Reporting Back! LA CHer's first trip to France
Goodness, I will apologize in advance here at the beginning for the length of this post. I always try to report back on CH when I ask for help with my travels and this happened to be my longest trip thus far. I wish I had been able to be more adventurous and also hit a few more places but I was restricted by my (non-foodie)sister who at the last minute joined me on this trip. I wanted to go to l'Arpege but of course, they had the fire or electrical problem during my vacation. I also had to cancel Pierre Gagnaire, making Ledoyen my only Michelin dining experience this time around. Anywho, here is my report and if you make it all the way to the end, kudos! I should buy you a cookie or something next time I am in France. And after this experience, I WILL be back!
Josephine - great fun. Amuse of gazpacho with crouton stick was delicious. We had the foie and girolles farce to start and the girolles were ridiculously good! I should've stopped eating after 2 very large ones but ended up eating all 4. For the mains, we had the boeuf bourginon and duck confit. Duck confit is one of my favorite things to eat that I don't get to often for fear of expanding horizontally but I've read that Josephine's version was solid. Unfortunately, it disappointed: the skin was not crispy in the least and neither were the potatoes. The taste was fine but the crispy skin is like 70% of the point of the dish, for me at least. The side salad was lovely though. But the BOEUF! Oh man, that was probably in the top 3 tastes I had on this trip. I would do a poor job describing it so I shan't even try, I'll just say all bourginons I had previously pale in comparison and all futures ones most likely will as well. Loved seeing the ebullient staff and friendly chef constantly coming out into the dining room.
I was beyond full at this point but had to have something sweet. I couldn't handle the souffle(I've seen the pictures!) so I thought the apple tart would be less…voluminous. They split it for us and it was still ridiculously large. Nice, but not something I'd order again.
Chez l'Ami Jean - Our most disappointing experience of the trip was at CLJ. I was very much looking forward to this lunch as it's been so highly regarded on CH. Maybe it was the fact that we did not order wine? It did seem the service dropped instantly after we declined. Anyway, the Jambon Bayonne to start was tasty and the salted butter with their bread(Poujauran?) was good. Then we had the Cote de Boeuf for two. It was incredibly gristly, very little edible meat and what was edible was not particularly tasty. The mushrooms and sun-dried tomato was much more interesting, unacceptable for a 90 euro beef dish! The side potato dish was good though We decided we still had to try the famous Riz au Lait which was indeed very good, though they are a little skimpy with the salted caramel mousse. It just sucked to go from the penthouse of Josephine's experience to the basement of CLJ's. All in all a wicked uncomfortable meal there.
Cafe des Musees - Sunday. Did not plan ahead well, couldn't think of too many places open and the ones that were open were either too far for my lazy bum to get to or too busy. Just ate at the nearby Cafe des Musees and had some fish and an entrecote of beef and didn't starve that night. Success. By the by, I don't get the hoopla about their fries. They were pretty soggy and didn't have any exceptional flavor? And the other plates I saw go out looked the same level of crispness. Actually, I've noticed that about ALL frites I witnessed in France. Strange.
Rotisserie de Beaujolais - Ummm, another night where I didn't know exactly where I wanted to eat and thought I could try to walk-in to Chez Denise on the early side of dinner. I believe I arrived there between 6:15-6:30 to a completely empty restaurant and were turned away for not having ressies. Nice. Decided to risk another rest without a ressie so went to Rotisserie de Beaujolais and were seated right away. Decent chicken(roasted and the coq au vin), not memorable but at least received nice service. Ile Flottante was alright.
Regalade St. Honore - My overall favorite dining experience this trip! We had 2 of the lunch menus: royale of foie & the soup(don't remember what it was, not my dish), the St Pierre special of the day & the rascasse for the mains, and the choco-praline & pot de creme for dessert. Really enjoyed the terrine and cornichons on the nice baguette(if only it were just a hair more baked!). The royale of foie gras was amazing. Just a beautiful beautiful custard. I admit, the dehydrated tasting mushrooms were texturally weird but the croutons and surrounding liquid more than made up for it. Oh, the other soup wasn't too shabby either, something with gambas…And the rascasse, I am still thinking about now. Perfectly cooked, uber flavorful. Sigh. If only every piece of fish I ordered tasted like that! Surprisingly, the St. Pierre was much less interesting even though it was an 8 euro supplement…chanterelles under were great though. Loved both desserts, it was nice to go back and forth between chocolate and fruit! Great service, too. Two glasses of wine, bottle of water plus the menus totaled under 100e!! Oh, also the madeleines served at the end were wonderful. Warm, slight crunch, not too sweet, certainly not dry. As good as Ble Sucre's madeleine's.
Ledoyen - had the lunch menus which only offered two choices so we got everything available that day. Souphie was NOT kidding that it is not a fun place! Our head waiter kept looking off into the distance, like he was seriously brooding, hardly ever making eye contact. Didn't like how he brought the cheese cart over and didn't say anything, just expected us to order without any explanation I guess. All others were just fine. I would say that if I went back, I would order a la carte even though it would most likely be doubly or triply expensive. The most interesting things we ate were all the extras: amuse bouche of 4 bites, the chips, eel with beet, kouign amann, choc and nougats. The kouign amann was really great actually and warm. It looked different from past pictures I've seen of it though, wonder if he's changed the recipe or just the size and shape?
