Wednesday, May 31, 2006

5/31/2006 9:40am/ Malaga Airport
At the Malaga airport, waiting for my escape to Barcelona. Being here is kind of like sitting in a smoke filled bar. Sure, they have designated smoking areas, but they comprise a counter set in the middle of the main aisle by the gates. As long as you're not blowing smoke directly in my face, I guess it's all good. Very curious, and so very Euro. Now on the other hand their taxis here put the hoopties most American cabbies drive to shame. They are invariable almost new and spotlessly clean. Unlike their American brethren, where it usually gives you pause to even sit on the seat. The cleanliness factor of most U.S. cabs is just a marginal step above hotel bedspreads. Is there anything more hygienically disturbing than hotel bedspreads? I know they're changing my sheets, but when is the last time that bedspread saw the cleaners? And if you think there isn't a lot of "personal" activities taking place on top of that bedspread, you're kidding yourself. My activities I'm good with. That couple from Des Moines, who now that they're not at home decide they are going to "experiment" on top of the bed I'm expected to sleep in? I don't think so.
Hope the plane comes soon...apparently I have WAY too much time to think!

See you in Barcelona for some paella!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

5/30/2006 3:30 pm....Granada
Wow..what a 24 hours it's been! Granada just continues to hit the spot. With another day spent in the glorious sunshine, its relaxed pace is perfectly suited to what I want right now. To keep the chronological thing going, here's a quick rundown......
Last Night: In honor of tomorrow morning's visit to the Alhambra (pronounced "all-ambra"), had dinner last night at what is reputedly the best Moroccan restaurant in Granada, Arrayanes. I have to agree. Not only is the room itself wonderfully, but tastefully ornate, the proprietor is a fantastic host, who supposedly speaks seven different languages. Based on his ability to greet the English, Spanish, German, and French people who came through in their native tongue, I'm guessing that is no exaggeration.

He handed me the menu, gave me a minute, asked what I wanted. Knowing that Moroccan food is not something I am well versed in, I turned the tables and asked him to feed me. Just bring me anything he likes. His first question was, "Do you like soup?" to which I naturally replied, "I like everything!" So a deliciously savory chickpea soup found it's way to my table, accompanied by perhaps the best lemonade I have tasted. Oh, just so you know, there is no alcohol served at Arrayanes, much to my liver's relief! This first course was followed by a wickedly good lamb tagine (in the picture above), so rich in spice and character, and something he was rightly proud of. Ended it all with a perfectly rich vanilla custard with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top. All so good! Now to bed, the ghosts of the past are beckoning mañana!!

A brief interjection...I'm typing this at small "cerveceria" next to the internet café I've found here. Ordered a beer, and just had set on my table, in the free tapas tradition that I'm going to be very resentful about when I have to give it up (attention bar owners in Portland: my bar has been raised!), a delicious, lightly battered and fried whole sardine with a pile of what I think is crumbled friend corn meal..fresh, salty, and SO good!

This Morning: Up at 8:30 (remember this IS vacation), and get ready for my assault on the Alhambra. Have been told so much from friends who have been here, expectations are high.
After the fact: expectations not only met, but exceeded! Spent about three hours at this medieval fortress on the hill, took umpteen pics, and was just awed! So atmospheric, and though crowded with lots of big group tours, it was not this crush that I was fearing. Get ahead of them at spots, or let them pass by and you can find yourself with a bit of room to contemplate the history that is so apparent with every step, practically every breath you take here. If you have one stop to make in Andalucia, this has to be it. Incredible!

Just a small sampling of the beautiful tilework throughout.

The Patio de los Leones in the Palacios Nazaries. The fountain is surrouunded by twelve lions, and water flows out on four sides, which represent the four rivers of paradise. This small patio was one of my favorite places, although in a place like this it's almost unfair to pick one...or two...or.......

This Afternoon: came down from my Moorish high, just in time to wander into Los Diamantes, and partake of Pepe and his crowd one more time before I leave early tomorrow a.m. for Barcelona. Diamantes was still cooking, still energized, and is one spot I won't soon forget!
Here's a couple more images from my wanderings...
Another free tapas, this time at Casa Fernando, my second favorite place here!

