I’ve written about Restaurant Arpège before (Check out: Some of my favorites from Paris: l’Arpège). However, this being my favorite restaurant, I think it deserved another post 🙂 In the last three months, I’ve had a chance to eat there twice and I just wanted to share some of the highlights with you.
During my October visit, scallops were just back in season so when I saw the scallop carpaccio on the menu I had to get it. I ordered à la carte and you have the option to order half portions (this allows you to taste more dishes), which I did since I had my eye on another appetizer. The scallops were served with radishes and geranium oil. A gorgeous dish that’s also delicious!
The sommelier paired this dish with a glass of Chenin from Anjou in the Loire Valley: 2015 Les Roches Sèches Les Varennes. It was really a fantastic pairing and I’ll definitely put it in my repertoire for future dinner parties.
My favorite dish at l’Arpège (and in the world) is the beetroot tartare – this was my second starter. It is simply heavenly. This is one of the signature dishes here though certain elements of the dish change daily. That day, it was served with parmesan.
The wine of choice was a Riesling: 2013 Zusslin by Clos Liebenberg. Lovely match!
For the main course, I ordered the sweetbreads, which was prepared with chestnuts and salted butter from St. Malo. I absolutely love sweetbreads and if it’s on the menu I always order it. Since I love it so much, I opted for the full portion. And what a portion! I was stuffed by the time I was done.
I had a glass of white from Pays de l’Herault: Les Clapas Blanc from Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette from Languedoc in Southern France, which worked really well to balance the richness of the dish.
It was a lovely meal that lasted quite a few hours. At the end of the meal, I was invited to join Alain Passard in his office for some Champagne. La vie est belle!
I went back to Restaurant Arpège about a week ago and instead of my usual à la carte meal, I went with the tasting menu. Course after course of delicious food. Pure decadence 🙂
We started out with the beetroot sushi. So beautiful!
This was followed by beetroot hummus. Now, I’ve spent more than six years in the Middle East and I’ve eaten my fair share of hummus (it’s pretty much a staple food there). But this one was amazing! So creamy and definitely the best hummus I’ve ever had.
The sommelier poured us a glass of Savennières from the Loire Valley. Clos des Perrières by Domaine Soucherie. It never occurred to me to pair Savennières with hummus but it really worked.
Then we had the potatoes mousseline with black olive emulsion and Jerusalem artichoke chips. Of my goodness, this was simply divine! Who know the simple potato could taste so good! I know I’m weird in that I’m not really a fan of potatoes but this dish really knocked me off my feet.
Then we had the radish risotto with a general shaving of truffles (and instead of rice, the risotto was made with radishes).
This was followed by a buckwheat waffle served with tarama made with seabass roe and eel. This was also ridiculously delicious and became one of my favorites at l’Arpège!
We drank a glass of Meursault: Clos Richemont Premier Cru by Henri Darnat. Meursault works so well with creamy dishes (I’ve written a blog post about it. Check out: Cream and simple flavors make Meursault shine) and as suspected, this was a fantastic match!
The main course was guinea fowl with celeriac puree, liver, Jerusalem artichoke and cream infused with Portuguese lemons.
This was paired with a glass of from Bordeaux: Cotes de Castillon by Domaine de l’A. I initially thought that this Bordeaux would be a bit too heavy for the guinea fowl but it worked really well!
For dessert, we had the usual plate of gourmandises.
As well as a walnut cream puff.
We had so many courses and I’ve only listed the highlights here. It was another meal that lasted hours! And of course a trip to Restaurant Arpège wouldn’t be complete without a picture with Alain Passard. One of the servers called this a rite of passage 🙂
If you haven’t been to l’Arpège yet, you’re definitely missing out! Next time you’re in Paris, make sure to give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.
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.
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.
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.
When I saw the scallops still in the shell, I couldn’t resist – I got some to prepare for that evening’s dinner.
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!
I roasted them in the oven still in the shell with a garlicky parsley-butter mixture. Super simple yet super delicious!
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…
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.
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.
One of them is a shop that focuses on foie gras and other specialties from the Périgord region of France.
So I got a whole duck liver, which weighs 1 lb … because why not?
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.
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.
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).
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
And it is also candied chestnut season and I love these chocolate covered ones from Pierre Hermé.
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…
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 🙂
For lots more pictures of food and wine, check out my Instagram account: @thatperfectbottle
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Spéciales Normande – I forgot to ask which part of Normandy these were from though most likely from Isigny. They are fleshy yet super firm.
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.
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.
I also had some 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.
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.
4. Bar à Iode: A popular little spot on Boulevard Saint Germain in the 5e arrondissement. Lots of local here.
They have different things on the menu, including a seafood terrine – delicious! This is not a great photo but here it is:
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:
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:
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!
