Saturday, January 27, 2007

On the insistence of my boyfriend...

who appears to be more invested in this blog than me*: I am back in the States for now, I will return to France temporarily sometime this spring and for all future vacations, the permanent move will be coming in the next year or so. I will no longer be posting or moderating comments, except for when I am back in France [edit/update: or feel like writing about French stuff].

Thank you to all who have read or commented on this blog and I hope new visitors enjoy the archives. (A good starting point is the index.)

*Our conversation this morning:
Boyfriend: Hey, how come you haven't posted on your blog?
Etienne: Umm, I'm not in France anymore and that blog was about Paris.
B: That's so sad. I really liked it.
E: Awww aren't you sweet.
B: Then you need to say goodbye. For the people who read it.
E: It's just a blog. Why do you care so much? You never even wrote that post about Segolene Royal for me!
B: But they need to know!
E: Fine.

EDIT: 3 quick things even though I promised no posting from the US. 1) I was forced to go Beta when I wanted to moderate comments; it appears that things have remained as they were, thank goodness. 2) I can't help but feel like I got kicked off the show! I know I've left Paris...but still. Can't there be a "distinguished alumni" category or something? ;) 3) Thank you for the sweet comments, but really, I won't be gone for long: if all goes according to plan, I'll be back to blogging about life in Paris sometime in 2008. And besides, there is no shortage of Paris blogs if one does have a Paris fix (hint: look at the sidebar)! And I recently discovered Mavis Gallant, which will hopefully help me out in this department.
OK. The end! (for now)

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

l'Ami Schutz

L'ami Schutz, the picture of modesty and restraint, was the Winstub I chose to try out another Formule Jeunes, an annual Alsatian promotion offering special set menu prices for customers under 35. Assuming that participation in this promotion was a sort of stamp of approval from Etoiles d'Alsace, I happily made reservations here. Not comparing it to a starred restaurant, but expecting hearty, satisfying, Alsacian dishes, boy did I strike out with this one. If my post on Au Crocodile qualifies as "food porn" then this post can be compared to the Billy Madison version of food porn (who could forget classics like "Drunk Chicks" and "Women over 80"). Are you ready?

As soon as we were seated we were brought coupes of Crémant, a regional champagne wannabe, and toasts topped with smoked salmon. I started with la salade de cèpes à l'ail aux aiguillettes de pintadeau tièdes. While apparently this was thought out in advance, given its mention on the website, at the time it just seemed like they were trying to get rid of all the leftovers in one plate. Some excellent cepes, hot and saucy, sitting on a bed of not-so-fresh chopped endives and walnuts, surrounded by raw-on-the-inside young guinea fowl. The boyfriend started with a very unphotogenic slice of fois gras, which he enjoyed.

Next comes the main dish. I was so looking forward to having deer again, after falling in love with it at the Crocodile. I knew that this would be no comparison, but I was still very disappointed: the first time in France I have ever had medium-well meat!The side on the right is squash puree, which was delicious in spite of being slightly crunchy on top. In the middle are beets, which I didn't touch, and to the left are spatzle, which were nice and greasy, just the way I like them. The deer was still tender in spite of being cooked a bit more than I would have preferred, but I couldn't stand the deceivious gravy: not the normal gravy I expected, but a poivrade au chocolat et raisins, the chocolate being the most noticable and distracting flavor, and the grapes being, well, the grapes thrown on the plate.

The boyfriend got the fish choucroute, with which he was pleased, and the presentation was beautiful:
Next come the desserts. Aye. The restaurant is not all to blame since I made a dumb mistake in ordering. I read kougelhopf glacé to mean iced kougelhopf (a traditional Alsatian brioche-like pastry) rather than, in fact, vanilla ice cream in the shape of a kougelhopf and drowned in alcohol: From the photo the lake of alcohol in which the ice cream was sitting is not clear; it was everywhere, and even ruined the gavotte off to the side. The boyfriend got the pineapples n'everclear combo, which even he, good Frenchman and vino (same thing, aren't they?), could not finish.
Re-reading this makes it seem like either my boyfriend lucked out or I picked all the misses. Perhaps one meal isn't enough to form a conclusion but I will most definitely not be returning (of course, I will soon be leaving and wouldn't have the chance to return even if I wanted to). We paid 36€ per person for this meal, wine pairings for each course and digestif included, so it could've been worse...but still.

l'Ami Schutz
1 Ponts Couverts
67000 Strasbourg
03 88 32 76 98

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007


L'épicerie is the sort of adorable, cosy cafe you turn to when you need to warm up, want to meet friends, or just need a quick bite to eat. Tucked in a prime location, on a small road between the main shopping areas (Galeries Lafayette, Place Kleber) and the Cathedral, it took three tries on three separate occasions before I was able to get a table and experience the goodness for myself.

