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New York – May, 2014

20 Jul

Wow! It has been a long time since I’ve updated this blog and I absolutely blame my absence on being busy, with a hint of laziness. Life has been wonderfully busy as I have recently started a new job…in the food industry! I’m so excited to have finally made my dreams of working in the food industry a reality, that I’ve been completely absorbed with learning all that I can and that means that I’ve had no energy for my hobbies. Hopefully I can find a balance soon.

I had a week between jobs so my sister and I made a last-minute decision to fly to New York for a quick trip. We learned that May is a glorious time to visit the city that never sleeps. The flowers were in full bloom, the weather was warming up but not yet humid, and the city didn’t feel overly busy. Having been to New York a few times, this trip was all about taking it easy, avoiding the touristy stuff, and eating and drinking our way through NYC. Unfortunately, as our trip was last-minute, we didn’t get into some of the restaurants that I had really wanted to visit (at the top of the list was the NoMad restaurant). I also couldn’t afford to do the high-end experience that B and I had on our last trip so, instead, we explored the more affordable side of the New York food scene.

Spring time in New York = lots of flowers!

I was less adventurous this time around when it came to food and we ended up going back to a few places from my last trip with B, so that I could show them to my sister. These included Eataly (always reliable), Shake Shack (meh, won’t be going back again), Blue Bottle coffee, and Magnolia Bakery (we know this place well!)

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Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes (I still love these, regardless if people think they are over-rated).

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Eataly – Buffalo mozzarella with olive oil and sea salt. Classic. Perfect.

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Eataly - Ravioli filled with spring pea, ricotta, pecorino, mint, and finished with butter and asparagus – superb!

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Eataly – Tagliatelle with short rib ragu

I had wanted to visit Momofuku Milk Bar last time I was in NY but could only find the time to get to the UrbanSpace market stall. This time, I made it my mission to visit an actual store. We ended up at the East Village location on East 13th street (I recommend that if you go here to also time it with a visit to Momofuku ssäm bar as they are across the street from each other). I wasn’t as taken with the things that we tried as I’d hoped to be. I found that the crack pie, which is what they are famous for, was a bit of a disappointment. To me, it just tasted a lot like pecan pie, without the pecans. I still absolutely adore their birthday cake truffles though – I ended up with two bags of those to take home.

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Cereal Milk Soft Serve

P1080661The famous Crack Pie

We made the mistake of spending most of our first day getting to, and visiting, Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. Smorgasburg is an outdoor market, right on the water in Brooklyn (great views of Manhattan). With over 75-100 food vendors on offer, it sounds like heaven. Unfortunately, I found it more like my personal hell. There were soooo many people at the market that we couldn’t even see what most of the vendors were selling. The line-ups for the vendors were ridiculously long and, once you’ve managed to get some food, it was difficult to get a spot to eat it. Personally, I won’t be going back even though I love the concept.

Although we didn’t try too many new food places, we did try a lot of bars. My favourite bar of our trip was Employees Only. Hidden down in the West Village, the cocktails and the prohibition bar atmosphere were awesome. We actually popped in for “one drink” but end up staying for three. I could have gotten into a lot of trouble at this bar as every cocktail was tempting to me.

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P1080667Cocktails from Employees Only

Not too far from Employees Only is The Top of the Standard. Here is a tip: save your money and avoid the long line-ups at The Empire State Building or The Top of the Rock and, instead, soak in the impressive city views from the Top of the Standard for the cost of a cocktail. Personally, I found it a bit pretentious but worth suffering through for the views.

We started to do a bar crawl through the East Village but couldn’t get to even half of our wish-list as the East Village has so many excellent drinking spots. The ones we did visit were Amor y Amargo and Mayahuel. Amor y Amargo is probably the smallest bar I’ve ever been in, which creates a very intimate atmosphere. They are all about the bitters here and the cocktails are interesting as a result. Mayahuel has a strong focus on tequila and mezcals and, again, has some very interesting (and dangerously tasty cocktails) on offer.

Due to lack of time, we missed out on going to Crosby Street Bar (in Soho), PDT, Booker & Dax, Death and Company (over an hour wait), Beauty & Essex, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar. I plan on spending two nights the next time I’m in NY, just exploring the bar scene in the East Village.