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.
I couldn’t resist trying the scallop carpaccio, served with a lemon purée and shiso leaves. Delicious!
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).
Belon no. 00 – Not cheap (64€ a dozen) but these are big, fleshy and oh so good!
And they have the most stunning shells.
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.
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.
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.
Just plate them up and enjoy 🙂
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.
One oyster / One shot – three choices ! Ici, l'Avel Izel (vent du large en breton), dernier chalutier classique de Bretagne ayant appartenu à la famille de notre Head Bartender @hyacinthelescoet : Sherry Manzanilla et Mignonette (vinaigre de cidre et de riz, purée de citrons, échalotes). Come enjoy one, or more.
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
Last week, we went to one of my favorite restaurants in the world to celebrate my mom’s birthday – l’Arpège! I really love this restaurant – not only is the food amazingly delicious but the fruits and vegetables come from the chef’s own organic farms just outside of Paris. You can imagine how fresh everything tastes. And the cooking is out of this world! Chef Alain Passard is recognized by his peers to be a visionary and a “poet of vegetables.”
The décor of the restaurant is simple – art deco style with Lalique crystal panels on the walls. And there’s a beautiful basket of fruits and vegetables (from Passard’s farms, of course) in the center of the dining room.
And each table’s decoration consists of a vegetable from chef Passard’s garden. Our table had a tiny round zucchini with its flower still attached. Here’s the first amuse-bouche with our zucchini table decoration.
The tartelettes featured such ingredients as raspberry, squash, parsley, and coriander.
We then had chef Passard’s signature amuse-bouche – slow cooked egg (soft) with cream and a slight hint of sweetness from maple syrup. Delicious!
We then moved on to our first appetizer, the raviolis filled with a variety of garden vegetables and served in a vegetable consommé (you could definitely taste the fennel in the broth). Yum!
Our second appetizer was the white asparagus served with lemony greens. White asparagus is definitely one of my favorite veggies!
Our first main course was the turbot. Before being plated up though, one of the servers came to our table to show us the whole turbot fish as soon as it came off the grill.
The turbot was served with seasonal vegetables. I had turbot quite a few times in some highly acclaimed restaurants since I arrived in Paris (because turbot season is April-June) and chef Passard’s turbot is the best that I’ve had – his version of the turbot left all others in the dust. His skill and technique is really unparalleled!
For our second main course, we had the roasted chicken and duck. Chef Passard actually took a whole duck and a whole chicken, cut each in half, and sewed the two halves together, creating what he called the “Haute Couture Poultry Duo.” We actually were given a recipe booklet on how he did this so we can recreate this at home.
Here’s a picture from the booklet, showing the two birds sewn together:
Just like with the turbot, a server showed the whole poultry duo before it was plated up (but I had gone to the bathroom so I missed that). The poultry duo was served with some jus and seasonal vegetables, including a yellow squash with its flower!
During our dinner we drank a bottle of Saint Aubin. 2013 Premier Cru Les Perrières by Agnès Paquet.
I really like Saint Aubin, a chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. This one has floral and citrus aromas and it is lightly oaked, which gives it a bit of richness. Yet the wine is still fresh and bright. What I like about this wine is that it is still refreshing and has good acidity despite some oaking (and with 30% new oak too, which is more intense).
The Saint Aubin worked really well with all of our dishes! It went well with the ravioli (especially the consommé), was amazing with the white asparagus, and was a fantastic match to the turbot. It also worked well with the poultry – Saint Aubin overall is a great pairing with rich poultry.
We finished our dinner with a millefeuille filled with cream and fresh berries.
The millefeuille was really buttery and crispy!
We had a glass of 2010 Coteaux du Layon Chaume, a sweet wine made by Château Pierre-Bise in the Loire Valley. You always want a sweet wine to go with dessert – otherwise the sweetness of the dessert will make the wine taste sour (and why would anyone want to ruin wine like that!?!).
It was an amazing and very memorable dinner at l’Arpège. At the end, Chef Passard came to meet the diners and he even hugged and kissed my mom – the birthday girl!
Check me out on Instagram for daily photos of everything that I’m eating in Paris: @thatperfectbottle
A couple of days ago, I took a wine and food pairing class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. These classes are headed jointly by instructors from both the Wine and the Culinary programs at Le Cordon Bleu. It’s super interesting: the chef demonstrates the preparation of a three-course meal while the sommelier discusses the wines that he has chosen to accompany each course, also giving information on the wine maker and the wine region.
