nice was nice

On Thursday morning, I flew to Nice to meet Christina, an old friend I have known since the seventh grade. Since I had visited Nice before, my main goals were to eat good food and get a decent tan. I accomplished both.

After checking in at our hostel, we walked the couple of kilometers to the beach. We talked about girl stuff as we basked in the crisp seventy-degree sun. (We refused to swim, as the water was absolutely freezing!) When we got hungry, we walked to Cours Saleya to scope out a touristy bar and restaurant. By day, this pedestrian-only street is home to farmers’ and specialty markets, but by night, it becomes very Little Italy-esque. Hosts and hostesses stand outside the restaurant doors, flashing their menus and waving patrons to one of the many outdoor tables. It may be gimmicky, but it’s a perfect place to people watch and enjoy the last few hours of sunlight. Ultimately, we settled on a cute little bar for pre-dinner kirs and olives before heading to a pizzeria. I enjoyed a salami and peperoncino pizza, while Christina ordered an eggplant and ricotta pizza. My dish was absolutely perfect—crispy, spicy, slightly cheesy, and freshly seasoned.

The next day, we relaxed at the beach and did a little bit of shopping. Not too much to report. For dinner, we both tried aïoli niçois, a local dish of cod and steamed vegetables served with a garlic mayonaise. I have to say I was not a huge fan, but I was happy to try something new.

On Saturday, Christina and I decided to take the train to Cannes. Since the Film Festival is in a few days, we thought we might see a celebrity or two. No luck. We did, however, enjoy a leisurely lunch of white wine, mussels, and french fries. (Yeah, moules frites are a bit thing in France. It may seem like a strange combination, but it is a completely genius one.) My huge pot of mussels was served with a fresh cream, lemon, and herb sauce which was simply to-die-for. After gorging ourselves, we lounged on the beach and read fashion magazines. It was a really lovely and relaxing afternoon. We managed to gain the courage to walk into the water once. Eeps! It was so cold, our skin was splotchy and red after just one minute. Once the sun began to set, we walked around the old town. There were so many narrow, hilly streets—I’m talking six feet wide—lined with restaurants and boutiques. I wish we would have had appetites to eat there because the atmosphere was just too picturesque.

All in all, I had a wonderful time in Nice and Cannes. After spending the semester with seven guys (not to mention the occasional male visitor), being around another girl, especially one I have been friends with for so long, was a very welcome change. I am looking forward to leaving for London in just a couple of days, this time with Seth. I think it is kind of a big deal to travel with a significant other. What if your travel styles don’t match? Fortunately, I think Seth and I have more or less similar expectations for our adventures.

my mom in france

While my mom and stepdad were in Paris, Seth and I took them to as many of the nontraditional sites as we possibly could. We visited the Museum of Natural History, the old Roman ruins, Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, the Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens, Saint-Sulpice, Le Marais, the Hôtel de Ville, and the Arab World Institute.

On Wednesday night, we dined at Fish la Boissonnerie, a seafood restaurant owned and operated by a very friendly American expat. (He also owns and operates Cosi just across the street.) I enjoyed a three course meal of cauliflower-anchovy risotto; baked salmon with chorizo, sauteed potatoes, baby bok choy, and sweet mustard aioli; and rosemary-mint panna cotta with raspberry puree. (My mom enjoyed the same meal as I did minus the dessert. Blasphemy!) Seth ordered smoked eel with shredded carrots and pesto, cod with a sweet tomato chutney atop a bed of spinach, and a very pungent cheese plate. For Ken’s appetizer, he ordered a heavenly scallop carpaccio. As much as I loved my starter and main course, I thought the thinly sliced, barely cooked scallops were the most to-die-for delicacies on the table.

Yesterday for lunch, Seth and I took my mom and Ken to Le Marais for their first falafel. As much as everyone loves L’As du Falafel, Seth and I are bigger fans of Chez Hanna. Their lines are minimal, their chickpea balls and toppings are super fresh, and their eggplant is perfectly roasted every single time. After lunch, Seth and I explored some new sites alone, including the Church of Saint-Séverin (one of the oldest remaining churches on the left bank), the National Assembly, and Madeleine Church (a temple designed to glorify Napoleon’s army).

