Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 10 : Part C. C is for COUSCOUS.

Today, we took a break from french food and tried something middle eastern for a change.
It's easy enough to find a lot of good to great middle eastern restaurants in Paris, considering the large immigrant population. Falafel, hummus and shawarma stands can be found side by side with traditional bistros and brasseries.
A lot of these restaurants are small and family owned so the food is almost always good and has a home cooked feel.
And since they're mom and pop enterprises, everyone helps out, thus costs are kept down and passed on to the customer in terms of very good and very inexpensive food.
As we found ourselves in the Bastille area at lunchtime, we looked around the many cafes and restaurants until we saw one that looked interesting.
We decided on Cafe Kabylie, which had better than the usual interiors (some of these places look like you're sitting and being fed in mama's kitchen).
Another promising sign, it was full of patrons, most of them seemed to be regulars and not tourists.
We squeezed into a table right by the kitchen and ordered the couscous "berber" platter which included spicy sausage, beef shank, chicken, meatballs and a lamb skewer.
The couscous came piled into a huge bowl, a mound of golden grains that looked like it could feed an entire army of the french foreign legion.
Along with it came side dishes of chick peas, golden sultanas and the vegetable stew that you ate with the couscous.
The meat platter was very good -- the beef and lamb were tasty and tender and the sausages, although termed "spicy" were quite mild. The chicken was falling-off-the-bone tender.
We finished the meat and tried our best to to do justice to the couscous but after having less than a third of the huge bowl, we had to give up.
It was a delicious, inexpensive and filling meal -- a great way to fortify ourselves for another whole afternoon of walking through Paris.

Day 10: Part B. B is for BREAD.

My father was great cook, a serious foodie and a wonderful story teller.
And a lot of the stories he told me about his younger days somehow involved food.
Food he grew up with. Food his mother used to make.
Food he ate during the times he was abroad.
One thing that stuck in my mind is how he reminisced that when he was young and in Paris, sent there on a government grant, he would see a lot of people buying french bread or baguettes from the bakery, sticking them under their arms,
tearing off pieces and eating the bread along the way.
He said he found it so intriguing -- the bread was probably freshly baked, still warm, it would have been crusty and chewy and really good bread. No need for butter, he used to say.
Somehow, he never got the nerve to do it himself.
So tonight, New Year's eve, as we had just come from our favorite boulangerie and we had bought a baguette for tomorrow's breakfast, I realized that the bread they gave me was still quite warm -- fresh from the oven.
It smelled so good -- so I tucked it under my arm and tore off the crusty end that was poking out of the paper bag, and started to eat it as I was walking back to the apartment.
It was exactly what I had imagined the taste to be.
Daddy, you would have loved it too.

Day 10 : The A-B-C's of Eating. . . Part A.

A is for this small organic boulangerie down at the end of Rue Mouffetarde called Moisan - Le Pain AU Naturel (and that's where the A comes from).
They make AMAZING (that's another A) macarons.
Macarons are nothing at all like macaroons. Funny what a world of difference one less "O" makes.
Made with egg white,sugar, and almond meal, a macaron is basically two meringue disks held together by different kinds of filling.
You can have chocolate ganache or fruit fillings or whatever your macaron-loving heart desires.
Macarons come in different sizes, from bite sized minis to rather outsize disks like the ones I like at Moisan.
Forget Dalloyau or Laduree with their long queues of tourists buying super expensive macarons.
Moisan sells these large, gloriously delicious macarons for just 3.5 euros.
I have tried both Dalloyau and Laduree macarons and these taste so much much better.
Chewy, not too sweet, and the fillings are so fresh -- I had a raspberry macaron (which got crushed on the way back to the apartment) which was out of this world.
And like every other piece of bread and pastry in the store, the macarons are made with organic ingredients.
Which makes me feel just a little bit less guilty about liking them so much.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 9: Duck Leg preserved in Duck Fat

Bring out the statins!
Confit de canard is a piece of duck leg, preserved in duck or goose fat. This is another typical French dish which you can find as a plat in almost every bistro, cafe, brasserie in town.
It's extremely tasty ... as anything preserved in fat is bound to be.
I had confit de canard for dinner, at Cafe Mouffetarde, a few blocks away from the apartment.
It was served hot with crisp, fried potatoes. And I had two glasses of beer to go with it.
How much more unhealthy do you want it to be?
Well, my order of duck leg even had a small section of very crisp, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, very-bad-for-you duck skin.
It's a wonder I am still alive to write this post.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 8: Where's the Bouef?

