Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Joey G's Mac N' Cheese

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

For some reason Mac & Cheese focused restaurants are still a thing. Impressive considering it was a trend that started a handful of years ago. I'm not a big mac and cheese guy. Don't get me wrong I usually order it as a side when eating southern type plates of food but it's not something I crave regularly or make in my own kitchen. Still I recently decided to check out the new Joey G's.

Newly Opened in Ukrainian Village 

What caught my attention at Joey G's was a chili mac special that the menu said was available once a week. I like a good batch of chili mac and wanted to try theirs but they discontinued it so I settled on  taco mac and cheese. The idea here is they offer mac and cheese in a bunch of different ways many of which have been seen before. They also have sandwiches that they mix meat and mac for but those seem like big time carb bombs. My Taco Mac on the other hand was actually pretty fun. It had their creamy mac and cheese on the bottom with all the fixins' of a gringo taco on top. Each order comes with a couple pieces of garlic bread. It seemed to be popular with families who had kids that attended the grade school next door. Service was friendly, food was well done. Bring the kids.

Taco Mac & Cheese 

Joey G's Mac N Cheese
2351 W Augusta Blvd
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 917-3333
Website

Monday, September 18, 2017

BienMeSabe

-Grubbing in Chicago 
Where the MLB Players Eat

Fall is here and so is another Cubs playoff push. It's a good thing Willson Contreras is back because in order to repeat you need pretty much everyone on the field while peaking at just the right time. Speaking of peaking Bienmesabe on Montrose seems to be on top of the mountain. The Venezuelan restaurant is not just a favorite with locals of the Ravenswood area but it's also a hot spot for MLB players from both Chicago teams as well as visitors in town to play them. It's a taste of home for the games Pan-American born players. Shout out to Cubs' Contreras and White Sox Sanchez for the rec.

Locals favorite in Ravenswood

BienMeSabe is casual but it's definitely more upscale than your average arepa or papusa etc joint. I dont know the exact number of Venezuelan people living in Chicago but the fact this is one of the city's only Venezuelan restaurants hints it's not that large. However when it comes to Venezuelans and Chicago baseball there's definitely a connection with players / managers like Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Zambrano and the aforementioned Willson Contreras. There's also a significantly high number of Venezuelan born MLB players and at the back of the restaurant you'll find a wall with the signatures of all those who have dined in at BienMeSabe. On my visit we sat next to the Pirates Sterling Marte.

Who's Who of Pan-American Born MLB Players who like to eat at BienMeSabe

The star of the show at BienMeSabe is the arepas but they do have a big menu of plates many of which remind the baseball players of home. If you dine in during lunch you can get a nice deal of an arepa with an order of empanadas and also a drink for $10 or something like that. My only problem with that is the fact the big boy arepas aren't included in the options just single meat choices.

Empanadas at BienMeSabe 

The empanadas will remind you alot of the Colombian version of this Latin American favorite. They come coated with a cornmeal like crust and fried. They're delicious. But like I said the reason to check out BienMeSabe is the arepas. This is another Latin American favorite. I remember the first time I tried an arepa was from a Venezuelan food cart in Puerto Rico. I've loved them ever since. BienMeSabe makes a large version that will put you on the couch quick. For me the best filling for an arepa is the Pabellon Arepa which comes with shredded beef thats fried mixed with black beans, plantains and Caribbean cheese. It comes served in the traditional corn flour pocket and it requires two hands to eat it. Eating here reminds me of South Florida which is a place I enjoy to eating out.

Pabellon Arepa at BienMeSabe

BienMeSabe
1637 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 549-5538

Monday, September 11, 2017

Eating BIG in Paris

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Eating and Exploring the Worlds Culinary Capitol 

Hard to believe it but S'C'&C is ten years old. Time really does fly. 1000's of restaurants later I'm still enjoying being the city's top food scout. I like to think my writing has gotten better over the years but the truth of the matter is I'm not a writer but just a guy that LOVES both food and exploring. What better way to celebrate than to feature one of the best cities in the world to eat and explore. Paris.

