Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 2 Dinner: Spring

Jeeves and I love to eat, as you well know. We have learned from previous trips that it is important to research good places to eat ahead of time, and where possible, get a reservation. When we finally booked our trip to France, we started researching good restaurants that would be open while we were there (and that was a problem in and of itself - a lot of places we wanted to eat were closed for part of August). We also asked people whose foodie opinions we admire where they thought we should eat. Our wedding caterer, the amazing Yen, who has a contagious laugh and a true joie de vivre, lit up when we told her we were going to France. She had just been a few months before, and she immediately told us we had to go to Spring.

It was funny that she should mention Spring - we had both heard of it from this New York Times article. Additionally, it was mentioned in a few other things we had read. Yen said that and one other meal were by far some of the best food she has eaten in awhile, and I can assure you that Yen has exacting standard. I was intrigued - Spring's owner is a Chicago-native and is apparently devoted to cooking with seasonal local ingredients.

So, this is why having a travel agent was a brilliant move on our part - our travel agent took care of a lot of reservations for us, including Spring, which would not give us a reservation over e-mail. It all worked out in the end, thanks to our travel agent Peggy, and we had a 7pm reservation at Spring.

We were one of the earlier tables at this tiny little place, and just as the New York Times' promised, there was owner Daniel Rose standing at the front of the open kitchen bossing around his staff with seriously American accented French.

We ordered the tasting with the wine pairings, which was solely focused on French whites.

Course 1, which I weirdly do not have a picture of, was a trio of dishes - cucumber with peppercorns, Spanish ham with melon, and seaweed butter with bread. The seaweed butter was a little weird, but everything else was excellent.

Course 2: Zucchini blossom stuffed with trout and langoustine, spiced chicken jelly, salad of cucumber, squash, green beans, white beans, and herbs.

This was one of the best things I ate while in France. So subtle, yet so delicious. And the chicken jelly - oy. I wish I had some now to smear on some bread.

Course 3: Heirloom tomatoes with tuna and veal sauce.

The crazy thing about this dish was that the tomatoes were extremely smoky. It complimented the fatty tuna beautifully. Just a really nicely balanced dish, but not quite as good as the stuffed squash blossom.

Course 4: Chicken breast and leg (sous vide/roasted/pan seared) and lobster.

Another victory - and again, one of the best things I ate in France. The chicken was pure perfection - so much so that I asked if it was sous vide, and was told it was a combination of sous vide, roasting, and pan sear. Just perfect. And who doesn't love some perfectly cooked lobster.

Next up - 5 different cheeses. Sadly I did not write down the types, but I did take a picture.

Dessert was stewed blackberries, a deconstructed lemon pie, and a dark chocolate sorbet - all lovely. We were so stuffed.

Service was excellent, and the wine pairings were delicious. We had a truly memorable Alsatian riesling and a once-in-a-lifetime Georges Vernay Condrieu. After dinner, we went for a walk across the street to see the Louvre, lit up for the evening.

Then we went for a long, beautiful walk along the Seine until we reached Notre Dame illuminated. We finished the evening back near our hotel at the Cafe Montparnasse where we had a glass of wine. It was the perfect Parisian evening.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 2 - Where did all these people come from?

I did not sleep well the first night in Paris thanks to the incredibly rich dinner the night before. In the lead up to the wedding, I was not eating a lot thanks to stress, and what I did eat was light and healthy. So my body was definitely not used to the richness of the food. Jeeves went out and got us some pastries for breakfast from Poilane. It seems impossible to find a protein based breakfast in France, although you can get an omelette from time to time. But they don't seem as into yogurt as we are. Anyway, this is all to say that we ate a lot of pastries for breakfast while there.

Our first stop that morning was Notre Dame cathedral. It was late morning by this point, and we very briefly considered getting in line to go to the top of the cathedral until we learned the line was 2+ hours long. No thank you. So instead we settled for just going into the cathedral, which is free. And lovely. Also crowded. Very very crowded. The fact that it's so crowded and there are people snapping flash photos and yacking away takes away from the general feelings I get in churches. I'm not a religious person by any stretch, but I like the beauty and solitude of churches. I think they are a great place for meditation. While ND was beautiful, it was definitely not a place for meditation.

We walked around the cathedral and went onto the bridge behind it for a lovely view of the cathedral and the Seine.

We walked over to a smaller island in the river to see if this famous ice cream place was open. Sadly, it was one of the August closures. Le Sigh.

We thought we'd check out St. Chappelle, which many friends had recommended to us, but the line was incredibly long and I was starting the get cranky with all these tourists about. So we opted to go for what turned into a very long walk for lunch. We passed the impressive Pompidou Center, and ultimately arrived at Chez Prune, which had been recommended by a friend of Jeeves. It was certainly packed with locals, but for the most part the food was just okay. Jeeves had a pork dish and I had swordfish (I thought I was ordering steak, but it turned out it was a steak of swordfish... which is fine). We continued to walk for a bit along the canals in the neighborhood where we watched a momma duck and her babies. We both worried about one little baby who kept falling behind. I hope he's okay!

