Sunday, November 2, 2008

American Toast? Hell no...

Who said French toast was an American food anyway?  Pain perdu, French for "lost bread" can be equally enjoyed here in Paris.  Of course, only Americans it seems enjoy it for breakfast, but who cares?

Last night I restrained myself from eating the entire baguette and saved some for this morning.  Slightly stale and unappealing to eat, I sliced the demi-baguette into about half inch slices.  This bread would not be lost!  

Then I whipped up a mixture of eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt to soak the slices in.  After soaking the slices in the liquid for a few minutes, it was time to Frenchify the toast.  In a liberally buttered skillet (think Paula Deen), I placed each slice until it was a golden-ishy brown, and then popped it in the oven to finish up with a sprinkle of salt on top to make the crust that much sweeter.

The final touch was a brown sugar and cinnamon butter that I stirred together while the toast hung out in the oven.  Once the toast was was all warm and delicious, I dabbed a dollop of the sweet butter on top of each morsel of bread where it began to melt and dribble all over the plate.  It tasted familiar, yet decidedly French. I’m convinced it was the butter.  It’s just better here!

French toast in France – what a novel idea.  

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Dear Sweet Pumpkin...

I needed a fix, and I needed it now.  But Paris was not serving up pumpkin pie–ANYWHERE.  So I took matters into my own hands.  I printed some recipes, approximated some measurements, and took the plunge.

The hardest part (well, not really hard) was finding canned pumpkin.  Thanks to Bon Marché, one of the classy department stores in Paris, I was able to find a section in the gourmet grocery dedicated to the USA and its products.  I didn’t recognize any of the brands, b

ut I found canned pumpkin for about 3 Euros all the same.  Naturally I bought 3 cans.

The pie was surprisingly easy to make.  I used a few different recipes to accommodate changes in ingredients (example, there is no evaporated milk here, just a much sweeter condensed milk).  But I mixed the eggs, sugars, milks, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin together until it was a creamy consistency.

The next hurdle was the crust, since Paris doesn’t sell pie shells like they do in the US.  I had to go buy a metal pie tin (reusable at least!).  Then I bought a rolled-up tart shell that you lay into the pie pan.  I filled it up with the mixture, gave the crust a quick egg wash, and popped it in my Celsius oven.  Thank you, Google for converting 350 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius.

The result was a delicious-looking golden pie and an apartment perfumed with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Amazing!  The next morning, I toted the pie through the Parisian metro where I received all sorts of stares of confusion.  Pie, in the metro?  What can this mean?

I arrived safely at work where my French colleagues were eager to try this odd pastry.  The results were unanimous.  By 10AM the pan was nearly empty, but for a small morsel for the work study student.  It was sweet, but surprisingly pumpkin-tasting, unlike any pie I had tried in the States, and dare I say, better than any I had tried in the states!  Cut back on the sugar, people, it’s a PUMPKIN pie, after all! 

Fall is here!

Bienvenue a Paris!

My how four weeks can go by without an update! We’ll let the photos do the talking to see how my Parisian cooking has fared so far.  The grocery bill has been tight, and the cooking space dismally small, but I think there have been some successes overall. Take a look!
Chicken nuggets anyone?  You don't need to go to McDonald's for these delights.  And carrots cooked in butter and brown sugar make it seem almost healthy!  The mustard is a mix of dijon and pure honey, giving you a real honey mustard that's spicy and sweet at the same time.
Pasta tossed with chicken and dried basil is simple and economic.  I like to throw some butter and a splash of olive oil to keep the pasta from drying out while in the pan.
This was a winner.  Homemade tomatoe sauce with lentils -- just stew some canned tomatoes with a dash of tomato paste and the spices of your choice.
You see, there isn't a whole lot of room.  But I make it work.