The menu featured an appetizer inspired by Niçoise cuisine: stuffed baby vegetables served with rocket coulis, and fennel granita. The stuffing is made with onions, olive oil, bread crumbs, parsley, and pine nuts.
All the wines for the evening were from Alsace – my favorite wine region in France! The appetizer was paired with a 2013 Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois blend made by Domaine Mittnacht.
This wine is super fresh with citrus aromas and minerality. When you taste it, the attack is round before the acidity of the wine reveals itself. The flavors are of citrus fruits, especially grapefruit. The wine finishes with a bit of pleasant bitterness.
The instructor explained the reasoning behind his choice of wine. The appetizer features a lot of vegetables and you need a fruity wine with freshness and enough acidity. Definitely no oaky wines with this dish! At the same time you need a bit of opulence in the wine (as displayed by the roundness in the taste) to stand up to the rich stuffing in the veggies. Otherwise, the wine might be overpowered. While the peppery qualities of the rocket can accentuate the bitterness in wine, the sweetness of the tomatoes and the richness of the stuffing balance this out nicely.
The main course of the evening was a crisp pigeon parcel served with crispy toast topped with an pigeon offal spread, crumbed macaroni, and young spinach leaves.
Pigeon is a red meat that has a slight gamey quality. Yet it has a very silky texture. This calls for a red that is smooth enough to go with the fine texture of the meat but still structured to stand up to the flavors of the pigeon: a pinot noir. The pinot we had is a 2014 made by Domaine Pfister.
Though Alsace is not famed for its reds, this pinot is quite good. There is definitely enough structure and body in the wine to keep up with the pigeon. The best temperature to serve an Alsace Pinot Noir is around 15-16 degrees Celsius, (not less because the more chilled the wine, the more pronounced the bitterness and the acidity become).
This pinot noir is very earthy. The predominant aroma that I get from it is earth and soil. It also has black fruits (especially sour cherry), which is characteristic of a pinot noir.
The wine had enough structure and tannins to work well with the pigeon. At the same time, the pigeon, especially the offal component of the dish, definitely brought out the cherry aromas in the wine. The transformation of the wine before and after the food is really remarkable! Before the food, the earthy aromas dominated. After the meal, as I continued to sip my glass, the primary aromas were definitely fruit driven.
Now on to dessert! It is definitely better to choose a sweet wine to go with dessert. I know that most people are put off by sweet wines but they really work amazingly well with dessert. If you pair a dry wine with a dessert, the relative sweetness of the food will make the wine taste a lot more sour than it actually is. At the same time, the sweetness of the dessert will detract from the sweetness of the wine where the wine will appear less pronounced compared to when it’s drunk on its own. If you are a sweet wine hater, I definitely urge you to give it a try next time you have dessert. You might be surprised as to how much you like it!
There are two ways to achieve sweetness in wines: late harvest or noble rot. The wine that the sommelier chose for dessert belongs to the former category: 2009 Pinot Gris “Clos la Courtille” Vendanges tardives by Domaine Mittnacht.
The dessert was simple – fresh exotic fruits (pineapple, mango, and lychee) served with hibiscus jelly.
The aromas of the wine definitely mirror those of the dessert. You definitely get fruity aromas that are richer and more exotic. There’s definitely pineapple; but also pear and lemon confit. This wine is also balanced very nicely by acidity, which gives it freshness so as to not be overwhelmingly sweet. This is a great wine that could be paired with many other foods, like foie gras (preferably goose foie gras from Alsace), or even Asian dishes like pork with pineapple or chicken with ginger.
This concluded our evening of food and wine pairing at Le Cordon Bleu. I really enjoyed this course and I will definitely be signing up for the next one.
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One of my most interesting dining experiences in Paris was at David Toutain in the 7th arrondissement. This is a fairly new restaurant that opened in December 2013 to much excitement. When I was in Paris a month after the opening, I really wanted to try it out but it was impossible to get a reservation. I finally got a chance to eat there in the summer and it was definitely worth the wait. Each dish that we tasted was more interesting and creative than the previous! David Toutain really has a way of combining very different flavors and ingredients that you would expect to clash – such as raw steak and raspberry, orange and pea, lamb and chocolate, etc. But somehow he makes these ingredients work together in each and every dish!
For dinner, there is a choice between two tasting menus – Eglantine and Mauve du Bois (both are carte blanche, meaning the menu is a surprise that’s divulged course by course). With the Mauve du Bois, you can also opt for a wine pairing and that sounded perfect to us!
We started the evening with a glass of champagne by Bruno Paillard. This is one of my favorite rosé champagnes. It’s a very pale salmon color, made with 85% pinot noir and 15% chardonnay. It is a very crisp and vibrant wine with great citrus aromas as well a bit of red fruits. Super refreshing!
