samedi, avril 14, 2007

CarlaVisitAgain Day 1: Pho and Salads

So, Carla arrived (mostly) intact this morning at CDG. She managed to overdo her workout regime a couple of weeks ago and pull a tiny muscle that runs over the sciatic nerve. Now she's got sciatica. This is in itself rather inconvenient for her, but the crowning injustice is that she's on a combination of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and smooth muscle relaxants that really restrict her diet. Imagine going to France and not being able to eat delicious things.

Thankfully, Carla had been training herself to eat small portions of dairy and meat and other such difficult-to-digest stuff, so we were still able to eat out. It was just that Carla wasn't able to eat nearly as much of anything as she used to.

So, after dropping off her stuff in her room and taking a moment to shower, we headed off to Belleville for some Pho at my favourite pho-dive, Tin Tin (yes, that's it's name) on rue Louis Bonnet. Although pho does involve some meat, most of it is quite easy on the stomach: broth, noodles, onions, herbs.

From there, we wandered off through the Parc de Belleville, then walked up rue de Belleville back to my place. It was actually a lot of walking, both uphill and down, but Carla found that walking actually helps relieve some of the pain of her sciatica.

That evening, we headed off to Montmartre to eat at the same fantastic salad place that DJ had led me and Sara to last Wednesday. We each had a massive, overflowing bowl of salad, topped with tons of delicious fresh veggies and a lovely vinaigrette. From there, we wandered around Montmartre and Pigalle for a bit, and then headed back home to crash.

vendredi, avril 13, 2007

Desi Arroz Tapado and catching up

Yay! I spent all of today, from dawn till midnight, locked in my room, doing laundry, blogging like a maniac, and otherwise getting caught up. I still have to cut my hair, do the dishes and maybe have a moment of rest, but getting rid of the blog backlog was quite the relief. If you haven't been checking this blog recently, you might not realize that the last two weeks were pretty much written in the last two days. I've been a busy, busy boy.

Rather than bore you with stories of assclowns in the laundry room and endless typing, here's a recipe for what I ate today, which is essentially an arroz tapado made with Indian-style ingredients. Arroz tapado, by the way, is a Peruvian dish that involves preparing rice and ground beef separately (in this case, I used beans), then layering them in a bowl and turning the bowl upside down on a plate. I don't know why, but this little aesthetic turn meant the world to me when I was a kid. It still does, really.

Desi Arroz Tapado


The "Meat"
  • 1/2-cup of butter (1/4 for frying, 1/4 for finishing)
  • 1-2 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 4 medium vine tomatoes, chopped finely (peeled if you have time)
  • 1 tbsp garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated or chopped
  • 2 tbsp of chana dal mix or some other indian masala that you like
  • 1-2 cups of mung beans or lentils (no need to presoak, really)
  • 3-4 cups of water or stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
The Rice
  • 1/4-cup of butter
  • 1 tbsp each of whole spices--at least cumin, but also black mustard seeds and lovage, maybe cardamom too. NOT peppercorns, though...they burn!
  • 1 cup of rice (more if you like, but adjust water accordingly)
  • 2 cups of water or stock


The "Meat"
  1. Melt 1/4-cup of butter and sautée tomatoes and onions until they begin to form a paste.
  2. Add garlic, ginger and spices and wait for garlic to mellow out.
  3. Add beans (washed) and mix to coat.
  4. Add liquid until beans are well covered and leave to simmer.
  5. When the mixture is nearly dry, add more water and simmer again.
  6. Keep on doing this until the beans are soft and break open under the pressure of your spatula
  7. With the mixture still rather dry, remove from heat and mix roughly with a firm spatula or wooden spoon until some of the beans have opened up and created a bit of a paste.
  8. Add water, return to heat and allow to boil down one more time, being sure to stir more often.
  9. Remove from heat, stir in remaining butter and put aside.
The Rice
  1. Melt butter in saucepan and add whole spices over medium heat.
  2. Wait until the butter has stopped frothing and the spices have begun to render their aroma. Add rice and stir to coat.
  3. Add liquid and simmer uncovered until liquid has disappeared. Fluff with a fork and put aside.
The Plating
  1. In a bowl (preferably something smooth, like glass or plastic), lay down alternating layers of rice and beans/meat. the layers can be as thick or thin as you like, but there should at least be 3.
  2. Turn the bowl over onto a dish and give it a couple of sharp taps. The mixture should hold its shape on the plate.
  3. If you want to be really Peruvian about it, add a sliced hard-boiled egg.

