Archive for the ‘French food’ Category

Entre nous: An affordable feast at Le Felteu

January 26, 2011

Welcome to Le Felteu. The ETs were surprised at what they found behind this rough facade. Photo: Panifers.blogspot.com

The Experienced Travelers take heart that Parisian dining isn’t all “oh la la” and chi-chi.  Casual, affordable meals abound.  You just need a knowledgable friend to whisper a coveted address, and your evening will be made. Thanks to a friend of Nurse’s, we got insider access to Le Felteu in the Marais.  Two years later, the memory is fresh and we’re still full.  Judging from recent online reviews, the secret is out.

The ETs were unprepared for what they found;   A neighborhood bar and grill serving excellent food under the direction of a French Harley-guy named Jerry.  The dining room décor of faded wallpaper and decorative plates was more “early VFW post” than Parisian bistro.  But we sensed a happy camaraderie among the banquettes and everything smelled awfully good.

In record time, the blackboard arrived listing the day’s menu. I ordered the house specialty – lamb – and Nurse seized the opportunity to have strange parts and organs in sauce.  The dining room buzzed with animated discussion while waiters effortlessly moved between crowded tables with corkscrews, bottles and plates.  Le Felteu was looking like a good bet.

After the heightening effects of the house red wine, we greeted our neighbors – a friendly young man from New Jersey living in Paris, who brought his visiting mother for an authentic meal.  Mother insisted she wasn’t going to drink. While the ETs speculated about a strange New Jersey code of behavior that forbade French wine, NJ Guy forsook his homeland and ordered a pichet.  The ETs glanced around the wine-infused room and quietly bet dessert on how long Mother would last.

Alors, cityoens! Maman's baguette slicer will deter unrest in the dining room

Over the din we heard a series of repetitive thuds.  (In France, “chop-chop” can be cause for concern. Fortunately the ETs are solidly middle class.) We turned to watch Jerry’s maman deftly apply a revolutionary-era guillotine to a stack of unlucky baguettes. It was understood that maman would be unquestionably obeyed.

The splendid salad with chevre --- before... Photo: pannifers.blogspot.com

While we enjoyed the fruits of maman’s labor, a gargantuan salad with warmed chevre on toasted croutons and a stunning plate of smoked salmon arrived.  These were serious man-sized dishes of hearty food.  The ETs practice Strategic Eating, but our efforts didn’t dent the portions.  The only sensible tactic was to spread the wealth to NJ Guy and Mother. 

Bottoms Up! Mother reconsiders

It was then that we noticed her glass of wine, and planned to leave room for dessert.

Despite our best efforts, this is as much damage as we could inflict without straying from the Strategic Eating guidelines.

We were still dizzy with joy from the entrees when our plats arrived. 

"How can I possibly eat all this!"

 My lamb chops were beautiful – and plentiful. 

Nurse's dish of stuff and parts in a fragrant sauce

Nurse’s large dish of kidneys and vegetables swam in their sauce. 

The crowning glory: Potatoes Gratin that we fondly recall 2 years later

But the coup de grace was an entire casserole of potatoes gratin that was perfectly browned on top and running with rich cheese just below the surface.  There are times when only a man will do – and this was one of  them.  The ETs fed half their dinners to NJ Guy.  He got one of my lamb chops, a heaping helping of the potatoes and some of Nurse’s parts.  It was gratifying to watch this slender young man devour his meal and ours too.

By now, it was clear that the Strategic Eating guidelines ruled out dessert.  Which was a pity, because the huge bowls of crème broulee that passed our table looked perfect.  The miracle of Le Felteu is that we enjoyed this for just €27 each and we wouldn’t need to eat the entire next day, resulting in approximately €85 in Found Money to spend on perfume. 

And before the evening was over, we got another insider recommendation from NJ Guy who told us that Restaurant Paul Bert served the best steak-frites in town.  That, dear Readership, is how it’s done in Paris.

 Le Felteu 15 rue Pecquay Paris 04 Tel: 01.42.72.14.51. Email: le-felteu.jerry@wannadoo.fr  M. Rambuteau Don’t think of going without reservations

Special thanks to http://pannifers.blogspot.com/2008/04/le-felteu.html for letting me use a couple of photos.  Follow the link to read their review of Le Felteu!

"Oui, maman!"

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Les Macarons

November 7, 2010

Les Macarons. One ET shares the French obsession with them. The other ET is mystified.

Occasionally, the ETs respectfully disagree over a point of French life.  The frenzied, national devotion to the macaron is a serious point of contention, with Nurse firmly on the side of the French.   You can see where that leaves me.

The obsession in question is made of two thin-crusted cookies with soft centers of almond meringue held together with a layer of rich, sweet ganache.  If you’re already spinning from sugar overload, I am sympathetic. 

Nurse has a fondness for the macarons that her friend Pauline made with whipped cream.  So when she saw a patisserie window in full macaron splendor, she was hooked.  I can’t fathom why.  The fumes make my teeth hurt.

A new solar system - macarons suspended by wire over pink sugar, each with a decorative cutout

Macarons come in all colors and flavors.  They’re lemon, raspberry, mocha or pistachio and always a garish hue.  The blinding saucer-sized varieties  from the corner patisserie are Nurse’s favourites. Her blood sugar rose the moment she had the bag in hand.  A circulatory system overload caused by the almond meringue and the lemon ganache made Nurse handle her hotwheels like a NASCAR pro.  No one was safe.

If Proust had preferred Laduree macarons to madelines, perhaps he would have been less pensive. (Photo by Roboppy. Wikipedia Commons)

 

Catherine de Medici’s Italian pastry chefs introduced them to France in the mid-1500s as a simple almond cookie.  The fanaticism began when the famous pastry shop Laduree pioneered the ganache filling in the early 1900s.  Laduree’s website offers this secret to macaron success:

These small, round cakes, crisp on the outside, smooth and soft in the middle, are made every morning in Ladurée’s “laboratory”. The pastry chefs measure out very precisely the required amounts of almonds, eggs and sugar, before adding one final ingredient, a pinch of unique “know-how”, essential to the making of such a delicacy. Once cooked and filled, the macaroons are put to one side for 2 days before going on sale, the time it takes to achieve a perfect balance between texture and flavour.

The part about them sitting around for two days is certainly a point for my side of the argument.  

The discs of delight make creative window dressing a snap. Does anyone but me question why you can use a glue gun on a macaron?

Patisserie owners are enthusiastic about decorating with them and I suspect it’s because profit margins on macarons must be enormous.  If you’re willing to part with 2-3 euro of  “found money” for a few bites of sass and buzz, join Nurse! 

Disagreements over who makes the best macarons are serious and consequential.   In Paris, there are several top contenders.  Laduree and Dalloyau  are two of the oldest practitioners in the city. 

Pierre Hermé –  who has written a book on the subject – has a contemporary flair and unusual flavors like rose and lychee.  (You can devour 20 of them in your own home for just 58 euro plus shipping.) 

Lenôtre  will send you a 116-piece “colonnade de macarons” for 164 euro which will turn your office holiday party into an EMT convention.  Finally Gérard Mulot on the Rue de Seine has fierce adherents who swear that his are the only ones.   

So, Readership, do you have a position to take on the subject of macarons?  Do you back Nurse in her devotion to the colorful, ganache-filled biscuits?  Or do I have the right approach – bisquick and Fluffernutter?


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