Just a self-trained home cook in an 8' x 12' kitchen honing his craft…

Posts tagged ‘France’

‘F’ is for finally….

(To keep this page open, right-click on the links and photos and open them in a new window. When finished, just close them and you’ll be back here. The photos are well worth a look, I think!)

I had originally titled this ‘B’ is for Basque, but since it’s been sooooo long since my last post, I thought ‘finally’ apropos.

We were so glad to return to our favorite city last fall to celebrate our birthdays.

la Tour Eiffel

la Tour Eiffel

We were fortunate to have found the web-site Our Home In Paris to rent an apartment. They are an absolute pleasure! Professionalism and service that sadly, is less and less common in today’s world is for them, the norm. Dr. Jim and his e-team and personal concierge in Paris the experience was made easy and certainly made our trip more pleasurable. Next time you’re planning a trip to France, keep their site in mind and hope the apartment you fall in love with is available. Next time I might check their calendar before I book my flight!

Now for our food adventure….

My history of learning to cook is absolutely french at the instructions of Madame Child, but after several trips to France, we have learned that a favored cuisine while in France is Basque. Basque cuisine is, at least in my mind, a fusion of French and Spanish, but really not like either, yet every bit as good as both. The Basque really don’t consider themselves French or Spanish, but are Basque and even have their own flag.

We know of several good Basque restaurants in the city of lights, but one of our most favorites is Au Bascou.

We first dined there about 3 years ago and have been able to return twice for e-x-t-e-n-d-e-d lunches, and by extended, I mean dining for 2 1/2 hours in the middle of the day. This past September was our first visit as pescitarians. Even though we have since become carnivores once again, it was interesting to eat meat-less at some of our old haunts.

For this visit, we started with a starter of a fresh goat cheese salad with rocket(arugula), zucchini ribbons and peppers(a common element in Basque food).

If you've never had fresh goat cheese, well...

If you’ve never had fresh goat cheese, well, it’s like butt-ah on the tongue with a unique after-tang.

The presentation was just fantastique!

Our other starter was sautéed shrimp, in pastis(I think), shaved fennel and butter, bien sur!

shrimp starter

shrimp starter

Next came the main courses:

one a pan seared cod with curried leek quenelles, fresh coriander and more butter- mmmm,

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the other, sautéed shrimp over homemade fettuccine.

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Sorry I can’t detail the sauce more thoroughly, but I was too busy rolling those luscious leeks over my tongue, savoring the curry, cream and butter.

Two items to mention here:

1) if you’ve never had or made quenelle, look them up by opening the link above and try some. We had lunch in a new restaurant last fall that specialized in only quenelle and they were just delicious. Julia always made them with fish mousse, but the possibilities are nearly endless. They are easy to make and will keep a couple of days either cooked or uncooked under refrigeration. They are either poached in a simple liquid or steamed. After poaching, they are sliced and sautéed and served on salad greens.

2) if you’ve never had homemade noodles, you don’t know what you’re missing. As Julia said, ‘Now let’s not be noodle snobs, but homemade ones are like nothing else you’ve ever tasted.’ Once you have them, you are sure to agree.

By now, we have eaten for over an hour and a half(yes, we are slow eaters by American standards, but when in France…..), all the while sipping…and sipping,,,,,and sipping.

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Between sips, we cleared our palates with a marvelously crusty country loaf bread.

All three of our visits here we have had the same server- a young man who waits on the the entire restaurant, running up about 8 steps to the kitchen, back down to the dining room(repeatedly), all the while keeping your bread basket replenished, your water-glass full and the food delivered while it is fresh and hot. It’s no wonder the young man has what appears a 27″ waist! Here he is with the chef. DSCN0172

They were generous to allow me a photo after we finished and on our way to  Musée de l’Orangerie.

Now after all this food, you might think we couldn’t possibly eat desserts but you would be WRONG.

We knew from our first visit here that we wanted the Beret Basque.  It’s a triple(actually quadruple, I believe) chocolate treat, but honestly we were rather full, so we opted pour parteger (lit. for to share). The French would never plop a plate before you, throw 2 spoons on the table and run off to another table. NON, mon dieu!!

Instead, presented were these beauties.

trés delicieaux!

trés delicieaux!

This is a chocolate cookie crust topped with chocolate mousse, another layer of cookie crust under a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a final top of an ultra thin cookie(thus le beret), some icing sugar and if you need a tad more chocolate, some sprinkles of cocoa. My blood warms just from the description. And after a couple of bites…

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By now, we are in a state of euphoria. Between the food, wine, chocolate and Paris…..well, you get the idea, n’est pas?

But one simply feels you couldn’t, shouldn’t nor wouldn’t leave the table without an espresso, else they would surely have found me asleep in front of Monet’s Water Lillies.

Deux espress s'il vous plait!

Deux espress s’il vous plait!

I will leave you with a couple of shots of the restaurant.

The dining room with the zinc-topped bar to the left.

The dining room with the zinc-topped bar to the left and the signature hydrangea(notice the large painting of them in the rear, just under the kitchen window).

The BIZARRE restroom(unisex), covered with 100's of shards of mirrors on undulating walls and a copper-pipe water source for the sink operated with a foot pedal- only in Paris!

The BIZARRE restroom(unisex), covered with 1000’s of shards of mirrors on undulating walls and a copper-pipe water source for the sink operated with a foot pedal- only in Paris!

Oh, so chic!

I hope I have inspired you to try Basque food when you can or make some yourself. Better yet, get out your passport and plan a trip to the City of Lights in the near future. As Rick Steve’s would say, ‘The memories will last long after the credit card paid off.’

Toujours, bon appétit!

© Kyle A Nelson