Schoolgirls having a lunch break with their classmates in a small square near the hotel. Very cute...the one on the right kept trying to get her friend to share with her......

Three deep at the bar today at Los Diamontes. I'll miss ya, Pepe!

Hasta luego!!

Monday, May 29, 2006

5/29/2006 4:42pm....Grenada
After a WAY too early train ride this morning (read up at 5 to be at the train station at 6...what happened to my vacation?!) to catch an early ride to Granada, and I got here not a moment too soon. So far, 6-1/2 hours in, and I am LOVING this place. Of course it could be the four beers I had about 30 minutes ago at my new favorite bar in Europe. And by the way, about that whole "new favorite restaurant" thing in Paris, let's make it the same new favorite Euro restaurant, because in hindsight, and with many meals here under and overflowing my belt, Castagna & 3 Doors Down still rock. It was the moment, you know? Anyway, Grenada is totally cool, much smaller feeling than Seville, with at least all the charm, and I haven't made it to the Alhambra yet. Tomorrow morning I'm in. What I've found in much strolling so far is it seems every corner I turn, there's a new small tree shaded square with a charming, beautiful fountain in the middle, something Sevilla sorely lacks. Not too say that Sevilla needs any help!
Here's a couple of said fountains.....
Oh, before I forget, I did go back to Bar Europa in Sevilla last night for another awesome tapas experience. Trust me on this...if you're here...or there at this point, it's the best!
But yeah, Granada seems a little more low key, more relaxed in spite of the tourist crush. Word is the Alhambra is the most visited monument in all of Europe. Assuming you can avoid the sheep in their pastel and/or plaid vacation clothes, following behind some bored/annoyed looking tour guide...and how horrific would that job be. Leading a bunch of lemmings, 45% of whom are complaining, 45% are asking annoying questions, while the 10% who are reasonable know not to say anything. Anyway, they aren't at all hard to ignore, and get off the main streets and you are right where you want to be. Which leads me to Bar Los Diamontes. Another TimeOut recommendation, and just four blocks from my very nicely located hotel (Hotel Juan Miguel... This place opens at 2:30 and closes at 4:00. It's also open later in the evening. So I'm wandering around, get there about 2:45 and this joint is packed! And this is a really small, really tight space. Somehow find a tiny corner of bar space, order a beer, and the next thing you now a small plate of tapas is set before you. Another awesome Granada custom: apparently it's one of the last places in Spain where it is the norm to give a free plate of tapas with every drink. How cool is that?! So this place is rocking, the barman Pepe and his cohort dishing it, and Pepe has this place nailed. Mostly locals, a few tourists who get it. Pepe gives a gesture here, a booming shout out to the kitchen, a wink and nod to let you now he's got you covered. And he's only like 5'8", maybe 30-35.This is SO my kind of place. Full plates flying across the bar to the few tables, piles of empties coming back. Incredible energy and a killer!! I'll be back for tomorrow afternoon's show, even if it means cutting my Alhambra time short!
That's Pepe in the foreground. People are packed in to the right and behind me!
So far Granada has me going...and the evening hasn't even started!

Oh my god, there's no escaping the scourge of annoying wine geeks. I was just in this really cool local wine shop that was filled with great Spanish wine on the way to an internet café here, and overheard this conversation....
Woman (in a nasally, east coast voice): "Have any of these wines been rated by Robert Parker in the Wine Advocate?"
Husband of annoying woman (dressed in always chic Tommy Bahama, just so he doesn't stand out): "So do you read Parker here? We really like him."
Wine shop guy (probably while wondering why he ever got into this business): "No, we don't really pay attention to that."
Wife: "Well, he really seems to know Spanish wine."
And with that I had to leave. Oh, the horror!!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

