C. Comme – Champage Tasting Room in Epernay

The best part about visiting Champagne is, obviously, the champagne. There is so much more to the drink than the Moet and Cristal that we see in the USA. Everywhere you go in the region, there are signs outside personal homes advertising vineyards that make champagne. These champagnes are as LEAST as delicious as the famous stuff, and I often prefer them…the only difference is that you can’t try it if you visit Champagne.  These champagnes are so inexpensive that it does not make financial sense for the winemakers to export the stuff, so the only way to buy it is to visit the vineyard. They don’t even export to Paris. Of course, if you are only in Champagne for a day, it’s really pretty tough to get to multiple vineyards. That’s why C. Comme is so genius.

This charming shop and tasting room offers the best of the small wineries in the area. It is a champagne Disneyland.

There is a vast underground cave with champagnes ranging from extremely cheap ones ($12) to ones in the thousand dollar range. They come in tiny demi bottles all the way up to massive magnums, and from blanc de blancs all the way through to roses. Row after row of champagne that you have never seen before and may never see again.

There is a small gourmet emporium, selling items like foie gras, infused honeys, and locally made preserves.

They also sell these rose biscuits by Fossier, which are generally only found in the Champagne region. These pink biscuits, which resemble airy ladyfingers. Made to be eaten with champagne, they are dipped in the glass, then turn to sweet fizz in your mouth. They aren’t necessarily addictive or delicious on their own, but when you eat them in Champagne, with champagne, they really do add to the experience.

Then, of course,there is the small, pretty tasting room. Decorated with comfortable couches and elegant tables, this is where you are presented with a binder full of champagne choices. Though you could order a bottle, that isn’t way to go. Do not even order by the glass. Order the tasting flight, where you get 6 good size glasses of champagne for about $50. This includes champagne made from different grapes, with different sugar contents (dosage), and from different vineyards. This is champagne from Champagne, for less than $10 a glass. It is an incredible deal. Maybe you won’t like each one, but how will you know what you do like until you know the difference between them all? The servers speak excellent English and are extremely helpful – and, of course, whatever you love you are free to buy downstairs, for considerably less than you would pay for it at home (if you could even find it at home!)

A word to the wise – don’t upgrade to  the larger tasting glasses unless you can really taste your liquor – this place opens at 11 am, and that alcohol creeps up on you.

If you feel yourself getting a little tipsy – which you will – order a small plate off the food menu. The menu is a little pricey but not insane, and by that point, you are in Champagne, so you know you are going to be spending some serious money anyway. The foie gras pate is just delicious. Smooth, rich, incredibly delicate tasting. Served with house pickled vegetables and fresh, sweet tomatoes, it is an elegant and totally indulgent accompaniment to this ultimately indulgent day.

C. Comme is a gem. It is a place to taste all that the region has to offer, eat some gourmet nibbles, and buy champagnes that you could never even find outside of this region.

Just don’t blame me if it’s hard to go back to drinking Bud Light after this.

Maille Mustard Store in Paris

On my trip to Paris last summer, I visited what might be the best shop in Paris. By the best, I don’t mean the most exclusive, the most expensive, or the trendiest.

I mean, of course, the most delicious.

The Maille store in the Place de Madeleine area looks like it has been there since the times when carts and horses roamed the streets of Paris instead of cars. Inside is nothing less than the Disneyland of mustards.

You have probably seen Maille mustard in America, but never a selection such as this. Mustards with fruits, mustards with exotic spices, mustards made especially for fish and mustards made to pair with cheese. Mustard based sauces for fish soup and mustard glazes to use for meats. Even special, seasonal mustards using the most seasonal vegetables and spices to create flavors like apricot curry, goat cheese pear, and wheat bread spiced mustards. There must be 80 mustards or more in the store at any given time, that change seasonally, and are not offered outside of France. There are even some mustards you can only get at one of the Maille stores, here or in Dijon, France.

You can also buy your own (huge) carafe, which is refillable, and have it filled with one of three mustards that are on tap: A mild, grainy Chardonnay mustard, a spicy and sweet Chablis mustard, and a classic,tangy Dijon mustard. Each is delicious, each is different.

