lundi 13 octobre 2008

the dumpling effect

restaurants mentioned in this post:

- HIGUMA, 32 bis rue Sainte Anne 75001 
- Sue's kitchen in Palo Alto
- Jas' house around the beginning of february

i love dumplings.  as in, those pork-filled little dough balls otherwise known as gyoza.  but the problem is that generally when you go to a restaurant and get an order of dumplings to share with another person, there's two, maybe four, maybe six dumplings .... whatever, ... but IT'S JUST NEVER ENOUGH.  ya know?  

that's what i call the dumpling effect.  it goes for things like sushi.  and raspberries.  like you buy a small box of raspberries for 3 times the price of any other fruit in the supermarket, and they're finished before you make it out to the sidewalk.  and you're left with a feeling of... wanting more.  ya know?

there are times however, when the dumpling effect is contradicted.  like when a consulting company that wants you to accept their offer takes you out for sushi and order "a sushi-boat for 2" -- for EACH person.  maybe at that point you're like, i think i've had enough sushi. 

or when you go to laurent's house and he's just come back from jouy where his mom went raspberry picking and he has a huge tupperware filled with raspberries that you think he wants to save for the week.  and he's like, no no, let's eat this kilo of raspberries.... now.  

or when you go to sue's house in california and as soon as you walk into the kitchen, there's what seems like a bottomless bowl of scrumptious dumplings sitting on the kitchen table (aka "heaven").  same for when jas makes her chinese new year dinner and everyone's making orgasmic noises over the unending supply of homemade dumplings.

in any case, those occasions are far too rare. 

however, i think i've found a solution - at least, for the dumplings.  

i just came back from dinner with pablo "i know every hot spot in paris" celada who took me to this awesome japanese restaurant, HIGUMA, where they sell more or less ramen noodles (they call them "lamen" noodles, i wasn't sure if that was a mistake or not) and dumplings.  great business model. 

and they have a menu, where you can get this huge soup + seven dumplings for 10,50 euros.  yea, seven dumplings.  per person.   

and they're hand-made.  and DELICIOUS.... the soup was pretty good too.  but shit man, i'd go back just for those dumplings.  

if sue and phil were here, i'd take 'em to HIGUMA.  it's not momofuku. 

but for now, ... an excellent contradiction to the dumpling effect.

thank you pablo. 

vendredi 20 juin 2008

everything tastes better in spain

ok, i've been in granada for about 10 hours -- but it has been an absolute culinary delight.

i arrived at the hostel around 4pm and met up with ange and marcin and we didn't make it out of the hostel until about 7:30pm due to excessive olive eating, ping pong playing, and flirting with cute italian boys!!

oh the olives.

the olives are so so delicious.

when we finally stepped out of the oasis, we headed to a tea house. i got a naranja/limon zuma b/c i'm not yet acclimated to the heat after being in the tundra that is paris. ange got a mint tea and she ordered this weird cooking herb tea for marcin (it tasted like rosemary or some kind of herb you use to dress meat). and we got this really tasty sort of baklava/halva dessert. delicious.

and then we embarked on our "buy drinks get free tapas" tour and started at an unassuming bar to watch croatia and turkey play. with our beer and wine, we got a very simple patatas fritas with these little sausages (they looked like mini hotdogs). it was simple. but DELICIOUS.

we then got lost in this crazy graffiti alley way, and ended up in the best fish tapas place in town (awarded by alki). there were no seats available but we made a small set up and started on our first round of "quarter pints". it turns out that ange, marcin, and i are all complete light weights so even after having only 2 drinks, we were starting to make very little sense in our story telling. and marcin was whipping out his flamenco fan and winking at the older woman with matching fans, as if to say "yea, we share something special". anyway, our first tapas was GAMBAS in this amazing garlic salt oil sauce. it was so tasty. so tasty that we stayed for another round (this is where it gets dangerous-- you have drink to feed yourself!!). this time it was these little salty fishes-- pesceitas fritas. YUUUUUUMMMMMMY. after staying in the hip fried fish 'hood for a while, we ventured as far as the "arch" only to return to a different wine-bar about 40 meters from the fish place. there we got some delicious wine and had some chorizo and yummy cheese tapas. and we learned about the "young" wine and the pebble honey.

then we hung out in this cool flamenco and jazz bar -- eshavara. and these dudes were just singing and clapping and playing guitar and it was pretty hypnotic (so much so that i took a small siesta).

finally, we decided to go back the hostel. but we stopped on the way for a falafel. even the cheap falafel on the street tasted of quality.

