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November 12, 2007

Ode to a Gaufre

Two guest blog entries in little more than a week -- this is great!

Ode to a Gaufre

A guest blog by Missy

Souvenir shops are everywhere. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower can be purchased in many sizes, made from just about any material you can find. I have a small metal on sitting on my desk at work from the first trip. A trip to Paris also requires a stop at Ladurée for macarons to bring home, a visit to La Maison du Chocolat, and a cosmetic/perfume purchase or two.

But my mostest favoritest place to souvenir shop is at the grocery store. You can find all sorts of interesting goodies that can't be found at home (although with the array of ethnic markets, this is much less true nowadays) and even for stuff you can find here... just the fact that it comes from somewhere else, and the label is in a foreign language makes it more interesting. Jars of romescu sauce from Spain, Ajvar from Croatia, olive paste from Rome, Lizano sauce from Costa Rica, grapefruit jam from Germany... the list goes on. Even a normal spice bottle seems special when it says cannelle instead of cinnamon.

Being the mother of teenage boys, grocery stores have been a lifesaver for me when it comes to bringing them gifts. T-shirts start to get old, and what teenage boy wants a mini Eiffel Tower? Being teenage boys, they like to eat... and the grocery store has never failed me when it comes to finding something fun. I've brought them back tiny cans of coke from Korea and the Netherlands, a Russian brand of ramen noodles from Vladivostok, spaghetti-flavored potato chips, gingerbread cookies, Kinder candy, you name it.

But in the eyes of my children, there is nothing quite like Gaufres de Liège.

Gaufres de Liège

Gaufres de Liège.

Gaufres de Liège, also known as sugar waffles, have the look of a Belgian waffle, but a taste more akin to that of a glazed donut. My family first discovered gaufres several years ago after my mom (their grandma) came back from a trip to Belgium. She'd brought back a box of 24, and they didn't last long at all. I subsequently had several trips within the next year or so to Belgium and France, and I always managed to bring some home. Then I started traveling elsewhere in the world, and honestly, I forgot all about them.

Fast forward to a week and a half ago, when we were driving back to Paris from Giverny. We stopped at a huge shopping complex to go check out the Carrefour store, which is like a cross between Super Target and Costco. As we were walking up and down the aisles, I saw them. I may have shrieked. Then I started pulling packs from the shelves. I would have just bought an entire case of them, but I already had two full suitcases (I'll definitely be taking a different packing approach next time). I ended up with two packs for each of them (with seven waffles per pack), and then one more pack of the chocolate-covered ones to share. Frank wasn't entirely convinced that these were worth the excitement I was exuding, but he threw another pack of the chocolate-covered ones in the cart anyway, just to see.

Frank opened his pack in the car. "I'll just try one... then I'll take the rest home." (Yeah, right... they were long gone before we left Paris.)

Even having watched Frank devour his, I started having doubts on the flight home. I had bought wine for my parents, cosmetics for my sister, and some chocolates and macarons to share at work, but all I'd got the kids was waffles. Would they remember them? Would they still like them? Was I a bad mother for having spent a week in Paris and coming home with only $8 worth of snacks as a gift?

I got my answer on Thursday after picking them up from their dad's. I'd left the packages on the coffee table, and very shortly after they got in the house, I heard two loud yeaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh's, and the ripping of plastic. In the last 48 hours, they completely decimated the package of chocolate-covered ones, and are each over halfway through one of their packages of the plain ones.

They remembered, they're happy, and right now... I'm the coolest mom in the universe. Yay me.

I seriously considered stopping by a local supermarket later during our week in Paris to buy more Gaufres, but then realized that if I did so, I'd simply take them home and eat them, and not necessarily with much help. And it's not as if the Belgians are known for their health food. So I resisted the temptation... this time.

November 04, 2007

Lunch at L'Arpège

When we were preparing for our trip to Paris, I realized that this would be a great opportunity to knock off one of my 100 things to do in life (actually, it's up to 129 now, with 31 done, 98 to go), which was to dine at a Michelin three-star restaurant. (I considered making a trip to The French Laundry during a vacation in Sonoma Valley last year, but let it go.) Missy is far more tuned into good food than I am -- not only is she an excellent cook, but she can identify all sorts of ingredients in dishes she's served, and she can remember entire multi-course meals. So I left it to her to choose the restaurant, and she chose l'Arpège, Alain Passard's three-star destination in the seventh arrondissement.