Pics from Paris (click pics to enhance)

Today's post is a combination of two trips put into one. The truth of the matter is I didn't visit Paris by choice but rather by chance. I never had the urge to visit Paris, I'm not really sure why but there was always other places high my list. Despite it being one of my parents favorite places to travel added with the fact it's one of the worlds great food cities I never took a deep interest in this city until we decided to check it out on a return flight from Cape Town. We were supposed to travel direct to Chicago after our Honeymoon but our travel plans were scrapped and we were given the option to fly to Atlanta and wait there for 20 hours or to fly to Paris and wait there for two days. We chose Paris.

Pics from Paris (click pics to enhance)

The rest is history as we fell in love with the city during our late November trip so much so we returned not even a year later. Of course it helped that we were given vouchers due to our unforeseen travel circumstances which allowed us to return for free. On the rebound we would end up doing five days in Paris with a side trip to Lyon in between. So what did we fall in love with on the first trip that made us so eager to return the next time? Everything! This is without a doubt one of those spots that everyone should see at least once. You truly dont know until you go. Something electric is in the air.

 Pics from Paris (click pics to enhance)

Of course the atmosphere and all that is amazing but what about the food? That's what I live for. We all know about the French bistros and Michelin starred restaurants but what I was quick to learn about Paris' food scene was just how international it truly is. So much so it would be a waste to go there and only eat French food. If you dont indulge in the city's ethnic bounty you didn't do it right.

Pics from Paris (click pics to enhance)
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L'As De Fallafel

We start right away with one of the ethnic eateries I already mentioned. On our first trip in we arrived at a time in between lunch and dinner. Thus we learned that almost all French restaurants close in between servings. So if you're hungry around this time the international spots are where you'll need to look towards. Since we were staying in the Marais we weren't far from one of Paris' most famous non-french eateries. I'd remembered L'As De Fallafel from the Paris episode of 'I'll have what Phil's Having' and I knew it was going to be tried on our first trip to Paris. We'd arrive to lines. But they move fast.

Falafel at L'As De Fallafel

L'As De Fallafel is a totally kosher restaurant located in the Jewish section of Marais. It's the type of spot that can make going vegetarian for a day an easy task. It's a popular place and rightfully so. They stuff fresh pita bread with their extra crispy falafel and then you get to choose from an array of Middle Eastern sauces and vegetable toppings. It's not an easy sandwich to eat but Chicagoan's experienced with eating a beef will have no problem leaning forward when chowing one of these. We enjoyed our sandwich so much we stopped back for some falafel on the rebound back to the hotel.

Falafel Sandwich
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Le Jardin d'en face

Our first meal out in France wold be decided by a good friend of mine who's lived in Paris for about five years. His dad being from France he grew up speaking the language and was a huge help in getting reservations and more importantly deciding which wines to order with our meals. Le Jardin d'en face is a small locals type spot in the Montmarte neighborhood. It feels like France as soon as you step inside. We started out with a charcuterie plate that was top shelf as far as my taste goes.

Charcuterie Plate

Everything on the plate from the pork sausage to the beef tongue was great but as always the pate stole the show. When paired with cornichons I could eat that stuff all day. Moving onto the mains they had a selection of about 8 different entrees and all of them sounded good on a cool November night. The clear winner of them was the duck tartiflette that my friend had ordered. This is a popular dish from the French Alps that mixes potatoes with reblochon cheese and onions. At Le Jardin d'en face they layer some smoked duck breast on top. It's rich enough to share but you wont want to do that.

Smoked Duck Tartiflette

I settled on the pork steaks in a cherry like sauce. Normally I'm not big on mixing fruit with meat but the waitress convinced me to try this dish and I wasn't upset in doing so. The filet of pork was cooked a tad too long but the quality of the meat was still very apparent. Anyone that's traveled to France knows the mashed potatoes there tend to be extra buttery and extra delightful. Theirs no different.

Filet Mignon of Pork with a Cherry-like Sauce

The ladies each decided to get the whole pan fried fish dish of the evening. I have no recollection of what the exact fish was but it was an excellent plate of food. The fish was cooked to perfection and the bones slid right off. After dinner we walked over to the hill overlooking the city followed by wine.

Roasted Whole Fish
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Mobilis in Mobili

After a tour of the Eiffel Tower (first trip) we decided we were hungry. She wanted mussels and we had a place nearby. Mobilis is a sleek looking spot known for serving fresh seafood. During the first few hours of the day they have a nice deal that gets you a pound of mussels with fries, and a free drink for something like 10e. The plump mussels hit the spot as did the warm air. We also enjoyed a creamy seafood soup that may or may not have been included with the deal. Not bad for a snack if near.

Mussels and Frites at Mobilis in Mobili
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Aux Tonneaux des Halles

One of the things I wanted to make sure I did the first trip was eat steak and frites. The dish is said to be losing some of it's luster as it was once one of the most iconic eats of the city's French bistros. So I read lots of spots use frozen fries which was a surprise. That said the always reliable David Lebovitz had an old article recommending a few spots for this dish. I guess that some time after that article was written the place was sold. Still the steak I had at Aux Tonneaux des Halles hit the spot.

Steak and Frites at Aux Tonneaux des Halles
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Sanukiya

Since our first trip was totally spur of the moment there was little research done. Our plane from Cape Town to Paris had no wifi. I just had to explore on the fly. One thing that surprised me was the heavy presence of Japanese food and culture found in Paris. I took a stroll through one of the areas loaded with Japanese restaurants and this place called Sanukiya caught my eye, not only bc it was open, but also bc the udon looked terrific. I strolled in and was met by staff and patrons most of whom seemed to be Japanese. Udon hasn't gotten quite as popular as ramen but it probably should be. This was by far the best bowl I've ever sipped. Big thick udon noodles with a wonderful texture floating in a bowl of potent broth. The shrimp tempura on top of the bowl were perfect. Not cheap but terrific.

Shrimp Tempura Udon at Sanukiya
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Little Red Door

Seeing as how Paris is a trendy city in of itself it's no surprise to find an abundance of cocktail bars around town. But find the good ones is a little trickier than it is over here. The Worlds Best Bars is a list that mentions Little Red Door as one of the finest bars on the globe. It sits on a quintessential Paris street and has fooled many people including we. The actual red door is not a working door, the entry is actually to your left when facing it. We sat there knocking on the little red door until someone walked over and opened the actual entry door. Which they said happens all the time. Stupid Americans. Drinks here were pretty good, but the menu itself stole the show. The cocktails are created after famous paintings and the drink is supposed to mimic the art in taste and presentation.

Menu (with pull out card featuring recipe)
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Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes

With it being the end of November around the time we really wanted some hearty food. Enter cassoulet. It's pretty much the perfect cold weather dish. But where does one go in Paris for the good stuff? A couple recs led to Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes and we werent far from there so we scooted over for dinner. Because we didn't have a reservation we wont in early and just got a table. A couple that came in after was denied as the place started filling up with large groups of mostly locals.

House Pate (served with a big jar of cornichons)

We got a starter of the housemade pate and at first thought they may have brought out two orders as we each got a plate with a huge portion sitting on it. Nope they just split it up for us. This was the best ground pork dish I ate in France to date. Maybe it was because it came with a big ass jar of cornichons which I love paired with pate. There was some deep flavors going on. They split the cassoulet for us as well and again it might has well have been two separate portions. This place is basically serving family style plates which is why there's tons of large groups dining in. The cassoulet was as good as advertised. There was lots of smoked duck breast and sauce but the biggest flavor bombs were coming from the beans. Every table had a bowl and rightfully so. To me there are not many dishes that are more French than a big bowl of cassoulet. If in Paris and it's chilly out, eat this.

Cassoulet at Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes
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 Le Petit Vendome

This place popped up here and there during my searches including one of which was for the best French Onion Soup in Paris. I actually walked in here for a sandwich earlier in the day but decided to save it for later that night. While the atmosphere was wonderful the French onion soup was just ok. In fact I didn't have a good bowl in France. Maybe the good stuff is a thing of the past. Wonder why if so.

Escargot (top) French Onion Soup (bottom) at Le Petit Vendome
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La Poule Au Pot

With the clock striking Midnight our time in Paris was winding down. Not wanting to let go we decided to check out one of the city's many late-night eateries. In places like Chicago our late-night eating spots are places like taco stands and maybe a pizza by the slice type place. But in Paris you can pretty much get a classic French meal at any hour of the night. The industry people have to eat when they're off and places like La Poule Au Pot cater to both them and the tourists. Despite arriving after midnight the place was packed and we were given a table downstairs squeezed in amongst some Chinese tourists. We ordered wine and I decided I had to have a plate of bone marrow before bed.

Bone Marrow at La Poule Au Pot
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This ends our first trip we took in November but we'd be back shortly thereafter as we got vouchers due to the fact we did not get what we paid for as far as flying home from Cape Town to Chicago. Having done the main tourist things on what was a our first trip we had plenty of time to eat and drink upon our return. As always I had an attack plan and I was eager to go to war upon our return.
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Bistro Des Augustins

The tartiflette that we ate on our first trip had me hankering for more on our return. I looked around and came across this little bar popular for their gratins. Not exactly the same as tartiflette it's still the same basis with potatoes and cheese being baked until bubbly. Judging by the Tripadvisor reviews Bistro Des Augustins seems to be a popular tourist spot and part of that might be the fact they stay open all day and dont close in between lunch and dinner. During that transition time we decided to get a gratin and I wasn't disappointed in it at all. They have a list of different options and the classic Nicoise style made with ham, mushrooms, anchovies and aforementioned potatoes and cheese was a no-brainer. This was classic French comfort food and something I will recreate this winter.

Gratin Nicoise at Bistro Des Augustins
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Les Enfants Rouges

We had a handful of dinner reservations for our return trip. Lucky for me one of my good friends lives in Paris and he didn't mind dealing with my annoying requests for him to call the restaurants I was hoping to eat at. Les Enfants Rouges is a small little bistro that was on my radar and the fact it was literally around the corner from our hotel made it the perfect place to eat on night one. The kitchen here is manned by the owner Chef Daï Shinozuka who is a French citizen of Japanese descent. For whatever reason many of the spots that spoke to me happened to be ran by Japanese chefs. There was a cool article about this in the NY Times last year. Les Enfants Rouges does a tasting menu for dinner and it switches with whats good at the market. Here's how we ordered.

Asparagus with anchovies a la fleur de sel, creme, strawberries (she)

Veal Kidney with brown sauce, soft boiled egg (me)

Starting off with the entrees (which are appetizers in France) she went with an asparagus and anchovy dish at is was peak asparagus season. I decided to go offal and get a veal kidney dish. I'm still not sure why I ordered that as it's not something I seek out so to say. Still though it grew on me with each passing bite. The gravy was so flavorful and the egg cooked perfectly, when all mixed together it was actually pretty memorable. I got a little taste from her plate and of course it was great with quality of the produce evident. Service was swell and came with a genuine smile all night.

Tuna with peas (she)

Steak with Sauce (me)

For our main courses she went fish and I went steak. Honestly I wasn't in love with my choices but a steak was something that sounded pretty good at the time so I wasn't upset with my choice. She liked her dish just fine but mine was really good in that comforting sort of way. It may have been late Spring but this was something I can see trying to recreate on a cold winter day as the sauce was to die for. I dont even think they asked me how I wanted the meat cooked but it came out medium rare.

Strawberry Shortcake (she)

It's not often that dessert is my favorite course but it was at Les Enfants Rouges. She had a strawberry shortcake that was good but the star of the show here is the rhum cake. I'm pretty sure it's always on the menu. I read about it and it's deliciousness and remembered to order it with my meal. I was told if I wanted it I needed to tell them at the start of dinner as it takes some 30 minutes to prepare. At first it tasted like straight booze but as it sat it mellowed.I stuffed my face with it before asking our lovely waitress what type of French Caribbean rum it was that they used. Killer.

Rhum Cake (me)
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Song Heng

For those unaware Paris has a huge connection to Vietnam thus many people in Paris come from a Vietnamese background. When the people of one country move to another they always bring their food with them and Paris is littered with Vietnamese eating options. One of the most popular Vietnamese dishes in Paris is a dish called Bo Bun. While it has Southern Vietnamese roots it's basically made Paris it's home. Cold rice noodles are served atop lettuce, mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, while carrots, crushed peanuts, and lemongrass marinated beef go on top of the noodles. It's common to throw a fried spring roll into the bowl after dousing it with nước chấm.There's old school spots where they've been making this forever and there's newer hip spots specializing in it as well. Song Heng is an old school place that specializes in it and pho as those are the only two things on the menu. It's a small space that can sit 12 people max so even if you get there early like I did you may wait. This was one of those things I knew was going to be good before I was even in Paris.

Bo Bun at Song Heng
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La Buvette

I love the small simple spots and perhaps no place fits that description better than La Buvette. It's a one woman show and there is no kitchen yet both the service and also the food were memorable. On top of that the wines were wonderful. Items to eat such as a bowl of white beans come from a can yet they sit in a fantastic olive oil and get some fresh lemon zest before being served. They were one of the best eats of this trip. No joke. Smoked tuna from a can was the exact opposite of a can of Starkist. La Buvette will be on my hit list for every Paris trip I make from here on in.

Food and Wine at La Buvette
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L'ile aux Bokits

Always on the prowl for something I wouldn't find at my homebase I came across a place selling bokits. Before I tell you about said place let me explain that a bokit is considered a sandwich in it's home country of Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean. I was gifted a French Creole cookbook and in it I learned of the Bokit which is kind of like a gordita. It's fried bread and meat goes inside it's pouch. I was surprised to find Paris had a few places selling these popular beach treats. L'ile aux Bokits was a place specializing in them and I just had to go try one. You choose the filling and I went with salt cod and some crunchy carrots as well as a side of "chien" sauce which is a magical condiment used all over the island. Tasty. I'm pretty sure you will not find this sandwich in America.

Bokit Sandwich from L'ile aux Bokits
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Le Barav

On our second trip we wanted to stay in two different places. So for our first three days in Paris we chose to stay in a different section of Le Marais than we stayed at our first trip in. It was pretty much perfect and part of that was the fact Le Barav was down the block. We found it when walking around the first night in town and noticing it's lively crowd of locals. We ended up stopping in a few times including once for a cheese trey and some day drinking. I found the people in the service indutry to be mostly pleasant while in Paris and Le Barav was no exception. They were very happy to help us find what we wanted both on the bar menu and also in their wine shop where you can buy bottles to go. A plate of meats and cheeses paired with some perfect French wines is a perfect way to unwind.

Meat and Cheese Plate at Le Barav
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 Les Arlots

Our second dinner of the trip was at another place I was able to snag reservations at. Les Arlots had just been written up in the NY Times right around the time I was searching for spots. It caught my eye and seemed like the type of place I was looking for while in Paris. A down home bistro where the chef takes a real liking to the local bounty of meats and vegetables available in Paris. This is definitely a locally loved spot but it's also a place that the tourists who do their job find.

 Local Oysters

The menu at Les Arlots is ever changing with whats good at the market on that day however some things remain a staple. A starter of some French coast oysters was delicious but I will say I prefer American and Canadian water oysters to those in Europe. But then again what do I know.

 Saucisse de Arlots at Les Arlots

The signature dish at Les Arlots is Saucisse de Arlots (seen above). This is a housemade pork sausage that comes served over some straight crack mashed potatoes and topped with gravy. It's a simple bistro dish that turns something that's usually a double into a grand slam. Delicious.

 Crispy Pan Fried Local Fish over Stir Fried Veggies at Les Arlots

We also had the fresh catch of the day which had my name all over it. Though I dont remember exactly what species of fish this was I very much enjoyed the prep of it. It was pan fried until crisp and went over a mound of snow peas which has been my favorite stir fry vegetable since youth. Though I normally dont go in on dessert we knew better than to skip this course while in France. They happened to have strawberry shortcake type plate on the menu and she was all over this.

Strawberry Shortcake at Les Arlots
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Bontemps Patisserie

I found this place while searching Paris' best bakeries. The fact it was around the corner from our hotel meant we would check it out one morning. Bontemps specializes in the sable biscuit. I dont claim to know much about baking etc and I wasn't even sure what the sable biscuit was or even is. But I knew from the glowing reviews that I was going to stop by and try some shortbread biscuits. A look into the display case reveals a small sea of them. Upon doing so I found myself in a panic as to which ones I would try. I was tempted to get one of each but there was so much more to eat. Sigh.

Display Case at Bontemps

It was strawberry season while we were in France and I'm always going to go strawberry over chocolate (unless it's strawberry and chocolate) so I opted for all the fruity looking ones. I still dont know exactly what these little treats were but holy shit were they delicious. I will one day return.

Mini Shortbread Biscuits at Bontemps
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Pics from the Place de la Bastille (Must Visit Sunday Market)
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Clamato

One of the hottest reservations in Paris for a while now has been for Septime. I flirted with the idea of getting a reservation there but quickly came to learn of their younger sibling restaurant while investigating. Clamato is what it's called and it's no reservations and seemed a bit more my style. Seeing as how this was a lunch stop for us I was happy with the decision. We ended up having one of the better meals of the trip here with everything that we ordered being better than good. Not only was the food fantastic but the place itself was extremely well decorated. I'd rec this spot to anyone who loves seafood. Honestly as far as all the trendy seafood spots out there go, this is good as it gets.

 Line Caught Tuna Tartare

Fish Croquettes

Horse Mackerel Carpaccio

Roasted Artichoke

Baby Clams
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Urfa Durum 

One of the international spots that kept coming up in my research was this little Kurdish sandwich stand on Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis. The more I read about it the more I wanted to try it. So I made sure I got over there. Urfa Durum means something along the lines of delicious and bc this place is so damn delicious it's created spawns. I saw other spots rocking the Urfa Durum name so be careful and make sure you go to the spot seen up above. Another sign you're at the right spot is you will almost certainly see a line. Urfa Durum is a two man show with one guy rolling out dough and then baking it while the other grills the meats over live charcoal while making sandwiches. Get the lamb skewer sandwich and you will be rewarded with one of the best wraps anywhere. Must stop.

Lamb Skewer Sandwich at Urfa Durum
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Restauration Delices

The entire strip of Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis is filled with international dining options. Everything from Mauritian food to Turkish. I spied this Turkish place above and liked the look of their doner kebab and decided to go in on one. I'm pretty sure Restauration Delices is a dime a dozen type place in Paris but man the doner in Europe is so much better than the stuff we have in the States. It's like night and day. This would probably be the best damn doner kebab in the USA but in Paris it felt like it was just another spot doing it. I'd eat these things weekly if I lived in Europe. Love them.

Doner Kebab Sandwich at Restauration Delices
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Le Comptoir de Relais

Another night of patio dining. God I love Paris. We didn't have a reservation on this night so for our first stop of the evening we rode an uber over to Le Comptoir for some food and drink. We managed to snag a seat outside on the patio just in time as others who arrived after us were denied. It might not be every last place but I'd say 3/4 French restaurants get packed on a nightly basis, obviously these are the good ones. Not only is the food at Le Comptoir considered good but the people watching outside also makes it worth a stop. We wanted to try the popular cochon de lait dish and it seemed like half of the other people eating there did as well. Safe to say those of eating this knew what was up. Suckling Pig wrapped into a filet like steak served over a bed of lentils swimming in pork broth.

Cochon de Lait at Le Comptoir de Relais
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Au Pere Louis

On to the nest stop of the evening. She wanted some Cassoulet on this trip and we found a spot we thought looked good. Au Pere Louis is definitely a locals bar with some down home cooking. The place was packed and everyone was speaking in French. The vibe was pretty much as good as it gets. We only had to wait maybe 20 minutes for a table and got to do so at the lively bar which was stocked with all sorts of wonderful French wines. This place had a bit of a Wisconsin style Supper Club with a French feel going for it. It felt like a party in an old house. Everyone was jolly.

French Onion Soup

On top of the endorsements of the Cassoulet there was also lots of love for the French Onion soup. I dont know, my mom makes a better version than this one as well. It wasn't bad but it didn't have that intense beefiness going for it. Average French onion soup is nothing to get excited about. The good news is that while their cassoulet was average compared to the place we went to on our first visit, it was still better than most anything I've had over here. In fact this might be my favorite French dish.

Cassoulet at Au Pere Louis
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Abri Soba

here we have what might have been the best meal of the trip. At least one of  my personal favorites though I'm certainly not the only person out there that loves Abri Soba. This is yet another place run by one of the city's young Japanese chef's. The guy who runs this place burst onto the scene with his modern bistronomy at Abri which is one of the city;s hottest seats. We wanted to go to Abri the Saturday we were flying out but time wouldn't allow for it. If you are in Paris on a Saturday Abri does a limited number of Pork Tonkatsu Sandwich's that are said to be the stuff of legend. One day I'll get over there to try it but this trip in we went to Chef Katsuaki Okiyama's Japanese style soba house and we were not disappointed. I've never been to Japan but places like this make me excited to visit.

Karagge (Japanese Fried Chicken), Tamago (Japanese Omelette), Mizuna Salad, Seaweed Rice

Our wonderful Japanese waitress only spoke that and French but she was so helpful in pulling up pictures and making sure we were on the same page. Best service of the trip. Each meal at lunch comes with a salad, bowl of rice, and your choice of Japanese style fried chicken aka karagge or a Japanese style omelette aka tamago. The meal would immediately start out with a bang as both the karagge and tamago were the best example of each dish that I've ever ate. This was just the sides.

Cold Soba with Duck Breast in Dashi Soy Broth at Abri Soba

When researching Japanese spots in Paris I knew I was headed here as soon as I saw the duck breast soba. I was thinking about this and the pic I saw way to much leading up to our trip. Thus it was perhaps my most anticipated stop. Well there would be no disappointment whatsoever. I cant pretend to be a soba expert as it's a dish I've only had a few times but you could tell by the Japanese crowd as well as that perfectly cooked duck breast paired with noodles being made right there in the open air kitchen that this was a special order of soba. She got the hot version which comes with the buckwheat noodles already in a hot bowl of dahsi soy broth while the cold version I got packs an extra chewy (in a good way) punch. You dip the cold noodles into the hot bowl of broth that comes on the side. Thinking back to all the meals we ate I would give this place the highest score from top to bottom as far as food, service, wine, and also decoration. It was pretty much a flawless place.

Soba Served Hot with Duck Breast at Abri Soba
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 Chez Toinette

Having gone to Lyon while in Paris we decided to stay elsewhere upon our return from Lyon. We spent the final two nights of the trip in the Moulin Rouge district which is near Montmartre. My guy Mike Sula from the Chicago Reader told me about a couple of classic Paris haunts he liked on a trip about a month before mine and it just so happened I'd been to one (Le Jardin d'en face) and liked it and the other, Chez Toinette, was a short walk from where we were staying. Thus it was dinner one night. We were ale to walk right in and put our name down for a reservation around 9p. From what I could gather this place is popular with tourists but it's also about as Parisian a restaurant as we tried.

 Lamb Shank

I was excited to finally get some foie gras up in me but then I learned they were out of their popular plate of it this evening. The menu isn't all that big and I didn't want steak so instead opted for a lamb shank while she rode with the duck confit. Both plates were great but that confit was so good she insisted we return the following night for more. I thought this place was a real winner and the type of spot I can see people returning to time after time for a well cooked French meal consumed in a classic Paris atmosphere. It reminded me of my buddy's dad's old place Cafe Bernard in Chicago.
 
Duck Confit
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Le Petit Canard

Since our time in Paris was winding down and I had yet to get some foie gras I dedicated the next stop to doing so. Le Petit Canard was a place I found while looking where to get some near us. It seemed to perfectly fit the bill as it's a cute little bistro specializing in duck. Fresh foie gras is properly seared and comes served over a little biscuit with glazed apple slices surrounding it. It turned out to be exactly what I needed. The type of dish I could get three plates and call it a meal.

Foie Gras at Le Petit Canard
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Traiteur Libanais

I walked over to this place on the busy strip. I glanced at the display case and noticed some beautiful beef kebab with all sorts of herbs mixed in it. I suddenly realized another reason Middle Eastern is better in Europe and it has to do with food prep. None of the stuff here was pre-cooked they didn't start cooking the food until an order was made. This is kind of place I'd frequent were I a Parisian.

Kefta Kabob Wrap
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Le Grenier a Pain

This place wasn't originally on my map but she had heard about it and it was in the Montmarte 'hood we were staying in. Little did I know Le Grenier a Pain would end up being my favorite bakery visited this trip. She found them bc they've won the best croissant in Paris award a few years back. The reason this place was my favorite was the wide selection of fresh bakes goods. Of course the croissants were fantastic but they had so much more going on. Here's a peek at some of the stuff. 

Pics from Le Grenier a Pain (click pics to enhance)

On my first visit in I noticed some gnarly looking bakery pizza sitting on top of the counter. I went ahead and added a slice to my order of treats. Holy shit. I didn't think bakery pizza would be one of the best things I've ever ate but I shit you not when I say this was one of the best baked anything's I've ever come across. It was described as having lardons and reblochon so it was basically a French slice of bakery pizza and it was as good as any Italian style bakery pizza I've tried. I made sure to return the next day before we headed over to the airport. I went with one rotisserie chicken sandwich and a tuna salad, both money, as well as a bag of croissants that traveled well from being so fresh.

