Le Coq Rico, Paris, France

The cat was out of the bag- or rather, the chicken out of the rotisserie, so to speak. This Thanksgiving, it seemed as if we were not the only ones to “discover” Montmartre’s cloistered Le Coq Rico. Surrounded by chatty French and American families, the small restaurant was bustling despite the chill. My excitement had only grown as the temperature had dropped in the preceding days, as I am a firm believer that roast chicken goes best with frostbite. Entering the restaurant ushered by the brisk wind only heightened my anticipation. Le Coq Rico, owned by famed Parisian restauranteur Antoine Wasserman, specializes in the classic brasserie and outdoor market specialty, roast chicken and little else. 

Reviews for Le Coq Rico have been mixed, ranging from unimpressed to raving, so I went in with an open mind and an empty stomach. My need for schmaltz-laden potatoes and crispy skin overrode my internal Zagat server, and off I went, three famished family members in tow. In retrospect, I’d rank my experience somewhere in the middle of the hubbub- Le Coq Rico is right to stick to chicken and its various accoutrements, but is somewhat lacking in other essential areas.

The decor is simple, and not as chillingly minimal as I’d initially anticipated. In retrospect, it looks like the inside of a very well-kept, pristine white chicken coop. We started off with a bottle of the 2011 A. Keintzler Riesling, tight and fragrant, with a smooth, phenolic development over the course of a few hours. The restaurant favors this small family vineyard- many of their whites were from the Alsace-based Keintzler. We chose to whack up an order of the famed gésiers, crispy giblets ‘n’ bits platter that unfortunately never arrived. It was later discovered that they had forgotten the appetizer. For our main course, the poulet de Bresse, which the menu describes as serving 2-4. While this could be seen as a cost-driving tap dance, it was certainly practical for our needs. In fact, with the sides, the chicken almost yielded too much food, even with a party including a hungry student and a protein-loving weights enthusiast. 

The main course was extremely enjoyable, yielding and naturally sweet, soaking up its savory gravy with ease. It was served simplistically, adorned only by bursting whole cloves of garlic, a sweet and strong accompaniment with each bite. If you’re looking for something a little more formal than gnawing on poulet roti in the middle of a bustling market (my preferred atmosphere of choice) the 90 Euro poulet de Bresse is a fantastic example, providing your company can divvy up white and dark meat without killing each other. Yes, 90 Euro, when taken out of context, can seem a bit dear, but divided by 4 people with plenty of sides to go around, makes it one of the better fine-dining deals in Paris. With the tender chicken, perfectly cooked, we split two plates each of macaroni gratin and frites, the latter crispy and double-fried, the former peppery and comforting, but served somewhat stingily in what resembled an individually-portioned ramekin for a side dish.

After the chicken, it was almost unfair to order desserts. And had the macaroni or the gésiers been on the dessert menu, I am positive I would have chosen them. We opted to share two desserts between the four of us, a monolithic île flottante (at a chicken-themed restaurant I am inclined to wonder why they chose not to include the sibling to this famed dessert, œufs à la neige, or eggs in the snow) in a puddle of vanilla creme anglaise with a scattering of chopped almonds, and Brioche French toast with chestnut ice cream and autumn fruits. With the île, the classic garniture of caramel was missing, compelling its white-on-white counterparts to strikingly resemble the restaurant interior. This was vapid and soft, with a light, sugary flavor. 
The French toast really missed the mark for me– it had a dense, granulated crust around it, like crushed up Captain Crunch, and the deluge of powdered sugar and creme anglaise drizzled on top made it more reminiscent of a diner dessert than a delicate end to the meal. With so many rich ingredients, a more minimal touch would have been preferable. The toast was surrounded by autumn fruits- a fun selection of pineapple, pear, apple, melon, and grapes, some soaked in mulling spices. Combined with the boozy chestnut ice cream, I would have preferred the fruit alone.

If your savory side is singing out for a little chicken and formality, I wouldn’t hesitate checking Le Coq Rico out. Otherwise, you may be better off picking up a chicken from one of many of the stands dotting Paris. However, as Thanksgiving dinners abroad go, this was incomparably better than frozen turkey!

Zotter Mitzi Blue “Chinese” Taste Machine

Happy day after Thanksgiving, everyone! Unfortunately, my attempts to expose the French to the joys and wonders of Jones turkey-flavored, or Jones Pepto Bismal-flavored, or Jones Hackneyed Press Release-flavored novelty soda beverages have been rebuffed by the grand old customs agents of the European Union. Apparently those sodas, novelty lip gloss, and my fitted camel-colored wool pea coat constitute a threat to French security, which is why it has taken them three weeks to arrive in the mail. Until then, it’s lightweight cardigans and bleary-eyed chocolate reviews for everyone! Yay!

