédéric Robert's tarte aux pralines, and it is not rose-flavored either. It will taste of sugar and perhaps a bit of almond. If you expected rose, you certainly were disappointed. Those recipes were given by Alain Chapel to Frédéric Robert, who in turn gave it to the Ducasse house before leaving for Las Vegas.

Whoops! Too much wine, not enough note taking. I think I just conflated my memory with a rose pastry that everyone around us was eating at Laduree. Interesting...pink pralines!!!


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I agree with you about Aux Lyonnais, I think the food is not great, and overpriced. I've never had a good experience there. I've even had bad ones.

Phew! I thought maybe it was just me...so many people rave about it.


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Oh, they just want to come to Lyon, that's all. :smile: Those dishes were typical Lyonnais bouchon dishes, although I have yet to see the andouilette en croute. The pralines are colored red here, and the good praline tartes have lots and lots of nuts, at least as many nuts as sugar. It's funny, the cervelle de canut is usually served after the meal and not before. Strange in their ways, the Parisians.

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Oh, they just want to come to Lyon, that's all.  :smile:  Those dishes were typical Lyonnais bouchon dishes, although I have yet to see the andouilette en croute.  The pralines are colored red here, and the good praline tartes have lots and lots of nuts, at least as many nuts as sugar.  It's funny, the cervelle de canut is usually served after the meal and not before.  Strange in their ways, the Parisians.

The basics of the menu, "landmark" dishes, and things like the cervelle de canut appetizer, were set up by Jean-François Piège, who is not from Lyon but from Valence. A foreigner. :wink::wink::wink:

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Megan,

Sounds like our experiences at Aux Lyonnais were more similar than you might think ... Clue quotes aside. Our best meals during were not in Paris, and the best measl in Paris were not where we expected them to be. I chalk a lot of that up to experience (or lack thereof) but while I enjoyed Aux Lyonnais, I probably won't seek it out next visit.

Afterward, we took the Metro back down to Montmartre, intending to make it up to Sacre Coeur. Ultimately, we were disheartened and thrown out of whack by the closing of the Abbesses metro stop ....

Yeah, we ran into that too. Fortunately I heard (and understood) the announcement before we reached Abbesses. We jumped off at Pigalle caught the Metro to Anvers. The cool thing about walking in from Anvers is that you pass all the "thrift shops" along the way to the funiculaire. The locals might not enjoy it, but there's nothing like watching middle aged women fighting over 10Euro shoes!

A.

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Megan,

Sounds like our experiences at Aux Lyonnais were more similar than you might think ... Clue quotes aside.  Our best meals during were not in Paris, and the best measl in Paris were not where we expected them to be.  I chalk a lot of that up to experience (or lack thereof) but while I enjoyed Aux Lyonnais, I probably won't seek it out next visit.

Afterward, we took the Metro back down to Montmartre, intending to make it up to Sacre Coeur. Ultimately, we were disheartened and thrown out of whack by the closing of the Abbesses metro stop ....

Yeah, we ran into that too. Fortunately I heard (and understood) the announcement before we reached Abbesses. We jumped off at Pigalle caught the Metro to Anvers. The cool thing about walking in from Anvers is that you pass all the "thrift shops" along the way to the funiculaire. The locals might not enjoy it, but there's nothing like watching middle aged women fighting over 10Euro shoes!

A.

Glad to hear another person with a more balanced opinion of Aux Lyonnais...I really was beginning to think it was me.

Aaaaah, I heard and understood, too, but we were coming from the other direction. We were actually only about two blocks north of Sacre Coeur when we had lunch, but we were tired and hot and just wanted to go home. I'd actually been twice before, so Louisa was the only one missing out, and she was ok with that. :laugh:


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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After lunch, we headed back to Saint-Germain. Louisa needed to download her flight information for the next morning, so she went to the internet cafe, and I went to a little bakery place for some gelato and sorbet. I love, love, LOVE the double cornet - it's one of the things I remember most vividly, food-wise, from my first trip to France twelve years ago (the other is baguette, confitures, and hot chocolate from a bowl for breakfast at the youth hostel).

