Abaluche Wine Company

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Following the Gourmand Trail, Part Deux

Part Deux takes us from the inimitable Pierre Gagnaire just around the corner to the classic Taillevant, and on down the Faubourg St. Honoré past Le Bristol to Alain Senderens and finally, the Pavillion Ledoyen.

Waiting for the guests
Taillevant, 8ème, **
Granted it's first Michelin star in 1948, just 2 years after opening its doors, Taillevant has been the barometer for fine French cuisine since then.  Always classic, the restaurant has moved three times, achieved a three-star status, and currently resides inside an 19th century townhouse on rue Lamennais.  The history of the restaurant is rich; once occupying the former embassy of Paraguay, opening Les Caves Taillevent and L'Angle du Faubourg, and the eventual loss of one star in 2007.  Chef Thomas Keller also spent some time behind the stoves here before moving on to New York in the mid-80's.  Chef Alain Solivérès is the current master of the kitchen, and the cuisine is still considered some of the finest in the city; the experience of a lunch or dinner tasting at Taillevant is unparalleled, and always highly recommended.

The Famous Bakery
You'll then find yourself near the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, a perfect excuse to promenade down this famous route, and you can see the gradual transition from sleepy art galleries and antique shops to designer chocolatiers, patisseries, and finally, Hermès (the original saddler opened here in 1880).  You'll also pass by one of the city's most celebrated hotel properties, Le Bristol, where our 6th top restaurant lies.
At 749€ a night, why wouldn't you check in?
Le Bristol, 8ème.  ***
In the decadent hotel that opened in April 1925, right along the Rue Faubourg St. Honoré and Avenue Matignon.  The hotel and it's eponymous restaurant were named for the Count de Bristol, a famous British traveler who was renowned for his splendid taste of all things luxurious and refined.  But it's history as a hotel dates all the way back to 1829, known then as the Vogüé Hôtel, named for the Count Charles de Vogüé.  Today, the hotel is just as resplendent as it most likely was at the turn of the century, in part due to a grand restoration that was just completed in 2011.

Originally founded 1880.
Continuing down the Fbg St. Honoré, you'll pass the grand ateliers that made the this street their home as early as 1880 (Hermès, Lanvin) to the early 20th century pioneers of Parisian haute couture (Chanel, Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, Rochas, Christian Lacriox).  At Rue Royale, turn left to walk past Gucci up to the Place du Madeleine.  At this picturesque place (and one of my top 3 Places in Paris), you'll see our 7th restaurant on the list.

Alain Senderens, née Lucas Carton.
Alain Senderens, 8ème, **
Formerly the famous Lucas Carton restaurant, Chef Alain Senderens, a founding father of 'Nouvelle Cuisine', took over ownership in 2005 where he renamed it, and kept the cuisine as hot as it was when he began cooking there in 1985.  Famously, he claims to have returned the three stars the restaurant earned as Lucas Carton when it was relaunched, claiming that he "could not charge an affordable price for meals while keeping up the standards Michelin required." He has apparently not lost his magic touch, as the restaurant now boasts two stars.  Even if the prix fixe menu of 100€ is too much, there is the fantastic Bar Passage du Senderens, the entrance inside an adjacent arcade, and a dining room above the main restaurant with a lovely leafy view of the Place du Madeleine.  The tasting menu, although smaller, is just as carefully designed and presented as I would assume it's done downstairs. Flavors pop, and reflect the seasons perfectly.  A great way to experience the great cuisine of Chef Senderens, at an even smaller fraction of the price of his already modestly priced menu.

Dejeuner à la Passage Senderens
Heading down towards the Place de la Concorde and the Seine, along the rue Royale, you'll pass the splendid façade of Maxim's, with the heavy burgundy-colored velvet drapes and intricate gilded Belle Epoque details. I've only been in to enjoy a Kir Royale at Le Petit Maxim's next door, but hope to return someday for the full show.  Head to the right of the Concorde, to pass in front of the grand Hôtel Crillion, to the left of the Espace Pierre Cardin, and across the Champs-Elysées.  You'll discover the last stop on the Gourmand Trail, Ledoyen.

