Solstice: Complex creations from Eric Trochon

 
 

Chef Eric Trochon’s track record is clear. After attaining the coveted Meilleur Ouvrier de France title in 2011, he went on to guide the now always-fully-booked Semilla and Freddy’s to their fame and success, alongside being a professor at the prestigious, professional Parisian cooking school, Ecole Ferrandi. Now, at last, he is showing the world his talents – and there are many – at his very own Solstice, a bright, refreshing 25-seat restaurant in the 5th arrondissement.

Along with his Korean wife and sommelière Mi-Jin Ryu, Trochon has created a very special, warming, sunlit space with white tablecloths, all-white china, sparkling silver and walls covered with rare, hand-made white paper from Korea. All this serves as a clean-slate backdrop for his very personal, modern cuisine. From a starting hors-d’oeuvre of the faintly smoked (over myrtle wood) Sardinian goat’s milk cheese, Pecorino Fioré to the final white peach dessert flanked by a peach and basil sorbet and a umeshu (Japanese green plum wine) granité, Trochon has the palate marching along, applauding all the way.

A late summer first course – a nage of the famed fresh white shell beans, cocos de Paimpol – is like so many of his deeply satisfying presentations. Paired with fennel, cucumber pickles, and a lemon geranium granité the dish makes you sit up, take notice, and say “How did he ever come up with such a lovely marriage.”

Throughout, his food is complex, but does not intimidate or confuse as some modern dishes can. Flavors are clear and concise, and seasonings are incredibly precise. Like many contemporary chefs, he dares you to address new, unfamiliar tastes and introduces you to unexpected combinations. I generally only like fruit in desserts (not in salads or main courses) but his lightly cured daurade (sea bream) paired with gari (vinegared sushi ginger), beets, and multi-colored pickled fresh currants, convinced me otherwise.

The wine list offers some treats. When I am old and rich I will serve Hubert Lamy’s aromatic, citrus-bright Saint-Aubin as my house white.


SOLSTICE   |   Modern International   |   45 rue Claude Bernard   |   Paris 5   |   Tel: +33 6 07 12 08 81   |   Métro: Censier-Daubenton   |   Open Tuesday–Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday   | 35€ lunch menu, 65€ & 90€ dinner menus, à la carte, 75-150€   |   Reservations recommended   |   Atmosphere casual


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Le Jules Verne: A New Beginning

 
 

A new Eiffel Tower restaurant, a new Jules Verne, a new beginning. After months of closure, and an up and down epoch with chef Alain Ducasse, chef Frédéric Anton is now at the reins, with an abundance of confidence and energy.

The restaurant's redesign has dispensed with the dark, heavy, overburdened décor, replacing it with a refreshing and welcoming white, modern palette, embedded with careful details and reflections that allude to the landmark’s powerful metal structure and design history. Refined and yet relaxed, the bare wooden tables are adorned with soothingly simple white linen napkins and all white porcelain.

Anton has demonstrated his talent and success as the current chef at the Michelin three-star Le Pre Catelan, earning him a respected position in the very top tier of chefs in France and elsewhere. Now the challenge is to be as good as he can be at Le Jules Verne and it’s clear he’s working hard at it.

Several meals at Le Jules Verne suggest he will succeed here too. Supported by a talented staff of chefs, waiters, and sommeliers trained at Le Pré Catelan and other renowned kitchens and dining rooms, Anton offers a seasonal menu that has all of his culinary trademarks: Gorgeous food, well-considered and full-flavored, that hits with a punch. He wisely keeps the menu crisp and modern, with no true à la carte menu, only fixed menus with a few variable options at lunchtime. Service is beyond exceptional, and the wine staff keeps your whims and glass filled whenever you desire. The dinner menu could not be more varied, including crab and cabbage, my dear langoustines, cod, farm-raised chicken, raspberries and chocolate. Servings are respectably and thankfully restrained. I most loved Anton’s langoustine ravioli, lush and intense, rewarding, bathed in a Parmesan cream and, yes, truffle jelly.

Lunch is just as festive, and daylight offers an even better opportunity to appreciate Anton’s eye-appealing creations, boosted by the all-white collection of porcelain tableware that creates a crisp canvas for his bright, seasonal dishes. I have decided to dedicate the next year to doing the best I can to recreate his alabastar offering of barely salted codfish set in a bed of fennel-infused shellfish broth, topped with a halo of crispy shredded fennel bulb, generously seasoned with herbs. With every mouthful he convinces me that when food is both breathtakingly beautiful and satisfying delicious, 50 plus 50 equals much more than 100!

Take for example his vibrant seabass carpaccio, sliced paper thin and brightly flavored with Madagascar vanilla, pink grapefruit, and Espelette pepper, offering a trio of flavor-packed ingredients to accompany the elegant fish. Roast duck is cooked oh so rare, sliced paper thin, and married with girolles mushrooms and capers, with an added necessary crunch of tiny, crispy pommes soufflées.

Getting to Le Jules Verne and the modern-day Eiffel Tower -- overloaded with an abundance of safety barriers and tourists -- is now a feat of its own. The restaurant has done its best to help diners arrive with ease. Jules Verne valets lead you from the taxi or parking area through the checkpoint and up to the tower’s southern pillar. After the meal, guides help you to a taxi stand and hail a car for you.


Le Jules Verne | Second floor of the Tour Eiffel | Avenue Gustave Eiffel | Paris 7 (enter near the south pillar Avenue Gréard and Avenue Charles Floquet | +33 1 45 55 61 44 | Métro: Bir-Hakeim | Open daily | Lunch menus: €105 3-course à la carte menu (choice between 2 dishes for entrée, main and dessert), Monday to Friday only, €190 5-course tasting menu, €230 7-course tasting menu | Dinner menu: €230 7-course tasting menu | Reservations essential | Dresscode: T-shirts, shorts, or other sports clothing not accepted | NB Vegetarian and vegan diners welcome.



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Adar: flavorful Levantine fare

 
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Not only is the passage des Panoramas the oldest covered passage in Paris, and arguably the prettiest, it is also the home to a growing number of destination restaurants in the capital.

Its latest culinary addition, Adar, makes for another good reason to seek out this historic 220 year-old location. Make your way towards the back of the alley, past the old wooden shop fronts and cramped bistrot tables that spill out into the tiled passageway, to discover the Levantine creations of Israeli Chef Tamir Nahmias and Boston native Aaron Rosenthal. Together, the two present an impressive resumé, Nahmias having passed through the kitchens of Troisgros, Astrance, Yam’Tcha and Frenchie before taking over Fulgurances for a 6-month chef residency back in 2016. Rosenthal’s bio includes time with Bertrand Grébault at Septime and then as chef at the next-door Clamato. Along with business partner Tiphaine Bailly, these two formidable talents have created something altogether original, combining the culinary influences of Nahmias’s northern Israeli upbringing with classic French techniques and local French produce. The small space accommodates around 20 or so diners, a deli counter for takeout orders, and a couple of tables outside in the passage. As an additional part of the business, Adar also caters events.

