Monday, May 30, 2011

A Picnic come true

We finally found a spot closer to home for our picnic. A fifteen minute drive outside the city took us along the banks of the river Marne, a tributary of the Seine in the little town of Gourney sur Chelles. We weren't the only family with this idea and there were a number camped out with their barbecue equipment and frisbees. Yes, frisbees in France!

Our spread was a lot more modest (mostly charcuterie, fromage and baguette) but I was hungry enough that by the time we laid out our feast, the thought of taking photos somehow escaped me!

No matter, I soon made up for it by taking some shots of where we were starting with these ruins of an old gate. I'm not sure how old they are, but they certainly looked old enough to be picturesque.

This particular stretch of the river is a sanctuary for various birds. We saw mostly ducks and geese and there was also a majestic white swan.

Isn't she lovely? And aren't the babies cute?

Then she did this completely funny thing..I suppose she was diving for fish, but it looked so much like she was mooning us, swan style!

A last glimpse before heading back..

Next time, we'll head out along the little towns along the Seine and see where it leads us

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guessing game

We were taking a stroll when I spotted this store window. Isn't this cute? And so unexpected for this store. I'll leave you to guess which store it is. Clue...they're famous for their ultra expensive bags (check the background for a glimpse of some of them!), some of which are named after some famous ladies.

I'll be waiting to hear from you!

Friday, May 20, 2011

An evening of wine

La Bibliotheque

Five years of living here and I still haven't acquired the habit of imbibing wine.   Usually I'll take a glass of champagne or wine and it'll stay in my hand long after everybody else has been served their seconds and thirds. Which is not to say I don't have certain favorites. For apero, I love a bit of Muscat which is sweet and complements all the salty savories that we munch on. I like white wines like the slightly sweet Pouilly Fuisse; I don't even mind having it with red meat. Ooh and  whenever I have foie gras, I love Sauternes, the sweet wine that goes so wonderfully with it. Re-reading these sentences, I've noticed a distinct pattern.  Hmmm...I guess I have a sweet tooth.  But  this isn't to say that I haven't met a couple of reds that have been memorable to the palate.

So in general, a wine bar  is wasted on someone like me (pun unintended). Except of course if there is a special occasion that warrants a visit like a friend's recent surprise birthday dinner party.  On the appointed date and time, we hied off to O-Chateau, the city's latest wine bar located in the heart of the 1st arrondissement. It has a young hip vibe and they have three rooms available for private parties.  We lucked out because  the Bibliotheque (Library) room was reserved for us.  Instead of books, the shelves in this library was stocked with what looked to be hundreds of bottles from all over the world. What sets O-Chateau apart from the other wine bars is that wine tastings take place practically everyday and is not limited to certain kinds of wine. According to their brochure, even the most exclusive vintages like Chateau Margaux and Petrus, to name just two, can be tried by the glass. And, because they believe that wine tastings shouldn't be limited to the French, they even offer tastings to the Anglophone crowd!

For this birthday party, we had at least 4 -5 different kinds of wine, both red and white. Given my "wonderful" capacity for wine, I could only remember one and it was just really really good and smooth.  It was the Chasse-Spleen, a Bordeaux classe premier cru.  According to my French half, this category was established in 1855 to denote a first class wine.  And first class this one was!

And because this was a wine bar after all, the food part of the dinner came in tapas form. Platters and platters of charcuterie, fromage and foie gras. Oh but lest I forget, the chef also made this wonderful dish of parmentier de canard which is basically layers of potato interspersed with roasted duck. This version had just enough creaminess so that it just kinda melted in your mouth. Yummy!

Practical details:
68 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fruits of the season

In an effort to make more healthy meals for the family, I've been trying to buy vegetables and fruits that are in season.  Now Monday is normally the day when our usual vegetable seller is closed. Fortunately there is another place which remains open on Mondays and I was pleasantly surprised to find them carrying such beautiful produce. 

Just look at these gorgeous tomatoes of all colors. They were labelled les tomates du village and I'm sure would make a wonderful salad with...mozarella cheese!

 Up until I read Market Man's post (read here), I'd never seen a red basil in my life. Imagine my surprise to find it here! Sitting all quiet next to a juicy looking watermelon.

 Apricots are now in season, along with cherries, and these looked and smelled divine!

 Okay, I said I'm trying to buy only those in season but these ...are my favorite! Take a guess what this is?

Clue: they are tropical fruits, are extremely sweet when ripe, but are wonderfully sour when unripe and perfect for salads!