My perfect New York trip would include some of the high-end places from our last trip (Eleven Madison Park is a must-visit) and I would combine those with some of the bars that we visited. I still have a very long list of places that I’d like to visit when I next return (Buddakan is one of them) so this isn’t it for me and New York.

Osteria Francescana – Modena, Italy

25 Apr

I recently became aware of two terms that I feel are very fitting for me, and for this post. Those terms are “destination foodie” and “culinary conservative”. “Destination foodie” is someone who is willing to travel to a destination, or make a major detour, for the purpose of indulging in food. “Culinary conservative” is someone who isn’t adventurous when it comes to food and tends to eat what they know or within their comfort-zone.

I believe that both of these terms could be used to describe me, and our visit to Osteria Francescana in Modena (Italy) reinforced this. When B and I were first planning our trip we hadn’t intended on visiting Modena at all. Time was limited and “it’s too far from Florence” we claimed but, in the end, our curiosity won and we felt that the more than three-hour round-trip to the third best restaurant in the world (2013) was completely reasonable. Hence, the “destination foodie” label.

Even though months have passed since our dinner, I still have difficulties reconciling how I felt about our experience at Osteria Francescana. On one hand, it was like no other menu that we’ve had before (and that is one of the reasons why we go to fine dining restaurants) but on the other hand, I was disappointed by the menu. I found that I didn’t enjoy the dishes as much as I had hoped – some I found to be quite odd – and this is why I (shamefully) think I deserve the label of “culinary conservative”.

Once seated in the dining room, you are given the choice of three menus to select from: Traditions (€130); Classics (€165); and Sensations (€190). The titles of the menus describe them perfectly; the first two are definitely more traditional and classic Italian. Feeling bold, we ordered the Sensations menu, which was created to be a tour of Italy through the eyes of the Chef, Massimo Bottura. Each dish represents a different area of the country and all were a complete surprise. Here we go…

The entrance: an unassuming door off the beaten track

The dining room

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Almond Granita

Savoury Oyster and Anchovy Macarons

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House-made bread selection

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More house-made bread

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Baccalá: dried and salted cod

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A whole grilled sardine, stuffed with cream of scampi, and topped with the ash of seaweed, vegetables and lemon peel. Finished with squid ink

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Risotto with cod fish balls

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Eel with saba sauce, swimming upstream

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Lamb Oyster (lamb meat in an oyster shell)

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“Think Green” – green peas and beans, topped with green pea granita, chlorophyll, and curd of Parmesan cheese

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“Snails on a grapevine” – snails with chlorophyll, red beet sauce, and black truffle shavings. Weird!

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Foie gras ravioli, topped with black truffle, served on a black truffle and balsamic vinegar sauce – easily my favourite dish

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Pigeon with beet reduction. I could barely eat this as it looked like a murder scene!

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I don’t really know how to describe this one. Candied leaves, served with strawberry, pumpkin and chocolate purees and topped with black truffle shavings

P1080007“Oops! We broke the lemon tart”

So there you have it…a trip through Italy without leaving your computer chair. Unfortunately, for me, it was a very seafood-focused menu (strike 1) and I personally found some of the dishes to be just down-right strange (strike 2). Whilst I appreciated the innovation, the boldness, and the skill, I did not love most of these dishes. It would appear that I am just not adventurous enough to have appreciated it for everything that it was.

In no way do I want to discourage anyone from going to Osteria Francescana; it was certainly unique and I will absolutely remember it.  However, I do believe that the Sensations menu is not for everyone, particularly the “culinary conservatives” out there. The next time I return to Osteria Francescana, I will settle on the more traditional menu and be satisfied in my comfort-zone, but for now I’m glad that I tried a menu this interesting and creative.

Bites of Italy – Part 3 of 3

10 Mar

Bruschetta

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Spaghetti Carbonara

P1080119Wild Boar Pappardelle

Platter of Tuscan meats and cheeses

Grapefruit and Prosecco Gelato

Dinner made up from our market finds

Porcini Fettucine from the incredible Le Logge del Vignola, Montepulciano

Porcini risotto from Le Logge del Vignola, Montepulciano

Wines from Poggio Antico winery

Bites of Italy – Part 2 of 3

4 Mar

Pappardelle with wild boar ragout from Borgo Antico, Florence.