And my, what goodness. I couldn't contain my shock when the waitress brought out this huge bowl of hot chocolate; I had been expecting the usual dainty cafe portions. Would it surprise you to learn that I couldn't finish it all? Unfortunately I had arrived too early to be hungry and have an excuse to try one of their tartines, though the goat cheese one was calling to me.

But not to worry. I returned a few days later with the boyfriend, and while it was still too early for me to even think about food, he ordered two tartines. He started (!) with the tartiflette tartine, which deserves an exclamation of quelle violence, especially before noon:Cheese, pototoes, and lardons smothering the bread...I would just go for the real thing instead of the delusion that I'm eating the lighter "sandwich" version.
His next tartine more closely resembled an actual sandwich, with a spread of peppered rillettes:But I've been spoiled by the rillettes from the Grand Epicerie and these just couldn't compare.

The extensive listing of tartines:And the wines to go with:
The only thing annoying about this place is its own success: it is always packed. It becomes difficult to sit and quietly enjoy your drink or food when all floor space is occupied by hovering, impatient vultures vying for seats.

6 rue du vieux seigle
67000 Strasbourg
03 88 32 52 41


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ou est Chirac?

In French, the Where's Waldo? books are renamed Où est Charlie?. For the French political version of this children's classic, let's see if you can find Chirac in this photo (bonus points if you can guess his final ranking out of ~100):
And see if you can find the current prime minister Dominique de Villepin, the socialist candidate for president, Ségolène Royal, and the head of the French socialist party, François Hollande, in this one (again, bonus points for guessing their final rankings):



Friday, January 12, 2007

Au Crocodile

On a side street off of one of the main squares, Place Kleber, lies the only two-starred restaurant in Strasbourg proper, Au Crocodile. Last night we had reservations there and we had an amazing time. And thank your lucky stars, because I have pictures of everything we ate except the first amuse-bouche.*

We were first served the obligatory palate cleanser, which in my case was more of a gag inducer because I wasn't ready for the extremely cold temperature: it was a mint and lemon sorbet that had been flash freezed with liquid nitrogen! Ouch! And the quantity, a large dollop, was fixed on the spoon so I didn't have a chance to test the waters before downing it. I was still recovering when we were served our first amuse-bouche, the tiniest gamba brochette standing in a dish of minced cucumbers, peppers, and olive oil, and leaning against a speck of endive. Given the tiny proportions I felt like I was a child again, having my own make believe tea party with my miniature tea set. Don't take this as a complaint: it was delicious.

We next had squash soup topped with a squash tuile:Mmmm...squash soup is one of my favorite winter dishes, and the lardons hidden at the bottom were a great addition. We had a glass of champagne to accompany all of these amuse-bouches.

Next up was the foie d'oie, lightly cooked and served with a mango chutney and a glass of Pinot Gris Vendages tardives.I can't stand the taste of any type of fois so I couldn't really appreciate it. But with the appropriate proportions of toast and mango chutney, I was able to get a few bites in before turning it over to the boyfriend. The topping you see is two strands of chives balanced on the star anise.

Afterwards came one of my favorite foods, scallops, served on a bed of risotto and accompanied with a glass of Riesling. So good. There were tons of little veggies in the risotto, and I think I even tasted a pineapple. The red sauce around the plate is massala.

Then bambi, served with Domaine de la Chaume.This was the first time I have ever eaten deer, and it was so good. I know I suck - I just say that everything is good. But how can I explain it? So tender, so rich, with the slightest hint of orange in the wine sauce, it was better than any steak you could imagine. I never eat red meat, but I would order it again without hesitation (though one pitfall of trying out a new food at a starred restaurant is that any following experiences probably won't compare). The fromage blanc dumpling off to the right was yummy (I'm a sucker for dumplings), but I didn't eat much of the pear because I wanted to savor every bite of the deer.

And finally we have arrived at dessert. We first got a preview of things to come with this delicately layered mousse.Rasberry puree on top, whipped fromage blanc in the middle, and an incredibly bitter cherry puree at the bottom that I couldn't touch it made my mouth pucker so. We had a gorgeous glass of Gewurztraminer Vendages Tardives to accompany all our desserts. I'm no good at wines: I should have my boyfriend do the commentary on them to provide you with actual insight. This being said, Gewurztraminer is one of my favorite wines and this was probably one of the best glasses I have ever tasted. So sweet, so fresh, you couldn't even taste the alcohol.

Then came the real dessert, a layered black and white chocolate mousse served with pistachio ice cream and a small chocolate and raspberry.This was the weakest dish of the entire evening. Nothing seemed to go together, and nothing was even that great. Disappointing. I didn't like the white chocolate mousse so I had to dig out as much chocolate mousse as I could before the top layer caved in (I know, elegant). And you see that green sauce framing the plate? Don't be fooled and assume it was mint, like I did. It is tarragon! Maybe someone can explain this randomness to me.

Next came this lovely platter, as delicious as cute.On the left were macaroons. I don't like macaroons, even though I have tried them at all the must-dos (must-tastes?) in Paris. But these were a little bit different because the filling was more creamy and buttery than ones I have tasted before. Not enough to make me suddenly like macaroons, but enough for me to finish one. Next to the macaroons was a chocolate bowl filled with peach puree. Simple and delicious: perfection. Second from the right was what looked like a green millefeuille. I really had no room in my stomach, but the boyfriend refused to try it for me, and I couldn't let something like that just sit there, so I had to take a bite. (Yes, that's it: I was compelled.) It was some type of pear and almond pastry. I didn't finish it. And on the far right is the straightforward crowd-pleaser, raspberry tart.

And our final dessert was this chocolate assortment, accompanied with a glass of kirsch.
And now here comes the kicker, where your mouth is guaranteed to drop open when I tell you how much we paid for this technically 4-course dinner with wine pairings and including water, coffee, and the digestif. 86€ per person. What a deal, thanks to the association Etoiles d'Alsace and their annual promotion, La Formule Jeunes. November through April, there are five two or three-starred restaurants in the region that offer similar everything-included 86€ menus if you are under 35. The only catch is that you have to tell them you want it when you make the reservation, and certain restaurants might have limits, like no Saturday nights. The same association has two other categories of restaurants with lower price points, and if you are coming to Alsace soon I highly recommend you check out the website for ideas. All of the other menus are available on Au Crocodile's website if you want to get an idea of the "normal" prices, which would start at roughly double of what we paid.

Before boring you even further I must mention the matriarch, Monique Jung, a petite woman in a blaring red 80s power suit who made the rounds throughout dinner. We could see her bobbing through the main dining room, visible by her updo from almost any point in the restaurant. What a character. I must almost mention the decor, which was so kitsch it made me cringe. Strands of white feathers hanging from the lights, sparkly and white everywhere - it seems like the wonderland that would result if my 8-year-old cousin was in charge. But this was still an amazing experience that I will never forget. And I have about a decade left to take advantage of the Formule Jeunes, so you know I'll be returning!

Au Crocodile
10, rue de l'Outre
67000 Strasbourg
03 88 32 13 02

Reservations required.

*Sorry if the pictures are dark - no flash because I didn't want to annoy everyone.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Today I went out to preview the sales for tomorrow. I did it more on accident than on purpose -- I had a legitimate errand to run, thank you very much -- but I couldn't help and take a look around once I was there. Not only were the stores dead, you'd think I'd entered a construction zone! There are no elves to work the magic overnight: the sales staff has worked well in advance in preparation of tomorrow, and today involved just the final touches. At Printemps there were barricades evoking crime scenes, while Galeries Lafayette employed the "saran wrap" technique:I wonder what would've happened if I had tried to open it...

I have some more Strasbourg sights for you as well.
The chestnut stand near Place Kleber: The first day out I had to buy a bag. Am I the only one who can't even finish the smallest size bag of roasted chestnuts? I stood outside the Phonehouse store eating them slowly while the boyfriend looked at shiny new mobiles, and an old man even complimented me on how I ate the chestnuts with style. I offered to share but he declined. Who knew there was a stylish way to shell and eat roasted chestnuts? If you need tips, just email me ;)

A pain au chocolat, Strasbourg-style:See what I mean? The perfect amount of sugar - just enough to be there and to be tasted, but not too much to be overwhelming or gross for breakfast. Yum.

The appropriately named Rue des Tonneliers (or, the appropriately-made mosaic):
I had to take a picture of this old lady rockin the emerald green wool suit with a fur, well, much more than just a collar, that's for sure. And yes, I'll admit it, I did (do) lust after it.

Da Canal and da boats:
The nativity at St-Guillaume:

The end!

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Monday, January 08, 2007

The Strasbourg Canal

With a lazy Sunday afternoon ahead of me, I had the perfect opportunity to participate in one of my favorite activities in Strasbourg: feeding the swans in the canal! First stop was the bakery pictured at the left, which is just across the road from the canal. A few years ago this was my absolute favorite because of the sweetest old ladies that used to work there, and who used to give me as much free stale bread as I wanted to feed to the ducks. I didn't see any old ladies this time, so alas I had to actually purchase the bread. But the pain au chocolat I had was as good as ever, and much different from the ones I usually had in Paris. In Paris the best pains au chocolat were light, buttery, flaky and sometimes even slightly crispy. Here in Strasbourg the pains au chocolat all have the slightest sugar glazing and are soft and sweet. Different, but just as good in their own right.