The traditional stew beef bourguignon is what comes to my mind when I think french food.
It's nothing fancy, just chunks of ordinary stewing beef, cooked in good red wine with tomatoes, onions, carrots. Also served with boiled potatoes or sometimes, a side order of rice.
I like eating this stew with chunks of a crusty baguette, the better to sop up the very flavorful sauce with!
I had beef bourguignon at a small but very crowded cafe in Montmartre called Templier.
It was the plat du jour and cost only 10.8 Euros for a hearty and filling bowl!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 7 : "At Home na At Home" in Paris

It usually comes after about five or six days away from home.
You can't look another sushi or roast duck or pizza or brie in the eye. You want to run away when someone mentions tonkatsu. Or wontons. Or nasi lemak. Or risotto.
The only cure for that is to have food that screams HOME from every molecule of its being.
On our 7th day in Paris, it was time to break open the small bag of brown rice I had lugged all the way from Manila.
It was time to have kanin. Kanin for breakfast and if there would be any left, kanin for dinner.
I had bought a can of Ma Ling from the Pinoy mini mart the night before and a can of spanish sardines from Franprix.
That, along with scrambled eggs and steaming hot rice was such a good way to fortify oneself for the cold and rainy day ahead. When we got back later in the afternoon from walking and walking through the museums at the Invalides, we stopped by the supermarket at Rue Mouffe and bought the provisions for sinigang -- pork neck, spinach instead of kangkong, onions and tomatoes.
Back in the apartment, I boiled the pork till tender and added all the other ingredients, using lots of tomatoes to help add sourness to the sinigang mix. Spinach stood up well, taking kangkong's place without any trouble.
Soon the aroma of home was wafting through 7 rue Berthollet.
Ang asim! Ang sarap!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 6: Foodie delights dans trois parties.

The first part came at breakfast where instead of the usual crusty baguette, we had a large, beautiful brioche -- it made me a bit homesick for the Pinoy version, albeit with cheese - the ensaimada.
This brioche was purchased from the "suki" boulangerie at Rue Mouffe - we finished the entire thing for breakfast, along with the last remaining pieces of cheese.
After breakfast, it was time for the out-of-Paris tour to the Normandy region, specifically the towns of Lisieux and Honfleur.
Lisieux, birth place of St. Therese of Lisieux, was food for the soul and while we found ourselves still there and quite hungry at lunchtime, we decided to wait a bit and eat at the seaside resort town of Honfleur, less than an hour' drive away.
Honfleur is postcard pretty, even in the winter. In summer it's wildly crowded and teeming with tourists but today, on a cold windy wintry day, few tourists were around.
Still, the many restaurants surrounding the little basin in the middle of town were open. No one though was sitting at the tables outside, instead people were enjoying the warmth (of heaters) within.
We chose a pretty little brasserie and took a table by the window where we could look out onto the picturesque view.
Honfleur being a seaside town, seafood made up most of the menu -- the classic moules, sole, coquilles St. Jacques, shrimps, whelks, whitefish. Of course the other plats consisted of entrecote, confit de canard, roast chicken.
I decided to order the bouillabaise Honfleur and all of us split an order of moules provencale.
This was the second part of the day's foodie delight -- the bouillabaise came in a large soup bowl, orange-y, thick and full of shrimps, fish, crayfish, pieces of scallops and potatoes. It came with lemon slices and a side of croutons, mustard and grated cheese. Very flavorful and just the right thing for this cold day.
The moules were a bit much and while very sweet and fresh, we had to leave over one third in the pot.
The last part of today's food delights came to me on the way back to the apartment in Paris.
The Filipino owner of the van who we had hired for the day invited us to visit his Pinoy grocery located right in the most expensive area of Paris - the 16th arrondissement.
Tucked away in a side street around Place Victor Hugo, "Philippine Mini-mart" sat proudly among the high end boulangeries, brasseries, bistros, restaurants (Joel Robuchon's place is about a couple of blocks away).
The door read "Tuloy po kayo Kabayan" and we did. It's a small place but packed with stuff from home. Aside from the main selling area on the first floor, there's a basement where more Filipino and Asian goodies can be found.
It's quite complete - they sell condiments and mixes, canned sardines, Ma Ling luncheon meat, canned laing, Jack and Jill and Oishi chips, Skyflakes and sunflower crackers, bihon, canton, rice in 5 kilo bags, red eggs, Po-land hopia, frozen Saranggani bangus, frozen fish balls and kani sticks, frozen chicken, pork cuts and so many others and because the owners are Kapampangan, tubs of home made sisig, longganisa and tocino can be found in the chillers.
There were even non food items like Sunsilk shampoo and Ponds whitening cream.
The owner Peter and his wife said that this mini mart had been serving the Pinoy and the Asian community for the past 6 years. While the rent is high, it's in the center of an area where most Pinoys live or work so the steady stream of clientele allows them to turn a profit.
I bought some Sinigang mix, Century Tuna adobo and a can of Ma Ling -- just the right things to give us a quick taste of
Three food delights in a day -- the last one the best of all.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 5 : A stomach for Andouillette!

