Archives for posts with tag: Paris

I really don’t even know what to think about 2011. On a personal level, it reflected the abundance of our cozy life built for two. But once outside that bubble, the world was in chaos. Whether it was the family dispute that ended in a shooting two doors down, reading about yet another riot in yet another Middle Eastern country, or watching the clown car of the Republican debates unload, everything seemed to be in violent flux, which didn’t bode well for many things that relentlessly stayed the same. (Hi, economy.) Since Jeff and I aren’t yet prepared to expatriate and don’t quite see the point since these are global issues, we’re still in Chicago, keeping the wolves at bay. Here’s our top ten moments of laughter and forgetting from 2011, in a vague order.

10 – Pete’s pizza and brown liquor nights
Pizza usually pairs with beer. Pizza also pairs well with red wine. Since “The Beginning,” Jeff and I have been discovering new things. Sake, for example, is surprisingly good, although you do have to be careful with quantity. You may find yourself forsaken by God the next morning. We’ve also discovered that brown liquor (bourbon, whiskey, scotch) can be most excellent if you choose your toppings carefully. Spinach, sausage and garlic is our usual for brown liquor. Pete’s pizza and brown liquor night gets to start the Top Ten because of their sublimely thin crust and the fact that Jeff proposed on one of said nights. I kind of suspected that it would happen since he brought home a Laghavulin 18 year.

9 – Ai Sushi, Chicago, IL
Ai Sushi is pretty average as far as Chicago goes. From the decor to the menu, it could be any other sushi joint in this city. However, Ai features fugu (blowfish) once a year when it is in season in the winter. Fugu is nearly impossible to find because its poisonous layer between the skin and flesh presents preparation issues. Apparently, the sushi boys at Ai know what to do with it because we went and I didn’t die. Jeff also had an excellent port that he hasn’t seen since his waiter days in North Carolina. We probably won’t go back this winter because the actual experience of eating fugu didn’t quite live up to its danger factor. However, I can say I ate it.

8 – Jamaican Oxtail Stew with Coconut Rice
I found this little gem in the New York Times and blogged about it previously. It’s been a minute since we’ve made it, but now that Chicago is creeping toward below freezing, it’ll be back. Hopefully, it won’t ruin our appetites for anything else again.

7 – Pork Tinga
Maggie, of Maggie’s Creations Pâtisserie, randomly posted on the Book of Faces that she was making pork tinga. Curious, I made with the Google. As I read the recipe aloud to Jeff, he decided that we needed it, stat. Thankfully, pork tinga is a Mexican dish so we were able to find everything we needed without making a quest out of it. This too is excellent for sub-zero weather since it takes at least six hours to cook and turns into a bubbling cauldron of spicy pork danger. Serve with corn tortillas. Try not to burn yourself.

6 – Sunda
Sunda got #1 on last year’s list and, although we still love it, it’s been moved up because of the repetition. I can honestly say that we will never tire of this place. Since meat dishes are usually an afterthought for those gaijin who won’t eat seafood, I always feel a little bad for Jeff when we go out for sushi at other places. It’s not that he won’t eat it, he just can’t. Thankfully, the chefs at Sunda give as much love to the carnivore as they do the pescatarian. They’ve also started serving soup dumplings in 2011. We also found out that we can request our favorite waitress, Melissa (hey, girl! hey!) when making reservations. A new sake showed up on the menu as well. I think it’s called “Dewasansan” or “Green Ridge” in English. Most excellent.

5 – Jeff’s menschiladas
Again, a repetition from last year, but god damnit, they’re really good. For whatever cognitive reasons, we each had an epiphany about the leftovers on the same day this past fall. Thus, they’ve been renamed “ubermenschiladas.”

4 – Family Visit Thanksgiving
Since our wedding in late October was a very small, private affair, my parents visited us for Thanksgiving instead. Maybe it was because my dad was still unemployed. Maybe I was feeling some degree of guilt that they didn’t come to the wedding. Regardless, I went full out on the Thanksgiving feast. You can find a recount of it here. Let’s just say it was a day long nosh-fest that culminated with a gorgeous leg of lamb. Everyone was very sated and grateful.

3 – Timpano
I went home to Columbus in August for a combined celebration of my birthday and my mom’s. Timpano was the topic of much discussion because she wanted to make it for the wedding, but Jeff and I weren’t really having a wedding per se. It was more of a glorified elope. Since Mom had the timpano eye of the tiger, we all got together and made it during the visit. This has also been previously blogged. To sum up, it was incredible and a lot of fun with my family.