Taste them with the provided breadsticks, make your choice, and watch the salesperson fill up your jar to bring home.

The best souvenirs really are edible.

I bought a jar of the black truffle and celery root mustard, which is, to date, the second best condiment I have ever tasted(Sriracha, you still win) – complex, earthy, heavy on the truffle taste with the herby aroma of the celery root. This makes a turkey sandwich into a gourmet meal and is incredible when spread on a rare steak sandwich.

This mustard store is always where I spend the bulk of my souvenir money in France. You can keep your fancy clothes, have fun at Cartier, but leave the mustard to me.

Les Crayeres Tasting Menu

Our journey in the Champagne region ended with a night in an incredibly beautiful hotel called Les Crayeres, which just happened to have a Michelin Starred restaurant on its premises.

Le Parc is the gastronomic restaurant at Les Crayeres (there is also the more casual Le Jardin), and after a short nap to relieve us of our tipsiness, Family Fritos and Foie Gras was ready to indulge in a world-class tasting menu. 

Champagne cart before we even entered the restaurant…OKAY! 
There was nothing trendy or cool about this restaurant. It was straight out of The Man in the Iron Mask, with heavy wooden accents, intricate tapestries and …
quite a few crystal chandeliers. You should probably wear a tie here, fellas. 
Our server recommended a champagne made locally, in a small vineyard. I told him that I preferred a pinot noir champagne (more fruity and sweet), and my dad liked blanc de blancs the most (more acidic, tart champagnes). As such, our server chose a champagne made with a mix of grapes, and the resulting taste was yeasty and deep but also smelled faintly of berries. It wasn’t at all floral or sour, just very faintly tart, like blueberries can be. 
It was not served in traditional champagne flutes, but these large ballooned glasses, to allow the champagne to breathe. Part of that was due to the champagnes unique flavor, which really developed as we drank it. One of my favorites…
…which I will always be able to remember, thanks to the excellently educated and totally delightful staff thoughtfully “floating” the label of the bottle and laminating it for me. 
Amuse Bouche
These small bites set the tone for the rest of the meal, and were delicious. There was a crisp, tempura fried shrimp that snapped with the scent of the ocean in my mouth. There were Parmesan crisps sandwiching a tomato and basil puree so deep and fruity it was astounding. There was a pepper and egg mousse that was biting atop a crisp pastry crust and there was a goat cheese wafer, grassy and funky in my mouth. It was an auspicious start to the meal. 
My sister and I went through 3 pats of butter during this meal. That is 1.5 pats of butter per person. It is absolutely the best butter I have ever had. I could say that it was creamy, that it was rich, that it was sweet, which it was. but the truth is…mostly, it was buttery. So brightly and vibrantly buttery. I didn’t eat it plain, but I wanted to. 
Bread Selection
Sundried Tomato, Baguette and Seeded breads were all home baked. The tomato bread was soft and studded with salty, moist pieces of sundried tomato. The seeded bread was hearty and texturally pleasing. 
And the baguette was the best baguette that I have ever had, in or out of France. The crust was the perfect combination of crunchy and gently chewy, and the insides balanced sour and sweet with fluffy but not cottony innards. Spread with the soft, sweet butter, I could have made a meal out of bread and butter alone. 
That, though, would have been a huge crime. 
Anglerfish Tagliatelle with Pea Soup 
This was…not my favorite dish. The tagliatelle had an offputtingly fishy aroma and when i put it in my mouth…yep, there it was. A very fishy taste invaded my mouth, and the tagliatelle were bouncy, like rubber. The pea soup surrounding it was wonderfully verdant and pure, like a burst of spring, but I could not get past that tagliatelle. I ate a lot of bread during this course.
Chicken Oysters with Creamed Chanterelles
