Saturday, April 26, 2008

Eric Kayser

Listed as having "The Best Croissants" in Jeffrey Steingartens It Must've Been Something I ate and noted in David Lebovitz's "10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn't Miss in Paris" for its pain aux cereales, visiting Eric Kayser had priority on our list of things to do while in Paris.

After a brief visit to Le Pantheon, we went in search of Kayser, which turned out to be located very close to the apartment we were renting. Although the store looks empty in the above photo, it was full as I waited patiently in line, allowing me the opportunity to gaze at the plethora of breads, pastries, and chocolates around me. The chocolate rooster looked tantalizing, but I was here for the bread.

Taking a cue from the woman ahead of me in line, I asked for "une baguette" and was handed a long, beautifully golden baguette. This being my first true French baguette, I was surprised that when I tore a piece off of the tip, the crust was thick instead of thin and crisp and the interior of the baguette was dense with a substantial chew. Although I ate this baguette plain, the firm dough could stand up to a heavy-handed slathering of butter or soft cheese, unlike the soft and fluffy baguettes used in banh-mi that collapse with each bite. The taste and the artistically cut lines in this baguette set a high standard as my first baguette during our stay in Paris.

I also ordered a pain aux cereales per David Lebovitz's recommendation that "this is perhaps the best bread in the world". This was a hefty and slightly dense loaf, studded with crunchy sesame and sunflower seeds. I thoroughly enjoyed the addition of the seeds because they seemed to pop in my mouth as I chewed and they added a toasted aroma and flavor. Just as the baguette above, this loaf was not delicate; with each piece I tore off, whether with my hands or my teeth, I could feel the dough pulling back against my need to ingest more bread.

Kayser's croissant was unlike any other croissant that I've eaten. Instead of the soggy, flat concoctions I have previously eaten, this croissant had height and a crackly shell. The inside was soft and incredibly buttery, solely from the layers and layers of butter folded into the dough. Compared to the many other croissants that I ate while in Paris and definitely among all the croissants I have ever eaten in my life, I would agree with Steingartens' appraisal as Kayser's croissants being one of the "Best Croissants."

Because we were staying at an apartment very close to Kayser, we stopped there on a second night to grab a another baguette and some madaleines. After another long day of walking through the city in the cold and rain, it was comforting to collapse in our rental apartment and munch on the hearty baguettes from Kayser.

The madeleines were soft and buttery with a slight lemon flavor. They were very delicate, with a crumb similar to pound cake. A great accompaniment to tea or, as I ate them, eaten plain as a light dessert.

8 Rue Monge
Paris, France

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Beginning - Day 1

While in Paris, we bought a large bottle of water each day at various supermarkets to replenish us on our daily excursions. Of course, we never walked out of the supermarket without buying other goods. The Girl Who Ate Everything posted a picture of the yogurt she ate while studying abroad in Paris, so when I saw the same cute yogurt in the supermarket, I couldn't resist buying them.

The yogurt that I ate in Paris was deliciously creamy and thick, so we often walked out of the grocery store with yogurt in addition to our bottle of water. Except for the hazelnut-flavored yogurt on the bottom right, I usually bought plain yogurt.

A lot of the yogurts that I bought came in ceramic or glass jars instead of the plastic that I buy in the US. So when I had finished all my yogurts, I couldn't bear to throw out these cute little pots in which La Fermiere packages a line of their yogurts. I actually had a little run-in with the security at Charles de Gaulle airport because I was afraid of packing the fragile pots in my checked-in luggage, so I had them wrapped in newspaper in my carry-on backpack. Instead of sensing danger, I think the security detail was just curious about the four newspaper-wrapped bundles in my backpack and when I unveiled one, I'm sure he thought it was strange that I was flying halfway across the world with the little jars in which their common, everyday yaourt comes.

Herbs! That was my plan for these cute yogurt pots. For a while, I have heard about the success of the AeroGarden, touted as a "NASA-tested" kitchen appliance that allows you to grow herbs and produce year-round. Unfortunately, while it is supposed to be a space-saving alternative to having a garden, I still don't have any space for it in our tiny apartment. So I figured that the next best solution would be to grow a small amount of herbs in the little yogurt pots. Shopping at Target yesterday, I spotted these small (approximately 1.5 inches tall) ceramic pots which come with a package of seeds and a soil pellet. Since I don't need and don't have space to grow all the seeds that come in a regular-size packet of seeds, I thought these would be perfect.

