Friday, June 28, 2013

France: Bouillon Chartier

We gave ourselves just enough time to set down our luggage in our AirBnb flat in Paris before we hit in streets in search of dinner.  Bouillon Chartier was the closest place that had been recommended by friends:

There was a long line outside, but that didn't faze us one bit.  We were, however, stunned when we entered the front door and saw that the entire restaurant was teeming with people.  I don't think I've been in a restaurant where there were so many packed tables so packed together.  Holy moly.

We were even more surprised when we discovered that there was a second floor that was just as crammed full as the first.  We barely managed to squeeze our way to a little table in the back.

It was our first meal in Paris and we were so excited.  We could tell the food was going to be good because we were surrounded by honest to God French people.  Not a single tourist in sight.

My sister found wifi access and we started working on translating the French menu into English the best we could with the help of an online translator.

The garcon was a trifle impatient as we struggled through ordering in half French and half English.  Turns out his English was flawless.  We expected the impatience (especially in a restaurant as busy as Bouillon Chartier), but things abruptly went south when he discovered that we were only ordering 2 entrees between the 4 of us.  It didn't matter to him that we also ordered 3 appetizers.

He said, "Only 2?" in a horridly nasty tone and then huffed away only to return a few minutes later to throw an extra set of utensils onto our table.  Not a careless toss.  Oh no.  He actually threw it.

We were so taken aback by his attitude that we just stared at each other in shock.  The garcon's mood didn't improve when he started bringing the food.

First there was the escargot:

Then the mushrooms:

And the bloc de foie gras de canard (duck fois gras):

For our entrees, we ordered the côte d'agneau grillée (grilled lamb) with frites (fries):

Before he got all surly, the garcon recommended the pavé de rumsteack grillé (grilled rumpsteak), which also came with fries:

The food came out super fast.  We were still trying to process what had happened with the garcon when suddenly he was back with all the dishes.  The food was all lukewarm, which led us to speculate over whether the kitchen just made batches of each dish and left them out until someone ordered it.  (As we spent more time in Paris, we came to realize that getting piping hot food is actually not the norm.)

The food wasn't bad and the prices were so reasonable that we couldn't believe it.  We'd thought that Paris would be more expensive than London.  Bouillon Chartier taught us that was simply not true.

What could have been a great experience was soured by one garcon.  We quietly ate as quickly as we could.  We were originally planning on getting dessert, but we quickly nixed that idea.  We really just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

Despite our less than happy experience at Bouillon Chartier, I would still recommend people to go there.  It's a great intro to French cuisine in Paris and it's so damn affordable.

Just make sure everyone in your party orders their own entree.  Apparently the French aren't big on sharing.  (Everyone at the tables around us all ordered their own appetizers, entrees, and desserts.)

Bouillon Chartier
7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre
75009 Paris, France
+33 1 47 70 86 29

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

UK: Regency Cafe

When my British cousin told us about black pudding and something called bubble and squeak, we knew we had to try some.  This led us to a tremendous research effort online for a British breakfast joint that served both.  It wasn't easy, but we finally found Regency Cafe: 

It was pretty empty when we arrived.  I immediately liked the old-school feel of the place.  We walked up to the counter, got in line, examined the menu, strategized among ourselves, placed our orders, and then found a table to wait for our food.

Regency Cafe offers a great set breakfast deal for £5.50.  You get one egg, one sausage, bacon, and then a choice between beans and tomatoes.  But it doesn't end there.  Oh, no.  You also get to choose either toast or bread and either coffee or tea.  For an extra £0.90 each, you can add on black pudding, hash browns, or bubble and the squeak.

Here's the coffee and the tea (with milk and sugar of course):

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the toast or the bread, so you're going to have to use your imagination.

My sister and I chose grilled tomatoes and added on black pudding:

Apparently you can also get tin tomatoes.  We didn't know that was an option until after we all placed our orders and we overheard the guy behind us ask for it.  Sigh.

Anyway, that's not important.  What's important is the black pudding.  What is black pudding you ask?  It's a blood sausage and this one tasted like...autumn.  Go figure.

AF got beans as her side and added bubble and squeak:

Bubble and squeak was what we were looking forward to the most.  The way my cousin described it made it sound just glorious (plus the name just sounded like a lot of fun).  Fried leftover mashed potatoes with veggies?  Sign me up.

When it was finally put before us, it was kind of well, underwhelming.  It tasted good, but nowhere as mind-blowing as we imagined it to be.