 
 

 The menu changes daily according to seasonal availability of produce. On the day we dined, the mezze course consisted of a creamy hummus served with a fluffy, homemade focaccia-style bread, and a zesty little salad of barley, onions, raisins and parsley. The mussel, tomato, haricots Paimpol (white beans from Brittany) and basil salad was a refreshing starter, a great companion to the pissaladière tart of labneh, baby onions, yellow zucchini, a generous handful of fresh arugula and spiked with bottarga (salted and cured fish eggs) and trout eggs. The warm octopus, broad bean, and fresh oregano salad left me indifferent, but the roasted chicken, with an impossibly creamy labneh-seasoned polenta was a triumph. The macerated cherries with pistachio cream was sadly sold out by the time we got to dessert, so we settled for the babka, a twisted brioche-like cake oozing with a caramelized date and coconut filling, so all is well that ends well.

The service was warm and friendly, and the walls are lined with carefully selected spices, grains and condiments, living up to its name which is Yiddish for abundance and generosity.


Adar | 49 Passage des Panoramas | Paris 2 | Tel: +33 6 64 49 18 68 | Métro: Grands Boulevards or Richelieu-Drouot | Open Monday–Friday noon–7pm | Lunch: 19 & 22€ lunch menus, takeaway menu 8-12€ for salads, sandwiches and mezze | Reservations only taken for beginning of lunch service noon-12.15 | Atmosphere casual | info@adar-paris.com

Bright authentic flavors at Les Cuistots Migrateurs

 
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Expect a world tour full of bright authentic flavors when you arrive at Les Cuistots Migrateurs, the socially-conscious restaurant of the Hasard Ludique cultural centre in the 18th arrondissement. Based on the concept that food is the great connector, Les Cuistots Migrateurs (slang for the migrants chefs) aims to change the way people view Paris’s migrant population through introducing them to their homeland cuisines. The restaurant offers a buffet selection of dishes at lunchtime and mezze-style small plates in the evening, all prepared by chefs whose origins span the globe from Syria and Iran to Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Senegal, and Chechnya.

 
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The menus change daily, offering fresh, redolent salads and accompaniments, bursting with color and aromatic spices, such as Aloo Dum a warming potato dish from Nepal, a classic Syrian hummus with chickpeas, tahini and yogurt, and a refreshing Afghani salad of tomatoes, cucumbers red onion, and fresh parsley. They offer a meat and a vegetarian option as the plat de jour, and the day we dined we enjoyed a warming yellow split pea curry served with swiss chard and red peppers and a side of springy, nutty wholegrain rice. Desserts were generous and very rich, so much so that we regretfully could not finish them.

 The building itself has a charming history, starting out life as the Gare Saint-Ouen train station over 130 years ago servicing the trains of the petit ceinture, the small rail line that used to run around the outer edge of Paris. Since the train line was decommissioned in the mid 1930s, the space was reimagined into a cinema, and then a homeware bazaar until it was bought back by the City of Paris in 2010 and made available to tender as a cultural project. The façade has been renovated to return it to its former glory as a train station, and in the rear, benefits from a vast terrace of over 100 seats that gives onto the old train tracks, making this an enviable outdoor space in the summer months that is open for drinks non-stop midday to 10pm Tuesday to Sunday.


LES CUISTOTS MIGRATEURS | 128 avenue de Saint-Ouen | Paris 18 | +33 1 48 31 34 36 | Métro: Porte de St-Ouen | Open Tuesday-Sunday | plat du jour 11€, 17.50€ 3-course lunch menu, 4-13€ mezze dishes in the evening | reservations not necessary | atmosphere casual.


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Le Mermoz: a game-changer near the Champs-Elysées

 
 

From the street, Le Mermoz looks like just another neighborhood café. But once you see what’s on the menu and on the plate, you’ll feel differently. Chef Manon Fleury – straight from the kitchens of Astrance and Semilla – offers diners a bright, contemporary, vegetable-loving menu that truly hits the spot.  At lunch, three starters, three main courses, cheese and two desserts are offered. At night, beginning at 6:30 pm, the 1930s-era café – with a large bar, bare wooden tables, and patchwork tile floors – offers a series of small plates.

I totally loved her watercress soup, dotted with chickpeas, and served with a touch of yogurt and the popular North African spice raz-el-hanout, then topped with a generous bouquet of fresh, pungent watercress and cilantro. The grilled line-caught mackerel was equally appealing and well-thought-out, served with crunchy fresh fava beans, leeks, and a flourish of fresh herbs.

Alabaster-white codfish from Loctudy in Brittany arrived on a bed of perfectly wilted fresh spinach, a frothy langoustine sauce, and a delicate dusting of toasted sesame seeds, a unifying dish with just the right touch of acid and crunch. The only disappointment here was a promising dish of fresh cultivated champignons de Paris and feathery pleurote mushrooms, paired with a golden, runny egg yolk and a pesto of the ramp-like ail des ours (wild garlic). Brilliant in concept, but sadly the mushrooms were just too vinegary even for my acid-loving palette, as if someone had in fact made a mistake in the kitchen.

The only dessert that was still available by the end of our meal was an excellent creation of a confit of kumquats paired with crunchy hazelnuts and a café-scented pudding bathed in a sweet syrup.

The wine list holds some very well-priced treasures, including sulphite-free wines from young winemaker Laura David, whose dry chenin blanc from her Montlouis-sur-Loire vineyards, will make you sit up and take notice, and enjoy.

Le Mermoz is a good value all around with starters at about 10€, mains at around 23€, and wines at 7€ a glass. The restaurant is just steps from the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées, a neighborhood bereft of good casual spots for eating.


LE MERMOZ | 16 rue Jean Mermoz | Paris 8 | +33 1 45 63 65 26 | Métro: Franklin D. Roosevelt | Open Monday-Friday. Closed Saturday & Sunday | 40-45€ à la carte | reservations essential | atmosphere: casual.


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Etsi: like a big Greek family event

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Dining at the lively, casual Etsi – meaning “this way” or “comme ça” in Greek – makes you feel as though you are attending a big Greek family event. The owner enthusiastically announces the menu to assembled diners, explaining each item on the dining room’s blackboard. Diners respond loudly, drinks and wine are poured happily, and the small plates turned out of the tiny kitchen by chef Mikaela Liaroutsos just keep coming and coming. The 35€ evening menu is a veritable bargain, and, depending on the day, may include their homemade tarama; tiny, crispy spinach-filled spanakopitakia puff pastry pies; giant kolokithokeftedes, or fried zucchini balls served with tzatziki: and grilled octopus on a bed of fava beans and capers. The chef could have been bolder with her seasoning, but we had a wonderful time nonetheless. I was not expecting to fall in love with their desserts, but we literally devoured their giant, bright-flavored lemon tart, as well as the fudgy chocolate creation, adorned with a mix of berries. The wine list offers some Greek treasures, including the fresh, smooth and tannic red, Xinomavro Nature from Domaine Thymiopolous. And for those who prefer something a bit stronger, do try the Athens 42, a peppy, delicious marriage of the pine-like liqueur masticha, gin, and green Chartreuse, topped with vibrant, freshly zested lime.


