Sunday, April 28, 2013

Le Comptoir Di Relais, Paris

"1-hour waiting time, no table!" These negative words greeted us by a snobbish yet good looking Maitre D' (Oliver, if I recall correctly) when we arrived at 12:15pm on a busy Monday. Hmmmm, do we move on or patiently wait?  We opted for the latter as Le Comptoir du Relais, a small bistro by world-renowned Chef Yves Camdeborde that seats only 20, was highly recommended by friends, and almost always appears on the "must visit" Paris eating haunts of foodies (the name literally translates as "the artists' bar", which makes apt sense since the restaurant is located in Paris' theater district). Case closed, we're eating here no matter what!

Foie Gras de Canard
to start our meal
Once seated and well-settled in the casual and unpretentious interiors, we wasted no time and scanned the menu, ordered away, and became living proof that this place is indeed one of the best "Good Eats" France has to offer.

As an opening salvo, we opted for the Escargots de Bourgogne, or wild snails from Burgundy sauteed in garlic butter and minced parsley. Like an itch that need to be scratched, we just had to sample what the fuzz is all about. Tasty!

Our first course was a no-brainer, Sweet Roasted Scallops In Butter With Soft, Bitter Endive. This dish is a gold mine for seafood lovers like us. 6 plump and succulent scallops expertly seared and infused in a hot butter-based sauce made with a reduction of vermouth. Winner!

And now for our main course, what caught our fancy was the Cochon de Lait, which literally translates as "pig in milk" or "suckling pig." Le Comptoir's interpretation consists of slow-cooked pork, deconstructed and reassembled into a ring form and served over stewed lentils. Now this is French Cooking at its best!

Overall, lunch at Le Comptoir was a grand experience! Our bill for 2 (make that 2 and 1/2) came out to be EUROS 80. Not exactly cheap, but truly exceptional! BON APPETIT!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chocolate Chaud by Michel Cluizel, Paris

A trip to Paris, France wouldn't be complete without sampling some of the best Chocolate Chaud in the city. Not the instant or quick fix kinda stuff, but the authentic one made from scratch - premium chocolate block melted and doused with cream and/or milk, sugar cubes optional.

But no thanks to the uncooperative April weather which slowed down our movement (not to mention several failed attempts from Chaud "posers"), we chanced upon MICHEL CLUIZEL at 4:45pm on our last day in Paris, Saint-Honore to be precise.

Spreading chocoholic smiles since 1948, they are at present one of the rare chocolate makers in the world to process cacao beans themselves in their own ateliers (an artist's workroom, as defined by Webster).

Feast your senses on multiple platters and bowls of truffles, milk and dark chocolate-covered nuts, chocolate-covered fruits in season,  chocolate bars, French macarons, pralines, ganaches, etc. Name it, they have it - Anything and everything CHOCOLATE, all single-origin ranging from 65-70 percent cocoa content.

Once we're done ogling at all the chocolate porn, we got back on track and sampled what we really came there for - Chocolate Chaud! I watched intently as the counter lady dropped a generous amount (morsels) of their premium chocolate in a paper cup, then slowly doused it with hot cream/milk mixture dispensed from a churning beverage warmer.

Our verdict - we struck LIQUID (Chocolate) GOLD! My initial sip, everything seemed to switch to slow motion. Mind you that the liquid elixir is a notch below searing, but it was perfect to combat the 10 degrees Celsius experienced that day.  The beverage is quite thick with a playful viscosity and mouthfeel, best of all the flavor is robust. No short cuts here definitely!

Good things occur to those who wait, definitely worth it!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Counting My Blessings

I feel for the hundreds of lives affected by yesterday's Boston Marathon bombing. Whether it's a sick coordinated prank or an act of terrorism, it leaves a stigma to the whole world that America (the whole world even) is as vulnerable as any other country. Safety is always uncertain.

There's something about "Bean Town" that makes it close to my heart! It's the first US State on my wish list immediately upon getting (after 3 denials) my US Visa; I'm a BIG Celtics fan since birth (thanks to my brother Fred), and my ultimate dream is to be able to send Kiddo to a University in Boston either for college or post graduate studies.

Our honeymoon destination
Rewind to January 2013 as we were planning our annual summer getaway. All roads point to the US (Boston in particular) as the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) was to be held there. Oh and as an added bonus, two days after the SCAA, the Boston Marathon was to be staged - COOL! And as an icing to the cake, there will be a Celtics-Pacers NBA game scheduled in TD Garden a day after the marathon - PERFECT!

For some strange twist of fate, in February I learned that my In-Laws were headed to Europe - Spain and France to be exact, same time as the SCAA Show. I couldn't trace back as to why or how I decided to join them at the 11th hour, but someway-somehow it felt "proper" to be with them in another continent. In a nutshell I opted for the less obvious choice...

Fast forward to today, I am thankful as I write this post in the comfy confines of my abode. Friends who attended the SCAA and stayed a few days after to hobnob or take-in "Bean Town's" beauty were either stranded or severely inconvenienced due to the senseless bombing; and the Celtics-Pacers NBA game was cancelled for security reasons - SAD!

With full confidence I am cheering for Boston's resiliency, to immediately rebound from this bump. The good always wins. See you soon "Bean Town!"