During the meal, I realized I wouldn't be able to do it justice here, so asked Missy if she'd write a guest blog entry for me. She kindly agreed, and the results are below.

L'Arpège

A guest blog by Missy

When Frank brought up the idea that we should try a Michelin three-star restaurant on our trip to Paris, I was both ecstatic and terrified. I am a budget traveler. Having friends in several international cities has afforded me the the opportunity and local insight to have some of the best meals that €50-60 can buy... but for me, a €60 dinner is a huge extravagance, which is countered by several days living on €3 sandwiches, crepes, and fruit from the market. The idea that one meal could cost what I would normally budget for an entire week's vacation spending was more than a little intimidating... even if I wasn't the one paying for it.

It's something that he'd always wanted to do, and if you're going to do it, what better place that Paris? First, I thought he was kidding. Then a slight wave of panic set in. Do I have nice enough clothes? Will I pick up the wrong fork? And most importantly, would my slightly-less-refined-than-the-average-Pigalle-whore-palate be able to appreciate the subtleties of three-star cooking enough to make it worth the cost?

I found myself getting dressed for lunch at l'Arpège. I was intimidated, but very much anticipating the experience.

We started with a glass of champagne. A very large slab of salty butter (from Breton) was placed in the middle of our table, and I wondered why anyone would need that much butter. Then started what we came to call "the bread game". Throughout the meal, the moment either one of us picked up our crusty slice of house-made bread to butter it... it was replaced with another. I tried just pulling a small piece of the bread off and leaving most of the slice on the plate, but that didn't work well either. They just left a smaller piece... but another piece nonetheless. And despite my first thoughts… we made it through most of the butter.

At the end of the meal, the bread game gave way to the cookie game. We were presented a tray of different cookies, and thinking it would be rude not to finish, I made Frank eat one of my cookies since I was full. Less than a minute later... it was whisked away and another left in its place "just in case" we wanted more.

The bread game is just part of the service that makes a three-star restaurant. The service is exquisite. They manage to anticipate every need (even the needs we didn't yet realize we had) without being intrusive. There are approximately 20 tables on the main floor, and there were at least 12 members of the waitstaff buzzing in the dining room at any given moment, and I'm pretty sure we were served something by nearly every one of them.

But, oh the food. Every single bite of every dish was magical. We both ordered the prix fixe lunch menu. But before our food arrived, we were offered an amuse bouche, then the larger mise en bouche.

Looking back, I don't think that we could have made a better choice in restaurants. Despite being an avowed meat-a-saurus, I really love vegetables... which just so happen to be the main focus at l'Arpège. All the vegetables served at l'Arpège are grown organically in Chef Alain Passard's garden outside of Paris. They are shipped in fresh every morning by high-speed train. Once in the kitchen, the things he does with vegetables are nothing short of amazing. My favorite course was the celeriac (celery root) tagliatelle with a light herb sauce. It wasn't pasta made with celeriac... it was made from celeriac. Perfectly formed pasta shaved from a lumpy root. Simply amazing. And who'd have thought you could put green tomatoes in dessert, or put artichoke in a cookie? I think I heard Frank say "this is the best I've ever had" during almost every course.

In the end, my intimidation was unfounded. I was dressed much nicer than the rapper dude and his music industry entourage at the table across the room. They changed flatware with each course, so I only had one fork to choose from at any given moment, and my palate appreciated every magical bite of that meal.

But the very best part of the experience was when Chef Passard came out into the dining room to have his lunch. He graciously signed a copy of the menu for us, which will soon be framed and hanging somewhere in Frank's house, and we were able to thank him personally for the wonderful meal. Ok, actually... Frank thanked him personally while I was petting the rapper dude's cute little dog.

So I shall send my compliments to the chef via this blog entry, and say merci beaucoup à mon beau copain for treating me to such an amazing meal and an unbelievably lovely week in Paris.

The entire content of the Frank and Missy lunch at l'Arpège (mind you, these all sound better in French, and they taste much much better than they sound):

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve champagne.

2002 Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru (Pinot Noir).

Housemade bread with salted Breton butter (a lot of it).

Amuse bouche – a fried parsnip "cup" with a thin slice of a carrot, then topped with a tiny perfect beet square.

Mise en bouche – poached egg flavored with maple syrup and cider vinegar.

Course 1 – creamed rutabaga soup with whipped salted cream.

Course 2 – roasted beet with chocolate sauce and sea salt.

