January 2014 Newsletter In December I made a trip to my old stomping grounds: San Francisco. Aside from getting rerouted on the outbound flight (aka:

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January 2014 Newsletter

In December I made a trip to my old stomping grounds: San Francisco. Aside from getting rerouted on the outbound flight (aka: the kind of day that makes you swear off air travel forever), the 39ºF weather was rather an abrupt surprise. True, I often tell people who don't live in San Francisco that the days there are not always filled with "California sunshine" – but it was unusually chilly and I missed my wool overcoat that I'd foolishly left back in Paris. Still, in spite of getting a bit of a chill on the plane, which led to being under-the-weather, I was able to fit in quite a few meals and visit some of the new places that have sprung up in San Francisco since I left.

I wrote about them in these posts:

-Sweet San Francisco

-The Mill

-Zuni Café and Chez Panisse

-Roam burgers, Korean bbq, and Blue Bottle Coffee

-San Francisco Dining and Favorites


Then I was back in Paris by mid-December, just in time to start revving up for Christmas. Unlike the US where shopping is a big priority (and I certainly did some damage during my trip...), in France, eating (and drinking) takes center stage and lugs of fresh oysters are sold on sidewalks and at the outdoor markets. Foie gras sales go through the roof, and – of course – since Champagne goes with everything, wine shops and supermarchés put it en promotion before the holidays. I took advantage of it and bought a dozen bottles…then went back and bought another half-case, just to make sure I'd have enough to make it through the month.

Christmas dinner is pretty sacred in France and our dinner started with platters of fresh oysters, which I prefer with mignonette sauce made with shallots, vinegar, and black pepper. Like every year, everyone informed me that fresh oysters should only be eaten nature (plain) or with a squirt of lemon juice. So I make my own little ramekin of mignonette, which – naturally – everyone ends up dipping in to.

Which is why I always make extra ; )


Dark rye bread gets slathered with salted butter, Champagne is sipped, and then, the main course is brought out. This year we cooked a lamb melon, a skillfully tied bundle of meat wrapped in strips of bacon to resemble a large fruit. Like many of the things you get at French butcher shops, most of the work is already done for you and you just pop it in the oven or braise it on the stovetop and voilà, dinner is on the table before you know it.

(Some readers asked how to make it when I wrote about it on my site, and for those who have some butchering skills, some left comments and links in that post on how to do it. Bon courage!)

Because winter also means flu season, the dessert-maker for our meal was felled with whatever ailed her, and I was called in to make dessert at the last minute. (I normally do it, but she'd volunteered, so I was happy to provide holiday nut and pretzel mix, so I could use the pecans I brought back from the states. Vive Costco!) So I quickly baked up a Gâteau Racines (from Ready for Dessert) in record time, raced over to Picard, the frozen food chain, and picked up some passion fruit- mango sorbet…which paired perfectly with the deep-dark chocolate cake.


So now it's 2014 and I'm slowly revving up for the New Year. Since my birthday fell at the end of December, I got a voucher for a brand-new bike because my first was got swiped in 2013, and the faulty gears jammed on the second bike I bought while I was riding through busy Paris traffic, and took a nasty tumble with cars whizzing past. Yet someone must be watching over me because I survived unscathed.

And in a sign of the times, or a sign of change, the bike merchant apologized, issued me a full refund, and gave me a €30 credit. It felt like a second birthday surprise. Vive la France!


French Links


Here are some French-inspired links that I found interesting:

-65% of the French Want to Shop Local for Christmas (France 24, video)

-Know your French Oysters – How to buy, and order (and eat) French oysters.

-Don't know how you say d'oh! in French, but hats off to whoever made the decision to put that telephone pole in the middle of the road. (via Matthew Frasier)

-Interesting observations on The New Face of French Gastronomy.

-On Aging with French Dignity: In spite of their reputation, I'm glad to hear the pessimistic perception is unfounded. (fyi: France is #9 in terms of plastic surgery (the US is #4))

-Top 15 Tables in Paris according to Le Figaro newspaper (via HIP Paris)

-New Yorker magazine covers, reimagined by French artists, for (a fictitious) The Parisianer.


