Annie’s Rice Pasta and Cheddar

Today is just a good day to celebrate being an adult. What’s that, you ask? Well, over my carefully prepared lunch of gluten-free Easy Ma-er, Annie’s Rice Pasta and Cheddar in individual cups, I’ll tell you. It all started this morning, when I woke up after a mild-mannered evening of Thai food, Riesling, and more backepisodes of Pokemon than I care to mention, with the Bedfellow. I woke up realizing that not only had I planned early enough to get some early notes done for class that morning, but that I’d also spent the better part of the evening cleaning my floors and ranting about party etiquette. Why don’t people know how to RSVP? Adult problems, people.

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Sweet Potato Gazpacho with Tomato-Basil Granita

I’m a childless adult! I have valiantly eschewed a life rife with diapers, fiscal responsibility, and listening to others. Was I surprised to be chosen for the Campbell’s Wisest Kid campaign? I most certainly was. But secretly, I’ve always wanted to be the cool aunt. Auntie Mame of the 21st century, if will. And despite my hedonistic lifestyle, I do have an ace up my sleeve: my little sister. She’s fairly wise, maybe Tootsie Roll Owl on a scale of infant to Einstein, and I figured that, while testing out recipes incorporating the soup, I’d ask her for some puerile wisdom. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Would you eat chicken noodle pot pies?
Julia: Idk!
Me: Would you eat purple onion and golden tomato soup?
Julia: probably not
Me: Would you eat sweet potato gazpacho with granita?
Julia: maybe

As you can see, Julia is a most discerning critic. All she needs to do now is grow a beard and she can effectively replace Campbell’s bearded mascot with her rapier wit and consistency. A girl after my own heart. In any case, the only recipe Julia expressed any remote interest to was the sweet potato gazpacho, with tomato and basil granita on top. It’s extremely simple- one box of Campbell’s Sweet Potato and Tomatillo bisque, one can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, and ¼ cup of julienned basil. I froze the tomato soup, spices, olive oil, and basil with some water for two hours, then fluffed it with a fork for instant granita.

When I was ready to serve it, I heated up the bisque until it was warm, but not boiling hot, ladled it into bowls, and served it with a few spoonfuls of granita on top, serving it with a boorishly handsome sandwich, thick and shiny with maple butter and slices of jamon Serrano and roasted turkey jutting from the sides. I promptly forgot to take photos. I spread melting slices of Camembert, fresh via Great Barrington vis-a-vis France, atop the meat, garnished with a bit of jam and a cornichon out of sheer habit. It’s a summer sandwich, a last-resort and boundless sandwich, a meal for one or three. You don’t even want it toasted or hot so much as you just want the ingredients to sweat in the heat and bind together, ever so gently. The ideal temperature for this is on a plate, outside on an August day, the bread and soup absorbing the summer air and the filling creeping closer. It’s teen and adult-friendly and it’s extremely tasty. The Wisest Kid may soon change his name to the Kid with the Best Lunch.

Disclosure time! Campbell’s and BlogHer are paying me to write about this, but the baller recipe development is my own, as are the pithy comments from sissy.

Pinkberry Tomato Basil Greek Yogurt Parfait

Everyone was apprehensive, from the teenage girl behind me, whose eyeroll could have been seen in Texas, to the older woman in the front of the line. She shook her head wordlessly, overcome with the frivolity of my decision and whatever alternative decisions had led to this monstrosity, the one to get tomatoes and basil on my Greek yogurt. And, as I was quick to remind the dubious server, balsamic vinegar and sea salt. If I was going to eat a creamy salad after the gym, I was going to do it right.

“Are you sure you don’t want our new butter pecan?” she asked, offering me a bite-sized sample as a last-ditch effort to sway me. But I held my ground.

“No, I don’t think that will go as well with tomatoes,” and I smiled. It was a big, wolfish grin as I watched the three servers make my yogurt, each glancing anxiously at me, the mercurial masochist, as they fished tiny julienned shreds of basil out of a container and arranged plump cherry tomatoes atop the white, thick yogurt at the bottom of the cup. $3.88 and I was sitting outside at last, ready to enjoy my veggies.