Dinner date

 Visiting Montmartre is a little like finding a secret Parisian village.  Its hilly location allows for some spectacular views over the city and there are little houses tucked inside imposing gates.  Of course there is the usual tourist circuit concentrated around the Sacre Coeur as well as the less savory side of Pigalle, but there are also quiet streets full of quirky boutiques and small charming restaurants.

We found one such restaurant when we dined, a deux, in Chez Pommette.  This intimate and warm restaurant is perched a top one of those high Montmartre streets which on a clear day looks all the way out to the Pantheon.  They even have the benefit of having a tiny terrace which was then happily occupied by two ladies with their apero drinks.

I need to come back and take a daytime picture, the better to show you the Pantheon!
 I'm happy to report that the food at Chez Pommette was savory, fresh and appealing to the senses and the palate.

We started with fresh roasted asparagus wrapped with prosciutto ham topped with ricotta cheese.  And since asparagus are currently in season they tasted wonderfully fresh and if I may say, spring-like.   The ham and cheese complimented the taste wonderfully.

For the plat, I decided to go with the fish served with black tagliatelle noodles and a serving of pineapples.  Very savory indeed, with the noodles balancing the briny taste of the fish.  The pineapples served to lighten the flavors of the dish and the sauce was a nice counterpoint.

And while I was happy with my fish dish, I must say that I was happy to take a bite of the pan fried veal and roasted potatoes just across me!

Dessert, always the best part was delicious! Their ile flottante, this sweet confection of vanilla meringue like dessert served with delicious creme anglais, was easily one of the best I've had in a while. Its not easy to make good ile flottante because its supposed to be light tasting despite all the calorific ingredients but this one hit all the right notes.

And ooh, their chocolate fondant cake was yummy and freshly made.. Unlike other restaurants, the fondant center of the chocolate came out warm and gooey...
How could I not take a photo?   Chocolate together with more cream and I was in heaven.....

One last fond look before we hit the road....

Practical details:

Chez Pommette
86 bis, rue Lepic
01 42 64 90 54

Monday, May 9, 2011

A reverie

 Whenever I think of idyllic summer days, I have in my mind a river scene. Now, I haven't actually had much experience wading in rivers or spending lazy days along a river bank, but in my dreams, I've already been there. I've laid out  a red and white gingham picnic cloth on the grass and set out a proper spread of cheese and grapes, a hunk of bread and a jug of cool apple juice.  Of course I would also have packed several books with me.

Yesterday, I might have found just the spot for my reverie on this side of the river Moselle.  This river is a tributary of the Rhine in Germany and runs through Luxembourg till the Lorraine region of France.  Its total length is an impressive 546 kilometers.

But where we were was peaceful and slow with hardly a ripple to show.  The small meadow was dotted with wild flowers, their faces turned to the sun.

Next time around I will have my picnic by the river bank ...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Le menu de Monsieur Ducasse

What better way to mark a momentous birthday than with a stupendous feast?

We set out in the balmy evening for the Plaza Athenee in one of Paris' most chichi streets....

And we were ushered into a room decorated with chandeliers that would not be out of place in the Chateau de Versailles

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The return of the brocante post

 Its been awhile since I did a Brocante post so I thought I would share photos from the last one I visited. Remember the Marche de Place d'Aligre (read post here) I visited a couple of weeks ago? It turns out that on Easter Monday, a big brocante takes place there with about a hundred stands.  As befits the nature of the neighborhood, there was all manner of stuff available for sale. And as it was a bright and scorching hot day, droves of people turned out for the brocante.

Unlike other brocantes, this one had more than its fair share of vintage clothes.  There were a few stands selling what seemed to be the dustiest and raggediest looking clothes I ever did see. Its a measure of how dusty they were that I didn't even attempt to wade through them though it didn't stop a good number of hardy souls. I couldn't even take photos that's how packed they were!

So I left them to it and wondered around looking at other stands and look what I found....

A stand selling someone's collection of pencil sharpeners from the 50s! These were made in Spain and are in metal and came in various shapes and forms.  How neat are these?

Baccarat crystalware...
One stand had stacks and stacks of scarves but her prized piece was an Hermes one, proudly set aside from the rest ......

But my absolute favorite was this antique travel vanity case.  It came complete with a mirror, little tweezers,brushes and perfume bottles in this beautiful leather case. It really must have been something to travel like this before all the size and weight restrictions.