Monday, September 16, 2019

La Bonne Table De Sophie

French connections make for great food connections around the world :) My friend's friend's daughter (does that make sense?) spent some time living and working in France and came back to the US around the time I left for Paris. We finally met her in the US and she talked about one of her friends who opened up a French Creperie in Westwood, so of course we had to try it out! It turns out that Irina, the owner, is Russian, as is my neighbor and her child so there will be another international introduction shortly! La Table de Sophie is named after Irina's mother, Sophie, so the place is named in her mother's honor:)

Irina serves authentic Brittany crepes, using organic buckwheat flour for the savory galettes, and even the flags at the entrance proclaim her allegiance to the origin of the delicious crisp holder of savory delights.
I started off with a cappuccino and the wonderful flavor and texture was a good portend of the food to come.
One of us had the forestière with free range chicken, egg, mushrooms, gruyère, and onions cooked in hard Cider for $21. Sophie obligingly cooked up the egg that is normally sunny side up (au plat in Paris, or mirroir in Brittany) for the American palate.
I chose the Printanière with gruyère, egg, spinach, asparagus, zucchini,sweet peas, and bell pepper for $20. The galette was probably the best I've ever eaten, perfectly crisp and the ingredients were so fresh and beautifully presented that I didn't want to disturb the artwork! It was also a large portion, so I had no room for dessert :(
They have several items from Farm Shop for sale, so I took a pain au chocolat home to enjoy the next morning :) They were voted the best pain au chocolat for good reasons; flaky layers around valrhona chocolate make for the answer to your dessert or breakfast pastry quest.
I also took home a bar of Bovetti chocolate, just because I loved the design as well as the quality of the chocolate bar!
La table de Sophie has a marvelous gem of a bar adjacent to it and they serve happy hour between 5-7pm, so you can taste a bit of the French tradition of apéro in Los Angeles. La Table de Sophie made me a bit less homesick for France :)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Comfort Chinese at Cathay Palisades

French food is my comfort food, but for visitors from NYC who came to town, finding a spot worthy of two picky palates became a foodie challenge, especially when one of them is a working chef. Sadly few good options are on the westside of town, and not wanting to trek east on a week-end night, I remembered that I had tried take out from Cathay Palisades at a dinner party, so a quick text later, the restaurant welcomed us as friends of their regular customers (it always helps to be referred). We had enough people to try several things and I'm happy to say everything was fresh, flavorful, and we cleaned all the plates :) 

The mushroom medley for $13.25 was served with steamed broccoli. It is great as a side dish or main for vegetarians, with a nice assortment of mushrooms in an oyster sauce.
The salt and pepper shrimp for $19 was a crowd favorite for nostalgic reasons, but although the shrimp were fine, I found it lacked anything to rave about.
Another group favorite were the garlic noodles, but again I found them good, but not outstanding.
One of my favorite dishes was the calamari with bok choy for $18.50, with perfectly cooked tender calamari and lightly stir fried bok choy that used only the tender baby bok choy.
My other favorite dish was the shrimp with snow pea pods for $18.50 which featured the high quality shrimp once again, but this time with the pea pods which had been painstakingly defibered so that every pod was tender and crunchy without any strings. The hallmark of any good food is the care and attention they take to ensure fresh quality ingredients, but the extra mile of proper preparation and technique add to the enjoyment of the diners who reap the benefits of taste and textures that make for happy eaters. 
Everyone who came in was welcomed by name, so they obviously have a loyal regular base of customers who appreciate their food, as well as very efficient and friendly service. It was a pleasure to share the comfort of good Chinese food with friends, locally and from afar.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Umbrellas, wine, and a tarte au citron

The Umbrella Sky Art Project takes place all over the world and I was fortunate to see their installation in Paris at the Village Royal near the Place de la Madeleine. Patricia Cunha is the artist who created this 800 umbrellas hung by cables over the passageway.
The place to stop is in the very heart of the installation at Le Village Royal where you may sit with a delightful glass of wine as you people watch.
A perfect tarte au citron provided a sweet ending to a beautiful day and trip to Paris :)

Monday, August 26, 2019

L'Aller Retour

I always research the latest reviews for places to eat, even when I know several and have options suggested by locals. Even though they have been around since 2010, I would probably not have found L'Aller Retour without some online research because it has a tiny entrance on a small street near the Carreau du Temple. It was definitely worth the search because it was one of my favorite meals during the last trip. 