Pinkberry sent me a gift card to try out some of their new selections, and I was excited to have hit the jackpot with their two savory offerings of Greek yogurt, three if you could the cucumber mint smoothie on the shake menu. This flavor features a fresh yogurt base, local to Fair Oaks Farms, standard to all the Greek yogurt selections, with grape tomato halves, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt. Ordering it is a little clunky- I wasn’t sure whether the yogurt was alongside the sweet selections, if each flavor combination had its own yogurt, or if it used one collective base. Unlike the sweet Pinkberries, this is spooned, somewhat gloppily, from a bowl near the toppings. Consequently, the texture is not as smooth or as silky as the mixed yogurts- it is thicker and melts very quickly. The top half of the yogurt was melted by the time I received it.

I wonder if the yogurt would benefit from additional flavoring, especially with this combination. The strong flavor of the yogurt, tangy and concentrated, was impossible to avoid, no matter how many tomatoes and herbs were in each spoonful. The acidity of the balsamic vinegar didn’t help, and any aged sweetness was virtually undetectable. The strongest non-dairy element was the basil, herbaceous and extremely fresh, almost citrusy against the other elements, and was, with the fresh tomatoes, the only real ‘sweet’ part of the dish. And I couldn’t help but yearn, as I looked at the pallid color of the yogurt, for the silky, sweet, milky flavors of a burrata or fresh mozzarella ice cream in lieu of the staunch Grecian cream.

I’m torn as to how I feel about this, because its innovation as an entree and a dessert is frankly, groundbreaking, setting it apart from the trendy truffle and bacon ice creams and adding elements that almost make it wholesome. My entire lunch came to a svelte 200 calories, and refreshed me after the gym and the hot afternoon. But was it any more satisfying than a real salad, or for that matter, a sweet frozen yogurt? As an ambassador for its flavors, it’s not a very good representation. It’s a technique that is already used in fine, experimental restaurants like wd~50 and Eleven Madison Park, and is clever and accessible for a larger market, but needs significant tweaking before it can sway the suspicious.

Goldfish Macaroni and Cheese Mac and Cheese Cheesy Pizza

This forced socialization thing is hard. No, scratch that, it’s the worst. Hard is having to merge on a busy highway, or open a bag of Sun Chips quietly. This is DMV-levels of Millenial discomfort. With a lethal combination of a wheezy air conditioner, the worst internet connection ever, and no snacks, I’ve forced myself out of the house in my finest linen shirts and Birkenstocks to the comforting, suffocating embrace of a local coffeehouse. The internet thing is especially killing me. I can’t fully describe the sheer rage I feel toward DataJack, only that it combines the slow pain of walking on hot pavement with the rising force of anger I feel only when I read articles on Fox or see photos of other people eating pizza online, with the exception of the fact that I can no longer even read those articles or ogle those cheese drips, because photos load with a speed that makes dial-up look advanced.

So, now I’m here. I’m backed into a tiny corner with my back against some exposed brick and what looks to be a trendy reclaimed wood installation of mountains jutting from the wall. I have traded $4 and my dignity for an iced chai and have awkwardly negotiated the usage of an outlet so my aging HP can function. If one more person asks me to share a table, I might cry and start making a barrier with my laptop bag, French-English dictionary, and sunglasses case so I don’t have to see the raging trendiness in their eyes and the ensuing realization that the grown woman next to them is still hiccuping, twenty minutes later.

I tried to prepare myself for this in the best way that I could. Before I ventured out into public, I bought four boxes of macaroni and cheese and a package of toilet paper at Wal-Mart. As you may know, this exclusive set was nominated for a ‘Worst Combination Award’ at this year’s Retail Stars gala, and swept the category, closely tailed by ‘tampons and cat litter,’ and ‘any Eddie Murphy DVD’. Regardless, I brought home my bounty and am going to savor the ensuing reviews. Today’s antisocial special, brought to you by a dead childhood, is Goldfish Macaroni and Cheese Mac and Cheese Cheesy Pizza.