Despite all the trouble I’ve been having with the post office, one package did make its way through the mangled hands of justice and into my dim apartment. The Austrian masterminds at Zotter chocolate found me in France and passed off two of their latest Mitzi Blue bars, new on the market for the holiday season. And what better way to emphasize the Christmas spirit, the love of Kwanzaa, and the balls-out awesome of Hanukkah with the “Chinese” Taste Machine?

Yes, you heard correctly, non-sequitar aficionados, gingerbread and fruitcake are out, “Chinese” Taste Machine is in, quotation marks not included. Now you can have the loving caress of gojiberries and bird’s eye chilipowder alongside your buckeyes. Chinese Taste Machine, presented in the classic circular Mitzi Blue form, contains white and dark soy-infused chocolate with the aforementioned spices and berries, plus some powdered star anise for good measure. A punk zimtsterne, if you will. Out of the package, it’s another stunning Zotter bar, this time in a swirled pattern. It broke during transit, but even its original shape looked a little cumbersome to share amongst friends.

Flavor-wise, the Chinese Taste Machine is difficult to love. Very, very, very difficult. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that its jarring set of flavors make it impossible to consider the high quality of the ingredients in the bar. The smooth white and dark chocolate are smothered by the musty flavors of the soy powder, at best, reminiscent of a soy Chai latte in solidified form. At worst, it recalls eating an old chocolate stashed in a winter coat, five years after putting it there. Even the strongest spices, cinnamon, star anise, and nutmeg, don’t hold a candle to the strange powdery flavors from the soy.

For all of the flack that gojiberries get, namely, from me, they enhanced the flavors in this bar quite a lot, imparting a sweet, slightly sour flavor to the chocolate and somewhat masking the soy. They are covered with a slight dusting of bird’s eye chili powder, which emphasizes the tang of the dried fruit and gives it a little heat. Still, it never quite meshes with the chocolate and ends up feeling like another candy entirely. It’s a shame as the concept is whimsical and clever, but the execution falls flat.

Heinz Ketchup Primeur

You’re probably wondering why I’ve called you here. No, I’d rather not discuss my estate today, nor is it occasion for one of my infamous Scotch, cigar and Euro tastings, but rather, a new opportunity in gustatory indulgence. Gentlemen? You may wish to sit down. What I am about to show you shall bring new life to your French-fried potatoes, a devilish tang to your roasted newborn calf filets. Men, we are humbled in the presence of this confounded condiment: Heinz Ketchup Primeur.

 En primeur, a concept formerly limited only to the finest and most expensive of wines, has now extended its graceful, feminine reach to ketchup, which many may agree is the Bordeaux of condiments, the Ferrari of fast food. Heinz has lovingly aged their tomatoes with only the gentlest of touches under the soft Portuguese sun. Monitored by a team of Harvard-educated, Oxford-refined, and McDonald’s trained tomato technicians and botanists, the Primeur ketchup is then bottled, numbered, and emblazoned with the gleaming, masculine signature of J.P. Heinz, the Burger King himself, fresh after his stint in the Oxford Federal Correctional Institute. His offense? Putting a hit out on Sir Kensington. Can you even imagine!?

This premier sauce of the one percent is jammier than its pedestrian squeeze-bottle counterpart, with a natural tang and sweetness and rich depth of flavor, not unlike the sweet and savory combination of Cornish sea salt-cured caviar atop shredded Birkin bag blinis. Carrying a light, healthy sheen and thick texture, it rises above mere mayonnaise and relishes its status as the creme de la creme of ketchup.

Preliminary uncorking allowed a spicy scent to waft from the cut glass bottle (regrettably, they were out of the Baccarat at Barney’s) but my initial tasting was slightly deterred, as the condiment was so thick it had to be coaxed out of the container with a Tiffany oyster spoon! However, after breathing for a brief sojourn, it proved to be intense and balanced, pairing impeccably with both steak and potatoes.

Currently only available in Europe, it would behoove you to fly there at once, so your potatoes and Sir MacNuggets shall go uncoated no more. Preferably in a private jet, or at the very least, atop a litter carried by five trained jaguar siblings across the Incense Road of Antiquity.

Godspeed, Hunt’s. You may shut the door behind you.

Long live Heinz!