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 Rigatoni with bacon and tomato sauce from Borgo Antico, Florence.

Pizza from O’Munaciello, Florence.

Porchetta sandwich, Florence.

P1080104A simple, yet tasty, lunch that we had whilst on a bike tour through Tuscany.

We didn’t meet a bottle of Italian red that we didn’t like…

Although not visually appealing, ribollita was surprisingly delicious.

 Mushrooms at San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, Florence - a must visit for foodies.

More truffles!!

Bites of Italy – Part 1 of 3

2 Mar

Italian food is some of my all-time favourite food and this was reconfirmed when we were in Italy last October. I was in my element as we dined for more than two weeks on pizza, pasta, risotto, gelato, robust red wines, fizzy Prosecco, cappucino, sliced meats, and different varieties of cheese. What strikes me most about Italian food is that it is honest and uncomplicated. Rather than relying on heavy sauces or complicated dishes, the Italians prefer the ingredients to speak for themselves.

As we were there in the Fall, we were just in time for the season of chewy porcini and fragrant truffles, of which we consumed a lot. Pasta was a regular item on our daily menu – which I was incredibly grateful for as I never tire of eating pasta – as were the divine Italian red wines that we sampled (our favourite being a type of wine called Nobile di Montepulciano).

The following images (and the others that will follow) are a capture of some of memorable dishes that we had the pleasure of experiencing whilst in Italy.

A breakfast of crema croissant and cappuccinos.

Flavour-packed pizza sold by weight. The porcini and proscuitto pizza was a favourite.

Piles of tasty and affordable panini from All’antico Vinaio, Florence.

Porchetta and truffle panini from All’Antico Vinaio, Florence.

Wine by the glass for only €2.

Heapings of Tuscan ham and mozzarella from Borgo Antico, Florence.

Duck tortellini in a light broth from Il Santo Bevitore, Florence.

 Shaved truffles over house-made pasta - simply divine.

Paris on my mind…

1 Mar

Paris…who hasn’t daydreamed of Paris? There are many reasons why this city, the City of Lights, gets under people’s skin. For me, Paris has the perfect blend of beauty, food, art, architecture, and an appreciation of the finer things in life.

I don’t claim to know Paris well. I’ve been there a number of times but only twice recently – so I’m no expert. But thankfully, I don’t need to be, as there are many experts out there sharing info with us. Whilst I was researching our trip, I came across many blogs, articles, and books written about Paris so we ended up with quite an ambitious list of food stops for our limited time in the French capital.

The streets of Paris

If you don’t enjoy spending hours researching and cross-referencing your list, like I do, then you are in luck! Below, I am sharing my list of places that I had hoped to visit on our trip. I can’t vouch for most of them as we simply did not have the time to visit them all but I’ve put a star next to the ones that we actually made it to. As you can see, there are lots left for us to try next time we go. In the meantime, I will continue to daydream about our next trip to Paris…

Restaurants & Bistros:

Verjus - 52 Rue de Richelieu, 75001 – LOVED this place! I highly recommend a visit. Very quaint and romantic and the food was incredible.*

L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon – 5 Rue de Montalembert, 75007 – Whilst our overall experience wasn’t what I had hoped it to be, there was no denying that the food was flawless.*

Le Chateaubriand – 129 Avenue de Parmentier, 75011 – Although the Le Chateaubriand menu was a little adventurous for this dull foodie, it is highly rated on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant List (#18).*

Septime - 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 – I really wanted to visit as it is ranked 49th on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant List and has a lot of buzz, but we missed out – book in advance!

L’Ami Jean – 27 Rue Malar, 75007 – I like that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously but the food is highly rated. The rice pudding dessert is a speciality.

L’auberge du 15 – 15 Rue de la Sante, 75013 – Disappointed to have not made it to this one. Reviews are extremely positive and the food sounds and looks incredible, albeit pricey.

Le Grand Vefour – 17 Rue de Beaujolas, 75001 – This would only be for a splurge as prices start at about €80! I’ve heard that the lunch special (€98) is better value for money and, with its opulent decor, it would make a perfect location for a romantic dinner. This post should whet your appetite – look at that cheese plate!!