And there's always a baguette somewhere in the house.
This is one of my favorite.  Coucous is a regular in the kitchen, boiled with some chicken boullion. But the chicken is this dish's star.  Cooked with sun dried tomatoes and onions in olive oil, it's a taste of Italy with the flufffy and soft couscous.
This dish was sinfully simple.  It even looks easy.  It's just some scrambled eggs alongside penne and carrots.  Not surprising, but suprisingly filling.
I slaved over a pot of tomato sauce all night.  I added green olives, onions, carrots, and eventually lentils over some penne.  The sauce tasted better than anything out of a jar.  

This one was really savory.  I made some couscous with carrots (because both are extremely cheap) served up with sautéed sausage and onions.  The perfect meal after a day at work.   

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Head's up, McDonald's...

Here’s some cool news out of India.  The first commercial, fast food version of a favorite Indian food, vada pav, is becoming popular in Mumbai.  The vegetarian version of a cheeseburger is essentially just a deep fried potato patty.  This article from the AFP discuss the significance of the vada pav’s commercialization and its potential to rival the success of McDonald’s in India.

McDonald’s has done a great job marketing internationally, infiltrating even resistant markets like France and the Middle East.  But the key to their success has been marketing local foods in a fast food variety.  “Greek Mac” anybody?  Here are some more examples. 

And while McDonald’s in India serves up a vada pav-like sandwich, a new Indian company, Jumbo King, based in Mumbai, sells authentic versions for less, giving McDonald’s a run for its money.  It’ll be interesting to see if McDonald’s can keep its foothold in India with new local chains revving up the competition!  Is this a backlash against globalization (read Americanization) that might actually succeed?  I guess we’ll see.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Brownie sandwich time...

Who knew I liked to bake?  Wait – who said I do?  I just have a lot of time on my hands.

Today: brownies.  The trick?  Buy a ready-made mix.  This time I ignored Betty in favor of Ghirardelli, which offers half the sex appeal, but is twice as gay.  Gay as in HAPPY.  Geeze.  (But really, come on, it’s from San Francisco.)  Anyway, I mixed up the batter with some water, veggie oil, and an egg and prepared to bake them up.

But plain old brownie squares are boring, I thought.  So how to jazz them up?  I took a cue from my Betty Crocker cake in my previous baking post and employed the layer method.  Layered brownies?  Yeah, it’s happening.

So I baked two circular brownie discs and sandwiched some whipped vanilla frosting in between them.  It’s not too rich so it goes well with the OVERLY rich chocolate brownies.  And to top it off, another thin layer of frosting with a peanut butter drizzle.  Refrigerate it to let everything set up, and voila. 

Another good option would have been a cream cheese filling.  Sweeten up some regular old Philadelphia cream cheese with some powdered sugar and vanilla extra, throw in some chocolate chips, and you’ve got a delicious creamy and textured filling for your brownie discs. 

Once the pie/cake/concoction is nice and cold, I’ll slice it up and get it in some Tupperware.  No one likes stale brownies, right?  

Stay tuned, I’m heading to Paris in (cross your fingers) exactly one week!   

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome Fall: Pumpkin Pie Ice!!!

WOW. So for those of you in PA and NJ, head to your local Rita’s Italian Ice and try something amazing: a pumpkin pie gelati. For the rest of you, sorry, it’s an east coast thang.

This summertime treat has always been a perennial favorite in my hometown. Soft Italian ices (we call it “water ice”) layered with soft-serve ice cream makes something called a gelati. Just call it heaven.

But THIS year, Rita’s came out with a limited time flavor that I hope becomes a staple, pumpkin pie cream ice. It’s like creamy water—I mean Italian ice. So, a pumpkin pie gelati with vanilla ice cream is perfect frozen version of the pumpkin pie we all know and love. The cinnamon sweetness and solid pumpkin pie flavor are simply stunning in the iced version. It’s totally a surprise.

If you pass by a Rita’s, stop by and try one of these genius concoctions. What a way to cap the summer while welcoming the fall!

Waiter, what's your soup du jour?

The countdown continues to my (indefinite) departure from America to France. The debilitatingly slow French government needs to approve my visa. Anyway, while packing and goodbyes are all priorities, the voyage itself is also in the front of my mind. Most notably, what will I eat on the plane? It’s the all important question.

