March 26, 2009

Late Night: The Shwarma

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Showing a bare modicum of discretion, I'm going to call this feature 'Late Night.' This category could very reasonably be called 'Drunk Food,' given that while always good, most of the dishes I expect to discuss are 100 times better after an evening of revelry. I've already covered White Castle and the Taco Truck (as well as other tacos),

The Shwarma, also known as the Doner Kebab to the Turks and sharing more similarities than differences with the Greek Gyro is an internationally recognized celebrity in the world of late night fare. In Mexico, they righteously substitute pork for lamb in the al pastor taco. In Paris, we passed a dozen spits roasting layer upon layer of lamb around the corner from the music row where we stayed.

The massive structure of meat is constructed with horizontal columns of fat which melt down, basting all the meat below. But, I expect I'm not telling you anything new. You've either seen these 'meat logs' around town in one way or the other and either fled in disgust or ran gleefully towards it.

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This particular Shwarma was served up from my go to place on MacDougal near Bleeker in The Village, Yatagan. It's not nearly the only one in the neighborhood. And, while I love it, it's not the best I've ever had, it now has a long-standing sentimental value just for being associated with so many of the late nights I've had through the years.

Yatagan Kebab House
104 MacDougal Street
Greenwich Village

March 4, 2009

Paris: Robert et Louise


Tragically, this piece of loveliness was not mine. I have to mention it anyway. It's the Ribeye steak for two, cooked on the open wood fireplace in the back of Robert et Louise, in the Marais.

I first read about the restaurant in Ruth Reichl's extended Editor's Note in last year's Paris issue of Gourmet. I immediately added it to my short list.

We passed by one night hoping for dinner, but walk-ins weren't available. The small space fills up pretty quickly, so you'll need to make a reservation a few days in advance.

When we got there for our reservation, the beautiful old tavern space was packed tightly from the entryway down to the kitchen. I stood next to the open kitchen watching the staff work as we waited for our table.


My main was duck confit, while Tammi had a Beef Bourgignon. Our meal was wonderful, although even now the most memorable part was the steak we didn't have. I had a pair of sausages, a boudin noir and a boudin blanc that were grilled in the open hearth in the back wall of the restaurant.


The spectacle of the fireplace drew our attention for most of the night. Hunks of meat grilling above, while firewood burned to charred embers below. Days later, Tammi and I were still smelling the wood smoke in our coats. I got hungry again every time.

February 22, 2009

Paris: Pork Spread


At Au Pied Cochon, as one would expect of a place named after a Pig's foot, they don't sully bread with a pat of butter. Instead they provide a small bowl of pork pate to spread. Much like everything else here, it's profoundly rich.

February 21, 2009

Souvenirs: Coffee Spoons


I'm not a coffee drinker, but Tammi is and whenever she had coffee, she got one of these cute little spoons. Before we left we went to BHV, the department store near our apartment and picked up a couple to take home.

February 13, 2009

Paris: Scarves


Of the many observations in Paris that Tammi made that I would never have noticed was that everyone wears scarves. Nice scarves. I don't really understand the concept, but Tammi certainly appreciated it and picked up quite a few for herself and as gifts.

These were beautifully displayed at Diwali a chain that we came across a few times.

February 12, 2009

Paris: The Wheel of Excellence

Wheel of Excellence

I'm not fond of Ferris Wheels. I can't see one without thinking of the deathtrap out in Coney Island. So, it took a little cajoling from Tammi to get me on the giant wheel that towers over Place de la Concorde at the end of the Champs Elysee.

It turns out I had nothing to fear. This one was not nearly as rickety as the Wonder Wheel. There's none of the terrifying creaking and rocking, which is for the best because it meant I could spend more time with my eyes open, affording views like this:


February 1, 2009

Paris: Sunday Shutdown

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I know I have been in Paris on a Sunday before, but somehow I didn't remember dealing with the fact that on Sunday all the shops and many of the restaurants are either closed all day or close up early in the afternoon.

