About

"The reluctant Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Restaurant Review -- Fogón

45, Quai des Grand Augustins, 75006 Paris
Tel:  01 43 54 31 33
Web: fogon.fr
Metro: St. Michel (Line 4)
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

4.50 - Star......................................................€€ ................................................... 2 - Bell

It was a cold dreary, wet day in Paris, so we went to Fogón for a late lunch. JJ had been there before, and he had raved about it. It's a Spanish restaurant known for their paella.

It's a really cute restaurant. Quite spacious by Parisian standards, and the location couldn't be better. The restaurant is very playful, and as we were searching for our utensils our wait person told us we each had a drawer with our napkins and utensils. A cute idea.


Although they had an October tasting special, we opted for the 51€ per person prefix-menu for two which came with several entrées, and you can select what type of paella you wished to have. We selected the "paella negro" which is a black paella seafood paella made with squid ink.


For our amuse bouche we had lovely popsicles of cucumbers and cantaloupe. Although a little gimmicky, we were first given an aromatic of fig to to smell and sweeten our olfactory senses. It was very refreshing, and I can see this being a big hit in the summer.




For our first entrée we got the "crevettes bagnées dans l'eau de morue" (bagnées water shrimp and cod). The Chef appears to like "agar-agar" or should I say 'gel', both dishes had a thin layer of it. The dishes were innovative, fun and a great entrée to start with.




Our second entrée was "la plage à la marée montante" (the beach at high tide).  This was a very playful dish. It was the Chef's interpretation of what the beach would look like at high tide. There was seaweed, and various other shell fish such as cockles and also a side of a poached cabillaud. This dish was not only innovative and beautifully presented but was delicious, the "jus" was out of this world delicious. Again, he had a thin layer of a jellied sauce under the cabillaud. I could've lived without, but all-in-all a delicious dish.

Then onto the main course. We had "Le riz en Paëlla noir" (seafood paella with squid ink). It's not an attractive dish by any means and maybe 'off-putting', but don't let the ugliness of the dish fool you. It's packed with tons of flavor since the paella is flavored with squid ink. The rice was cooked, al dente, which may turn some people off, but we enjoyed it tremendously.


For desserts JJ had the rhubarb creme brulée and I had the Manchego cheese. The Rhubarb brulée was excellent and the manchego cheese was aged where it almost tasted like a parmesan, reggiano. Both was excellent.













Summary: 

It's so nice when you come across a restaurant that really tickles and excites the palate. The food and service were excellent. We felt like we were in a 3-star michelin restaurant without paying the prices. If I have any complaint at all is that he used too much jellied this and that, which is a style preference more than anything else.  They do have a monthly tasting menu, which was the same price as their prefix meal, 51€ per person. With a glass of sangria and a coupe de champagne, and 2-glasses of their of white and red whites our bill came to 155€.  Would we go back ABSOLUTELY.  This will be my new go to restaurant for Spanish food.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Restaurant Review -- La Cagouille

10 Place Constantin Brancusi, 75014 Paris
Tél : +33 (0)1 43 22 09 01 / Fax : +33 (0)1 45 38 57 29
la-cagouille@wanadoo.fr
Metro : nearest station: "Gaîté" (line 13)

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

4 - Star.........................................................€€...................................................... 2 - Bell

We joined a friend for lunch at this restaurant on a warm beautiful Saturday. So warm in fact, many people opted to eat on their fabulous terrace.


The restaurant is located in the 14eme, in fact the morning market is located in that area, and coincidentally the fish monger was housed directly in front.  This restaurant is known for their seafood. It has gotten mixed reviews over the years, and bottom-line, people either hated it or loved it so I was anxious to try it.





We perused the menu. They had a lovely selection.
Once we ordered we were given a nice plate of cockels to share as an amuse bouche.  Cockels can be tricky if not cooked well, in fact, it can be down right nasty if it's overcooked and have the texture similar to chomping on rubber bands.  But these cockles were perfectly cooked, tender, beautifully flavored and not too salty.





Entrées:



Two of us had the mussels. The mussels were great, they were in a simple nice wine sauce with the right amount of garlic. You got a heaping portion, in fact it was so large, we were unable to finish them.