While some flights have toyed with the idea of cutting in-flight meals, along with other comforts, I began to get nervous. I, like many people, look forward to the meal procedure. Its distracting, it takes up time, it requires my attention, and, if you’re on Air France, in involves wine. What a no brainer.

The quality of food need not be mentioned.

But as I’m flying Air India, I wonder what we’ll eat. Curry chicken? Will there be naan? One would hope. But it’s curious that usually the food on all airlines is the same basic chicken, beef, or fish dish. Does Aer Lingus serve up boxty or coddle? Will Air Maroc dish up some couscous?

I haven’t flown quite enough to know, but I can say that most every meal I have ever eaten on a plane could have been served up on any carrier I have taken. Is that just me? Air France did have a French spin, serving individual tiny baguettes and wine, something at Continental or American never did on a transatlantic flight.

Why not mix it up a bit? Let the cultural experience begin from take-off! If people don’t like beef goulash and potato pancakes, just serve them up some Jack and Coke, which Air India did for me two years ago. It was the most tranquil flight ever.

I guess we’ll see what Air India has on the burner for me when the flight takes off soon!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A date with Betty C...

Move over Martha. I mean, move over Martha, please. Apparently I can bake! I spent a rainy day inside baking the family (read: me) a delightful peanut butter concoction. It looks AND tastes good. Surprised?

So first of all, I got some help from Betty Louise (I bet that’s her middle name) Crocker. She supplied me with some basic yellow cake mix to start with – not a huge fan, but wait, it gets better. As I mixed in the eggs, butter, and milk, I drizzled in some peanut butter. Not too much, but just enough.

A little Skippy goes a long way.

Then I put the cake in a small circular pan so it would make a nice big round cake that I could slice in two. I always love cakes that have a surprise layer in the middle.

Easy enough, I melted some peanut butter in the microwave (for like 45 seconds or else it burns – ew) and mixed it in with some dark chocolate icing. This acted as the creamy middle between the two cake layers.

Then I frosted the entire cake with more of the same dark chocolate icing. The final touch? Some more PB, obviously. I heated it up in a bowl and drizzled it like crazy on the top and sides of the cake. Talk about classy looking. I popped it in the fridge so that the peanut butter would harden a bit, and then I cut a slice and bit in. Delicious.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Concert of a lifetime -- and currywurst to boot!!!

Oh, and as if Joe Biden wasn’t enough celebrity for one day, Friday culminated with a trip to Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center for the concert of a lifetime. Yes, it was the one and only Celine Dion, the pride and joy of Quebec. She made a quick stop in Philly during her World Tour. To sing and to see the world -- a dream!

A 2007 Christmas gift to the family, the tickets were, dare I say, good seats. Seated on the floor (with mother and Sassypants Suzy), we were reveling in the crooning of one of the world’s greatest voices. You may not like her music, but the girl’s got pipes. And she hasn’t been to Philadelphia in 10 years! What gives?!

But what a show!

Once home (we left reluctantly), Suzy and I tried to continue the magic (an impossible feat), but we came close as we cooked ourselves a late night snack. We browsed the kitchen. Hotdogs, curry powder, paprika – “OH! Let’s make currywurst,” we decided. Inspired by Celine’s world tour, we concocted the Berlin treat, reliving our Germany trip last March.

It was Suzy’s first time since Berlin. Eating currywurst, that is.

First, we fried up some hot dogs. Not quite bratwurst, but nearly identical. Then we smothered it in ketchup, sprinkled a liberal helping of curry powder, and finished it with a dash of paprika. We toasted up rolls (brochen, in German) to soak up the extra sauce. Sounds basic, and it is. But Germans, most notably Berliners, LOVE the stuff.
And of course, you serve it up with a beer. No German beer, but Yuengling is really good!

I wonder if Celine had any during her German leg of the tour???

Political plates, spicy and for the people...

