After the glorious honeymoon in Paris, I had three and a half completely free open weeks in which to do whatever I liked. The first thing I did was try to re-create some of the delicious foods that we had on our trip. One of the big reasons why we chose Paris was because of the culinary history and opportunities, and we were probably just as excited to go to E. Dehillerin, a bare-bones cookware store stocked full of floor to ceiling mauviel copper, twenty kinds of rolling pins, and ladles as big as my head, as we were to go to some of the museums. I got two rolling pins (one for pastry and one for general use, though neither with rolling handles because I never use that feature anyways), some brioche tins (although I've never made one in my life, they were shiny and I may make mini-pies in them), and a ladle as we didn't have one. The copper was about 1/2 as expensive as it would be here, even with the dollar weak against the Euro. If only the franc were still in existence!
A highlight of our trip was dinner at the Hidden Kitchen, a private supper club run by two American expats in Paris. Apparently they were written up in the NY Times after we got our reservations, so I think it will be much harder to go to. It's run by a couple, who 1-2 times per week set up a 10 course dinner in their home in central Paris, for a not-unreasonable price (though it was a splurge for us). It was the best, and most imaginative food I've ever eaten. The menu:
Apertif: Champagne with pomegranate seeds.
Amuse: Rosemary and Bombay Sapphire Granita with a tempura sage leaf
Celery root soup with clementine, lovage and celery seed crackers
Beet and potato carpaccio with savory fennel porridge
sauteed sea bass with new england style fish chowder
palate cleanser: some kind of bourbon/mint gelee.
veal meatball with house made linguine
flank steak with wild rice, winter squash puree and caramelized onion
shaved brussels sprouts salad with buerre blanc vinaigrette
almond cake with cacao nib ice cream
seven of the courses were paired with wine.
When we got home, I bought Volume 1 of Mastering the art of French Cooking. I tried to re-create the shaved brussels sprouts salad but couldn't quite figure out the ratios of the other stuff that went into it. I used shaved pecorino romano, toasted pine nuts, and some buerre blanc; My mistake was that I did not put anything with the buerre blanc to turn it into vinaigrette, so I was basically just eating cheese and brussels sprouts covered in butter sauce. It was good, but a little too heavy.
Ethan made french onion soup out of the cookbook, and it is without a doubt the best I've ever tasted. It takes a while to get the onions to caramelize correctly, but it's soooooooooo worth it.
Other food highlights: cheese fondue (since recreated, I will post recipe later), mussels in white wine sauce, too many nutella street crepes to count, roasted pork knuckle with sauerkraut, Paella from the Baudoyer market, Fagotini with Foie gras sauce (which I can't find a recipe for ANYWHERE), and hot spiced wine.
Actually the ONLY time I had something that was bad was when I ordered the special combination of the day and ended up with an appetizer consisting of a very large piece of pate topped with a savory meat-flavored jello. Based on some old cookbooks I've read, I gather that in the 50's, people in the US used to make fancy savory jello salads, but I really just can't get behind that. I'm glad that savory jello has fallen out of popularity, along with other mid-century offerings like head cheese and mackerel pudding. You think I'm kidding? go open up your grandma's version of The Joy of Cooking and you'll see.