Friday, June 17, 2005

La Rochelle

We just left La Rochelle and we miss it already. It was definitely our favorite place so far. It was also absolutely filled with wonderful culinary experiences.

Our first night, we arrived at 9 PM on a Sunday so by the time we trecked to our hotel with all our bags, we were exhausted, hungry and worried about missing dinner. We tried two restaurants I'd read about and both suggested we go to Food and Bar, just down the street, which serves until 11 PM. We followed their suggestions (could two delicious-smelling restaurants be wrong?) and were certainly glad we did!

The Boy was worried it was "too trendy" for him, and it did seem that way, with the waitstaff dressed entirely in black. But we soon overcame our trepidation when we tasted the food and admired the menu. Unfortuately, I neither took good notes nor asked for a menu, so I can only offer what I remember (meaning what we ordered).

I began with a Sticker de Tourteau de Plein Mer, a deep-sea turtle pot-sticker. This came as a long egg-roll filled with turtle meat and drizzled with a slightly-sweet soy-type sauce. It was truly wonderful, though I wonder if perhaps it was crab and not turtle? I know the word Tourteau in French is used to describe both.

The Boy had a Pate au Lapin et Truffes, a rabbit and truffle pastry. The rabbit was ground and wrapped with truffle pieces in filo dough. It was accompanied by two extremely long chives, most likely onion, that added a hint of spiciness to the rich dish.

For my plat, I had Veau au Caramel, thick slices of veal with a sauce of rich caramel on the side to be drizzled all over. It also came with a side of lentils with thick slices of what tasted like Parmesan cheese. While caramel and veal sounds like an odd combination it was really great. The caramel was definitely sweet but, applied with a gentle hand, it perfectly complemented the delicate Veal.

The Boy enjoyed Cochon Noir, black pig. While not actually black, it was accompanied by mashed potatoes and had an Asian taste.

We also enjoyed a bottle of Pinot Noir, Tres Noir, suggested to us by the sommelier.

Other highlights of La Rochelle:
Marche open every day.
Le Comptoir des Voyages, a restaurant on the same street as Food and Bar.

Food and Bar
Rue St-Jean-du-Perot
La Rochelle.

Next: Bordeaux.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Guerande: Fleur de Sel

We've moved down the coast to La Baule, the "most beautiful beach in Europe" and Guerande, a medieval walled city. From a culinary standpoint, Guerande is known for one very important thing--salt. And not just any salt--probably the most famous French salt, so great you can't cook with it but must instead add it after the final dish has been made. So, we went to Guerande, saw the market, bought some Sausages (one fennel and one wild boar), two Rocamadour cheeses, two Yellow Peaches, an Avocado and a Flute Gana for our picnic lunch. Then it was time for some serious shopping.

I knew Fleur de Sel came from the Guerande salt marshes and I knew I wanted to bring some back with me. Because we have too much stuff traveling with us as is, I vowed to limit myself to one container of plain Fleur de Sel and one of flavored (mixed with spices or herbs). I was wondering where I would buy my presents as we explored the town when I noticed a woman sitting with a wheelbarrow in front of a chapel. She was selling salt! Fleur de sel, to be more exact. I looked but she had only big bags of it--too big a chance it would open up in our bags.

Then we started looking in various souvenir shops and found each one offered a variety of salts. Being unable to decide which store to go to, we took a walk up on the ramparts and saw a store with a very simple name: Salt. Not only did they sell different flavored salts, but offered tastes as well. So I tasted all the salts (including a vanilla one--very strange), read the containers to see what they were suggested with and decided on a Fleur de Sel aux epices, a mild spice blend that tastes like it will go with anything. We also got a jar of plain Fleur de Sel and we plan to carry both jars around with us in case something we buy for a picnic needs a boost of flavor.

Before leaving, we stopped at a cafe for a snack of a Crepe with Caramel au Fleur de Sel. It was so delicious (the play of sweet caramel with crunchy, salty Fleur de Sel) that we immediately returned to a souvenir shop specializing in Cadeaux Gourmands and bought ourselves a jar. We'll let you know what we put it on!

Next stop: La Rochelle.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Mont Saint-Michel: La Mere Poulard

Our first stop in our travels was Trouville-Deauville, which was truly wonderful. Charming towns (we preferred Trouville), beautiful beaches (Deauville won)--what could be bad? We ate well (La Regence in Trouville was so delicious I forgot to take notes), drank well, and managed to not lose all our money at the Casino. Actually, we didn’t even gamble; they charged an 11€ entry fee--a bit too steep for our budgets, especially since that didn’t even include any chips!