Guest Review: Burger King Pumpkin Burger

Foodette: An exclusive review, coming to you all the way from Japan! My study abroad friend has a sister in Nagoya, and we were lucky enough to persuade her to try the new BK Pumpkin Burger, topped with a ring of fried slices of pumpkin. Get her take here!

The BK pumpkin burger looked very grandiose on the giant poster in front of BK, maybe even appealing, but still sounded weird, so I was skeptical going in. But after a long 30 minute walk around Nagoya in search of BK and not having eaten much for lunch, I was ready to sit down and try it. After letting Nobu, my boyfriend, order for me, he brought back the white paper wrapped burger marked “HP” for “Heavy Pumpkin”, an option Nobu chose to add extra pumpkin on top as a 100 yen (about $1.20) or so upgrade, and it was indeed heavy on the pumpkin. It was ten layers of thinly sliced kabocha pumpkin with the green skin on the outside, fried and hot. 

I knew it was too much pumpkin so I began to pull some out so I could appreciate the teeny tiny burger meat below. This was a difficult task as the pumpkin slices were covered in chopped iceberg lettuce, falling in all directions, and the pumpkin was assembled in a doughnut pattern with a hole in the middle where they squirted the bland, not so flavorful mayonnaise dressing with what I assumed were little black pepper specs mixed in with the slippy, oozing, messy white sauce. So after reassembling my bun, a typical yellowish sesame seed covered BK bun, I bit into it. I made sure to get the burger, the fatty strip of thin somewhat crispy, somewhat soft bacon, the pumpkin, the mayo, and the lettuce all in one bite. The burger tasted like a normal BK flavor, kind of dry, the lettuce was average chopped iceberg, the mayo was relatively flavorless, and the pumpkin was on the sweet side, as expected. Nobu had a bite as well and agreed that it wasn’t so yummy.

Even the salty little bacon strip couldn’t redeem the lack of flavor. However, we redeemed ourselves it with our Heinz ketchup packets (Pittsburgh represent!) and dipped it into the ketchup, a nice contrast to the sweet pumpkin. It gave it a tang, and made it taste much like sweet potato fries dipped in ketchup on a burger (reminiscent of Primanti Bros but with sweet fries and no slaw). Much better that way. Then we ate the remaining pumpkin slices on the side, still hot and soft, and dipped those in the leftover ketchup like french fries and they were much better that way as well. In the end, we decided it was bland and not very good, and that a more kicky sauce would’ve gone a long way in improving the burger. Our expectations were low going in, and they were met coming out.”

OH MY GOD PUMPKIN FRIES. This is amazing, and I wish I had been there. Until next time, Japan!

Apéricube Soirée Filles: Goat Cheese, Sun-fired Veggies, and Fried Scallops Cheese Cubes

Scratch all that effluvium from yesteryear about how Pernes’ website was the best website in the history of all websites. Maybe a 3D model would cut it- if this was 2002! (editor’s note: Can we calibrate a record scratch for each time someone silently mouths that to themselves? No? Well, screw you, me.) That information is now as obsolete as an iPhone 4 with a Crazy Frog app and Bing set as its homepage. That frog is dead to me! A new reigning champion has entered the scene of disposable allocation of revenue toward Flash-generated advertising campaigns: Bel’s Apéricube!

You know them from such family-friendly products like Babybel, The Laughing Cow, and rapping bull GIFs! Say whuuuuuuuh?! (editor’s note: Seriously, that record scratch is money, and you’re an asshole.) Allow me a brief pause to take you through the World of Laughter (yes) and introduce you to the 27 (yes) cows whose bodily fluids are responsible for the Apéricube Girl Party/Soirée Filles selection I’m about to review for you today. (yes, and I’m sorry in advance.)

We start with an agonizingly long wait, presumably while all the freelance website designers of the world collectively sob into their shirts, and are amused by a hot vat of cheese precariously tilting while we wait. Protip: it never falls, which is good? Ish? Once we’re securely in the world of cows, greeted by ominous lowing and prefabricated bird sounds, we meet this guy like eight times and he progressively haunts my nightmares.

Rappe-T, or as he’s known on the street, Mayor McSleaze, has an extensive bio, and as a result of reading it, I now know more about him than I do about our current president. Sorry, Barack, but have you released a hit single with MC Rosbif? Didn’t think so. So, anyway, this guy exists and raps and apparently, also makes cheese while upsetting real live people on the real live bus and referencing “Twitter” and “blog” with the same apprehension that my grandmother has when she uses her iPad.