So Friday was a big day. Travels were short, but excitement was high. I was about to hop in the car for a short trip to Langhorne, Pennsylvania, home of, well, not much. Jill Sayre, if that means anything to you. Nah, me neither.

But vice presidential candidate Joe Biden and PA Governor Ed Rendell were in town to speak at the local junior high. To prepare for the event, I made myself an early lunch full of democratic delight and political punch. A zesty jalapeno mayo chicken wrap was on the menu. I was pressed for time, give me a break.

Mayo usually makes me gag looking at it in the jar. I mean, the noises it can make alone are enough to induce vomiting. But it’s funny what a little jalapeno sauce can do. I added enough to make the mayo a light green. Add some salt, pepper, and vinegar for another layer of flavor, and you’re set. It was so flavorful and just spicy enough.
I cooked some pre-made chicken tenders and toasted up a tortilla to go along with the jalapeno mayo. Once it was all ready, I wrapped up the chicken with a healthy dose of the light green ambrosia and took a bite. As the mayo dripped out the bag of the sandwich, I was in heaven. Way better than ketchup. Could have used some bacon, though.

So, what was so political about this meal? Let me tell you. The spice of the jalapeno was like the sharpness of Joe Biden’s speech, packed with the heat of his desire for change. And the chicken was substantial and filling, like his wife Jill’s hopes and ideas. And I served up a side of applesauce alongside the wrap to cool off my mouth just like Biden’s cool and soothing demeanor, but I sprinkled some cinnamon on top because he’s not at all bland or simple.

I mean, obviously, right?

But Biden was impressive and really connected with the crowd. It’s exciting to think that he could be sitting in the White House in a few months. I’m just glad I got a good dose of US politics before the big move!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Expatriation issues: street food...

Since my flight has been faced a mandatory postponement, I’ll grumble and gripe a little bit more about the things I’m looking forward to, and the things I’ll miss in Paris. Most notably, I’m interested in the street food culture shift that I’m facing.

In New York and other urban areas, you can buy a hot dog and eat it in the street. Tacos, falafel, pizza – you name it, Americans walk with it and eat it. We’ve got things to do, people.

In Paris, don’t get me wrong, the falafel (see photo) is way better than Maoz or Mamoun’s, two New York City favorites. And the doner kebabs, if you haven’t been following, are my raisons d’être. But you can’t just grab a sandwich and walk with it. It’s considered distasteful, and quite frankly, I’d prefer not to deal with the looks and judgments of the Parisians.

Maybe they’re just envious of my Lebanese grilled chicken, olive, and hummus sandwich – at least they should be. But walking and eating is a practice I must leave behind. It’s not a bad trade-off though. So I can’t get great pizza or cheesesteaks anymore. I get crepes and doner kebabs with fries. I’ll just have to learn to sit down and enjoy it. What a concept!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cuisine Expo à Paris...

Um, so I’m totally going to the Cuisinez Expo in Paris this October 24-26. Food samplings? Cooking instructions? People flocking for three days of fun set within the courtyard of the Louvre, the carrousel du Louvre? How dare I resist?

It’s like three days full of demonstrations and open stalls and it is completely interactive. I have no idea which events to attend yet, but I can always decide the day of – sign-ups are 15 minutes before each activity begins. Perfect. I think that means it’s FREE! Works for me.

Hopefully I’ll pick up a tip or two for the kitchen that I can share with you. I was hoping to post a picture with some Food Network star, but sadly they are not sponsors.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Berlin-babs facing price hike...

Uh oh! Potentially sad news for kebab lovers in kebab-capital of Europe, Berlin. The price of the Turkish delight may be heading up due to increases in food prices.

Though the article says prices hover around 2.5 euros in the German capital, I don’t remember paying so little when I was there this past March. But the Berlin-babs were certainly cheaper than in Munich or Hamburg.

Whatever, all German doners are still cheaper than in Paris, where they usually average around 5 euros. But Parisians do add fries – take that Germany!

Safe and green, the way water should be...