Admittedly, I was less excited about the flavor and more excited about the pasta- solid, thick, fish-shaped pieces? Sounds like orichiette for children, and I love me some tiny ears. Plus, my affinity for macaroni and cheese that tastes like snacks that taste like other snacks is still raging hard. The box title is ridiculous, the back of the box reminding me why I’m happy I don’t have an unpaid marketing internship, as it primarily details, in subtle comic form, the tragic, yet concisely gritty recounting of the murder and disembodiment of the protagonist’s peers before he, himself, is consumed. It’s like Quarantine, but for kids.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I should have known when I saw the crudely-rendered pieces, shaped like rejected Pokemon pasta from the mid-2000’s, or smiling tennis rackets, destined to crumble under the relentless pressure of my spoon. Sixteen minutes to boil, coincidentally the amount of time I need to cry into my pillow, and they were done. A pugnacious herbaceousness. A faint whiff of dairy, from the last of my imported French butter, and a single, cheesy tear down my cheek. I needed no further motivation to leave the house.

Brunch at Murray’s Cheese Bar, New York, NY

I’ve mentioned before that brunch is a big affair for me. Welp, now that baby has her first real job, plus school and various assorted debauchery, anytime is brunch time, provided I’ve ten minutes, a handful of dry cereal, and a hardboiled egg. But you know that doesn’t really cut it. I need real brunch, with real forks, real hipsters, and real food, damn it, and as luck would have it, Murray’s Cheese, a New York epicurean staple, introduced their weekend brunch and invited me over for a taste. Finally, brunch I could schedule in and prepare for! Over a springy Sunday morning, I sampled cheese-filled treats aplenty.

It doesn’t get much better than starting with bellinis…unless said bellinis are lychee and black cherry-flavored. Lychee fared better, the yeastiness of the Processo mingled nicely with the floral notes. Black cherry was delicious, but the fruity flavor was omnipresent and pushed out the more delicate flavors of the wine.

As we were guests of Murray’s, I shot them a quick email before I came over- simple in premise, but direct: “What should we get?” Their response met mine with a succinct, “As much as you can.” And holy cheese, were they right. We got a phenomenal spread of food, its versatility proving Murray’s deft hands with delicious cheese. We started with a cheese plate, arguably the best of the selection, though I’m biased just coming from a life of cheese plates in Paris.

 Each order of the cheesemonger’s selection comes with the cheesemonger, carefully pointing out and describing her selections and pairings with both housemade and artisanally produced condiments. We asked for the strangest and funkiest, and we definitely got it, starting with the Hudson Flower, cave-aged at Murray’s courtesy of the Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. with a blend of lemongrass, juniper berry, cracked black pepper, and paprika. This was paired with a housemade rose tea petal jam, and was my personal favorite of the bunch. Floral, spicy, and, as the cheesemonger said, “I feel so girly whenever I eat it!” Me too. Kinda.
The next was a Beaufort d’Ete, transporting me straight back to France with its creamy, eggy, pungent flavors and a crumbly, honeyed sweet edge. Man, was this nostalgic. They paired it with pickled spicy carrots whose lingering spice deftly cut the richness of the cheese. It was better with the wild boar soprasetta than the delicate shavings of proscuitto as the former helped coax out those spicy notes even more. We finished with a perfect Fourme d’Ambert, yet another tug at the old heartstrings for me. This had a funky, pervasive sea salt and musk to the core, with an aggressively stingy bite, just pure chalk, salt, and cream. Paired with the delicate, although strangely solid white sea salt honey and prosciutto, it was something I could have eaten by the pound.

After the cheese plate, we started in on the brunch menu. We wanted an even divide of sweet and savory, so we decided to start with the Illegal Doughnut, two thick slices of Pullman’s bread stuffed with cream cheese, bacon, and fried with a creme brulee crunch. Delicious, and certainly rich, as it was over three inches of fried, creamy goodness on a plate, but I wished the cream cheese filling had been seasoned or spiced in some way, or at least whipped to cut the sheer density of the plate. In this case, it seemed as though a block of cream cheese had been placed in between the bread, which is all well and good, but at a place that specializes in cheese, cream cheese should not go ignored.