Etsi | 23-25 Rue Eugène-Carrière | Paris 18 | Tel: +33 1 71 50 00 80 | Métro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt | Open Tuesday to Friday dinner only 7.30pm-midnight, Saturday 12.30-2.30pm & 7.30pm-midnight, Sunday noon-3pm. Closed Sunday dinner, all day Monday, and lunch Tuesday-Friday | Lunch + dinner: shared mezzes 6-9€, evening menu 35€ | Reservations recommended | Atmosphere casual.


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5 Pailles: "Life is too short for bad coffee"

 
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Perhaps it’s the journalist in me, but I always love a good origin story. And 5 Pailles has just that. Pailles, meaning straws (as in the drinking variety) is a nod to a scene in the cult French film Le Péril Jeune, where 5 friends who are lingering in a café and are pressed to order something else in order to keep their table, so they ask for one coffee with 5 straws. The link to this Parisian café: the owners are 5 friends who quit their corporate jobs to start a café with the motto “life is too short for bad coffee”.

The coffee here is indeed very good. About half their beans are sourced from Lomi specialty roasters in the 18th arrondissement, who deliver them, on request, a light and fruity roast. The other half are beans selected from favorite roasters globally, adding variety.

The relaxed and welcoming café feels like a refuge from the bustling and heady commotion of the Faubourg Saint-Denis neighborhood. Make your way past the coffee bar and the café opens out into a spacious oasis of mid-century-style furniture and jungle-inspired wallpaper.

We were tempted by several items on their simple but varied menu but eventually settled on a smoked salmon, ricotta and pickled cucumber tartine, which was fresh, flavorful and generous enough to share between two.

The 5 Pailles team is also doing their bit for the environment, using recyclable and biodegradable packaging, minimizing food waste and working in partnership with charity Eau Vive Internationale, donating a portion of their coffee profits towards improving access to clean drinking water in Africa. We love what these guys are doing from beginning to end.

5 Pailles | 79 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis | Paris 10 | Open daily, Monday – Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm.


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Restaurant Eels: Acidity, Crunch and Explosive flavors

 
 

It’s not often that I find myself dissecting a dish in a restaurant in hopes of discovering the secrets to its balance, charm and explosive flavors. But that is just what I spent a recent lunch at Restaurant Eels doing. Chef-owner Adrien Ferrand spent 2 years as head chef at William Ledeuil’s Kitchen Galerie Bis, so it is no surprise that he has honed his skills as a master of layering flavor, acidity and crunch, all punctuated with fragrant fresh herbs.

We began our meal with the restaurant’s signature dish of smoked eel, apple, licorice root and hazelnuts. Soothing soft pieces of smoked eel nestled into a sabayon-like foam, layered with bites and crunch from the tart apples and hazelnuts, showered in pretty pink oxalis petals, a well-deserving namesake dish that was both delicate yet bold all at the same time.

 The starter of carrots, fromage blanc flavored with orange blossom, and grapefruit showed how Ferrand can take a few humble ingredients and infuse them with punch and character. The pungent turmeric bouillon was a clever device that elevated the dish above the ordinary.  As with many of the dishes we sampled, what didn’t always seem obvious on paper turned out to be a harmonious combination of flavor and texture on the plate.

I can’t stop thinking about my fresh pasta main, the likes of which I have never had before. Springy, al dente fresh tagliolini was married up with a fireworks combination of sweet, tenderly cooked clams and razor clams, chamomile, delicately bitter confit of cedrat, (a large perfumed citrus fruit), and some kind of braised celery concoction. Here the sum was certainly greater than its parts, an astounding alliance of flavors that made for a surprising and altogether delightful and original take on a seafood pasta dish.  

It would be hard to improve upon his “chou farci”, moist green cabbage leaves wrapped around tender shredded lamb seasoned with a magician’s touch. (It’s a dish my mother made regularly while growing up in the US Middle West in the 1950s. But sorry, mom, yours was never quite like this!) Like all of Ferrand’s dishes, a welcome bouquet of seasonal vegetables accompanied the stuffed cabbage, bright orange and yellow carrots, turnips and white radish, showered with a welcome garnish of refreshing, fresh cilantro.

The winter citrus dessert felt like a déjà vu, our carrot entrée reimagined into a sweet course, which gave the sense that the menu had not been considered in its entirety but rather as individual elements. The chocolate cream caramel to my mind was unsuccessful, with a rubbery marzipan-like chocolate topping swamped in what was described as banana marmalade but was more like an overly pungent, liquidy banana puree. A heavy and misguided end to an otherwise inspired meal.

The restaurant’s simple, refreshing, no-nonsense décor – bare wooden tables, comfortable woven chairs, attractive lighting, and golden exposed stone walls – reflect the place’s attitude: un-selfconscious, striving but not aggressive, pleasant service, and a clientele that clearly likes having a good time.

The wine list is brief, with a very golden, faintly sweet but appealing acidic white Cour Cheverny from the Loire Valley.


EELS | 27 rue d'Hauteville | Paris 10 | +33 1 42 28 80 20 | Métro: Bonne Nouvelle or Château d’Eau | Open Tuesday–Saturday. | €28 + €32 lunch menus, €59 decouverte menu (2 starters, 2 mains and dessert), à la carte 55-65€ | reservations essential.


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Baieta: Sun-kissed cuisine from Julia Sedefdjian

 
 

Julia Sedefdjian’s Mediterranean, sun-drenched cuisine is a welcome injection of warmth at any season of the year. Sedefdjian came to fame at the 7th arrondissement restaurant Les Fables de la Fontaine when she, at the age of 21, was the youngest woman chef in France with a Michelin star. This gutsy young woman continues to impress: She is now running her own restaurant, Baieta, and still in possession of a Michelin star - this one acquired in the latest round of awards in January 2019.

There is much to love about Sedefdjian’s style and creativity as both a chef and a restaurateur. As much attention has been paid to the small details of design and decor as to what’s on the plate, although the food is really what stands out here. Julia’s unique cooking style is both a calling card to her hometown of Nice (the restaurant's name means little kiss in the Nice dialect), celebrating all the flavors of her southern French origins. Guests are welcomed with a small sample of pissaladière, a well- known tart of onion confit, olives, and anchovies, here served on a square of pillowy-soft bread, in all its glory atop a mini wooden stool, a cute and original touch. The warm confit of octopus was bursting with sunshine flavor, marinating in the rich comforting flavors of Provence: olives, tomatoes and olive oil. The sweet potato gnocchi that accompanied it felt slightly like an imposter and lacked the finesse and natural sense of place of the other ingredients.

The daurade tartare was a bright refreshing entree, exquisitely fresh and tasting of the sea, bathed in a subtle lime dressing and accompanied by a lemongrass infused cream – a little too subtle to be the highlight of the dish though.

Her bouillabaieta, a personal interpretation of the classic southern bouillabaisse fish soup is a triumph. It’s a modern revisit yet clearly recognizable as a classic, original without being wacky or losing sight of the heart of the dish that made it famous. Big chunks of monkfish, cubes of potato, garlic-rich aioli are set in a golden pool of rich fish sauce and served with a vibrant red rouille – a chile pepper mayonnaise -- making you feel as though you could be nearer the Mediterranean than the Seine.