While preparing for my move to Paris, I thought about the water in Paris. It’s perfectly potable, if just a bit heavy on minerals. That just means I don’t need to take a vitamin, right?

But I thought it’d be eco-friendly of me to purchase a reusable water bottle so that during my travels in and out of the city, I can slake my thirst without adding to the landfills. Sure, France recycles, but that takes energy, time, and resources. It’s just as easy to refill.

Recyclable plastic bottles could be handy, but, as our friends in New Zealand tell us, it’s best to be super-cautious about reusing them. And after a few uses, they just feel dirty, like I’m drinking out of a used Ziploc bag, ya know? I prefer something tough, durable, and easy to clean.

My choice was a Camelback 1 liter bottle at Whole Foods for only $10. Other options, like Nalgene and Sigg are equally as viable and are BPA-free. Apparently BPA is linked to certain cancers, developmental problems, and obesity, according to some health advocates. The FDA says otherwise. Who knows – but I’m not taking the chance!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Riding Away the Wine and Baguette...

Fortunately I can have my cake and eat it, too. Thanks Marie Antoinette! With the Paris Velib public biking system in full swing, looks like excessive calories, wine, and cheese won't force me to buy new pants once in Paris!

You can read about it here at the Conde Nast Traveler Daily Traveler blog.

I've already tried the bike, and let me tell you, it's a thrilling rush that left me a) sweaty with soar calves and b) wishing I had a helmet to preserve my life.

But totally worth it!

Tongue Thai-ed...

How did I not know about this place after living in the West Village for 2 years? Wild Ginger, a splendid little Thai restaurant on Grove Street is a great choice for brunch during a lazy weekend. For $9.95, you get a drink (soda or white wine), a salad, and a main course that will not only fill you, but leave you smiling.

Let’s just say I chose the soda, ginger ale to be specific, since I didn’t need any more alcohol after that Saturday night. I also chose the Wild Ginger salad, a simple and hearty helping of lettuce with carrots and cucumbers in a creamy white dressing. It was no where near as sweet as the mango salad, strips of juicy mango with carrots and cucumbers.

I added on an order of spring rolls to have something fried. I heard it helps hangovers. The rolls were piping hot and flaky as I dipped them into the savory brown sauce. They were vegetable rolls for sure, but they almost tasted like pork. I love meat, so I wasn’t complaining!

The chicken Pad Thai that followed was killer. Red peppers and basil with a do-it-yourself squeeze of fresh lime juice blended perfectly with the chicken and soft, delectable noodles. I had to take a breather after the first half, but I put my chopsticks to work and cleared the plate before paying the check.

Between the sizeable salad and the healthy portion of Pad Thai, I was brimming with satisfaction. Wild Ginger definitely serves up some of the best Thai that I’ve had in a while, and at reasonable prices. Wish me good luck finding comparable Thai in Paris!

Milk Flan to the Rescue!

I’ve had a lot of falafel, a lot of Mediterranean food, a lot of pizza – but Moustache in the West Village surprised me. Tucked away on Bedford Street, between Grove and Barrow, this tiny restaurant specializes in all sorts of Mediterranean dishes. Nothing super fancy, but definitely classy.

There was a wait, even if just a few minutes – clearly the locals liked this place. The service was quick and polite, and when the waitress put her hand on my shoulder, I was in love. So homey! We ordered baba ganoush with whole wheat pita for an appetizer. It was savory and abundant, to say the least, with three tasty olives garnishing the middle of the plate.

Then onto the entrees: a chicken kebab platter and a Moustache pizza. The chicken was delicious, swimming in a puree of lentils, cilantro, garlic, and I THINK lemon juice. The chicken was juicy and the puree was phenomenal with many layers of flavor developing at each taste.

The pizza was a very thin crust topped with tomatoes, onions, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella cheese. Each little slice was amazing and satisfying, mixing traditional Italian pizza with something spicy and exotic. The menu said it was just parsley and chili, but I’m still not convinced. It was more like magic, I’m sure.

