Sunday, July 28, 2013

France: Paul

On our way to the Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport, we had to make a transfer at Gare de la Part-Dieu.  While at the station, we spotted Paul and decided to grab something for breakfast:

Judging by the long line, it's a popular place for a hit and run snack.  No surprise there.  Just look at the amazing selection:

We demolished the pain au chocolat while on the train to the airport:

Then killed the jambon (ham) sandwich while waiting for our flight to board:

As well as our last croissant in France:

Paul has good baked goods, for sure.  But the attitude of its staff leave much to be desired.  Even though I clearly pointed out what I wanted, twice, the chick behind the counter kept getting it wrong and when I pointed out her mistake, she actually rolled her eyes at me and make it seem like I was the one mixing her up.  And even though I never raised my voice or acted agitated (in fact, I kept smiling the entire time), the guy next to her told me in English to "relax" and "take it easy."

What the hell?  How condescending is that?

I had such a great time in Lyon (except for the two times we got racists comments while walking around), so it was a shame that we had to end our time there on such a bad note.

Gare de la Part-Dieu
69003 Lyon, France

Friday, July 26, 2013

France: Le Bouchon des Filles

You can't go to Lyon without going through the traditional bouchon experience.  Tip for all you bouchon noobs, there's actually a list of certified "authentic" bouchons.  You can distinguish between the real thing and the posers by looking for a sticker of the marionette Gnafron.  Google it.

Another tip...reservations are a good idea.

And one more tip (just because I'm nice that way): the "authentic" bouchons are usually closed on weekends.

So of course our one full day in Lyon fell on a Sunday.  Guh.  Wish someone gave us tips before we planned the Lyon segment of our trip.  

The first thing I did that morning after I woke up was to scour the Internet for a good non-certified bouchon.  Le Bouchon des Filles came up more than once.  Apparently the two owners used to work at Café des Fédérations, which IS a certified bouchon.  Close enough for me.

I was a little worried about getting reservations so last minute, but I did it easily online through what I guess is the French version of OpenTable, LaFourchette.

I booked the earliest table possible, which turned out to be right when the restaurant opened:

Others had the same idea we did:

For those of you who have never dined at a bouchon, here's my final tip for you.  Start early.  Trust me.  If you don't, you could end up still eating dinner way past your bedtime.

While we were still perusing the menu, we were brought a bowl of fried pork rind:

I fell immediately in love with Le Bouchon des Filles.  I didn't care if we ate nothing else that night.  Wow.

The menu at Le Bouchon des Filles consists of one prix fixe option.  For 25 €, you get salad, a main of your choice, cheese of your choice, and a dessert of your choice.  After we ordered our mains, we were brought a parade of heaping salads to be shared family style.

The first was a lentil salad with spicy chorizo:

The second was some kind of vegetable (unimportant) with loads of smoked fish (way important):

As if that wasn't enough, there was a third green salad with little quenelle (creamed fish) bites:

(I don't know why Blogger insists on making this photo vertical, but it wasn't intended to be.  Sorry about that.)

Of course there was a basket of bread too:

We basically were full from the salads alone.  And the mains hadn't even made an appearance yet.

With the salads cleared away, we were expecting our mains the next time our server came to our table.  Wrong.  Instead, we each got this tiny glass of...milky soup?:

No idea what it was.  Our server said something in French, but we totally didn't catch it.  Sorry.  It was savory and kind of...corn-y.  Maybe.  I could have been imagining things.

Finally, our mains arrived.  There were seven mains to choose from.  Two required an additional 3 €.  No, thank you.  Out of the remaining five, we couldn't really decipher the menu, so we chose four somewhat randomly.  Here's what we ended up with.

The aile de raie (wing of a ray) with sauce vierge (extra virgin olive oil) and purée de pomme de terre et brocolis (puree of potato and broccoli):

Yea.  We had no idea we were ordering ray.  In fact, I didn't find out until I Googled it just now.  It was quite delicious, but not nearly as memorable as the veggie puree.  That, my friends, was amazing.  I also love how they shortened "pomme de terre" to "pdt" on the menu.  So cute!

We also ordered the joues de porc en sucré/salé (sweet and savory pork cheeks) with carottes poêlées (pan fried carrots):

The pork tasted really Asian to me and thus a bit less impressive.  It felt like something my mom could make at home.  Don't get me wrong.  It was still tasty.

The quenelle de brochet (pike) was the only no brainer of the bunch:

Lyon is famous for its quenelle, which are made of creamed fish or other meat.  This particular one was made with pike, which is quintessentially Lyonnaise.  It came with a creamy sauce crustacés et écrevisses (shellfish and crayfish sauce) and a pretty cheese cracker art piece.  Fishy, creamy, and just all around yummy.  T enjoyed the cracker the most.

We picked the croustille de boudin aux pommes with no idea what we were going to get:

It turned out to be a flaky pastry topped with a salade d'herbe and stuffed with blood sausage and apple:

Definitely an interesting flavor combo.