A thoughtful and original offering of moist, delicately smoked chicken breast arrived with a flavorful package of ground chicken wrapped in cabbage, a showering of delicate greens, and a welcome, bright-tasting “tartine” of toast was topped with a silken spread made of the chicken’s organ meats, a clever way to use all parts of the bird.

Throughout, careful thought is given to the dishware, with each plate and bowl set to match the dish at hand. Sometime all white and modern, sometimes hand-crafted pottery in earth tones, always seeming to flatter the offering.

Sedefdjian’s solid qualifications in the pastry arts shine through in her desserts, the chocolate praline option came in the form of a row of mini soft chocolate biscuits filled with a rich dark chocolate ganache, interspersed with praline cream and small quenelles of hazelnut ice cream. A generous dessert of clementines teamed up with a delicate yogurt sorbet flavored with my favorite mouth-tingling Timut pepper, was served along with little cream-filled choux pastries and thin crisps of chocolate.

Service is warm and friendly albeit at times slow and distracted but if you are not in a rush, it doesn’t detract too much from an overall excellent dining experience. We were inspired by the passing dishes being delivered to neighboring tables and I suspect it won’t be long before I return for more of Julia’s sun-kissed cuisine.

Those who remember the Paris restaurant scene in the 1980s may recall that at this same address Colette Dejean officiated at Chez Toutoune, offering up an excellent red pepper mousse, fresh pasta with shellfish, and grilled leg of lamb with French fries. Vive les femmes!


Baieta  | 5 rue de Pontoise. | Paris 5. | Tel: +33 1 42 02 59 19 | Métro: Maubert-Mutalité | Open Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday & Monday | 29€ (starter + main), €45 (4-course) lunch menus, €85 7-course menu for the whole table (lunch and dinner), à la carte 60–80€ | reservations essential | atmosphere: smart casual.


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Sauvage: an updated review of a favorite neighborhood restaurant

 
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Unexpected. This is the word that immediately sprung to mind when I first encountered this small unassuming restaurant-cum-wine bar that quickly shot to the top of my list of favorite neighborhood dining spots some time back. Unexpected because of its unlikely location, its curious chef and the spectacular dishes served up for such a humble establishment. Such a restaurant might be more at home in the 9th or 10th arrondissements of Paris, yet has found itself nestled among the upmarket fashion boutiques and classic bistros of the well-heeled Sevres-Babylone neighborhood – luckily for me just steps from my 7th arrondissement apartment.

As the crowds grew, so did chef Sebastien Leroy’s ambitions, and what started as a few café-style tables scattered around boxes of wine for sale at a modest wine shop/restaurant at 60, rue du Cherche-Midi soon moved across the street, expanding not only the restaurant but adding a wine bar and converting the original wine shop into a casual place offering cold plates. Soon after the move, I had some good and some indifferent meals at the new spot – a rather cold place, with bare wooden tables, bad lighting, and walls plastered with bare boards. Now, at least and at last, the restaurants seems up to its old speed, offering super-inventive and healthy combos, with fish, meats, and poultry surrounded by an avalanche of seasonal fruits (yes!) and vegetables. Vibrant blood orange slices team up with all manner of root vegetables, and the delicate celery-root-like cerfeuil-tubereaux sits alongside a delicious serving of quail and a generous offering of wild mushrooms.

Like many of the most interesting new wave of chefs in Paris, Leroy does not have classic French culinary training. He spent his early career as a graphic designer and then as a set designer in films, before turning his long time passion for food into a fulltime occupation. However, his earthy roots as the son of farmers goes a long way in explaining his deep affinity for all things seasonal and wild (the translation for the restaurant’s name).

And true to its name, Leroy’s wild personal cooking style is punctuated with fresh herbs and edible flowers, sourced carefully from the likes of herbalist and professional forager Stéphane Meyer (also known as the Druid of Paris!).

My first meal there, in the restaurant’s original address, made quite an impression – an entrée of raw mackerel, green asparagus, toasted buckwheat and white nasturtium flowers was united by a vinegar dressing whose acidity was perfectly balanced. And herein lies what I love most about Leroy’s food, his understanding of acidity and how to make it bring a dish harmoniously together.

This perfect introduction was followed by a slow cooked pork dish served with a bright refreshing salad of raw thinly sliced cauliflower, radish, coriander, mint and punctuated with a vibrant miso dressing, a dish I immediately wanted to figure out how to recreate.

Most dishes seem to follow this formula, meat or fish, simply prepared and accompanied by one or two star vegetables, a scattering of fresh herbs, leaves and/or flowers, and a sauce with near perfect acidity every time to bring the dish coherently together – a rather ingenious blueprint I would say.

All three of the spots are dedicated to natural, organic and biodynamic wines from small, lesser known producers. The right balance of acidity, for Leroy, is just as important in the wines he sources as it is in each dish that he constructs. Since his early days of solo operation, Leroy works with a front of house who can knowledgeably talk you through the extensive wine selection and will happily make food pairing recommendations.


Sauvage   |   Modern French   |   55 rue du Cherche-Midi |   Paris 7 |   Tel: +33 1 45 48 86 79 |   Métro: Sèvres-Babylone, Rennes or Vaneau |   Open Monday through Saturday


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Ebisu: No Ordinary Fish Shop

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If being close to the source of the food you are serving is a promise of quality, then what better place to have a sushi bar than in a fish shop itself? This is exactly what fishmonger Patrick Fernandez has done with his poissonnerie (fish shop) and adjoining atelier du degustation, Ebisu. This is no ordinary fish shop, since Fernandez has been trained in the 350 year old Japanese art of ikejime, a tradition of ‘harvesting’ or killing fish in the most humane way possible that not only improves the texture and flavor of the fish but also means the fish can last longer (up to 15 days for raw consumption), age better and develop an umami flavor.

Fernandez, discovered ikejime in 2015 and since has become part of a small revolution to bring the technique to France, a movement started by Japanese keiseki master Toro Okuda who opened his own restaurant Okuda in the 8th back in 2011, and who taught Fernandez all he knows. Fernandez and his wife, Thy, opened Ebisu in April of 2018, the first poissonnerie to offer ikejime in the capital.

The technique consists of 4 swiftly executed movements that paralyze the fish and allow the blood to drain out, which reduces the flow of cortisol and lactic acid into the fish’s flesh (caused by the stress of harvesting) that can negatively affect its flavor. Not all the fish sold or prepared at Ebisu are killed using this method, however those that are not come directly from small day boats in Brittany, that assure a high-quality catch.

Fernandez makes almost weekly trips to Brittany (depending on the availability of that week’s live fish catch) to fill his tanks with fish caught in the bay of Quiberon, to bring back to his shop for sale. The price is of course higher for live fish chosen from the tank and killed using the ikejime method but the freshness and quality is incomparable. Numerous Michelin-starred chefs in Paris agree, who source their fish for their restaurants from Fernandez, including Yannick Alleno and sushi master Yasunari Okazaki from L’Abysse (notably the best sushi I have eaten outside of Japan), Takuya Watanabe from Jin, and of course Master Okuda.

