Monday, January 31, 2011


Place Vendome

Well, I'm finally home after an absolutely spectacular week in Paris. Mom and I ate, drank and explored. It was wonderful to be back in my old home and to discover new haunts and visit old ones. Also, now that I'm so attuned to vegetarianism, it was certainly heartening to see how many more meatless options there were, even at bistros! This means it'll be even more fun to introduce the Vegetarian to my "other home."

There's something about Paris that, as Mom says, makes the whole place feel like a museum, so that just walking around is fulfilling. And even though it was January, the weather was unseasonable warm, 40-55F, so we were never tempted to hibernate. 

Since I know I won't have the time to write more than one post about the trip, I'm going to leave you with highlights, links and (unfortunately few) pictures. The lack of pictures compared to how busy we were is due to the fact that it took me almost the whole week to remember to charge my camera. Oops!

So without further ado, I present... Paris.

Day 1:

We stayed at a lovely hotel in the Marais, Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais, which I cannot recommend enough. Definitely a place to remember. So after showering and changing, we went off in search of food. Galettes, savory crepes, to be exact. We decided to return to Breizh Cafe, in the 3rd. We then wandered around the Marais for a bit, getting reacquainted with the area, before finally heading back to the hotel for a quick nap. A few hours later, we woke up and headed off the Saint Germain des Pres for dinner at Le Bistrot d'Henri, my favorite restaurant in Paris and one that I visited often when living there. Mom began her meal with a salade de roquette while I had chevre et pesto on toast sur une salade verte. For main courses, Mom went with magret de canard while I had foie de veau. Both our plats came with the amazing gratin dauphinoise for which Bistrot d'Henri is famous. We also shared a pot de vin.

Day 2:

We headed down to the Village Saint-Paul for an antiques fair, where I bought a decorative knife and Mom found a necklace and green snakeskin handbag from the '40's. We then walked through the Ile St-Louis, stopping at a Laguiole store, then checking out the line in front of Berthillon before finally winding our way to the 6th, where we stopped at Da Rosa (where I finally tasted the famous Bellota ham--worthy of all the hype) for lunch. We then continued meandering, this time around the left bank, finally ending up at Monoprix to invest in stockings, socks, Labello lip products and walnut vinegar. We stumbled out, now laden down with packages, dropped everything off at the hotel, changed and freshened up quickly before heading all the way up to the 17th for a fantastic dinner at L'entredgeu (absolutely worth the trek!), where we enjoyed a pumpkin soup with chestnuts and coquilles saint-jacques for appetizers and an extremely thick piece of cod and pigeonnau au foie gras for main dishes. For dessert, we each went with a hunk of chevre, drizzled with olive oil and accompanied by a green salad. We shared a bottle of wine.

Day 3:

It being Sunday, we headed straight up to the 12th to tour the Richard Lenoir Market. We ogled all the produce, fish and meat, wishing we were staying somewhere with a kitchenette. Not being able to resist, we ended up with a picnic of cheese, raspberries, tomatoes, jus de pomme biologique and 1/2 a boiled Brittany lobster (!). Needless to say, this was one of the best lunches I've ever had and what made it even better was that it was over 50 F in January and we ate outside. Considering how much I hate cold weather, few things make me happier. We then wandered back to the Ile St-Louis, where Mom bought a gorgeous embroidered jacket at Banon, a store with clothing designed by an Italian, made from Indian fabrics and produced in France. Whew! Berthillon was, as usual, incredibly crowded, so instead we took a walk along the Seine (back on the left bank), stopping to admire the vendors' used books, magazines and posters, then up to Cahiers de Colette in the 1st for some reading material to last until the next trip. After such an exhausting day, we stopped at the hotel to freshen up, then off to the 15th for a delicious Vietnamese dinner at Kim Anh, where we had a delicious half-bottle of Sancerre. And for someone who normally prefers red wine, that's a winning endorsement indeed!