Maxim's:  The Gift Shop
Christofle, rue Royale
Ledoyen, 8éme, ***
Established in 1791, this is Paris's oldest restaurant.  The history and impact of this restaurant on French cuisine through the centuries is palpable the minute you come face to face with the Pavilion.  With the ornate gilded and crystal-encrusted decor, lush landscaping, and million-dollar view of the Jardins des Champs-Elysées and the Place de la Concorde, it is no wonder why the nobility and the royalty of France came to this spot to dine (as well as artists and literary luminaries).  But at the same time, it does not overpower or intimidate you.  It seems you have been invited to a fabulous dinner party at a friend's estate in the countryside (who happens to be the Emperor).

The magnificent Ledoyen
Although I can imagine the interior to be just as 'contemporary' for the 18th century as the façade, I'm sure the dishes have undergone some sort of wonderful transformations in their time.  And although not the 'Nouvelle Cuisine' that seems to be de régulier at most of the top restaurants in Paris, the Guy Savoy's and Alain Senderens and Pierre Gagnaire's of France had to gain inspiration from somewhere.  Perhaps this is one of the places.

Est. 1792
It's a perfect way to end the tour of some of Paris's cherished gastronomic palaces.  And now, for my reward:  off to Eric Kayser bakery for a café, a galette du citron, and a fresh baguette for the morning.  Some chefs claim it's the best bread in Paris (for others, it's Pôlaine...more on that debate later), but at 4,40€, this is one of the 'Best Of's' that I can actually afford!

Mmmmm...Eric Kayser pastries.  And the Galettes du Roi!

Bon appétit, et a la prochaine!

Following the Gourmand Trail in the 8ème, Part I

Trocadéro Vue
For many foodies out there, a trip to Paris is a dream come true.  From the 3* Michelin Guide palaces of la gastronomie to the hearty bistros tucked away on cobblestone alleys, to the delightful patio dining (when the weather permits) of the Rive Gauche cafés.  So how difficult would it be to be one of these lovers of food and wine, surrounded by all these temples of cuisine, without enough room on the credit card to handle ressies at all the Guy Savoys and L'Altelier Jöel Robuchons and Taillevents out there?  Very.  But at least we can window shop.  And sometimes just standing on the hallowed sidewalks of the world's best restaurants, taking in their front doors and becoming aware of their place in the world, is actually a fantastic way to get motivated to return for a menu découverte and piece together your dream itinerary.

Upon doing a bit of research on the best in Paris, I discovered that most of these gastronomic palaces exist in or around the 8ème arrondissement, near the Champs-Élysées, so I sat down and mapped out an afternoon of walking some of Paris's most picturesque Avenues, which would lead me by eight of the world's most renown restaurants.  If you are a foodie like me (which is to say you adore personalities like Chef Bourdain, Chef Keller, and Chef Roubuchon, and could watch Ratatouille over and over again),  this is quite a delightful, free way to spend a few hours in Paris.  And you can reward yourself with a little treat at the end with all that walking you're getting in!

Rue Beethoven, on the way to L'Astrance
This route will start you off at the Trocadéro, take you along the Seine, up the famously chic Avenue Montaigne to the Champs-Élysées, around the Arc de Triomphe, down Faubourg St. Honoré, past the Place du Madeleine and to the Petit Palais in the Champs-Élysées gardens.  You'll see a combined 22 Michelin stars, and 4 world-renowned hotels.  If you don't linger too long in front of the windows along the way, the route will take you about 2 hours to walk.  This is why a reward is truly deserved at the end, especially after being teased at every stop!