So that we could successfully try everything on the set breakfast menu, T added on hash browns:

Which were probably my favorite thing that morning.  Nothing beats freshly fried potatoes.

Regency Cafe was definitely the cheapest meal we had in London and one of the more satisfying.  If you're looking for a good deal and a chance to enjoy a traditional British breakfast, Regency Cafe is the place for you.

Now if only Regency Cafe had its own bathroom.  Paying money for a dirty public bathroom has never been my thing.

Regency Cafe
17-19 Regency St  
London, Greater London SW1P 4BY, United Kingdom
+44 20 7821 6596

Saturday, June 22, 2013

UK: Rock & Sole Plaice

I don't know about you guys, but when I think British food, I think fish and chips.  We actually had fish and chips our first night together in London, but it was subpar and just...not very good.

Which called for a redo.  

So after a day of wandering around London, we stopped by Rock & Sole Plaice for dinner:

One thing we quickly noticed was that the prices were different for take out and eat in.  Being the cheap Asian tourists that we are, we were really tempted to buy dinner to go.  But then practicality reared its ugly head and we had to admit to ourselves that we had no idea where we could go to eat our fish.

We grumbled and mumbled, but we ended up taking table inside.

I never thought too deeply about fish and chips before I visited London.  Suddenly we were being asked to choose what KIND of fish we wanted.  Did we want rock?  Cod?  Haddock?  Plaice?  Skate?  Regular or large?

Uhhh...a little help please?

The guy who took our order tried to give us a brief run down of all the different kinds of fish, but he just confused us even more.

We finally decided that since we were at Rock & Sole, we should order exactly that.  One regular rock and one regular lemon sole.  Don't ask me which one was which.  I'm just gonna show you the pictures:

There's the other:

Just to switch things up a bit, we also ordered a saveloy (a London style smoked pork sausage):

Or as CL called it (after seeing a picture of it on Facebook), a "pathetic lookin' hot dog".  For the life of me I can't remember what it tasted like.

One important thing I learned in Europe was that nobody makes fries like Americans do.  It just tastes better in the States.  The fries or "chips" we encountered in London were all unseasoned and...mushy.

The fish was freshly fried, which was great.  But British people apparently don't salt their fish first though.  Is that a British thing?  Maybe that's what the malt vinegar and tartar sauce are for.  I dunno.  I like my fish seasoned.

I wanted to try sticky toffee pudding before we left London, so we ordered one:

The cake was strangely...burnt tasting.  Almost unpleasantly so.  The sauce helped mellow out the bitterness a bit.

Rock & Sole Plaice definitely served better fish than the place we went to our first night in London, but I think my favorite fried fish still remains at Boiling Crab.

Rock & Sole Plaice

47 Endell St
London WC2H 9AJ, United Kingdom
+44 20 7836 3785

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

UK: Newman Arms

Good news!  T gave me a copy of all her photos from Europe.  Like me, if she's not already on the Tumblr "Pictures of Asians Taking Pictures of Food", she really should be.  Thanks to T, I'm going to be able to post about some of the meals we had before my camera was stolen in Paris. 

So without further ado, Newman Arms!

My sister and AF are rabid fans of BBC's Sherlock, so they were ecstatic to find out that Sherlock was going to be filming while we were in London.  The day of the scheduled filming, they talked T and I into standing outside in the cold along with dozens of other crazy fangirls, waiting for the film crew to arrive.  After about an hour, T and I were freezing, hungry, and more than ready to give up.

My sister and AF were gracious enough to let us take a lunch break at Newman Arms.  T's friend recommended it as a good place to try traditional English pies.  Newman Arms consists of a pub downstairs and a pie room upstairs.  We followed the sign for the pie room into a small walkway and almost missed the door:

We had to backtrack to find it.

The menu at Newman Arms is written on the wall.  There's one column for traditional pies, one for suet puddings, and one for desserts.

The traditional pie looks like this:

It comes with a big puffy, flaky pastry over stewed filling:

We tried two kinds of pie.  We took the traditional route and ordered the steak and kidney pie, then we tried something new and ordered one of the daily specials, beef with mushroom and horseradish.

We had no idea what a suet pudding was, so of course we had to get one.  We went with the lamb and rosemary one:

A suet pudding is basically a steamed pastry filled with meat.  The pastry crust is is made with suet, which can be either beef or mutton fat.  Drown it in some gravy and it's ready to go.

My favorite was the steak and kidney pie, though the lamb suet pudding wasn't bad.  The beef and mushroom pie could have used a bit more horseradish.  English pies are good, but I can't imagine myself ever craving one.