5/28/2006 2:30pm...Seville
Was that the best $19 ...including tip and wine...I've ever spent on food at Bar Europa last night? It's gotta be close. This is a tiny, out of the way tapas joint that not only serves original, creative tapas, but also, and unlike most places that slap whatever it on the plate and are done with it, at B.E. the food is nicely presented and creatively plated. This wouldn't really matter if the food wasn't anything special, but this is the best food that I've had here, and I'd like to think I've taken a relatively large sampling of tapas skills around town, and the Europa chefs have huge game. I started with a nice piece of lightly fried fish and a roasted piquillo pepper that was a perfect starter, and with my ice cold glass of rosato was so good. Then on to a roquefort crepe that was rich, intense, but not too heavy even with the bechamel on top (or maybe I'm just becoming numb to these things!). Not knowing where to go from there, but knowing I had to make at least one more stop on their menu, I managed, I thought, with many hand gestures and indecipherable combination of Spanish and English, to ask the patron what he would have off of his tapas list. He kind of looked at me, looked at the list, then walked off. Assuming that some sort of communication had taken place, I ordered another glass of rosé from the barman and hoped for the best. I knew I was halfway there when he brought a new knife and fork. And then he brought the plate, set it down, muttered "Bacalao" and walked off. Holy mother of salt cod was this good! Resting in a pool of the freshest olive oil, with a puree of what I'm guessing was apricot with capers and pearl onions scattered about, this was heaven! Mixing a bite of everything together, the flavors melded and exploded on my palate. This was serious, world class flavor combining, absolutely top notch. And yet this one plate cost just a smidge over four bucks! Awesome stuff, and I'm going back today to try a couple of other items that I couldn't get after last night. The pictures are in the order consumed.
* Fish w/Piquillo Pepper

* Roquefort Crepe

* Bacalao

Up this morning, had a terrific, refreshing two hour morning walk to check out Santiago Calatrava's famous bridge here, the Puente del Alamillo. I love Calatrava's design/architectural work (, and this was an early work of his for the 1992 World's Fair, an event that actually bankrupted the city. But hey, check out that infrastructure! Calatrava's work to me is so light and lyrical. If Spain isn't in your upcoming travel plans, you can actually see a footbridge he designed for the city of Redding, California of all places. Somehow they raised money to hire him to do it. I've walked it, and it's beautiful. Kind of a mini-version of the Alamillo. Memo to those who are planning the new Sellwood Bridge...aim higher!

So I walk along the river, where guys are lined up along the riverbank fishing for these small, 6" or 7" fish with these 30' long about overkill! It must be the thing to do though, because these guys had their rigs, chairs, and buckets of bait balls they'd throw in the water to attract the fish. It was pretty interesting. Anyway, I got to the bridge, walked across taking a couple of pictures along the way. And then then when I got to the other side...are you ready for this...I WALKED BACK!! Um, maybe you had to be there.......

A couple more random images.....
A really cute tapas place a few blocks from my hotel, run by two super nice women, where I had my morning cafe con leche and tostada de queso y mie...basically melted cheese on toast w/ honey, on the way back from my walk......delicious!

Me at same cafe.....loving life!

Ah, Seville...cultural and historical center of Spain, where old hair bands go to die!

I know what you're thinking, but just because I went in Starbucks yesterday doesn't mean I've hit rock bottom! Now maybe if it was Taco Bell...............

Back with more scintillating news later!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

5/27/2006 6:15...Seville
Man, is this a great city or what? Not only was I able to go back out for more tapas and cervezas, and the craziest tuna sandwich ever, but America is never very far away. This next part is somewhat, okay, REALLY embarrassing, but dammit, it's 90 degrees out, I've been walking around for the last three or four hours. So I'm hot, my feet are saying get your ass in a chair, and there it was, just ahead, with a sign in the window that seemed like a beacon of relief....Mocha-Banana Frappuccino...that's right...start in, it's totally deserved...I went to freaking Starbucks in Seville. How do you like that Cy? And ya know what? At that moment it tasted really fucking good! Okay, glad I got that off my chest.
Anyway, another fabulous afternoon. Seville is awesome. The people are beautiful. Now back in air conditioned comfort at the Corrergidor. Have my dinner tapas spot all picked out. Here's a few pics with commentary.
Found the local market...these guys are wondering where it all went wrong.

Granted my Spanish is next to nonexistent, but I think this butcher shop is offering a new take on the whole "Body of Christ" thing.

Summer fashion week in Seville. This is more pret a porter rather than haute couture. Green is HOT this season. Let me know if you want anything picked up!!

These guys were out last night. Really great and the guys were having fun. Hey Randall, it looks like they could use a rocking stand up bass player!

