Archive | January 2016

Cooking at home in Paris

As much as I enjoy exploring different restaurants in Paris, a trip to this beautiful city would not be complete without a visit to its markets and food shops. I love cooking in general but cooking in Paris is really special as there are so many interesting products to try and you can find so many fresh and seasonal ingredients. I especially like to use products that are easily available in Paris but are difficult to find (or are super expensive) back home. I took full advantage of all that Paris has to offer and cooked lots of meals at home during my trip  and I wanted to share some of them in this post.

I came across some of the most beautiful chanterelles I’ve ever seen at my neighborhood fruit and veggie stand. Sautée in some butter and they are great in pasta dishes and make a fantastic topping for eggs.

chanterelle mushrooms

And I absolutely love wild smoked salmon (wild salmon is virtually impossible to find in the UAE). Add some crème fraiche, chives, and freshly cracked black pepper, it’s the perfect snack or breakfast. If having wine with it, go for a Gewurz or a Riesling from Alsace or even a fino sherry.

wild smoked salmon

I am actually a huge fan of all seafood and I feel like a kid in a candy store when I visit the fish market. In the winter time, you can find lots of shellfish such as sea urchins, clams, cockles, and oysters (check out my last post on Eating oysters in Paris) everywhere.

sea urchin uni

langoustine

l'ecume st. honore

When I saw the scallops still in the shell, I couldn’t resist – I got some to prepare for that evening’s dinner.

scallops in the shell

The fact that these scallops had their corals attached was a real treat. The adductor muscle, which is the white part of the scallop is delicious on its own but the flavors of the coral are out of this world!

scallops in the shell

I roasted them in the oven still in the shell with a garlicky parsley-butter mixture. Super simple yet super delicious!

scallops in the shell

I got a great wine to pair with this dish: a bottle of Premier Cru Meursault-Blagny. It’s called Pièce sous le Bois and is produced by Domaine Sylvain Langoureau. This is a full-bodied Chardonnay from the Blagny hamlet of the Burgundy region in France. When it comes to buttery dishes, I always prefer to match textures and opt for a full-bodied Chardonnay, which can also take on buttery characteristics to mirror the food. I didn’t have any at the time but this recipe would be even better with some slivered almonds sprinkled on top. The almonds would make the pairing even better as Meursault often has nutty notes. I’ll definitely add the almonds next time…

Meursault-Blagny Langoureau

Because there’s a lot of fat in this dish, I wanted to keep the wine a bit on the fresh side – hence the 2014 vintage. However, you can equally opt for an older vintage as time will make the wine richer and more unctuous and this would also go superbly with the buttery scallops. Whether you go with young or old is just a matter a preference… However it’s important to note that not all Meursaults are drinkable young. Some need a few years in the bottle before drinking and opening them too soon would be a waste. This bottle of Meursault-Blagny had enough acidity to make it really enjoyable despite being very young. And if you like a mature Meursault, you’ll need around 7-10  years of bottle aging, sometimes even longer. That may seem long but a mature Meursault is truly a beautiful wine and I think the proverb “good things come to those who wait” especially applies here. So if you come across a bottle in a shop or have the patience to age some yourself, it’s definitely worth the money and/or time.

An important thing I want to bring up about this pairing is the garlic. Garlic is one of only 4 ingredients in my scallop dish and it can be really difficult to pair with wine as its potent flavor and aroma can easily overwhelm most wines. But I recently stumbled upon the pink garlic from Brittany, which is much more delicate than regular garlic. And rather than including actual pieces of garlic in the dish, I crushed the cloves and flavored the melted butter with it and removed it before putting the scallops in the oven. Garlic is definitely present in the dish but it is subtle and this subtlety allows the dish to work well with the Meursault-Blagny. I really love this Breton garlic and brought a nice supply of it with me to the UAE.

pink garlic

On the other hand, if your dish features strong garlicky flavors, it’s better to go with an aromatic wine that’s also high in acidity – like a sauvignon blanc – and avoid oaked wines.  Obviously the longer you cook the garlic, the less pronounced the flavors and aromas and the easier the dish becomes to pair with wine.