Our other large plate was the Alpine Eggs, described as the “fondue of eggs” by both our server and the PR team. These were monstrous in size and flavor- two pillowy English muffin halves with ham, grilled mushrooms (B generously ate the ‘shrooms off mine) and a perfectly poached egg on top to be drizzled with what seemed like an endless pot of tangy, smooth cheese sauce. Everything worked well in this dish, and I happily scraped the plate and dipped anything I could in the sauce- a fork, crackers, my pinky finger, though I did find myself craving a little spice to counter some of those creamy flavors.
Surprisingly, the two sides we ordered made more than a complete meal themselves, and actually ended up being our favorites. Murray’s, please know that I could eat those grits ad nauseum. I would cook them and never, ever leave the house, so creamy and infused with cheese they were.  The Tickler cheddar was sharp and savory, and melted so well that long after the dish had cooled down, the cheese was still gooey and yielding with each bite. I prolonged our brunch by at least an extra fifteen minutes just so I could nibble on this. With the scrapple, it was likely one of the best brunch meals I’ve had in the last year.

Ohhh, the scrapple. My discreet notes to myself, scribbled on both my phone, and, after its untimely battery death, my hand, best sum up my feelings toward it: “Holy damn, scrapple, you crazy.” Crazy indeed- tender, with every last edge crispy and crunchy. Murray’s is off to a great beginning. Their individual items need tweaking, but it’s a solid start to what I imagine will be a stunning final menu. We left stuffed with leftovers in hand and decided it wouldn’t have been so awful to fall onto the subway tracks and die afterward. There’s no shame in being star-crossed brunch lovers.

(FTC Disclosure: Murray’s generously comped our cheese plate and invited us in to what was likely the very last two-top in a ten-mile radius on such a beautiful spring day. Seriously, everyone in the tri-state area was brunching that day, so muchos gracias.)

Campbell’s Go Spicy Chorizo and Pulled Chicken Soup

At 8PM, I’m Foodette, reporting from the front lines of hazardous demographic research and intensive Millenial indulgence with the latest and sadist from Campbell’s Go line, the perfect on-the-go meal for starving hipsters and barely intrepid foodies. This quippy meatbag, one in a line of six, screamed out at me from the desperate second-to-last shelf in Target. It’s so twee I wouldn’t be surprised if it had its own Tumblr. So, in a desperate attempt to stay relevant, I grabbed it for work lunch and ended up eating it when I ran out of food today. Yes, Campbell’s, I am the representative for this glamorous demographic you whimsically refer to as “unexpected.”
As I waited for the soup to heat, I enjoyed the lengthy commentary on the Campbell’s Go website, which, in addition to informing me that I was indeed ingesting a record 75% of my daily recommended intake of sodium, provided me with whimsical images of kittens and advice about getting over an ex. Spoiler alert, it includes “ziplining.” Wow, Campbell’s, you slay me, but I think I’ll stick with therapy for now.

After appeasing the microwave gods and heating the soup, I couldn’t tell if my satisfaction derived from the simple pleasure of not inducing 3rd degree burns from a boiling bag full of meat or performing a plastic lobotomy on the manic package model. In ether case, the anticipation outweighed the results. This soup is bland, man, bland with the power of a thousand OkCupid profiles whose aging users enjoy Kubrick and halfheartedly admit they’re an INTJ. Its inclusion of large chunks of chorizo sausage and distinguishable black beans and corn do little to ameliorate the fact that all have the consistency of damp paper towels. I sought, but found no pulled chicken.
“Microwave, what hell hath you wrought?”

The broth, thick and meaty, is arguably the most tolerable part of this complete breakfast, but just barely, and has a gelatinous, somewhat dirty consistency better suited to a cooking sauce than a meal base. It is unfortunately about as smoky as an electronic cigarette, but a quarter of a bottle of hot sauce accentuated its cumin-heavy base flavors. One could easily achieve the same results by spooning the last of a jar of chili into a can of Dinty Moore and letting Jesus take the wheel from there.

Can I take the heat? Campbell’s asks me. I can, but in the words of Truman, if this is the only option, I’ll just stay out of the kitchen. For all its buoyant exuberance, Campbell’s Go line tries hard but ultimately falls to the mediocre wayside in the face of discerning, flippant palates.