I knew places might be closed and so did a walk through of Montergueil when I first left the apartment. I saw that everything seemed to be open, so instead of shopping for the groceries I needed, I wandered around more and took photos. Then I noticed the line below in front of a boulangerie waiting for bread. A few minutes later, I noticed vendors cleaning up. Finally I started piecing together that the reason all those crates and boxes I had been shooting were out on the sidewalk was that the sellers were wrapping up early that day. I scrambled to pick up what I needed and was mostly successful. Within half an hour nearly all the markets were closed.


January 28, 2009

Graffiti of the Day: Papillon


Marais, Paris. 2008.

January 26, 2009

Paris: Strike


It wouldn't be a trip to Paris without a protest. Tammi and I saw this one near the Bastille as we were going to the market to buy the Poulet du Bresse. I never figured out what it was about, but I was happy that it didn't involve tear gas or transit shutdowns.

January 19, 2009

Graffiti of the Day: Reach


Marais, Paris. 2008

January 17, 2009

Photo of the Day: Navigating

IMG_0262, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Left Bank, Paris. 2008.

January 15, 2009

Paris: French Onion Soup


In Paris, I discovered that I love French Onion soup. This shouldn't have surprised me, as it involved butter, onions and lots of cheese, but the soup we had at Au Pied Cochon was the best I've had. I tried to make some when I got back, but wasn't quite satisfied. The broth and the onions were great, but I got the cheese wrong, which is crucial.

Based on the weather lately in New York, I'll have plenty more opportunities to need a great soup to warm up chilled bones.

January 8, 2009

Paris Souvenirs: Jurançon

IMG_1327, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

"Don't let anyone see you walking down the street with that! They'll want to be your friend and you'll know they only like you for your Jurançon!"

That was the least colorful advice given to me by Juveniles Wine Bar owner Tim Johnston, an old scot who, for 10 years has run this Australian themed wine bar in the heart of Paris.

The wine, a sweet dessert wine, is by Uroulat a family vineyard in the southwest of France, near the Pyrenees. It has a light body for a dessert wine and tastes strongly of apricots.

When I tasted it after our meal, I had to have it. But they didn't have any regular sizes left, so I was 'stuck' with this magnum. Johnston said the wine is great to drink now but offered that it will be even better in 5 years, "If you can hold out that long."

I can't guarantee that it'll survive until 2013, but we'll see...

January 7, 2009

Food Finds: Candy for Breakfast


Paris. 2008.

I thought our cereals are bad. This one was based on a popular candy bar. It's got caramel and chocolate in it.

Paris Souvenirs: Wine for the Cellar


Yes. I bought all that wine in Paris. More, to be honest. We came back with 15 bottles. Among other things, I've decided to really spend some time learning about wine in the next few years. And part of that is to take advantage of the cellar conditions we've got in our basement. It's consistently 10-15 degrees cooler than the rest of the house, typically in the mid to low 60s, and the humidity tends to be upwards of 50%.

Starting my 'collection' in France just made the most sense, since we were heading there for the honeymoon anyway and the French, more than anyone else, have put a lot of effort into aging wine. I took learning about French wine up as my distracting obsession, something I think everyone who is planning a wedding should have. If you don't have something like that, the wedding will consume you.

I learned a lot more than I knew before about French wine, but there's so much more to discover. In the meantime, I mostly stuck with regions I knew I liked when buying. Many of the bottles I bought to 'hold' are from the Rhone regions, whether Cote Rotie, Gigondas, or Chateauneuf du Pape. I tried to expand into Bourdeaux as well. It was Burgundy that gave me the most difficulty. Tammi and I both found it hard to tolerate the thinness in body and flavor of wine from Burgundy. I bought one bottle of a Grand Cru, to hold for 5 years, based on the recommendation from the clerk.