Classic escargots for 6 Euros were perfect in every way, and I even got a friend to try one for the first time because of the buttery garlic aroma that perfumed the table upon their arrival :)
My friend appreciated the quality of the meat in the burger for 14E50 as well as the crisp fries, saying it was very good in spite of it not being well done (for an American-it was well done by French standards, which means it was pink in the middle instead of red).

I had come specifically for the knife cut Charolais steak tartare for 14E that was the best one I ate during this trip. The large salad was very much appreciated to help balance out the meat, with a very nice vinaigrette dressing.
Ending lunch with an espresso was a perfect way to cap off lunch at a newly found favorite.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Sushi in Paris

My Parisian friends craved Japanese food so we tried Moshimo near the Gare de Lyon. It was very reasonably priced for a Japanese place that served a bit of everything so close to a central transportation hub. It was a decent choice to fulfill a craving, but I would not go out of my way to find the place or go back. Compared to choices in Los Angeles, it was definitely limited and lacking in many aspects. As you can see from the sashimi platter for 16 Euros, the choices of fish were very limited and the presentation was not skilled.

They offered potstickers for 5 E 50 that were on par with ones that you could buy frozen and make yourself.
The avocado and tempura dragon roll for about 10 Euros was drizzled with unagi sauce ?!?!? 
The standard tuna and avocado roll for 5 E 50 was a much simpler and better choice.
We also tried the yakitori skewers, ranging from salmon to scallops and shrimp, averaging between 4-6 Euros per pair. All were slightly overdone and not very flavorful.

 Even the grilled zucchini were bland and boring with no seasoning.
The highlight of the meal were the coconut balls of mochi that were likely store bought, but offered a nice sweet ending to an evening spent with friends.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tartare Warning

Some places are fun even if the food is not great, just because the service is fun and the ambiance is lively. I have one serious concern regarding Chez Paul but I am writing this to highlight both the wonderful points and to warn about places that may be popular but also not properly adhering to proper temperatures and food handling practices; this particular warning applies to EVERY place.

Chez Paul is a few blocks from Bastille, in a lively neighborhood with not shortage of bars and bistros, so when my friends and I settled on giving this place a try it was because the location offered wonderful streetlife entertainment, old world charm, and the place was packed with a mix of locals and visitors.

Six escargots for under 10 Euros were done perfectly with bubbling butter, parsley, and garlic, and toasted baguette for dipping.
The steak tartare at 18 Euros was obviously machine ground as opposed to knife cut, and this was the dish that gave my friend diarrhea all night long. Having eaten three steak tartares during my 2 weeks, I knew not to order this one when I saw the plates coming out of the kitchen, but my friend was craving the dish so ignored my warning. 

ANY machine cut/ground steak tartare is a dangerous bacteria breeding ground because no one cleans the machine after every grind, so you are grinding any meat, that serving may be contaminated with all the other meat that was ground previously. This is especially dangerous on a warm evening when when you have no idea how long or at what temperature the raw meat has been sitting out. I will ONLY eat steak tartare at a place where it is knife cut. PERIOD. Being knife cut doesn't mean the meat is great, or was stored at a proper temperature, but it considerably lessens the likelihood of cross contamination. This is exactly why ground beef is a major cause of e coli illness, even in the USA where we rarely eat beef tartare.
The scallops with pasta and a tomato sauce were decently done and a very generous portion.
 The duck confit for 19 Euros was my choice and again a copious portion.
The tarte tatin at 8.50 Euros was large enough to share between three of us and ended our evening on a sweet note.

Monday, August 5, 2019

French Buildings Old and New

It was wonderful to see old familiar buildings like the Hôtel de Ville

 and of course Notre Dame,
 even though the grande dame is undergoing some renovation after the fire.
 The renovation is finally complete at the Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye,
 while the renovation at La Défense seems to be everlasting....
the buildings are just like human bodies, needing maintenance and repair to remain in working order ;)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Parisian Apéro & Crêpes

When Americans think of an apéritif, they are likely envisioning a cocktail before dinner. In France the apéro is an afternoon gathering that includes cocktails, food, and friends in a social gathering that easily segues into evening. It's the French version of happy hour, but it may be at someone's home, a park, by a canal, or at a bar or bistro. 