After lunch, we returned back to 221B Baker Street just in time to catch Sherlock and Watson run out to call a cab.  And do it over and over again.  When Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman finally walked off the set, we decided to head out ourselves.

But right before we got to the end of the street, T noticed that there was a bunch of paparazzi and fangirls huddled outside a hotel.  Based on T's hunch, we stood around to wait too and hit the jackpot when Benedict Cumberbatch walked outside in his street clothes a short while later to get into his sexy black Jaguar.

Even T and I got caught up in the excitement.  Benedict Cumberbatch was just so COOL and to us.  Holy moly.  I had some fabulous creeper shots on my camera.

But those photos are long gone now.


Newman Arms
23 Rathbone St
London, Greater London W1T 1NG, United Kingdom
+44 20 7636 1127

Sunday, June 16, 2013

France: La Môme

The beauty of doing AirBnb when you travel is that it can force you to explore a neighborhood that you might not otherwise have done if you'd stayed in a hotel close to the city center.

Thanks to AirBnb, we were able to find this little gem right next door to our rented apartment:

We'd been eyeing La Môme for days, but we couldn't figure out what it served.  There was no menu posted in the window.  All we could tell was that a lot of people dined there.  So finally, on our last night in Paris, we decided to give it a go.

We didn't have reservations, but luckily a party was running late, so we were allowed to steal their table:

Our server, who was most likely also the owner, was brusque, but patient.  She didn't give us a hard time for sharing three entrees between four people.  She softened toward us as the meal went on and we proved to be profuse with our praise.  Which wasn't lip service at all.  No siree.  The food was really that good.  We cleaned every plate and I think she appreciated that too.

The chalkboard menu was completely in French as we expected.  It was divided into sections, so we decided to randomly pick something from each.  We didn't know that we were in a Moroccan restaurant when we walked in, but once the food started arriving, we slowly figured it out (kinda).

From the pastilla section, we went with the pastilla au confit de canard (17 €) because well, we love duck and we recognized that vocab word at least:

We had no idea what a pastilla was.  When it arrived, we were all a bit confused by it.  Now that I'm home and have access to Wikipedia, I can tell you that a pastilla is a traditional Moroccan meat pie.

At the time, however, I only knew that it was a flaky pastry filled with magic:

Yes, magic.  None of us expected the burst of cinnamon flavor, nor the sweet versus savory battle on our tongues.  I was blown away.  Even the salad was fantastic.  It looked so underdressed and harmless on the plate, but it was amazing in its simplicity.

From the tajine section, we ordered the tajine d'agneau aux beignets d'aubergines (14 €) because 1) it contained lamb and 2) it had eggplant:

Unfamiliar with tajines, we stared in awe when the interesting looking lid was lifted to reveal this rich lamb stew.  So flavorful and delicious.

The grillade mixte (13 €) with merguez (a spicy sausage) and brochette de poulet (chicken skewer) was a little less awesome, but by no means anything to laugh at:

Even the couscous was fluffy and well, perfect:

Toward the end, we just dumped the remaining couscous directly into the tajine to soak up all the lamb goodness.

For dessert, we were presented with yet another chalkboard menu.  We chose the tarte framboise (6 €):

This frozen raspberry tart was exactly that...frozen.  As in frozen solid.  It was definitely yummy, but we created quite a ruckus with the amount of force we had to employ to stab our forks through the tart.  We kept looking up guiltily every time our forks clanged into the plate.

Sometimes the best experiences come on less beaten paths.  Don't be afraid to take risks and step into the unknown!

La Môme
16 Rue Stephenson
75018 Paris, France
+33 1 42 23 35 64

Saturday, June 15, 2013

France: Ladurée

Everyone knows that when you go to Paris you have to try macarons.  And when you try macarons, two names come to mind: Pierre Hermé and Ladurée.

Since we were walking along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (T and AF wanted to check out the Louis Vuitton flagship store), we made sure to stop by Ladurée:

Apparently rainy days don't stop people from crowding through Ladurée's door:

When you finally reach the start of the counter, you can't help but be blown away.  Glorious sweets as far as the eye can see:

While everything else looks pretty, the undisputed stars of the show are the macarons:

We each picked a flavor:

There were four of we should have had four maracons.  We ended up with six.

Math was never our strong suit.

I picked the yuzu ginger (which turned out to be my favorite).  AF wanted the lemon and T wanted the caramel with salted butter.  My sister couldn't resist getting a giant pistachio macaron.  And somehow, we ended up also getting a coffee and a Marie Antoinette.