Course 3 – sautéed spinach, carrot puree, and lime chutney.

Course 4 – celery root tagliatelle with mustard and herb sauce.

Course 5 – assorted roasted baby vegetables.

Course 6 – pan-roasted scallops (Frank); roast duck (Missy).

Cheese course – this wasn't included in the prix fixe menu, but they rolled a cart over with at least 20 fantastic looking varieties of cheese, and we couldn't say no. We let the waiter pick, and it was goooood.

Course 7 – green tomato mille feuille with lemongrass ice cream.

Course 8 – A plate of cookies including green tomato and artichoke macarons.

Coffee (Frank); mint tea (Missy).

I have very little to add to this -- just a few notes here and there.

The service was the best I've ever had in a restaurant, and I've had some good service over the years. It wasn't just the bread game that Missy describes, or the fact that they somehow managed to refill my wine and sparkling water without me noticing. When our primary server introduced herself, I spoke in French at first, but asked if she could speak in English. She claimed that my French was far better than her English, but said she would give it a try, and then proceeded to speak perfectly fluent English. But what truly impressed me was that she adapted perfectly to us both. Missy speaks a smattering of French, and I'm at something like the second-year or early third-year college level, and our server seemed to know exactly when to speak in French to each of us, and when to revert to English because the wording would be too complex.

In terms of the things I thought were the best of their type I'd ever had, to be specific, there was the champagne (which, thankfully, I've found an online source of by the bottle or case since our meal), the butter, the beet, the duck, and the mille feuille. Oh, and one of the cheeses we were served was the best I've ever had. Missy will almost certainly remember the name; I don't, only that it was a hard cheese, perfectly salty, sliced at our table from the largest cheese round I've ever seen.

Coincidentally, over lunch, Missy and I had been talking about the issue of introducing oneself to celebrities in restaurants -- would we do so? The conclusion was that it's a tricky thing, because you don't want to intrude on someone's private life. When Chef Passard came out to have his own lunch, taking a corner table, we weren't sure at first that it was him we were seeing. As we were getting ready to leave, I spoke to our server in French, in a low voice:

Me: Is that gentleman over there the chef?

Server: Yes, it is.

Me: I wouldn't want to disturb him, but would you tell him that we found the meal to be extraordinary?

Server: I will do so, but you would not disturb him at all.

Me: You are sure?

Server: Oh, yes.

So I didn't feel bad in walking over, pardoning the intrusion, and thanking Chef Passard for the extraordinary cuisine. He was gracious and accepted the compliment with pleasure.

I can't recommend l'Arpège highly enough. It's expensive, to be sure -- on a per-person basis, with the weak dollar, it cost about three times as much as I had ever paid for a meal before -- but you owe it to yourself to have an experience like that at least once in life.

Finally, thanks to Missy for writing such a great guest blog entry, and especially for being such a stylish companion at lunch.

November 01, 2007

The Best Hot Chocolate in the World?

Monday, we were walking down the rue de Rivoli when we came upon Angelina. "This place," said Missy, "has the best hot chocolate in the universe." Solely in the interest of blogging material, in we went.

Angelina has a stunning array of pastries, and a more-than-serviceable lunch and dinner menu, but what they're famous for is their hot chocolate, especially their signature drink: un chocolat à l'ancienne dit "L'africain". When you order it, you're given a small pot of the chocolate, a cup, a spoon, and a bit of crème chantilly on the side.

The chocolate isn't overly hot -- I'd call it warm at best. But it's the thickest hot chocolate I've ever seen. It's the thickest hot chocolate I can imagine. Seriously, it's as if the restaurant takes blocks of chocolate, melts them down, and cuts the result with just enough cream to keep it liquid as it's being served. It's probably the most decadent thing I've ever had. The pot contains enough chocolate for two cups each for two people, and after my two, with the obligatory dollops of crème chantilly, I was actually feeling a bit light-headed -- it was probably the most sugar I've had at a single sitting in years.

So was it the best hot chocolate in the world? As with the sandwich at Viena, I can't say. But it was the best hot chocolate I've ever had, and I can't begin to think of what would take second place.

I didn't take any pictures inside, but here's the front of the restaurant:

Angelina

Of course, I need pictures of the actual chocolate serving, so we're going back later this week -- once again, solely in the interest of blogging.

You can try this hot chocolate for yourself at:

Angelina
226, rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
Tel: 01 42 96 47 10

October 31, 2007

Eating "The Best Sandwich in the World"

After a quick day and a half in Barcelona over the weekend, I'm now in Paris and starting to catch up on my trip blogging.