A few steps from the Place des Vosges is the Royal Turenne whose apéro offers both incredible deals and delightful fresh flavors on a perfect people watching corner. With very efficient servers, a lovely terrace for the rare days when Parisian weather is perfect. 

You may choose a light albacore tataki, 
 or traditional fish and chips made with haddock,
 or a wok stir fried Asian inspired sautée of chicken and vegetables. Two glasses of wine, coffee, and all three bites during their apéro, came to under 50 Euros.
Another French classic bite is the crêpe, which may also have a completely different connotation than what you may find in the US. Savory crêpes are called galettes and always made with buckwheat flour, whereas actual crêpes are made with flour, egg, milk, and sugar (like cakes). For a quick bite or a full meal at nearly any time of day, you may pick one up at a street vendor or enjoy an inexpensive meal at a crêperie all over France.

Les Embruns serves classic buckwheat galettes with the usual suspects of ham, cheese and egg and is an easy 2 blocks away from the Gare de Lyon, so many people stop by before or after a trip to get a satisfying meal served by very competent staff in a tight but light filled space. They have lunch specials for around 15 Euros, and nearly every item on the meal is not only well executed, but in some cases very very copious!
The biggest salad I have ever seen in Paris (they are famous for them); seriously this herring salad was big enough for a family of four to share!
Dessert was a lemon and sugar crêpe at another crêperie Au Beurre Salé about 2 blocks away.
 With a digestif of calvados ;)
I made meals out of "snacks" throughout the day because between jet lag and my shrunken Californian appetite, I couldn't handle a large meal most days. Apéros and crêpes were both good ways to socialize, eat, and drink very well nearly any day of the week!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Parisian Air BnB

When you book far enough in advance, the deals you can find are amazing, like this lovely Air BnB for under $120 per night for 50 m2 (540 Sq Ft) apartment with a charming bilingual host. She even stocked the fridge with essentials like juice, water, and eggs, and also had coffee and tea in the pantry, and laundry detergent in the cupboard! With a view of the Canal St. Martin, two major transportation hubs just 3 blocks away, and a big supermarket 2 blocks away, this was an easy location to live in, and if you wanted to party, the cafés along the canal were buzzing all night long with partiers. 

The calm courtyard and not having neighbor's windows facing one side of the building made for a quiet and peaceful retreat after a day out and about. The only things about this place that might put off a renter are that like most Parisian apartments, there is no elevator, so the two flights up may be a challenge, especially if you are lugging heavy suitcases or groceries. The only other caveat is the small step between the hallway and the living room which I kept tripping over until marking the step with a bright red tag :)

It was spacious enough to invite several friends over for apéro and chocolates, and an easy enough place to find that every LeCab came right to the building or the corner (if there was heavy traffic). 

It was pleasure to "live" in Paris again, and even though I was prepared for the wet weather, the good sized umbrella left by the door by the owner Bathilde, was very much appreciated:)

Very large and light living room area.
 Lots of seating for friends to come over for a visit.
 A large bed (for France).
 Well equipped kitchen with full sized oven
 dishwasher, and washing machine!
 Big bathroom and bathtub!

Monday, July 15, 2019

3 Passages in Paris

When friends whom I've known for decades, come in from other countries to spend time in Paris with me, it is a given that we eat at a French bistro:) One surprise guest from Tahiti, two from Belgium, and one American who got to spend the day getting a taste of life in Europe with Europeans and expats:)

The coordinator of our lunch and our subsequent visit to Atelier des Lumieres (2 blocks away) chose 3 Passages based on reviews and the reviews were spot on, because not only was our meal fantastic, but our serveuse was as personable and funny as everyone at our table :) 

I love steak tartare and I was so happy to find that my order was knife cut, using quality meat and served with fresh accompaniments befitting this classic French dish.
My American friend ordered the pasta special with quality ham and cheese unlike what would be served in most American restaurants.
One of my Belgian friends devoured the saucisse that was as hearty and savory as it looks in the picture.
The Tahitian guest chose the vegetable fish dish served in a crusty wrapping with a light tomato sauce.
The menu at lunch offers two courses for only 14 Euros or three for 17 Euros, so the prices are wonderfully reasonable for the quality and skill offered, not to mention the fun service!
Our wonderful serveuse who took our picture and entertained throughout our meal :)