On our plate today are more culinary highlights from our trip to Paris at the beginning of the month. Granted, they're not all desserts, per se, but for this chef of the savory kitchen these are sweet memories.
Best meal of our Paris trip: dinner chez Clotilde et Maxence
Whenever you're on the road, don't you find yourself craving a home-cooked meal? Maybe it's just me. This is somewhat of a confession I suppose, but I find dining out in restaurants (even excellent new wave Parisian bistros) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner gets old quickly. I know, poor me. It's one reason I chose to stay in an apartment on this trip. Nevertheless, imagine my excitement when N and I got an invitation for a home-cooked meal from none other than the popular food blogger and soon-to-be-published cookbook author Clotilde Dusoulier! Talk about an offer you can't refuse!
Reading Chocolate & Zucchini over the years, I've often admired the playful attitude that Clotilde brings to her cooking. She seems to have an uncanny ability to come up with the perfect creative twist that will bring a French classic into the 21st century. Our delightful dinner with Clotilde and Maxence just before Easter showed off this talent and more.
We started with a lighthearted take on the classic radishes with butter and sea salt: avocado and radish canapés with smoked salt, accompanied by skinny saucisson sec on toothpicks. Then we sat down to a soulful slow-roasted lamb shoulder with flageolet beans served from a cast-iron cocotte. Our crave-worthy dessert was chocolate jelly with pineapple and violet (pictured above left) which is featured on C&Z today. What a great menu, no? What was even more amazing was to discover that Clotilde manages to cook all these wonderful dishes in a kitchen not much larger than a phone booth.
I was also fortunate to get a sneak peek of Clotilde's dynamite new cookbook (pictured right, in the author's hands). As if I wasn't already, after our scrumptious dinner I'm especially excited about this book. For a more objective perspective, check out the glowing review of the book in yesterday's New York Times magazine.
For what it's worth, here's one blogger's-eye view of the new C&Z book. Granted, I only got a quick glimpse, so my comments are limited to the superficial. My brief look was enough to convince me that fans of Chocolate & Zucchini (myself included) will be thrilled with this book. It's as heartfelt, playful, and stylish as her blog. The book's format is a totable 8- by 6-inch quality paperback, so there's no reason to leave it behind during your market trips. The recipes (most previously unpublished) and stunning photos (all by the author) look and sound as delicious as our dinner. Need I say more?
Head on over to C&Z and follow the link to preorder Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen, due for release in about 3 weeks. Alternatively, go to your local independent bookstore next month and buy it. You won't regret it. With her youth and imagination, I believe Clotilde is the perfect ambassador to rekindle everyone's enthusiasm for French cooking!
Best snack: L'As du Falafel
Here's another place that's doing just fine without my endorsement. As the astute Amateur Gourmet Adam wrote the other day about his arrival in San Francisco, I wanted my first bite in Paris to be memorable. Unlike Adam, whose first bite on his visit to my city was a lousy slice of pizza, N and I hit a home run without even trying.
The famous L'As du Falafel was only about 200 yards from the apartment we rented, and the line on Palm Sunday/April Fool's Day came practically to our door. After a 20 minute wait, during which I endured much head-shaking skepticism from N ("We came all the way to Paris and you want me to eat falafel? Is this one of your April Fool's Day pranks?"), we tucked into our prize: 8-10 little greaseless balls of falafel stuffed into a fluffy pita with tangy cabbage, cucumbers, roasted eggplant, tahini yogurt sauce and a spicy harissa-type sauce piquante on the side. MmmmMmmm. I was in heaven. Even my skeptic was converted.
Best duck/goose confit I've ever eaten: Au Trou Gascon
I wanted to sample le vrai cassoulet at an authentic Gascon restaurant, so we made tracks to this refined one-Michelin star restaurant in the 12th. While the rib-sticking cassoulet was good, our other main course stole the show: crispy-on-the-outside, (oh go ahead and write it) unctuous-on-the-inside confit of goose leg. Both the hand-sliced artisanal Gascon jambon (similar to prosciutto) with pickled wild mushrooms and the duck foie gras with quince compote and cabbage were ideal ways to whet our appetites. Everything went down easier with our bottle of smooth vintage 2000 Madiran from Château De Diusse. Desserts of crisp apple tart with prunes and salted caramel ice cream and wild-strawberries-and-cream cookie sandwich with rose sorbet (nice combo of flavors to play around with, don't you think?) were perfect endings to our meal. Only problem was the next day I had to eat daintily, lest I explode like Mr. Creosote.
L'As du Falafel: 34, rue des Rosiers, 4th (01 48 87 63 60) Métro: Daumesnil
Au Trou Gascon: 40, rue Taine, 12th (01 43 44 34 26) Métro: St. Paul