Last week, I blogged about the Barcelona restaurant Viena, where New York Times food critic Mark Bittman had eaten what he called "the best sandwich in the world". While there, I had to try it, so I made a trip to La Rambla to visit Viena for a flauta d'ibéric d.o. jabugo.

Viena

So how was it? It wasn't the best sandwich I've ever had -- but it was very good. What was impressive was how simple it was: a bread roll that was nearly perfect, with a crunchy, almost crackling shell and soft interior; crushed tomatoes; possibly a bit of olive oil (or oil in which the tomatoes might have been packed); and of course, the salt-cured Iberian pork, sliced as thinly as possible. Highly recommended (even if I still prefer the sandwich I had at Barndiva last year).

As you might expect, Viena is making the most of their glowing review:

Viena Quotes Bittman

October 21, 2007

The Best Sandwich in the World?

A week from today, I'll be in Barcelona with my girlfriend -- a quick 36-hour stop on our way to a week in Paris.

A few days ago, I was skimming through an episode of Mark Bittman's series The Best Recipes in the World (after his book of the same name) and noticed he headed for Barcelona. He visted a restaurant on La Rambla called Café Viena, where he ordered a flauta d'ibéric d.o. jabugo -- a salt-cured ham sandwich that he pronounced the best in the world. Not the best ham sandwich, but the best sandwich, period. Here it is in its porcine glory from his review in The New York Times:

The Best Sandwich in the World?
I'm not qualified to say whether it's the best sandwich in the world. No one is, including Bittman. But I'll report back if it's the best sandwich I've ever had. It will have tough competition: last year, I had a barbecue short rib sandwich at Barndiva in Healdsburg, CA that I immediately pronounced the best sandwich of my life. We'll see.

May 26, 2006

YO! Sushi

YO! Sushi is a British chain of hipster sushi-on-a-conveyor-belt (kaiten) restaurants. The decor was cool, the music good, the sushi tasty, the prices reasonable, and how could I resist still and sparkling water taps at each table?

YO! Sushi 2

I miss it already.

May 13, 2006

Whole Foods' Landmark Store

Yesterday my brother Eric and sister-in-law Karin took me to visit Whole Foods Market's new landmark store in downtown Austin. It didn't disappoint. According to Whole Foods' Website, the landmark store is their largest at 80,000 square feet, compared to an average store size of 32,000 square feet. The ready-to-eat section is staggering -- made-to-order sandwiches, made-fresh noodle and rice bowls, pizza, hot dishes, smoothies, gelato, desserts -- and that's not counting a separate seafood bar where customers can dine on freshly grilled salmon and halibut burgers. Walk-through refrigerated beer section? Check. There are two levels of below-ground parking, with grocery cart-capable moving walkways. Suddenly my Whole Foods Market at home feels horribly inadequate.

Whole Foods 1

The front of the store.

Whole Foods 2

One of two outdoor dining areas -- the other is on the roof.

Whole Foods 3

Eric: "Did you see the Doom-slash-Half-Life 2 scene back there?"

Whole Foods 4

The amazing candy counter -- complete with selections from Fran's Chocolates of Seattle.

Whole Foods 5

The most tantalizing display of gelato I've ever seen, including while in Italy. Top-center-right, with chile peppers stuck in it, is chocolate chipotle -- wow.

If you're ever in Austin, I highly recommend a visit. If shopping is increasingly entertainment, this is the cutting edge of the trend when it comes to groceries.

May 12, 2006

Chuy's

Chuy's is an Austin tradition for Mexican food -- it's hip and funky and fun. It wasn't the best Mexican food I've ever had, not even close -- that honor would belong to Border Grill -- but the atmosphere made for a great time.

Chuy's

The entrance.

Chuy's Hubcaps

Hubcaps on the ceiling.

April 07, 2006

Starbucks, Consistency, and Competition

Earlier this week, I wrote about the minor controversy in Missoula, MT over the opening of the downtown's first Starbucks. Now, again via Starbucks Gossip, comes word of an anti-Starbucks column written by a local resident:

While I agree that many small, independently owned espresso shops in America may owe their origin to Starbucks; I would argue that Starbucks, like many corporations, sold its soul on the route to ubiquity. Starbucks coffee has become a symbol of consistent mediocrity. No longer educating the public about coffee, they actually brew mass misconceptions about coffee and espresso (i.e. the caramel 'macchiato').