L'Astrance
L'Astrance, 16ème.  ***
A Michelin 3* and also placed at #13 on San Pelligrino World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2011.  Chef Pascal Barbot from Alain Passard's L'Arpège opened the restaurant in 2000, and it still remains a hot reservation (required  2 months in advance).  Set on rue Beethoven, just south of the Trocadéro Gardens and just à côte to the Seine, it's a tiny space that only holds 30 people.  Hence the difficult reservations.

The Seine, and a barge.
From here, travel NE along Ave. New York, opposite the Seine, where you'll get fantastic views of le Tour Eiffel.  Once past Pont d'Alma (where the monument to Princess Di still stands), turn up the Avenue Montaigne towards the Plaza-Athénée (famous for many reasons, but most recently as the hotel that Carrie famously stayed in during the final episodes of Sex and the City.  Yes, I know.  I'm such a girl.).  Here you will find our 2nd destination....

Ahh, the Plaza...
Alain Ducasse, 8ème.  ***
Another Michelin 3*, located just within the elaborately marbled entrance of the Plaza-Athénée.  Although there is no signage at the door, the discreet menu to the side and the modern-art sculptures of a knife and spoon on either side of the mirrored doors tell you you've found it.  There's a lovely tea room off to the right that might be a nice second to dinner at Ducasse.  And a lot of chandeliers.

Alain Ducasse
A very nice avenue.
Chanel on the Avenue Montaigne
From the Plaza, continue NE on Avenue Montaigne, where the haute couture boutiques of Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Chanel and Dior are lined.  Certainly a nice avenue to stroll along, and if you're good at celebrity spotting, this would be the place to practice your art. Heading towards the Champs-Élysées, turn left to go north on the grand boulevard at Gucci.  You'll know you're out of Haute-Couture World when you get a whiff of the Ambercrombie & Fitch cologne being pumped out into the crowds gathered to wait in line to get in to the newly opened American clothing store.

Arc du Triomphe
Head to the top of the Champs-Élysées, and go around the Arc du Triomphe to the right, heading north on Ave. de Wagram to the 3rd destination.

Chef Guy Savory on rue Troyon
Guy Savoy, 17ème.  ***
Located on rue Troyon, just off of Ave. de Wagram, Guy Savoy was one of the places where Chef Thomas Keller staged before returning to New York to open Rykel.  It also served as one of the inspirations for the Disney/Pixar film Ratatouille.  Chef Savoy is still in charge of the kitchen here, and comes from the high ranks of old-school nouvelle French cuisine that revolutionized the industry in the early 80's. Unfortunately, on the rainy Wednesday that I visited Rue Troyon, they were performing renovations on the façade.  Quelle dommage!

But just around the corner, off of Av. de Friedland, is our 4th destination, also a pioneer in the new cuisine of France.

Understated, for sure.
Pierre Gagnaire, 8ème.  ***
Located inside the Preferred Hotels and Resorts 4* luxury boutique property, Hôtel Balzac, Pierre Gagnaire has earned 3 Michelin stars, and placed #16 on the San Pe World's 50 Best list.  Chef Gagnaire is one of the heads of the fusion cuisine movement in Paris today, with a philosophy of 'facing tomorrow but respectful of yesterday'.  The haute design of the exterior is just a hint of the haute couture that graces the plates inside.

Bespoke doors at Pierre Gagnaire
Hôtel Balzac



Part II coming soon....

An American Thanksgiving in Paris

Turkey Day in the City of Light
When the recent vintage is resting in barrel and the leaves on the vines and on the trees start turning that brilliant orange-gold, and the sun seems brighter and colder at the same time....it signals my most favorite time of year.  Holiday season.  This usually begins right on the heels of Halloween and rolls merrily into Thanksgiving, the last holiday I can enjoy without the pressure of commercialism breathing down my neck.  Christmas, of course is a part of this trifecta of holiday goodness, but there's something calming, warm and pure that comes with Thanksgiving.  All you have to do is cook, eat a ton (hopefully at several different locations during one day), and pass out while watching the Thursday evening football game.  On the sofa, wrapped in a warm throw in front of the fire, steaming mug of mulled wine in hand.  And this is my favorite memory of holidays in sunny California!