Another food that I can’t resist when in Paris is fresh foie gras! I was lucky enough to be staying right off of Rue Daguerre in the 14e arrondissement, which is one of my favorite streets in Paris. This street still has small, specialized shops that were so common in Paris before the proliferation of supermarkets.

rue daguerre

One of them is a shop that focuses on foie gras and other specialties from the Périgord region of France.

gastronomie du perigord

So I got a whole duck liver, which weighs 1 lb … because why not?

fresh foie gras whole

I simply sliced the liver, scored it, and then pan seared it. I also made a red currant and rosemary compote, which added sweet, tart, and earthy dimensions to the dish.

seared fresh foie gras

What we couldn’t finish of the liver, I decided to make into foie gras au torchon. I’ve always been intimidated by this but it turns out it is quite simple, though it takes about 4 days to make. I really liked how this turned out and I will definitely be making it again.

foie gras au torchon

The classic pairing with foie gras is sweet wine, such as a Sauternes. But if not in the mood for a sweet wine, it will also pair nicely with a rich chardonnay. But with foie gras, it’s better to opt for an older Meursault. So we tried a 2010 by Albert Bichot (I actually would’ve preferred an even older vintage had I had one on hand – at least a 2008 – but c’est la vie.  Though not as mature as I would have liked, the 2010 still worked well with the foie gras).

DSC03663 - bichot?w=300

If you don’t have an old Meursault, a Condrieu would also work very nicely. Even a St. Joseph or a Madiran (check out my post on Madiran with fresh foie gras for more information on this pairing) are great choices if you want to avoid whites all together.

Of course, I can’t go to Paris without frequenting the amazing cheese shops! I went to Fromagerie Quatrehomme quite a few times. This is such an amazing shop that even if you only need 1 cheese, you’ll end up coming home with a lot more. Case in point is the photo below: I only went in to buy the wedge on the right… 50 euros later…

fromagerie quatrehomme

A real special cheese that’s in season in the winter months is Mont d’Or – a raw cow milk’s cheese. What makes the Mont d’Or special is that it’s baked in the oven and becomes delightfully ooey gooey! Because it is quite rich, it is only popular in the cold winter months.

mont d'or cheese

Get some crusty bread to serve with the Mont d’Or and you’re all set. Luckily, there’s a Moisan bakery right off of Rue Daguerre. I love Boulangerie Moisan – not only is everything delicious but also organic and really fresh. They bake throughout day and I’ve gotten piping hot breads just out of the oven plenty of times.

fig bread

You can pair a few different wines with this cheese but my favorite is champagne. Mont d’Or is mostly served for special occasions and pairing it with champagne makes it even more special while the acidity of the champagne helps to cut down on the richness of the cheese so you can keep on eating 😉 I got a bottle of non-vintage Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée. I love their rosé champagne and the white did not disappoint. Delicate bubbles, nutty, with a hint of toastiness.

bruno paillard champagne

If not in the mood for champagne, you can also opt for a white from the Jura region of France.

And of course, we can’t forget about dessert! We had a fabulous bûche from Cyril Lignac, made with coconut, almonds, banana-passion fruit compote, and chocolate.

buche de noel cyril lignac

And it is also candied chestnut season and I love these chocolate covered ones from Pierre Hermé.

candied chestnut pierre herme

While at Pierre Hermé, I also had to try the Flocon Ispahan. It is a macaron based dessert made with rose, lychee, and raspberries. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost…

flocon ispahan pierre herme

It was a lovely trip to Paris and from now on, I definitely plan on spending more time here in the winter. Such amazing food… And you can’t beat the gorgeous Parisian sunrises, which happen after 8am in the winter so no need to set the alarm 🙂

paris sunrise

For lots more pictures of food and wine, check out my Instagram account: @thatperfectbottle

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Oystermania in Paris!

I spent the winter holidays in Paris. It was such a wonderful time to be there. The city gets festive, lights up for Christmas, and the food is out of this world!