everything tastes better in spain.

samedi 15 mars 2008

Paris versus New York: The Culinary Challange

restaurants mentioned in this post:

there's a bunch but we go to the one near pilar's at 55 rue montorgueil


the noodle bar that we went to (there's a meat bar too) is on 171 first ave, nyc 

this is an entry that has been a long time in waiting.  since my visit home at christmas to be exact.  but i was reminded recently about the subject recently when we hit up PLANET SUSHI (huge fan) and that really tasty thai restaurant on rue tiquetonne (crap i forget the name).  

anyway, as a foreigner living in a new city (i'm not a huge fan of the word "expat", can't really explain why), i often find myself comparing every aspect of city life - from the metro system to food to cross walk signs (east berlin baby you win) to service to conveniences.  

for instance: 

category: metro system

candidates: paris, new york, london, athens, berlin, boston

winner: PARIS 

i love the paris metro.  there's cell phone reception (which is extremely convenient, and rarely an annoyance).  it's incredibly frequent (every 2 minutes) pretty much all day long.  and goes everywhere you need to go.  though it doesn't run all night long, grandma alki doesn't mind.  that way, she can use it as an excuse to leave early (topic of another blog entry: the "social clock revolution" - instead of party hours being 11pm - 5am, let's start it early!!  7pm - 1am baby, and in bed by 2!! )

i digress.  anyway, for me, paris is the clear winner in the category of the metro system. 

next category: FOOD.  the winner here is a bit more fuzzy.  it's true that some of the best restaurants in the world are just meters (yup, i've adopted the metric system) away from my doorstep.  some would argue that paris is THE culinary capital of the world.  

but after going to new york in december, i realized something about paris.  there are hundreds of incredible restaurants in paris... but more specifically, these restaurants are FRENCH restaurants.  and even MORE specifically, they are traditional bistrot-type french restaurants.  i would argue that hands down, the best "magret de canard", "steak au sauce roquefort", "boeuf tartare" can be found in paris.  

but for me (and this is when i will start personally offending my frenchie peers), i'm not a huge fan of french food.  i like meat but i don't like eating too much of it, especially weird non-muscle-y parts, like liver and kidneys.  

and being in paris, i miss good asian food.  and mexican food.  and bagels....

 i think what i miss most, is-- diversity.  

paris has the BEST FRENCH RESTAURANTS in the world.  but if you want to eat something different from french food, your palette won't be satisfied in the same way.  

this is where new york comes into the picture- for me, more than shopping (it's close), more than museums, ... new york is a culinary experience.  
i have rarely ate at a restaurant in new york that was less than DELICIOUS (shout out to jason!!).  
while in new york, shin-jung and i had lunch one day at RICE.  a concept restaurant based on rice, where you chose what kind of rice you want and then pick the meal to go with it.  and the decor was really cool and tasteful.  and then food was simple - i think i ordered brown rice and black beens.  and it was DELICIOUS.  (you would never find this in paris)

another night, sue and i ate at her favorite restaurant, MOMOFUKU.  the chef is a young korean-american guy who has won awards for best new chef (or something- i don't know the details).  anyway, the food is korean ... with a twist.  again, quite simple but ... DELICIOUS.  those steam rolls man.  (also, never to be found in paris)

both restaurants were what i would call STYLE (found in london) and QUALITY (found in paris).  to sum it up, paris restaurants are delicious but very traditional.  and french.  london restaurants are hip and interesting.  but the food's not that good.  new york restaurants are delicious, diverse, and innovative.  

category: FOOD

winner: NEW YORK

that being said, pilar, celia, and i found a sushi restaurant that was more interesting and delicious than the typical "14 euro brochette and sushi menu" found in paris' surprisingly numerous copy-cat japanese restaurants.  don't get me wrong, these restaurants are pretty good and decently-priced, but sometimes you want that extra kick.  
and when you have that inkling, you can go to PLANET SUSHI.  the atmosphere is a bit weird- trying to be a bit too cool.  and the service is actually quite bad.  BUT- the food options make up for it.  instead of offering just seaweed salad, they have about 12 options for different types of salads.  AND they have fun and interesting rolls (like dragon rolls mmmm)!

anyway, for me, the restaurant selection in paris is pretty good.  in new york, it's amazing.  but what is cool about being in paris, is that people take a lot more pleasure in eating (meals last about 3 times longer than they do in the US) AND cooking.  i think that my favorite meals in paris have been at people's houses (hence, the base of this blog).  and what's more, i have been inspired to experiment more in the kitchen.  example: the pad thai experiment.  another post.  i need to get out of my pyjamas.  and start my saturday. 


