Saturday, January 10, 2015

Triomphe A Great Start to the New Year

I wanted to start off the new year with a good restaurant, but the places I've gone to recently were mediocre at best. Some friends came into town, so not only did I enjoy great company, but we ate at a very good family owned restaurant last night :)

Le Triomphe at 5 Blvd de Port Royal in the 13th, is worth making a detour for if you want a quiet, spacious, delicious repast where the father is the chef, the daughters are the wait staff, and the prices are incredibly reasonable. Nothing on the menu was over 16 ($20) including two scallop main courses, and if you book through The Fork, you can get an additional 30% reduction for ordering either an appetizer and main course or main course and dessert. They have enough of a selection for vegetarians (the daughter of the owner is vegetarian), they speak English, and they welcome dogs :) They have a nice selection of wines by the glass or bottle, so we shared a bottle of Haut Medoc between the three adults. 

Our group ranged in age from 16-70+ with palates as diverse as our ages, so when the youngest wanted to order a Croque Monsieur, we all literally said, "No!" in chorus. It would have been a crime to forgo the duck confit for a sandwich here, and after she tasted the duck she was glad we all insisted she order it. 

I couldn't decide between the steak tartare with wonderful hand cut fries, or the lamb, so my friend and I shared both between us. The tartare had good flavor, but my friend added tabasco (I would have too if I had known they had it available; she saw it on a neighboring table and asked for the bottle). The side salad was fresh and simple, but a very thoughtful addition.
The vegetarian in our group ordered the salad with hot chevre and was about to order something else until the waitress said to wait until she ate the salad; wise counsel since the salad was California sized! One of the reasons we came here was the menu offered organic tomatoes and you can see from the picture, they use quality produce in their main course salads.
Simple staples like steak and potatoes were done as ordered, in this case, very rare.
The dish I split was this lamb served with potato purée that arrived with a smoking flame of rosemary, adding a wonderful aroma and some theatrics to dinner. It was a marvelously tender and gigantic portion.
I don't know how we managed to find any room for dessert, but since the 30% discount only applied if we ordered another course, we forced ourselves:) 

Even basic crepes came with a delightful salted caramel or chocolate sauce.
The tiramisu was colorful but we preferred some of the other choices.
This cheesecake with a tart raspberry sauce was so light that I took two bites!
The classic tarte tatin came with either ice cream or creme fraiche. The tarte itself was warm and not too sweet, so if you want a dessert with fruit, this is a good choice.
The chocolate covered pear was the most popular dessert at our table, so if you want to finish with a healthy (fruit and chocolate are healthy, right?), this would be the way to go. 
This was my idea of a perfect start to a new year, around a table of friends sharing a great meal:)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bonne Année

Have a healthy happy holiday :)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Windows

Happy Holidays or Joyeuses Fêtes :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Three Passages & A Small Museum

As I sip my hot tea and nibble on shortbread cookies, I am very grateful to be indoors on one of the many cold and rainy days of winter. A "mild" temperature of 40-50 F is still cold to someone who has lived the last 20+ years in Los Angeles :) I've learned to cope with the cold by wandering through the splendid "passages", from the Vivienne, to Choiseul. These were the "malls" of old Paris and they retain their charm today as unique shops and cafés still exist inside while global chains predominate everywhere else.

Last week I meandered through three passages that connect, starting with Passage Verdeau, extending to Les Panoramas, and Jouffroy.

The Hotel Chopin is tucked into the corner and although it definitely shows its age, the location is charming.
A marvelous little tea salon, Le Vallentin serves light bites and sweet treats in an elegant setting in the Passage Jouffroy.
Decorations for the holidays were simple, but added a colorful note.
Yes, people were eating ice cream cones when it was 40 F outside!
Stepping out into the cold between metro stops, there were some hearty souls playing music in the Marais. Another band a block away had a tuba but I couldn't get close enough for a picture with the throng of people and cameras!
Another way to spend a cold day is in one of the smaller less well known museums, like the Carnavalet, where permanent exhibitions are always free (along with a free coat/bag check).
This municipal museum was once two townhouses, but now you may enjoy the grounds and the collections without having to pay the heating bill :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Market at La Défense

Last year was my first Christmas in Paris, and I went to the most well known big Christmas markets, the Champs-Elysées, and Trocadéro by the Eiffel Tower.

