Monday, March 22, 2010

Off to Berlin!

Well, it's 4:41 in the morning, and I'm off to Berlin!

It's technically on business, but I'm really excited to get back to Berlin anyway. It's such a nice city, and I've packed my running shoes so I can get a few runs in around my old neighborhood.

AND, after 2 long years of absence, I plan to revisit my all-time favorite Indian restaurant. I've had dreams about this place, that's how good it is. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't the biggest reason I said yes to this trip.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Les Bouquinistes

Last night, I had the best meal I've had in Paris. Singlehandedly, this restaurant supplanted my previous three favorites (Cafe la Jatte, Le Petit Musset, and Siamin').

A few weeks ago, the president of my company had charged me with taking the steering committee of my client to a fancy dinner to celebrate the beginning of the pilot phase of our project. The pilot phase had been delayed for 6 months due to unexpected complications, and a big payment was pending this phase, so when we entered it on 1 March, the president was understandably excited.

"No budget," he told me.

"Impress them," he said.

I spent days researching restaurants before settling on Les Bouquinistes. I knew, in my heart of hearts, no budget really meant - lavish but not ridiculous. It's easy, in Paris, to find lavish and ridiculous. It is not easy to find a place that will impress a cosmopolitan group of Parisians that is lavish but not ridiculous.

I had often heard of a very famous French restauranteur/chef named Guy Savoy. He has a string of restaurants here in Paris, as well as one somewhere out West in the US. His flagship restaurant is called Guy Savoy, appropriately, and can run about 275 Euro (450 USD) for a tasting menu - a small portion of most dishes on the menu. Ok, lavish AND ridiculous. That was out. But what about one of his so-called "baby bistros", a Guy Savoy-designed place run by someone else? YES. There are 3 in Paris - and I chose the one in the middle of the road, an intimate venue called Les Bouquinistes.

Les Bouquinistes is named after the "bouquinistes" along the left bank of the Seine. On either side of the Seine, you will find painted wooden stalls selling STUFF. On the right bank, it is the artists - selling paintings, postcards, posters, etc. On the left bank, they sell books, magazines, and printed materials. The people who sell books are called bouquinistes, and the restaurant is on the left bank, facing a row of bouquinistes, just outside of St-Michel.

The restaurant itself is sleek - outside walls are practically floor to ceiling glass; the inside walls are white with some exposed brickwork and vibrant modern art. The tables are elegant: white and cream linens, modern flatware, and low floral arrangements. The staff is dressed, predictably, in black; unpredictably, the entire staff is composed of adorable young Frenchmen trained to cater to your every whim. Case in point - I arrived only semi-dressed. I could not completely zip my dress by myself; such is the burden of living alone. When I got there, they took my coat AND zipped my dress. Then, they showed me a selection of 5 person tables, from which I was allowed to choose (I chose the table with the highest ratio of radiators nearby!).

The food was...divine. There is no other word. To start with, they bring gorgeous mini baguettes and olive tapenade (which I do not eat). Then, they bring an "amuse bouche" gratuit - on the house. The amuse bouche for last night was a shellfish and carrot veloute - a very finely blended mixture of carrot, oysters, and cream.

And that was all before ordering!

The menu was absolutely perfect - they had so many interesting and inspired options. Unfortunately, it isn't the kind of place where it's appropriate to photograph every course (nor was I with the kind of company where that is allowed), but I can, and will, describe what I enjoyed last night for you in great detail.


"Creme de chataignes et champignons grilles" - Cream of chestnuts and grilled mushroom soup
This soup was heavenly - salty and sweet, with a dollop of heavy cream right in the middle of a smooth, silky soup. There were lovely chunks of grilled mushrooms waiting at the bottom, as well.

Main dish:

"Faux filet d'Hereford et pommes paillassons a l'echalote" - Faux filet of Hereford beef with potato-shallot pancakes
I asked for the steak to be medium rare, and truly, the French take the "cuisson" (cooking) of the steak very seriously. It is an art to cook the steak perfectly and shame on the man who ruins a beautiful steak by requesting it too cooked! This steak came with a beautiful jus - a lightly sweet and tangy sauce drizzled over it; it was sliced, which facilitated its consumption AND jus absorption. The potato pancakes were crispy on the outside, soft and delicate on the inside, and just the right amount of salty-onion flavor. This steak ranked among the most memorable steaks I've had - tender, easy to cut, melted in my mouth. It MAY have been better than my previous favorite steak - a filet mignon from Ruth's Chris in Minneapolis.


"Creme brulee amande et clementine confit avec sorbet clementine" - Almond creme brulee with crystallized clementine "jam" and clementine sorbet
The creme brulee was very, very light. Usually creme brulee is quite heavy, but this was soft, creamy, and mellow. At the bottom of the ramekin, there was a smear of tangy, rough-cut clementine marmalade, for lack of a better word. Topping the creme brulee's burnt caramel, there was a preserved half-clementine topped with a delicate scoop of homemade clementine sorbet. The sorbet was FABULOUS. I did not eat the clementine itself - as it still had the rind and I am not an enormous fan of citrus zest. While the creme brulee was delicious, it was not the BEST creme brulee I've had. One of my coworkers tried the panna cotta, which she said was delicious. There was also a moelleux au chocolat (chocolate lava cake) on the menu, which I would be very interested to try in the future.