We had quite a few amuse bouches with the champagne. First, we had balls of steak carpaccio filled with raspberry.
Peas with Orange.
Heirloom tomatoes with basil powder and tomato juice. This was just so lip-smacking delicious! I think I downed my soup in a matter of seconds and would’ve licked the bowl clean had I not suddenly come to my senses remembered that I was in public.
Raw tuna served with onions, cream, and trout roe.
After the tuna dish, we moved on to our first appetizer: Slow-cooked egg (we were told it was cooked exactly at 63 degrees–not a degree higher or lower) served with verbena foam and fresh almonds. I’ve never had verbena as food before and it had a very refreshing citrus flavor. I definitely need to start stocking verbena in my kitchen and incorporate to my cooking.
This dish was served with a glass of an Alsatian white by Albert Mann. It is a Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois blend from 2013.
This wine is less acidic and richer than a Riesling from the same region (owing primarily to the Auxerrois). But this being an Alsatian wine, there is still quite a bit of acidity. It is also a bit more delicate and muted than the Riesling in terms of aroma (because of the Pinot Blanc), where white fruits dominate and there are bits of floral and spicy notes.
Egg is notoriously difficult to pair with wine as it can easily make most wines taste outright awful. It’s not really the flavors in the egg that are problematic but rather their unctuous texture, which coats the mouth much like tannic foods do. The yolks especially are difficult in that respect. People recommend anything from sparkling wines to round yet fruity whites to very light reds when it comes to pairing wine with eggs. However, Alsatian whites are known matches to most eggy dishes, whether it is a simply scrambled egg and lardon dish, a custardy tart like a quiche, or in this case, a slow cooked egg.
The second appetizer we had was seared duck foie gras served with caramelized pistachios, olive paste, and cherries. This was also served with the Pinot Blanc Auxerrois.
Both the Auxerrois and the Pinot Blanc grapes add fruitiness to this wine. This provides a great and refreshing contrast to the richness of the foie gras itself (fruits complement foie gras really well), creating a more balanced dish. Although I would expect that a sweeter Alsatian wine as the first choice with foie gras, the roundness of the Pinot Blanc Auxerrois does work with the rich texture of the foie gras.
The next two courses were seafood. First, we were served a medley of zucchini ribbons, nectarine slices, smoked salmon, miso, and basil.
This was served with a glass of “Romo” by Domaine des Huards, Cour-Cheverny. The vintage is 2010.
This white is definitely a mineral driven wine. I’ve actually had this wine (though the 2012 vintage) in another restaurant – Verjus. There, the Romo was paired with a smoked pink trout dish. (see: Some of my favorites from Paris: Verjus). Smoked pink trout and smoked salmon definitely share similar taste and aroma profiles so it’s not a huge surprise that the same wine was chosen for these two dishes.
The second seafood dish was a whiting filet, served with basil cream, peas, and rhubarb. The whiting fillet was prepared in a really interesting way. I could not tell whether it was raw, smoked, cured like ceviche, or else. It definitely did not have the flaky texture of a conventionally cooked whiting. To the contrary, the texture was quite firm. However they prepared this whiting, it was ridiculously delicious!
We continued drinking the Romo during this course. Mineral driven wines are more complex than fruity wines and you need a food that matches the wine’s complexity. The preparation technique of the whiting definitely enriched the dish. Based on this, I think the Romo matched the complexity of the dish really well. In addition, the citrus aromas in the wine, along with the tart rhubarb in the food, worked really well together to complement and balance the flavors of the fish (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love tart and lemony flavors with fish).
Before moving on to our meat course, we had a snack of smoked eel with black sesame sauce. Another super interesting dish!
The final course was lamb served with chocolate sauce, smoked eggplant, and girolle mushrooms. Unfortunately, I pretty much attacked the dish as soon as I was served and I didn’t remember to take a picture until I was licking my fingers. Needless to say, the lamb dish looked as beautiful and delicious as all the other courses!
The wine that we had with the lamb was a Roussillon from the Languedoc region of France. It is a 2007 Cotes du Roussillon Les Apres by Domaine Nivet-Galinier. Roussillon wines are very rustic and often have savage qualities in aroma and taste. This is no exception and you can really notice the leather and animal notes. The wine’s aromas really closely mirror gamey meats that have strong scents. Even though it’s not game, lamb often mimics gamey-ness in terms of its texture, flavor and smell. As such, the lamb was a great match to the wine. Les Apres also has some smoky earthy characteristics, which I think work super well with the mushrooms and the eggplant.
We then moved on to our cheese course. Abondance, which is a wonderful semi-hard raw cow‘s milk cheese from Savoy.
