Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Holiday in Paris

Paris at Sunset
Welcome to Paris
We just got back from 1 week in Paris and 1 week in London.  We had a few things planned in each city but the goal was to have some good meals at local restaurants and have a good time.  There was so much to write I am going to break it into to a Tale of Two Cities.  We start our journey in Paris where we were staying close to the Opera at the Ambassador Hotel.  The Ambassador Hotel is conveniently located walking distance to great restaurants, shopping and sightseeing, away from the huge holiday crowds visiting the Holiday Market on the Champs-Elysees.  Paris is considered one of the top destinations to soak in the Christmas Spirit with lights, festivals, and great eating and shopping to enjoy during the last 2 weeks of the year.  This stay we set up two major food experiences, cooking school at the new Ritz Paris and a Food Tour of the Latin Quarter.  The tour I will write up today and the School will be in the following article
Ritz Bar
We got to Paris very early in the morning and was able to get our room early to grab a nap.  After a few hours of sleep we started getting to know the area and get our bearing for the next week exploring.  The first place we headed to was the Ritz Paris to get acquainted with where we were going to go to our school.  The Ritz Paris just recently opened after a $450M renovation that took over 4 years to complete.  The result is one of the most exclusive hotels in the world that caters to only 160 guests per day and their every desire.  We decided to celebrate our arrival in Paris by going to the Ritz Bar, a cozy bar that you would have found yourself in in the early 1900's perhaps sitting with Ernest Hemingway or Coco Chanel.  We had a glass of wine and hung out while discussing our plans for the next few days

Veal Chop

Our first dinner was on 2 blocks away at Au Petit Riche a traditional french bistro that seemed to cater to businessmen and local area families.  You walk in to a small bar that is also a shell fish prep and serving station.  We meandered back to our table navigating through narrow passes often running in to servers, we finally came into a bigger room with lots of red valour, leather and brass.  This restaurant opened in 1854 and has not seemed to lose any of it's tradition and charm for the last 160 years.  I had the Roast Veal Chop with Potatoes which was cooked perfectly and came with a very nice sauce.  After going to cooking school and having several great meals, french cooking is very much about the sauce.  Au Petit Riche was a great recommendation from the staff at the Ambassador Hotel and the perfect way to start our trip.  The prices are reasonable and the food and drink quality is very good.
Foundation Louis Vuitton
Day two was full of adventure we had in mind of going to the Foundation Louis Vuitton and then on to Le Defense for their annual Holiday Market which I visited over 4 years ago.  The Foundation Louis Vuitton is definite must for you to see.  It is not easy to get to so you need to be a little bit adventuresome to take the journey but it is definitely worth it.  The building is relatively new and was designed by Frank Gehry.  The building is in a beautiful park that during the warmer days must be crowded with locals and their families.  Currently at the museum they are showing the Shchukin Collection which includes many representations of France's most notable impressionist artist.  He collected 100's of paintings that today would be worth several billion dollars.  He was considered a risk take because his countrymen felt there was better art in Russia at the time.  One thing to remember buy your tickets ahead of time so you do not have to wait in line.
Korean Pork Bao
That night we went to Hero located as they put it on the "Seedy" Rue St Denis.  Hero is a Korean fusion restaurant that has all sorts of yummy things, but is known for its Korean Fried Chicken.  The restaurant is small and only seats 24 people, this is a hang out for young hipster style people and savvy tourists that can find a hidden gem.  This is a small plate noshing venue that has great food and does not set you back many Euros.  We ordered a couple of small plates a sampling of their fried chicken both plain and spicy, the key to Korean fried chicken is that it has to have a crunchy coating and both versions had a great taste ans crunch.  We also ordered their version of a Bao, we got one fried chicken and the other marinated pork both were great and had a nice mayo based spicy sauce.  This is a simple place with a cool vibe just make sure that when you go there you do not venture off the lit path. After dinner we went to go see Rogue One at the local theatre and enjoyed the French Subtitles.
Steak Frites
On Saturday we found ourselves on Champs-Elysee.  I know it seems like we eat a lot on these trips but honestly we try to keep it to 2 meals a day with all the walking we generally do we actually lose a few pounds it is my form of a new miracle diet surely it is not sustainable.  To that end we were in the vicinity of one of the famous restaurants that serves Steak Frites.  Every time we have been in Paris the line goes out the door and there is an hour wait.  But today we ventured down Marbeuf and found the line to Le Relais de L'Entrecote to be very short so we hung out and were seated in 10 minutes.  There is an ongoing feud between L'Entrecote and Regent Bistro each one believes that their sauce has been copied by the other and as you know the french value their sauces.  I have provided you the hyperlink so you can enjoy the article that
Paris in the F
was printed in the WSJ 2 years ago.  Getting back to the food, we were seated very tightly next to others that cherished the opportunity to eat the best Steak Frites in France.  I asked for the menu and the server responded Steak or Lamb, unbeknownst to us it is an all you can eat of Salad, Steak and Frite.  I puckered a bit not knowing what this would set us back but immediately got prepared for my meal.  Hmm the salad was good greens in a vinaigrette, then came the Steak with it's controversial Sauce and the Frites (French Fries) no Ketchup.  Is it the best steak I have ever had?  No
but is is among the tastiest I have ever had and it coming and coming.  I was not looking forward to the bill because we were drinking wine, eating Boeuf and crunching fries.  To my surprise it was only $60 for the two of us what a good deal!  The rest of the day we continued to walk around the Champs-Elysee and enjoy the holiday festivities with the throngs of Parisian families.

