Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Way to a Girl's Heart

Through her stomach! That's the saying right?  Girl...man...turns out it's a universal sentiment, and in the case of Chez l'Ami Jean, even with bad behavior, you can do no wrong.  That's right.  We're returning to my favorite restaurant.  And even for me, a record was set this time - 2 times in a week!  Best, week, ever?

I reserved a table for five for a Thursday night because Jillian had two friends in town who were ready to indulge in some delicious French food.  At the mere mention of "indulge" and "delicious", the obvious choice was Chez l'Ami Jean, and Alexa and I were game to join the fun!  And THEN on Monday, the sister & brother-in-law of one of my best friends from college came in town, and they wanted to go here, too!  (Wisely!!)  And so we did. 

But back to the first visit, Thursday night.
I FINALLY got to sit at arguably the best table in the restaurant, the one in the corner with the chandelier, right next to the cartoon graffiti...just another reason to love this place.
We are immediately greeted with a wooden board topped with beautiful ribbons of melt-in-your-mouth jambon cru with a bowl of salted butter hand-churned by butterflies in Normandy.
 It's honestly hard not to eat a whole loaf of bread and butter and ham and just call it a night. 
 Alexa knows.  But bread will slow you down on a night like this.  You just have to be strong.
Shannon's face says it all so well.  And so all our faces looked the rest of the evening, as each new course arrived.  "Ho, ho, what have we HERE, kind sir??" "Why, t'is a delicious parmesan soup, made 98% of cream, poured on top of fresh vegetables & croutons."  "We accept what you have poured for us, good day sir."
By the way, how precious is that little 16-year-old looking waiter?  Well let me tell you, about 10 minutes later, I don't know what he did wrong but Jego, the chef (my bf), was in a TERRIBLE mood, and not only started yelling at this kid across the restaurant but shot out from the kitchen and pushed him straight out the front door!! With another waiter in front him, who just got shuffled out in the frenzy as Jego bulldozed them both through the room!  And when the little guy came back in, he was blinking back TEARS!!  Oh we all just wanted to hug him, poor thing.  Jego was scowling and yelling the whole night, I've never seen him in such a mood before.  And obviously, we're best friends and married, so that says a lot.  

Up next, a perfectly cooked langoustine ("baby lobster") on top of seared foie gras, fennel, & oreilles de cochon, in a slightly spicy broth.
As we ate and talked and laughed, we were all still harboring concern for our precious waiter, all 100% on the little guy's side, all thinking of ways to show Jego that he had acted horribly towards this kid.  Until these came out.
And then Jego became #1 in our hearts once more.  And look...I know we should still be appalled at the chef for flipping out and bulldozing precious tiny boy child waiters out the door in the middle of a busy dinner service.  But you didn't taste these scallops.  And everyone at the table can attest...When we started eating the scallops - you put the whole thing in your mouth like a sucker so you can taste all the delicious buttery wonder-sauce...that's when you know that mermaids made this.

Who even knew that scallops could smell amazing?? 
 Jego knew.  That's who.  The boy waiter didn't know.  He had no idea.

After the scallop course came perhaps the most delicious pork dish I have ever tasted, and we bowed in honor to such a plate as this.

The round of synchronized smelling occurred naturally, and then we danced around the table as a sign of gratitude and appreciation.
There were two cuts - One was like a pork chop and the other like pulled pork, which I could have used a spoon to eat because it practically dissolved upon impact.  I wish I knew how to describe the flavor.  It's like if you bit into something and then rainbows came out, followed by a firework, and then glitter.  Like that?

I need to work on my flavor descriptors if I ever want to be a food writer.

Finally, we have reached the dessert course.
Dessert #1: Fresh, fresh, fresh.  Incredibly fragrant strawberries, raspberries, and red currants, topped with a creamy strawberry sorbet produced by the strawberries themselves on their honeymoon in the Alps.  Topped with crunchy crumbled pieces of pistachio macaron.  And no, I didn't lick the interior of the bowl.  That was someone else, and I told them to stop.  So embarrassing.  People with no self control.
Speaking of Dessert #2 - If you know anything about Chez l'Ami Jean, it can be none other than the famous rice pudding, claimed by all to be the best in Paris, argued amongst many to be the best anywhere period, end of story.  I side with both these groups.  Paris, universe, best.
And, to complete the meal, a beautiful, clean, tasty espresso.  Perfect ending.