lundi 28 janvier 2008

the burger experiment

i went home for the holidays (i'm still planning on writing about my orgasmic gastronomic experiences in new york) and after two weeks of fine american dining, i came back to france and realized that if i wanted a decent burger, i wasn't sure where i could get one.  so alas, i embarked on ... the burger experiment.  

charlie birdy
84 bd montparnasse

this place has one huge advantage over any other bar or restaurant in paris for me: convenience.  i live directly above the charlie birdy and thus, i witness on a daily basis people looking ultra cool and comfortable on the lounge sofas, sipping their happy hour monacos and sinking into (what looks like) their delicious and juicy burgers.  

so one day, i finally decided to try out the charlie birdy with my work dudes julien and marc and celia (and pilar).  all of us ordered cheeseburgers.  the frenchies ordered a bottle of wine but i refused.  burger and wine?? that is sacrilege!  instead, i got a nice cold beer (ok, it was a monaco, but man i'm addicted!!).  i was starving and so stoked to try my first burger in paris.  i was thinking to myself, "french people know how to cook beef.  and they definitely know how to make a damn good loaf of bread.  this has got to be good".  after about 23984872 hours (this place is not known for its service), the burgers finally came out.  i placed the top bun on my burger, squeezed it a bit to keep it together, and guided the burger into my watering mouth.  i closed my eyes and took a bite of... 

CARDBOARD!  it was total shit.  the beef was mediocre.  and the bun was abysmal!  it was dry and tasteless.  definitely no "miracle of science" bun.  it was then that i realized that a big part of a good burger is the bun.  mcdonald's has better buns than the charlie birdy.  i was so utterly disappointed.  not only in my burger, but in FRENCH PEOPLE!  they pride themselves on their quality food (which i agree is one of their strengths), yet they tolerate- no, they ENJOY this horrible creation.  shame shame shame.  

conclusion: charlie birdy is good for two things- the happy hour and the couches.  if you want a good burger (and/or at least standard service), avoid the charlie birdy at all costs.

bar on rue de sevigné

hm, right this bar did not leave the greatest impression on me seeing as though i didn't even note the name of it.  but you will notice that i know what street it's on.  that's because it's parallel to rue malher which is where the rive droite Breakfast in America is located.  that's right.  i was with remi and vincent and we were intending to go to BIA on saturday early afternoon (or morning to them), but they weren't willing to do the 40 minute wait.  so we went to the bar on rue de sevigné.  it was a cute little bar/resto, with cool photographs all along the wall and good music playing.  and though the burger wasn't exquisite, it was enjoyable (and infinitely better than what we ate at charlie birdy).  the meat was quite tasty but... the bun sub-par.  again, i was a bit shocked at how french people can swing and miss ... on a burger?  

breakfast in america
rive droite, 17 rue des ecoles

two days after the first attempt to eat at breakfast in america (you guessed it.  this "experiment" is not so good for alki's diet), i finally got my chance to dine in this fine establishment.  i knew as soon as i walked in that if i was gonna find a good burger in paris, this would be the place.  i think i found a new happy place in paris (**as well as marché aligré where i went yesterday-- i'll save another blog for that one too).  i ordered the BIA burger - burger with cheddar cheese, peppers, pickles, onions, and bbq sauce.  i've become such a fan of bbq sauce since i've moved to paris.  yea don't ask... laurent got the same thing but with bacon on top.  yeaaaa, the real american experience.  and we both got dr. peppers!!  ahh, i love dr. pepper.  "docteur pePERHH".  haha.  
i had high expectations going into this one, and as i sank my teeth into it, my expectations were met.  i almost cried (ok, not really).  i finally found a DELICIOUS burger.  and the BUN!  i finally found a nice, soft, sesame-sprinkled bun.  i'm still not gonna claim this is a bartley's quality burger, but if i have a craving for a burger, i'll know where to go to satisfy it.  

the burgers were followed by a scrumptious chocolate milkshake.  mmmmmmm......


the experiment is over for the time being seeing as though a) i successfully found my burger joint, and b) if i continue going at this rate, i will gain 10 kilos in the 10 days.  

i'm still going to keep my eyes out (indiana, hippopotamus), but for the time being, if you want a good burger, go straight to the source.  breakfast in america.  

upcoming posts: a comparison of dining in new york versus dining in paris + highlight on marché aligré.