I got raspberry sorbet and vanilla gelato - I really wanted raspberry and lemon sorbet, but they were out of lemon. :sad:

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This is the little bakery on Rue du Buci (it's also where Louisa got her palmier that morning). I loved the name - La Bonbonniere!

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The streets behind our hotel turned into a market on Saturday - I could have taken pictures for hours...

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Dinner that night was back at Camille! We received a very warm welcome from the owner, who asked us how we'd been since the other night. We were seated on the same banquette, and we knew what we wanted...another round of the same salad, the escargots, and the steak tartare. To shake things up, Lou got the lamb chops, served with yet another fantastic variation on the potato...skillet roasted, this time.

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For dessert, our last in France ( :sad: ), we split the mousse au chocolat...

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My final coffee on French soil was divine...strong, rich, and creamy.

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And here's Camille, the last picture I shot on the trip...it's blurry from my tears! (OK, not really, but you know what I mean.)

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Sigh.


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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And that was it! The next morning we were up very early to catch out flight back to the States. We had pains au chocolat and Oranginas at CDG, and then boarded our plane.

The first thing I consumed on American soil: Diet Coke. :wink:


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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The first thing I consumed on American soil: Diet Coke.  :wink:

...With lots of ice no doubt! :biggrin:

I really enjoyed this report Megan!

Si

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And that was it!  The next morning we were up very early to catch out flight back to the States.  We had pains au chocolat and Oranginas at CDG, and then boarded our plane. 

The first thing I consumed on American soil: Diet Coke.  :wink:

A great report! As I said in my earlier post it brings back many fond memories of my early trips to France. Your energy & enthousiasm are captivating.

Thank you for sharing with us.

Dave

PS: You can get coka light everywhere in France, but who wants to?

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PS: You can get coka light everywhere in France, but who wants to?

Exactement! :wink:

...With lots of ice no doubt!

No ice, but straight from the fridge, in the can. Ooooh, baby.

Thanks, guys - I'm glad you enjoyed it! I certainly enjoyed myself.


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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And that was it!  The next morning we were up very early to catch out flight back to the States.  We had pains au chocolat and Oranginas at CDG, and then boarded our plane. 

The first thing I consumed on American soil: Diet Coke.  :wink:

A great report! As I said in my earlier post it brings back many fond memories of my early trips to France. Your energy & enthousiasm are captivating.

Thank you for sharing with us.

Dave

PS: You can get coka light everywhere in France, but who wants to?

It's funny, how diet coke has a slightly different taste from country to country. I prefer the coke light, in France & Spain. In Ireland & US I don't really like diet coke (which are different from each other) as much and since getting pregnant cannot stand the taste of it, no matter where it comes from. Which is a good thing really!!

Brilliant report by the way Megan. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Much better than work any day.

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Yes, thank you so much for a fabulous report. My favorite sentence is the one about not being able to control your shoulders.

I had never had much of a desire to go to Strasbourg before, but your warm glow is contagious.

(A little shock, though. Last time I was in Paris I remember everyone, everywhere advertised that they had Poulaine. But Haagen Dasz!!!)


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I should also note - when I gave her a few bites of the eclair, Louisa said, "Wow.  You must really love me."  True friendship is sharing the best effing eclair on the planet.

I don't. Share. My eclairs. Whenever we go to back to Montreal to visit my family, I always stop at my favorite patisserie and stock the fridge with 2 or 3 eclairs. For my own consumption. Somehow everyone knows this. Except for my brother in law. I really had to hold my tongue one night when he took the last one, ate it all in front of me, then asked, "Oh, were you saving this?"

That, my dear, is a man that "jess need killin"! :rolleyes:


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Yes, thank you so much for a fabulous report.  My favorite sentence is the one about not being able to control your shoulders.

I had never had much of a desire to go to Strasbourg before, but your warm glow is contagious.

(A little shock, though. Last time I was in Paris I remember everyone, everywhere advertised that they had Poulaine.  But Haagen Dasz!!!)

Well, to be fair, that's an actual Haagen Dazs store...actually, that's where the internet cafe was. Really odd, right? Don't worry, that's not where I got my gelato!!! :biggrin:


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Later that afternoon, we headed back to our neighborhood to go to Pierre Herme, which is just on the corner of rue Bonaparte and Place Saint Sulpice, only a few blocks south of Laduree.  It's Ling heaven! :wink:

It certainly is! Although this entire trip sounds absolutely heavenly! :wub: I just found the link this evening in your signature, and spent the last few hours glued to the images. Thanks for showing us Prague and parts of France through your eyes!