But the happiest part was the Muhalabia for dessert, a milk flan swimming in a red berry sauce. The sauce, I’m pretty sure, was strawberry, not raspberry as I initially thought. But the flan was loaded with sweetness and a jasmine perfume that I adore. Add some crushed pistachios on top and you arguably have the highlight of the meal.

With entrees hovering a little over 10 dollars, the price was right. And with attentive service and extremely memorable food, the entire package gets two thumbs up for this neighborhood treasure.

Chili Peppers and BYOB...

Nothing screams “good Indian dinner” like chili pepper lights, friendly service, and an awesome BYOB policy. Such is Milon, the East Village gem located in a mix of Indian restaurants at 1st Avenue and 6th Street.

The décor itself draws you in as much as the maitre d’ outside who is competing with three others to get you to eat at their establishment. The choice is easy if you’re into super kitschy and delicious restaurants.

Underneath a canopy of red chili papers and sparkling lights you can join other locals in cozy and not-altogether uncomfortable quarters. After a look at the menu, you’ll realize why there isn’t so much space. For about 10 bucks you can have a small feast. Appetizers under 5 and entrees under 9 – perfect for all wallets.

Cheesey Poori bread and chicken Pakora fritters were a great wait to start off the meal. The chicken tikka masala, chicken madras, and the garlic and onion naan are absolutely delightful and filling, as far as my Western palate is concerned. It was all made better by the bottle of wine I brought from Trader Joe’s that the waiter opened for me. The waiter topped off our meal with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that cooled off our mouths, happily.

I’m always tempted to try one of the other 3 restaurants, who all share the same 2 addresses. But I can’t bring myself to tempt fate when every experience at Milon is so pleasant. The waiters all wished us a good night and shook our hands as we left. Next time I’m back in New York, you can bet I’ll be back.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cheesesteak please, hold the Freedom Fries...

It’s been a long time since I’ve been a tourist in my own town, but yesterday I decided to hit the streets of Philadelphia armed with a knowledgeable local and a camera. We visited historical Philly, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the oldest street in the city. We visited the homes of Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin, and Edgar Allen Poe. We hit up Rittenhouse Square, the French Quarter, Washington Square District, and even the Italian Market.

But no day in Philly is complete without two things: Tasty Kakes and cheesesteaks. Of course I hit up the first 7-11 I could find to purchase some of the sweet Philly confectionaries. A peanut butter “Kandy Kake” is chocolate-peanut butter perfection. If you haven’t had one, you must figure out how to get one outside of the Philadelphia area.

But the cheesesteak, much more renowned nationally, is equally as elusive outside the Mid-Atlantic. Geno’s has been doing the Philly Cheesesteak since 1966. Situated in South Philly across from rival Pat’s, Geno’s is the more vibrant of the two popular steak places. With a very strict ordering policy (a steak whiz with = a steak with cheese whiz and onions) and an English-only policy, it can be intimidating.

The patriotism is a little over the top (Speak English tee-shirts are only $10 and Freedom Fries are available) but the steaks are worth the $6-7. Soft bread with thinly sliced steak and melted cheese and perfectly grilled onions – what more could you want? The sandwich isn’t large by American standards, but I was surprisingly full when I finished it. And though it may seem unhealthy, there is much less grease or mess than I thought – not that I’m espousing it as health food or anything.

Maybe next time I’ll try Pat’s, but either way, I should get my fill of cheesesteaks now before I head back across the pond!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Go to Sweden without your passport!

I know I just got back to America, but my European tendencies have struck already. This time, Sweden. The place: IKEA in Brooklyn.

As if brushed steel and efficient storage units weren’t enough for me, the IKEA cafeteria served up a lunch to be reckoned with. I’ve never actually had Swedish meatballs, but I fell in love. For under 7 bucks I got a plate full of the bite-sized treats with a delicious brown gravy. Next to them were homemade mashed potatoes and a dollop of lingonberry jam, reminiscent of cranberry sauce.