Each Buzzy Seeds pot receives five seeds and when the plants grow to 3 inches tall, I need to transfer them to my ceramic yogurt pots. Clockwise from the rear left, I have started strawberries, tomatoes, chives, and basil. The Buzzy Seeds herb selection at Target was not very vast, so the tomatoes and strawberries were chosen as an after-thought. I believe the strawberries and tomatoes will have to be transferred to much larger pots than the yogurt pots can hold.

So this blog was started as a food blog and is now partially a gardening blog! I have not had much success in the past with growing plants, but these herbs will be very useful, so we'll see...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chez Hannah

This post initiates a series of Paris posts, where we spent a week for Spring Break. Before our trip, I did a lot of research into places to eat in Paris, including a list of the best croissants and baguettes from Jeff Steingarten's It Must've Been Something I Ate, The Girl Who Ate Everything's "A Very Incomplete Guide to Paris", and David Lebovitz's "10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn't Miss in Paris". Unfortunately, since Devin and I were constantly running around to see the next thing, we did a terrible job of checking out the extensive list of places to eat that I had compiled. Overall though, of the things we had time to eat, they were expectedly delicious.

Robyn, The Girl Who Ate Everything, reviewed Chez Hannah during her Spring Break last year and this ended up being our first meal in Paris. Chez Hannah is located on a pedestrian-only street in Paris' Jewish District. While they have an interior dining room, they also have a to-go window to expedite the many customers flocking to satisfy their pita sandwich needs. The to-go window serves as the assembly line for both dine-in and to-go orders, so we were able to watch our order being made right in front of us.

I ordered the Vegetarian Falafel Special. A component unique to this falafel pita was the fried eggplant. Because eggplant are very absorbent, oil dripped down my chin when I bit into the slices, but the eggplant had been fried long enough to gain a sweet carmelization and the skin was slightly crisp while the interior was mashed-potato soft. It was a succulent addition to one of my favorite dishes. The pita pocket wasn't the thin-walled and fragile bread found in grocery stores, but was hearty and thick enough to withstand the generous helping of hummus, falafel, fried eggplant, cucumber salad, tzatziki sauce, red and green cabbage, and Harissa. The falafel had a crisp exterior and a steaming, fluffy interior that paired well with all the crunchy vegetables and the cool tzatziki.

Devin had the shwarma. While gyros is usually made with pork, shwarma is made with lamb, goat, or chicken. In this case, the shwarma was made with chicken and also had fried eggplant.

Chez Hannah
54 rue des Rosiers
Paris, France

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Meyer Lemon Gnocchi and Roasted Garlic-Parmigiano Broccoli

With the Sur La Table gift card that my brother gave me for my birthday, I also received a year's subscription to Food & Wine magazine. I have had too few encounters with gnocchi, but after having the Gnocchi in Gorgonzola sauce from Villa Roma, I couldn't stop thinking of the pillowy, baby-skull soft (as the The Girl Who Ate Everything would say) gnocchi and it just so happened that the March 2008 issue of Food & Wine had Meyer Lemon Gnocchi on its cover.

The Meyer Lemon Gnocchi from the March 2008 issue of Food & Wine was a very labor-intensive recipe. I don't have a potato ricer, so I used a trick from Smitten Kitchen and used a cheese grater to get a fine mash of potatoes. I spent a long time in the kitchen and it was worth it. The sauce was very rich, as it calls for a stick of butter, so taking into consideration the labor and the calories, this is a recipe to be made and eaten in moderation.

This is Roasted Garlic-Parmigiano Broccoli from the November 2007 issue of Food & Wine. Wow, broccoli is probably my favorite vegetable and I didn't think it could be heightened any more than the countless number of ways I have already eaten it, but slathering it in garlic, Parmesan cheese, and butter and then roasting it is absolutely outstanding and pretty quick.

Unfortunately, as I was busy attending to the broccoli and gnocchi, I let the lemon sauce boil and you can see that it separated. Also, the gnocchi were not as tender as Villa Roma's, but I am definitely making progress from my first miserable attempt at making gnocchi. I'm telling you, I really fail at making doughs and I admit that I overworked the gnocchi dough. Gnocchi, one day I will conquer you...