Reporting Back on my week in Paris!
Hello everyone, I've gone and come back already, I can't believe how fast time flies. I had a lovely time with the David Lebovitz tour group, both in Paris and Lausanne(If anyone is thinking about doing it, DO IT!). I wish I were more eloquent but here is a quick and dirty recap of my trip. I hope it can be of use to someone in the future. I have also posted pictures from my Le Cinq dinner at my flickr page, unfortunately, I only had my phone camera so apologies on the terrible quality: http://www.flickr.com/photos/58506765...
Arrived late in the afternoon on a holiday apparently. Everything was closed as anticipated so no pre-dinner snack for me. :( Dinner with group at Les Fines Gueules. Tasted the steak tartare(not bad, but a bit chewy as it wasn't really chopped finely enough), asparagus(way way way overcooked, or maybe all white asparagus is like that? Not yummy!), strawberries with double cream, Paris-Brest(made by Jacques Genin). The desserts and waitress were the highlights.
Chocolate tasting at La Maison du Chocolat, tasted about 6-7 different offerings plus their hot chocolate which was very good. Wish I had time and tummy space to come back to have tried their eclairs and lots of other stuff!
Lunch was at the Lavinia wine store. It was a nice, simple lunch of grilled veggies, cheeses, charcuterie, sardines. Nothing mind blowing, but I enjoyed it a lot, especially the sardines.
Another chocolate tasting at L'Etoile d'or, Denise Acabo's shop. As usual, she was hilariously entertaining and we sampled a bunch of stuff, I can't remember everything. But I recall some sort of prune thing was actually really tasty. I did some damage to my wallet getting the Bernachon chocolates to bring home!
Dinner at Le Violon d'Ingres, I had the seared foie gras then the turbot then the "millefeuille" for dessert. The foie was great, I love hot foie preparations. The turbot was bland on it's own and the sauce it came with was overtly sweet. The millefeuille was basically a puff pastry napoleon, not a true millefeuille, but was non-offensive at least.
Chocolate tasting at Jacques Genin: This one nearly did me in…his generosity with the samples almost killed me(and the rest of the group)! We had the ridiculously rich hot chocolate(which he claims to drink a cup of every single day!), then countless chocolates, pate de fruits, caramels. Everything was delicious, I just wish I was able to enjoy it more! I bought a bunch of caramels and pate de fruits to take home and they are 100% worth the price. This whole tour has made me really appreciate the amount of work these people put into the products, I wouldn't blink at the prices they charge.
Next we visited Poilane and got to go downstairs to see their ovens. This was one of my favorite parts of the tour as I have a particular interest in bread baking. Say what you will of their bread(I admit, I'm not their biggest fan), pastries, etc. they work damn hard down there using that wood burning oven and I respect that immensely.
Lunch at Cafe Nemrod: Why is it that every single place I have eaten outside of LA, I've experienced nothing but first class service from waiters?? The food here was average(croque monsieur and frites) but the waitress was a pro and super cute and sweet. GAH, I'd kill to have service like that in LA!
For our dinner/wine tasting, we went to O Chateau. Honestly, I wasn't really a fan of any of the 5 wines we tried so I didn't write anything down. The food was equally unmemorable, but our host Olivier was charming and in the end it was a fun evening.
Snuck out for a breakfast on my own: tried the chocolate chip cookie and pain au chocolat from Eric Kayser. The cookie had nuts! Gah, I hate nuts in my cookies, otherwise it would've been a pretty good cookie, texture was right and the chocolate was good quality. Pain a chocolat was forgettable.
Also stopped by Milcent Jacky? Their plain croissant was pretty good, clearly tasting of butter, flaky. Their beignet was a bit bland but maybe it's because I got a plain unfilled one. Wish I had been able to try more stuff.
Chocolate tasting at Fouquet! This was another really enjoyable tour; we tasted their pate de fruits, marshmallows, chocolate covered marshmallows(milk AND dark), croustillantes(milk AND dark!), their ganaches, chocolate spread, etc. Everything was so good, I seriously regret not buying more from them to bring home. Frederic, the owner, was a fantastic host.
This was one of the rare opportunities to have a free meal time away from the group and I was desperately craving anything non-French. David suggested an area nearby Fouquet for Japanese and I must have looked at the menus of every single restaurant in the area! I was pretty disappointed in them so I decided to jet over to Candelaria for purportedly the best Mexican in Paris. I had the 3 taco/1 drink combo with chicken tinga and vegetarian tacos. For fans of Mexican food who are living Paris, I am so so sorry. The tacos were mediocre but at least the salsa had a tiny bit of heat, which helped satisfy my craving somewhat. I'll just leave it at that because the people seem really sweet over there.
And a few hours after the tacos, the group rejoined for dinner at Hidden Kitchen. Really fun experience, I'd highly recommend it to anyone if they are on the fence about it. Fresh, seasonal stuff(actually reminded me of home, CA cuisine), really good wines paired with them and great company.
The tour continued on into Lausanne, but that's not for this board. Once the tour was over, I had one last dinner in Paris on my own which I decided to use on Le Cinq. I'm not sure how I was able to do it, but I made it through the tasting menu even after having breakfast and lunch that day! It is well documented about the service at Le Cinq and it really is the truth; I loved watching them at work, it's like watching a ballet. I also loved seeing the cheese and candy cart being wheeled around everywhere and the guests all looking like kids in a candy store when presented with them. I actually think the dinner tasting menu is as equally a deal as their lunch since in the end you get about 10 courses. Anyway, on to the menu:
1) Fried seafood basket - I partook in only one bite as I was trying to save myself for the rest of the meal. It wasn't anything special, a bit too heavily battered and not super crispy.