jeudi, avril 12, 2007


Well, Sara has left town, I haven't caught up with any of my work, and my sister is arriving Saturday morning. So today was pretty boring. I spent the day at work, swung by the grocery store on the way home, made some mung bean curry, and worked all night.

mercredi, avril 11, 2007

A Last Hurrah

Sara was leaving the next day, so we needed to take her out one more night for a bit of food and fun. DJ took charge that night (in a totally platonic way), leading us to a bistro near Abesses in Montmartre that made HUGE salads. We each had one of these salads (dinner-sized, about as big as your head); each salad had a different combination of toppings, but they all came with a layer of fried garlic potatoes. It was heavenly.

After polishing off our food and a bottle of wine, we headed out for a walk and in search of another drink. DJ showed us the café where all the café scenes for Amélie were shot (they've done some renovations, but they still keep a wall-sized poster to advertise to everyone who will look). After that, we wandered down to Le Moulin Rouge, saw a bit of the red-light district, and then headed up Montmartre again to DJ's favourite bar.

This bar, called Au Rendez-Vous des Amis, is indeed a lovely bar, but it's HALFWAY UP THE STEEP HILL TO SACRE-COEUR. We had to do a LOT of stair-climbing, post-dinner, to make it up there for drinks.

Once we got up there, we grabbed some beers and hung out for a while, waiting for a table to open and trying not to be too catty about the singer-songwriter wailing in the room next to us. After a few minutes, a table opened up and we swooped down on it like the table-vultures we are. A couple rounds of beer later, DJ points out that the bar is known for selling kir by the bottle (well, the "pot" of 500ml), with some pretty wild syrup shots. Sara and I tried the violet-flavoured kir, which tasted like pez at first, but got old after a couple of glasses. Sara was drinking slower than I, so I ended up drinking most of the bottle.

By the time we were done there and made it back to the métro station, the trains had closed for the night. We grabbed the night bus over to République and bundled Sara into a cab. With that taken care of, DJ and I prepared to head home for the night by bus. However, before we did, I finally got a good shot of that "Cry Me a River" sign that hangs over the north-west spoke of the roundabout. I still don't know why it's there and who put it there, but check out these great images:

On the night bus home, we sat near a semi-toothless and very drunk gentleman, who made several attempts to strike up conversation with us. While it wasn't always clear that he was talking to us, at one point he asked DJ, "Where are you from?" "The USA" (I didn't say anything.) "Oh, sorry about that." Then I piped up, "I'm not from the USA," although I didn't bother give any more details.

A little while later, he asked us what we were doing in France. We explained that we were studying, and he asked what. When DJ said "music," man suddenly became very approving, saying "That's very good. Music has no language, no race, no gender, no class, it's..." "...universal," I added, kicking DJ's leg as I said it. While the idea of the transcendent universality of music (the "universal language" cliché) can be very attractive, it has been largely abandoned by modern musicology; the mainline argument--swiftly paraphrased--is that regardless of whether music should be above or outside politics, class, and bodies, nonetheless it is at play in our daily lives, and to think otherwise would be to miss out on how music works in the world around us.

And, as if on cue, he spoke up, "The only universal Americans ever found...was Universal Studios..."

mardi, avril 10, 2007

Another night at Chez Denise

DJ and Sara had tried to eat at Chez Denise (A la Tour de Montlhéry) last Saturday, but apparently it was closed for the Easter weekend. Fortunately, this meant that I could join them for dinner, since I had been busy the Saturday before.