Bakery Pizza at Le Grenier a Pain
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Restaurant yam'Tcha

This might've been my most anticipated meal of the trip. This was bc of the simple fact that of all the spots we were eating at this was the one I was most familiar with. I decided I wanted to dine here after watching Head Chef / owner Adeline Grattard in an episode of Netflix's acclaimed series 'Chef's Table'. The food in that episode really spoke to me. I loved the concept of using French ingredients with Chinese technique. This partially came about due to the fact Chef Grattardis married to a man from Hong Kong and his idea of food wore off on her. Yam'Tcha actually has a tea pairing they do with food that features amazing teas mostly from China. With the help of my aforementioned friend we were able to snag a lunch reservation towards the end of our trip. We arrived to a beautiful space.

Amuse Bouche

Lunch had two different menu options with both of them being completely different. Due mainly to the fact the smaller of the two menus sounded better we each decided to get that. Price might have played a small roll as the larger of the two menus was in the triple digits with only a couple extra dishes being involved. An amuse bouche of kale salad with a handmade spring roll was the start of a great meal. The kale salad in particular which sounds so boring but was made to taste fantastic.

Raw Tuna over Japchae

The first course was a stellar one and something I could eat everyday if not for the fact I'd probably die of mercury poisoning. This dish was probably the most Asian of them all with the Korean japchae noodles being topped with pristine pieces of raw tuna. Some freshly chopped cucumbers brought lots of freshness to this almost flawless dish. This was what I was hoping for after seeing the episode.

Fish Dish at yam'Tcha 

Man I'm bad at remembering the stuff I ate and I never seem to take a pic of the menu, though I dont think there really was a menu. Just an option for which lunch you wanted. Whatever the case I dont quite remember the exact details of the main course but it was a piece of flawless fish sitting atop some mushrooms with fresh shucked oysters mixed in. Whatever it was I didn't want to ruin the beauty of the dish as it was presented. Though the real art was in the flavors. For dessert we enjoyed a really flavorful housemade gelato featuring France's bounty of fresh strawberries in season.

Strawberry Gelato at yam'Tcha
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Chez Tof

Since we had lunch reservations on this day I didn't get anything for dinner. We just decided to play it on the go. I forget what type of sightseeing we were doing but afterwards I looked at my handy google maps guide and looked at what spots on it were around us. Chez Tof was around the corner so walked over. I was hesitant after sitting down in an empty restaurant around what seemed to be a popular dinner time. But nonetheless we decided to stay and order a couple of things. A starter of some sauteed baby squid was actually just what we wanted. We both said it took us back to Seville.

 Baby Squid Dish at Chez Tof

The reason Chez Tof was on my list was bc of their literal potato salads. I saw pics of these big plates of salad with lardons and the usual such stuff on top but also sliced potatoes. It was good food porn. Further investigation taught me that this is a place serving Toulouse style food. There's some good stuff coming from the capitol of France's southern region and they specialize in those dishes at Chez Tof. One of the most popular dishes of Toulouse descent is Toulouse style sausage. I've had it from different hipster butcher shops here in the States but never in France so we got a plate of that.

Toulouse Sausage at Chez Tof
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 Ma Biche

I had mentioned how she wanted to return to Chez Toinette for more duck confit and we did so on our final night. However we arrived to a wait and we told an hour or so which was fine bc I wanted to check out another spot around the corner. We walked by Ma Biche the night before while awaiting our table for Chez Toinette at a hyper local bar next door. It seemed to be a real popular spot with the 20/30 something Montmartre crowd and I loved the fact they had people outside watching an old movie on the projector while sipping wine and such. We were able to get a two top rather quickly after inquiring as to the wait time so we decided to sit down and have some drinks and snacks.

House Pate at Ma Biche

I needed to get one last order of housemade pate and a plate of razor clams was calling our name. The pate was great, as always, but I particularly love the spots that include cornichons on the side. The plate of razor clams was cooked in some sort of citrus juice and because of that they had a very citrus almost Caribbean like flavor profile. As far as food, and surroundings go, this was classic Paris.

Razor Clams at Ma Biche
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Notes: That's it for this trip! If you would like to use my google maps Paris food guide feel to do so by clicking HERE. On it you will find all the places featured in this post as well as other spots that were on my radar that I didn't get to try. Maybe next time. Thanks to all for ten years of checking in.

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