Paris Restaurant Notes

PicMonkey Collage

I felt like I consumed a massive amount of food (and drink) last month, and the last thing I thought I could face on January 1st was another meal. But lo and behold, I found myself at Café des Musées in the Marais with a menu in my hands.

I didn't order the Entrecôte, but had the plat du jour - which was a Parmentier of pheasant (€18) - essentially a Shepard's Pie with ground pheasant under a blanket of mashed potatoes. It was fine, but the steak and housemade French fries were great and I forgot what a bonne adresse this is. The liver terrine that we started off with, made in their own kitchen, was meaty and rich, and as good as I remember. And I appreciated the shallot marmalade and mustardy slaw alongside.

The Jacques Genin chocolates they came around with after the meal didn't hurt, either. (Although I think they might have been there to offer guests on January 1st, so perhaps don't expect them the other 364 days of the year. You might have to walk over to Monsieur Genin's place after lunch!)


I had an interesting dinner at Terroir Parisien Bourse (28, place de la Bourse.) Rounding the corner from the métro, toward the restaurant door, there was a mural of the handsome chef sitting on the steps of the bourse (stock exchange) on a bale of hay, with a cow and a goat standing nearby, giving you a hint that you're about the enjoy farm-to-table fare. When we sat down and they asked if we wanted an apéritif, the server was surprised when I inquired if there was any special concoction made with a liqueur or another specialty of the Île-de-France region. There wasn't, so we ended up ordering wine, from Burgundy.

The opening board of charcuterie was excellent, especially the Jambon de Paris (available for sale at the counter for €4/slice) as was the pâté en croute. My dining companion wasn't won over by the sweetbread sausages, which came next. Even with the mustard dressing flecked with seeds, he pushed it around, and said it was kind of bland. My raw mushrooms (Champignons de Paris), however, were excellent. I normally dislike raw mushrooms but these were great - with a drizzle of olive oil and salt, they were perfect. Even though we are not near the sea, there are seafood selections on the menu and since I was meated-out from the charcuterie, I had the scallops on a bed of beet "risotto" for my main course. The rich, inky flavor of the mound of creamy beets didn't really marry with the scallops and I couldn't quite wrap my head around the combination.

(At the end of the meal, we inquired about our sides which they'd forgotten. And after a bit of a delay, our highly anticipated fries arrived in a cone, white and undercooked. And the beans came out blazingly hot, which my dining companion mentioned tasted like they'd been zapped, most likely since our sides had been forgotten and they wanted to get them out to us quickly.)

The whole idea of a restaurant based on the concept of eating local is an intriguing one. However I think if you're doing to do it, do it whole hog. "Local" is not a marketing term - it's a political and social statement to use products grown and made in your community. You're supporting local farmers and producers, celebrating the bounty of the region. So why not make a statement? Commit to source as much as you can from nearby. There's no need to have bottles of sparkling water when the eau de Paris is available and free, and other restaurants have installed sparkling water taps. Create a signature cocktail using cider from the Seine-et-Marne, about 50 miles away. Put a giant wheel of Brie de Meaux in the middle of the dining room, which is my favorite expression of the local fare. And get those fries down!


Burlingame (!) Restaurant Notes

lobster roll

During my recent visit to San Francisco, a friend took me south of the city - to Burlingame - for a lobster roll. Being a New Englander, I have pretty high standards for these and am not convinced they need mayo. (I prefer mine "Connecticut-style", with clarified butter instead of emulsified oil and egg yolks, thanks.) So I ordered what the New England Lobster Company called "Naked."

It was pretty good, although I felt like I was missing that terroir of New England. Technically, the roll was right-on: griddled, pull-apart buns, lots of lobster meat packed in there, a little cup of melted butter, and decent cole slaw. (However I wish they'd skipped the raisins in there.) Perhaps when I'm in San Francisco, I'll go the local route and stick with Dungeness crab, and wait for my return to the East Coast to dive into a lobster roll.

But it was nice to have an unsweetened iced tea; for some reason, the iced tea in France is always sweetened (and flavored) and I prefer mine nature. I guess I could make my own, but I'm going to wait until next summer and stick to hot drinks now that winter is upon us in Paris...and check out airfares for a trip next summer to Cape Cod.

unsweetened iced tea

That's it for this month. Hope you all had a great New Year - and all the best for 2014! - David

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