So this year, I am lucky enough to experience this holiday season in a true continental climate - in the north-central region of France.  And while many things about this time of the year are exactly what I love about the end of the year - vintage put to bed in barrel, leaves on the Plane trees lining the boulevards turning brilliant colors of orange and gold before drifting into the wet pavé streets, the chilly sun poking it's head out for perhaps a few hours a day before retreating, fire-roasted chestnuts and corn cobs offered up for a few Euros on every other street corner, brasseries offering vin à chaud..... there is no reference, of course, to the splendidly fall-esque holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving.  It is, in fact, Noel, that is celebrated with relish at this time of year.

Determined to have some familiar flavors of the season this fourth Thursday in November, and to feel that I had properly engaged in l'automne, I set out to find exactly how I could enjoy a little bit of Thanksgiving in Paris.

A little bit of home on the Right Bank of the Seine
Luckily, with all of the American expats now living in Paris, this was not a hard task.  The American Church of Paris had listings of several restaurants in the city that were offering Thanksgiving meals for fixe prix, many offering them into the weekend seeing as Parisians did not take Thursday or Friday off to celebrate. (No such thing as Black Friday here!  Whew!)  There was, however, a very clever little market in the little village of Saint Paul in the Marais, called Thanksgiving.  As the name suggests, they offered all things American-made (for twice the price in America, of course, and in Euros).  And they had all the necessary objects you would need to put together a full Thanksgiving meal for 20 hungry Parisians.

I popped in around 6 pm the day before Thanksgiving.  BIG mistake.  The store was approximately 30 square meters, 15 of which were crammed with Pop Tarts, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, Froot Loops, Mission Tortillas, and now there was Stouffer's Stove Top Stuffing, French's Fried Onions, Libby's Pumpkin Pie Filling, Jiffy Cornbread Muffin Mix, Kraft Marshmallows all vying for space. And about 30 patrons.  The shop had fully roasted and stuffed birds to go; fresh birds to prepare at home; homemade pumpkin and apple pies, and apparently killer cranberry sauce that was gone by the time I arrived.

Where to go for PopTarts, Goldfish Crackers and Marshmallow Fluff in Paris  
But, seeing as I was just cooking for two (myself and one who would be arriving home later in the evening from work), I selected just the essentials from the shelves which included the pumpkin pie filling, cornbread muffin mix, cranberries and a few sweet potatoes.  The rest would be prepared with French ingredients.  As for the turkey element, we had a package of cutlets from the grocer that were already in the fridge, which would fill in nicely for a 20lb bird.

The turkey cutlets were breaded in French flour, salt and pepper, and pan-fried in about two tablespoons of beurre doux.  A dressing of butter, olive oil, shallot, fresh sage, cranberry chutney and red wine topped them off.  The sweet potatoes were mashed with quite a bit of beurre doux and crème entière and topped with cubes of Saint Agur fromage bleu and flat parsley.  Instead of the Green Bean Casserole that had been ever-present at the Thanksgiving table for as long as I could remember, I opted for the traditional French haricot verts, sautéed with fresh roasted chestnuts (purchased from a street vendor, roasted, along the Champs Elysées), beurre (of course), and lardon, or the French version of bacon bits.  A fantastic touch to almost any meal....

And of course, there were the classic cornbread muffins-from-a-box from Jiffy, homemade cranberry sauce (which I love to let simmer way down with a touch of red wine and dashes of orange zest, fresh cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger). And of course, the pumpkin pie, or in this case, pumpkin tarte.  On top of all this American fantastic-ness, I found a website that was streaming live the Green Bay/Detroit game.  Total score!