The downtown Missoula coffee market is more than saturated. There is a place to buy an espresso drink on EVERY single block of the downtown business district. The impending arrival of City Brew (with its Orange Street, interstate-friendly drive-thru) and downtown Starbucks are further pressuring an already pressurized market, hence the predatory practices which bring up the strong revulsion of Starbucks. There is not an open market for espresso downtown. Starbucks is not providing something which is uniquely Missoulian or uniquely Montanan, like the rest of the downtown businesses. It will not draw tourists from other areas to downtown. While each coffee retailer has its own loyal customers who would never darken the door of a Starbucks, that's not the customer base they are worried about. Downtown Missoula greatly relies on the summer tourist dollar. Coffee is of great comfort to the traveler. Before, a downtown tourist would have been obligated to take a chance on a local coffeehouse. Now the siren song of the "consistent yet mediocre" mermaid will be beckoning on North Higgins.

These are not customers who have the time or inclination to experiment with some local flavor. These customers have one shot to buy coffee downtown before they leave. A national name and familiarity is NOT something the local retailer can compete with.

Starbucks is "mediocre", yet its popularity means it can't be competed with? I'm reminded of the famous Yogi Berra line:

Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.
You can't have it both ways, saying, "Starbucks is mediocre; I can't compete with it." If Starbucks is truly mediocre, then surely it can be competed with. And somehow it's "predatory practices" of Starbucks to open up one more espresso outlet when there's one on every single block of the downtown business district? You mean it wasn't predatory when all those other espresso outlets opened up on top of one another?

The author is right in one sense: Starbucks is all about consistency -- that's the nature of the quick-service food business. I don't pretend they make the best coffee around. For example, if I'm in Seattle, I'll choose Uptown Espresso whenever I'm near one. But if I'm on the road, and especially if I'm in a hurry, yes, I'll choose Starbucks -- I like it, and more importantly I know what I'm going to get.

It's said that the greatest weakness of a person or an organization is its greatest strength taken to an extreme, and I generally believe that. If Starbucks' greatest strength is consistency, then its greatest weakness is an inability to adapt quickly or locally. Instead of trying to prevent competition, figure out how to beat Starbucks at its own game. Make drinks they don't make. (Why hasn't someone made an Americanized, Starbucks-style version of Thai iced coffee and popularized it?) Offer customers a different experience than they can have at Starbucks. (Why no fireplaces, especially in cold-weather locations like Missoula?) Give them things that Starbucks doesn't: Pastries baked on-premises. Free Wi-Fi. Donuts. A free newspaper with a minimum purchase -- say, a drink and a pastry (and make it a national newspaper -- travelers don't care about local news). Fresh made-to-order sandwiches. Soft drinks.

Starbucks is neither evil nor predatory. They're powerful, and they have tremendous brand name recognition, and they didn't get that way by making drinks that people didn't want. But they can be competed with. To attempt to deny them access to a local market is anti-competitive, and therefore fundamentally anti-consumer. Moreover, if you don't like Starbucks, don't think you can defeat them by locking them out: you can't. You can only defeat them -- or, more likely, slow their advance -- by being innovative and clever in how you compete with them. And putting up barriers to them isn't going to teach you how to compete: just ask the US auto manufacturers about that.

April 03, 2006

Before Starbucks

Via Starbucks Gossip, an editorial from missoulian.com on concerns over a new Starbucks set to open in downtown Missoula, MT:

It's an encouraging reflection of how well things are going in Missoula these days that little else is causing as much teeth-gnashing among the local intelligentsia than the impending opening of a downtown Starbucks coffee shop...

Those small independent coffee shops and kiosks all over town that Starbucks now threatens? They owe their existence to Starbucks. It was Starbucks that got people to plunk down $2 for a cup of coffee and be glad about it. It the process it launched an entire industry -- made up, by the way, largely of little, independently owned espresso shops that took a whole lot of business away from the cafes and restaurants that once did a brisk business with 25-cent cups of drip coffee.

I hadn't thought about it this way. Before Starbucks, coffee was cheap and bad. So my San Francisco friends who get upset over Starbucks displacing local coffee houses are getting upset over Starbucks displacing its own imitators.