The most supremely delicious chicken I can imagine. The oyster comes from the underside of the thigh of the chicken, and it is the most tender, robust morsel of the entire chicken. Each chicken only has two oysters, so there were 4 chickens used per dish. 4 whole chickens used for just 4 pieces of meat per dish! The chanterelles used in the dish were tiny but positively bursting with woodsy, earthy, flavor. The cream used to cooked the mushrooms became concentrated and added sweetness to the hearty dish. Shavings of Parma ham over the top added saltiness. Each bite was more meaty and complex than the last, and this was a dish to remember.  
Brittany Lobster with Artichokes and Celery
Artichokes are notoriously difficult to pair with other foods. They are earthy, citrusy, meaty and also difficult to prepare. I have never had artichokes with lobster, but the paring is nothing short of inspired. This lobster was one of the most buttery I have ever had = so rich, I could not even finish my own portion. It was tender but not soft – there was still a bit of a snap, a bite that was pleasant next to the tiny cubes of herbal celery and the meaty, slightly tart artichokes.
Haddock with Smoked Haddock Mouse, Potatoes and Creamy Potato Broth
Haddock is a very mild white fish that worked well in this preparation. The mousse was lightly smoked, which gave the haddock a heartier, earthier taste than it tends to have. The fillets of haddock were flaky and tender, contrasting with the creamy potatoes that still retained a bit of bite. The broth, buttery and mild, toned down the smokiness and potential fishiness of the haddock and mousse, much the way that clam chowder makes calms delicious to people who are funny about shellfish. A delicate and well balanced dish. 
Chicken and Foie Gras Napoleon with Chicken Liver and Homemade Macaroni
This chef is incredibly adept at chicken – it is surely his specialty. First, that amazing chanterelle and chicken ouster dish and then this. White meat chicken, incredibly moist and tender but not mushy, alternating with rich, deeply flavored foie gras. The chef was wise to use white meat chicken here, letting all the fat and minerality come from the foie gras. 
The small toast capped with the chicken liver had the best of both worlds – the intense iron of the liver and the familiar taste of chicken. It was cooked perfectly, with a sticky-sweet caramelized outside, dotted with salt, surrounding the rich orb of liver. The macaroni was toothsome next to the soft chicken napoleon, and the whole dish left me licking my fingers and – almost! – my plate.
Have you ever eaten a cheese that is over 2 years old? Me either. Let me just tell you…if that cheese is Gruyere, the older it gets the more complex it gets. Slightly sweet, nutty and smooth tasting, but also tangy and with an undeniably piquant taste. It was not salty or grainy at all – it had an incredibly smooth texture paired with subtle, developing flavors. Paired with sweet apricots and plump dates, this cheese was absolutely sensational. Really a cheese for people who appreciate the more subtle, under the radar flavors of cheese.
Apricot Tart, Mint Macaron, Fruit Tartlette
By this point, my palate was getting a little fatigued (and, let’s face it…I had drunk my weight in champagne), but I do know that the apricot pastry was deliciously bright and sweet, with a crumbly buttery pastry, and the macaron was repulsive. Like eating mouthwash. 
Strawberry and Chantilly Dessert
Once again…palate fatigue. The dessert tasted creamy and tart, but I couldn’t handle more than a few bites. Jammy, with a panna cotta interior and a tuile on top.
I did, however, eat three of the sweetest, juiciest, freshest wild strawberries on the face of the planet. These actually tasted like Little Red Riding Hood had picked them – that magical, that perfect, that impossible. 
Don’t worry, I rallied enough to take a homemade chocolate, filled with creamy, slightly bitter ganache. It was the perfect end to an excellent meal.
After the worrisome first dish of the fishy tagliatelle, this meal was everything I had hoped it would be. No molecular gastronomy or startling presentations, this was all about classic food cooked perfectly. I have NEVER had chicken cooked so superbly. For the price, this is an incredible value and  a magical way to end a day in the Champagne region.

Bistrot le 7 – Lunch in Champagne

For the first time in the several times we have been to Paris, the Fritos and Foie Gras family ventured outside of Paris to the Champagne region. The overnight trip was incredibly easy to make, the scenery was beautiful and the selection of champagne was incredible and varied.

But more on that later.