Work in Progress
All was looking pretty good to go, and I was quite impressed that I was able to put the meal together sourcing some unfamiliar items in unfamiliar places, making the conversions from the US measurements to metric measurements, all the while preparing it all in French bachelor's kitchen without all the proper tools (like realizing there's no can opener as you prepare to open the pumpkin pie filling), and a heat induction stove top and convection oven (how do I even turn it on?!?).  But I had figured it all out, and was happily putting the final touches on the decor (chilled glasses for the Canard-Duchene Champagne, tea lights lining the counter, fleur des lys patterned cocktail napkins), when I realized that maybe I hadn't figured out the oven yet.  One hour later, the pumpkin pie still hadn't set.  The crust had baked properly, as did the cornbread muffins.  But the middle was still mush.  I set the timer for another 15 minutes at 200° C and finished whipping up the crème Chantilly.

15 minutes pass, and all is ready to be devoured.  I am starving by now, and all the wondrous flavors that have marked this holiday for me over the years are performing a dance for my senses, and I try everything one more time to make sure the flavors are in fact accurate.  All the Thanksgiving dishes I love are here, with none of the things that I often push to the side of my plate (sorry mom, still not a Green Bean Casserole fan).   The pie is still not done.  We agree to let it bake a little longer.

Et voila! Le finale.

After the turkey, potatoes, haricot verts, cornbread and cranberry have satisfied, the pie by now is out of the oven and cooling.  It still looks dismally flat and not very appetizing.  But we douse it in crème and try it anyway.  It's very strange.  Like pure pumpkin, with just a hint of sweetness.  It's edible, but not very good.  But happy with how the rest of the meal turned out, I let it go and just appreciated the fact that I could, in my own small way, celebrate my second-favorite holiday of the year in relative style in Paris.  Now that I have dutifully celebrated autumn, I am ready to embrace Noel, French-style, in the countryside, with friends and family, lots of French wine and traditional pastries, and hopefully, lots of snow!

And the next morning, while pulling the jus d'orange from the fridge, I look puzzled at the three eggs remaining on the shelf.  But there weren't supposed to be any eggs left after I made the tarte, I thought to myself............ So perhaps my baking skills are not as bad as I thought, and the convection oven could possibly turn out a good pie or tarte.  I just have to remember to put the eggs in the mix.

A prochaine fois!

Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé!

17 novembre @ Nicolas Wine Shop: What will the new vintage bring? Strawberries? Cherries?

For all of the years that I've sported flashing red and purple lapel pins and lavished in the craziness that accompanies the annual celebration of a trés simple vin being released in France, I've never actually been in France when the fateful third Thursday of November arrives.  The parties I have been to and/or have thrown look like New Year's Eve, with banners and balloons and confetti and feather boas and the encouragement of donning festive hats.

 We in the wine community of America love that we can feel some sense of solidarity with our older, wiser, more elegant wine cousin, France, as the bars and brasseries along the Champs Elysées await the first boxes of the new vintage to arrive and be pillaged upon midnight of the 17th.  So it was with great curiosity and excitement that I set out on the third Thursday of November to experience this day of carbonic maceration celebration.  And I was met with....well, I guess you could say a faint enthusiasm for tasting the first finished wine of the vintage.  

Most French nationals (or at least Parisians who do know and love wine) detest the day.  But for me, I was quite excited to see what the vintage that I had just put to bed down in the Rhône Valley would taste like.  And, actually, I quite like Beaujolais.  Nouveau can be good, depending on your producer and the vintage, and can be easily enjoyed as an aperitif before delving into the smashed taters and turkey.  Really, what better to pair with Aunt Margaret's Ritz crackers and cheddar cheese chunks than Beaujolais Nouveau?  Ok, perhaps maybe if a single malt Scotch isn't available....

But like the charming window display says, today is the day that the debates on the vintage are open for discussion.  Will 2011 bring notes of cherries, strawberries or small woodland animals to the older siblings of Beaujolais, dutifully resting in their barrels the way proper wine should behave?  Or is 2011 a complete bust, worthy of no inflated wine prices on the auction blocks at Christie's?  Well, after several stops in various arrondissements in Paris, I felt I hit a good cross-section of the selections available, and found a few lovely newbies, worthy of scribbling down a note or two.