The patio at the hotel. The perfect spot to take a vacation from my vacation with a book...or Vanity Fair...they both work!

Now that's a tuna sandwich!! The guys at Patio San Eloy do it right. Looks crazy, but tasted great, especially at $2 a slice. As soon as they brought it out, it disappeared. Apparently a house specialty. This is a great tapas spot to put on your list.!! Hangin' at Bar Santa Cruz with beer number....ah, never mind. The thing is, on a hot day, these little 10 ounce beers at a Euro a pop are the deal!
5/27/2006 12:15...Sevilla
Slept fabulously here in wonderful Seville last night. Love my hotel...Hotel Corregidor. Beautiful patio, comfortable, very quiet at night. Slept like a baby last night. Will post a couple pictures tomorrow. Really a nice deal in a perfect location. Also wifi access!
Was up and out about 9 this morning. Went to the cathedral. Incredible. Supposed to be the biggest church in the world. Bigger in volume than St. Peter's in Rome. Staggering. Here's a couple of looks. The tower is called the Giralda...a landmarkof Sevilla's skyline.
Got lost on my way back to the hotel. Maybe one in six or seven streets is marked. I think it is one of the rites of passage here!
I know many of you have been here. How great are tapas bars? When I arrived last night, was hungry. Quickly found my rhythm. Duck into one...have a quick bite. Maybe a little jamon & cerveza, then on to the next. The chorizo looks good there, and the cerveza is cold on a warm evening. The squares are filled with people walking arm in arm, kids playing. Stop at Bar Rioja for some olives, another cerveza, a little manchego. The best part is I find I am spending almost no money, they are so cheap and so satisfying. And the warm sun feels rejuvenating after cloudy Paris. Will be about 85 today...perfect. Will have more pics of the scene and more food stuff later.
Off too see Calatrava's famous bridge here, hopefully this afternoon. Speaking of afternoon...time for tapas and cerveza...adios!

Friday, May 26, 2006

5/26/2006 1:15pm/Barcelona
Don't read this email as me having commitment issues. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just prefer to call it flexibility, or keeping an open mind. I say this because as of last night (Thursday) I have a NEW favorite restaurant in Paris. The scary part is it almost didn't happen. After my wonderfully satisfying lunch at Lozere, I wandered a bit more, sent some email, then went back to my hotel for a little rest about five. I read a bit, and then the next thing I know it's 8:30...turns out the lunch needed to be slept off. So I'm laying on the bed, really don't want to get up and get dressed to go out, and was almost ready to go to this little brasserie just down the street. But then I thought, "Sure, I could do that. Take the easy way out, even though there's this little place I really want to check out before I leave. And if not for me, then I have to do it for everyone who is counting on my reportorial integrity, to go out and GET THAT STORY!" So for you, I did. And it was perhaps the best decision on this trip.
I had read about Juan et Juanita in the TimeOut guide, and it sounded so good. Plus it was a mere three Metro stops from my hotel at 82 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in the 11th. After this experience, all I can say is if you're in Paris you have to go!! The space was small, very artsy in a cool, modern way. It's as if your very talented friend who's an artist/designer made a very comfortable restaurant space, a little edgy, with great music playing, where everyone feels good being there. And oh yeah, she made sure the food was out of this world. It was actually the perfect counterpoint to Lozere, with that restaurants regional simplicity and hominess contrasted against J et J's hipness.
So I walk in, and notice immediately it's full. Not too be deterred, I ask if they can seat "un personne s'il vous plais?" The woman who owns it, Carine, couldn't have been nicer. After a glance around and a furrowed brow, she approached two customers. They were a 50-something couple sitting on one of two couches facing each other, with a wide rectangular coffee table between the two seats. Carine asked if they would mind if I sat across from them on the other couch, and of course they didn't as they were just finishing. This is the kind of place where everything is the norm. So comfortably seated, I began my journey to culinary nirvana. Springtime in Paris calls for rosé, so I ordered a glass of their house rosé, which was delicious, snapping fresh with bright, full, strawberry flavors. With much anticipation, I ordered my entreé and plat off the menu. On the entrée list I noticed a potato dish with lardons. Not having any idea what I would be getting, but loving all things potato-ey and worshipping at the altar of cured pork products, I had to try it. About 15-20 minutes later, what should appear before me but the best potato dish maybe I have ever my life!
Wonderful scalloped potatoes, hot with melting cheese and bacony goodness. Beautifully, playfully was every dish as you can see, and it was crazily good, with this nice little arugula salad on the side. As I savored every bite, Carine came by to ask how it was (she speaks quite good English, by the way), and I had to tell her that I want to eat this every day...of my life! Sopping up every last bit with my bread, I reluctantly let the plate go. Of course, after something that good, I could only imagine how my rabbit in mustard sauce was going to be, and wondering what their take on this French classic would taste like.
Um, it tasted good. REALLY good! The meat was tender and moist, the sauce perfectly savory and complimenting rather than overpowering the lapin, with a little cylinder of mashed potato perfection.
At this point I'm just dying, with a stupid food and rosé induced grin on my face. And how could I not trust them to have a dessert to equal the build up? Besides it's my last night in Paris for a week. If ever there was a time to (over)indulge this was it. And of course the Fondant au Chocolat absolutely killed!
The picture doesn't really do it justice. Moist cake, with a warm, liquid, thick dark chocolate sauce that oozed out with every bite. It's tough to eat this kind of food alone, let me tell you. It was just begging for two people to feed it to each other, sharing bites and kisses and secrets. It was SO sexy, so sensual, I really have to explain it? Like the girl on the magazine says..."GO-GO"!!
Knowing that I'll be back in Paris the last night of my vacation a week from Saturday and I am meeting my friends Mike and Kate from Vancouver, B.C., who will be here on their first night of vacation, I immediately made reservations for us. I can't wait!
Typing this on a layover in Barcelona. Next stop...Seville!!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