2 – La Mascotte Brasserie, Paris, France
In some ways, I almost, but not quite, wish that the food in France hadn’t been as amazing as we’d heard. La Mascotte Brasserie is a perfect example of the food depression we experienced after our return. We happened upon it on a stroll one day, smelling the ocean breeze before actually seeing the 10 ft table of impeccably fresh assorted raw seafood. Oysters, mussels, crabs, shrimps, cockles, scallops. Oh dear god. It was just too much beauty and there was even a little walk-up counter where you could just slurp down a few before going on your way. Jeff asked if I would like to go there. I played cool, stating “Well, I don’t know. Do you think it’ll be any good?” He stared at me like I asked if the sky was blue. We went the next day and I ate the fuck out of some raw bar. Jeff eventually had braised veal and beans, after a massive French fail on my part that nearly resulted in veal brains. Since then, there have been no oysters as lovely. I should test that theory at Publican, but I won’t go there out of principle due to some horrifically rude service after our last visit and the brief Yelp war that ensued. Ya, a Yelp war. How lame is that? Bloody social media.

1 – La Part des Anges, Paris, France
Grrr. I hate to reveal this place, just as much as I hate to reveal La Mascotte. Please reader, if you end up going to Paris and you do take my advice on these things, please don’t be a dick. I’d like to think that you’re all reasonable diners, but I don’t entirely know since this blog has many views, but few comments. Please don’t start with “Dressing on the side,” and “Can I get that without sauce?” and “This just isn’t what I was expecting.” Make your choices based on your preferences and basic allergies, if you have them, but don’t be a fussy bitch. Let the chef guide you through the experience. Actually, if that’s how you are at restaurants, don’t fucking go to either place. To take it one step further, don’t even go to France. Just don’t. Don’t spread your fucking whiny shit around the globe. Stay at home and eat saltines and ice chips. Ideally, you wouldn’t leave the house at all so the waitstaff anywhere wouldn’t have to deal with you, but that’s in my imaginary world. Oh! Also? Attempt to speak some basic French. It helps immensely.

I digress…

Where was I?

Notable Mentions – in no particular order

A) Chicken Marsala: Jeff makes a wicked chicken marsala. Damn. That dish gets him booty too.

B) DD’s Famous Vin Chaud: Jeff and I have been hot wine fans for quite a few winters now, but, again, Paris sort of ruined it for us. I couldn’t quite get the recipe down on my own or find one that didn’t involve five kinds of booze. C, a friend from the OSU days who now lives in Paris, mentioned that her fiancé has an excellent version. Being the super sympa cat that he is, he kindly passed it along to us. Thanks DD and C! Our winter just got that much warmer. (No, I can’t give you the recipe. Sorry. Just know that it involves more time and more cinnamon than you think.)

C) Cheri Bibi, Paris, France: It was difficult to put this in the Notable Mention section because the food there was excellent. C and I had cocotte with eggs and foie gras, which was to die for. I had an exquisite piece of raw salmon with cucumber salad, all very Asian-inspired. C and DD had fish en papillote, which smelled fantastic. (Don’t eat the paper.) Jeff got a pork chop that he said was good, but it didn’t quite blow him away like La Part des Anges. My boy is a highly devoted one after all. So maybe that’s why it gets notable mention. Who knows. We had a lot of fun. (Addenda: C is less self-conscious about taking photos of her food and has a more discreet camera than mine. For visual aid, check out her blog – Une Americaine. She also recorded her own visit to La Mascotte, tower of oysters and all.)

D) Publican: To quote Joy Division, “Why is it something so good just can’t function no more?” Damn. It was so perfect for the short time we were together. Maybe I’m being overly stubborn and butthurt. The young woman who flamed me on Yelp probably has nothing to do with your restaurant. Regardless. Love…love will tear us apart…again.

With that, 2011 is done. I’m sure there are more that we’ll think of later tonight or in the next few days, but what’s done is done. 2012 is looking up to be less obstacle ridden. Let’s hope so.


Fried rice. I must have fried rice. Oooo! And wonton soup!

I placed my urgent order with Friendship Chinese among receipts in euros and camera cords. Jeff had talked of pizza and whiskey on the (extended) plane ride home, but was no longer hungry at this point in the evening. So it was that I was free to decide our first taste of Chicago.

Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t wander the streets of Paris only looking for cheeseburgers. We are not the travelers so maligned by William S. Burroughs. Chinese food is actually quite prevalent in Montmartre, although sold deli style and too suspect for me to attempt even if I had wanted it. There are just certain things that remind a person of home and cleanse the palette for proper reflection. (I finished the egg rolls, cold, this morning for breakfast.)

My first thought on our eating experiences in Paris is of sauce. I will admit to a brief moment of sadness upon realizing that nearly everything has sauce on it. I will also admit to a small amount of joy at the thought of coming home to less sauced cooking after my constitution started to rebel against so much rich food and epic amounts of wine. Jeff, on the other hand, was in heaven simply because the sauces were heavenly. From the au poivre that comes with plat boucher to the tomato-based braising reduction served with veal and white beans, even the confit at the bottom of roasted potatoes, they were all mop-worthy. I’ve never seen Jeff eat that much bread or starches in all of the two plus years we’ve been together. His reason – that the bread was good and the left-over sauce was worth eating – is all that really needs to be said.