JJ had the razor clams. They too were delicious.  Whereas the mussels had a nice wine sauce, the razor clams had a wine and butter sauce. I only had one minor complaint with the dish, it could've been scrubbed more, since some still had sandy grit on them.  Otherwise it was a very good dish.

Plats: 

JJ had the mackerel.  The mackerel was beautifully grilled. Mackerel can be very salty and also very dry and fishy if not cooked well.  This mackerel had a nice searing and the flesh was quite moist and tender. The sauce was a mustard butter cream sauce, although it sounds heavy, it was actually a great accompaniment.


One person had the cabillaud (cod). It was nicely pan fried and lightly grilled on top, and sat atop a sauce of light garlic. The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce was a a great accompaniment.



I had the Salmon where the skin was every so lightly pan seared, but the flesh was raw. This fish sat atop some steamed spinach. One person made the comment that they would've probably sent it back since it was basically raw. I decided since I like sashimi, what the hey, I'll eat it as is. I later discovered this was not a good decision.

Desserts:


Only JJ got the dessert. He got the apple and pear crumble. Although nothing out of the ordinary it was good and hearty.





This restaurant is known for the collections of cognac, so our friend got a glass of the "Ragnaud-Sabourin Grande Champagne 1er cru de Cognac". I had a taste of it, I have to admit it was excellent!











Summary:

We all enjoyed the food tremendously. So we're in the camp that really like this restaurant. With exception of the minor flaws in the razor clams everything was on par. Their service which has also been criticized was excellent.  Now here's a word of advice, if you cannot digest raw fish, then I would suggest that you ask them to cook the fish "a point" -- medium.  I've discovered recently that I can no longer tolerate raw foods whether it be fish or tartare, and I suffered for it later.

So, would we go back, absolutely.  With a bottle of Sancere, our bill came to about 60€ each.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wallace -- Restaurant Review


90 Rue de Cambronne 15eme
Tel:  01.47.34.28.39, open 7/7
(Metro: Line 12 -- Vaugirard) 

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
2.50 - Star...............................................................€€€........................................................... 2 - Bell

Our friend wanted to try a restaurant in our neighborhood in the 15eme; great since it was a beautiful day, we decided to walk there. It dawned on us as we approached that we've gone by this restaurant quite often since this is our bus' route. And, I also noticed that during nice weather it's generally crowded with young people because they have a large outdoor seating area.

Upon entering we were seated in the front by the open doors, but had to move because the "lounge chairs" were just so uncomfortable, so we got a table in the back with a more rigid, but more comfortable seating.


There were two menus, the menu of the day as well as their regular menu. The menu "du jour" looked fine, but what confused me was their regular menu. There was no separation between the entrée, plats or dessert.  And, what really intrigued me was they had a huge cocktail menu. If I didn't know any better, I would've thought I was at an American watering whole.



We thought we knew what we were ordering, but when our wait staff finally came to take our order, she told us they were out of the many of the dishes featured on their menu "du jour" (and it was only 12:30, long before most people showed up) as well as their regular menu, and additionally they did not have the wine we wanted, oh well. So, it took us a few minutes to reorder close to what we wanted.

ENTRÉES



One of us had the "Ceviche de dorade, avocat" (Ceviche or white fish and avocado). At first glance I though, wow, this is huge, this is definitely not an entrée size.  The fish was actually served filet, rather than cut-up or cubed. It was actually very good. The fish was fresh and it was a delightful dish, with the right amount of vinegar to "chemically" cook the fish, but still retain its freshness. It was served with thin slices of carrots as well. On the other hand the avocado was not so ripe, oh well. But overall the concept and the presentation was nice.

I had the "Maraîchère de légumes croquants au saumon fumé et oeuf poché" (Crunchy vegetables with smoked salmon and poached egg), this too was an enormous dish for an entrée. It was nothing special, a simple salad of salmon, greens and carrots with a mild vinegarette. I do have to say though, they forgot the poached egg, oh well.

Please note, at this point it was a quarter to 2 pm and we originally arrived at 12:30 pm, and we finished our entrées, and we were still waiting for our mains. I asked the wait person twice about our mains. We were just about ready to leave in frustration, but the mains finally came within 5-minutes of us wanting to leave. Even by French standards the service was ridiculously slow!