Next up, we metro to Sacre Coeur, which is high on a hill in the Montmartre neighborhood. It's a long walk up the hill to the church, which was consecrated in 1919. The place is mobbed with tourists and the area outside the church is a freaking carnival, complete with Bob Marley music blasting. But inside the church, it is quiet and there is no photography permitted. Also men cannot wear hats in doors. All of this is strictly enforced, and I found Sacre Coeur had a much more meditative quality than Notre Dame. It's really quite beautiful. And although the outside area is a bit of a shit show, it does offer an incredible view of the city. Le view:

Jeeves and I walked around Montmartre a bit, which I understand has become much more touristy in recent years. We stopped at Cafe Le Sancerre and had this lovely cheese plate for a snack.

The cheeses were a camembert, St. Nectair, bleu d'Avergne, and Cantal. Yummy. We headed back to the hotel after that, where I took a much needed nap. Dinner was to be at Spring, which I will post in a separate entry, because I have a lot to say about it and lots of food pictures.

Honeymoon in Paris

It used to be when I came back from a grand vacation that I would write a daily e-mail to Kate in which I told her everything I did on each day of the trip. It took a long time, but it was worth it. Aside from telling her everything I did, it also gave me a pretty great travel journal that I could look back on for years. Long after I forgot the name of the restaurant where I had spatzel with cheese in Berlin, I could look it up. But it's hard to do that, and when I came back from my honeymoon, I went straight back to work and school and had very little time for writing.

Kate suggested that when I had the time, I should blog about my trip and include pictures. So here goes.

We left for France on August 8th, two days after our completely amazing wedding. Of course, in typical Megs fashion, the flight was delayed. But we didn't know that till we got on the plane, taxied out to the runway and then sat on the tarmac for two hours because of technical problems. Ultimately, we deplaned and had to wait for a new plane to come. Sucky. But we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport and flew through passport control. Seriously, the passport guy didn't even look up from the passport to see if the photo matched the person standing in front of him. We hopped in a cab and got to our hotel quickly. Our hotel, Le Littre, was in the St. Germain neighborhood, in the 6th Arrondisement. The room was quite big - much bigger than anything you'd get in New York. And we had a wonderful surprise from Jeeves' brother and sister-in-law when we arrived - champagne and strawberries!

We decided to go out for a walk to a bakery Jeeves had heard was good.

Now, this is the part where I should mention that August is a busy tourist time in Paris, but all the locals head out of town for a couple of weeks. As a result, a lot of stores and restaurants can be closed. But not Poilane! Poilane is open and with my broken high school French and some pointing, we leave with a pain chocolat and an apple tart. The apple tart was amazing. Sadly, I ate it too quickly to take a picture.

We then go to St. Germain des Pres - the oldest church in Paris (which is saying something). Then we meander through the beautiful streets to St. Sulpice. We stop at Cafe de la Mairire where we sit outside and have a glass of wine. The fountain in front of St. Sulpice is above.

We walked back to the hotel, both quite exhausted and jet lagged.

For dinner, we headed out to Chez Dumonez/Josephine - a very old and famous traditional French restaurant in our neighborhood. We had a wonderful bottle of Corbiere - wine in France is crazy cheap and amazingly delicious. I never appreciated French wine before this trip and now it's practically all I want to drink.

That was my appetizer - mushrooms stuffed with foie gras. Yummy. Jeeves had a pate de campagne - also fantastic. I then had the foie gras entree, and Jeeves had the boeuf bourguignon. My foie gras was not the best. First off, they didn't devein it, which... was... gross. Also, the sauce that came with it was so heavy, that later on in the evening I felt quite ill. Jeeves' boeuf, however, was the best I've ever had.

For dessert, we had a traditional souffle and some champagne that was complementary because there was a very long wait between our appetizer and entree. I think Jeeves and I were annoyed about it at the time, but honestly, dinner takes about 3 hours in France, so you get used to it and you stop being such a rushed American about everything.

One of the funniest things about this dinner was that there are three rooms at Chez Dumonez - the front and back rooms were all French speakers, and the middle room was all English speakers (primarily Americans) because there was only one waiter in the place who speaks English. The Americans were mortifying. I mean, every negative stereotype - these people managed to hit. My favorite was the table where the man demanded shrimp (not on the menu) and asked the waiter to "just make me some surf and turf" and then asked for a rum and diet coke. He was extremely annoyed to learn that they did not have rum. The woman at the table asked for a glass of ice and proceeded to dump it into her white wine. Yikes.

It was very cool in Paris, and we were cold walking home. But it felt great to be there. Tune in for the next post to find out what we did on August 10th!