5/25/2006 4:15 pm
I know you all are sleeping or just waking...except for you Amy, how long have you been up now?! I write this, but I have a big announcement: I have a new favorite restaurant. That's right, after years of pimping Café Castagna, loving it, treasuring Kevin and Monique as good friends, going there two or three times a month, now it's all changed. One meal, out of desperation and hunger, with more than a little synchronicity from Mick and Keith (hey, there's that M & K again..hmmm), and I find my life turned upside down. I know you're reading this Monique, but really you only have yourself to blame. Had you not given me your Paris hit list, this would never have happened. What happened was this....
I'm out fairly early this morning...soon to be your mornings....and planning on visiting the just reopened Orangerie museum. Walked through the Jardin de Tuilleries, one of my favorite places in Paris. Got to the museum, only to find it's closed today, even though it's supposed to be open. Those Frenchies and their slacking ways! Anyway, wander some more, killing time before I go to this much anticipated little café, Chez Stella. Got there at their opening time of 12, none home...okay. More slacking perhaps? Wander about for 20 minutes, hunger building after only a small apple pastry about three hours ago, that while superb, had run it's course. Still nobody home at Stella, blood sugar plummeting too precipitous levels. Quick decisions are in order as I stare at the still closed door of Stella, willing it to open. Where's that goddamn Uri Geller when I need him? Suddenly what comes on my ipod but the Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get What You Want". In my hunger induced aggravation (partly brought on by my getting stoned and shut out at my first two dinner choices last night), I'm all like "Fuck you, Mick". Barely hear the line "...but you might just find you get what you need." So, with plans changing as swiftly as my feet are carrying me to the Metro, I decide to make my dinner spot lunch, and that's where La Maison de la Lozere happened. This was on the list Monique gave me before I left, and she described it perfectly. One step in the door, and I just knew it. Lozere is a small department in the southwest of France...the Languedoc area...and these guys are working it hard. Like Monique said, "A bit of a chamber of commerce ad for the Lozere region". And now I know with good reason. A tiny, charming dining room, bathed in yellows and filed with warmth, especially welcoming on a somewhat gray and cool Parisian midday. Before I left, K & M had told me about this place, especially their unbelievable roquefort dressing on the salad. That was all I had to hear to know that at some point I was going to stop by. But that did little to prepare me for what was dropped on the table in front of me. I would have a picture, but I was so awestruck that I didn't even think about it 'til I was a third of the way through. A big bowl a fresh salad greens, with two large slabs of the freaking best blue cheese laying across the top, with more of a light dressing and roquefort lurking beneath. This was insane!! To follow that I ordered the roast lamb, based on Kevin's recommendation. Exquisite. Here it is.....