Then we were off to Mont Saint-Michel for one night. The abbey and quaint town are even more amazing then they appear in photos. We stayed on the island, which was the best way to do it. That way, we were able to wander the streets after most of the tourists had left and the cheap souvenir shops had closed. Unfortunately we were eating dinner during sunset, but we did sit near the window, so we saw a few wisps of pink here and there in the sky.

Because we were only in Mont Saint-Michel for one night, we decided to splurge. We were staying in the Hotel La Mere Poulard, which houses the most famous restaurant on the island--La Mere Poulard. I came here five years ago with my parents and then-boyfriend, but I didn’t remember the food very well.

La Mere Poulard is famous for two dishes--omelets and pre-sale lamb. The omelets are cooked in a giant chimney and the eggs beaten by waiters at the entrance to the restaurant—a great way to attract diners. Pre-sale lamb (literally pre-salted) are lambs that feed on salt marshes. They end up quite tender and very lightly salted.

On our visit to La Mere Poulard, we both opted for the Menu Normand, a 55€ three-course prix fixe. But before commencing our meal, they brought over an amuse-bouche of tomato-ginger soup with herb cream on top. It was served in a shot glass with no spoon and was truly fantastic--perhaps my favorite part of the meal!

For my appetizer, I ordered L'omelette Mere Poulard au foie gras de Normandie. Rather than stuff the omelet with foie gras, they make a plain omelet and lay it on a bed of foie gras and mushrooms. It was good but quite rich and certainly not the best omelet I've ever had. Also, the egg and mushrooms were warm and the foie gras cold, which just made it rather jolting.

The Boy's starter, Soupe terre-mer en marmite lutee aux herbes fraiches, was much better. Though not exceptional, it came in a soup terrine with a flaky crust on top that you had to break with a spoon. The terre (earth) was made up of turnips and other root vegetables, shaped with a melon-baller. The mer (sea) were non-descript chunks of fish. In hindsight, he wished he'd gotten one of the omelets.

Being meat-eaters, for our main course we both ordered the Duo d'agneau de pre-sale du Mont Saint Michel. This lamb may have been the best I’ve ever had--and lamb's my favorite kind of meat! The first part of the duo was a potato gratin with a piece of lamb reminiscent of a confit. The potatoes were bland and the lamb strongly flavored. It could have balanced each other out quite nicely, but instead the lamb over-powered the potatoes. The second lamb was my favorite: strips of rare meat covered with herbs and very lightly grilled--divine.

For dessert, I opted for the Pom'Pom'Pom d'hier et d'aujourd'hui. This was an assortment of apple desserts: the best green apple sorbet I've ever had, with specks of green apple in the sorbet and an apple chip stuck into the top; a miniature tarte tatin, full of chunks of caramelized apples (my favorite); a Calvados-flavored cream (too rich); and a few raspberries and currants.

The Boy ordered the mammoth Assortiment de gourmandises d'Annette. It comprised apple and chocolate sweets: the same tarte tatin as me; cassis sorbet, also with an apple chip on top; chocolate pudding with two white-chocolate covered espresso beans on top; some kind of sponge cake soaked in calvados (like a baba rhum); two miniature chocolate muffins; and the same raspberries and currants. While I didn’t taste all of his, I was happy with my choice.

We also received a free dish of madeleines (plain and with raspberry filling) and miniature chocolate chip cookies. Nothing spectacular, we had already eaten too much to finish them.

All in all, this was a great dining experience but the food didn’t quite meet our (admittedly high) expectations.

La Mere Poulard
Grande Rue
Mont Saint Michel

Monday, June 06, 2005

Cannette rotie aux fraises et rhubarbe

Because of moving and traveling, my entry for Blog Appetit is late. Also, because Blog Appetit is a French blogging event, this entry will be in French. If you don’t speak French and want the recipe anyway, I'll e-mail or post the translation.

Quand j'ai vu que le theme de ce Blog Appetit etait fraises et rhubarbe, j'etais un peu decue. Je ne suis pas tres forte avec les desserts et cette combinaison me semblait etre vraiment parfait pour un dessert. Neanmoins, j'ai reflechi et j'ai cree cette sauce des fraises et de la rhubarbe pour une cannette rotie. C'etait vraiment delicieux !