And to boot, all of the delicious food at the cafeteria is available near the register, so you TOO can enjoy Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam in the comfort of your tastefully decorated Scandinavian-inspired home.

So here’s the plan: Make a day of it! Take the free ferry from the South Street Seaport to the IKEA. Shop around for some wonderful light fixtures and textiles. Break for meatballs at the cafeteria, and enjoy the ferry ride back to Manhattan. Good time guaranteed.

Ex-pat no longer...

It may be the culinary capital of the world, but after 6 weeks, I learned that Paris isn’t all confit du canard and steak frites. In fact, my brief sojourn was actually devoid of all that I think to be “French,” replaced instead with falafel, couscous, and beer. Of course I’m not complaining.

That said, my return to America has been the beginning of real vacation eating for me, and I’m loving it (as I snack on pizza pretzels, utterly American). My arrival in New York was highlighted by much American food, including burgers at the Stand on 12th Street (with mayo, bacon, and hard boiled egg). I also visited Brother Jimmy’s by Penn Station for my first ever “po’ boy” sandwich. Fried shrimp and Cajun mayo? Sign me up.

And in keeping with the heart-healthy theme, I capped my week in New York with lunch at Silver Spurs on Broadway in the Village, my favourite diner in town. I devoured the De Senator burger, a quarter pound of beef, avocado, bacon, cheese, lettuce, and tomato on an English muffin (see photo). I still feel like I need to go for a run several days later to work that off.

Nothing in Paris compares to this wanton mass of food, which, I must add, is too big to wrap my mouth around. And then there are the French fries that I am convinced are beer battered. You can’t find that in the Marais.

It’s nice being surrounded by so much American food, but some differences are marked. Restaurants don’t always provide water and bread. Tipping is again a concern. Additionally, menus are all in one language, for better or worse. I’m back, I suppose!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ode to Kennith

Some people aspire to fame. Others to fortune. But my good friend Kennith aspires to something beyond all of that -- the peach melba.

This delicate dessert of poached pears, vanilla ice cream and rasberry sauce is anything short of a mirachle. It's a norm in most Parisian restaurants, though it's not quite a hit in the States. That is, not yet, if Kennith has his way.

When Kennith and John came to Paris, the peach melba was nearly a daily staple, and with reason. It's delicious AND it includes at least one serving of fruit. Not bad. It's part of the reason they frequent Paris.

Need to know how to make one? It's not too hard. Here's a recipe for the melba from scratch, but you can cut a lot of corners and still have a fantastic result. Canned peaches work just fine. No need to poach your own! Ice cream and ready-made rasberry sauce are all you need to add. Top it all off with some whipped cream. dig in with a spoon, and you're practically in France!

Kebab Rekindled

GOT IT! So during the past 6 weeks in Paris, I've rekindled my relationship with the doner kebab. But alas, I must depart from it yet again (though only for a few weeks!).

Here in Paris, as opposed to Germany, there are ALWAYS french fries nestled within the pita. And the meat could be lamb or chicken -- one never knows. The salad is generally lettuce, tomato, and onion with none of the fanfare of the German counterpart.

At 4,50 to 5 euros, who can complain? You can even get your shaved meat and salad on a fresh baguette -- if you make it to the restaurant before they run out. But beware of the doner men. Most are sweaty, angry, and more inclined to speak broken English if they think you're not French.

If you're in Paris, the BEST doners are in the Latin Quarter, right by the St. Michel Metro stop. The tiny winding streets are at the same time quaint and bustling with tourists, but worth it for the variety of doner vendors.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bonjour de Paris!

Oh how I have missed writing here over the last 3 weeks! I have been fooling around in Paris like a blind man without his cane, but today I have received my computer, and soon the updates will pour in. Just for some highlights:

Doner kebabs - amazing.

Falafel - magnificent.

Steak frites - perfect.

Wine - siiigh.

Baguettes - missed them.

I've got some photos and some stories, but all in due time.

Check back!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Life's a 45 when you can't..eat it?