What is kind of blowing my mind on this trip is that this is what a lot of people are eating for lunch regularly. I was the only non-French person in this place, and seemingly everyone was having at least two courses, the entreé (remember the salad is considered the entreé) and the plat, or main course, in my case lamb. Plus most also had dessert. Who couldn't get with this? They just understand. And again this is LUNCH! The really self indulgent part is while I'm waiting for the d'agneau roti, I pull out my map and start plotting my Metro trip to dinner. No shame's like those guys playing poker on TV...I'm going all in! So anyway, I love the place, I love the people, love my first two dishes, then manage to get Anne, the hostess, to reveal her favorite dessert choice. And with that this glorious ice cream topped with cassis berries and a light swim of lemon sauce around the bottom of the plate.

Did I ever mention how fucking lucky I am? Thank you God. That is if I can drop the "F" word and the "G" word in consecutive sentences. Somehow I think He understands! If not, I'd better eat some more before I start that whole "burning in hell" thing! Anyway, again as Monique originally said, this did feel like home cooking, like what you'd get if you walked into someone's home in the Lozere. Just true, very real food. I'm still glowing as I write this an hour later.
"And you might just find you get what you need".....Right on, Mick!

Also yesterday had a great lunch, again courtesy of the TimeOut Paris guide, at La Madonnina at 10 rue Marie et Louise, I think in the 10th. Very fresh, expertly prepared Italian food. The people were super friendly, spoke English very well, and the dining room was simple and warm. After going all French, all the time, this was a welcome break.
More later, and here's a few more pics I got while walking about town. If any of you are taking notes, I also have to say that every place I've been belied the rumor that you have to spend a lot to eat well in Paris. My lunch at Lozere was just $38 US with wine, and while not a cheap for lunch, considering how good it was, I think it's a bargain. Besides, you can always have a killer five buck falafel on Rue Rosiers to make up for it!
Here's more photos of my wanderings.....

The Eglise St. Eustache by Les Halles....smaller than Notre Dame, but just as beautiful outside (didn't go in), seemingly more manageable without the tourist hordes, and fronts this sqaure with water, grass, people letting their dogs play. Has a great local feel!

A Metro stop by the Louvre and Chez Stella. At first I thought, "uh, I don't think so", but on further review I'm thinking that is really cool. Click on the image to make it bigger...note the glass figures on top. Only in Paris do you seee things like this!

A sweet little cheese shop on Rue Montorgueil by Les Halles. In the bottom picture are two I would say five to eight pound pieces of raw butter. Let 'em know how much, they slice it off...and I can't do anything with it...arghhhhh!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

5/24/2006 2:49 pm
A quick thought, and something that to me is very noticeable based on past experience here. I have to tell you this, especially directed at you shoe 'ho's out there, but it's not all about the shoes here anymore. Despite what you might read in the NYT Style read in bed Sunday mornings with coffee by the way....there seems to be a disturbing trend here. From my keen observation of the fashionable ones parading down le avenue, the word in shoes is "comfort". Used to be in Paris you couldn't swing a baguette and not hit someone in a pair of oh-so-sexy stilettos. Now...casual, low heeled shoes, everywhere...they probably don't even hurt your feet! Women of the world, sorry to be the bearer of bad news!
5/24/2006 10:53 a.m.
Could it possibly be time to eat again? Starting out again, searching for dinner. With so many choices, temptation abounds. This place looks interesting...wonder how it is?

Hmmm, maybe not. Luckily I have a back up plan. So made my way across the Seine, wandered through the heart of the Latin Quarter, and off toward the Eiffel Tower. Stopped off at this teeming little boite, the Café du Marché on Rue Cler for a quick refresher.

