Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Upcoming Paris Food Events

Mark your calendars. There are several exciting events just around the corner for any food lovers in Paris.

First, thanks to @ParisHeather for translating the information about a chocolate event (Noel Gourmand) at the Galleries Lafayette next Thursday, November 12 from 5-9pm. If you are planning to go, I'd say go early. As soon as people get out of work, expect large crowds.

The second edition of the salon Papilles en Fête takes place at the Grand Halle de la Villette. Over 250 exhibitors and 100 chefs will be proposing cooking classes.

Where: La Villette (pdf)
When: 13 - 16 November
Cost: 5 euros

Next up, the Salon of the Golden Rooster - or Le Salon des Coqs d'Or 2009. From around France, Spain and elsewhere, small, niche producers will be promoting their products. This appears to be a "best of the best" type event.

Where: Pullman Paris Rive Gauche (ex-Sofitel), 8-12 rue Louis Armand, 15eme, M: Balard
When: 28 November 10am - 7pm, 29 November 10am - 6pm
Cost: 6 euros (under 12 free) reduction here

The list of exhibitors provides many links to the individual exhibitors so if you can't make it, you can always check them out online.

If heading out to the 15th isn't your cup of tea, you could always do something different and check out the Swedish Christmas market at the Eglise Suédoise. Smoked and marinated salmon of course, but how about a little reindeer?

Where: 9, rue Médéric, 75017, M: Courcelles
When: 27 - 29 November, Friday 11am - 8pm, Saturday 11am - 7pm, Sunday 12 - 6pm
Cost: Free

Finally, one of the big ones -- the Salon de Saveurs -- is just around the corner. This bi-annual food fest takes place at the Espace Champerret in the 17eme. This is a great opportunity to stock up on loads of presents for the holidays.

Where: Espace Champerret, M: Porte de Champerret
When: 4 - 7 December, Friday 10am - 10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am - 8pm, Monday 10am - 7pm
Cost: 8 euros (free entry coupons in Saveur magazine)

* for all these types of events, if you hang out a bit by the entrance, there is always someone giving away free passes

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nomiya @ ArtHome

When I think of Electrolux, I think of an old-style vacuum cleaner from the 60's. At no point would I have imagined Electrolux to be on the cutting edge of design and restaurant trendiness until I discovered Nomiya @ ArtHome. Electrolux and the Palais de Tokyo teamed up to open a concept restaurant on the roof of the latter's museum. A temporary dining capsule if you will, installed for a one-year duration.

There is a marketing genius behind this -- not sure about the chef -- more on that later. So, first of all, a restaurant on the roof of a very trendy museum, opposite the Eiffel Tower, with jaw-dropping views is not bad in and of itself. Then make it so there are only 12 seats at lunch and dinner and build a reservation system where you must be at the ready to do some fast clicking at 9:59am exactly one month prior to the date you hope to book. Get a bunch of press (not hard when you drop a restaurant on a roof by crane) and off you go -- people are now lobbying to get this in their city next when it leaves Paris.

When you arrive, the anticipation is high. I'll admit, I was certanily walking around the outside snapping photos of our table in the air. You enter the museum and there is a host table for the restaurant. Everyone is told they will go up as a group at 8pm. You climb lots of stairs - pass the rather appropriate Man on the Moon exhibit and then through a back door, up some stairs where you reach a lovely garden terrace before climbing more scaffolding to get to the top. And then, you have a "wow" moment. The scene really is spectacular. It's worth it just for this moment.

Everyone is snapping photos and taking in the views. A glass of champagne is offered and two amuse bouche are passed around. Both were based on fish eggs. They were good, not great. After taking in the atmosphere and drinking your champagne, everyone takes their seats at the communal table. If you are not social, this is not the place for you! The first course is served and here's where I start to really wonder. I've yet to seen any negative reviews. They change the menus daily according to the chef's inspiration. It's got to be good right? We were being served a dish described as a mix between 17th century and today. A terrine of veal's foot in aspic with braised leeks. I would never order anything "foot" off any menu but it's time s like these where you learn to appreciate or even love new foods -- happened to me with
ris de veau (sweetbreads) -- did not happen to me with veal's feet. I hate leaving food on my plate but after three tries I just couldn't take it anymore.

OK fine, so you can't always get everything right. Surely there would be a recovery here. The main course arrived. A
blanquette de veau (no idea on the translation) but this is a traditional veal dish with a cream sauce your French grandmother might make. It was fine -- but I could have been anywhere -- and I wasn't just anywhere now was I? Cheese comes next -- one piece of sliced compte with a few drops of I forget. This could have been the comte my French wife buys from the supermarket -- plain.