...with cocoa-dusted walnuts.

It's love.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Snapshots: 4.30-5.06

First of all, just want to say thanks for all the shout-outs and emails and such in response to my beckoning forth in the darkness to know if my friends are still there.  You are, in fact, there, and my heart is WARMED by it!!  WARMED I say!  Seriously, I love it, it makes me feel like we're having a conversation or I've run into you and we got to say hey, even if you're in D.C. or Nashville or Dallas.  So thanks.  

On to a couple weeks ago, starting with a layover in Madrid...

Monday, April 30th
My day-of-Spanish-eating begins with a cafe con leche & Spanish tortilla (egg & potato omelette).  Perfection.
And ends with what I was craving most...churros con chocolat!
Which was just okay, as you can see.  Never one for moderation, I scraped the bottom of the cup, as if anyone needs to consume that much chocolate in one sitting.  After spending the day eating delicious things, I hopped on a flight back to France.  Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful weekend trip.

Tuesday, May 1st
May 1st is a huge holiday in France.  It's basically their Labor Day, and everything is closed and everyone is off work, and if you DO work in France on May Day, by law you get paid THREE TIMES your regular rate!! (Unless you're on salary like me. Booooo).  The French were out in full force because the SUN, our long lost friend, also knew that it was May Day and decided to make an appearance.  It was glorious.  I needed to have a meeting with one of my guides, Hayley, who was moving to Scotland in a few days about her upcoming schedule, and since she told me she'd be at the Champs de Mars, I thought, "Let ME come to YOU."  And we had the best meeting in the world, at 5pm on a picnic blanket, with wine, under the Eiffel Tower.  Important things were discussed as the sun shined forth.
On May Day, it's tradition to buy lilies of the valley to give to someone for good luck.  I bought one for myself and said, "Good luck!"  Not really, I just bought it because you HAVE TO.  Since I was on bike and didn't want them to get smashed, I tucked them into my messenger bag and rode around with a baguette in one hand and my tiny May Day flower packet sticking out of bag on the side and smiled about how awesome France is.  

THEN my roommates decided to make a freaking huge and delicious sandwich masterpiece!!

Let's get a good look at it from the side.
Oooh...ahhhh.  Polaine bread, toasted in the pan with olive oil, whole roasted garlic, kale, cabbage, avacado, sweet potato and buffalo mozarella eat your heart out people!!  We should probably start a sandwich shop together.  I'll be the tester.

 Wednesday, May 2nd
This is just my little lily of the valley reminding me that spring is here! And even though it's still cold and rainy mostly every day, warmth is surely around the corner!


 Thursday, May 3rd
Okay, I don't want to give away all the goods yet, because this will certainly be its own little report.  But I went to Chez l'Ami Jean on Thursday for the first time since February!  Jillian had two friends in town, and let me tell you, the face that Shannon is making right now - the face that says, oh please pour that straight into my mouth and forget these formalities of bowl & spoon - This is a face that accurately describes the entire meal.  So this is just a little preview of what shall be a more detailed picture fest.
Baby scallop shells that we all wanted to bathe in.  
Nearly every course required a synchronized smelling of incredible aromas wafting forth like the scent of angel wings, if angels were made of pork or scallops.
Eiffel Tower bike gang unite!

Friday, May 4th
Carl keeping the haute Paris fashion even in the rain.

Saturday, May 5th
Eating at the Martinique restaurant, Chez Lucie, while Carrie & Brandon are in town.  Here I am having a peanut.  I couldn't possibly have more.

Afterwards, we headed to Montmarte, the adorable Bohemian area of town where you can find the basilica Sacre Coeur, the Moulin Rouge, and most scenes from the movie Amelie.

For years, I've wanted to go to this place, L'Apin Agile.  It's been around for 150 years, and Picasso and other artists used to hang out here, discuss "What is art?", and listen to artists sing and play instruments.
This is the performer I fell in love with for obvious aesthetic reasons beyond his natural talent.  This place was like stepping back in time, a la Midnight in Paris.  And this guy brought the Cole Porter moment.  More on this later.