I had been wanting to try this very special and very French sausage since I read about it in various food, travel and recipe books. Made with the various segments of the pig's intestines and stomach and blended with herbs and spices, andouillette has its origins in France's Champagne region.
Purveyors of good quality andouillette are awarded "grades" from A to AAAAA, the supreme proof of a sausage's quality.
Today, I finally had my chance.
We were going "junk" shopping in the Marches aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancort, the grand dame of all French flea markets but decided to have lunch first.
It's dangerous to shop on an empty stomach, as my Mastercard can attest to.
There was a small brasserie on the corner, near the Metro exit of Porte de Clignancort. The menu listed the usual brasserie items -- omelets, salades, roast chicken or confit of canard with pommes frites, flank steak. Sandwiches.
And then I saw it, right there in the "plats" section ... andouillette sausage with pommes frites.
It was well fried when it arrived, glistening with oil, slightly charred -- a sausage bursting at the ends, hiding all the good things inside.
I sliced it open and the intestine parts, sliced lengthwise in strips, spilled out. It smelled good, faintly intestine-ly but good nonetheless. Even the casing is made with the lining of the pig's bowels -- don't even say it or think it but that's what the sausage is wrapped in.
I took my first bite -- very tasty, very distinctive flavor and I mean that in a totally good way. For the faint hearted, onions and herbs help neutralize the intestine taste but then again, I like all those bits and pieces of the pig that other people won't even look at.
Andouillette with its pig intestines, pig bowel lining is part of the principle of nose to tail eating. Nothing goes to waste when the animal gives up its life, everything is used, everything is made into something good for someone like me to eat!
Ad astra per alia porci!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 4: Christmas Day

Last year, when we traveled to Europe, I discovered the joys of staying in an apartment versus staying in a hotel.
For one, the space is so much bigger (hotel rooms are tiny in Europe - specially if you have 4 star tastes but only a 2 star budget).
Also, if you stay in an apartment, for a split nano-second, you can actually fantasize that you are a resident of the place and not just a tourist.
And what do residents do? Well the mundane everyday things -- they do laundry, they make their own beds, clean their own place, shop for food.
And they cook.
Today being Christmas Day, I thought I'd cook something for breakfast. Cold cuts and cheese are wonderful but Christmas calls for a little more effort.
So, I made an omelette using the fresh mushrooms bought from Rue Mouffe, some of the good thinly sliced ham from the Boucherie St. Medard, three organic eggs -- all cooked in butter and good cloudy and very green olive oil. Plus a few fried baby potatoes on the side.
Joyeux Noel everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 3: December 24