Food Fun in Frankfurt, Germany

I spent a few days (okay, about 40 hours) in Frankfurt, Germany, earlier this week. Like my June trip to Seattle, I tried to fit as much as I possibly could into a very short amount of time. I arrived at 6AM Tuesday morning, and spent my first morning acclimating myself with the streets and practicing my esszet (ß) to the chagrin of the people around me.
The first stop on my list was the Kaisermarkthalle, a large daily indoor market with meat, fish, cheese, and specialty food vendors. The Kaisermarkthalle is very pretty and open, with large windows to let the sun shine in. I picked up my first meal in Germany here, as well as some gifts for friends and family before heading off on my walk.

This is mett, a traditional pork tartare sandwich. I watched the quiet woman grind the pork in front of me- curly, creamy-white pieces of fat shaved on pink meat, packed with sweet, juicy pieces of onion atop a freshly baked bun slathered with mustard. Yes, it’s raw pork. No, I didn’t get sick, although in retrospect, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to eat on an empty stomach at 8AM, but you live and learn, right? What was really amazing, though, was the apple juice, or burg apfelsaft, I had with the sandwich. This was the premier cru, single-origin, artisanal apple juice of my dreams. It blew fresh cider out of the water with a clean, crisp, very concentrated apple flavor, like sticking a straw in a Golden Delicious. I figured it would be a good introduction to another Frankfurt specialty, apfelwein, which I definitely didn’t want to start drinking so early on!

There were plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and even a few flower vendors.

On my way back, I stumbled across the Christmas market, a famed favorite in Frankfurt. Plenty of vendors, from handcrafted ornament sellers to pretty young girls hawking griebenbrot, (fat-smeared bread with crisp onions) a winning combination if I’ve ever seen one, there’s always something fun to find and see. I walked by when they were preparing their wares for the day. The temptation for fresh, hot currywurst was hindered only by the rain trickling down from the sky.

Back near my hostel, (I swear I didn’t plan this) another small farmer’s market was setting up for the lunchtime crowd- financiers from the Deutschebank across the street and hungry travelers popping out of the Metro. After getting lost and briefly ending up in the red light district of the city, I was ready for a little lunch. Look at the above photo and see if you can guess what I ordered!

That’s right, smoked wild boar sausage with spicy, sinus-clearing fresh mustard on a buttered bun. Perfection. It was snappy and had just the right amount of fat. It was heavily smoked and seasoned, so I’m not sure that I’d be able to tell identify its swinely origins in a blind test. Regardless, on a chilly day, it was exactly what I needed. Paired with a glass of crisp Riesling to cut the rich flavor, it beat a sit-down restaurant meal hands down.

Dinner that night (and the night after) was delicious pasta, courtesy of the free pasta party at the hostel. I wasn’t very adventurous the next day, as I had a few important things to get done, so I ate a quick breakfast and went on my way.

However, later on that day, I was in the business district of Frankfurt and walked by a currywurst stand I’d seen reviews of online. That stand was Best Worscht in Town, a sharp, varied stand with sauces and spices atop various links of meat, not to mention some of the friendliest service I’ve ever seen. A casual inquiry into t-shirts had the young waiter nearly tugging the shirt off his back to give me after seeing that they were out of clean ones. I didn’t take the shirt, but I did order a hot plate of the currywurst of the month. Luck had it that it was a speculoos-infused currywurst, with speculoos cookie paste mixed into the curry sauce and spicy cookie crumbs on top. This was incredible, and probably one of the best meals I’ve eaten in Europe so far. The sausage was crispy and robustly spicy on its own. When doused with the sauce and seasoning, bracingly intense in flavor, it was utterly blissful. The perfect way to bid Frankfurt goodbye- until next time, that is!

Foodette in Gay Paris: Winter Eats, Chilly Treats

In an attempt to get through the incredible backlog of reviews, events, and posts I have planned for you, I’ve decided to do another fun compilation of foods I’ve been eating here. Winter has sort of set in in Paris- not quite to the extent of a New England winter. Hell, I’ve had Augusts colder than this, but it’s the perfect time for chilly-weather treats and meals. Most of the cafes and restaurants have heated outer terraces, perfect for sitting and watching the world go by without worrying about losing a finger to frostbite.