For dinner that night, the four of us reunited on the L’île de la Cité to meet some of my mom’s former work colleagues, Pierre and his wife Carlotta and Alex and his wife Helene. Pierre and Carlotta own the most amazing apartment on L’île which looks out onto Notre Dame. We had a class of champagne at their place before walking down the street to Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole. As you might imagine, the food was very traditionally French. After a filling dinner, we strolled to a curbside ice cream cart for an on-the-go treat.

My mom and Ken left Paris this morning for Normandy. We will see them in a couple of days but probably not for long. Seth’s friend Duncan will be in town by then, and we will have someone new to entertain.

[Fish la Boissonnerie: 69, Rue de Seine 75006 Paris]

[Chez Hanna: 54 Rue Rosiers, 75004 Paris]

[Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole: 24 Rue Chanoinesse, 75004 Paris]

bubble tea in paris

In the magical land of Belleville, Seth and I found the bubble tea fairy. (She does exist!) She concocted very expensive (€5.50) but very delicious tapioca drinks. Basically, she made all of our wildest dreams come true. In other news, we finally booked our flight to Prague! Rejoice! [Bubble Tea: 15 Rue Belleville, 75019 Paris] [photo courtesy of ???]

sugar, spice, and everything nice

Now that Seth and I are finished with school, we actually have time to cook! Lately, we have been craving southwest flavors and Indian food, mostly because we have grown tired of the French’s stinginess with seasonings. In the past week, we have made Aarti Sequeira’s chicken tikka masala, a southwest egg scramble, and spicy lentil chili. Lucky for us, we live just a few short blocks from hoards of Indian markets and unique fresh produce stands. Have you ever heard of karela? Neither had we! Apparently, it is a bitter melon popular in South and East Asian cooking.

This afternoon, we journeyed half a block from our apartment to La Paella. We enjoyed plates of Manchego, chorizo sobreasada, and gambas al ajillo (oh, yeah, and a couple glasses of sweet red sangria). Everything was wonderfully spicy, garlic-y, and oily. After our hefty, food-coma inducing lunch, it was nice to return home to a pitcher full of homemade iced coffee. While I wish we could spend more time frolicking around Paris and dining at chic bistros, I understand that there is plenty of work to be done. Sigh. I am ever so thankful for the huge windows in our apartment.

break time

For the past couple of days, Seth and I have been working feverishly on our portfolios, our trip itineraries, and our job/city searches. This afternoon, we decided to take a short break. We walked down the street, enjoyed a beer at a local bar, and discussed our upcoming plans.

My mom and stepdad are visiting April 27-May 4; Seth’s friend Duncan is traveling around Europe the entire month of May; I am flying to Nice May 5-8; and Seth and I are taking the Chunnel to London May 10-12! We have already booked our hostel, and soon we hope to make a reservation at a yummy Indian restaurant. I have scouted the New York Times Top 5, and I think Hot Stuff will be our best (read: cheapest) bet. As I type, a pot of lentil chili simmers on our stove. Mmm… I do believe we are getting into the traveling spirit a bit early!

the wild brunch

To celebrate pencils down, Seth and I decided to host a brunch for all of our classmates. We prepared zucchini and green bean frittatas with goat cheese and parmesan, bacon home fries with paprika and cayenne, and strawberry crepes with mascarpone and jam. For drinks, we served orange, clementine, and grapefruit mimosas. We had such a great time! I absolutely love getting the opportunity to cook for people, as it allows me to practice my timing and technique. Plus, Seth gets to show off his rad pan-flipping skills.

The savory recipes from the wild brunch are posted below.

Zucchini and Green Bean Frittata
(Each only served six, so we made two!)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup green beans, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large oven-proof, nonstick saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, zucchini, and green beans, and saute until caramelized and tender, 12-15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl with the whole milk until frothy. Whisk in the goat cheese, parmesan, and parsley, and season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread the vegetables in an even layer in the pan. Pour in the egg mixture, making sure to cover all of the vegetables. Let cook, uncovered and untouched for 4-6 minutes until the egg on the bottom has started to set.
  5. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 5-8 more minutes until the top is set and cooked through.
  6. Transfer the pan to the broiler and broil for a minute until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool for 5 minutes. Slice into wedges.
Bacon Home Fries
(We prepared three batches of this delicious stuff!)
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup lardons (approximately 2 slices bacon)
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, fully baked and diced into 1″ cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Directions
  1. Lightly fry bacon in cast iron pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion becomes soft.
  3. Add the potatoes, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Spread the ingredients in an even layer in the pan, and leave alone for five minutes.
  4. Stir the mixture, spread again, and leave alone for five more minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, add the parsley, and stir again. Let cool for five minutes.