The menu in the atelier de degustation is simple and firmly fish focused, offering just a handful of entrees, such as a seaweed salad with tender squid and creamy mussels, tossed in a rice vinegar vinaigrette, or a plate of briny Brittany oysters. To follow, choose from an assortment of sushi, maki, sashimi, a generous combination of the three in the Assiette Ebisu, or a chirashi bowl (a bed of sushi rice generously topped with an assortment of sliced sashimi). The 25€ menu for a starter,  main course and dessert is exceptionally good value, although we were less enchanted by the quality of the dessert on the day we dined. 

If you are a lover of fresh flavorful raw fish and sushi, here is an address that you won’t want to miss.


EBISU | 30-34 Rue du Chemin Vert | Paris 11 | Tel: +33 9 50 76 38 66 | Métro: Richard Lenoir or Chemin Vert | Restaurant open Wednesday & Thursday 11.30am-3pm & 5-8pm, Friday & Saturday 11.30am-3pm & 5-9pm. Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday. Fish shop open Wednesday – Saturday 9am-1.30pm & 4-7.30pm. Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday | Lunch: fixed 3-course lunch menu 25€ | 3-course lunch menu 25€, Lunch and dinner 17-55€ à la carte. Reservations recommended (online possible via The Fork) | Atmosphere casual.


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Seafood Perfection at La Cagouille

La Cagouille scallops.JPG

As a fish and shellfish lover, few things make me happier than a meal than includes a platter of briny, chilled oysters, perfectly seared sweet scallops, paired with a stony white Sancerre wine. Well, that’s what makes me happy at La Cagouille, a longtime favorite fish restaurant in the 14th. In many ways, this casual, unpretentious spot is one of a kind. Ever since Gérard Allemandou opened his first La Cagouille on rue Daguerrre in the early 1980s, the place has been a starring example of freshness and quality in its products.

On my last visit, I devoured the rarely seen miniature oysters, boudeuses, so called since they boud, or pout, because they can’t seem to grow any bigger. To my palate, they are the perfect little oyster, a tiny mouthful of pleasure. Alongside a thickly buttered slice of bread from baker Dominique Saibron, I’m in heaven.

It was Gérard Allemandou himself who taught me how to cook scallops and his words were “Cook scallops like meat, sear them well!” And that’s just the way they arrive at the table here, burnished brown on the outside, sweet, almost sugary on the inside. A touch of butter sauce and a shower of parsley is all they need to reach perfection. The accompanying, mile-high potato gratin – paper-thin slices of potato oozing with butter – could stand in as dessert. Irresistible.

To my left and to my right diners were feasting on the restaurant’s famous couteaux, or razor clams drowning in lemon butter, as well as La Cagouille’s moules brûles doigts, mussels so called because you almost burn your fingers eating them out of hand, off of a giant platter.

The tiny seared céteaux, or whole baby sole, are a lot of work to eat – separating out all those bones – but patience pays off in their clean, ocean-fresh flavor. I was less enthralled by the monkfish cheeks, which I found to be bland and uninspiring.

With the meal, enjoy a few sips of Henri Bourgeois’s 2017 La Vigne Blanche, a wine made from his younger vines in Sancerre. The soil there is limestone-rich, and the wine’s citrusy edge makes it a perfect match for La Cagouille’s special fare.

Allemandou’s partner, the outgoing André Robert directs the dining room and personifies the restaurant’s friendly atmosphere. A diner could hardly ask for more, with La Cagouille open every day of the year, a generous three-course meal for 39€, and a large terrace for dining in warm weather.


LA CAGOUILLE | 10 place Constantin Brancusi | Paris 14 | +33 1 01 43 22 09 01 | Métro: Gaîté | Open daily | la-cagouille@wanadoo.f | 29 and 35€ menus at lunch and dinner, 38 to 112€ à la carte | Reservations recommended | Atmosphere casual.


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Ducasse Sur Seine: Make this your next meal in Paris

Lieu jaune  (pollack), shellfish sauce and  cocos de Paimpol  white beans

Lieu jaune (pollack), shellfish sauce and cocos de Paimpol white beans

Imagine two solid hours slowly cruising the Seine on a comfortable, understated boat, all the while dining on fine seasonal fare. While I expected the ride to be spectacular, I wasn’t sure the food would provide a true gastronomic experience. I was wrong. Alain Ducasse is right. As are chef Francis Fauvel (direct from another Ducasse establishment, Le Meurice d’Alain Ducasse) and the outgoing, efficient, director Jean-Jacques Michel, direct from the now-closed Eiffel Tower restaurant, Le Jules Verne.

The 100€ lunch menu – three starters, three mains, three desserts – is an abbreviated version of the more extensive dinner menu. When asked, Monsieur Michel advises lunch, where you can fully appreciate the exquisite beauty of Paris. The electric-powered boat – which glides smoothly and seamlessly along the Seine, starting at Port Debilly just below the steps at the Pont d’Iena – cruises past the best of Paris, from the Musée d’Orsay to Notre Dame, the Louvre to Hotel de Ville. On a blue-skied day we sipped Marc Colin’s outstanding Burgundy, a perfectly balanced, finely acidic Saint-Aubin as we watched runners, bikers, and picnickers along the quais, all the while admiring the beauty of the many bridges that sheltered us along the way.

A starter of a royale de champignons de Paris was outstanding. This classic, almost gelatinous amuse bouche had the intensity of a forest of mushrooms and the heavenly texture only an angel could create. The colorful butternut squash velouté won us over with its creamy, rich texture, augmented by the crunch of autumnal chestnuts. 

Ducasse Sur Seine Pumpkin Soup.JPG

The lieu jaune or pollock– a fish I usually find a bit underwhelming – was smooth and almost sweet, made ever more endearing by a brightly flavored shellfish sauce, and the tiniest of seasonal white beans, the famed cocos de Paimpol from Brittany.

I loved the idea of the guinea hen and foie gras terrine but found it a bit underseasoned, and not as forward-flavored as some of the other dishes. The same went for the dorade (sea bream) gravlax with beets, which was much too acidic for my palette.

Vegetable lovers will adore the soothing bowl of autumnal root vegetables, while meat eaters will enjoy the veal, simply seared, served with the cooking juices and a compliment of potatoes and spinach.

An éclair-sized chocolate dessert filled with crispy praline made me smile, and the caramelized apple paired with tonka beans and vanilla offered a soothing ending to the meal.

The restaurant seats about 100 diners, while above deck there is a small dining room that can be privatized for about 15 guests.


DUCASSE SUR SEINE | Port Debilly (enter at the right bank steps from the Pont d’Iena, across from the Eiffel Tower)) | Paris 16 | Tel: +33 1 58 00 22 08 | Métro: Trocadéro | Open daily | Modern French / vegetarian Friendly | contact@ducasse-seine.com | Lunch menu: 100€; Dinner: 100-500€ | Reservations: Essential | Smart Casual (no t-shirts or shorts)


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L'Abysse: The best sushi I have eaten outside of Japan

Chirashi  of sushi rice, tuna, mussels and omelet

Chirashi of sushi rice, tuna, mussels and omelet

I could easily lunch or dine every week at L’Abysse, the open and welcoming new Japanese restaurant run by Michelin three-star chef Yannick Alléno and Japanese sushi master Yasunari Okazaki, on the ground floor of the Pavilion Ledoyen in the 8th.