I was definitely way too full for dessert but they gave me a little taster anyways: Cauliflower with white chocolate and coconut. I know that it sounds weird but it was quite delicious!
That concluded our dinner at David Toutain. I loved the food and really enjoyed the surprising combination of ingredients and the juxtaposition of flavors, even if it did at times make me go “hmmm” 🙂 I can’t wait to go back there and see what new flavors and dishes David Toutain has come up with.
One of my favorite restaurants in Paris is Le Galopin, located in an up-and-coming neighborhood in the 10th arrondissement. The chef is Romain Tischenko, who won the Top Chef competition in France in 2010. He runs the restaurant with his brother Maxime. I really love this restaurant for a variety of reasons: it is tiny and very quaint; it is located in beautiful and colorful square; everybody who works there is friendly; and most importantly the food is very fresh, innovative, and delicious!
There is a set menu and on the day that we ate there it featured the following dishes:
Feta with green beans, red onions, radishes, and white currants.
Tomato and whelk soup with mustard seeds.
Duck tartar with cucumbers (by the way, these were the most amazing cucumbers ever!), micro greens, and samphire.
Cod served with clam, green peas, pea and parsley purée, artichoke, grilled green onion, and tomatoes.
Iberico pork with grilled vegetables, girolle mushrooms, and tabouleh.
Homemade raspberry ice cream served with chocolate and piment d’espelette (one of my favorite spices!).
Strawberries served with olive oil, cream, meringue, and rhubarb (stem and greens).
Every course looked like a piece of artwork! And everything was so delicious!
There is a lengthy wine list that changes depending on what’s on the menu. Customers can pick wines by the glass or by the bottle. We opted for a bottle that would go well with the entire meal: Pouilly Fumé Pierre Precieuse by Domaine Alexandre Bain. The vintage is 2012.
The Pouilly Fumé is a dry white wine made with the aromatic sauvignon blanc grape. It is from the Loire Valley, just across the river where Sancerre is produced. Because it is made from the sauvignon blanc grape, the Pouilly Fumé is a highly aromatic wine. It has earthy elements, characterized most typically by gunflint, which gives it steely mineral qualities.
In the Pierre Precieuse, you can really smell sweet and ripe white fruits as well as some hints of citrus (the citrus aromas are definitely not very strong). It also has sweet honey-like aromas. It has a beautiful golden color (darker than the typical Poully Fumé) and is a bit more full bodied than I would expect. On the mouth, it is very refreshing with great acidity and minerality (it is a mineral driven wine).
While I generally would explore different wines to accompany such a diverse set of dishes, the Pouilly Fumé is a versatile wine when it comes to food pairings and it goes really well with grilled fish, shellfish, chicken, creamy sauces, smoked salmon, tangy cheeses like goat and feta, and even pork! Most of these foods were featured in the menu that day and the wine was a delicious complement to our dinner!
I think that the feta cheese in the first appetizer course was especially a great match to this wine. The feta works well with the Pouilly Fumé because it is a very refreshing and crisp wine, owing to its high acidity and minerality. These qualities in a white wine enhance and strengthen the creamy and salty flavors in the cheese. (For similar reasons, crumbly goat cheeses such as Crotin de Chavignol are generally great accompaniments to Sancerres from the Loire Valley.)
Both the entrées also worked well with this wine. The minerality of the Pouilly Fumé makes it a good option for seafood. At the same time, this Pouilly Fumé is not a simple wine. It has complex flavors, aromas, and a long finish. These characteristics make it a great option for seafood that has a bit more depth and structure. In that respect, the clam and cod are a great match to this wine. Neither the wine nor the food overpowers the other. A lighter fish would not be able to keep up with this wine.
Another thing I love about having the Pouilly Fumé with this dish is that the citrus aromas (they’re not blatant but still present) in the wine provide a great complement to this seafood dish. I always prefer lemons with any seafood dish that I eat (while some purists frown upon citrus in seafood thinking that it detracts from the flavor of the food, I think they are a perfect match!) and I think the citrus elements in the wine work in the same way as a lemon wedge would with the dish.
Also the grilled vegetables and their light smokiness from the charred grill marks complemented the earthy and flinty qualities of this wine amazingly (after all, fumé does mean smoky in French). Both the entrees had grilled veggies (the artichoke and the green onion in the seafood course; the zucchini, peppers, and another green onion in the pork course).
A surprise match was the pork in the second main course. I didn’t expect this wine go well with the pork but it somehow worked! I thought this was a very interesting match and I will have to experiment with this further.
I really love this restaurant and it is always on my list of restaurants to visit when I’m in Paris. I can’t wait to go back there next summer!
