Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Food-a-pa-looza

It was quite the food fest week-end for me.  Yes, I know you might think everyday is food focused for me, but I dug in for even more food from more places in France the last few days.

Friday was La Fete de Region with "the best products of all of the French Regions."  It was a beautiful sunny day so a friend and I took off on our bikes for a nice ride along the Canal St. Martin until it dead ended at Place Stalingrad, a nice outdoor plaza along the water.

Booths were filled with beautiful bottles of jams, jellies, foie gras, and oils.  


 

And it wouldn't be a food fete without beaucoup de fromage and saucisson.






I had my first oysters while in Paris here and they were wonderfully flavorful and you can't beat 6 oysters for 6 euros.


My friend Doni of Girl's Guide to Paris fame, then took me to a blogger party where many of the local writers in Paris came by and talked about their websites while just socializing and drinking wine.  I even talked about my little blog and I hope to be able to do some more writing for others soon!



The oysters and cheese had about worn off by now, so on our walk home, we ended up walking past a Mexican spot that we've heard much talk about, Rice and Beans.  We thought we should at least try out a taco or 3, and that we did.

Two large communal tables are inside a colorful graffiti'd window, but it was full so we sat outside.  We ordered a 3 taco combination plate which came with the traditional rice and beans, though it's not that traditional in France seeing as black beans are a near black market item.  The plate had most of the usual suspects there with tortillas of chicken, pork and beef, but there was nothing special going on.  The French aren't big with spices, but that said, they did deliver a thick, chunky salsa with some heat on it, but it couldn't bring me back anywhere near LA standarads, let alone that of Mexico.

Farm Fun
Saturday was the Farm Product Show, where the farmer took center stage and showed off his goods from all over the country.  This event was held at Espace Champerret, a convention center type place, though the space we were in was more of a dark, dank basement with no ventilation, which can be challenging with a lot of smells.  It was foie gras heaven with cans and jars at nearly every booth.


There were butchers and vintners side by side all handing out free tastes. 

After much sampling, we decided to sit down to a more substantial meal of a rich, dense potato, ham, cheesy mix that was so good, but so filling, and should not be eaten by one person or in one sitting.  We also had some amazing fresh grilled mushrooms in an omelet that was simple perfection.

Quai Quai
Luckily I had the afternoon to digest before moving to the next meal.  A few of us met up for a really good dinner at Quai Quai, a simple but superb spot on Ile de la Cite.  The back dining room while only having a handful of tables, at least had them spread out so you weren't sitting in the lap of the party next to you, which is pretty refreshing in Paris.

I had an enormous orb of mozzarella cheese, that no, I didn't eat all of, and yes, I did share.

I had an amazing rouget fish that was perfectly cooked on a bed of ratatouille.  A really solid meal that everyone enjoyed.

WHY?
Needing a nightcap, we went to Why and had some cocktails.  The cocktail crazy has hit Paris, just like all the major US cities.  I've never gotten too swept up in it because when I'm not drinking wine, I like a simple dirty martini.  When you start putting other juices and herbs in it, I get a little lost, and this night was no exception.  I started with what looked to be a lovely rasberryesque drink, but it was just a thick martini with junk in the way of my vodka.  The ladies loved their fruity drinks and champagne cocktails so we went in for another round, but for my second, I asked if they could make my old favorite avec jus d'olive.  Voila, I had my first good dirty martini in Paris.  Yes, I know you all were very worried I wouldn't have enough to drink here.


They did have an interesting section on the menu for "deconstructed" drinks.  You might have seen deconstructed menu items where instead of something like lasagna, they give you a hunk of cheese, a dollop of tomato sauce next to it and a side of pasta. The same idea works for the drink here where they have it in different compartments including a shot glass for the alcohol.  It's pretty, but not very practical if you ask me.



The Grand Finale - HK
Sunday was a day of a long run along the Seine, chores and preparation for....HKHK, aka, Hidden Kitchen is an underground supper club where I somehow scored a seat, and this was a seat for their final dinner before the hosts are opening their own restaurant and wine bar.  An american couple came to Paris a few years ago and thought a good way to meet new friends was to serve them dinner in their home.  Good plan and if I had an oven, I might do the same.  Their idea worked so well that the concept morphed into a very successful 4 year run of serving multi course meals in their home each week to a select group of willing diners. Now actually being selected to attend these dinners has become quite the hot ticket, so I was beyond excited to not only get a seat, but to attend the big grand finale.

The exact address is e-mailed to you just before your dinner and with a little navigation, a secret door code, and up an elevator, you find yourself transported to foodie heaven.  A beautiful dining room with crown molding, soft lights, and candles everywhere greet you along with hostess Laura who gives you a champagne cocktail with pomegranate seeds floating on top.  After some socializing, the lucky 16 sit down to what turns into 10 courses over 4 hours, each course more fabulous than the one before, with perfect wine pairings.  The meal went something like this.





Amuse Bouche of a squash soup with a tempura fried sage leaf.




 

Charred onion with wine poached mejul, celery root and orange





 Red cabbage angliotti (like a little ravioli), sea urchin butter, mint, caper - mint was a brilliant addition!


 
House smoked salmon, cabbage, chilies, buckwheat, potato


Palate cleansing sorbet







 Crispy pork belly with beet, wild rice, 
endive and olives













Braised beef cheeks, dok, broccoli, radish and blue cheese







 

Quince sorbet with chevre custard and graham

Chocolate and chestnut pave with pears and candied lemon


 And a few other treats in case we were still hungry



It was such a great meal and evening.  This young couple from Seatle has found a way to make a really unique and intimate dining experience.  We met great people from all over the world while eating some of the most fantastic food in a really special setting.

This is the man of the hour Braden who did all of the cooking above in this little kitchen.  There was an enormous level of detail and thought that went into each course.  Braden came out and discussed each course with us and also took questions and told us about their new restaurant Verjus that should be opening tonight!

If they're restaurant is even half as good as this meal, there's no doubt they will continue to be an enormous success.  Now the question will be can I get a reservation at the restaurant?

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