Les Ombres – At the top of the Quai Branly museum – I was more keen to visit for the spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower than the food, which got pretty average reviews.

Le Timbre – 3 Rue Sainte Beuve, 75006. Lots of great reviews about this small bistro. Open for lunch and dinner.

Chez Paul – 13 Rue de Charonne, 75011 – Recommended by resident Paris foodie, David Lebovitz. Popular with locals for its well-made bistro fare.

Bistrot Paul-Bert – 18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 – Another traditional bistrot. The steak frites and the desserts come highly recommended by David Lebovitz. This review, with pictures, should get you interested.

Cafe Constant: 135 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 – No reservations accepted, looks cute and very reasonably priced at €23 for a 3 course dinner.

Wine Bars:

Septime Cave  – 3 Rue Basfroi, 75011 – A wine bar brought to you by the same people that run well-known and popular, Septime (restaurant).

Verjus - 47 Rue Montpensier, 75001 – If you can’t get into Verjus the restaurant, try their bar instead. Apparently the fried chicken is a must-order (not very French, but who cares?! It is fried chicken!!

O Chateau – If you are new to French wines and would like to sample some different varieties, or maybe you’d like to partake in a wine course, perhaps try this place. Their wine bar has over 40 wines by the glass, which allows for a lot of sampling.

Patisseries, Chocolatiers & Boulangeries:

Gerard Mulotmultiple locations – Our hotel was charging €15 pp for breakfast, we said screw that, and walked to Gerard and picked up freshly baked buttery croissants with coffees for about €7 for the two of us. Gerard’s cabinets are lined with food porn (see pic below). I challenge you to walk out with just one thing! You can also pick up some supplies for picnics here (salads, quiches, sandwiches, fresh bread, pastries). Yum! *

Eric Kayser – multiple locations – A popular chain of boulangerie that makes bread worth lining up for. Stock up here for supplies for picnics (breads and pastries). *

Pierre Herme - 72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 – If it is macarons that you want, then this is one of the places you should try whilst in Paris. Expect to queue but also expect incredibly interesting flavours, such as white truffle with hazelnut. *

Jean-Paul Hévin – multiple locations – Perhaps pastries and breads don’t float your boat? If you are a chocolate fiend, get your butt to Jean-Paul Hévin. Everything is exquisitely presented like only the French can do.*

Le Grenier a Pain – 38 Rue des Abbesses, 75018 – Gourmet Fury, another passionate foodie, highly recommends Le Grenier as the best croissant in Paris. I didn’t make it out that far but I must admit it looks pretty good. Certainly on my list for next time. 

Gerard Mulot – Loved this place!

Coffee

Telescope – 5 Rue Villedo, 75001 – We really liked this place. Cute, small, tucked away on a side street – definitely worth the trek for the fabulous coffee.*

La Cafeotheque – 52 Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, 75004

Coutume Café – 47 Rue de Babylone, 75007

Telescope coffee – worth hunting down

Cheese & Markets:

Rue Mouffetard Market - an open air market in the 5th arrondissement.

Fromagerie Sanders: 4 Rue Lobineau, 75006(inside Marche Saint Germain)

If you are too intimidated to go to an actual cheese store, try to find a small supermarket (we stumbled upon them every now and then) and raid their cheese fridges. These aren’t the same pitiful cheese selections that you’ll find in your North American supermarket. We walked out with huge wedges of cheese, and bottles of wine and Champagne for a fraction of what it would cost in the restaurants (and back home).

Great sources of information:

www.parisbymouth.com

www.lostincheeseland.com

www.godiloveparis.blogspot.ca - This blog and the author’s book “Paris, My Sweet” are must-reads for those travellers with a sweet tooth.

www.davidlebovitz.com/paris/ - David is a wealth of knowledge on the Paris food scene and he shares it all on his blog. I found this post of his particularly helpful at building anticipation for the trip.

www.smokysweet.com/roaming/paris/ – Vancouver-based foodie who has some great suggestions for Paris foodie experiences.

Article by Mark Bittman of the New York Times

How to plan for good food whilst travelling

4 Jan

People have asked me, particularly after my last trip, how do I make my restaurant choices when travelling to new cities? To that I reply that I make my choices based on a lot of research. Having been disappointed (and in some cases, disgusted) by meals that I’ve eaten whilst travelling, I rarely leave it to chance anymore – good food is just too important to me.