At the center of my newfound obsession is my deeply ingrained hoarding habit. I can't lie. But beyond that is the idea of holding onto these bottles for our anniversaries, 10, 20 and 30 years in the future. We may pop open one of these bottles to celebrate our kids' graduations or any number of events in our life together through the years. I can't plan any of those things nor do I want to. But I love the idea that no matter what, I'll have the right bottle for the occasion.

January 5, 2009

Paris: Oven


Another spiffy thing about the kitchen in our apartment in Paris was the oven. I'm not sure what type of heat it was, surely electric of some sort, but nothing more specific than that. What made it cool was that it had this dial which selected the direction of the heat source. In addition to above or below, there were options to rotate the heat source to provide a rotisserie-style cooking environment for your roast.

January 4, 2009

Paris: Induction


The kitchen in our apartment in Paris was equipped with some pretty cool features, which according to the guy we were renting from are pretty standard. That includes this induction range, above, which brings liquids to a boil faster than anything I've ever seen. It took some getting used to and I almost ruined a roast while browning it, but it was very cool to cook with.

I don't know the science of the thing, but the whiz-bang factor comes from the fact that the range stays completely cool. You can have hot pan on it one second and put your hand in the middle of the cooking circle the next and not feel the slightest warmth. Also, the smooth surface also makes it significantly easier to clean than the stovetop I have at home.

January 2, 2009

Paris: Thanksgiving Dinner


This year, Tammi and I broke our long held tradition of not celebrating Thanksgiving. As usual, we were far from home in a country that doesn't celebrate this very American holiday of mass consumption. But this year more than others, we had much to be thankful for. So, I took advantage of the local ingredients and cooked up dinner in our little kitchen in the apartment.

What you see above is the finished product, a roasted Poulet de Bresse, the famous French Blue-footed chicken.

A month or so before the wedding Eric first mentioned this breed of chicken to me and shortly afterward, I read Jacques Pepin's description of the bird in his memoir, "The Apprentice," so I was excited to find it so readily available, if highly priced at the outdoor markets we visited in Paris.

When I bought it, the seller asked something I didn't understand. Figuring he knew what he was doing, I answered, "Oui." He chopped off the feet and the head, but then appeared to be ready to cut the bird up. I stopped him in time and had the bird intact to roast whole. But it wasn't until I started to prep it that I realized that the bird hadn't been gutted. Unlike every other chicken I had ever cooked, the internal organs did not come in a paper bag stuffed in the cavity.

After the jump, the gory details (with pictures!)...

Continue reading "Paris: Thanksgiving Dinner" »

December 31, 2008

Paris: Party


Now, I tend to halt my voyeuristic tendencies at actually peeking through windows, but in this case it was required. We heard this party from a block away. The dulcet tones of Elton John and a dozen others singing 'Tiny Dancer' echoed through the empty Paris street.

We stopped for a moment to enjoy the spectacle and hear the next track in the sing-along, which was 'Grease Lightning.'

Paris Obervations: Flamel


Here's a little something for the Harry Potter fans. Our Apartment in Paris was a block away from a street named after Nicolas Flamel, someone I had no idea had been a real person until I saw this sign.

December 30, 2008

Paris: Musee d'Orsay


I love Musee d'Orsay. It's such a beautiful space, regardless of the art inside, which is also great. Sadly, we only got to pop in for a little while on this trip, mostly due to a miscalculation of distance on my part. I sort of thought that it was a quick walk from the Eiffel Tower, which is is decidedly not. An hour or so later, we got there, wiped out with about an hour left before it closed for the evening.

In any case, the building is a former Paris train station, which may account for my fascination with it. The arched ceilings above and the gorgeous use of the wide open space within make me wish they'd shut down Grand Central Station and dedicate it to art in a similar manner.

Paris Observations: Smoking


When I heard that France had barred smoking in bars and restaurants, I assumed that this law would be flouted in Paris, much like traffic laws tend to be. Shockingly, I found that people really followed it.

On the one hand, seeing the familiar site of smokers huddled in the cold in front of bars, restaurants and office buildings reminded me a little too much of home. On the other, I was profoundly happy to spend the entire trip without tobacco smoke infesting my clothes and hair.