Why does everything taste so good in Paris?
Perhaps because the French are so serious about their food and make sure that everything, whether artisanal or commercially produced, is of the best quality.
Today, after a visit to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal along Rue de Bac, we chanced upon another proof of the French passion for the best quality food.
We saw this huge food store aptly called Grande Epicerie Paris where we spent a good hour an a half among the throng of Parisians rushing to buy provisions for their reveillon or noche buena.
It was delightful to just walk through the many shelves and counters selling all kinds of condiments (I never realized how many salts one could buy), sauces, pates, pastries, dressings, desserts, cooked food (from sushi to dimsum to falafel to beef wellington), organic produce, fresh produce (lobsters for 99 euros a kilo!!!) confectionaries, cheeses, chocolates, you name it, this place had it.
I felt like I was in Food Wonderland.
Too bad that taking photos was strictly prohibited, to separate the mere onlookers from the serious food shoppers, I suppose. But I did manage a photo taken outside the main door.
This is one place I must go back to before we leave Paris.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 2: Tarte Tatin from Rue Mouffetarde

There is a small bakery and patisserie that I discovered when we went to Paris last year, at the corner of Rue Mouffetarde and Rue Arbalite. It became my regular boulangerie and I walked there every morning for a crisp baguette that we would have for breakfast.
Aside from different kinds of bread, they made terrific pastries - the best of which to my mind was their tarte tatin. Topped with thinly sliced apples, with a creamy delicious custard and a really flaky yet crisp crust -- it's to die for and the first
place I went to, after we finally landed in Paris, just 12 hours behind schedule, was to hie off to this bakery and buy a couple of tarte tatins and my second favorite, an apricot tarte.
The lady packed my pastries in a pretty and festive box which added to the pleasure of that very first bite of the best tarte tatin -- my very first taste of Paris.

What I Ate This Christmas ... in Paris: Day 1

Well technically I was not in Paris yet -- flew out of Manila on KLM 804 to connect to a cancelled flight to Paris. Thankfully the people at KLM Manila anticipated the monstrous chaos happening all over Europe and booked me on another flight -- that would leave the next day. But never mind, I was determined to make the most of this once in a lifetime Christmas vacation and if that included a few missed connections, as long as I got to Paris before Christmas, I knew I would be all right.
So the very first thing I ate was a hot meal on board KLM. Nice packaging hid a not so nice lunch, served soon after take off. Beef and noodles and a salad with feta cheese.
This being KLM, they didn't feed us much -- a small cold sandwich six hours later and another hot meal of shrimp noodles and a really sour mango salad a couple of hours before we landed.
If I had known that the next meal I would have would be a bottle of Coke Zero in the hotel where they put us up for the night, well, I would have eaten that salad, sour mangoes and all.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Guess Who Took Me to Lunch?

No it wasn't John Malkovich.
Or Willem Dafoe.
Or even Sting.
(Now you know who my heart beats for)
It was Tatsuyoshi Takashima.
And who is Tatsuyoshi Takashima?
He's the President of Dentsu -- THE president of the entire worldwide global Dentsu, where I am just a small cog in a huge wheel.
Now I don't know about you, if you regularly have lunches or dinners or even Starbucks coffee with your global worldwide CEO so maybe this is all ho-hum, been-there-done-that to you.
But this was a pretty big deal to me -- to be singled out for this one special honor.
This happy event took place in Tokyo, last month when I was there for my annual budget meeting.
I had met Mr. Takashima, actually did a presentation to him when he visited our regional office in Singapore last July. All of of us Asian country heads were there and during the official dinner, I got my 15 minutes of face time with him and we got to talking about Japanese food.
He seemed like a genuinely warm and engaged person and wanted to know what I liked about Japanese food.
So I said my all time favorite was tonkatsu or fried pork cutlet (think weiner schnitzel on steroids). He said that was his favorite too and promised that he would take me to this place that served the best tonkatsu in Tokyo.
After he moved on to talk to other people, I thought this was just part of the usual small talk so I was surprised to receive an e-mail from his executive assistant a few weeks later inviting me to a tonkatsu lunch in Tokyo, with a specific date and time.
To cut to the chase, I showed up at the appointed time, we walked to his favorite tonkatsu restaurant, 15 minutes away from the office.
And we had lunch together. It was an hour of personal time, with no talk about the office or work, but just good conversation about food, family, ideas -- it was lunch between two kindred human beings who just happened to both enjoy tonkatsu.
And yes, it was the best, the most delicious tonkatsu that I had ever had.

