Sunday, May 27, 2007

Last Day in Paris

Our last day in Paris has come too fast. We have a feeling we will be saying that a lot on this trip because of our quick stops in such beautiful cities. I can't say I love Paris like most, but I can say that I like Paris very much....I might be flirting with loving Paris if I had a few more days to experience it. It is a true haven for those who enjoy food, cooking and drinking. The city is built on this foundation. I think the city itself is beautiful, the night life is invigorating, and daily lifestyle seems intriguing. Nicole and I spent our day walking the streets searching out cafes, brasseries, patisseries, boulangeries, epiceries and even found the time to haggle with some artists struggling to sell their unique oil paintings outside of the D'Orsey Museum.

We started the day with yet another toasted baguette from a street vendor in front of the Sacre Couer, the highest point in Paris beside the Eiffel Tower. The place was loaded with tourists and equally African immigrants. These guys were very aggressive and all I could think of was blood diamond as they prevented Nicole and I from passing before knotting our fingers with some cheap multi-colored yarn telling us it was African tradition to make a wish while being suckered into paying 10 Euros for some bracelet that we were going to cut off once we got out of there. We kept the bracelets on until we left the area just so other Senegalese men wouldn't tie us up with their yarn as well.

We jumped on the metro with the intention of starting an urban hike seeking out photos of different restaurants, fish stores, bakeries and other food epicenters. The hike started when we exited the metro and climbed 22 flights of stairs just to reach daylight. Tears dripped from our eyes as we reached the pinnacle and realized our accomplishment. My thighs haven't burned that much since my high school football days.

We bounded street by street taking pictures and sampling what the city had to offer. We visited the fish shop and saw all sizes of shrimp from tiny quarter sized versions with their head on to 1/2 pound shrimp tended to intimidate those that considered purchasing it. We saw callibaud which is a beautiful medium size white fish similar to cod, tiny bay scallops still in the shell, and St. Jacques scallops plump and juicy with their roe still attached.

The boulangerie/patissier was a delight. The smell of fresh bread arranged in baskets and canisters all over the shop seemed more like decor than items for sale. The pastries were enticing as well. I couldn't resist as I picked a banana chantilly that I practically swallowed whole it was so delicious. A thin and tender pate a choux dough filled with banana cream, fresh banana, whip cream and all topped with striations of caramel and chocolate. Nicole tried Le Duo which was 2 extra large profiteroles glued together with vanilla butter cream and one filled with bitter chocolate and the other sweet caramel.

We continued with our photos of restaurants trying to gain inspiration and understanding of what Paris' dining scene is really about. Along this trek we stumbled upon an Epicerie - basically a specialty food shop. This store was like a dream for someone like me. Imagine a store the size of your largest supermarket, but filled with every cured ham made in Europe, every truffle foraged in Europe, every fish, every cut of meat, every vegetable, and every specialty item made in the European Union. I only wish that Los Angeles had a piece of this - a place to buy quality fresh fish, specialty breads, hard to find condiments, and specialty meats. It is one of my goals to bring this to my small town we call the Valley.

We made it back to the hotel and realized that our feet payed to bill of our ambition. Nicole's feet were swollen and I napped for 2 hours. Even so, it was our last night and we had to make it special. We found a highly recommended restaurant nearby that actually still had a reservation available at 10pm. We made the walk to Sinseng, an ultra chic and modern restaurant in Paris' 6th district. The area was busy and filled with young locals. We walked in were greeted cordially by the host. He walked us to our table as we took in the cream colored walls kissed with hologram images of lipstick laden lips and floral scenes. The seating was purple velour and fit in perfectly with the rest of the scene. We were definitely the only English speaking customers so we knew it was a good place. We started with an exceptional "snack". It was a large raw Atlantic clam that was tossed with Jambon de Pays foam, leeks and lemon. All this left in the shell and taken as a shooter. If you could only see Nicole and my eyes light up in pleasure.

Second, Nicole had a crab mousse that she was not too pleased with, but she finished it anyway. She expected it hot, but it ended up being a cold appetizer....something always gets lost in translation. I had the white asparagus with poached quail eggs, Parmesan emulsion and smoked duck pistou. Outstanding! Perfect balance by complimentary flavors. Each component picked up the previous creating a luxurious setting for my palate.

Our main dishes were excellent as well. Nicole raved about her Herb Crusted Veal Loin with Porcini stuffed Macaroni....that's right macaroni stuffed with mushrooms and truffles. This was all finished with a 4 spice infused veal reduction. The veal was tender and the the sauce surprisingly pulled the whole dish together. This received a perfect 10 from both Nicole and I. My dish was creative, but didn't blow my mind. I had a seared tuna loin that was stuffed with foie gras mousse. I have tried this combination before and it proves to be a perfect marriage. The rich foie gras lends the perfect hand to the lean tuna loin creating an enthusiastic finish....which is exactly what I did, finished every single bite.

Dessert was an orgy of chocolate and banana. All this on one plate - chocolate creme brulee, banana caramel, banana ice cream, banana in banana liqueur flambe with lime, and decadent flourless chocolate cake. I'll tell you what, to my dismay, this worked and I couldn't wait to apply something like this in my next kitchen.

Finally, the best part of the evening after various conversations with the waiter and his wonderment of how I understood so many words on the menu, I revealed that I was a chef. He intern invited me into the kitchen and meet the chef. The chef and I were about the same age and he was doing this food out of a kitchen smaller than the Getty's.

Sinseng has been our best meal in Europe hands down, and now, after meeting their chef/owner, I feel even more inspired to go down the road less traveled.

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