Now it’s time to see where we ate for lunch:
Located inside the Hotel Les Berceaux, Bistrot Le 7 is the more casual offshoot of the restaurant’s Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant.
  Same chef, more casual food and atmosphere. 
And a humongous selection of champagnes by the glass, mostly made by local producers so small that the bottles don’t get exported to Paris, much less to NYC. 
 Rillettes and Radishes
These pork rillettes were the perfect way to start the meal. Shreds of pork blended with herbs, spices and a healthy amount of fat to create a soft (but not mushy) spread that was incredibly hearty and satisfying. The radishes provided a sharp counterpoint to the lush taste and mouth feel of the pork. 
 Spread on a hunk of seeded bread, soft on the inside and with a tender, biteable crust, it created a heck of a sandwich. 
 Beef Carpaccio with Pecorino Romano
No, I had not yet had enough raw beef. Different than tartare, the carpaccio had a much more delicate flavor. Because of the see through slices into which it was shaved, the beef basically melted on my tongue, leaving behind only the gentle taste of beef. There was nothing robust or coarse about this – it was all elegance and subtlety – almost the memory of a great steak instead of the heavy feeling of eating the steak itself. This was served with a lightly garlicky, extremely basil heavy pesto, bringing freshness to the dish. The peppered slices of Pecorino were another worthy component to the carpaccio. It was far more mild and less salty than pecorino tends to be – more soft, less tangy. It was an outstanding carpaccio.
 Mixed Seafood Salad
This was incredibly simple, and an example of how fresh ingredients make for the best meals. There was salmon, seared to a crispy crunch with a soft and velvety interior. There was local whitefish, mild and flaky, absorbing the sweet and spicy Asian style marinade around the edge of the plate. The scallops were huge and perfectly cooked, rich pieces of shellfish that had the richness of lobster but the texture of butter. The salad greens were fresh and snappy, the dressing was light and piquant and the slightly Asian marinade totally complimented the seafood. 
Quail Stewed in Cream and Foie Gras
I didn’t try the quail, but I did try the foie gras. Seared foie is so much different than cold foie. A crispy crust surrounded a positively liquid center, full of luscious, meaty, irony tastes. It was exceptional. I would get this dish for the foie gras alone. 
Bistrot le 7 is a wonderful lunch stop. If you are, as we were, far too buzzed for 1 pm, you will need this simple food to sop up the alcohol. And if you aren’t buzzed…what are you doing in Champagne? Though, truth be told, this would be delicious even sober.

I think. 

Diane Keaton’s Favorite Bistro – Le Grand Colbert

One night in Paris, when we were hungry early (by Parisian standards, 7:30 PM is INSANELY early to dine) and wanted somewhere with a huge menu full of French comfort food, we stumbled across Le Grand Colbert.
 That’s kind of like saying that we stumbled across the Plaza Hotel or Disneyland. We were just wandering around, but really, Le Grand Colbert is an incredibly well known Parisian brasserie. Some say it has the best roast chicken in Paris. 
 And by “some people”, I mean Diane Keaton’s character in Something’s Got to Give. Clearly, my sister was impressed. 
 The room, which you will recognize if you have seen the movie, is done in the grand old brasserie style, with mosaic-tiled floors, wooden chairs and white tablecloths.
 Rose Champagne
This is worth mentioning because it comes in a carafe. Like house wine. A CARAFE of champagne. This has revolutionized the way that I think about champagne. 
As in…I think I want even more of it. 
 French Onion Soup
This was the best French Onion Soup of the trip, hands down. It was so robust and complex – we could taste the round, vivid beef in the broth, so vibrant that it was almost funky. It was sort of electric tasting, in the way that really great blue cheese has a life of its own. The onions provided a counterpart that was so sweet and soft that it became jammy next to the pepper of the soup and the gentle tang of the sherry. 
The cheese was nutty, crusty and bubbling away atop of slices of sourdough bread that became soft when soaked in the soup. 
 Foie Gras de Canard
Of course, I love goose foie more, but this was an excellent duck foie. Creamy texture, mild taste that was not too gamy, just rich and fatty. The cool squares of gelee on the side paired with the plump, wine saturated raisins completed this dish. 
 Fines de Claire
Large, briny oysters, tasting more of the sea than of cream. Positively fresh, smelling faintly of seaweed and the ocean, they burst in my mouth with salt and brine. 
A side of tart mignonette sauce brought the oysters another piquant dimension. 
Steak Tartare Epice
This steak tartare was good but not great. The meat was ground too finely and was a bit mushy. The flavor of the meat was also obscured by the spices in the meat. It was all salt, sour and heat, with too many strong capers and onions hiding the natural flavor of the beef. It wasn’t bad, not by a long stretch of the imagination, it just wasn’t as incredible as the beef tartare at Chez Andre
 Roast Chicken.
This dish was almost as great as I had hoped it would be. It was never going to ACTUALLY be the greatest roasted chicken on earth because, obviously, I make that. But this was dam close. Tender and juicy within, under a browned and crispy skin. The most notable thing about the chicken was the gravy. It was thick but not heavy or greasy, and was filled with the comforting taste of chicken, the bite of black pepper and the woodsy taste of thyme. The thyme was the kicker here. It was used in such abundance, and without any other competing herbs. It gave the dish such a straightforward and earthy vibe that it was reminiscent of eating outside – that sensual and startling. Definitely going to start using more thyme in my own roast chicken. 
The fries weren’t great, but they did the job. Especially soaked in some of that outstanding gravy.