Over the years I have had the good fortune to eat several times at Jiro, the legendary Tokyo sushi restaurant by sushi master Jiro Ono. But since it’s almost impossible to get a table there now, I can save the airfare and take the 83 bus to sample Okazaki’s sublime, succinct, memorable fare that is the most brilliant and satisfying sushi I have ever eaten outside of Japan.

The open, white and red dining room, decorated by Alléno’s wife, Laurence Bonnel, is as soothing and pristine as the fare. With just 12 seats at the sushi bar and a fine collection of tables at window level, each diner is assured a quiet, relaxing moment. The wall sculpture of thousands of criss-crossed wooden chopsticks is worth a small detour on its own.

Chef Okazaki and kitchen partner Taïchi Megurikami make an exemplary pair behind the gorgeous blond olive ashwood counter. In fact, one could spend the entire meal just staring in amazement at the chefs’ expertise, rolling those balls of rice for impeccable nigari sushi (choose from 15 selections, according to availability, from blue lobster to red tuna, langoustine to monkfish liver), slicing glistening filets of tuna, arranging giant mussels along a platter to be added to their outstanding chirashi, a sort of deconstructed sushi rice bowl. Generally this is not one of my favorite Japanese specialties, often more rice than anything else, but here a bowl of exquisite sushi rice is topped with a colorful tapestry of tuna, cubes of Japanese omelet, and mussels. The seasoning for every bite here is impeccable, well thought-out, and a dream come true on the palate. Once diners have consumed the “topping” a delicate bowl of hot shellfish broth is poured over the rice, an elegant touch. Like a growing number of restaurants and fish shops today, L’Abysse also offers ike-jime fish, killed using the ancient Japanese method of a needle to the brain, making for a product that remains fresh longer, is more flavorful and colorful.

But there is much more than sushi and chirashi at L’Abysse. Alléno and Okazaki have collaborated to create a series of beautiful and full-flavored dishes, from a soothingly gelatinous preparation of corn and bright, vinegared beets; a duck foie gras confit paired with kombu seaweed and smoked eel; and white cabbage with nori and mussels in a warm broth. 

If you are a sake lover, you could almost study here for a PhD in that ultimately varied fermented rice drink. We sampled three totally different sakes at one meal, each one more amazing than the other, perfectly paired to the course at hand. Try the Bunraku Kimoto from Maison Kitanishi; the Kimon Nishiki from Maison Senjo; and the Ibiwite Nama, from Maison Sugihara.

Service is impeccable with the outgoing and friendly direction of Adrien Legourriec. I am not a fan of most Japanese desserts, and the Chaource ice cream (prepared with the excellent cow’s milk cheese from the Champagne region) was one that just left me rather cold – too salty and not what my palate wanted after an otherwise perfect meal. The chocolate tart with yuzu ice cream, however, did make me sit up and take notice.


L’ABYSSE AU PAVILLON LEDOYEN | Carré des Champs-Elysées | 8 Avenue Dutuit | Paris 8 | +33 1 53 05 10 00 | Métro: Champs-Élysées Clemenceau or Concorde | Open Monday to Friday | labysse@ledoyen.com | lunch and dinner menus at 98, 170, 280€ | Reservations essential.


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Double Dragon: modern, inventive pan asian cuisine

Barbequed corn with beurre piment

Barbequed corn with beurre piment

Tatiana and Katia Levha, owners of the much-loved Le Servan bistrot, are at it again with their new pan-Asian restaurant Double Dragon. This second venture, with its domino-tiled bar, tropical themed staff uniforms, kitsch formica tables, and a Fresh Prince of Bel Air sound track, is a fun departure from their more classic first restaurant. And if this all didn’t give it away, the restaurant’s eponymous nod to the classic arcade game Double Dragon, is a sure confirmation that these two ambitious women were indeed children of the 90s.

There is very little kitsch or nostalgia in their modern and inventive menu however (perhaps except for the fried crispy chicken with tamarind sauce), which takes inspiration from a range of Asian culinary traditions, some infused with a French twist – like the deep fried tofu stuffed with comté cheese and XO sauce (a spicy shrimp-based sauce from Hong Kong) or the Tom Yam soup with foie gras. Other offerings include small sharing plates like refreshing pickled lemongrass-infused cucumbers, and a satisfying (but small) bowl of pork and crab dumplings in a spicy bouillon (the menu indicates spice levels with a chili symbol, presumably to benefit a French audience who generally have a low tolerance for spicy food. Our broth, although flavorful, had just a mild hint of chili). The cold rice noodle salad with prawns, a zesty fish sauce and lemon dressing and peanut garnish, was refreshing but expensive for what it was. A favorite was the barbequed corn lathered in a thick coat of of beurre piment (chili butter, again not so spicy!) and crushed peanuts (extra napkins recommended!).

Yam Woon Sen cold noodle prawn salad

Yam Woon Sen cold noodle prawn salad

We loved everything we tried here, but were left wondering whether they could be more bold with some of their flavorings: the comté in the stuffed tofu was just a little too timid to be a revelation (if anything it just made me nostalgic for Adeline’s Grattard’s blue cheese and cherry stuffed bao at Yam’tcha), the corn lacked the deep smoky notes you might expect from grilled vegetables, and the eggplant, that although sautéed to a buttery softness, did not deliver the promised hit of green pepper.

The service is helpful and friendly and fluently bilingual it seems. They don’t take reservations and tables fill up quickly for both lunch and dinner service, so be early or late if you want to grab a table or avoid long queues. Most dishes are best shared, so plan to go in a group of 4 or more if you can. The staff recommends 2 to 3 dishes per person.


Double Dragon | 52 Rue Saint-Maur | Paris 11 | +33 1 71 32 41 95 | Métro: Rue Saint-Maur or Saint-Ambroise | Open Wednesday dinner to Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday lunchtime | Reservations: Not taken


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Girafe: Brasserie with a View

Girafe view.jpg

When is the last time you felt you could just reach out and touch the Eiffel Tower? You can certainly try as you dine on the terrace of Girafe, the ultra-trendy, modern-day brasserie outside the 1937 Art Deco Palais de Chaillot/Cité de l’Architecture on the Place du Trocadéro in the 16th.  

It would be impossible not to be in awe of the view: At one point feeling as though you could stretch out your arms and touch the Parisian monument, at another that you might just be looking at a cardboard backdrop of the tower in Las Vegas. In fact, the entire experience is impressive, with its 80-seat warm and cozy, carved wood and mirrored interior, and a stunning display of the days fish and shellfish offerings at the entry. The all-white terrace itself – seating 200 diners – is chic, elegant, understated. Service can be a bit slow, but always amiable. The young, beautifully outfitted staff only adding to this lovely Parisian experience.   