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Vonnegut came to Paris for a weekend visit. He is studying abroad at Oxford and had never been to France before! We enjoyed pastries and parties together, and ate at some sweet brasseries near Saint-Paul. I had this Camembert salad for lunch one day. Simple and delicious- roasted Camembert fondue with honey and greens.
On this visit, we also enjoyed some pastries from Miss Manon- sesame and sunflower seed sables, an enormous, self-destructing millefeuille, and the Mexico, a gold-leafed chocolate monstrosity. They were all delicious.

On Vonnegut’s last evening in Paris, we went to Angelina for a hot chocolate and some macarons. I went for the traditional chocolat africain, while he tried the white chocolate. I’ve had quite a few hot chocolates in Paris so far and highly recommend Angelina. It’s no secret at this point, but what they do, they do exceptionally well.
Shortly before Vonnegut’s arrival, I took a trip to Normandy and Saint-Malo for a few days. The above beverage is a local Breton specialty, lait ribot, a fermented milk beverage. I was expecting something similar to the chilled buttermilk my grandfather used to drink straight from the quart, but received a large, deceptively deep mug of lukewarm, slightly effervescent, thick, tangy milk. It tasted somewhere in between yogurt, seltzer, and a milkshake, with a cheesy aftertaste. Later, I discovered that lait ribot is made from the leftover fermented milk used for making butter, which explains its richness. It took some time, but the flavor grew on me, especially with the sweet, sweet crepe I ate alongside…

This crepe was served flaming, drizzled with housemade Calvados, and stuffed with salted caramel and baked apple compote. Topped with vanilla ice cream, it was one of the best crepes I have eaten here so far.
The next day, I ate this special omelet for lunch. The omelet Normande, or Omelette de la Mère Poulard, as the famous restaurant in Normandy is known for, is puffed up by whipping the whites into a frothy sauce, adding the yolks shortly after. Good ones are served like a soufflé, with a soft middle and fluffy outside. This was from a restaurant close to the Mère Poulard, but for a fraction of the price. There was no way I could see myself paying 35 Euro for an omelet, no matter how good!

Back on the home front, here are some of the things I’ve been cooking. I’m afraid it’s been fairly basic for the most part. I’ve been realizing the differences between living somewhere and vacationing somewhere. It’s an interesting fact to reconcile, as so many of our conceptions of international travel are based on these montages (backed by accordion music) of shopping, eating, and attractions in a week-long period.
Somehow, it comes as a surprise to people to find that I don’t wake up at 6 every morning to schlep to the Eiffel Tower, nor do I eat steak frites for every meal or go out to a cafe every day. It astonishes them to hear that I spend weekends doing laundry or- gasp! homework, and they are amazed to discover that I don’t go to the Louvre once a week. The truth is, it’s difficult to justify buying a block of foie gras over a week’s worth of groceries. However, I’ve still been having a smashing time with my own recipes. So many little stores and places make their own products, or their own condiments, the likes of which I’ve been buying and enjoying to fit my needs. Chinese five-spice mustard and freshly squeezed tangerine juice have been making appearances in my latest recipes. Above, you’ll see grilled proscuitto and raspberry-coing preserves. Below, pulled pork for a party.

For a special Halloween dinner, I made pumpkin crepes.

Sometimes, I stick to basic, but tasty standbys, like this Caprese omelet and grilled cheese, with fresh basil from the Marché St-Eustache and a slice of tomato atop melted sheep’s milk cheese.
I have been treating myself to some pastries and funky favorites, though. My Parisian pastry bucket list is getting smaller by the day! These giants are the famous rose pralines from Francois Pralus. He has a store in the 4th, about two blocks from my apartment, but at the Chocolate Salon, they were baking these inside giant pop-up ovens in their booth. I got to try a fresh piece of one- flaky, buttery, and sweet. I don’t know that I could eat an entire loaf. 