Chateau Chasse-Spleen 2005, red
Despite having lived in France for 2 years, I do not know a lot about wine. This was chosen by one of my coworkers who, in his spare time, takes honologie (the science of wine) classes. It was a very mellow red wine that seemed perfect with my steak and was chosen to pair with both steak and "coquilles St-Jacques" (scallops).

All in all, the meal was amazing, the venue was gorgeous, the company was great, and it was the best business dinner I've ever had. If you're ever in Paris, I highly recommend that you make a reservation at Les Bouquinistes. However, be prepared to open your wallet. A three course meal for 2, including wine, could easily be 300 Euro ($450).

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Weekend of The Food

I had a sorority sister come in to town this weekend - she was on a business trip in Mali and took a two day stopover in Paris just for kicks. We had SO much fun - we got together with another sorority sister from a different chapter who also lives in Paris and quite literally ate our way through Paris, starting with lunch on Saturday.

Basically, the weekend went like this:

Meet Andrea for lunch at cute French bistro. Eat, drink, make merry with Andrea at cute French bistro.

Go shopping for clothes to wear out with Andrea; meet Kerry at H&M.

Continue back to my apartment, where we subsequently consume an entire baguette, a wedge of brie, and a sizeable chunk of Emmental - along with a bottle of champagne that Kerry gifted me for my 25th birthday. We were celebrating - among other things, we celebrated Andrea's safe departure from Mali (eurgh), the submission of my first business school application, my 700 on the GMAT, and Kerry's new job.

After the champagne, head out for a very late Italian dinner (3 courses, complete with a lovely banana pizza for dessert). Finish a bottle of lovely chianti at dinner.

Then, on to Place de Clichy for going out. We ended up at my old favorite - The Harp, kind of a grotty little Irish pub with a laid back vibe.

On the way home, get harassed by greasy Frenchmen who would totally fit in with the cast of Westside Story (leather bomber jackets, slicked back hair, and an overly macho attitude).

Then, repeat:


Meet Andrea for lunch at Higuma, a gorgeous little Japanese noodle shop near the Louvre. So good. We had gyoza and "lamen" - we were unsure whether they meant to say lamen or ramen, but we got a good bowl of noodles either way.

Directly after Higuma, on to St-Michel for a crepe sucre (I had a crepe with raspberries, nougat flavored ice cream, and chocolate sauce).

And, then - the crowning moment: La Duree. I never get sick of La Duree. It's always worth fording through the crowds of irritable middle-aged French women for their macarons. But I was too sick from all the other food to eat mine after purchasing them, so I saved them and ate them for breakfast this morning. Two best flavors: lemon and vanilla.

You'd think we stopped there - but we didn't. Then, we walked down to Porte Maillot and sat in a fancy schmancy brasserie complete with leather chairs and had cup after cup of cappucino. Delicious. At approximately dinner time, we ordered - more dessert. I had creme brulee for dinner, and Miss Andrea chose a lovely mille-feuille. So good. I couldn't finish mine, though.

Fast forward 12 hours: I was so sick I almost couldn't go to work this morning. I had such a terrible stomachache that I almost swore off food today.

But it was so worth it. Paris food can be so good if you know where to look (and awful if you don't!).

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's Friday!

It's Friday, it's Friday, it's Friday. If you could see me, you would see me doing a very happy Friday dance.

I went for a run yesterday morning - still felt a little tired, but I'm sure after this weekend, everything will be better. Dying for my calorie binge weekend...! The food better be damn good, since I've stuck to my daily points alllllll weeeeek loooooog in anticipation. I usually eat my WPs split up over the week, and my APs as I need them - and this week, it's just been me and my 21 points. Boo. Hiss.

Hope everyone's having a nice Friday!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm a bad blogger.

I never write. I'm sorry, you guys. I'm caught up in my world that I find it difficult to write about it!

Anyway, things are going ok over here. The project is picking up a bit, thank GOD. We're already 6 months overdue. And, after a 3 month stagnation after Christmas, I'm finally ready to get back on track and finish my weight loss. I'm only about 2 lbs over goal right now - but I think I might lower it by 5 more from my original goal. I'm just not satisfied with what I see yet (though that may be the natural state of being for a woman in her twenties...).

I have kind of a crazy weekend coming up - a sorority sister is popping through Paris and will be here just Saturday and Sunday. She wants to go out to dinner and do all the fun stuff, so I think this weekend will be tough food-wise. But c'est la vie - so I've been working especially hard to keep on plan throughout the week and so far so good!

AND, on a related note, next week I get to go to this AMAZING restaurant here in Paris, somewhere I would NEVER go by myself. I'm taking my clients to Les Bouquinistes, one of Guy Savoy's baby bistros. O.M.G. The menu looks divine. It took me 3 hours to choose the restaurant I wanted to take my project team to, and this is supposedly one of the 100 best restaurants in Paris. And it's going on my company Am Ex, so I don't have to pay for it! I get to eat there, but don't have to pay for it. So excited! I already have what I'm going to eat all planned out. Most importantly, I have chosen my dessert (and I've been imagining it for two weeks now): creme brulee with clementine confit. I think it might be a life changing experience.

So, with that, I shall leave you. I promise to write after the restaurant - and when I hit 125, I will take progress pictures again!