I’ve been wanting to write a post on the food and wine highlights of my summer in Paris but weddings and travels kept me super busy during the last couple of weeks. But I’m finally back in Abu Dhabi and I’m finally getting around to it 🙂 I will write about my favorites throughout the next few posts. This series of posts will be mostly about the foods that I ate at my favorite restaurants in Paris (not all of them may feature a wine pairing, though most do). The first restaurant I want to write about is Verjus in the 1st arrondissement, which is run by an American couple. You can either visit the restaurant or the wine bar downstairs. It is a very popular restaurant that attracts an expat clientele. The food is fresh, inventive, and modern. On the day that we ate there, we opted for the wine pairing to accompany the set menu. The first thing that we tasted was the semolina cracker with eggplant purée confit, mint, and caramelized eggplant. This was the amuse-bouche and there wasn’t a wine pairing served with it.
We then moved on to the first appetizer: Citrus cured pink trout with pistachio butter, heirloom beets, greens, sorrel oil and crème fraiche. This dish was served with “Romo” made by 2012 Domaine des Huards, Cour-Cheverny. This wine has amazing minerality – it is quite refreshing and you can really sense the wet stone aroma. This wine has the perfect amount of freshness to go with the rich trout!
The second appetizer was a stinging nettle linguini with house ricotta, chanterelles, nettle pesto, and pine nuts, served with a 2010 Saint Aubin made by Patrick Miolane. The Saint Aubin has a very floral nose – white flowers. The taste is very fresh and fruity with a very nice buttery body. I loved the butteriness of this wine to go with the rich ricotta and pesto. And the freshness of the taste was a great balancing factor to the richness of the dish.
Next up was a foie gras mousse with shaved apricots, toasted hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, and apricot jam. This was served with a Corbières. “Clair” produced by Domaine les Promesses de la Terre from 2012. This Corbières has a very interesting aroma profile: yeast, toasted bread/brioche, and fried dough – fried dough is something that my mom and my grandma used to make when I was little and it was my absolutely favorite thing ever! This is a slightly sweet wine and that sweetness wonderfully brings out the flavors of the foie gras!
Now on to the main courses. There were two. The first was a skillet cooked duck breast with smoked celery root, orange, caraway, and red cabbage sauerkraut. This was accompanied by a red Sancerre by Domaine Vacheron from 2012. This Sancerre is wonderfully earthy with aromas of dirt and wet earth. The taste is fruity – red fruits – and that is a wonderful complement for duck.
The final course before the cheese/dessert is a tomato braised pork belly with grilled zucchini, tomato relish, garlic chips, and summer squash. The wine that we were served was a Côtes du Roussillon Villages, “Les Huit” by Domaine les Terres de Mallyce from 2010. This is the strongest wine of all and has taken on tertiary aromas like leather, animal, and a hint of licorice. There is also some fruity components like cherry. This aroma profile of the wine and the dish are very complementary and again the fruitiness in the taste of the wine works amazingly with pork.
All the wines were a great choice for the courses. I especially loved the red Sancerre and the Roussillon and bought a bottle of each to take home with me.
Note: (I forgot to take pictures of some of the wines from that evening so photos of some of the bottles are not mine. However, all food photos are my own photos.)
My brother and my sister-in-law were visiting me in Paris recently and I took them to eat at my favorite restaurant in the entire world – Septime! Septime is an amazing restaurant in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Chef Bertrand Grébaut is very creative with his menu and always maintains the integrity of each of his ingredients in his dishes. Every time I come to Paris, I make sure to have a meal here.
The menu changes frequently. The day that we ate there, for the appetizers, we had a choice between jack mackerel, beetroot with feta, and leeks with smoked egg and cecina de Leon. My brother had the leeks, my sister-in-law had the beetroot and I chose the jack mackerel, which was served with kohlrabi, cornichons, parsley oil, and raw cream (I absolutely love raw cream. I dollop it on my baguette with blueberry preserves every morning).
For the entrée, we had a choice between monkfish and pork from the Dordogne region of France. Since we had eaten monkfish for last night’s dinner, we all chose the pork. The pork was served with roasted onions, a jus with tamarind, and toasted buckwheat.
For my wine pairing with the pork, I chose a 2013 Beaujolais Villages made by Jean Claude Lapalu. The name of the wine is Tentation. Beaujolais often gets a bad rap because of the mass produced Beaujolais Nouveau that often sacrifices quality for quantity and that is unfortunately most of the Beaujolais we see on the shelves. However, there is much better Beaujolais out there! Beaujolais Villages and especially Beaujolais Cru are much higher quality wines and they are definitely worth a try. There are some really notable wine makers in the region and the Tentation is a great bottle of wine in the Beaujolais Villages classification.