When Dillinger and my little sister came, we took a walk past the Christmas market at Champs-Elysees. Dillinger picked up one of these Alsatian specialties, chocolate boules, a thin layer of chocolate topped with coconut or caramel, filled with fluffy whipped cream. It wasn’t that cold out, so we were surprised to see how well the chocolate held in the cream.

Another day, I took a walk with my sister to one of my favorite patisseries, Pain de Sucre. In addition to their plethora of macarons and pastries, they make gigantic, squishy marshmallows in a wide array of flavors. We picked up whiskey and salted caramel, rose, vanilla bean, and olive oil, and raspberry-coconut. I’m dying to go back and try their black sesame, too!
These croissants, from Sadaharu Aoki, have also worked their way into my breakfast repertoire. Flaky matcha croissants, bright green on the inside. It is my goal to ensure that at least one makes the trip back to my apartment to photograph. Four croissants and I’m still unsuccessful.

Last but not least, my absolute favorite dinner here so far- okay, I’m biased. The spiciest and subsequently, best dinner on a cold night, takeout noodle soup from Happy Nouilles in the 3rd, near the Arts et Metiers metro stop. My go-to order (typically paid for in coins) is the #4, the Zati, with black vinegar, ground pork, bok choi, and hand-pulled noodles shaved right into the pot when you order. Amazing, sheer perfection with my now omnipresent mug of Lapsang Souchong. My inability to use chopsticks turns my tablecloths into a warzone. More treats as the cold sets in!

Foodette in Gay Paris: Delicacies in Languedoc-Roussillon

I am working on a couple of big restaurant reviews this week, so I’m keeping today’s post short and sweet. Here are some more of the things I’ve been eating in Paris, as well as a selection of the food I ate while in the Languedoc-Roussillon region last weekend.
Delicious pasta carbonara.

Last week, when Miss Love was here, we took another day to peruse the Louvre and stopped for a snack at the miniature Angelina cafe (Le Café Richelieu) in the center of the museum. We shared two pastries- one classic, the acclaimed Mont Blanc, and one quirky, an apricot and pear tart with caramelized pastry and a lemon-thyme caramel on top. I don’t think I’d ever tried a Mont Blanc before, and this was definitely the place to try one. The noodly hazelnut strands on top and the fluffy, neutral whipped Chantilly cream and meringue base were delicious and perfectly balanced, with a clean, nutty flavor.
A creamy, delicate center.

The apricot tart was interesting, but not quite what we expected it would be. The caramel was more of a gelée on top and the fruit encased inside, like a terrine. It was certainly a unique presentation as it came off looking like a savory dish. All of the elements were well-prepared- the pastry was crispy and sweet, the fruit was fresh and tender, and the flavors were congruent, but the caramel gee was a little strange to get used to.
Later on in the week, I picked up these sweet, fresh marshmallows from an outdoor market. They came paired in a few different flavors, but the bag I picked up had loopy strands of anise and violet ‘mallows. 

Over the weekend, I took a trip to Languedoc-Roussilon with my group, to visit Collioure and spend a few days on the coast. It was stunning, and the food was fresh and tasty. This was my first meal after a five-hour train ride, and it was well-deserved and sumptuous- steamed mussels in a Banyuls sauce and strange, wavy fries.

This is a selection of some of the sweets I saw and ate in Perpignan and Collioure. On the upper left-hand corner, marzipan bananas! To the right, you’ll see some delicious pastries called Rousquilles. I am officially obsessed with these. For starters, Rousquilles look like perfect handmade doughnuts, but are structurally superior because they are covered not with a sugar glaze, but with salty, sulfurous meringue. They are traditionally flavored with either almond, lemon, or anise and have a tender cookie base. The number of these that I have consumed in one sitting with tea is less than ten, but more than five. On the bottom half, we have a selection of traditional Catalan pastries, and a gigantic meringue cookie.

This menu was at a little stand in Perignan. I didn’t order anything, but I did take note of the fact that the “complet” preparation, with an egg on top, is available with everything except an omelet. Apparently it’s universally acknowledged that egg-on-egg action is not okay.