2) Unsalted bread with olive oil - the particular bread was used supposedly to appreciate the young olive oil more(2010 from Sicily). It really did taste very young, fresh, bit peppery but mostly fruity. Nice but not worth the hoopla.
3) Bread service w/ Bordier butters - I had the pain cereal and a baguette, I almost wish I didn't have to eat anything else except that seaweed butter. It was amazing, so so friggin good, I've been craving it every day since I've had it. I think I ate at least 1/3 of the block and barely touched the other plain butter.
4) Amuse - Some sort of pea jelly sphere w/ cracker, eel covered with some sort of horseradish thing, and a foie mousse. Nothing stood out, but I disliked the pea portion as I'm not a fan of mint and there seems to be mint in all pea preparations these days. Hmmph!
5) Tuna tartare w/ caviar and green apple jelly - Pretty tasty, good caviar but the tuna was a bit too cold: the middle was almost frozen tasting, it seemed to me that they had it shaped and prepared in the fridge for quite a while and then just took it out not too long before serving.
6) Asparagus w/ Matcha tea frozen yogurt, lemon puff pastry - The asparagus were great, not over cooked mush like the ones at LFG. The little gnocchi was whatever but the little bit of cottage cheese worked well with the asparagus. I have no idea how the yogurt and puff pastry were supposed to play into the dish, they were served separately on the side. Anyway, the yogurt wasn't good, again it was way too cold and hard, it basically broke into shards that would've sprayed across the room had I ate anymore than the one bite. The puff pastry was okay but the lemon was a tad overwhelming.
7) Foie Gras w/ rhubarb and strawberries with elderberry juice - The foie was delicious though not the best seared foie I've ever had. The juice and fruits worked well with the foie for a few bites in the beginning but halfway through, it became cloying and there was really no way around it as it was all over the foie.
8) Blue lobster pot, roasted in baby garlic, freshly squeezed pinot noir jus, stuffed morel, crunchy cabbage with ginger - The lobster was pretty well cooked, I didn't taste any garlic on the lobster itself, there was just the visual of roasted garlic on the plate with it. The jus was very salty, as I found to be the case with several dishes previous. I love morels so it would've been hard to have me dislike that portion of the plate. I also love cabbage but the ginger completely took over and I couldn't eat more than a bite. There was a huge piece of lardon on the cabbage which was again hit you over the head salty.
9) Cheese course - I had the Epoisses, a fresh goat, and a 3 year Comte. The Epoisses was great but not as excellent as the one I had at Ledoyen in September. The Comte was surprisingly mild but delicious and still with the little protein crystals.
10) Pre Dessert - I really wish I had written descriptions down! I can't remember what type of ice cream this was, I know there was vanilla olive oil and some sort of praline thing under it…there was also a dab of olive paste on the side. The combo of olive with the ice cream did not float my boat, and I am someone who LOVES the sweet and savory together. The ice cream itself was actually nice.
11) Red Fruit Cocktail - Sounds pedestrian but was really great. Maybe I was just really craving fruit after all the chocolate and rich stuff on the tour, but the strawberries and raspberries and the sorbet all made for an exceptional and simple dessert. I could've done without the basil, but I'm just not a huge fan of basil.
12) Fraisier "a la minute" - An even better dessert than the previous! Easily my favorite thing of the night(well, maybe not so easily, that seaweed butter was crazy good). Crunchy cookie/tart type of bottom, cream, fresh strawberries, sponge cake, strawberry granita, white chocolate sorbet. I ate the entire thing even though I was full to bursting.
13) Mignardises - Candy cart time! I wish I was able to try more things but I was so stuffed I almost refused the cart. I nibbled on the canele, dark chocolate assortment, and a pistachio cream puff thing. My favorite was probably the pistachio, but all were decent.
I received a little box of caramels to take with me on my way, which I have been slowly enjoying since my return back home. All in all, a great experience though the food did not blow me away. I would still recommend it to others who might be curious as the service and the butter alone are worth a visit. I should also mention that I ordered a glass of wine which they refilled one more time but only charged me for the first. The water wasn't ridiculously priced either, I think it was 8 euros for a bottle.
I did not have time to do everything I wanted this time around but the experience(going behind the scenes, watching serious professionals at work) was priceless. And it just gives me another excuse to come back again soon!
Many thanks for these carefully phrased thoughts. I understand and appreciate your qualified praise for many things you were served, tempered with your appreciation for extraordinary effort and the kind of service we just don't have here in the states.
re: Roland Parker
Not sure if it's kosher to state the total price but it does include most meals with wine and water, transportation when with the group and hotels. I thought it was a pretty good deal actually. You have a few opportunities to do things on your own and honestly, I was so full from the other meals, it wasn't necessary to do any additional eating(though I did). It's quite an experience, unique.
Sorry, I should've been less vague/incorrect! I merely meant the millefeuille at the restaurant was like the sad napoleons you see on the Pepperidge Farms boxes: completely lacking in butter flavor, blonde and undercooked in the center, soggy-ish in the middle. Not like the sturdy, deeply browned beauty from Jacques Genin. I'm sure you can find a picture of Jacques somewhere on the internets, I should make it my desktop pic...