After we finished with all of our mains, we were asked what cheese we wanted.  Our server rattled off a bunch of cheeses in French and then took pity on us and repeated them again in English.  Even with the cheese options translated, we couldn't decide.  We asked for a bit of each.

Our server brought us two plates with five cheeses on them:

We're obviously not a very cultured bunch.  None of us could stand the stronger cheeses.  Instead, we demolished the brie and picked at the rest because we felt guilty for wasting them.

On top of the cheese platter, we also got a bowl of garlic cheese that had more of a yogurt consistency:

And a sweet cheese that was meant to be sprinkled with sugar:

We might have gone a bit overboard with the sugar.

Just when we thought that we were going to expire from all of the food, our server brought us the dessert menu, which was seven desserts long.  It was difficult, but we managed to soldier on.

The coupe de glace framboise (glass of raspberry ice cream) with fruits rouge (berries), meringue, and chantilly de chocolat blanc (white chocolate whipped cream) looked super good on the table next to us, so we had to get one:

By far my favorite dessert of the night.

We also chose the moelleux au chocolat (chocolate fondant cake) with glace caramel au sel de Guérande (salted caramel ice cream):

Hello my little molten lava cake:

Their tart of the day happened to be pear:

And finally, we decided to try the soufflé glacé à la chartreuse verte:

It certainly looked innocuous enough.  Until you get close enough to smell the alcohol.  Or should I say paint thinner.  We quickly learned that chartreuse is a French liquor and a really strong one at that.  Strong enough to make hair grow on your chest.  The soufflé glacé or frozen mousse was fragrant and pleasant until the third or fourth bite when the taste of chartreuse starts to accumulate on your tongue.  Oh, boy.  We kind of gave up on that particular dessert after a while.

Our entire meal lasted almost three hours.  THREE HOURS.  It was almost painful at times, waiting for the next course to come.  We barbaric Americans quickly wolfed down each course while the French around us slowly wined and dined.

That's not quite true either.  Perhaps the French are just used to the wait?  The elderly French couple at the table next to us looked thoroughly bored.  The wife alternated between flipping through a magazine and thumbing through her iPhone.  Meanwhile, her husband sat there, folding the paper table mat accordion-style.

After dessert, we were asked whether we wanted coffee or tea.  We declined both and asked for the bill.  By then, we just wanted to get out of there.  We knew we had an early morning the next day and we really just wanted to head home, pack, and get whatever sleep we could.

Though not a certified "authentic" bouchon, Le Bouchon des Filles serves up some fantastic fare.  The atmosphere is comfortable, the service genuine, and the price reasonable.

As the gastronomical capital of France, everyone who goes to Lyon should eat at a bouchon.  It would be a crime not to.  Just make sure you block out a good of three hours of your night.  At the very least.

Oh, and make sure to walk in hungry.  Really, really hungry.

Le Bouchon des Filles
20 Rue Sergent Blandan
69001 Lyon, France
04 78 30 40 44

Sunday, July 21, 2013

France: Marché Saint Antoine

We had one full day in Lyon, so we made sure to make the most of it.  We started off the day with a long, meandering walk down to the Marché Saint Antoine, a bustling market along the river:

Veggies, fruits, breads, cheeses, flowers...basically everything you can imagine at an outdoor market.

And roast chicken:

Woo, baby!  We made our purchases and then spent a good chunk of time trying to figure out where to eat everything.  We somehow ended up at a little kiddies' park.  We sat on a stone bench and tore at our food with our fingers like barbarians.  I think we scared a couple French families from entering the park.

Heh.  No shame, right?

I really wanted to try the andouillette sausage:

Made with innards, the andouillette sausage is super rich:

It was definitely delicious, but I honestly couldn't take more than three bites.

Especially with an entire roast chicken to tear into:

The whole chicken cost us 8.90 €.  Not bad at all.  Wish we had some utensils though.

We also asked for a tray of potatoes:

Which sadly didn't impress.  I think we ended up tossing most of the potatoes.  They were kind of undercooked and bland.  Sigh.  Too bad.

Eating healthy in Europe is kind of hard with all the rich cream sauces, french fries, and meat dishes.  AF tried to remedy that by buying some oranges:  

American oranges are better.  Hahaha...

I love markets.  Wish we could have tried more things, but with only one day in Lyon, we couldn't afford to have leftovers.

Next time, for sure.

Marché Saint Antoine
1 quai Saint Antoine
69002 Lyon, France

Thursday, July 18, 2013

France: Brasserie des Ecoles

We learned two things about Lyon within our first hour there.  1)  It's really picturesque.  2)  THERE ARE TOO MANY DAMN STAIRS.

We almost died dragging our luggage (and ourselves) to our AirBnb flat.  T even managed to step on dog poop on our way there.  Luckily, there was an elevator in the building (unlike in Paris where we had to climb six flights of stairs every time we went in and out).  Our host sent his friend to meet us with the keys.  He gave us a few food recommendations and also told us about a gypsy music festival going on that night.

Curious, we braved another gazillion stairs to get to what seemed like the top of the city.  It was worth it.  The view was breathtaking and the music was so much fun.  Since it was rather nippy outside, we ducked into Brasserie des Ecoles for dinner:

The decor was quite artsy:

Our server was super friendly.  She was very patient and immediately switched to English when she heard us struggling in French.

