Monday, November 29, 2010

Dee's Tapanade by Canal Saint-Martin

It seemed like dumb luck, serendipitous dumb luck. My friends, Dee, Mary Jo and I were having dinner at Astier in Paris, and decided to spend the afternoon in the area. Getting off at the Republique metro stop, we walked around and then decided to stop along the Canal Saint-Martin for a few minutes. All seemed quiet on this late fall afternoon, as people walked across the footbridge and on the cobblestone walkway. It was peaceful, until we heard a huge rush of water. Looking up, I realized the canal locks were operating to allow the passage of a few barges. The canal was ordered to be built by Napoleon I in 1802, to supply fresh water to Paris and the construction was funded by a new tax on wine. We watched the locks fill up with the barges patiently waiting to continue their voyage down the canal. As the sun filtered through the trees, Dee pulled out a container of homemade tapanade from her bag. I had a ficelle au fromage in my bag and Mary Jo had something to drink and glasses. Parfait...a picnic was made! If I'm ever stuck on a deserted island, I want to be there with a flight attendant. They always have food and water in their bags, just waiting for the right moment to appear. I suppose it comes from years of travel and always having to be prepared for the unexpected or the opportune. I don't think we could have planned it any better if we had tried.Dee's Tapanade

1/2 pound mixed black olives, pitted (Kalamata olives work well)
2 anchovy fillets
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 tablespoon capers
1 small handful basil leaves, rinsed
1 small handful fresh parsley, rinsed
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process to combine, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl, until the mixture becomes a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl and serve at room temperature.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Brocante and Dinner at L'Amuse Bouche

The golden fall leaves settled on the well worn forks and spoons, showing off both their age and beauty at this brocante or flea market, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Lenny and I weren't sure what we'd find here, but as a friend recently said to me, you can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. Sometimes you hit it big and today we weren't quite sure. There were plenty of interesting things, but the prices seemed a little high. If you wanted some bling, these hooks reflected their metallic aura in the patina of the mirror. There were rugs and rings. Perfume and pigs. And more pigs to save your pennies in. There were games I knew how to play, and some I didn't. I've never used a zig-zag corkscrew, but I think it is a game I might be able to figure out! Lenny and I both loved these metal chairs for either inside or out. I imagine we couldn't get them through airport security though, for the plane ride home. Maybe they will still be around when I finally get my Parisian apartment.....a girl can dream right?! Since this brocante was set up in the neighborhood streets, along the way the stores were still doing their business. I couldn't help but notice the bakeries and food stores, since the enticing aromas drifted out onto the street among the vendors clocks and faces, and books and globes. Then there was more spooning. And I can't even comment on this lamp, but can think of a few good ones!! We didn't really hit it big, the only thing I parted euros for was a scarf. I know, I know...I promised not to get another one, but it was only 5 euros, and it matched my outfit.

By this time the sun was getting low in the autumn sky and we were meeting a friend, Nöelle for dinner. T
he previous week our concierge had made a reservation for us at L'Ardoise for this evening. When he called to confirm, he was told there was no reservation. When he pressed further they got their knickers in a twist, but it was finally determined the restaurant made a mistake. OK...it wasn't the first time I'd been without a reservation on a Saturday night in Paris, but it was the first time a restaurant had penciled it in for the wrong day. After some quick phone calls, we secured (thank you, Phillipe!) the last table at a very small, neighborhood restaurant. L'Amuse-Bouche is run by a couple. Giles Lambert is the chef, and his wife manages the tables. We were the first to arrive at the cozy restaurant, and it was a relief to see the "Table Réservée" place card. The seating was a little tight and our table for 3 was nestled snuggly by the door. Madame immediately brought menus and an amuse-bouche of savory pastries, along with a brusque request for Nöelle to scoot her chair in. I think she runs a tight ship! After we were settled, Monsier Lambert came out of the kitchen to shake our hands and welcome us as if we had just arrived at his home. The warm color of the walls, the yellow plates and evening light added to the ambience, but made all of my photos an unappetizing yellow, so please forgive the glare. For our first course, Nöelle had langoustine ravioli, Lenny had pâté with smoked duck, served with crusty bread and arugula, and I had tiny mussels in a casserole, which I didn't care for. We agreed that Lenny's pâté was the best choice. For our main course, Nöelle chose paupiettes de lièvre, which is a rabbit dish that is not often on a menu. It was served with mushrooms and mashed potatoes and she thought it was very nice. Lenny and I both had a croustillant pouch filled with lamb and mushrooms in a sauce, that sat on a serving of mashed potatoes and topped with crispy vegetables. It was pure, home cooked comfort food.
They are known for their dessert soufflés, so Lenny had a pistachio soufflé that had a layer of chocolate at the bottom,and Nöelle had a Grand Marnier soufflé that came with its own bottle of Grand Marnier to pour in the center! Since a meal is rarely complete for me without chocolate, I had a warm chocolate cake with crème anglaise and ice cream, that was garnished with fresh figs. All in all, we dined well and left happy!
L'Amuse-Bouche:186,rue du Chateau, Paris, France
01 43 35 31 61
Paris

B
rocantes:
http://www.spam.fr