By now, I'm just enjoying the view and trying to get a perfect shot of the Eiffel Tower with it's flashing lights on the hour. I don't have much hope left in me for the food. Dessert arrives and again, it's not bad, but certainly not remarkable. It was a slice of cake, well, it was a marbled
financier half soaked in raspberries accompanied by a pistachio creme anglaise but at this point, you could have given me a Magnum and I think I would have been happier with the dessert. After coffee or tea (no decaf at 11:30p) the parting marshmellow (licorice flavor) was given to all the guests.

I want to believe the chef had an off night. None of the other reviews I read had anything bad to say. Seems like everyone enjoyed their meals. I wouldn't have expected to be blown out of the water, but I was expecting something more refined. Am I glad I went? Yes, definitely. Would I go back. No.

What did I learn? It's ok to spend a bit of cash on an experience...even if it's not 100% up to your expectations. Electrolux has changed and can now be considered cool. I should have booked a night in the hotel that sat in the same location as the restaurant for two years and brought my own sandwiches.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It'll Be There on Wednesday

Where do I start. My wife and actually many others think I'm obsessed with food and they think it's weird. I don't really understand. Why is it weird? It's got to be at least 33% of the reason I decided I would make Paris my home - maybe I'll share the other 66% another day. Also, having an addiction to all things food must be better than being addicted to crack for example. Nevermind, since I've been pondering this food addiction (by the way - possibly the best panini in Paris can be found at Caldo Freddo on rue Montorgueil) I thought maybe I'd write about something else I've been passionate about -- well maybe passionate bordering on insanely irritated with for the last ten years -- the shipping experience in France.

Today, I feel like just recounting my most recent experience. I could probably write a whole book by now on the most inefficient country (leaving out countries which still lack mechanized vehicles for transportation)
for actually getting something delivered to your home.

Being fond of the internet and convenience, I tend to order as much as I can online. Usually you can find whatever you want in a couple of clicks, often times much less expensive than in a shop and most of all, you don't have to schlep half-way across town to buy those "what would we do without you" Tommee Tippee trash bags for our daughter's -- well, you know.

Anyway, you would think these things are easier to find, but they aren't. So my latest find was on (translation - Hello Baby!). I was a pretty happy guy when I found I could order these, get them delivered to my house and save a couple of euros. Who wouldn't take that deal for baby trash bags. Click, click, register for the site, enter card number and then forget it about -- well, not this time.

The first thing I found odd was when you confirm your registration instead of the typical userid/password combination you select on *every other website known to man* on Allobebe you receive some kind of ancient customer number (10 mixed digits) and your postal code is your password....right, like I'm going to remember that the next time I visit the site. Strike 1!

I think I made the order on a Wednesday or Thursday. On Saturday morning, I get a text message saying that I should call Mory to schedule a delivery for a package. Luckily I have a few brain cells left and I figured this must my trash bags. How I put that together, don't ask because I don't know any Mory and usually I quickly forget what I order online until it shows up. So I call Mory and and get a message telling me to call back during normal business hours. Umm, why did you send me a text telling me to call when you aren't open? Surely you could program that into your sophisticated supply chain management system (click "voir la carte" for some excellent animation)??

Monday morning, time to call Mory -- well, it just rings and and rings and rings. I figure maybe Mory has the day off like me -- not everyone works in France the day before a bank holiday - we're lucky like that. I decide to take a look at the email Allobebe sent me confirming my order. It said something like if I don't get my package within 10 days I should let them know - nothing about looking out for a text message indicating I should be calling to arrange for delivery. They give me a couple of options to get in touch with them -- phone or email. I should tell you now that it also appears they have outsourced their customer service. So I give them a call, a woman answers and tells me there is no one around right now who can help me so she will take my name and number and call me back. Huh? This is getting increasingly bizarre and I'm pretty certain I'm not going to be too happy with the ending.

I send off a little email as well just to cover all my bases -- I have yet to determine if the French appreciate my sarcasm. I told them they should consider using the French post office and that it works well -- that's a whole other post - or maybe book. Anyway, I've now spent way too much time on this and it's time to head out for the day and along the way enjoy the above mentioned panini.

Walking home, I get a call -- it's Allobebe babbling about a problem I'm having -- I'm not understanding much of what she's saying, but I finally get into a groove. She tells me I can expect delivery on Wednesday. I ask her about what time will that be. "I can't tell you that sir - it could be anytime during the day." I freak of course and pretty much go ballistic on her. After all this time in France, I still can't understand or accept the fact that it is expected behavior that one organizes themselves to stay at home all day to await delivery for anything except maybe a refrigerator or a sofa...but a simple package of trash bags?! And don't tell me I should use one of my 35 vacation days either -- vacation is vacation!

Thanks to my outburst or what I'd rather believe were superior negotiation skills, the lovely woman on the line told me she would try to arrange for the delivery to occur before 1pm in order to prevent me from carrying out many of my threats such as posting I hate Allobebe to my twitter account. Ooops, already did that.