Le Grand Colbert was a solid restaurant. Absolutely worthwhile for a lunch, though I can’t say for sure that I would come here for dinner again. The service was a little spotty and pretentious and the entrees were not as good as they should be. But for a quick lunch of  French onion soup and oysters, I can’t think of a more delightful spot. 

Maitre Pierre – A Piece of Italy in Paris

After a few days of eating foie and escargot…and then some more foie…I needed a little break. 
Not from fat, just from fat alone. I needed some carbs and a few raw vegetables in the mix. 
And maybe some tomatoes. 
That’s when we hit up Ristorante Maitre Pierre. Never heard of it, just walked in off the street because the menu looked great. 
 When we arrived right before noon, we were the only people in the room. By 12:20, they were turning people away, due to reservations and a flood of walk ins. We had unknowingly stumbled upon a goldmine!
 I love these plain breadsticks in the wrapper. Crunchy, floury and not much more, but I love the texture. 
If we didn’t know where we were, I would have sworn I was in a French restaurant. This baguette, with excellent hole structure and a stiff crust, was French through and through. No complaints, as the French have the bread market cornered.
Tomatoes, Arugula and Mozzarella
A new take on a caprese salad, with peppery, tender rocket replacing herbal basil. This was a strong choice, because the tomatoes, firm and juicy, supplied the brightness needed for the dish. And the mozzarella…oh the mozzarella. 
The mozzarella provided sweetness. It provided the fresh and clean taste of milk, the richness of cream and a slight tang reminiscent of sourdough bread. It was more like burrata than mozzarella, with bits of creamy cheese fairly melting on to the plate as its skin broke with the tines of my fork. It was outstanding. 
A bit of balsamic vinegar and fruity olive oil were ll necessary to make this a world class appetizer.
You might wonder what this is. It is a full leg of Pata Negra, othewise known as Iberico Ham. The most fatty, soft, delicate tasting ham in the world. It makes prosciutto look like bologna.
Sliced uber thin, these slices of ham are so fatty that they actually start to melt on the plate before you put it in your mouth. The taste is gently salty, deep and even a little funky. These do come from wild pigs, after all – it tastes similar to wild boar, but more delicate and less hearty, and that fat…
well the fat is just sublime. 
You could order the pasta sampler for lunch, with a sweet marinara sauce over penne, a creamy Alfredo sauce over rich ricotta-filled ravioli and al dente fettuccine served with beef and veal bolognese sauce. It is tasty. 
But if you want a truly breathtaking meal, you will order…
A thick layer of mozzarella cheese, stretchy in some parts and crispy at the edges, covered noodles cooked just al dente – still with a bit of bite. There was a slow cooked bolognese sauce – robust with beef, grassy with veal, a little sweet with pork, and deep with wine, sauteed vegetables and bright tomatoes. The bechamel was a thing of beauty – subtle, delicate and complimentary to the bolognese sauce instead of overpowering with richness. This lasagna was complex and layered. There were so many different components that somehow combined into a cohesive, almost ethereal taste. You might think it was heavy, but it wasn’t. It was positively light, which had to be a tribute to the chef.
Foie is great. Foie is AWESOME. But, sometimes, you want a little break. You know, for some fatty pork. And Chez Maitre Pierre is the place to take it. A bit pricey, but the food is excellent and so is the service. For Italian food in Paris, you just can’t get any better.
And now…back to the foie!