On to the review! Apéricube manages to accurately capture what women like to put in their mouths more accurately than any romantic comedy or yoghurt commercial ever will with their Soirée Filles line: fried seafood, fire-roasted vegetables, and goat cheese, all in soft cheese form. Where my Cosmo cheese cube at, Apéricube!? And they throw in trivia to boot. I will admit a brief moment of intense nostalgia for these. Apéricube existed briefly in the States where, like most delicious foods from the 90’s, they moved quietly to Europe once boy bands started being classified as “a thing.” I ate them as a child and now I am warily writing about them as an adult.

The trivia questions are about as much fun as you could make the timeless experience of squinting to read gooey, cheese-covered facts about sports teams and prime ministers. Fun fact: Two out of three trivia questions are cut off by the packaging. Want to know which sport Axel Pons plays? Well, too bad. You’ll just have to Wikipedia that shit like I did. Uh, well played, Apéricube.
The cubes are smooth in texture. Starting from least offensive to terrifying future food: chevre is unsurprisingly innocuous. Chalky, goaty, and forgettable with the remarkable consistency of toothpaste. Soon! The vibrantly-colored fire-roasted vegetables fares much better, with a surprisingly deep smokiness and lingering paprika and red pepper aftertaste. Definitely something I would toss in an omelette to give it an element of surprise and dairy. 
And now, the wild card. The Charlie Sheen of cheese. Why would anyone want to make fried scallops into a cheese flavor? Poêlée de Saint-Jacques is a classic French dish that apparently, the French hate enough to immortalize in soft cheese form. I spat this one out because it was repulsive. It was too close in color and texture to raw scallops to not make it a creepy experience. And it tasted just like them, too, with the beery flavor of fried batter and an oniony aftertaste. Basically, the only cheese-like thing that remained was the creamy texture.

Well, that was awful. Until next time, my compatriots, when I review such dainties such as the Man Party, featuring pizza-flavored cheese, tuna-flavored cheese, and ham ‘n’ olive-flavored cheese. No, wait, that’s not true, because I am not self-destructive. I am done with this noise. Peace out, Rappe-T. Godspeed to you and your pile of lady cows. Farewell, Girl Party. You were the sparkliest, and now you shall hold my hair ties for eternity.
Ladies? I hear he has an OKCupid account!

Pernes Long Wasabi Potato Chips

Another SIAL goodie! This time, a chip hailing from Romania with a Japanese flavor profile, picked up in Paris by an American. So, a multi-cultural delight by proxy. As soon as I saw these, I knew I had to pick up a package of them. According to their website, they are the longest chips in the world. They follow the same format as Pringles- extruded potato snack, but are thicker and also packaged in a structure that, if switched with a similar package containing a hand-painted portrait of Vladimir Lenin in porcelain on a human tooth, would be packaged with similar care. Seriously. They are sheathed in a cardboard barrier, around a plastic-sealed foil package. Condoms go through less protocol than this and they prevent babies from happening

Once these wonder-chips are out of their shuttle, they are pungent with wasabi. And cardboard in scent, but that disappears about five seconds in. They are thicker than your average chip, but lacking oil, are consequently much more brittle. The flavor powder is applied much like the spray paint from your favorite 90’s airbrushed tee. Yes, the one from Sharon’s bat mitzvah with a blatant generic ripoff of Goofy on it- gradients all up in this bitch. As a result of the inconsistent spraying, the intensity of each bite ranges from sinus-clearing to weaksauce. The company also has the best website I have ever seen. There’s a moveable 3D model!
The texture is bizarre. Their structure straddles the line between object and food, creating somewhat of a dissonance when snacking on them. I feel less like I’m eating them and more like I’m processing them for some wasabi-generated all-natural machine, possibly from the mid to late 90’s (do I sense a trend?) when dot-matrix paper was still utilized, minus the soul-numbing frustration of visiting a parent at work. However, once you get past that, they are all too easy to eat and have a wonderful flavor. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any reviews of these- although Dave’s Cupboard did write about some chips similar to these back in 2011.

Cafe-Tasse Cafe et Speculoos Bar

Last week at SIAL, I caught eye of this small chocolate company, sandwiched between a large-scale red bean distributor and an enthusiastic basmati-hawking salesman. And yes, the first thing that caught my eye was their speculoos bar. That, and their impressive selection of tea-infused chocolate bars. Flavored Belgian chocolate is new, for me, at least. Perusing the selection at SIAL, it seemed that the most common varieties were various slabs of milk, dark, and white, with some almond-chunked versions thrown in for fun. I was curious to see how Cafe-Tasse would treat not only the time-honored beauty of speculoos, but how they would infuse that with coffee in an attempt to recreate one of the world’s most satisfying sensations, outside of applying flavored body cream to a partner or leaping into a kiddy pool full of puppies: dipping cookies into coffee.