Nightmare getting to Cancale but finally arrived late in the afternoon. Too tired to go out and explore like originally planned so just ate at the hotel's restaurant. Warm rolls and Bordier salted butter, yum. Got a seafood platter, not bad, whelks were my favorite thing on the platter. Good caramel beurre sale ice cream. The breakfast at the hotel was very good too to my surprise. Nice bread basket with assortment of well baked goods, cookies, cakes and more of that Bordier salted butter! TWO containers of butter actually!
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Cancale was to eat as much as I could shove in my face at Grain de Vanille but alas they close on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the only days we were there! Foiled!!
Still, all the oysters, crepes, ice cream(it was crazy hot!) by the port were all delicious and satisfying.
There was one bakery I saw on the way to the port so quickly stopped by to see if they had kouign amann, which I now regret doing. I couldn't tell by looking in their case but it was refrigerated!! Cold kouign amann=not good.
Pozzetto - Whilst walking around, I got tired and parched and stopped in at Pozzetto. I had a "marocchino" which was sort of like an espresso with chocolate syrup coating the inside of the cup. It was not what I expected but was still the best coffee I had all trip. Sister had the strawberry gelato and it was pretty good as well.
Berthillon - Well, at least their ice cream. Their store was closed when I tried to go so we just had some from one of the MANY vendors serving their goods. We tried the Caramel Beurre Sale, Pistache, Ananas, and Peche I believe? I don't remember the fruit flavors exactly but everything was very good and expensive.
Christian Constant - My intent was to try their ice cream and as luck would have it, a lady in the group in front of me didn't want hers for some reason. I couldn't understand what she was saying but she was obviously offering it to me gratis so it was a pretty easy decision for me! Unfortunately, it was probably not the flavor I would have chosen, something hazelnut-y and too sweet. Texture was great but the flavor was a fail for me.
L'Etoile d'Or- I was a kid in a candy store! Just like everyone else feels who goes there I'm sure. Overwhelming choice of chocolates, I just grabbed the first bunch of Bernachon bars that sounded good and moved onto the Henri Le Roux caramels. I don't remember what else I got but I ended up spending over 60 euros that trip….Madame Denise is adorable!
Fromagerie Jouannault - Nice Comte, some goat cheese I can't remember the name of, and something else I can't remember the name of! Bah!
Laurent Dubois(St. Germaine) - Decided to risk bringing some butter and cheese back home so stopped by here after Kayser my last day. Bought a raw milk Epoisses and Bordier butter which Monsieur Dubois himself vacuum sealed for me. Just opened the Epoisses today and it was wonderful with some of the Kayser Fig bread.
Sun Bastille FM - Paella from one of the stands, couldn't resist the smell and huge pans of rice. It was quite decent actually, though the minuscule chicken drummettes were completely unnecessary. Fresh Churros were fantastic as well. 3 made to order churros for 1 euro?! Wouldn't fly in the US! Wish I had room to eat chicken from the butterflied rotisserie lady..
L'as du Falafel - I don't get the hype, I can easily find better falafel sandwiches in LA. That's all I'll say about that.
Gerard Mulot - Lots of tempting looking stuff but just grabbed a pain au chocolat and a croissant. Despite it looking a bit pale and flaccid(it being a bit later in the day), the flavor was not bad and the pain au chocolate had a decent amount of chocolate. I am finding more and more PaC's with almost unacceptably low amounts of chocolate these days. I have to say SF Tartine's PaC is still top for me though.
Ble Sucre - 2 visits: croissant, pain au chocolat, brioche with salted caramel, kouign amann, some sort of chocolate tart, madeleines, ficelle. I think they had my favorite croissant of the ones I ate on this trip(can't say it's the ultimate, but my favorite of the trip), PaC was good, brioche was good, kouign amann very good but paled in comparison after having Grenier a Pain's(thanks for the rec, Delucacheesemonger!!), madeleines were good too but madeleines are just not really my thing. Really liked this place overall.
Sadaharu Aoki - Caramel Beurre Sale tart, choux a la creme. Wish they had the black sesame eclair for me to compare to my favorite black sesame dessert here in LA but they were out! Choux was disappointing after having read the trouble they supposedly go through to make it. It was probably sitting in the case a while, it being the last one they had and was soggy. Also the cream had developed a skin and tasted of curdled egg. The tart on the other hand was Amazing. I ate half right away and fridged the other half which was still good and crunchy the next day.