PLATS

One person ordered the Épaule d'agneau de sept heures, (Seven hour lamb shoulder).  The lamb was very good and very tasty. In fact, it had a nice "charring" on the outside, despite it being stewed for hours. It was accompanied by potatoes, carrots (they seem to love carrots in this restaurant) and snow peas. Very good hearty dish, no complaints.

I had the "Plancha de saumon laqué" (Lacquered grilled salmon). This was a very good dish. The fish was perfectly cooked. It was a little pink in the middle, just the way I like it. It had what tasted like a sweet soy, and was accompanied by again, carrots and bok choy! Only complaint I have is I wished they had left the skin on. There is nothing like tasty grilled salmon skin to add another dimension to it!

Lastly, JJ had the "Salade de poulpe aux légumes du soleil" (Octopus salad with summer vegetables) This was a very simple dish. Although the squid was cooked perfectly the salad was very simple, in other words in had no real flavor.  They did have as condiments on table "sprayable" olive oil and balsamic vinegar.










DESSERTS

At this point we were debating whether we should get the dessert or not. If we're lucky we joked, maybe we'll get it by dinner time. I recommended we go ahead and get it, cause they're probably already made.


As usual, I got the cheeses, which consisted of a French manchego and a brie de Meaux. Both excellent cheeses, although JJ thought the brie was weak.





And, two split the "Financier tiède abricot" (Warm apricot Financier).  It was a typical financier with apricot and ice cream. Very good warm, typical French dessert.









We had two-glasses of wine, two bottles of wine and coffee for a total of €136 for 3-people. It was pricey, but we did have 2-nice bottles of wine.













SUMMARY

If you asked me one word to describe this restaurant, then it would be "SLOW". Even by French standards the service was slow, albeit they were really nice. I also had issues with the fact that many of the dishes they had on their special and their regular menu weren't available, and that included the wine we originally wanted? I understand running out of dishes, but we were one of the first ones to arrive and they had already run out of their daily special?

We also noticed that people came and went fast, so it appears that it caters to the working crowd who  ordered only one dish. One couple next to us actually ordered two-dishes, which I assume one was an entrée and a plat, which came out together. Hence, that explains the menu having no discernible distinction between the entrées, plat etc.

I'm all about the whole dining experience. What we had was good and some were excellent, but I don't think we'll go back, unless someone tells me they've gotten their service act together.  I do believe they also caters to a younger "cocktail" crowd.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Le Petit Célestin Bistro -- Restaurant Review


12 Quai des Célestins
75004 Paris 
Metro: M#1 Saint Paul or  M#7 Sully - Morland
web: http://www.lepetitcelestin.fr/
tel: 01.83.76.05.65
Open: 7-days a week
M-F -- 8 am to 2 am
Sunday -- 10 am to 2 am

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
3.00 - Star...............................................................€€........................................................... 2 - Bell

It's a pretty well known fact that it's almost impossible to find a good restaurant open on a Sunday and oftentimes Mondays. Many have to chance it at tourist areas, which are just basically bistros that rewarm pre-made food.  Imagine my excitement when a friend suggested we eat at this tiny bistro in the 4eme in the Marais and right across the street from Ile St. Louis not only on a Sunday, and talk about LOCATION!.  It's also it's open 7-days a week, unheard of in Paris!?!

We went for lunch, it was a warm sunny day. We were the first ones to arrive. Although normally I like eating 'al fresco' it was a bit too warm and sunny for me so we chose to eat inside, perfect, because we got the shade, but also since the windows retracted all the way, we got great outdoor ambiance without the sun beating down on us.



It's a cute, small restaurant and I was particularly surprised to see how small the kitchen is. Well this is Paris and it's amazing what chefs can do in a little space.

We perused the menu, they had their 'suggestions of the day', which wasn't very exciting to me so two of us ordered from the regular menu while one person ordered from the 'suggestions of the day.' 




First we got a delicious amuse bouche of a sweet pea purée; it was quite good and refreshing. And, I had a glass of their house chardonnay, which was pretty crisp, but I liked it. 













Entrées:

I had the "Fond d'artichaut œuf poché crème pleurote" (Artichoke heart poached with egg cream oyster sauce), I have to say this was my favorite dish. The artichoke heart was enormous and I'm a sucker for poached eggs on anything. It was surrounded with wonderful mushrooms and julienne greens. The cream just added to the richness of the dish. I loved this dish!