Fauchon – Foodie Fantasia

Paris isn’t just about eating. It’s also about shopping…
For food. 
 Fauchon is the foodie equivalent of Neiman  Marcus or Henri Bendel. High end, artisinal products that cost a fortune and are a once in awhile indulgence. 
 The macaron counter is a mile long. 
 Where else can you get chocolate pound cake topped with edible gold for breakfast? For BREAKFAST, I tell you!
 Let’s not ignore the gourmet eclairs with fillings like foie gras and the Mona Lisa etched on the top.
 Would you like some pate? Choose from goose, duck, pork, chicken, and any combination thereof.
You could, of course, prefer pork, rabbit, pheasant or any other number of types of rillettes.
When in doubt, why don’t you just get this whole foie gras with a gigantic black truffle. Just like what you find in your local supermarket, right?
And cheese and crackers just won’t cut it for parties here. 
If you decide to try a few treats…
 Snail Pastry
Don’t ask me what the real name of this is, just look for the brown, coiled pastry. As it breaks into croissant-like shards in your hand, notice the crunchy, sugary glaze, the warm cinnamon and the buttery layers of dough on the inside. Like a cinnamon croissant on crispy steroids. 
 Sundried Tomato, Olive and Parmesan Baguette.
Thick, crunchy crust. Slightly sweeter insides than a regular baguette, which worked well with the juicy tomatoes, salty olives and tangy Parmesan cheese. So full flavored and densely packed with the top of the line add ins. These were incredibly sweet tomatoes and plump olives. Throw some lettuce on here and it’s a full on vegetarian sandwich. 
 Pastry that Begins with a K
Get this crown-shaped dessert with a Germanic sounding name. Crunchy sugar flaked of in sheets, surrounding soft, fluffy pastry dough that was similar to challah, but with the faint alcoholic tang of rum. Nothing like a little rum for breakfast.
 Or, if you prefer, an impossibly light and flaky croissant, or a citrus-scented madeleine stuffed with sweetened condensed milk. 
 You might also prefer a chocolate croissant, with thick strips of dark, slightly bitter chocolate running through the buttery bread. 
 Green Salad with Herbs, Pine Nuts and Mustard Vinaigrette. 
Where in America can you pick up a premade salad that looks like this? Fresh greens, fragrant dill, sweet chervil, pungent chives, crunchy pine nuts and a sweet-tangy mustard vinaigrette.
 What’s more, you can even pick it up for breakfast.
 Or you could try a baguette sandwich. This one, made with cured ham, lightly salty but not at all smokey, paired with nutty Gruyere cheese and a thin schmear of sweet butter. Butter on a ham sandwich is genius. It tempers the saltiness, saves the bread from betting soggy and ads…well, it adds butteriness. 
No butter was necessary on this foie gras, arugula and raspberry jam sandwich. 
Bread, foie, vegetable, fruit. 
That’s a whole meal.
Sit at the high window-side counter and enjoy your bevvy of goodies. Fauchon is a beautiful, delicious stop on your trip – an occasional treat worth the splurge. 
Just like Paris, in general. 

