Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jules Verne would be delighted!

French novelist and playwright Jules Verne may be famous for "Twenty thousand leagues under the Sea" or going "Around the world in Eighty days" but I think he would be very happy with his namesake restaurant high in the sky! 
Visiting the iconic Eiffel Tower without the laborious wait in queues, is only one of the reasons to lunch at Alain Ducasse's "Jules Verne" restaurant on level 2, 125metres above the ground.
This gorgeous restaurant invigorates the senses in all ways - the interior design is sumptuous, mimicking Gustave Eiffel's  iron lattice structure through the use of lighting, ceiling panelling and windows, the view is spectacular, not just of distant sights of the city of lights but also of the closer workings of the tower itself, and the food by head chef Pascal Feraud is subtle with very clever taste pairings. Most of all this restaurant it is not at all pretentious, just an overall memorable experience.
As with many European restaurants, the fixed price lunch menu is the best value - 3 courses with choices in each, with or without wines to match, and exceptional service by a league of wait staff. With additional 'tastes' between courses and delicacies with coffee, the meal is very substantial.  
What a piece de resistance it would be to have Mr Verne as our lunch guest! We could quiz him on his profound influence on science fiction genre in a setting that, although he would have seen in his lifetime (he died 15years after the Eiffel Tower was erected for the world Trade fair in 1889), he probably never imagined would house a restaurant of such magnificence.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Paris by the Sea - a favourite place to visit!!

Paris by the sea..............Restaurants in Paris may come and go, but after 15years the seagulls are still squawking daily at one of our favourite haunts in Paris's 1st arrondissement.
As Australians we are spoilt when it comes to exceptional quality seafood, so I think very hard before choosing to eat seafood when abroad, however, the French grow the most fabulous oysters and as one of my favourite foods, this is definitely an exception to my rule! As a nation, the French are Europe's largest producer of oysters and the 4th largest in the world with almost all consumed domestically, so, as for many food products in France, the craft of producing, consuming and selling oysters, is taken very seriously indeed!

Like wine, oysters reflect the terroir (area) of where they are cultivated and have been part of the French diet for centuries. Since Roman times they have been farmed in the Lagune de Thau, in the Mediterranean and in the Bay of Arcachon, where they are still farmed today.

I will certainly plan a trip to these regions in the future to samples their varieties, but in the meantime,  L'Ecume St Honore oyster bar on 6 Rue du Marché Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris, offers me samples from across the country and is a fabulous spot to punctuate my day. A plate of oysters, a glass of wine and the traditional basket of brown bread and butter - all enjoyed while the seagulls fly above your head (painted on the ceiling) and squawk continuously (a looped audio tape) - a perfect way to rest your feet from arduous task of the Paris sales and spectacular art galleries.

Oysters in France are sold by size - I think the smaller sizes often have a more intense taste but are perhaps not as 'full bodied' or 'well rounded' as the larger sizes. At L"Ecume they are always freshly shucked by men who look like they have just departed the fishing trawler, and the presentation is superb - simply delivered on a bed of fresh seaweed with fresh lemon. I am a fan of all oysters but if I had to make a French choice it would be the large creamy and intense flavour of the Blanches variety - succulent & sweet with the delicious briny aftertaste  of the juice that they are ensconced in - though I certainly intend to continue sampling all the possible varieties just in case there are better varieties I may have missed!

If Oysters are not your thing then they also sell delicious platters of smoked salmon, expertly hand sliced, and other beautifully fresh seafood product. And as for dessert..... don't expect cake or macaroons here, their treat when we were there a few days ago, was superb, finely cut raw St Jacques scallops! 



Monday, January 20, 2014

I've never met a Paris food market I didnt love!

Charles de Gaulle once stated "How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty six different kinds of cheese". Maybe when he said that in 1953 he was correct, but today, France has well over five hundred different kinds of cheese, and I think I saw them all today at Sunday's Marché Richard Lenoir food market.
This place is a foodie’s delight! Whether you are renting an apartment in Paris and need to stock the fridge, or simply want to spend a colourful and fun Sunday morning enjoying a very typical French way of life, this market has got it all! Stretching about a kilometre from the monument at Bastille down Boulevard Richard Lenoir there are three alleyways of deliciousness of French gourmet products to delight your taste buds and cause havoc to your waistline! And I can promise you we did well on the waistline!

A fabulous busker who sang and danced with small children while balancing a goldfish bowl filled with fish on his head entertained us while we ate the most delicious crepes expertly made to order by a stall holder who had clearly done it many times before. Breakfast doesn’t get much better than this – calories galore (my crepe was goats cheese, smoked salmon grated cheese and an egg), colourful entertainment, and a taste of true French life – all free of charge in a Paris winter that is pretending to be spring!
We bought an awesome Roquefort cheese that smells like a gym junkie’s dirty socks, endive that was picked directly from the beds in which it was still growing (I have never seen this before and food doesn’t get much fresher!) and small green beans that were so expertly stacked they looked regimental and severe but were so crisp & young that we ate them raw. For a late lunch we bought San Jacques - the largest scallops I have seen and in our apartment we simply steamed them with lemon. The texture was meaty, the taste delicate and at 12.50Euro a kilo we thought they were a bargain.
I LOVE a food market like this – to me it is shopping in its most perfect form, exciting the senses in all formats. This makes me want to move to Paris!!!