One person had the Boite de sardine millésimé et beurre salé (Classic sardine and salted butter). Now, this entrée I thought was a bit strange. It's literally an open can of sardines with some butter. Some might say it's whimsical and playful, I say, I could've done it at home. So, even though this dish was good, especially with the butter, this got a thumbs down for me. 


Lastly, one person got the Poêle de girolles, ail et persil (Pan sautéed mushrooms, garlic and parsley). Our friend liked this dish, and I have to say it was very good. The mushrooms tasted like mushrooms and some of them were actually a little crispy, which added texture to it. It was a hit. 





Plats:
One person had the suggestion of the day, which was Salade de tomates anciennes vieux balsamique (Heirloom tomato salad with aged balsamic vinegar). OK, this to me was more of an entrée (appetizer) than a plat (main). Granted it was a large dish and it was good, but tomatoes with balsamic vinegar does not a meal make!  



Two of us had the Gambas rôties brunoise de légumes, duxelle de pleurote  (Roasted prawns with vegetables, oyster mushroom sauce).  Although the surrounding starch was creamy, it did have little bit of the characteristic wine reduction bitterness, but I liked this dish. The shrimps were tasty, and the rocket offered some green and freshness to this dish. I only have one wish, I wished they had not removed the shrimp heads. I think this dish would've been perfect had they not chopped it off. 



Dessert
As usual I had the cheese plate. It was a combination of comté and brie de Meaux cheese. No complaints, the cheeses were excellent. 



Two shared the Tarte tartin (Apple tart) served warm and with a rich crème fraiche. The tart alone tasted ordinary, but with the added crème fraiche it was a delicious dish. 



Summary
This is on my list of places to go when everything else is closed, plus it's in a great location. A little tip, you need to really peruse the menu and understand what you're getting. There were hits (artichoke entrée) and misses (sardines). Now that I understand the menu a little better I know what to order. Although the prices for the meals are on par with other bistros in this class, what brings the prices up are the wines. For 3 of us we paid 188€, which is pretty expensive, but granted we had a pastis, a glass of chardonnay, a bottle of Sauvignon blanc, 2-pichets of Bordeaux and coffee. Their wines are a little more on the pricey side, so if you're on a budget you can trim the price down by ordering their house wines.



They serve good wholesome French bistro food. Would I go back? Absolutely, especially on the off days when other restaurants are closed. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My interview with Michelle Pozon

Here is my interview with Michelle Pozon, one of the authors of “My Paris Story” for “Positively Filipino.

Our good friend and talented film maker, Archie Ibardalosa and his wife Joyce Ibardalosa created this video of my interview with Michelle Pozon which was featured on the website http://www.positivelyfilipino.com

To contact Archie Ibardolasa, go to his website at www.1080vision.com.
See video at:
http://vimeo.com/102667889

ENJOY!!!



Randy Diaz interview Michelle Pozon from Archie Ibardolasa on Vimeo.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Les Poulettes-Batignolles -- Restaurant review


10, Rue de Chéroy
75017 Paris
Tel: 01-42-93-10-11
Website:  wwwlespoulettes-batignolles.fr
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  3.75 - Star...............................................................€€........................................................... 4 - Bell

Friends of ours recently discovered this restaurant that's only been open since March, and insisted we go with them "a tout de suite" before it becomes popular and booking will become impossible. As you can see from the photo, in the right section of the restaurant the doors are nice and open to the bar, which would've been the area we would've preferred to dine; unfortunately, they were booked. So we sat on the left side where the window was closed and only the top portion open for ventilation. Needless to say I was thankful I brought my fan, because it was a bit stuffy especially on a warm muggy night!

The interior




We were early so we perused the menus. Oddly enough, no one came to ask us if we'd like something to drink while we were waiting, not even water. In fact, as our friends showed up, they still didn't ask us if we wanted something to drink and I was very thirsty, so after a few minutes I had to finally flag them down. Once the wait person came, she could've been more pleasant.  We started with the most fabulous sauvignon blanc that I've ever had. It had a nice light fruity flavor, but not sweet, and had a nice roundness that really quenched your thirst and want you coming back for more. Ok, so this wine was a hit with all of us!  Even JJ, who never drinks white wine, thought it was very good.