Yes, naysayers be damned, this is yet another example of how awesome speculoos is as an ingredient. This particular bar is a thick, molded bar filled with a speculoos and coffee cookie dough. I didn’t know that this was cookie dough in advance, but in retrospect, the textures are one and the same: very gritty, sweet, and creamy, with chunks of crispy cookie. The pieces are a little large, but are very satisfying with the milk chocolate, a fantastic example of Belgian expertise. It has a creamy, cool melt and coffee-infused flavor. Very well-executed, and most importantly, well-balanced with the filling so that neither overwhelmed the other. (Note: This was accidentally packaged in the “Lait and Speculoos” wrapper but a label on the back indicated that it was “Cafe et Speculoos”. Either that, or this is an elaborately-enduced placebo effect that I’m not yet aware of.)

Most of the speculoos-themed desserts have fared well in my book, but this is my favorite so far due to its ingenious usage of combinations in a single chocolate bar. It reminds me of a better-executed version of the Trader Joe’s speculoos bar. The construction of this leads me to believe that Cafe-Tasse may also be the distributor for their plain version as well, though personally, I find this to have a better, less greasy texture.

Earl Grey French Toast

Autumn in Paris: Not exactly like those old Bunuel films you watched as a child. That’s my running tagline and I’m sticking to it. Parisian Seasonal Tourist Board, here I come! Imagine a classic, smoky New England autumn. Now, remove 75% of the leaves, replace the woodfire smoke permeating the air with cigarette smoke (admittedly comforting in its own right) and make it rain, baby. Literally. Luckily, I have plenty to occupy my time with, including, but not limited to, perusing museum exhibits solely devoted to the sex lives of wild animals, creating playlists about said museum exhibit, and making weird French toast with my guiltiest French pleasure, Harry’s white bread. 

Seriously, Harry’s is like a food diaper. It may be part polymer. It soaks up sauces, liquids, butter, you name it- and never loses its shape or wilts underneath the pressure of the many condiments I subject it to. It is perfect for French toast, and pretty much everything else. Lacking the ingredients to make anything else, I turned my sights toward French toast- as well as the leftover bag of Earl Grey I had after getting sick last week. I made this as a lazy Tuesday breakfast after eating dinner with my fellow exchange friend, Optimus Prime, and will go to bed with dreams of brown butter, infused with the smell of spices throughout my apartment.
Earl Grey French Toast
Ingredients (serves 4)
12 slices of thick, squishy white bread
6 eggs
1 cup of whole milk
The zest of one lemon
3 bags of Earl Grey tea
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla bean, nutmeg, and sea salt. Set aside and prepare your milk, setting it up to boil in a saucepan on the stove. Once the milk is boiled, put the lemon zest and tea bags in. Let it steep for 15-30 minutes.

2. Once the milk is cool, beat with the egg mixture. Pour over bread and let soak until completely absorbed. In a large pan on the stove, melt two tablespoons of butter until sizzling.

3. Fry the bread until brown on both sides and custardy on the inside. Serve with sea salt and syrup if desired.

I don’t think this will make it to the morning.

Oreo Birthday Giveaway!

A giveaway! It’s midterm slash surprise paper slash roast chicken craving slash apartment inspection week, so I’m taking a brief pause to get some work done. I will have new, fresh content back for you on Monday, where I’ll recap the amazing gastronomic extravaganza that was SIAL and showcase the other food expos I attended this week. Paris is all about the trade shows, yo.
In the meantime, Oreo wrapped up their 100th birthday bash with a user-generated advertising opportunity and international Oreo tasting in Times Square earlier on in the month. They have generously provided one Foodette Reviews reader a special Oreo birthday t-shirt and package of Birthday Cake Oreos (our take here) to win after following these two easy steps:

To gain an entry, you may either:

1. Comment on this post with your ideal imagined Oreo flavor: come on! Let’s one up lemon and peppermint. Do you want to see Red Velvet Oreos for Christmas? Champagne for New Year’s? Think outside of the box and tell me what you want them to create before they turn 200. 

2. Retweet/repost this phrase: “GIVEAWAY: Oreo turned 100 and all I got were these limited-edition Birthday Cake Oreos from @foodettereviews and @oreo http://bit.ly/oreobday” and give me a heads up in the comments.

The contest will run until December 1st, 6PM UTC and I’ll announce the winner then! (Photo courtesy of the Oreo team)