[photos courtesy of MJ]

dear iced coffee,

I miss you. I have missed you for quite some time, but now, as the streets of Paris begin to spring with newborn puppies, colorful short dresses, and high-contrast shadows, I miss you more than ever. It is too warm outside to sip a hot espresso. I need your strong, cold-brewed affection, preferably served inside a plastic cup with milk and a tall straw, oh, and a napkin wrapped around said cup (you know, just to catch the condensation). Whew.

Seattle’s Grand Central Bakery iced latte is my reigning favorite drink. Next is Philadelphia’s La Colombe iced coffee. They charge $2 for an iced coffee topped with a complimentary shot of espresso. Their baristas pull a shot so well that no milk is needed to temper it, ever. The first time I took a sip, I swear my veins jolted from the caffeine. Third, believe it or not, is Rice’s coffeehouse iced coffee. With its ever so slight hint of caramel flavor, that stuff is seriously amazing. It certainly does not hurt that they charge only $1.50 for a medium. Yes, I will have two, please ‘kay thank you.

My ideal mid-morning snack/meal consists of an iced latte from the aforementioned Seattle locale and a buttery, flaky French croissant. Alas, here in Paris I cannot acquire an iced coffee. The French simply do not believe in it (probably because they do not believe in ice). I was so desperate today that I broke down and visited a… Starbucks. Yes, I did it, and no, it was not worth it. (It was not the same.)

My dear iced coffee, I cannot wait to see you again. Until then, I will continue to sip my hot espresso, but I will only think of you.

XOXO

[photos courtesy of ???]

hier et aujourd’hui

For Eliot’s last night in Paris, Seth and I met him at Hier & Aujourd’hui (Yesterday & Today), a small Michelin-listed restaurant in the seventeenth arrondissement. A lengthy walk from the metro, this cozy spot was tough to find but totally worth the trek.

We walked in a few minutes after eight to find a nearly empty restaurant. We gathered with a few other patrons around the large chalkboard menu, desperately trying to decide which mouthwatering dishes to order. For thirty euros, we each received three courses: an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. Once we placed our orders, our waitress brought out a bottle of absolutely amazing Bordeaux, some fresh country bread, and a complimentary house pâté. (I still have yet to learn the subtle differences between pâté and terrine.) The pâté, which was served as a sort of loaf, was passed from table to table; as each group received their appetizers, on went the meaty spread to the next.

Eliot’s meal was basically an elderly person’s dream. He started with the foie gras ravioli, which was not so much a pasta as a dumpling soup. The thin, slippery broth and the thick, fatty duck liver were very delicately balanced. For his main course, he ordered a traditional southern French dish called Brandade de Morue, which consists of salted cod and mashed potatoes. (The cod filet is basically pureed and mixed with the potatoes to become one large, mushy plate. It sounds kind of gross, but it is actually quite heavenly.) He then finished his meal with a very hefty portion of bittersweet chocolate mouse. Had Eliot lacked all ability to chew, his dinner would have still been perfect.

Seth started his meal with a parmesan flan and a balsamic vinegar salad. For his main dish, he enjoyed tender pork cheeks on a bed of peas, asparagus, and bacon. Finally, he ended his meal with a traditional rum cake. I think it was the first instance I knew of a dessert making someone tipsy.

As for me, I ordered the foie gras ravioli, panfried scallops with white haricot beans, and panna cotta (Italian cooked cream). The scallops were so complex in flavor: meaty, earthy, citrusy, thyme-y… Mmm mmm mmm, so comforting, too. Also, the panna cotta, drizzled with fresh strawberry puree, was hands down the best I had ever eaten.

Sigh. If only I could afford to dine out more often. But alas, Seth and I definitely have to cut back on our spending next week. Cheap home cookin’, here we come!

[Hier & Aujourd’hui: 145 Rue de Saussure, 75017 Paris]

UPDATE: This restaurant closed on 26 May, 2011.

ladurée

Finally! Finally! Finally! These macarons are all mine!

[from left to right: cassis-violette (black currant and violet), framboise (raspberry), pétales de rose (rose), pistache (pistachio), noisette (hazelnut), chocolat (chocolate)]

Not only were they super cute, but they were also super delicious. I am definitely trying Martha’s recipe when I get back to the States.