Sunday, May 6th
I don't do this very often anymore, because rather than having a bakery right out the door of my apartment, I have to walk 5 WHOLE MINUTES and it's REALLY HARD.  So I don't usually.  All the better, really.  But this morning, I was craving my favorite, chouquettes! And they were delicious.
A new president is elected!  Sunday night is Hayley's goodbye soirĂ©e at Dernier Metro, and the place actually went silent while Sarkozy was giving his "I lost" speech.  Could've heard a pin drop!  
My guide Marcus rolling in the 5€ bills!!  Those are like gold in the office, and he's been holding OUT.

This concludes the first week of May.

Friday, May 11, 2012


The blog thing is weird.  The whole point is to feel like I'm still connected, that people know what's going on in my life, and I'm not just secluded across the ocean with no regular contact with anyone.  But can we just have a quick heart-to-heart on this?  It is just a one-way conversation, talking into a sad, dark abyss.

Echo - echo - echo.


Obviously your blog has a stat page that tells you how many visitors you get.  I know people read it.  I know I'm not typing to nobody.  But no matter what Blogger tells me about numbers...I still end up feeling like I'm talking to a wall.  Off the edge of a cliff.  To myself.  

I'll cut straight to the point - There's this little thing called comments.  And I'm kindly asking you to consider it every wee while.  (Every day.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.)  NOT because I have some kind of ego trip and need people to tell me how my iPhone picture is going to win a Pulitzer, or how I'm so lucky to see the Eiffel Tower when I'm not chained to my laptop working 70 hours a week (till 2am tonight, actually).  It doesn't even have to be nice, you can just say "Potato.", and I'll think, "Aw, it was so nice to hear from Allison."

It's like telling someone a story and then they just stare at you and walk away.  I start thinking, this thing must really suck, I mean it must be a SNOOZER.  I should just stop.  But then someone will email me just to tell me how some post made them laugh, and I'm like awwww.  Okay.

At first when I moved here and started doing this, people would leave comments, and it really made my day.  I didn't care who it was - best friends, people from high school I haven't seen in 10 years, acquaintances from church that I barely even know, it's just great to be connected in some small way.  Although I do love living here, it's still hard to be away from home, family, friends...EVERYONE that I have ever known EVER.  It just makes me feel like it's not so far.

Plus, there's people in Argentina, Japan, Sweden, Russia, places I've never even been, who just need to say hey or something.  I see you.  I see your country.  What I want to know is, who are you??  And when am I coming to visit?? 

It doesn't have to be profound.  You could say "Hi." or "I read this." or "That dog was ugly." or "I like cheese." or "I'm from a country you've never been to, and you should come sail on my yacht in the Agean Sea."  Anything will do.

I'm just throwing it out there.  Please don't make me talk to myself all the time, it's just getting sad.

Many thanks,

Monday, May 7, 2012

Snapshots: 4.23-29

Blown over bike.  Continuing the theme of cold and windy.


Riding through pink!

It actually started raining on us as we were waiting to go up the stairs onto the plane. As if I weren't ready enough to escape the cold and gray. Adios Paris!

...and hola to my new dot location!

The great thing about traveling by yourself is you end up in situations that you would normally never sign up for.  For example, spending your whole vacation with someone you just met, in a toy car.  You hardly want to drive to a coffee shop with someone you don't know, let alone decide to spend your vacation with them in Mallorca in a 3 square foot space.  But Greg turned out to be a great travel buddy.  

Greg is an Australian living in Liverpool who, like me, wanted to escape the incessant cold and rain with a weekend beach trip.  He walked into the cafe where I was having morning cafe con leche with maps spread out in front of me, trying to decide what to do on a beach vacation when it's supposed to be cloudy all day. We recognized each other from the hostel the night before, so he sat down.  After chatting for a while, we decided to go in together on a car rental and explore the island.  And it was great!

Route planning, with a view.


How many people does it take to access the engine of a Smart Car?  Turns out there was no oil in it at all.

 And we're back!

  The island's rugged terrain and dramatic cliffs are beautiful.

Should be a Smart Car ad.

Signs of a good day in my lap: Camera, sunglasses, and free towel, gifted to me by the island.

Absurdly large and delicious sandwich.

 Beautiful secluded beach.

Mountains of sea salt.

Available for purchase

Gorgeous beach #2

And all my Spanish tapas cravings come true.

What's not to like about Saturday??




Repeat question, insert Sunday.