You start with the Baguette
Sunday we were able to get a food tour of the Latin Quarter with Food Tours of Paris or tour guide Bobby was an American that had moved to Paris with his French wife for an adventure.  He was making a living as a teacher and tour guide.  These tours are not easy you have to have a great knowledge of the area and the food and our guide had done a great job in learning the history of the Latin quarter is over 800 years old and one of the oldest places in Paris, it is the home of the La Sorbonne opened in 1257 and home to many other universities.  It is one of the highest points in Paris which is why it was one of the first settlements because it was easy to defend. The tour takes approximately 3 hours and it is a 3 mile stroll through the Latin Quarter ending up near Notre Dame.  With any good European Foodie Tour we started at the Patisserie Saines Savuer and grabbed a Baguette so we could take in the tastes of the tour.  Our tour guide had explained that this bakery had the distinction of being one of the best in Paris in their annual judging of patisseries.  We started up the inclined street Rue Mouffetard which had small food specialty shops along the way , the first stop was the butcher Boucherie Mouffetard, we picked up cured sausages some bite size and some that were nice slices and some great pork pate.  
Compilation of our Latin Quarter Tour

Beautiful Seafood
We stood in the street to sample the different flavors of sausage and to spread some of the pate on the baguette while listening to the history of the area.  Next stop was the  Cremier Fromagerie where we picked up some soft cheeses and learned how to tell what region the cheeses are from.  The  AOP seal Appellation d'OrigineProtégée (Protected Designation of Origin) is required by French law and tells you exactly where the origin of the cheese is from.  We then stood on the street and built on our previous purchases by adding some cheese to the pate and the sausage as my dad would say it was a spartan approach but how else would you feel like a local.  Off to the next stop a seafood shop to taste some Oysters at Poissonnerie Quonium.  Eating Oysters with Bobby is a learning experience.  There is no shell fish sauce, it is you, the Oyster and a lemon.  The lemon is their for 2 reasons one to enhance the taste and to determine the freshness.  when you squeeze the lemon on the Oyster the mussel retracts in the shell ever so slightly telling you that it is OK to eat.  Food is an art in France in all these pictures you will notice how the displays are made, the tend to draw you into the food product as a way to invite you to buy.
Odette La Choux
Now that we have stuffed ourselves we continue on our trip up to the top of the hill ending at the Pantheon for a quick overview of the area.  The Pantheon is 250 years old and many of the France's science, political and literary leaders are buried here  The Latin Quarter is home to over a dozen Universities ranging from cooking, to literature to physics and engineering.  Many of these buildings are over 300 years old and have amazing architecture.  We stopped for a nice glass of wine and finished up our baguette, cheese and sausage.  
From there we headed down the hill to grab our dessert and finish our tour. We had our dessert at Odette which is down near Notre Dame. Their specialty is Le Choux which is a small bite sized flavored creme puff.  These have now take the place of the Macaroon for me.

Boeuf Bourguignon
For one of my last meals I wanted to have a Beef Bourguignon, this is one of the first things I learned to cook with my Mom.  This dish is the best cold night appeaser, because it is hardy, savory and great to eat with mashed potatoes.  Bobby our tour guide who lives in Montmartre recommended La Cave Gourmande.  The restaurant was a 10 minute Uber ride from our hotel.  One of the greatest services of the last 3 years is Uber.  Uber in Europe is convenient, inexpensive and easy no cash trades hands it is all automatic.  La Cave is a small quaint restaurant with only a few tables.  I noticed that they had Escargot and we could not leave Paris without our fill of Snails.    I was there for only one thing at that was the Boeuf Bourguignon and it did not disappoint.  The Stew was in a piping hot cast iron pot which you were able to scoop a lavish amount of beef with your mashed potatoes.  It was everything I had hoped for.  Our server Anita was great and was helpful in picking the right wine to accompany the meal. 
Escargot Yum
This summarizes most of the stay in Paris the food here is consistently good there are a lot of experiences too many to cover in 1 week but the great thing on this trip is that we did all new things. Our final day in Paris was spent at cooking school at the Escoffier Ecole at the Ritz Paris, which is my next write up there is so much to talk about it needed it's own article.