Day 4:

This was really our left bank shopping day. We started off at Heimstone, a clothing boutique in the 6th where I picked up a very French skirt. Then we wandered around more, faisant du leche-vitrines. (window-shopping; literally licking the windows). We finally stopped at La grande epicerie for lunch and to pick out the goodies we'd bring home to our men. Then onto Le bon marche's fantastic lingerie department which was filled with all the -50% soldes that abound in January. Finally, thoroughly exhausted, we went off to the 14th for dinner at La regalade, where we enjoyed more coquilles saint-jacques, pate, wild duck, st-nectaire, riz au lait and cotes de rhone. Delicieux!

Day 5:

After walking around the 3rd a bit, we wandered into the Jewish Quarter, the Rue des Rosiers and found, much to our surprise, that there was no line in front of L'as du falafel, what I (and many others) believe is the best falafel joint! We took a table and devoured our lunch (a messy sandwich for me and a plat for Mom). It began drizzling, so we then continued on our way, meandering up to the Musee Carnavalet where we spent several hours enjoying a delightful exhibit: Voyage en Capitale: Louis Vuitton et Paris, learning all about how the designer changed luggage and travel and seeing some truly fantastic picnic baskets and trunks. It certainly enhanced our appreciation for him! We stopped off at Cafes Amazone for an espresso, then went to the movies in the 9th where we saw a delightful romantic comedy-mystery, Poupoupidou, about a starlet, a novelist and Marilyn Monroe. If you have the chance, I highly recommend it! Finally, a light vegetarian dinner in the Marais and off to bed.

Day 6:

Louvre brulant
Galerie Valois
Cafe Verlet
Our last full day, we walked over to the 1st, stopping off at Spring Boutique for a popote (a stew) and a chat with the delightful, American chef-owner. Next time we'll be sure to come back for a wine tasting and a cheese plate. Then it was off to Astier de Villatte to look at beautiful porcelain and buy a small, decorative plate (which, unfortunately, broke during transit and which the Vegetarian and I are now working to repair). Next we headed over to Place Vendome, one of the ritziest areas, where we continued to lecher les vitrines, and even stopped off at Charvet to pick up some ties for Dad (and took the picture of the sky that's at the beginning of this post). 
Chocolat Verlet
Needing to refuel, we had a snack, coffee and tea at Verlet before heading back towards the Louvre, stopping off to admire more windows and architecture in the Galerie de Valois. And, finally, we spent the evening at the Louvre, first a video installation in the basement, the louvre medieval, then a beautiful exhibit, L'antiquite revee, which has inspired us to purchase some more artwork for the apartment. A quick stop at the Cour Marly to see some of my favorite sculptures and across the Seine to Gaya for a delicious seafood dinner with delightfully attentive waitstaff.

Day 7:

Our flight was late enough that we were able to have a nice half-day, so, upon discovering the Musee Picasso is currently undergoing renovation(!), we took the opportunity to wander through the northern reaches of the Marais, which Mom had never done. We stopped for couscous at Chez Omar, then
Marais graffiti
 meandered back to the hotel and off the Charles de Gaulle and then home. A Bientot, Paris!

Some addresses. If I haven't listed an address you'd like, just ask!

Astier de Villatte
173, Rue St-Honore

256, Rue St-Honore

Cafes Amazone
11, Rue Rambuteau

Da Rosa
62, Rue de Seine

23, Rue Cherche-Midi

Richard Lenoir Market
Place de la Bastille

83, Rue Laugier

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Paris...

I'm spending the week in Paris with Mom, eating, drinking, shopping and having a wonderful time. I promise a full report upon my return.

A bientot!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chunky Banana Bran Muffins

What do you usually eat for breakfast? Since I was 15, unless breakfast occurred after noon (and thus became brunch, incorporating lunch as well), breakfast was either reduced to a cup of coffee or foregone altogether. Occasionally when I was in high school I would grab a granola bar that could be eaten on the subway and in college I tried desperately to sneak a yogurt or the like in while catching up on blogs and checking my e-mail. All in all, though, breakfast has never been a priority (even though I know it's the most important meal of the day).