Shin Ton Yon ... OD'ing on Chinese Food in Greenhills

Aside from Le Ching, Won Ton, Beijing Hand Pulled Noodles -- which are all cheap AND great places to eat Chinese food, there is another one that I particularly like in the Greenhills shopping center area and that's SHIN TON YON Foods just outside the chapel.
A self service canteen style place, Shin Ton Yon sells and serves up mami, roast meats, freshly rolled amoy style lumpia and a medley of Pinoy and Chinese dishes sitting cheek-by-jowl beside each other in a stainless food counter.
So you can opt to have your adobo, pinoy or chinese style (with a hard boiled egg) or have adobong pusit, kikiam, or pork barbecue, mustard greens or stewed tofu, paksiw na pata or pata tim, kilawin tenga or lechon macau or pata hamon. A little confusing but it's all good. Round off the orders with yang chow rice or kiampong rice or have some machang.
For dessert, there's a chewy mango bar, black gulaman, soy drinks, sometimes a really good iced saging na saba.
And after your meal, browse among the shelves and what's on the counter and take home 3-in-one coffee from Malaysia, mulberry and acai berry drinks, peanuts, candies, hopia, pork floss, achara -- there's a veritable sari sari store right in front of you!
For a more authentic feel, drop by Shin Ton Yon in Binondo where they do take out orders of cooked food and roast meats.

Won Ton Desires

Lusting for a steaming bowl of won ton noodles? Fulfill your desire for this and more at this teeny hole-in-the-wall called (what else) WON TON tucked away in a side alley of Shoppesville in Greenhills.
A friend took me here for a late lunch -- he promised Won Ton was better than Le Ching, my all-time barometer for judging cheap dives with great food.
Won Ton is a hop and a skip away from Le Ching. For a minute, I hesitated before I pushed open the door -- Won Ton is a much smaller place, the leatherette seats and booths had definitely seen better days and it seemed quite poorly lit. But, the best places are sometimes the ones that look the worst so I was ready to be won(ton) over.
And yes, I was indeed.
The menu, all two pages of it, was more extensive than Le Ching's. Aside from the noodles and dimsum, there was a respectable list of pork, chicken and vegetable dishes. My friend recommended two must-trys for a first-timer like me: the fried pork chop with tofu and the fried chicken wings with sweet vinegar. I also wanted to try the spareribs rice, something that all good chinese dimsum places do well. And of course won ton noodles. And since we ordered pork chops, well -- we had to have the yang chow fried rice.
The food came quickly -- hot, freshly cooked and yummy. The fried chicken wings were tasty and crisp and had a sweetish vinegar dip with lots of chopped onions. The pork chop with tofu reminded me of Hainanese pork chops and were fried with green and red bell peppers, broccoli flowerets and some chili pieces, very tasty and quite tender. I found the yang chow rice a little too oily and slightly more salty than I would have wanted it -- and made a mental note to order plain steamed rice next time.
Looking for something else to order, we decided to have fried shrimp puffs which were quite good, the filling was made with real, recognizable shrimp and the small dish of mayonnaise that came with it made for a creamier bite.
Won Ton is a great little discovery -- It's good, it's reasonably priced (P140 to P270 for generous servings, good for 2 to 3 unabashed eaters) and has a lot of other items on the menu that look very promising!
From now on, when I'm in Greenhills, Le Ching will have to share my wallet with Won Ton!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Late Blooming Early Adopter

I have always been a laggard when it comes to technology.
I didn't have an air conditioner in my bedroom till the year 2000.
I fought kicking and screaming against the onslaught of the mobile phone ("Whaaaaaatttt???? Clients can call me ANYTIME????").
It took me some time to switch from a desktop computer to a laptop.
And I only got a flat screen t.v. set early this year.
So I think I must have been possessed by the wandering soul of an early adopter because just a week ago, I bought an iPad.
Yes, yes I know.
This from someone who had scoffed at the iPad as a glorified expensive plaything -- not really for serious business stuff, that's how people who bought it justified it to themselves and to their wallets.
But, something came over me -- a reckless spirit, a feeling of sheer abandonment of all reason, of throwing all principles and pre conceived notions to the winds....
Hello iPad, you lovely gorgeous thing! Come here and make me happy!