When we saw the bright blue macarons, we just had to ask what it was.  The Marie Antoinette macaron is filled with fondant infused with Ladurée's Marie Antoinette tea, which combines Chinese black tea with rose petals, citrus, and honey.

At 1.83 € per macaron (regular sized, not the giant one), don't let yourself get too carried away.  Your taste buds may be in bliss, but your wallet certainly won't be.

75 Champs-Élysées
75008 Paris, France
+33 1 40 75 08 75

Thursday, June 13, 2013

France: P'tits Pains et Gourmandises

The evening before our day trip to Versailles, we came up with a brilliant idea: picnic in the palace gardens.  C'mon.  How brilliant is that?

We bought some of the provisions at a convenience store the night before, but we saved the bread for the day of.  Bright and early in the morning, we stopped by the boulanger we scoped out previously:

Walking into P'tits Pains et Gourmandises, we were amazed at the array of baked goods:

After we surreptitiously made our selections, my sister bravely stepped forward and asked the nice lady behind the counter to "donnez moi un croissant et un pain au chocolat, s'il vous plait":

Croissants just taste different in France.  They're more buttery.  More flaky.  More heavenly.  More everything lovely in the world.  The pain au chocolat was divine as well.

We gobbled these two up before we even reached Versailles.

We also got a baguette, which we unfortunately had to rip up to be able to fit it into my sister's tote:

Our picnic didn't exactly turn out the way we thought it would.  Instead of sitting on the lush lawns of the Palace of Versailles, we huddled on a stone bench and stuffed our faces as quickly as we could to beat the coming rain.

Here's what our spread looked like:

Don't scoff at convenience store pate.  It's awesome.  (Or in the words of T, it's "")

The Palace of Versailles was cool, but not quite as memorable as that first bite of croissant.  We went back to P'tits Pains et Gourmandises a few more times to get more croissants.  We went from sharing two between the four of us to each clamoring for our own.  Baguette and convenience store pate also became our go-to meal on the go/convenient breakfast choice.

I still dream about those croissants.

P'tits Pains et Gourmandises
132 Boulevard de Magenta
75010 Paris, France   
+33 01 48 78 67 85

Monday, June 10, 2013

France: Le Trumilou

Europeans eat dinner a bit later in the day.  That's one of the first things we learned.  We got to Le Trumilou after an afternoon of taking silly kung fu shots in front of the Louvre only to discover that it wasn't yet open.  It was rainy and cold and we miserably walked around the neighborhood until the restaurant was open for business.  (I was so eager to get inside that I forgot to take a picture of the exterior.  Sorry.)

It was a while before other people started trickling in:

Le Trumilou offers a great prix fixe deal.  For 16.50 €,  you can choose an entree plus either an appetizer or a dessert.  The four of us decided to order three prix fixe sets (with two appetizers and one dessert) and tack on another entree.

First came the bread:

Oh, how I love bread.  Beware of the mustard though.  It's guaranteed to clear your sinuses.

Our first appetizer was the caviar d'aubergine:

The thing about high school French?  It doesn't really prepare you for decoding entire menus.  We knew there was eggplant in it and that's all we really cared to know.  And dayum was it good.  Especially with the bread.  I love bread.

Our second appetizer was the celeri remoulade:

Very bright and refreshing.  A good compliment to all the heavier dishes to come.

We didn't know what to expect when we chose the poulet forestière as one of our entrees.  We only knew that it had chicken in it.  We definitely didn't expect this lovely pot of chicken, mushrooms, and potatoes in a rich, savory sauce:

A rich, savory sauce that went beautifully with the bread.

Duck was not one of the prix fixe entree options, so we ordered it separately.  We skimmed through the menu, spotted "canard" (French for duck) and went with that.  Which is how we ended up with the canard aux pruneaux:

The photo is slightly blurry because I was shaking with excitement.  We guessed that pruneaux meant prunes, but we didn't realize that the prunes would make the sauce sweet and SO GOOD WITH BREAD.

Sensing a theme here yet?

The mignon de porà la moutarde was a little less exciting:

When pork is cooked in thin slices, it tends to get kind of dry...which is where sauce comes in.  While this sauce was creamy and yummy and yes, good with bread, it wasn't particularly memorable.  With "à la moutarde" in the name, I anticipated a bit more spicy mustard flavor.

Then again, maybe my sucky French skills just led me to have false expectations.  That happened more than once while I was in France.