ENTRÉES

For our first course one of us had the "Tarte sablé asperges vertes, confit de tomates au lard et vieux parmesan" (Shortbread tart green asparagus, tomato confit with bacon and aged parmesan). This was a very well composed dish. The asparagus with the shortbread gave it 2-nice textures to compliment each other. And the confit of tomatoes just added another nice level of coolness and a bit of acid. Good first course.  Unbelievably, this is the one dish I forgot to take a photo of. But believe me, it was a beautifully composed and delicious dish.



Two us had the "Tartare de dorade en ceviche, avocat et pickle d'oignons" (Tartare of sea bream ceviche, avocado and pickled onions).  This was a wonderful summer dish. It's a cold dish of ceviche and thinly shaved avocados adorning it, and a thin slice of toast. It would've been perfect; however, it was extremely under-seasoned. It lacked the basics, salt and pepper. Once I added it to the dish, then it was perfect. As all Chefs tell their students, always taste for seasoning, which usually means salt and pepper. Methinks he forgot this important lesson in this situation.


Lastly we had the "Burrata et gaspacho, melon et tomate" (Burrata and gazpacho, melon and tomato).  I have to say that this was my favorite entrée, maybe because it was a hot and muggy night and it was refreshing. It truly was delicious. The fruity soup combined with the burrata cheese, it was like eating a cooled, slighty sweet dessert, without all that cream and heaviness. So, in my book this dish was a success!

PLATS

How original, three of us got the "Presa de cochon iberíque, à  l'orange" (Presa Iberian pig, orange).  When we first ordered, the wait-person asked my companion how she would like her pork cooked, and she replied rosé (pink). I was a bit shocked, so when it was my turn I said I want it cooked a "point" medium. Then she and I got into a discussion why you can eat this particular pork pink. Apparently it's been treated with salt, free ranged and the butchering process does not have all that cross contamination, hence there is no scare of trichinosis, who knew?  Therefore you can eat pork slightly pink.  So I changed my order to "rosé", best decision I made of the night.  For a French pork dish it was not at all salty. The meat just melted in your mouth. It was absolutely delicious. I actually could've had more!


To be different JJ had the "Risotto d'encornet a la provencale et chistorra" (Squid risotto and a provencal chistorra"). I tasted this dish and it was excellent. The risotto still had a little bite to it and the squid was cooked perfectly.  I probably would've enjoyed it more if I had it served in winter. Overall it was a wonderful rich flavored dish!



DESSERTS

Two shared the "Ganache chocolat, pain, huile d'olive et fleur de sel" (Chocolate olive oil and fleur de sel ganache, bread).  I know that ganache "seule" exists, but I always associate it with fillings, or frosting, and not normally the star attraction of a dessert, since it tends to be too rich.  But this particular ganache was light and airy. They whipped alot of air and cream into it to give a more mousse like texture. Net-net, it was a good dessert, albeit, not something I'd order!









JJ got the "Riz au lait vanillé, confiture "dulce de leche" (Vanilla rice milk jam "dulce de leche").  Basically, it was rice pudding with tiny chocolate bonbons sitting atop. The dessert was OK, but I found it too heavy and rich for a warm muggy evening.  JJ licked the plate.







And, I got the cheese dish "Rocamadour fermier de chez maman Dubois au miel de corse"  (Farmer Rocamadour home mom Dubois Corsican honey). It is simply goat cheese drizzled with honey. My perfect kind of cheese for a warm, muggy evening. It was light and creamy and a wonderful palate cleanser.


SUMMARY:

The restaurant Chef is Parisian, his wife who is at the front of the house is from Barcelona and is Catalan. His mother owns a Cheese shop nearby, so he gets all his cheeses from her. They let you know that their breads also come from Chez Léonie, which I have to say was absolutely wonderful!  

It was a slow, slow start, but once they got into a rhythm we were treated very nicely. I highly recommend if you go there during the summer months to ask for a table by the bar where it's open and a breeze exists. We had no breeze, so I'm thankful I brought a hand-fan.  Overall the food was very good, I had a couple of issues with their seasoning.  The noise level in the room we were at was extremely bad. Once it was filled, we could barely hear one another.



For 4 people, and a bottle of Sauvignon for apéros, a pastis, a bottle of red, a glass of white, and a glass of armagnac and 2 coffees our bill came to 152€ which was already discounted 30% because we made our reservations on La Fourchette. It was a damn good price for 4-people.

Would I come back, porquoi pas?