Oh, I forgot to tell you -- I asked her why don't you alert your customers to what they can expect when it comes to delivery procedures on the site. She told me I could read the "conditions generales de vente" (terms and conditions) -- I did - they don't say anything about this nonsense. And furthermore, if you decide to cancel your order because you can't take the day off work for delivery that will cost you 10 euros.

Allobebe just lost what I imagine is another customer. There is a long way to go before anyone will say they are satisfied with shipping in France, but someone at La Poste must be smiling today with the compliment I showered on them. If anyone wants to revolutionize a country, please come to France and show La Poste how they could better invest the 3.4 billions euros they've already spent on modernization by helping small companies like Allobebe acquire and retain customers because of their amazing delivery service instead of -- ummm, I have no idea where that money went -- new bikes?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Passage 53

When your wife's parents say how about we take your daughter Saturday night so you can have an evening out, there really isn't a moment of hesitation. Of course the answer is YES or in this case OUIIIIII!!! The reflection starts immediately after the harried response - where are we going to eat? Since my days of frequent restaurant dining have dwindled, I've been stockpiling a list of places I'd like to try. Google Maps comes in quite handy for this -- if anyone wants to collaborate on a Paris restaurant map, do let me know.

In this day of instant feedback, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and the like -- I post a quick question -- Yamt'cha or Passage 53 for Saturday night. A well known Parisian concierge responds nearly instantly and tells me I need to try the new "menu degustation" at Passage 53. Done! I head over to La Fourchette or the English version, The Fork and book my first online reservation. Confirmation comes through within a couple of hours and we are good to go.

When you arrive at the Passage des Panoramas just opposite the Musée Grévin, you start thinking what kind of tourist trap is this -- reminds me of Place du Tertre or what's the name of that street in the 6eme I used to affectionately call bacteria alley? Anyway, you move forward knowing you are going to find a gem in this Passage - apparently the oldest in Paris.

Et voila! A small, stylishly designed bistro if you will. There couldn't have been more than 20 seats and several couples were sitting alone at tables for 4 -- nice to have the space which is rare in a small Paris restaurant -- I doubt this will last for long unless it's intentional which is shocking. The staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating. After an aperitif, champagne of course, you are informed that you have a choice between two menus -- one at 60 euros and another more copious at 80 euros. Of course I'm going for gluttony here and the more the merrier if you want to sample a chef's creations.

What I really appreciated was the possibility to have wine by the glass accompanying the menu. It's a pleasure to have a chance to sample a number of different wines with a tasting menu than having to stick to one bottle, especially when your wife isn't drinking. The selected wines were excellent and I believe all from Bourgogne where the chef spent several months studying the regional wines and how they would work with his cuisine.

OK, enough background information. Let's get to the food and here's hoping I remember all 10 dishes. First up, a puree of broccoli with extremely minuscule broccoli flowers on top and a dash of Spanish olive oil. Good, but honestly not earth-shattering -- the contrast of textures was creative. Second was the chef's signature dish and something I had never tasted. A tartare de veau on a chopped oyster bed - very refined and subtle. The chef has a philosophy of never using more than three flavors in a dish, so you essentially are always tasting the purity of the ingredients.

The third dish was calamari - no, not the fried kind - but portions of fresh calamari exquisitely cut into small squares but remaining attached to the larger piece (if that makes any sense - a picture would have been better) - set on a purple cauliflower puree with shards of sauteed white and purple cauliflower -- ok now things are getting interesting and with the arrival of each dish -- better I'd say.

The fourth dish was likely my favorite of the night. Sauteed foie gras with mara des bois (wild strawberries) and a hot rhubarb sauce. This is one of those taste sensation experiences -- everything melting in your mouth at the same time. I usually prefer mi-cuit to sauteed, but in this case - pure pleasure.

Now on to the main courses -- 2 fish dishes and 2 meat dishes. I don't know if it was because I was blown away by the foie gras, or the wine was kicking in, but I don't remember as many of the details. There was a rouget followed by lotte. Both were good, I preferred the rouget. Then we had pintade with a nice crispy skin, followed by a very tender piece of veal.

(rouget = red mullet, lotte = monk fish and pintade = guinea hen)

There were two desserts, now you must be thinking I was drunk because actually I really don't remember them. I don't think I was drunk and I seem to recall I liked both desserts. What does this tell me? Write down the courses, take pictures, or just deal with the fact that this review is not comprehensive.

Bottom line -- I loved it -- thought it was truly creative without being over the top and for the time being, totally reasonable for a 10 course tasting menu. It was a lot like Astrance at the beginning -- let's see what happens when the stars come.

Passage 53
53, Passage des Panoramas
75002 Paris
01 42 33 04 35

*if you want a romantic experience, they have a private terrace on the first floor which you can reserve -- or for a group up to 8 people try dining in the private wine cellar