 And the food? So far, so good. I savored the impeccable, modest-sized, ultra-fresh fines de claire oysters from the Charente Maritime. The rarely seen true supions – the most tender of baby squid, arrived bathed in a Technicolor red sauce that included chorizo, a confit of red peppers and a touch of Espelette pepper. But the best dish to date is their starter of ravioles de langoustines (my favorite seafood, by far), with its soft, welcoming pasta floating in a full-flavored mushroom and green curry sauce. I could eat that once a week! The main course dish of steamed langoustines with ginger and lemongrass, was still convincing despite being served with an overly abundant quantity of sauce.

ravioles de langoustines in a  mushroom and green curry sauce

ravioles de langoustines in a mushroom and green curry sauce

Diners next to us ordered a sole meunière, which looked delicious, and is on my “to try” list for the next visit. And I must say that the slim, golden frites were delicious: crispy, and you could really taste that fresh potato flavor.

Samplings from their cru (raw) menu were underwhelming: the yellowtail swimming in way too much sesame oil and the tuna with jalapenos and yuzu was as bland as could be.

 Desserts can be delicious. I would be proud to make their ultra-tender pavlova, topped with cream and an abundance of varied red berries, and the chocolate tart was fine, though but I would have preferred that it had been made with a bitter dark chocolate. The towering vanilla millefeuille was a luxurious delight. Some desserts are prettier than they taste: a perfectly gorgeous fig tart was simply bland, and the “unstructured” lemon tart was photogenic but forgettable.   

The wine list suggests something for everyone. Though their offerings by the glass leave something to be desired: Both the Chablis Domaine d’Elise and Sancerre Tournebridge Domaine V Gaudry were tasteless. By the bottle, I loved, as always, the Sancerre blanc from Domaine Vacheron.


Girafe | Palais de Chaillot, 1 Place du Trocadéro | Paris 16 | Tel: +33 1 40 62 70 61 | Métro: Trocadéro | Open Daily noon – 11pm | Starters, around 23€, raw dishes, 18 to 31€, main dishes about 50€, salads 20€, at lunch and dinner.


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Announcing At Home With Patricia Wells Cooking Class Dates for 2020

Today I am excited to announce the dates for the 2020 season of At Home With Patricia Wells cooking classes.

Please note that all 2019 dates are full. Be quick as classes fill up fast – we already have many places booked and two classes full as a result of our early bird announcements via our newsletter!    Sign up here    for future class announcements.

Please note that all 2019 dates are full. Be quick as classes fill up fast – we already have many places booked and two classes full as a result of our early bird announcements via our newsletter! Sign up here for future class announcements.

The 2020 class program remains the same as in previous years:

BLACK TRUFFLE WORKSHOPS (Provence)

January 20 to 24, 2020
February 3 to 7, 2020

In 2020 we are offering two Monday-to-Friday truffle cooking classes devoted to discovering the wonders of the fresh black truffle – the rarest and most exotic ingredient in French cuisine. The session includes an authentic truffle hunt, hands-on cooking classes with black truffles at every meal and in almost every dish, and an extraordinary selection of rare, white Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. 

The class is limited to eight students. The fee for each student is $6,000. We can accommodate two companions (a spouse, a significant other, a friend, or a relative who is traveling with the student), who are invited to attend the Wednesday program: the truffle hunt and the restaurant lunch (see schedule below), and the Friday lunch. This is a first-come, first-served option and the fee for each companion is $500. 

~SCHEDULE~

MONDAY (evening)
Welcome truffle dinner – Patricia cooks for you!

TUESDAY 
(morning)
A visit to the famed Vaison-la-Romaine market followed by a hands-on cooking class and truffle lunch
(evening)
We’ll make a wonderful truffle dinner and then enjoy it together.

WEDNESDAY
An authentic truffle hunt with Christian Allègre and his dramatic Laborador, Chou-Chou, followed by lunch at a regional restaurant where the chef is famous for his truffle dishes and his extraordinary cellar of Rhône Valley wines. 

THURSDAY 
A visit to the truffle supplier to the stars, a wine tasting and another unforgettable restaurant lunch (lots of truffles, of course!)

FRIDAY
New-season olive oil tasting, final hands-on cooking class and farewell lunch. 

COOKING IN PARIS


April 6 to 10, 2020
April 20 to 24, 2020
May 4 to 8, 2020


In April and May we hold three 5-day Cooking in Paris classes in our Rue du Bac cooking atelier. Each week includes hands-on cooking classes and, on warm days, lunch on our garden terrace plus an olive oil tasting, a bakery visit, a private wine tasting, a market tour and lunch at a Michelin three-star restaurant.

The class is limited to eight students. The fee for each student is $6,000. We can accommodate two companions (a spouse, a significant other, a friend, or a relative who is traveling with the student), who are invited to attend the Wednesday market tour followed by the Michelin three-star lunch (see schedule below). This is a first-come, first-served option and the fee for each companion is $500.

~SCHEDULE~
 

MONDAY 
Hands-on cooking class, followed by lunch!

TUESDAY 
More hands-on cooking, followed by lunch!

WEDNESDAY
A guided tour of the famed Avenue President Wilson outdoor market, followed by a sumptuous lunch at a Michelin three-star restaurant.

THURSDAY 
A visit to the extraordinary and historic Poilâne bakery and its ancient wood-fired oven; an extensive tasting with wine expert Juan Sanchez of La Dernière Goutte wine shop; followed by lunch in our garden (weather permitting!)

FRIDAY
A tasting of olive oils from around the world, followed by hands-on cooking class and farewell lunch. 

COOKING IN PROVENCE

June 7 to 12, 2020
June 21 to 26, 2020
September 6 to 11, 2020
September 20 to 25, 2020


Our ever-popular Sunday-to-Friday Cooking in Provence classes at our farmhouse in Vaison-la-Romaine involve plenty of hands-on, seasonal cooking, sourcing the best produce France has to offer from local markets and our own organic vegetable garden. Classes are augmented with a market visit, oil and wine tastings, and a restaurant meal featuring the very best of the local cuisine and talent. 

The class is limited to eight students. The fee for each is $6,000. We can accommodate two companions (a spouse, a significant other, a friend, or a relative who is traveling with the student), who are invited to attend the Sunday dinner at Chanteduc, Wednesday wine tasting and restaurant lunch, and the Friday lunch. This is a first-come, first-served option and the fee for each companion is $750.

~SCHEDULE~
 

SUNDAY (evening)
Welcome dinner – Patricia cooks for you! 

MONDAY
Hands-on cooking class, followed by lunch!

TUESDAY
Tour of Vaison-la-Romaine’s famous weekly market, followed by hands-on cooking class and lunch

WEDNESDAY
A private tasting of a selection of Rhône Valley wines followed by lunch at the best restaurant in the area 

THURSDAY
We cook together and enjoy our efforts

FRIDAY
An olive oil tasting, followed by hands-on cooking class and farewell lunch  

In addition to the classes listed above, we offer the possibility of a private class in Provence for eight persons and two companions, following the format of our regular classes.  The organizer will receive a 50 percent reduction in the class fee ($6,000) and in turn assure that all places are filled and that fees are paid on time. If the organizer is not able to fill the class within four months of the start of the class, we may open the class to the public. (And there would be no discounted fees.) Class timings can be flexible within my schedule. 