Stop No°1: Le Tire Bouchon in the 10éme.  That clay jar is filled with cornichons. Yum.

Walking south from the 18éme and passing the Gare du Nord to my left, I entered into my bordering neighborhood, the 10éme, which is actually quite a lively neighborhood, with lots of cool little hang-out nooks.  I was recommended to try Le Tire Bouchon at Place Franz Liszt, which was rumored to have a creative wine list.  They were showcasing the Laurent Thevenet Beaujolais Nouveau from Morgon, which actually had a bright, fresh palate of strawberries, a balanced midpalate with good tannin and even a little bit of dirt on the finish.  With the assiette de charcuterie, featuring pate, jamon pays, rillette et saucisson sec, it brought out the spicier notes of the wine and downplayed the overdramatic young fruit.  Not a bad start, I thought...

Next on the itinerary was to venture to the epicenter of many quite decent and notable wine bars, le Palais Royale.  In this remarkable neighborhood you can find the likes of Les Fines Gueules, ô Chateau, Alfred, Racines, Juveniles, Willi's, and, oh yes, Le Grand Vefour.

Clearly not dressed for Vefour, I headed just north of the arcade passage that opens up onto one of the loveliest - and wonderfully tourist free - courtyard gardens in all of Paris, to Rue des Petits Champs.  We're in the 1er now, the center of Paris and the chicest of neighborhoods.  This is where you will find the Ritz, the Louvre, the Rue Rivoli, Place Vendome.  And so of course, I had to visit the most famous wine bar in Paris known Stateside, Willi's Wine Bar.  

Which was dreadfully silent.  The sound of two people tenderly placing their glass on the polished oak bar was the only sound I heard. I am used to 'wine bars' being active at all hours of the day, especially 6:30 - 7:00pm.  But the bar à vins in Paris act a little more like restaurants, in that they close during the afternoon and really don't get going until 9pm or so.  However, I had no time to wait until then.  

So I ordered a glass of the BN** (at which time the bartender asked if I really, really wanted to try this wine?  Perhaps something more complex from their carte du vins?), in dutiful research mode.  It ended up to be a rich jammy number from Domaine de Bacarra, a Beaujolais Villages producer (who is also a Vigneron Independent).  With rich forest floor notes and bright plums and cherises flambé, it was the kind of elegant BN I was hoping to find at a place like Willi's.  

And if you've ever been, you know their wine selection is fresh and dynamic, and I did feel kind of ashamed going in to ask for this slop of a wine, but it proves my theory that IF the producer cares and IF the bar or restaurant is discerning in their selections (and serves in proper glassware), there are many lovely BN wines to experience.  

But unfortunately that was not the case at my next stop.  All the corner bars and brasseries were fully decked out in party mode, so I just had to pause at one.  Streamers, balloons, posters, even wine barrels lining the streets as makeshift bar tables.  And the patrons were spilling out onto the street, spilling electric red wine on each other as they went merrily from one table to the next.  Music pumping - strangely a lot of American 80's tunes - and young and old alike celebrating the birth of a new vintage.  

This was the action I was looking for.  But, alas, dreadful glassware prepared me for dreadful BN.  I saw them pour it from a bottle, but other than that, I never bothered to find out what it was.  Oh well, at least I got to hear Billie Jean.

If you see this in your glass, run.

Meandering back north from the 1er, I detoured through a fabulous little pedestrian shopping district,  the Rue Montorgueil which is anchored by some of the most famous cookware magasins in Paris, namely La Bovida and E. Dehillerin (where Julia Child used to shop for her famous copper cookware).  Avoiding the lusty pull of copper pots gleaming in the window, I traversed up the Rue past the many market stalls, friendly cafés, famed patisseries (i.e. Stohrer) and stumbled upon two fantastic little wine shops holding tastings of the BN right outside on the sidewalk.  