We had no clue what eglefin was, but we figured it was some type of fish.  We were right.  Apparently, filet d'eglefin creme de basilic is haddock with basil cream sauce:

Google translate came come in handy sometimes.  It's sad when the veggie sides stand out more than the fish itself.  Which is what happened here.

We were surprised when our server brought us not one, but two extra potato sides.  There was the pommes de terre au gratin:

And pommes frites

Potatoes are always welcome.  In any form.  The best kind of potatoes though, are unexpected potatoes.  Those are the best.

To round out our meal, we ended with the tarte aux poires à l'acienne:

Or in plain English, the pear tart.  Good, but not quite mind-blowing.

Le Trumilou is a good place to escape from the tourist crush, practice your French on really patient staff, and  most importantly, enjoy a good French meal (with lots of bread!).  Just make sure you check the restaurant hours before you head on over because you might get stuck outside in the rain.

With the dog poop.

So yea.  Learn from our mistakes.

Le Trumilou
84 Quai de l'Hôtel de ville
75004 Paris, France
+33 1 42 77 63 98

Friday, June 7, 2013

France: Jacques Genin

Guess who's baaaaaaaack?

Me.  In case you couldn't figure it out.  Yea.

Two weeks in Europe went by all too quickly and now I'm back at home, going to work, organizing my photos, catching up on my TV shows...and picking up my blog again.

Speaking of photos, I have devastating news. My camera was stolen from my pocket on the metro in Paris, so I don't have any of my photos from London or from most of my first full day in Paris.  Ugh.  I still get angry thinking about it.  I'll have to go through my friend's photos to see if I can scrounge together any food posts from that part of the trip.  Until then, I'm just going to move on with what I do have (thanks to my lovely little sister who let me borrow her camera for the rest of the trip).

After I found out that my camera was gone, the four of us toyed with the idea of loitering around the metro station until that jerwad (we totally know who he is, my sister pointed out how sketchy he was the moment he stepped onto the metro and stood really close to us) showed up again.  We planned on tackling him and pummeling him until he gave me back my camera.  Or at the very least my memory stick.

Instead, we did the more sensible thing and went in search of Jacques Genin for some hot chocolate.  It took a bit of work because the shop was rather nondescript:

The inside, however, was quite glam:

Rows and rows of chocolates galore.  Holy moly.

The four of us felt kind of out of place.  Then again, it's Paris.  Everyone else looked so put together and posh.  We just looked like...we were on vacation.

Anyway, after a super nice young lady (who spoke perfect English with the cutest French accent) took our order, we sat there and proceeded to plot in gory detail all the ways we would make my camera thief suffer (and never be able to procreate).  We had to put our discussion on pause when the super nice young lady brought us our sweets.

First she gave us caramels on the house:

It's like she knew we needed a pick me up after the day we had.  Did I mention that she was super nice?  (Somewhat of an anomaly in the Parisian waitstaff world.)  She gave us two regular caramels and two mango passionfruit.  I preferred the regular myself.

I'm not a fan of fruit gummies (unless it comes in sour patch kid or gummy worm form), but my friends are and what is friendship without compromise? We got a tray of the assorted pates de fruits (7 ):

The super nice young lady rattled off a chain of fruit flavors.  I caught strawberry and pear and pineapple and  blood orange and that was about it.  Sorry.  I took a nibble out of one and reaffirmed my dislike of fruit gummies.  Something about that sandy sugar texture just turns me off.

We also ordered the assorted chocolates or chocolats in French (7 ):

Again, the super nice young lady listed all the flavors.  I blanked halfway through.  I distinctly remember a ginger one that was quite yummy.  The mint one was also a favorite of mine, though the other girls thought it tasted like grass.  Ha!  Peasants.

The whole purpose of going to Jacques Genin was to try their hot chocolate (7  a serving):

When she found out that the four of us intended to share one serving of hot chocolate, the super nice young lady was well, nice enough not to throw a hissy fit (like the garcon from Chez Chartier did...apparently French people don't like sharing food), but instead brought us four cups.

Thank goodness we shared.  The chocolate was so thick and rich that there was no way I could have finished one by myself.  It's unsweetened, so you can thunk in sugar cubes to your own tastes.

Jacques Genin was a nice little escape from reality.  Also seems like a great date spot for all your lovebirds out there.  And if you haven't clued in by now, the staff is un-Parisian-ly nice.

Plus the sweets are just ridiculously decadent.  Spoil yourself a bit and stop by the next time you're in Paris.

Jacques Genin
133, rue de Turenne
75003 Paris, France
+33(0)1 45 77 29 01
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