My second thought is of illegal consumables, particularly foie gras. We know “what’s in that,” to quote the catch phrase of so many vegetarians. We’ve even seen the more graphic photos of less scrupulous farms, thanks to PETA and the push in Chicago to ban it. We still eat it with a quiet prayer for the suffering of all sentient beings behind our illicit glee. On our first night in Paris, we wandered down to the bistro right by our flat after a shag, a nap and a shower. The plat and entree combo was an excellent price (20 euro), so we each got one. My entree was foie gras marinated in a digestif that I can’t remember anymore served on a bed of salad greens. I expected the little rounds of paste we’ve come to know as foie gras. I expected that it would be better than in Chicago. What I didn’t expect was a heaping portion of an actual liver, cooked perfectly rare and chilled to a silky, dense, pudding-like consistency. It was sweet, nutty, and had a clean, savory aftertaste. My eyes started to water, my heart raced and I speechlessly offered some to Jeff. We both agreed that it was a happy bird in its lifetime because it lacked the unmistakeable funk of stress hormones. We also agreed that if Chicago aldermen had ever had foie gras like this, they probably wouldn’t have tried to ban it. On another evening out with friends, C and I had the ouef cocotte au foie gras, which incorporates small slices of liver sexiness into a lightly baked egg. Add butter, chives, and some cracked pepper for something I want for breakfast every day for the rest of my life, regardless of the risk that I would balloon up to 500 pounds in a year. In fact, Jeff even tried a bite. He hates eggs with a passion, let alone vaguely soupy eggs.

My last thought for today is that of revealing sources. I know this is a food blog and if I’m going to contribute to the corpus of literature (as it were), I should at least include the names and locations of where I ate, if not pictures as well. You all know how I am about taking pictures of food in public, especially with my inconspicous DSLR and particularly when I have to schlep a camera bag on a night out. That’s not going to happen. Camera bags ruin the silhouette of my outfit. Similarly, I’m not going to reveal my sources, except for those places where I feel the source can be revealed. A bit of tautology, yes, but many of these locations are doing just fine on the local Parisian dime and I refuse to kill what I love.

Until next time!

(Ed note: Don’t worry. This won’t be an overly theoretical wank. I don’t have the brain power for it this morning.)

1) Paris is not all leisurely strolls through open-air markets and sufficient time to cook. This I’ve always known because I’m capable of retaining a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to media. This morning finally yielded evidence from the field. A friend who recently moved to Paris posted a Facebook photo of “noon at the chain grocery store.” I had a moment of simultaneous horror and delight. (There has to be a German word for that…) Horror because another soul, one I actually know, had to experience that dreadful of a queue. Delight because I’m just an iconoclast. As it is in Jewel, so it is in Tesco, Monoprix and all the world over. Salut to disbanding stereotypes.

2) We had a rehearsal for a large grant event at work this past Friday. I had to be there an hour and a half early, so was on a different train than usual. The Purple stopped at Howard, like it always does. An older African-American man gets on, talking loudly to no one in particular about how you don’t want to get wet out there, it just makes it colder. I glance at him quickly. He’s wearing one of those disabled veterans cards around his neck. The train pulls out and, after a stop or so, he asks the man in front of me “Excuse me brother, do you like poetry?” The man replies, “No.” and the vet sits back down. I turn my head out the window toward pigeon shit rooftops and wet streets because we’ve all seen this schtick before. A few stops later, he approaches me. “Excuse me miss, do you like poetry?” He offers handwritten words photocopied on yellow paper. The title reads “A Desire to be Strong.” I reply, “Sometimes.” knowing that I’ve just become his target. He tells his story – some division of the Marines, small arms specialist, born Oct 25, 1948, diabetic. He reads his poem. Somewhere in my mind I’m thinking “I’ve seen this cat before. Is he the same one who recited poetry about Leo women, hugged me and asked me to marry him that one night while waiting for Jeff in front of Bravo?” Then he asks for $5 for food. I thought I had some change and started searching. Turns out I didn’t. In this pause, I noticed his breath was really sweet with a hint of ammonia. Not booze sweet, but diabetic, bad kidneys sweet. I asked him, “When was the last time you ate?” He replied “Yesterday afternoon.” I ask him if he can follow me to my stop so we can get him some breakfast.

Noyes comes. I can see from the El platform that the usual places aren’t open because it’s so goddamn early. As we wander through the grey mist of Chicago spring, I notice he isn’t keeping up. I look behind me and he’s tottering along; his body obviously hurts. We talk of where the Marines took him – Germany, Hawaii, Vietnam four times over. A posh coffee shop is open. We go in. They have nothing a diabetic should be eating; only muffins and bananas on the menu. As it turned out, they were even out of bananas. He says it’s better than nothing. I rustle up a few bran ones and a glass of whole milk while he’s in the restroom and set him up in a window seat. As I leave, I see that he’s taking all these prescriptions out of his bag. I can’t help but laugh a little, thinking about the young blonde thing behind the counter, pouring hot water over free trade grounds into small beakers, her “Soy, skim, 2% or whole?” reply when I asked for a glass of milk and what might be going through her head right now. I wander off in the rising dawn to campus while Evanston sleeps. My primary responsibility that day? Catering.

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