This is my new friend I met while having a lovely glass of Lanson Champagne. I think my new ami's name actually is Theguywhowasstanding Atthebarnexttome....I know, I couldn't believe it either! A new friend and delicious Champagne in a restaurant for five bucks a pop? As soon as I think of something better than that, I'll let you know.
On the highest recommendation from my friends Amy and Randy (if you can't trust a guy who knows about cheese and his über-talented artist wife (, who can ya trust?), I went to Leo le Lion on Rue Duvivrier in the 7th. Kind of quiet, wasn't sure when I walked in the door. But by the time I walked out, I knew I has experienced some impressive kitchen talent.
The place itself is all dark wood paneling, old fixtures, with a chef/owner dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt who wandered out of the kitchen occasionally to gruffly ask "C'est bon?". Since I was both afraid of him and loving the food, I of course answered "Oui, c'st bon". Actually he was a really nice guy. Now, say this next sentence in your best British accent: Happened to sit next to this British chap, Robert I believe his name was, terribly interesting sort and he was in the British Navy and giving a lecture at the Ecole Militaire. See, didn't that sound better that way? I'm telling you, if the French accent conveys romance and sex, then the British accent conveys authority and knowledge. He could've told me anything.."Well, you see Bruce, if you do duck under a table during a nuclear blast, you actually will survive." Wow, okay....
Back to dinner. Another glass of Champagne to start, then ordered a simply amazing salad. A bed of lettuce which formed a nest around a perfectly tender pile of haricots verts, topped with langoustines, with everything lightly bathed in a strawberry/balsamic! I'm telling you, I'm not coming home! Since I decided on salmon as my main, I ordered a half bottle of this crisp, oh-so-perfect Loire Valley sauvignon blanc, the 2004 Jean-Michel Sorbe Quincy.
Here's a graphic representation of the salmon on the left. Light puff pastry, with this super moist salmon tucked inside, it being stuffed with spring vegetables. The salmon/puff pastry is resting in a perfectly decadent and somehow light butter, lemon, and parsley sauce that is flecked with sweet red pepper. Around the edge of the plate. Around the edge of the plate is a basil infused olive oil,just to make sure you have enough flavor. Egad! Since I was so much better to my body last night than the previous evening, I felt perfectly within my rights to have a wonderful dish of crème bruleé. So good! Then a sleepy Metro ride back to the hotel....back tomorrow........


Tomorrow already?? Okay, that means a quick Metro ride to my favorite cybercafé, Robar, by the Place d'Aligré market. Free wireless, great cappuccino and espresso.
Also wanted include a couple of market shots.
The flowers are from a vendor at the d'Aligré market, the vegetables and fish from a sweet little market street by my hotel.

Oh, and since many of you have asked which hotel I am staying at, here it is:
Nothing fancy, but at $83 a night, a perfectly respectable place to rest my overfed body and fall asleep.......
A bientot....c'est déjeuner!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

5/23/2006...14:25 a Paris
It is so nice to be in a place where actual face to face contact comes into play with each greeting. Is there anything here I don't like? And ordering an espresso just now at Café Francais facing Place de la Bastille, it comes with a wonderful piece of dark chocolate on the saucer...ah, civilization!
This morning started out perfectly. After last nights debauchery, it was the cure I needed to have eight hours of sleep. Woke up feeling refreshed, with one thought on my mind...oysters! Thanks to Monique and Kevin from Castagna for putting it there. Walked to my nearest Metro stop, stopping first at a wonderful patisserie/boulangerie for a buttery, incredible Douillon Poire. A superb piece of French goodness, buttery light pastry wrapped around sweetened chunks of pear. Like a sweet brioche with a pear filling. Finished it, licking the buttery residue off of my fingers with delight. Oh my god, it's happening again. And the day is just beginning. So made my way to the perfectly beautiful outdoor market on Place d'Aligre. And attached is the picturesque...inside anyway...Marché Couvert Beauvau. If you had any idea how hard it was to walk by the cheese vendors and not be able to partake. Torture!! This is the market where Kevin had some fresh oysters on one of his mornings on their recent trip to Paris. So in solidarity with my brother in food, I had to follow suit. A delicious half dozen Normandies found their way onto my small table.
Briny goodness. Crazy fresh and tasting like the sea. They don't get any better!
Time for a walk. The street activity here is amazing.
Scooters flying by, little Smart Cars, perhaps one of the cutest transportation vehilcles ever, whizzing by. Why don't we have them here in the U.S. ? It can't have anything to do with our President and his oil loving ways could it? Nah, that's crazy talk......
After much strolling, my tummy is telling me lunch is sounding very good. Wanting to keep internal harmony, I listen and make my way to Café de la Poste, just off Place de la Bastille on rue Castex in the 4th. This tiny hole in the wall is a find! Maybe twenty seats, one waitress, very friendly. I sat on the banquette, and when another customer comes in, that means you slide out, they slide in, and everyone is happy. Love it! And finally, after a looooong 24 hours in Paris without, I have my first fois gras! Wanna see?........