There were three prix fixe options.  You could get an appetizer in addition to a salad or a main for 15.25 € or get a main or a salad plus dessert for the same price.  If you wanted to go all out, you could get an appetizer and a salad or a main and a dessert for 18.30 €.

The four of us decided to order the three course option off the prix fixe menu.  Times two.  Our server was completely amenable to that.

She brought us a basket of bread to start:

For our first appetizer, we chose the mille-feuille de saumon fume au Saint Moret:

Basically smoked salmon in a little puff pastry sandwich.  Quite lovely.

For our second appetizer, we went with a petit salad Lyonnaise:

We figured we couldn't go to Lyon and not have a Lyonnaise salad.  It came with lardons (omigawd, pork fat!), croutons, tomato, poached egg, and other yummy stuff.  Not bad for a salad.

Then came the main dishes.  We're suckers for duck, so we had to order the confit de canard:

Crispy duck skin?  Wowzas.

Our second main was the saute de veau à la provencale (veal) with champignons persillers (mushrooms) and riz basmati (basmati rice):

So good with bread.

Then came dessert.  First, crème brûlée:

We originally ordered something else for our second dessert, but then we spotted another table getting a profiterole and with just once glance around the table, we all agreed to fork over the extra 0.50 € for one:

The pastry part was kind of tough, so we cleaned out the ice cream and the chocolate.

Overall, a fantastic welcome to Lyon.  Definitely much warmer than the one we received our first night in Paris.  Helloooooo Lyon!

Brasserie des Ecoles
27 Place de la Croix Rousse
69004 Lyon, France
04 78 28 12 55

Friday, July 12, 2013

France: Maison Souy

On the way back to our Parisian AirBnb flat to gather our belongings, we stopped by Maison Souy for some last minute pastries for the train ride to Lyon:

So much to choose from:

We were like kids in a candy store.  The stuff we bought never even made it onto the train.  We ate it all at Gare du Nord while waiting for our train.

First there was an eclair and some kind of custardy thing:

Then a cute little bun that was filled with...nothing:

Croissants (of course) and an apple pastry:

Instead of apple chunks as I expected, the apple pastry was filled with applesauce:

Not the best bakery we visited in France, but still a nice farewell to Paris.

We kinda suspected that the pastries wouldn't last very long, so we also bought a baguette to eat with our pâté during the 2 hour train ride.  We spent the entire journey playing hearts with a deck of cards my sister whipped out of nowhere.

The Paris segment of our trip was a bit rough for me, but the city grew on me the longer we stayed there.  All the same, I was happy to move on.

Paris, I'm willing to give you a second chance.  I may be back...please leave my camera alone when I do.

Maison Souy
10 Rue Marx Dormoy
75018 Paris, France

Monday, July 8, 2013

France: Café de la Comédie

The morning before our train to Lyon, we went around Paris tying up a few loose ends, re-doing sights that we felt should be redone before we left.  

But first, we stopped by Café de la Comédie for breakfast:

If you want to do the French thing and sit at a cafe looking out at the street, don't travel with more than a group of two.  If you have a party of three or more, you head on inside:

Given that we found the place on Yelp, we probably shouldn't have been surprised to be surrounded by American tourists.  That would have been fine in itself, but the particular table of Americans behind us (pictured above) were about as douchebaggy as stereotypical American college boys can get.

Yes, we realize we're taking pictures of our food.  No, you don't need to loudly point it out as if we don't SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE.

Funny how even with all the snobby Parisians we met, the rudest people we encountered were our own.

Apparently French onion soup is quite hard to find in Paris.  If you're not looking in a cafe that caters to the tourist crowd, that is:

I'm not sure I understand the appeal of French onion soup.  It seems like just soggy bread, salty broth, and a chunk of cheese to me.

The whole reason why we went to Café de la Comédie was this, croque monsieur:

How can anyone go to Paris and not eat a croque monsieur?  It's basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich...but fabulously French.

We didn't really know what a oeuf cocotte au foie gras was, but we ordered it anyway because we knew that 1) it had eggs in it and 2) it also had foie gras.  Which was basically what we got:

If my research is correct, oeuf cocotte is essentialy eggs in a ramekin cooked in a water bath.  This particular oeuf cocotte came with pieces of foie gras.  Yummy.  The pieces of toast on the side were drizzled with honey.  We found that kinda weird because the honey was soaking into the napkin lining the plate.  Not so yummy.

The food at Café de la Comédie was decent, but the most memorable part of the meal was the very, very important lesson we learned about dining in Europe.  I'm going to pass this very important lesson along to you now.  Are you ready?

When dining in Europe...always specify that you want tap water.  Unless you like paying 6 € for a small bottle of water.  Which is what happened to us.

If you don't mind paying an arm and a leg for bottled water, be my guest.  I don't know if we can be friends though.

Café de la Comédie
157 rue St Honoré
75001 Paris, France
01 42 61 40 01
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