Today there are thousands and thousands of young people earning money in coffee-making jobs -- some with Starbucks, most elsewhere. These are jobs that didn't exist before Starbucks introduced Americans to the term "barista." These aren't high-paying jobs, but they're plentiful with flexible hours, and they help pay rent or tuition. Pre-Starbucks, making coffee was something a waitress or bus boy did in between their many other chores.
My son Duncan, who is a senior in high school, just got a job at the Starbucks located in the Super Target here in our town. He'll be a Target employee, not a Starbucks employee, so it won't be quite the same, but still, I was pleased to hear about his new gig. In the universe of jobs available to high school students, Starbucks is good duty -- decent pay, reasonable hours, interesting customers, and no slaving over a fry cooker or burger grill. It will be a solid part-time job for him over the summer and as he starts college this fall.

March 31, 2006

Burgers and Donuts, Sittin' in a Tree

I promise this isn't becoming the Weird Food Blog, though now that I think about it, that is a cool idea for a blog! Anyway, I was at the gym this evening, and telling my trainer about NASCAR meats, when he told me about seeing a newspaper story on "Baseball's Best Burger":

The [Gateway] Grizzlies [a minor league baseball team in southern Illinois] and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts have teamed up to create “Baseball’s Best Burger.” The burger, which was debuted at the Grizzlies' December 10th sale, consists of a thick and juicy burger topped with sharp cheddar cheese and two slices of bacon. The burger is then placed in between each side of a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed doughnut.
The release goes on to note that the idea came from the "Luther Burger", found in this Snopes entry:
Mulligan's, a suburban bar in Decatur, Georgia, serves a dish they call the "Hamdog": a hot dog wrapped in a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions, and served on a hoagie bun topped with a fried egg and two fistfuls of fries.. It's one of Mulligan's other repasts, however, that may represent the ultimate in nutritive decadence through its combining greasy, cholesterol-stuffed meats with a sweet, fatty, deep-fried treat: the "Luther Burger," a bacon cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun.

Why the "Luther Burger"? It's named after R&B singer Luther Vandross, that much we know, but whether there's any real connection between the singer and the burger is less definite. Rumor has it that the donut-cheeseburger concoction is one of Vandross' favorite comestibles, and some versions of the rumor even go so far as to suggest that the singer actually invented the dish (on a day when he ran out of hamburger buns).

Is it me, or would even Elvis say, "no thank you very much" to a Luther Burger?

March 30, 2006

NASCAR Meats for NASCAR Dads

Via Autoblog comes word of the latest consumer food product to momentarily ease the crushing pain of our profoundly soulless existences, NASCAR Officially Licensed meat products.

NASCAR Meats

Racing fans, rev up your tastebuds for the exciting taste of NASCAR Officially Licensed meat products. Whether you're grilling at home or in the infield, you'll cheer the premium flavor of NASCAR Officially Licensed hot dogs. Not to mention our wide selection of delicious bacon, deli-thin sandwich meat, and smoked sausages. All made with premium ingredients of the highest quality. So they're sure to go fast. Really fast.
A couple of thoughts:
  • It's hard to tell from the image, but it looks like the product to the far right is labeled "NASCAR Lunch Meat". "Lunch meat"? Do people really buy "lunch meat"?
  • Is it just me, or is it wrong to say that a food item goes "really fast"? Goes where, exactly? I mean, I know what thought comes to mind, and it's not a good one, unless NASCAR fans love porta potties. Could be -- I've never been to a NASCAR race.

April 02, 2005

My Favorite Restaurant in Paris

This is a snagged picture (because it would be awful to whip out one's PowerShot SD300 in a place like this) of Le Coupe-Chou, my favorite restaurant in Paris:

Le Coupe-Chou

Le Coupe-Chou ("the cut cabbage") is on a narrow street near the Sorbonne. It's in a building that dates (at least parts of it do) to the 1600s. Entering it feels a bit like walking into a cave. I was there in the evening, and when it's dark, much of the light comes from candles and the fireplace. I sat at the table next to the fireplace in the photograph above (thanks to my friend Christophe, who made the reservations for me, given that my French wasn't quite good enough a couple of months ago).

The service at Le Coupe-Chou is what I think of as traditionally Parisian: polite yet not chatty, unobtrusive yet efficient, and measured in time. The food was wonderful. And the prices are quite reasonable: the restaurant offers prix fixe menus at €24 and €32 (the latter including dessert).

Le Coupe-Chou can be found at:

Le Coupe-Chou
9 rue de Lanneau
75005 Paris
Tel: 01 46 33 68 69
Highly recommended.