December 29, 2008

Paris Observations: Obama Love


Everywhere we went in Paris, we saw our new president looking back at us. There were signs and life-size cutouts and T-shirts all over.

Tammi bought a bobblehead there that says "Yes! We! Can!" when bobbled or otherwise nudged or jostled, which now greets us when we walk in the house.

December 28, 2008

Paris: Beer Bar Disappointment


I was psyched when Tammi and I stumbled upon La Pinte on Paris' Left Bank. It's the Belgian Beer bar I posted a photo from a while back. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find it again, but there it was.

But then I walked in. Giant plasma screens playing football matches were the first hint that something was amiss. The English-speaking, though welcome, was another. But really, the photo above says it all. The gorgeous taps that used to host a rotating selection of obscure beers have been retired and are now used as drying racks for pitchers. Four or five narrow chrome taps replace one of the original taps, piping through nothing more rare or tasty than Kronenberg or Heineken.

Sad, sad, sad.

December 5, 2008

Photo of the Day: Noel

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Store Window. Paris. 2008.

December 4, 2008

Graffiti of the Day: Dak

IMG_7531 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

St. Germain des Pres, Left Bank. Paris. France. 2008.

Photo of the Day: Pont

IMG_6200, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Paris. 2008.

Paris Observations: La Mode

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Yes, even the kids in Paris are stylish. Check out the little boots matching her mother's.

Paris: VeLib

IMG_6694, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Nearly everything in central Paris seems pretty close to everything else, but isn't quite. The Metro seems to stop every 5 blocks or so, but rarely in quite the right direction for where I want to go, so we usually end up walking.

The walking often adds up though, and what seems like a quick walk around the corner ends up being a whole day on our feet.

Enter VeLib, the free bike rentals that are ALL over the city. Everywhere we go there is a VeLib 'station,' a dock of 10-30 bikes and a machine to purchase a rental from. The best part is that it's free for the first half hour which is about as long as we'd ever need them to get from point A to point B.

The downside: We've never managed to get them to work. For whatever reason, they just won't accept any card that we've tried to use. We've been trying for the entire time we've been here with no success. Unfortunately there seems to be no support for them to speak of. The website has just about the worst English translation I've ever seen, so it's no help at all.

So, our 'great' disappointment of our honeymoon is that we weren't able to ride around on our little bikes to go shopping or to get to a museum. All things considered, not that big a deal.

December 3, 2008

Paris Observations: RollerBlading Police

IMG_7420 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

One night in Paris we came across cops cruising around on Rollerblades. A few minutes later, we say them giving a driver a ticket. Sadly, we didn't see how they pulled over the car, but that would have been a sight.

December 1, 2008

Food Finds: Microwave Lamb Tagine

IMG_6439, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The local Daily Monop, the Parisian equivalent of a bodega or 7-11 has a fascinating selection of TV Dinners, including this Lamb Tagine.

I'm totally against lean cuisines and other such nasty microwave meals, but if there was a selection of meals like this, I might reconsider it as a quick meal in a pinch.

Paris: Sunrise on the Seine

IMG_6564, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

On our first morning waking up in Paris, I discovered that the sun doesn't rise in Paris until well after 8am. So, Tammi and I ran out of the apartment down the block to th river to see the sun come up together.

The weather was feeling slightly less romantic, as the cloud covering obscured a good deal of the view. Still, it was a great start for our trip.

Afterward, we grabbed some pain au chocolat and warm beverages and quickly went back to bed.

November 30, 2008

We're Married!

IMG_6155, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

It's been over a week and I still don't know what to say. Last Saturday, Tammi and I gathered our closest friends and family to declare our commitment to each other and have the best party we've ever hosted.

Seriously, it was awesome.

More on that as time goes on. Right now, I'm sitting in our apartment in Paris unable to sleep at 2am and finally getting around to doing what I should have a while ago.

Stay tuned for Wedding, Honeymoon and Paris Travel posts.

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