Since moving in with the Vegetarian, we've made an effort to have breakfast every day--usually a bowl of cereal (along with our coffee) while checking e-mails, but, since it's winter, oatmeal has also begun making appearances. And, on later days, there might be pancakes, french toast or a fried or scrambled egg or reheated frozen waffles. Normally the Vegetarian is in charge of breakfast (I am anything but a morning person) but, after being sick for a week and feeling guilty that he was doing all the around-the-house stuff while I lay miserably coughing in bed, I flipped through Barefoot Contessa at Home and lighted on a recipe for Chunky Banana Bran Muffins.

My first venture outside was to the grocery store where I picked up the necessary ingredients. But, not being entirely coherent, I bought a bottle of blackstrap molasses, which are rather potent. So, I thought these muffins were great (since I like the taste of molasses) although the Vegetarian found them too bananaey. (I really like bananas and didn't find them to taste
enough of banana--and that was after adding some banana liqueur into the batter!) But at least I have a breakfast option for the next while that can be eaten at home or on the run!

Chunky Banana Bran Muffins
adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home
makes 24 muffins
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pans with paper liners (makes clean-up much easier).

Combine wheat bran and buttermilk and set aside. Cream butter and sugar in food processor fitted with plastic dough hook. (If they're not perfectly combined, don't worry.) Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing food processor to incorporate into the batter after each one. Next add molasses, orange zest and creme de banane. Add wheat bran-buttermilk mixture and pulse until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add slowly (I did it in four parts) to food processor, pulsing just to combine after each addition. Once you see no white streaks, stop mixing! Using a rubber spatula, fold in raisins, bananas and walnuts.

With a large spoon, fill muffin pans to the top (the batter doesn't rise very much) and bake 25 minutes. Let cool before eating. Enjoy!

After not participating in a blog event in eons, this is my submission for Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen Bake-Off where we are instructed to bake something vegetarian. Done! Thanks for hosting, Champa!

Links to other Chunky Banana Bran Muffins noshes:

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy New Year! and Tofu Nicoise Salad of Roasted Red Onion, Potatoes, Green Beans, and Olives

Happy New Year and welcome to 2011! We had a quiet celebration with a visit from Jess, a friend from college, with whom we went to see Harry Potter, ordered in Mexican food, read aloud and watched Sherlock, a splendiferous new series from BBC. All in all, a quiet, restful beginning to what I sincerely hope will be a wonderfully delicious year.

In response to all the rich foods we've all been eating this month (and with an eye towards healthy New Year's resolutions), today's recipe is for a delicious main course salad we enjoyed a few weeks ago. It's my take on a Salad Nicoise, made vegetarian by substituting tofu for the tuna, with a few other tweaks as well. Great with a sparkling wine. Enjoy!

Tofu Nicoise Salad of Roasted Red Onion, Potatoes, Green Beans, and Olives
adapted from the Vegetarian Times
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 purple potato
  • 1 red-skinned potato
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
  • 10 ounces green beans, trimmed (I used frozen ones which worked great)
  • 1/4 cup Italian dressing
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed (in a garlic press)
  • 1/8 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 5 ounces spring salad mix
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 8-ounce packages baked tofu, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 4 white mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/4 cup Manzanilla olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/8 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
Preheat oven to 400F. Rub onion with olive oil, place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and roast 40 minutes. When lightly charred, remove and let cool. Peel off outermost layer and cut into 1-inch chunks. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place potatoes in large saucepan with cold salted water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-high and cook about 20 minutes. Drain and, when cool, cut into 1-inch chunks. Set aside.

Boil green beans in a small pot of salted water for 5 minutes. If whole, cut into 2-inch pieces and set aside.

Whisk together Italian dressing, lemon juice, garlic and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Let stand 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together salad mix, tomatoes, tofu, green beans, mushrooms, olives, onion, potatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and dressing. Toss thoroughly to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Links to other salad Nicoise noshes: