The day got off to an auspicious start upon my discovery that the cafe just a block up the street from my apartment makes coffee just the way I love it! Generally, I’ve been finding French coffee WAY too bitter and strong for me. Ick. They don’t really do coffee here – it’s all espresso. I generally get the cafe creme, which is essentially the same thing as what we call a latte back home. If I’m feeling splurgy, I’ll get a cafe viennois, which is a latte topped with a big ol’ mound of whipped cream. Yum. But I digress. So yes, French coffee is generally not, er, my cup of tea. As a new acquaintance of mine put it, “The French are TERRIBLE at making coffee…although, unfortunately, they think they’re quite good it.” But not at my Cafe Gay-Lussac! This morning’s cafe creme was mellow and sweet, a lovely treat on the first slightly chilly morning of the season, no hint of bitterness in sight. Voila!
Lunch was blah – disappointing Italian takeout ordered for our weekly team meeting.
To make up for it, I treated myself to yet another new patisserie delight: le tarte au citron meringee (lemon meringue tart). As my camera battery is STILL dead (with charger still en route; ETA tomorrow, yay!) I’m still relying on the photos I can poach from the internet. Here’s a fairly close approximation of what I had:
It was tres delicieaux! The crust was a basic pate brisee, or short dough – sort of a cross between a pie crust and a sugar cookie. It was lovely – buttery and crumbly but still solid enough to hold the tangy lemon curd inside. And I just adore that gorgeously smooth-yet-jelly-like texture that lemon curd has. The topping consisted of a small cloud system of meringue that had been kissed with a brulee torch. It was sweet and silky with that slight sugary crunch that makes a good meringue topping so much fun. The tarte was a study in contrasts of both flavor (buttery crust; tart curd; sweet marshmallowy meringue) and texture (crumbly, almost cookie-like crust; cool, thick custard; pillowy meringue with a hint of crunchy). It was a good afternoon. 🙂
Dinner was at Les Cocottes, one of the famous Christian Constant restaurants that was at the top of my “to try in Paris” lists. It certainly didn’t disappoint by any means, but was a little modern for my taste. I really love a lot of the basic, classic, simple French cuisine (poulet roti, magret au romarin, etc.) I’m a girl of simple tastes, so a lot of the more modern and experimental food trends are kind of lost on me. Les Cocottes does a great job of walking the line between simple/classic and modern/experimental. The resty’s schtick is that most of the dishes are served (and, I think, prepared?) in little cast-iron pots known in French as cocottes – hence the name of the joint. That aspect of the meal adds a really fun rustic touch that I enjoyed, though I think I would appreciate it a lot more in the cold winter months.
I started with the fresh crab salad with chopped lettuces. It was cleverly served in a little glass, a layer of sweet crabmeat with a touch of mayo-like dressing on top of a bed of chiffonaded crunchy, slightly bitter lettuce. It was cold and refreshing, perfect for a warm restaurant on a late summer night. My entree was crispy cod over carrots and potatoes in a delicious sauce that I didn’t take the time to identify – but I think it may have been bordelaise? The fish was gorgeous – so fresh and clean-tasting, beautifully flaky…fish does NOT taste like that back home. It was prepared skin-on, with a dusting of chopped herbs on top. It was all simply prepared, and though nothing about it blew my mind, it was very tasty. Dessert was the “fabulous Constant chocolate tarte” – and it was pretty fabulous, I must say! The filling was super-silky and dark, somewhere between a ganache and a mousse in density. Crust was a delicate chocolate short dough that complemented the filling without getting in the way. A nice end to a lovely meal and a lovely evening. Bon soir!