I am also very curious, after reading John Talbott's recent post what you thought of the bread in France. (John said he found the bread in Seattle to be better.) Although I like some of the bread made here very much, I've always thought (perhaps incorrectly) that bread in the US just can't compare, as bread making is traditionally such a honed craft in France. I am wondering how the bread you ate in France compares to what you can get from the better bakeries in NY.


Edited by Ling (log)

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I am also very curious, after reading John Talbott's recent post what you thought of the bread in France. (John said he found the bread in Seattle to be better.) Although I like some of the bread made here very much, I've always thought (perhaps incorrectly) that bread in the US just can't compare, as bread making is traditionally such a honed craft in France. I am wondering how the bread you ate in France compares to what you can get from the better bakeries in NY.

I know you asked this of Megan, but after my recent visit I thought I'd add my two cents' worth ...

I think in overall quality, French baking is way ahead of the game in North America. Like most things food related, bread is part of their culture. People walking home from work with a few bagettes tucked in a hand bag are a common sight.

While it's true that not all the bread we ate in France was excellent, none of it was awful. The same cannot be said for the bread found around Vancouver. The best bread I've ever eaten comes from Victoria (Wildfire Bakery for those interested), but I've also some gummy crap from bakeries that shall remain nameless.

A.

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I am also very curious, after reading John Talbott's recent post what you thought of the bread in France. (John said he found the bread in Seattle to be better.) Although I like some of the bread made here very much, I've always thought (perhaps incorrectly) that bread in the US just can't compare, as bread making is traditionally such a honed craft in France. I am wondering how the bread you ate in France compares to what you can get from the better bakeries in NY.

Oh, oh, I should be careful with my comparative statements and expect folks to read more than one Forum; maybe I should have said that the bread in Seattle was an astonishing and unexpected surprise after all the very fine bread in France. World War III I didn't intend to start. I just was impressed that even in a jam-packed, albeit glorified sandwicherie - Matt's - we had outstanding bread.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I am also very curious, after reading John Talbott's recent post what you thought of the bread in France. (John said he found the bread in Seattle to be better.) Although I like some of the bread made here very much, I've always thought (perhaps incorrectly) that bread in the US just can't compare, as bread making is traditionally such a honed craft in France. I am wondering how the bread you ate in France compares to what you can get from the better bakeries in NY.

I know you asked this of Megan, but after my recent visit I thought I'd add my two cents' worth ...

I think in overall quality, French baking is way ahead of the game in North America. Like most things food related, bread is part of their culture. People walking home from work with a few bagettes tucked in a hand bag are a common sight.

While it's true that not all the bread we ate in France was excellent, none of it was awful. The same cannot be said for the bread found around Vancouver. The best bread I've ever eaten comes from Victoria (Wildfire Bakery for those interested), but I've also some gummy crap from bakeries that shall remain nameless.

A.

I agree with Arne here...the lowest level in France is significantly higher than the lowest level in the States, but that doesn't mean all of the bread is across the board the best in the world. We have some pretty excellent bread here in New York, but you still encounter more inferior bread here than you do in Paris.

As someone said on another thread, France is just a country, not the home of all things perfect. :wink:


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Megan, since you're the semi-official ambassadress of Strasbourg, did you get to Colmar? I'm planning a trip up there for the week before Christmas, and am trying to decide whether to just stay in Strasbourg and day trip to Colmar (half an hour and a handful of Euros away by train) or whether to split time between the two hotel-wise. We won't have a car, if that makes a difference.

All other Alsace afficionados are of course invited to chime in here.

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Abra, what are you expecting of Colmar?

There isn't much you won't find something similar in Strasbourg apart from the world famous Musee d'Unterlinden (medieval and renaissance art). Gastronomically there is not really much in Colmar worthy of a special trip. Without a car a long day trip might well be sufficient (ignoring Christmas markets, etc.)

see also http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=115500 for some earlier comments on Colmar and http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=102842 for some restaurants in Alsace and Lorraine including Strasbourg.

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