For scheduled classes, Sign up here to secure a place in your class of choice. Note that classes do fill up fast and places are booked on a first-come, first-served basis.



Now that we have wrapped up the cooking class season for this year, I am back in Paris to immerse myself in the local food scene once again and I am looking forward to updating The Food Lover's Guide to Paris app for the fall and winter. Check the blogFacebookInstagram and the app itself for updates. 



Exquisite Sourdough at Ten Belles Bread

Ten Belles Bread.JPG

Owners Alice Quillet (French/British), Anna Trattles (British) and Anselme Blayney (Irish/French) who helped launch the craft coffee movement in Paris at Le Bal café, and went on to open Ten Belles Café on the canal Saint Martin, are now deep into their third successful venture, the mastery of sourdough at Ten Belles Bread.  Those that know me well will be familiar with my 40-year long love affair with sourdough, and I was profoundly impressed with Ten Belles exquisite loaves with their deep flavorful crust and soft, acidic crumb. Alice is the brains behind the development of the Ten Belles Sourdough loaf, now so popular that no less that 45 Parisian restaurants order it daily, including Michelin-starred Septime and David Toutain. A self-taught baker, Alice was relentless in her pursuit of mastering the art of sourdough before opening Ten Belles Bread, including undertaking internships at Tartine bakery in San Francisco and Mirabelle in Copenhagen. 

You’ll not likely stumble across their location, tucked away in a quiet pocket of the 11th between Bastille and Voltaire, but it is worth seeking out just for the bread alone (which, if stored correctly will keep for at least a week) and is only a short walk from the Bastille open-air market (on Thursdays and Sundays). You can witness the bread production from the street, through the large glass windows that give onto the kitchen. Inside, the unusually vast space includes a bread and pastry counter, a separate coffee bar, indoor seating and a rare treasure in Paris, a large courtyard terrace, that you’ll often find filled with young Parisian’s meeting for coffee and having business meetings. Both British and French-style pastries are also served, such as scones, brownies, financiers and fruit tarts, as well as anglo-influenced bunch and lunch menus. The coffee is excellent, unsurprisingly, as Anselme is also the cofounder of Belleville Brûlerie coffee roasters. We have not yet sampled their brunch and lunch offerings, but given their record for quality in all their past offerings, I am willing to bet that Ten Belles Bread is also a great casual lunch destination. We’ll be back for sure and will update this review with our findings. In the meantime, if you’re a bread lover, make sure Ten Belles Bread is on your list.


TEN BELLES BREAD   |   17/19 bis rue Bréguet   |   Paris 11   |   Tel: +33 1 42 40 90 78   |   Métro: Bréguet-Sabin, Richard Lenoir or Voltaire   |   Open daily, Monday-Friday 8.30am–7pm, Saturday & Sunday 9am-5.30pm.


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Robert: Modern French Fare with a Twist

Vegetable salad Robert.jpg

The greatest compliment a diner can offer to a chef and a restaurant is to walk out the door after a satisfying, creative meal, dreaming of the day that you’ll walk back in. I felt that way after lunch at Robert – opened by Chef Peter Orr and partners Loïc Martin & Edouard Bergeon from the restaurant Martin in February, 2018 – a truly welcoming modern bistro in a gentrified neighborhood in Paris’s 11th arrondissement.

DSC09501 2.jpg

With a well-priced 21€ lunch menu (à la carte will cost double that, upwards of 50€) Robert is the perfect spot for a generous lunch with options that most diners will applaud. The simple yet creative menu emphasizes the chef’s commitment to impeccable ingredients, including vegetables that are delivered twice-weekly from the owners own vegetable garden in the Loire. On my visit, first-course menu choices included a bowl of steamed mussels wisely garnished with ginger and cilantro; a pork terrine with a parsley salad sprinkled with pickled onions; and that ever-popular salad of tomatoes, basil and burrata. On that same menu, main-course options included tagliatelle showered with nduja (a spicy Italian pork salami), zucchini, and basil; and a perfectly seared filet of dorade (porgy) posed on a bed of full-flavored potatoes, grilled fennel, and salicorne, or sea beans – everything I could have asked for in a satisfying summer lunch: light protein, flavorful potatoes so good you almost wanted to ask for a second serving, and that crunchy, bright green, saline salicorne, an ingredient I have worked with but never mastered its place in a dish. Now I have it!

My à la carte choice of a festive lobster salad teamed up with heirloom tomatoes (a tad mushy but pretty to look at), a stand-out lobster mayonnaise, and a shower of cilantro was truly satisfying but at 17€ seemed less of a bargain when I realized I could have ordered the 21€ menu, with three equally good courses. The vegetable salad starter was a vibrant lineup of seasonal vegetables: braised sweet carrots, yellow zucchini, crunchy raw peas and toasted sunflower seeds, tossed with fresh garden greens, cleverly brought together by a smoked egg yolk and a salty punch of grated ricotta salata. The à la carte main course – line-caught merlu (hake) was excellent, paired with that incredible Sardinian toasted pasta, fregola, a few tasty palourdes (clams), and nicely seasoned date-sized tomatoes, then topped with crunchy cooked onion slices – was excellent, and I plan to copy the restaurant’s combination. 

Of the two desserts I sampled, only one was spirited. The boule of pistachio ice cream topping a golden, crunchy pistachio sablé cookie and surrounded by brilliant red, full-season cherries was everything a summer dessert should be: fresh, light, beautiful, flavorful. And the contrasting crunchy, bright green pistachios were amazing, thank you! The day’s special dessert, a mix of wild berries paired with a a rather bland and warm fromage blanc, was forgettable.

The smiling, calm, outgoing Australian chef Peter Orr brings a unique cooking background to the modern French food he serves at Robert (named after his father, perhaps his first customer who he recalls making scrambled eggs for at aged 4). Before a stint at Au Passage in Paris, Orr spent 11 years in Michelin-starred restaurants in London including Italian restaurant Locanda Locatelli and the now-closed but much celebrated Thai restaurant Nahm. This impressive pedigree shows through most in his attention to detail, quality of ingredients and a palette that brings a new twist to modern French food, bringing a little sweetness to savory dishes and salt to desserts. Absolutely every ingredient – save for some less than inspiring tomatoes – was top rate. It is rare, even in the best of kitchens, to be aware of that and I applaud it. And who could not love the crunchy, fragrant – shall we say perfect – sourdough bread from the expert bakers at 10 Belles Bread?

There are many other things to love about Robert – the giant, stainless Rolls-Royce stove that dominates the open kitchen; the lovely, soothing pottery; a super-cheery, smiling and diligent staff; and the gentle, easy-on-the eye décor with bare wooden tables, simple lighting, and large sliding windows that open onto the street in good weather. I am already planning my next meal back there.

ROBERT   |   Modern bistro / Modern French   |   32 rue de la Fontaine au Roi   |   Paris 11   |   +33 1 43 57 20 29   |   Métro: Goncourt   |   Open lunch Tuesday to Friday, and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Saturday lunch, Sunday and Monday.   |   21€ (3 course) and 50€ (5 course) lunch menus, 50€ dinner menu, à la carte €50-60   |   Reservations suggested.
 


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