Royal Madeleine Bistro – Steak Frites near the Paris Opera House

The opera area of Paris is one of the many hearts of the city. The beautiful opera house, crowned with gilded angels, is a hub of shopping and eating. Restaurants abound, but that does not mean that they are all delicious. On the contrary, many of them are tourist traps – places that serve spaghetti bolognese alongside gyros alongside martinis. A touristy lunch is okay every now and then, but let’s not make a practice of it, shall we?
Of course, if you know to turn down a tiny street called Rue du Chevalier Saint-George, you will arrive at one of the best bistros in Paris.
The Royal Madeleine is a small bistro done in the traditional French manner. Dark wood, white tablecloths, small bar and the knowledge that you will order several courses and spend a good three hours there, eating and gossiping with your friends and family.
 Rose Champagne
Rose is my favorite champagne. It always has some pinot noir or pinot meuneir grapes in there, rounding out the crisp acidity of the chardonnay grapes. It is slightly sweet, but not overly sugary at all. And it is best ordered in multiples of two – meaning, you shouldn’t have just one glass. Go for 2 or 4.
 Poppyseed Breadsticks
Crispy, buttery, flaky sticks coated in nutty, slightly bitter poppyseeds. Perfect to bring out the fruity, minerally notes of the champagne. 
Peasant bread. Tangy, pliant, wheaty, with a crisp crust.
 Amuse Bouche – Celery Root Soup
This was a perfect amuse bouche – it was a tiny shot of something creamy, rich, and hearty. The soup, tasting like a cross between celery and a baked potato, would have been far too heavy for a full sized course. As an amuse, it was decadent and whet my appetite. It left me wanting more. 
That’s what she said.
 Foie Gras d’Oie and de Canard with Raisin Chutney. 
This dish paired goose foie gras(left)with duck foie gras(right). It really showed the differences between the livers. The duck foie gras was a bit stronger in taste – more minerally and gamy. It also had less fat and more of a meaty texture. The goose foie was far fattier and smoother, with a more mild taste and the consistency of room temperature butter. 
 I preferred the goose foie gras, especially when pairing it with the sweet and tart chutney to cut through the unctuousness of the liver. 
 Charcuterie Plate with Adouillette, Salami and Rillettes.
All the items here were housemade, except for the sweet butter, the tart cornichons and the cocktail onions that burst with brine upon contact with my teeth. 
Andouillette -my first time having these intestine sausages, and likely my last time. Overpoweringly smokey with a slightly acrid taste. I could hardly taste any meat, it was more like inhaling a mouth of cigarette smoke.
Salami – peppery, porky, fragrant with what might have been juniper berries. It was far less salty or garlicky than the Italian salami I have had, and went well with the nose-searing mustard that went alongside the dish.
The rillettes – pork cooked in its own fat until it becomes tender, the consistency of pulled pork – came topped with the traditional fat cap. Some people throw away the fat cap, but it is infused with sweet porkiness that goes so well with the savory spices and meatiness of the pork meat underneath…yeah, I spread it on my bread instead of butter. 
I love pork fat. 
 Artichokes with Vinaigrette
Artichokes must be in season in France this time of year, because we found them on almost every menu we saw. I LOVE artichokes but rarely make them because they are so annoying to clean. After eating these, I realized that I will have to get over that. These were the best part of the artichokes, the crowns. Meaty, tender but not soft, with a naturally salty taste. It was filling and satisfying in the way that portobello mushrooms are – almost a meat substitute. Paired with the sharp vinaigrette, it was an example of artichokes at their finest.
 Steak Frites with Bearnaise. 
The best frites I had in Paris. Fresh, hand cut, with a thick golden crust that hid steaming, fluffy interiors. The fries were done in beef fat, that much was clear. They had a deep, round taste that only comes from cooking potatoes in animal fat. The bearnaise, one of my favorite sauces, was thick enough to coat a spoon and filled with sharp, licorice-y tarragon. And the steak…
See how blurry this picture is? That is because I was involved in a love affair at the time it was taken. A love affair with this steak. Cooked a perfect medium rare, with a thin, salty crust that surrounded a soft but not mushy center, incredibly tender and filled with pure beefy flavor. This was a perfect steak, and an exemplary example of what beef should be – wild tasting, robust and utterly satisfying.
This whole meal was utterly satisfying. As far as French prices go, it was comparable with other upscale bistros – meaning, the prices are sky high for Americans, but reasonable for Paris. The service was enthusiastic, sweet and exactly what you want out of a special meal. We were not rushed or ignored, and were treated to some of the best food we had in Paris. 