Sunset over the Duomo, Florence

There is nothing more disappointing (to me) than being in an exciting city and eating over-priced food which is targeted towards unsuspecting/hungry tourists and has been made with little care or pride. Vivid memories of astonishingly terrible meals that I have had on my travels motivates me into putting a little effort in prior to a trip so that I can have more good meals than bad meals (let’s face it, with even the most careful planning you will still encounter a mediocre meal). Here is a summary of how I generally tackle planning for a foodie trip:

  • Ask friends/family/colleagues for recommendations. This can be particularly fruitful if you share similar favourite restaurants at home. For example, one of our good friends who we go out for dinner with regularly, gave us a recommendation for a restaurant in Florence and it ended up being the best meal that we had there.
  • Research your favourite local food/travel bloggers and see if they have been to the destination you will be visiting. You’ll feel more confident with your choices when you have recommendations from someone that you are already familiar with.
  • Search for English-speaking food blogs in the city you are visiting. Often they are written by ex-pats who are exploring their new city and are very detailed. Whilst you are on these blogs, check to see if they have included any blog-links on their site – this is the fastest way (in my opinion) to find other relevant blogs as other food bloggers tend to know who else is covering the food scene in their city.
  • If the city you are visiting is well-documented, like Paris or New York, then food-focused books (like Zagat and Michelin Guide) will be vital-reading. Don’t forget to look in the food/travel section of your local bookstore for lesser-known books. I planned my whole Paris trip in 2012 based mostly on just two books (Paris, My Sweet & The Sweet Life in Paris).
  • In some cities, it can be worth waiting until you are there before nailing down some restaurants (except for fine-dining which you should reserve in advance) due to the free magazines that are offered in bigger places, like London. I found the free Time Out magazine was my guide the last time I was in London and the information was all current as of that week, including new openings.
  • I have found that TripAdvisor can be your best or worst friend. For every person who says that a restaurant was amazing, there is another claiming that it was the worst meal/experience that they’ve ever had. It can be very hard to decipher the true story as you really have no way of understanding who the person is that wrote it (their opinions are likely to be completely different to yours). I prefer to use TripAdvisor as a resource and then do my own research on each place that is highly recommended by cross-referencing with local food blogs, checking out the restaurant’s websites, etc. Don’t just default to the most popular place on TripAdvisor – everyone else is doing the exact same thing!
  • Ask locals, the people that work in the hotel you are staying in, or your local tour guides for recommendations but be clear about what you want. We made it clear that we were very interested in good food, not interested in tourist traps, and we were willing to traipse across the city in search of it.
  • If there is a restaurant that you have your heart set on going to, or if you know it is extremely popular, book before you leave. If it is a well-known or famous restaurant it will likely be fully-booked and you will miss your opportunity to go there.
  • When you have arrived, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for line-ups outside food establishments. Locals know the best places in their city and if they are willing to line up for it, you will probably want whatever it is they are having. Take a risk and jump in line!

Happy travels! Happy eating!

Truffle pasta – delicious!

Verjus, Paris

9 Nov

52 Rue de Richelieu
75001, Paris

www.hkmenus.com

Even though I had heard many great things about Verjus, after our slightly disappointing meal at L’Ateiler Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon we had been keeping our expectations low for Verjus. There was no need – our experience at Verjus was impressive and we left there absolutely raving about our evening there.

Although I love a good “fancy” meal, such as a dinner at The French Laundry or Eleven Madison Park, the value still has to be there. I don’t mind dropping some serious cash on food so long as I leave the restaurant feeling as though I got value for my money. In my opinion, we definitely got value for our money at Verjus, and the service was better than what we had received the night before at the 2 Michelin-starred L’Ateiler.

Verjus’ upstairs restaurants was quaint and cozy, with a spiral staircase descending into the more casual bar of the same name (apparently the bar serves incredible fried chicken). I found the atmosphere in the restaurant to be welcoming and unhurried. The food was unexpectedly impressive. We both ordered the tasting menu, which was €60/$85CAD for 7 courses (we added on the cheese course for another €14) and the wine pairing €40/$56CAD. I highly recommend opting for the wine pairing because it gives you the opportunity to sample French wines that perhaps you wouldn’t have access to at home. 