The Tentation is a beautiful bright ruby color. It is bursting with fruit aromas, especially cherries, which are on the jammy side. There are also some warm and sweet spices as well as just a hint of earthiness. This is definitely a lot more complex than your typical, mass produced Beaujolais Nouveau.
Three characteristics of this wine make it a great choice for the pork dish. First, Beaujolais is made 100% with the gamay grape, which produces a fruitier wine. The vinification process contributes even more to the fruitiness of this wine. The Tentation is made using the carbonic maceration technique, where whole grapes (rather than macerated ones) are fermented in an environment rich in carbon dioxide. Fermentation of whole grapes rather than the juice, is another factor that contributes to the fruitiness of this Beaujolais. In fact, the Tentation so fruity that it feels like cherries are exploding in my mouth. Overall, Beaujolais and pork are a fantastic pairing, whether you’re serving pork loin or a plate of charcuterie. Pork loves fruit and the fruitiness of the Tentation makes it a great accompaniment to this dish.
Second, This wine is also quite light. It has a relatively low alcohol content (12%), is very light and refreshing in flavors, and is super low in tannins. Because the gamay has a thin skin, it produces a red wine that’s light in tannins and gives it a much lighter body. The carbonic maceration technique also contributes to low level of tannins in wine. The pork that we had was light. It was simply roasted and served with a light tamarind jus. The lightness of the Beaujolais worked really well with the food whereas a heavier wine would definitely overpower it.
Finally, this wine is very juicy – it definitely satisfies your thirst. Pork is one of those meats that can easily become dry, in which case the thirst quenching quality of the wine would be a great addition to the meal. Our pork of course was expertly cooked and it was already super soft and juicy 🙂
Overall, this was yet another heavenly meal in my favorite restaurant. I love coming to Septime! They always have amazing food and very interesting wines. They also sell the wines featured in the restaurant in the wine bar they opened around the corner at rue Basfroi. I’ve gotten quite a few interesting bottles of wines to take home with me.
And to leave us all drooling, here is a small selection of pictures from previous meals I’ve had at Septime.
Below, the onions at the top of the plate were to die for. So much flavor!
Below, on the left is the organic sheep’s milk cheese from Larzac that I fell in love with. After I tasted it in the restaurant, I searched high and low to find this cheese in Paris. Now, it is always on my list of cheeses to bring back home with me. So tasty!
This week I’m eating at my favorite oyster eatery in Paris – Huîtrerie Régis. I love this place! They are closed half of the summer. Luckily I was able to eat here a few times before the dreaded July 14 closure. There’s a reason why this place closes for such a long time in the summer time – much longer than the typical August closure you’d come across in other Parisian restaurants. Oysters are best eaten in the cooler months (months that contain the letter “r”). The months that don’t contain that letter correspond to warm waters, when the oysters tend to be milky, fatty and softer in texture. The oysters don’t assume these characteristics because they are going bad due to the summer heat. Rather, this transformation takes place because they are getting ready to spawn.
Even if you do come across milky oysters, there’s no health risk associated with eating them – though they are not all that pleasant to eat.
Oysters harvested in the winter months (or the summer months if they are from cold enough waters), tend to be lighter and firmer, and also saltier and they need a lighter, crisp wine, like a Sancerre or a Muscadet. You want a wine made from grapes grown in colder climates. Cool climate grapes produce crisp and fresh wines, two characteristics that help to cut down on the salty and the briny flavors of the oysters and cleanse your palate in between bites. Both the Sancerre and the Muscadet come from the Loire Valley in France, which fits that profile. Champagne also fits the profile and it has the added benefit of effervescence, which can do wonders to refresh and cleanse the palate between each slurp 😉
Now, back to the oysters. Huîtrerie Régis has oysters only from Marennes Oleron in the Atlantic coast of France. My friend and I ordered a dozen of Les Fines de Claires No. 3 and a dozen of Les Spéciales de Claires No. 2.
I truly love oysters and I don’t get to eat them very often. They are just so overpriced in Abu Dhabi. So when I get to sit down to two-dozen oysters, I’m in my happy place.
Even though it’s already July, the oysters I had at Huîtrerie Régis are not milky – to be honest, no reputable restaurant should serve its customers milky oysters. To the contrary, these oysters are firm, lean, salty, and have that great ocean flavor. I will go with a Sancerre to pair with these beauties: a 2012 Daniel Crochet Cuvée Prestige.
This Sancerre is so light in color to be almost clear but there is body to this wine. It is very citrusy and has hints of green plants as well as a good level of minerality. The acidity is high but pleasant – exactly what you would want for oysters.