Jacque Genin - I had to have a millefeuille and the chocolate flavor beckoned. If only I had multiple stomachs, I could've tried the other flavors that were so tempting to me! It was as good as I had hoped. Unbelievably crispy layers that shockingly didn't shatter into a million pieces when I tried to cut them. Add in the perfectly chocolately, fluffy mousse it was one of my favorite sweets of the trip(though there is quite a bit of competition at the top of this category). The "hot chocolate" is ridiculous. It is basically melted chocolate, crazy thick! Spoon was definitely required to EAT! Good though if you love chocolate like we do. Coffee was eh, but loved the service and room. Free caramels at the end were nice also but I actually preferred the pate of fruits.
Chocolats Rochoux - I was there for the Choc. Hazelnut pot and got it! Monsieur Rochoux was very kind and offered some samples from his cool looking chocolate shaving contraption. Great chocolate, wish I had gotten some to bring back.
Pain de Sucre - I loved this place as well. I tried the vanilla millefeuille, raisin scone, olive/anchovy/tomato roule, and bought a strawberry confiture for home(haven't opened yet…). There were SO many yummy looking stuff that I just did not have space for! Everything I tasted was great, though the millefeuille was a bit inferior to Genin's. I think it might have been the best scone I've ever had. And I don't even like raisins.
Eric Kayser - First visit I got the Sandwich Saucisse and Chouquettes which were not great but edible. Bread for the sandwich was very good but the composition of the innards were meh. Second visit on my last day for bread to take home, bought the pain cereales, fig bread, raising bread, olive bread, rustic bread. Everything I've tasted after getting home was good to very good, thank goodness!
La Parisienne - Jambon and Gruyere Sandwich was kind of forgettable actually.
Levain au Marais - First visit had the baguette cereales which was quite nice, went well with my Pascal Bellvaire butter and jambon from nearby charcuterie place. Second visit had the croissant, PaC, chouquettes. Croissant and PaC were decent but the chouquettes were very good! Easily surpassing Kayser's. Tried to just get 2 but 6 was the minimum and we had no problem finishing.
Patisserie de Reves - Sort of disappointed. I was really looking forward to this place but everything I got was a bit of a letdown. The St. Honore was probably the best of the bunch but even that was clearly set out for too long, soggy-ish pastry parts but the creams were nice at least. PaC(yes, we had a lot of these, not my thing, my sister's obsession) not good. Dough was not flaky or particularly tasty and the chocolate inside was weirdish. Kouign Amann LOOKED promising but failed to deliver much pleasure. Not buttery nor sweet enough.
Julien - I was already regretting buying the baguette as it was handed to me….too soft and pale for my taste. Much preferred the baguette I got from Grenier a Pain. Maybe it was a bad batch, bad time?
Grenier a Pain - Abbesses location, got the baguette which was great. But the Saint Antoine location is the one that will forever be etched into my memory for the kouign amann. It was to be my last breakfast in Paris before going back home, woke up early and walked in the near dark to GaP. When I got there, it didn't look like they were quite ready for customers but they were open. I quickly spotted what I came for, the kouign amann. I also grabbed a pain aux cereales for the suitcase. When I left the bakery, I touched the bag and realized the kouign amann was still hot! I was so excited and couldn't resist eating it whilst walking back to the apartment. Now, I have no reference as to what is authentic for this pastry. All I know is that what I ate was unbelievably good and made me glad I came to France.
I hope this post is able to help others in the future, I certainly know past posts and regular France CHers have been invaluable to me. Thanks guys!
Thank you for such a full report.
"I always try to report back on CH when I ask for help with my travels"
What a nice thought. Sometimes there are OP requests that tickle our helpful bone, and all the locals chime in. Then silence. I sitll wonder about this one:
"I believe I arrived there between 6:15-6:30 to a completely empty restaurant and were turned away for not having ressies. Nice."
It is not that the resto snubbed you. No restaurant starts operating before 7:30pm.
The bread at CAJ, "Poujauran", could that have been a loaf of Poilane?
One of the many great tips that your report offer is that one ain't kidding about reserving, especially for a visitor with limited time in a given city and who cares about his food and wants to go to specific restos.
What a great set of reviews. l could see every experience, My experiences in these places cvould easily be the same. Sorry about the CdB at CAJ, will be doing it in a week. The bread there is Poujaran. and has been since CAJ opened, l thought. Sorry also you did not get the sweetbreads at Ledoyen. Starting to think l am one of the few who love Julien's baguettes tradition, always go after Chez Denise. Yes while they say they are from Mon AM till SAt real early, they only serve at normal proscribed times, and 8:30 at night is one, as is 12:30 for lunch. So agree on L'As Falaffel, so agree on hot Choc at Genin, what a nice guy as well, very generous in stuff and time. First time l went to L'Etoile dOr, Denise showed me her apt where Toulouse Lautrec once lived and upon leaving after my purchases leaned over for a pair of bises and got a big one smack on the lips, she is a trip.Thanks again for reviews and we look forward to your return.
I'm tickled pink that you guys appreciated the report back and I am equally appreciative of all you for taking the time to have read it and for the recommendations.
I was really sad to not have the chance to try the sweetbreads at Ledoyen as well! And I'm starting to understand Chez Denise's schedule...next time, I'll either reserve or try for really really early in the morning perhaps!
Loved Denise and can see her doing exactly that!