Sea bass, heirloom radishes, nasturtium flowers, scallions, lime, grapefruit, crispy chicken skin. The crispy chicken skin elevated this dish. The texture and the saltiness balanced the fish.

Cappellettis of roast pumpkin, buffalo milk ricotta, nettle pesto, pine nuts, pickled pumpkin, wood sorrel. Simply perfect.

P1070884Cherrystone clams, roast sunchoke soup, garlic crouton, harissa, celery root, thyme oil. The spicy heat of the harissa was what really made this dish. It took a delicious, but fairly uninteresting soup, and pow! Made it memorable.

P1070887Skillet cooked duck, smoked celery root, orange, rye, red cabbage sauerkraut. The duck was cooked so well and with a strong smokey flavour, that it tasted more like elk than duck. Delish!

P1070892Grilled hanger steak with roasted chanterelle mushrooms, pickled onions, and pepper cress. Who can say no to a well-cooked steak with in-season chanterelles?

P1070900Selection of French cheese (€14 supplement)

P1070902Roast mission figs, dark chocolate sauce, praline, buckwheat ice cream. Once again, texture played a bit part in this dish with the praline adding a slight crunch.

P1070905Honey and cardamom panna cotta, poached pears, walnut shortbread, plums.

There was not a dish on our menu that I didn’t like. All of them were well-executed with obvious thought going into the importance of texture and flavours in each dish. The dishes were also a good size so you certainly didn’t leave hungry.

It seems pointless to say, but I highly recommend a meal at Verjus if you are in Paris. For me, it was the most memorable of the meals that we ate whilst in Europe because it hit it out of the park in every element; service, quality of food, ambience, and value for money. Make sure that you reserve ahead of time as this is a popular spot (I found them to be extremely helpful over email). If you are unable to get a reservation, you could try to drop in to the bar for a bite to eat and a drink (no reservations required).

L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon, Paris

7 Nov

When I was planning our recent trip to Paris and Italy, I admit that I was much more excited about the food scene in Paris than I was about the food scene in Rome and Florence. Having indulged in so much good food the last time I was in Paris and having done extensive research of the city’s must-visit restaurants, I was more than ready to tackle Paris with my eating partner-in-crime, B. With limited time, we wanted to aim high so we booked ourselves dinner at L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon. According to Wikipedia, Chef Joel Robuchon has 28 Michelin stars – the most of any chef in the world – and this particular restaurant is rated the 24th best restaurant in the world, according to San Pellegrino. It was a no-brainer to book dinner here.

P1070816L’Atelier Saint-Germain takes a less formal approach to fine-dining with an open-plan kitchen and wrap-around seating (although there are a few dining tables available). Whilst I was curious about this take on fine-dining, I must say that it didn’t enhance the experience for me, in fact, I think it distracted us from the experience.

When I am visiting a fine-dining restaurant and ordering a tasting menu, a vital part of the experience (for me) is the attention that you get from the server (one-on-one service, small chats), but also the surprise upon the arrival of each dish. When you are sitting side-by-side next to other diners, you (for better or worse) get to peek at their dishes when they arrive. If you are experiencing a tasting menu, like we were, then you may see the dishes being presented to other diners before you get yours, which inevitably ruins the surprise when you finally reach that dish on your tasting menu. This happened to us. We were also able to view dishes that were being presented to diners that hadn’t ordered the tasting menu, which also takes away a small part of the pleasure that you are experiencing because you may start comparing your dishes to theirs (particularly when their dishes are covered in freshly shaved truffles).

My other complaint was that I felt like I was on an airplane as I was sandwiched between two people. When you are cutting your dinner and your elbow is digging into the stranger next to you, things get awkward. Personally, I am not a fan of the communal, sit-next-to-your-fellow-diners. Give me a private table any day.

Thankfully, and more importantly, the food was flawless and beautifully presented. My favourite dishes of the night were: the tomato gazpacho, the St Pierre fish, the Black Angus steak and the lamb chops, which were served with the most heavenly truffled potato puree. The truffled potatoes alone are worth a return visit. Please note that the menu was in French so I’ve tried my best to describe the dishes with the limited information that I have.