Around the holidays, some of the foods that the French love to eat include foie gras, smoked salmon, scallops, bûche de Noël (or yule log), duck, roast chicken, mont d’or cheese, etc. Oysters are a particular favorite. And for good reason – it is prime oyster season in the winter and you can find them everywhere in Paris! Being an oyster lover, I ate as many as I could during my trip. Here is my list of the best spots to eat oysters in Paris (in no particular order):

1. L’Huîtrade: A tiny little spot in the 17e arrondissement just off of l’Arc de Triomphe. Owned by Guy Savoy.

I started out with the tartine des alers, which is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life! Toasted rye bread topped with an oyster tartare (the tartare is dressed with some lemon and spring onion). I’m still dreaming about this dish. Yum!

l'huitrade oyster tartare

Then I had les trois huîtres en préparation froide – three oysters, each prepared differently: the left one has the same tartare as the tartine and but is also topped with some seaweed granita; the middle one is prepared with an escabèche sauce and topped with tapioca pearls; and the oyster on the right is one of Guy Savoy’s signature dishes – an oyster gelée.

l'huitrade 3 oysters

Finally, le “grande huître”, which literally translates to “the big oyster” but is really a play-on-words meaning the big eight, or one oyster from each of the eight kinds that they offer on the menu. From left to right: Seven by Tarbouriech, Royale no. 2 by Hervé, Spéciale no. 2 by Tarbouriech, Perle de l’Impératrice no. 3 by Dupuch, Spéciale no. 2 by Gillardeau, Fine de Bretagne no. 2 by Cadoret, and Belon no. 0 by Cadoret.

l'huitrade le grande huitre

Lovely little spot and the server spends a lot of time explaining the dishes and each oyster. And I really liked eating 8 kinds of oysters at once, which allows you to compare the different flavors.

2. L’Huîtrier: A small neighborhood spot in a very charming part (Poncelet) of the 17e arrondissement. Filled with locals and has very friendly service.

l'huitrier sign

We ordered a dozen oysters (two different types: Tarbouriech and Normandes) as well as some cockles, which are so firm and sweet – I absolutely love them!

l'huitrier oyster platter

Tarbouriech oysters come from the South of France and are farmed using  solar tide technology (using solar panels to create tidal movements, which are rare in the Mediterranean). They are known for their pink shells caused by the sun’s rays and their firm flesh. Sweet and iodine.

tarbouriech oyster

Spéciales Normande – I forgot to ask which part of Normandy these were from :/ though most likely from Isigny. They are fleshy yet super firm.

normandie oysters

3. L’Écume St. Honoré: This place started out as strictly a seafood shop but they eventually opened a tiny area in the back for eating fresh oysters on the spot. Frequented by locals and tourists alike. You can still buy fresh seafood to take home from the front.

l'ecume st. honore seafood

l'ecume st. honore seafood

I had the Eméraude oysters, which come from Marennes d’Oléron in the Atlantic coast of France. “Eméraude” means emerald, named so because of their beautiful green flesh. They get this green color from a microscopic algae. Iodine in taste and very fleshy.

emeraude oyster

I also had some cockles.

l'ecume st. honore oysters cockles

And some scallops, which they serve as “dessert” 😉 They come with the coral attached – such a rare sight in the US or in the UAE.

l'ecume st. honore scallop carpaccio

These scallops from Brittany are harvested by hand – a much more humane method than using a dredge (which can be very stressful for the bivalves).

After my lunch, I decided to buy some scallops to prepare for that night’s dinner. I bought them still in the shell but I had the shucker open and clean them for me – he even showed me how to do it so I can attempt it myself next time.