I am also curious about another wine that is on the menu – Pouilly Fumé, another sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley. So I will order that as well to compare. This wine is called Les Charmes and it’s from Domaine Chatelain. The vintage is 2011.
The Pouilly Fumé has more body and flavor than the Sancerre. It is also darker in color – it’s a nice golden color. It is an aromatic wine with hints of toastiness.
Sancerre is definitely the winner between the two wines. I think the Pouilly Fumé slightly overpowers the delicate flavors of the oysters (I might prefer the pouilly fumé with some grilled fish instead of oysters). On the other hand, the Sancerre is definitely light enough in flavor to make the oysters shine. And it is crisp enough to balance their salty ocean flavors.
I also wanted to try a Muscadet, another traditional pairing with oysters. So a few days later, I ordered take-out from Huîtrerie Régis. I think I got a little carried away and ordered two-dozen Les Spéciales de Claires No. 2 for myself. Well, it is the last time I’m eating at Regis’s oysters before the restaurant closes. So, why not?
At the restaurant, they opened the oysters for me but kept the top shells on for easy transport. I jumped in a taxi to get home quickly and this is the amazingness that I sat down to.
Each oysters is wonderfully firm, lean and beautiful.
I will go ahead with Sancerre. But I also wanted to compare Muscadet to Sancerre to see which one works best with oysters. This time, I’m trying a different Sancerre. It is a really young Sancerre (2013 vintage) by François Crochet.
Typical of Sancerre, this is again bursting with acidity. Its aromas are super refreshing with citrus and apples. It has minerality, adding more freshness to the wine. It is again very pale yellow in color with green tinges. It is super acidic but nicely balanced. The flavor is a lot lighter is quite tart in comparison to the Muscadet.
The Muscadet belongs to the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appelation. It’s called Granite de Clisson from the Loire valley. Granite de Clisson means the granite from Clisson because of the granitic fault on which the vines are planted. It is made by Domaine de la Pepière and it is from 2009.
The Clisson has heavier aromas than the Sancerre, like peaches and flowers. But the aroma I notice the most is minerals. It has much more pronounced than the Sancerre. It is also a bit darker in color and has a bit more body than the Sancerre.
So how did the wines do with the oysters? I think both the Sancerre and the Muscadet worked great. I tried the oysters with and without lemon and Sancerre did better with the lemon while the Muscadet was my choice for oysters without lemon.
The Sancerre is delightfully refreshing and does a wonderful job of cleansing my palate in between each oyster (otherwise, I don’t think I could’ve eaten all 24 oysters). The Sancerre actually tastes much tarter when I eat the oyster without the lemon and when I add the lemon it actually balances and tames the acidity in the wine. However, it’s important that the acidity of the lemon not overpower the acidity in the wine. If my food were more acidic than the wine, it would make the wine appear flatter, taking away from its wonderful crisp and fresh qualities.
The Clisson is also quite acidic, less than the Sancerre though. I don’t think it needs the lemon to balance out its acidity. In fact, the lemon makes the wine taste bitter. But without the lemon, I think this wine is a great pairing for oysters. It’s acidic enough to lighten up the flavors and cleanse the palate. And the marriage of salt and acidity is just perfect.
I like a little bit of lemon on my oysters to cut down on the saltiness and because of that the Sancerre is still my favorite wine for oysters.
Another classic pairing with oysters is Chablis – though it’s not my preferred pairing. I had a bottle of Chablis at home and I was just curious wanted to see how it would work with these oysters. It is called Bel-Air et Clardy and is made by Alice and Olivier de Moor (this is a fantastic Chablis by the way so if you come across this, this is a definitely must-buy). The vintage is 2011.
This Chablis, like the Clisson has very pronounced mineral aromas as well as some citrus and white fruit. Upon aeration, white flower elements also become noticeable. It is a fuller bodied wine that has some great smoothness, which nicely balances out the acidity. It almost feels like there’s honey in this wine based on how smooth it is (just based how the wine feels in your mouth, not sweetness – Chablis is not a sweet wine).
I think the Bel-Air et Clardy was okay but not outstanding with the oysters – a younger and lighter Chablis would work much better and this was just a tad too rich for the oysters (de Moor also makes lighter wines). This just goes to show that just because a wine is labeled a Chablis, it doesn’t automatically guarantee that it will pair well with oysters – the style of the particular wine and producer are just as important in determining the success of the pairing. I think the Sancerre and the Clisson were better pairings for the oysters and I would prefer to drink the Bel-Air et Clardy instead with richer seafood, like scallops, or if you happen to be served milky oysters.