P1070818Tomato gazpacho with croutons in golden mustard sorbet. Many flavours came through in this dish; particularly garlic and basil.

P1070820Crab with thin slices of spicy kale.

P1070823Caviar and sour cream on potato with olive oil. Delicious, but hard to scoop onto the spoon.

P1070824Egg with mushroom cream foam (yes, there is an egg hidden in there): the oddest dish of the night.

P1070828Foie gras with hibiscus jus and coco di Paimpol (a type of bean).

P1070830Chicken gyoza in broth.

P1070832St. Pierre fish with capers and pistachio oil.

P1070833Black Angus steak.

P1070836Lamb chops with an incredible truffled potato purée.

P1070838Coconut cream with passionfruit and banana and rum granite.

P1070840Creamy chocolate ganache with cocoa nibs and Oreo cookie. Extremely rich and chocolatey, in other words, sinfully good.

The oddest dish of the night goes to the egg and mushroom dish (served in the cocktail glass). The runniness of the egg was off-putting at first but thankfully there were mushroom pieces to add some texture. Texture was also very important for the foie gras dish, which was paired with beans which provided some firmness to balance the softness of the foie gras. There is no doubt that the food was the highlight, as it should be. However, I also expect good service when eating out, particularly when the restaurant is as highly-rated and as expensive (the tasting menu was €175pp/$245CAD) as this one is. Unfortunately, we found the service wasn’t as good as the food.

In the beginning, there appeared to be only one server for everyone seated at the bar (about 20 people) and the poor thing was over-worked and appeared to be unable to keep up with all of the orders. Because of this the service started out sloppy; lack of attentive service, forgotten wine menus, wines showing up late into the meal, etc. We also noticed that the French diners in the restaurant seemed to receive far more attentive service than the North American diners (there were three Americans seated next to us that seemed to have even slower service than we did).

I know that nitpicking over such small things at a wonderful restaurant makes me sound like an asshole (it is certainly a first world problem) but I stand by it because the restaurant has set customers up to expect a certain quality (by charging the prices it does and by having two Michelin stars). I can’t help but think that the slow/inattentive service and the claustrophobic seating could possibly be the reason that L’Atelier Saint-Germain dropped from #12 to #24 in a year on the San Pellegrino list. By no means was it a bad meal, it was a pleasant evening and the food was outstanding, however for the price, I was expecting better service and a better overall experience. Having said that, I would likely go back but I would most certainly request a table, rather than dine at the bar.

Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, London Heathrow

28 Oct

Terminal 5
London Heathrow Airport
UK
www.gordonramsay.com/planefood

After months of planning and anticipation, our trip to Paris and Italy is now all but a memory and some photographs. We’ve just returned from three glorious weeks exploring Europe whilst eating and drinking whatever, and whenever, we wanted. We are now back in our lovely Vancouver and digesting (ha ha!) everything that we saw and the memories that we created. It will take me some time to edit pictures and write posts but for now I’ll leave you with the first meal that we had in Europe. Whilst waiting for our flight at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5, we were able to assure our taste buds that not all food tastes as disappointing as the plane food we had eaten on the flight over.

Love him or hate him, Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food restaurant is a pretty clever concept. If you have time between flights, you can have a meal in the terminal that doesn’t include over-priced, soggy sandwiches (typical of so many airports), or if you have limited time, you can take-away meals to eat whilst on your flight (a brilliant idea, in my opinion). We had a few hours to kill before our flight to Paris so we kicked back, had a glass of wine and had a three course lunch for £19.95/$33CAD (two courses are £16.95/$29CAD).

Roasted beef carpaccio, rocket, horseradish, and lemon)

White onion and haddock soup

P1070803Cured and braised pork belly with apple and fennel salad and celeriac mash

P1070805Pineapple carpaccio

Overall, I thought it was definitely worth the price and certainly a great way to pass an hour or so. The restaurant isn’t the same high-end Gordon experience that you would get at his fine-dining restaurants, which is not at all surprising because he is trying to attract a different, less-formal customer-base at this restaurant. Go and enjoy it for what it is; well-prepared food at a pretty good price. It was a great way to relax into the start of our trip.

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