Bofinger – The Consummate Parisian Brasserie

I have showed you one of my favorite bistros, and now it’s time to take a look at a brasserie – a big, bustling Parisian restaurant with a laid back atmosphere, all day hours and a huge menu. 
Brasserie Bofinger has been around since the late 1800s, and is now run by a French restaurant company called Flo. The people there run a number of brasseries in Paris, and while some call the brasseries in the group “Disneyfied,” Flo has managed to keep up the standards of the historic buildings and a high quality of food. 
If that is Disney, let me at it!
Bofinger is large restaurant with several rooms, an upstairs area…
and a gorgeous glass cupola that dates from 1919. It lets light into the restaurant and lends a belle epoque air to the entire space. Really sets the tone, and is very Midnight in Paris
Complimentary Nibbles
The bread was among the worst we had in Paris (not bad, just not incredible like bread in the other restaurants), and the pretzels were plain as could be, but the olives blew my mind. Briny, oily and flecked with rosemary and thyme, they were meaty and they were delicious. 
Duck Foie Gras with Wine Gelee and Pear Chutney. 
This foie gras was just what it should be. Velvety, rich, slightly irony and slightly sweet with the acidic gelee and the sweet chutney. As I spread it on the warm toasted brioche, it melted slightly, forming a thick layer of fat mixed with sweet and tart. It was exceptional and the reason that i love foie. 
Escargots with Garlic and Herb Butter.
Almost as good as the escargots at Chez Andre. They were the same soft, juicy, mild escargots as before, drenched in sweet butter and grassy herbs. The only thing I was missing was a bit more garlic. I relish the pungent hit of garlic, and if I’m not kissing anyone, I want a lot of it!
Seafood Choucroute with Haddock, Salmon, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and Half a Lobster atop Potatoes and Sauerkraut. 
One of the specialties of the house, choucroute is usually made with sausages, pork and other meats served with the salted cabbage, but this version used seafood in place of the traditional proteins. I was scared the sauerkraut would overpower the seafood, but it did just the opposite. The sauerkraut was not at all salty or sulfer-y, just vibrant and pleasantly sour. It worked much the way lemon does, bringing out the fattiness of the salmon, and the salty-meaty-crunchy-tender contrast of the bacon wrapped scallops. This was a fantastic and unique dish – highly recommended. 
Sole Meuniere
Flaky, delicate, incredibly mild fish – this is as close to shellfish and fish gets. Perfectly filleted, with a tart and rich sauce that was full of lemon, wine and butter. Butter, in all of it’s rich earthiness, blending with the soft but not mushy texture and almost sweet taste of the fish. This is a deceptively filling dish – all that butter has a consequence. 
A delicious consequence. 
My dish came with boiled potatoes, but come on…
When there are french fries
and a boat full of bearnaise…what do you think I am eating as my starch?
Bofinger is a winner. Beautiful, delicious and fairly priced. Though there was a service issue regarding my fish (it was not cooked properly), our server was very apologetic and replaced my dish immediately. This restaurant, with its history, huge menu and well prepared classic food, is a consummate example of a classic brasserie.

The Best Worst Lunch in Paris

You know those times on vacation when you just flew in, are in a super touristy part of town, haven’t eaten in about 12 hours and start to snap at each other?
And by snap at each other, I mean you start to fantasize about killing your entire family?
At times like that, you step into the nearest possible restaurant. 
 Even if no one else is in it, it looks like the inside of a Disneyland ride, and…
 there is a giant laminated menu. 
 You could get a boring but impeccably fresh salad, with ham and potatoes. 
 Mussels Mariniere.
You could get these traditional mussels, steamed in white wine, lemon and onions. The shocking thing is how delicious this pot of mussels were – all sweet and juicy, with nary a grain of sand nor shriveled mussel among them. This was a better pot of mussels than many I have had in NYC. 
 Chevre Chaud Salad
You would do well to order the chevre chaud salad. This is one of my FAVORITE foods on the planet – a fresh green salad, served with toasts topped with creamy, grassy goat cheese, broiled until melting and bubbling. Cool lettuce, sharp vinaigrette and piquant goat cheese make for the perfect bite.
Of cures, if you are the smartest one (as the mother always is), you will get the tartiflette. A dish popular in the French Alps, this is made with Reblechon cheese (Similar to the St. Marcellin), bacon, onions and potatoes. All sauteed and melted into a skillet. That’s right…melty cheese, salty bacon, sweet onions and tender potatoes. 
If it gets better than that, you had better email me stat and let me know what I have been missing.
Bottom line – this was not the best meal in France, but it was still so good that I would make it my favorite restaurant if ti were in the States. How is it possible that every SINGLE restaurant in France, even the crappy ones, are better than our great ones?! This was incredibly cheap, and even though the service was totally horrendous, it was still a delicious lunch. And after a little tartiflette, I barely even wanted to kill my family anymore.