l'ecume st. honore seafood

4. Bar à Iode: A popular little spot on Boulevard Saint Germain in the 5e arrondissement. Lots of local here.

bar a iode

They have different things on the menu, including a seafood terrine – delicious! This is not a great photo but here it is:

bar a iode seafood terrine

Then the oysters: St. Vaast and Cancales. St. Vaast are from Normandy. Fleshy and iodine, they are most characteristically nutty (hazelnut). Again, this is not the best photo:

st. vaast oysters

Cancales are some of my favorite oysters. They are from Brittany (they take their name from the town where they originate) and they are at their prime year-round. They are deliciously firm and salty and you can smell the sea. History has it that even Louis XIV had his oysters brought to Versailles from Cancale. And they are always gorgeous and photogenic:

cancale oysters

5. L’Écailler du Bistrot: “Écailler” means oyster shucker and the restaurant name translates to the “Shucker of the Bistrot” and the bistro in question is Paul Bert, which is right next door. L’Écailler is a lot less frequented by tourists than Paul Bert (where English can be all you hear at times). While L’Écailler has a full seafood menu, I generally stick to the raw bar (I hear that the dishes can be a hit or a miss) as the oysters are always spot-on.

L’Écailler is famous for its Utah Beach oysters, which are from Normandy. They are fleshy and sweet. Delicious oysters!

utah beach oysters l'ecailler du bistrot

Spéciales de Belon are from Brittany and I never had these before. I was expecting them to be flat (as Belon is a name given to a variety of flat oysters in Europe) but they are actually “creuse” or cupped-shelled. Firm flesh, iodine in flavor and smells deliciously like the sea.

belon oysters l'ecailler du bistrot

I couldn’t resist trying the scallop carpaccio, served with a lemon purée and shiso leaves. Delicious!

scallop carpaccio l'ecailler du bistrot

6. Huîtrerie Régis: A popular spot in the 6e arrondissement. A mix of locals and tourists. They don’t take reservations so get ready to stand in line for a table in the tiny restaurant (or like me, get there 15 minutes before it opens).

huitrerie regis

Belon no. 00 – Not cheap (64‎€ a dozen) but these are big, fleshy and oh so good!

belon no 00 oysters

And they have the most stunning shells.

belon oyster shell

I’ve actually written an entire blog entry about Huîtrerie Régis a while back. Check it out here: Four whites and oysters galore!

7. Breizh Café: A must-go for galettes and crêpes. But this is also a great spot for those delicious Cancales from Brittany.

Breizh cafe cancale oysters

Always busy and lots of tourists but Cancales are worth the trip to Breizh Café.

This concludes the list of my favorite oyster spots in Paris. And if you don’t feel like sitting in a restaurant, you can get them to go –  almost all of the restaurants on this list do take out. You don’t even have to go to a restaurant to get your oyster fix in the winter in Paris. I was staying right off of Rue Daguerre in the 14e arrondissement  (this street is fantastic for food shopping). The seafood shop there – Daguerre Marée – set up an oyster stand where you can get your oysters (and other raw bar items) to go.

rue daguerre oysters shuckers

You can find stands like this attached to shops and even cafes all over the city. From my super friendly neighborhood oyster shuckers, I got some Gillardeau no. 3 and some sea urchins to take home. Gillardeau from the Atlantic Coast are famous for being less briny, super fleshy, and nutty.

gillardeau oysters

Just plate them up and enjoy 🙂

take out oysters paris

In the winter time, you can even find oysters in bars like Le Baron Rouge or Le Mary Celeste. For instance, check out this photo from Le Mary Celeste Instagram account, which looks out of this world.

Now time for the wines! What to drink with oysters? There are a variety of choices. Even though white wine is the most common, you can even go with a rosé or a red (as long as it’s fresh and light). Generally, as long as the wine is high in acidity and low in tannins, it’s a good choice for oysters. I personally always opt for whites and among them, my favorites are:

Sancerre: I really like Domaine Vacheron and François Crochet.

Muscadet Sèvre et Maine: Especially if it’s made with the “sur lie” method (which gives it a more complex character), such as Amphibolite by Landron. And if you can get a hold of some Muscadet from Clisson (which gives the wine lots of minerality), such as Domaine de la Pepière, you’ve hit the jackpot!

Other whites that are good choices are Champagne (dry and non-vintage) and Chablis (as long as it is light and young).

Don’t miss my next post on eating during the holidays in Paris (a non-oyster post) – coming soon!

For lots more pictures of food and wine, check out my Instagram account:@thatperfectbottle