With cute marketing gimmicks and free saucisson, I had to stop for just a sip.  The Miss Vicky Wine slogan (in English) 'I'm Cool Because I Drink Wine' and the girl pouring the liquid in a neon pink mini-skirt made it all worth it.  In fact, it wasn't all that terrible, but at 8€ a bottle, I knew I would just be paying for marketing.

Tasting the Miss Vicky BN

But I had one stop to go - and I had been looking forward to experiencing this place for myself ever since Uncle Tony* told me about it on his travel network show.  And although reservations at the main restaurant are impossible to get (perhaps the hype from the show, or perhaps because there are only 35 seats and the food really is good), there is a little wine bar that part of the family, just across the way in the same dark alley.  Yes, Frenchie has a wine bar.  And a damn good one at that.  

Just like 'big' brother across the street, the place is minuscule (so small that there are no stools at the zinc bar - the few you do see belong to the bar tables), but they make every effort to squeeze as many people in as possible. Even with all of us bellying up to the bar asking for a glass of Alphonse Mellot to go with our freshly sliced charcuterie plate, the guys behind the bar were quite patient and helpful.  After getting used to the service levels in France, I thought they gave fantastic service.  And the Carte du Vin is pretty wonderful.  Conterno, Breuer, Fichet, Leguin-Colin, Cos, even Calera made the list.  And the by-the-glass selections?  They ask you what you are looking for, what from the list might interest you, and (within some boundaries), that's what they open for you.

Frenchie Bar à Vins, with Chinon

I opted for a glass of the Mas del Périé Chinon, which was decidedly NOT a BN.  And it paired perfectly with the Burratta et Boudin Noir avec Pomme.

The bread tasted like it was baked in a huge brick oven just a few hours before, with a lovely chocolatey-crunchy crust.  And more than once Chef Gregory Marchand came from across the street to check on the bar and chat with guests.  He asked me about the Cascina Zerbetta Barbera del Monferrato that I had moved on to.  And of course, my French failed me.  

'Ah, trés bon, bien sur! C'est trés jolie cave!' was all I could get out, I believe.

Busy Little Wine Bar 

Beautiful Buratta and Boudin Noir

So perhaps I wasn't a complete purist in my pursuit of bon Beaujolais Nouveau on this third Thursday in November.  But there are times when you just have to draw the line and drink good wine.  Life is too short - and a spot at the Frenchie Bar à Vin is hart to get.  But it was fantastic to get a sneak peek to what vintage 2011 will be like for many of the wines now sleeping away the winter in their barrels.  I for one will be very excited to taste the Northern Rhônes this year.  So enjoy a glass of 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau with your cheese cubes, and love it for exactly what it is:  a preview into a truly fantastic vintage.

Salute, and Abaluche!

*You know you wish Anthony Bourdain was your crazy uncle too.

**Beaujolais Nouveau.  Got pretty tired writing it out all those times.

McDo? No, SVP.

Just a quick note about the abundance of McDonald's dotting the Parisian landscape:  I broke down and had a Big Mac last night after my bf and I finished some bricolage in the apartment.  While I am all for In-N-Out after moving or home improvement projects, McDo (as they refer to it here) is just not the same.  And although the restaurants here look like trendy hair salons, decked out with leather stools and geometric-shaped lighting fixtures matching the brown/green/aubergine striped wallpaper, the food is just the same as I recall from my last visit about 6 years ago.  Pretty much terrible.  I had heard from several people that the burgers here are much better than in the States, and that the condiments are much tastier.  The sauce de frites was pretty much tarter sauce, and the Big Mac?  Well, I've never been able to finish one in the States without getting ill, so about half-way through I had to put it down.

Sorry Paris - I love you dearly, but I think I'll wait for my In-N-Out before having another fast food burger.

Where is L'atelier de Joel Robuchon again?

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