I wanted to get this, but did not have the nerves to trust what was basically the grounded equivalent of a food truck’s take on duck confit and foie gras on a baguette with fries on top. Next time.
This was the last meal we had before we left Collioure, in Port-Vendres. Traditional Catalan roast chicken with an olive, onion, eggplant, and basil sauce. Delicious! An amazing vacation, and I’m looking forward to posting some photos from my recent trip to Sauternes as well as some Parisian restaurant reviews.

Foodette in Gay Paree: Picard Roundup

People love posts about grocery runs to Trader Joe’s. They like to read about peoples’ foreign shopping sprees. Hell, they even tolerate watching asinine haul videos that look as if they were scripted by a bored Uwe Boll during a scene phase. So, in that vein, I thought it would be fun to showcase food from one of the most amazing discount grocery stores the world has ever seen. No pressure, Picard, no pressure. Yes, Picard, no relation to the Jean-Luc franchise, is a store that specializes in one thing and one thing only: frozen food. And they have freaking everything. Frozen cubes of ready-made sauces. Defrostable cakes. Frozen toothpaste. Whole roast chickens. Premade galettes that are definitely better than mine.
And the crazy thing is that all of it is delicious. Miss Love and I went on a grocery run to Picard when we arrived to stock up on staples like meat and appetizers, and we were impressed with almost everything we tried. One of our first meals when she arrived was simple- tikka masala-seasoned chicken and a mashed potato and artichoke heart dish. It was almost too easy- baking the chicken and mashing the incredibly awesome individual potato canelles in a saucepan, whose poppable shape definitely conjured up thoughts of deep-frying. The result? One of the heartiest and tastiest meals we ate, and it took basically no preparation at all. It ended up costing us around 8 Euro for four servings, so it was economical as well as delicious.

We also needed a snack beforehand, so we noshed on these tasty little “steamer-ready!” shu mai with pork and shrimp. We didn’t have a steamer, which I imagine would have been the most optimal form of preparation, nor did we have the hindsight of putting them in the freezer for 24 hours (Picard has a funny habit of giving you defrosting instructions 24 to 48 hours in advance) so we microwaved them with a wet paper towel on top, and they were tasty and tender, especially with the zesty sauce of indeterminate origin.

Because it was Miss Love’s first night cooking at home with me again, we decided to have two desserts. Our first was very, very special, not something you’d expect to see at a grocery store. A frozen pomme d’amour, the French take on the classic candy apple treat, but instead of an apple center, it featured a green apple mousse surrounding an apple gelee, cheesecake center, and speculoos base. All the flavors came together remarkably well, and the visual presentation was breathtaking, especially with the little vanilla pod stem!

We also shared some ice cream that looked delicious and promising- caramel bergamot with pieces of caramel and shortbread. Unfortunately, the bergamot flavor dulled after the first few bites, leaving only sticky sweet caramel, with little salt to balance out all the sugar. The shortbread pieces were also nonexistent.

This is a pizza that we ate the next day for lunch. The ingredient list described it as having 48.9% dough and 51.1% toppings, and I believe that to a T. Seriously, this thing was packed with fresh, tasty vegetable and meat toppings, as well as balls of fresh mozzarella. And speck! Crispy, salty speck ham. The only issue was that it was unwieldy in size- not small enough for one person to eat in one sitting, but not easy for two people to share. If I made one of these again, I might serve it with a salad or something on the side.

Another tasty appetizer, translucent buns stuffed with whole shrimp and a careful dot of green onion. 

This technically wasn’t from Picard, it was from the Monoprix down the street, but we really enjoyed it. This is a flammekuche, a traditional Alsatian ham and onion tart. 
These salmon tartare cylinders came in packaging almost as difficult to unwrap as a CD package. Luckily, the results were worth the effort, especially when eaten in this bitter orange jam and Dijon mustard salmon sandwich with duck bacon. 

Finally, for our last meal, we enjoyed our favorite tikka chicken again, atop a pile of mixed vegetable quinoa. I normally am not partial to quinoa, but this was a fantastic exception. Three minutes in the microwave and it was hot, fluffy, and stuffed with tender veggies. Leaps and bounds above Green Giant! It was delightful and so easy. Picard is definitely somewhere that I’ll go again, and I can’t wait to see how I can use their other ingredients and dishes.