This year I went to the one at La Défense, the business center of Paris. A huge holiday village in the center of the industrial complex, with the omnipresent kitsch, like miniature Santas in various poses in all Christmas markets, but also a nice place to wander and shop. If the weather hadn't been cold and rainy, I would've taken more pictures of the stands, which reflected more of what residents would want to give as gifts and eat. There was a lot of Iberian ham and raclette, warm cushy throws, hand tooled leather journals, kitchen gadgets, and of course all kinds of toys and books for children. 

No matter which exit from the metro you choose, you'll be greeted with a lit Christmas tree, this one is near the Grande Arche, next to Santa's house where he greeted children (because it was much too cold to stand outdoors for long)!
A giant red ball illuminated one of the main entrances to the Christmas village.
 The little wooden "chalets" were a stark contrast to the modern high rise buildings.
 Once inside the village you really forgot about the skyscrapers.

Angels lit the walkways along both sides
 and the light angels framed the Arc de Triumph between them at the other end of the Esplanade.
 The other huge Christmas tree of lights
 had a walkway underneath so you could literally stand under the tree of lights:)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dosanko Larmen

When I went to Ramen Week in January, I passed by Dosanko Larmen. I saw the tiny kitchen through the street window turning out six bowls of ramen at a time to the line of people snaking around the block, and I made a mental note to return. It only took me a 10 months, but I finally kept my promise to myself :)

The nearest metro station is Quatre Septembre, which features the classic old style signage, and sits opposite several beautiful buildings. 
Walking just one block south, you will find the Passage Choiseul, which is particularly welcome on cold rainy days. There are many options within the passage for lunch, ranging from ramen to wraps, and salads, and none had a line like Dosanko Larmen, so if you are in a hurry, pick a place in the passage. There are also some great shops for stationary, jewelry, and shoes, if you want to shop before or after lunch.
Once you exit the passage, one block to your left (west) is Dosanko Larmen. I learned that Larmen is ramen by doing what everyone does, looking it up online:) The line at 11:30 was about 20 minutes, but by noon it was at least 40 minutes, unless you were dining solo (random counter seats were available).
The first time I went I ordered the large standard white miso, which included bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, chives, ground pork, roasted pork, and a mellow rich broth. It was 10 Euros and HUGE. I ordered a large because 1) I am now used to Parisian sizes being small, so I thought a large would be equal to an American medium, and 2) I was very hungry, so I thought I could manage to eat most of it. I was wrong on both counts. The bowl was about 10" in diameter and I ate just about half of it.
On another rainy cold day, I returned and ordered a small bowl:) This time I chose the red miso with the addition of egg, corn, black sesame seeds, and two slices of roast pork in addition to all the ingredients in the standard bowl for 13 Euros. 
Halfway through, I knew I would not only finish this wonderful bowl, but I would reorder the red miso next time. The flavor was much richer and I loved the perfectly cooked soft boiled egg. They offer menus which include 4 gyoza for 3 Euros more, but the small bowl filled me. They also have a soy and butter (?!?!?!?) option, and curry and rice dishes, but come here for the red miso larmen and you will go back out into the cold with a smile:)
Since the sun sets now around 5pm, a stroll along the banks of the Seine could be a perfect ending to your afternoon:)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton is the newest contemporary art space in Paris. It's privately funded and is a spectacular building that makes me imagine a sailboat in space. It's best to buy your tickets online here; the price includes admission to the adjacent park and you get to avoid the wait of over an hour on week-ends if you pre-order. There's a reduced rate of 9 Euros until December 17 as they install all the exhibits.

There are signs everywhere leading you to the Fondation, but if you are not sure just follow the crowds from metro Sablons, Bus 244, or take the 1 Euro shuttle from Place Charles de Gaulle at Avenue Friedland near the metro exit.

Just watching the water was soothing :)