Cannette Rotie aux fraises et rhubarbe


1 Cannette entiere
2 gousses d'Ail + 2 gousses d'Ail
1 tige de Basilique + feuilles d'une autre
Sel et Poivre Noir
1 brin Romarin + feuilles d'un autre
6 + 6 brins Thym
250 g Pommes de Terre, coupees en des

Faire chauffer le four au 180 C. Vider la Cannette et la nettoyer. Avec vos doigts, arracher autant du gras que vous pouviez. Creer un espace entre la peau et la viande. Ecraser ensemble 2 gousses d'Ail, feuilles d'une tige de Basilique, Sel, Poivre Noir, feuilles d'un brin de Romarin et feuilles de 6 brins de Thym. Mettre ce melange dans l'espace cree entre la peau et la viande de la Cannette. Mettre le reste des Herbes, Sel, Poivre et 2 gousses d'Ail dans le creux [cavity] de la Cannette. Mettre la Cannette dans un plat de verre qui va dans le four. Le plat doit etre assez large pour la Cannette et les Pommes de Terre. Mettre la Cannette dans le four pour 1 heure.

Apres 1 heure, mettre les Pommes de Terre dans le plat avec la Cannette et cuisiner le tout pour encore 30 minutes, jusqu'a ce que le jus de la Cannette soit presque clair.

Quand la Cannette cuisine, faire la sauce :

1 Oignon, coupe en des
4 Clous de Girofle
2 gousses d'Ail
10 Baies Roses
1 brin Romarin Sel
1 + 1/2 tasses Jus de Fraises
2 tiges Rhubarbe, coupees en morceaux
1 barquette Fraises, coupes en moitie

Mettre l'Oignon, les Clous de Girofle, les Gousses d'Ail, les Baies Roses, le Romarin, le Sel, 1 tasse du Jus de Fraises et le Rhubarbe dans une casserole au feu moyen. Le mijoter pour environ 20 minutes, jusqu'a ce que le Rhubarbe soit tendre. Ajouter la 1/2 tasse de Jus de Fraises et les Fraises et laisser le tout mijoter pour encore 5 minutes. Si vous voulez que la sauce soit plus epaisse, la mettre dans un Cuisinart [blender en anglais].

Pour servir :

Mettre la sauce au-dessous de la Cannette. Enjoy !

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Moving Day

We're moving! We moved out of our beautiful Paris apartment and are now traveling around France and Italy for the next month-and-a-half before we head back to the States. I have my camera and will take notes on all our delicious experiences, though I don't know how often I'll be able to write them up. Blogging will be sporadic for the next couple of months, but be patient. We've really enjoyed our Paris adventure--stay tuned for the rest!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

EoMEoTE #7: Mom's Chopped Eggs and Onions

Chopped Eggs and Onions on Toast

There once was a meme for eggs on toast
That a South African gal did host.
Chopped onions and eggs,
Soon there'll just be dregs.
Now both poem and recipe I post.

This being the limerick edition of EoMEoTE (End of Month Eggs on Toast Extravangza), hosted by Jeanne of Cook Sister!, I have begun the post with a limerick.

Chopped eggs and onions is my family's version of egg salad. Mom's family served it instead of hard-boiled eggs dipped in salt water on Passover seders, but Gomps (Mom's Dad) liked it so much that I think of it as a year-round food. The raw onions give it a nice bite and you should definitely add generous amounts of salt and pepper. It's a great snack, breakfast, whatever! And, which I discovered because of this meme, delicious on toast!

This is Mom's recipe, taken from her cookbook, Gefilte Variations.

Chopped Eggs and Onions

3-4 tablespoons good Olive Oil
1 Onion, thinly sliced
Salt and Black Pepper
1 Onion, finely chopped
6 large hard-boiled Eggs, cut into eighths.

Heat Olive Oil in a skillet over high heat. Add sliced Onion and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden. Salt and Pepper, then return from heat to cool.

Scrape Onion and Oil from skillet into a bowl. Chop coarsely. Add Eggs and raw Onion and continue to chop until mixture is well-blended, but still chunky. Add generous amounts of Salt and Black Pepper. If the mixture separates too easily, add more Oil. Chill well, removing it from fridge at least 15 mins. before serving. It's great on toasted Pain de Campagne (country bread) or scooped up onto endives or lettuce leaves.