Now that is my idea of a salad before lunch! Ah, the fatttened goose. God bless them all for knowing how happy they make me. I followed this up with a plat du jour of Bouef Provençal. Simple, perfect, served with buttery fettucine on the side. Oh, and in case you're worried, a week before I left I had a complete physical and my cholesterol is way low. But thanks for worrying. I'm feeling your concern and I appreciate it! Two courses, two glasse of wine...a rosé and a Chinon "Vielles Vignes" for aboout $20...keep it coming! Okay, gotta run...I hear they have this big tall metal tower here that I haven't seeen yet...Ciao!
What could be better than waking up on a sunny morning? Oh, did I mention a sunny morning in freaking Paris?! Especially after an incredible meal last night at this sweet little place on Av. Ledru Rollin in the 12th, A La Biche au Bois. Found this place in the TimeOut Paris guide/Eating and Drinking. BTW...don't even think of traveling without these guides...the best!
Okay, back to dinner. Check this out: Four courses of amazingly well prepared and presented food for just 24 euros (about 30 bucks!). So, sit down, order a 1/2 bottle
of this 2003 Meursault Rouge from some producer I've never heard of. Delicious as only French pinot noir can be. My waiter was this great kid, Laurent, who spoke some pretty good English. He suggested starting with their first course special, which as best I could understand was this paté made from various parts of a pig's head. Yeah, I know, it took me a minute to get MY head around that one, but ya know, when in France.......There it is below, in all it's blurry glory (I'm working on that part of my presentation).
Putting aside all thoughts of exactly what I was eating, this was fanatastic. A lightly dressed salad at the top, a mustard/parsley/mayonnnaise spread at the bottom, and this beautiful, savory piece of tete du porc to put on the perfectly crusty bread. Very auspicious beginning! So, next comes my entreé, a wonderful steak with this very rich sauce. Don't ask me what was in the sauce...I don't know. It was good. Perfectly medium rare, and suddenly as I finish I notice my 1/2 bottle of Burgundy had somehow emptied itself out! With a selection of cheeses to come, I had to act fast. Hmmm, strong cheese calls for strong red wine. Had my man Laurent hook me up with a 1/2 of 2002 Chateauu Croix Bonis, an excellent little bottle of Bordeaux from St. Estephe. That oughta show that cheese a thing or two. So here it comes...le fromage!!!
Yeah, that's what I thought when saw him bring it too. And he's not saying pick just one. So I had him pick four of his favorites, and again, he's not doling out tiny slivers. We're talking some fairly sizable pieces of some of the best freaking cheeses I've ever had. And with the Bordeaux, it was fucking awesome. Just sensational. So, I'm thinking I still have dessert to come. Don't finish the cheese. Show some control........And no, that didn't work very well. He takes yet another almost licked-clean plate away, I'm reeling, I haven't slept for about 30 hours, I'm getting fairly lit up, and in no position to make any more decisions. Laurent, what do you like? Well, what Laurent liked was this crazy, decadent, sensual, sexy strawberry shortcake-on-crack that was perhaps one of the best desserts I've ever had (again pardon the blur):
The cake part wasn't really a dry shortcake. it was more like a moist, sweet angel food sort of thing. The sauce on the plate was like melted creme bruleé, so rich and something seemingly more appropriate to lick off someone's body, and then this is topped with these stupidly fresh strawberries. I walked out of there stuffed, half drunk, tired and SO satisfied. Somehow I made the much needed 2 mile walk back to the hotel without getting lost.
So here I am, next morning, feeling incredibly good, looking good in the new shades, and with more stories to come (tell you about my breakfast later!!).