So tonight I finally tried a new and exciting place all on my own volition. OK, well that’s partially a lie because I was going out for dinner with a friend who was in town for the week. But I picked (again, partially) the place.

After scouring New York Magazine for some suggestions in Hell’s Kitchen, my new favorite stomping ground, I selected several choices, from German to Thai. Marissa, my guest, chose a spot which ended up being far more expensive than anticipated. Backtracking, we fell upon Vynl, naturally the first place we passed on our excursion.

Tired, hot, and wetter than a Chelsea boy’s bed on Sunday morning, we threw the door open after a quick look at the menu. We exchanged glances of “where the hell are we?” Records, beach balls hanging from the ceiling, loud music, and generally exuberant ambiance welcomed us. There was no way to get bored here.

Once seated, we were greeted by a jovial waitress who took our drink orders. Grey goose, Chambord, and fruit juice? Yes, please!

As we ordered our food, the waitress commended our choices, confirming the palatial palate pleaser that was to come. First up, a cheeseburger egg roll. Savory beef and gooey cheese inside of a fried shell – perfect. Usually I’m not extremely interested in condiments, but the ranch dressing alongside the burger roll added so many layers of flavor.

Entrée – mac n’ cheese and quesadillas. My baked mac n’ cheese was a piping hot dish of gruyere, goat (swoon), and a third cheese – I can’t remember everything. A generous helping of crispy bread crumbs was an obstacle, but once I got my fork into those little elbows, I was on my way.

Meanwhile Marissa struggled through her generous appetizer portion of chicken and cheese quesadillas. The tomato salsa was refreshing with just enough spice. Filled to perfection.

As we finished our martinis and pushed our plates away, it was dessert time. Our waitress seemed jealous as we ordered the peanut butter lava cake, the day’s specialty. As the cake came out, with large scoop of vanilla ice cream and some sliced strawberries, we weren’t really aware of what was to come.
But as Marissa broke through the cake with her spoon, gooey peanut butter oozed out. The richness of the chocolate was balanced perfectly with the saltiness of the PB, the ice cream cooled it all down, and the strawberries constituted my portion of fruits and veggies for the day.

We licked the plate clean.

Not bad for 25 bucks a head.

I'm not alone!

Mmm the doner kebab sensation will never end.  And I'm not the only one who knows it.  Except for the part where he calls them healthy (well, he skipped on the meat), this guy is alright.

Did he read about this though?   

Sorry to be repetitive, but I'm still awestruck.  

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Midtown Me-heecan...

Time for another Midtown adventure! This time, instead of pizza, it was Mexican. Chevy’s, the Times Square gem on 42nd Street.

Today, the first official day of summer according to the thermometer, I would have been satisfied with the gigantic frozen margarita that Chevy’s serves up. But pal Kennith and I decided that food wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Kennith visits this place nearly every week (the entire staff knows him!), so I listened to his suggestions. The Fresh Mex Combos let’s you choose 2, 3, or 4 items from a varied menu of options. It was difficult to choose – so I didn’t.

Per Kennith’s command, I got a cheese enchilada, a crispy flauta, and a hard beef taco. And boy was I glad I listened to him.

The flauta was the best decision ever. A log of chicken deep fried in a tortilla with some sort of pink sauce and a mind-blowing brown dipping sauce (think salty duck sauce) was enough to satisfy me. I couldn’t place any of the tastes, even after dissecting the flauta, so I sat back and enjoyed.

The crunchy beef taco with red onion, tomato, and lettuce was a blast of flavor dominated by the onion. The cheese enchilada was soft and gooey, covered in tomato sauce and cheese.

As if that much food wasn’t enough, there was a side of refried beans that hit the spot, and some sort of corn hash that was hearty and almost like a potato in consistency, dotted with kernels of sweet corn.

By the end of the meal, only remnants of the taco remained – a testament to how much food they actually served. And for about $25 per person for all that food and the vat of margarita, well, that ain’t bad.

And even if you don’t enjoy Mexican food, it’s definitely a fun place to watch the tourists and revel in your New York address.