When I called from work that day to make the reservation, I didn't recognize the voice as that of the son of Denise (who has long curly hair, a handlebar moustache, and leather pants at all times). Instead, this rather brisk man told me that I had to choose between two service times: 20h30 and 22h30. Before hanging up, he told me that I better not be late for my reservation, because they will give away my table. This is not the kind of treatment I've come to expect from the place, so I was a bit confused as to what was going on.

I never figured out who I spoke to on the phone (every time I've called to make further reservations, the person on the line has been perfectly friendly and flexible), but dinner at Chez Denise was great as usual. We shared a slab of rillettes and some salade frisée for appetizers, and then DJ and I each got a serving of the mutton and white beans stew, while Sara got the grilled lamb. As usual, both portions of mutton came out in one large ceramic casserole, still hot from the oven. The portions were huge and the dinner turned into a "who can make it to the end?" event. I'm ashamed to say that I beat DJ hands down, although I wasn't able to manage dessert. Sara got a fantastic order of Iles Flottantes (soft unbaked meringue on top of a sea of vanilla cream sauce). After a set of stiff digestifs, we headed out and found our way home.


Sorry Out of Service!

My apologies to anyone who checks this blog frequently and might expect me to have something interesting to post on here. These past few days have seen such a monumental alignment of circumstances, that I've been forced to shunt my blogging duties for a few days. Never fear! I will catch up as soon as I can...

March 29Done!
March 30Done!
March 31Done!
April 1Done!
April 2Done!
April 3Done!
April 4Done!
April 5Done!
April 6Done!
April 7Done!
April 8Done!
April 9Done!
April 10Done!

lundi, avril 09, 2007

Belgian Beer and Mussels

Well, today was Easter Monday, which is pretty much a national holiday in France, so you could assume that very little was going to be open. La Gueuze, however, had saved us on a holiday before, so DJ and I made plans to meet Sara there for dinner and drinks.

There's actually precious little to say about are night that would be interesting to someone who wasn't there. The mussels were delicious, the Belgian beer was fantastic as always, I ordered a lambic that no one else could stomach, and then we went off to Le Bombardier (anglo pub near Pantheon) for another round of beers. Good times.

dimanche, avril 08, 2007

It's not over yet

After the madness that was yesterday/this morning, I crawled into bed and crashed out hard for a long time. However, I couldn't waste my entire day, because that night I had dinner reservations at Au Boeuf Couronné with Sara and DJ. Sara is a colleague and friend of both DJ and I, and she was in town working on a project. This, of course, meant that we needed to go out every night and eat somewhere. DJ and Sara had already eaten out the night before, while I was wrapping things up with Kristy and Iyn, but now I had joined the gastronomic fray.

Au Boeuf Couronné is the last of what used to be a long row of meat-centric restaurants that faced the abbatoirs and meat markets of La Villette. La Villette has now been turned into a large park, filled with museum-like attractions like the cité de la musique or the cité des sciences. Unfortunately, this meant that most of these restaurants lost their easy supply and copious audience, so most of them shut down. Au Boeuf Couronné, however, seems to be doing decent business and maintaining a very well-decorated restaurant. The place overall looks like an upscale bistro.

For appetizers, I took the escargots, while Sara had Os à la Moelle (bone marrow, served with bread) and DJ had something that slips my mind (any thoughts, DJ?). For main dishes, I had a hanger steak done with a bordelaise sauce, while Sara had a strip steak and DJ had a duck breast. By all accounts, all the meat was delicious, although I think we all agreed that the bordelaise sauce that came with my meal took the prize. I can't clearly recall what we had for dessert, which is probably a sign that I need more sleep.

After dinner, we headed over to the Auld Alliance in the 4th arrondissement (Marais) for some fine scotch. By the time we had downed a few of those and a pint of beer each, it was time for us to head home. We walked Sara back to her hotel, then walked back to Châtelet and caught the night bus back to our place.