Travels in Paris and Midi-Pyrenees (report)
I'm traveling through France for two months, with two weeks left to go, but wanted to write down my thoughts before I forget more.
Le Puits du Tresor, in Lastours, is, in fact, a treasure. We reserved a table for three in the bistro of this Michelin one-star, but didn't need the reservation (on a Wednesday in May)--the restaurant was mostly empty. That day and every day the menu includes three choices of appetizer, main dish and dessert, and a couple of set price combinations of the three. Because three of us dined, we got one of everything. I don't think I've had better lamb anywhere, and the duck confit was the other star of the main dishes. The pretty location is out in the sun under the hill that holds recreated remnants of a Cathar settlement--worth the hike and the 5 euro fee before or after lunch. No vegetarian options when we went, so I'm glad our veg friend didn't come along.
Sire de Cabaret in Roquefere is a nice rustic restaurant with simple, straightforward regional dishes cooked on a wood stove in the main dining room. I especially liked the steak served with meaty (both in size and in duckiness) fries. Mussels were fresh but quite salty. There's a nice terrace that's hard to see from the dining room, but if you arrive on a warm day, ask to eat outside.
Chez L'Ami Jean: This was recommend by my friend and fellow culinary explorer Daveena, and I liked my meal here a lot. I ordered from the set menu and found the portions surprisingly large and the tables, as noted in many other reviews, quite close together. I lucked out and sat next to excellent companions. For an appetizer I enjoyed a lovely and light salad of, I think, sea snails; the main dish was a gorgeous hunk of stewed pork. I liked the rice pudding, which isn't, as has been warned, a traditional rice pudding--very creamy, no visible pieces of rice-- topped this time with raspberries.
Shan Gout: I missed Chinese food from home (in California) and was excited by reports about this restaurant. The food didn't delight me, but I don't understand the context of Chinese food in Paris. Dish review: the spicy pork was tender and served with sauce that wasn't too starchy, but offered little flavor or spice. The dumplings were pretty good and nicely chivey, but there was an additional "skirt" of cooked stuff that came up from the frying pan that tasted of old oil. Weirdness review: I arrived at the opening time, when my hotel had made a reservation, and was seated, offered water...and then told to leave and return in an hour after what seemed like an unpleasant exchange (in Mandarin?) between the chef and server. On try two, when I was joined by three other tables, the servers had to return after each table ordered with a clarifying message (e.g. "The chef doesn't want to cook that dish").I hadn't ordered rice along with my spicy pork dish, but the chef sent it anyhow, with a warning that the dish was extremely hot. On a scale of 1 being a bell pepper and 10 being so hot you wake up at night with volcanic stomach pains, the "spicy" pork was a 2, a 2.5 if I am generous. Though I understood better when the French family next to me ordered three cucumber plates (with no spice), three unspicy shrimp and three forks.
Aux Charpentiers: Running an errand in St Germain des Pres, I realized I was running low on fuel and rang the lunch emergency alarm. A helpful bystander recommended this restaurant as "tres sympa," and he was 100% correct. I skipped the set menu and ordered the plat of the day, a cod that can only be described as awesome. Delicate, flavorful, oily in the right way without being heavy. Loved it. I had a bowl of strawberries and cream for dessert, which hit the spot on a 25 degree day.
Let's see...what I'd want to know if I were a first-time traveler? Plan some excellent meals, but leave time for wandering and finding excellent, simple food. Staples (bread, cheese, wine, butter) are of much higher quality and much cheaper than where I come from.
On to Normandy!