So, with pain au chocolate and baguette in hand, we head down to the canal to the swans.
And for the first time ever, I took some video clips and are posting them here! I have got to say, I think this will also be the last time because it is such a pain to upload them, and the quality is so crappy as well. At first I signed up for Youtube but I was really disappointed with the resolution and the size limit; I next turned to Google Video which seems to be slightly better but still takes forever to upload and process. There has got to be a better way...right? If you have any tips, do share.

The first video is about a minute long, and you get to hear my boyfriend narrating in his best old lady impersonation. The swans are the meanest animals ever, and while I didn't get any of the good fights on video, you get to see them snapping at each other nonstop. The seagulls are also really annoying. There was a lone pair of mallards that would always get worked by the seagulls, and even when we tried to feed the younger swans the seagulls would always win. Bastards.

In this shorter video (~30 sec) you get to see the lone, loud, grey goose scare off all the swans and the seagulls with his honks and grunts. He was awesome. Notice how the swans keep their distance.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Strasbourg, Ville de Lumiere

So. I made it! And here are some belated photos of the remaining Christmas lights.
Here you can see the cathedral just behind.
And I love this shockingly bright and blue tree in the middle of Place Gutenberg. In the background you can see a crepe stand, where I bought my first nutella crepe in 2007! Surely as important a milestone as any.

I love Strasbourg, but maybe not so much in winter given the weather and the hyped-up touristy feel to everything. Thanks to the EU and the Christmas market, prices are generally on par with Paris, so it's not like you can eat better and cheaper just because you've escaped Paris. But more on that to come. Right now I'm recovering from a lethal 2 for 1 happy hour-tarte flambee a volonte-combo sort of evening. Ah, Alsace.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Le Petit Chateau d'Eau

Le Petit Chateau d'Eau is my favorite bar in all of Paris. There is the sweet owner, Jean-Robert, who will tutoie you as soon as you walk through the door, but it is Frieda who truly runs the place. Frieda is Jean-Robert's dog, and she presides over the bar to annoyance of some of the bartenders and a few of the patrons. She lounges in the doorway, forcing you to walk over her and only budging to bark at skateboarders; sprawls on the floor between tables, making life difficult for the servers; and of course if you are eating something she finds appealing she will jump right up on the bench, quite gracefully for her size, sit next to you and gaze at you with those deep brown eyes until you give in. Though one dog roaming free might be enough, in the late afternoon the bar often resembles a "colonie de chiens" (the words of a school-age patron) due to the regular presence of Taureau and Vanille, two terriers whose owners stop by daily, and of course my dog.

Later in the evening, however, most of the dogs have cleared out, Frieda snoozes quietly behind the bar, and Le Petit Chateau d'Eau is transformed into a typical bar in the 10th as it is filled with the bobos: typical offerings, typical prices, typical clients. I think it might have an identity crisis since during the day and at lunch it is filled with the neighborhood grossistes (clothing wholesalers, like the guy you see carting the boxes in the photo), but in the evenings the bobos take over. Though perhaps this could describe that entire corner of the 10th. Once we were talking to the owner and he showed us a good review from a few years back, wistfully explaining, "This is from when we were successful." But it always seems to be packed in the evenings as well, so I don't know why he seemed so nostalgic.

We go back because we like Frieda and the owner is always so nice, and it is usually our first stop on a night out or even just after a long day. But Le Petit Chateau d'Eau also has some unique touches that set it apart from your average corner bar: there are the original fixtures and tiles, slowly crumbling away, and there are always enormous, gorgeous, fresh vases of flowers, which are a strange touch in a dingy bar (but I'm not complaining!). Last summer a TV was added so you can go there to watch football games now as well, and they do have a small menu for lunch, though I have never eaten there. You should keep it in mind if you are ever in the area.

Le Petit Chateau d'Eau
at the intersection of Rue Chateau d'Eau and Rue Lucien Sampaix
75010 Paris
M: Republique, Jacques Bonsergent
Closed on the weekends.


L'etat des lieux

So. Happy Holidays, people.

I had meant to update throughout the holidays, but real life got in the way of blogging. Imagine that. I'm still not sure if I'll post the photos from my trip home or my most recent travels. And then finally, after new years we had the pleasure of doing the exit interview of the apartment- the état des lieux. Which, honestly, was not as bad as I thought. The agent was really classy, really professional, and it passed by much quicker and was much less painful then I expected. I say this before receiving the deposit back, for which I will have to wait 2 months, so perhaps I will have something different to say then.

I will, however, say my goodbyes. It was wierd, the morning before I left Paris, just walking around the neighborhood and trying to soak it all in. I know that I will be back, and perhaps next time even for good, but it is still hard not to try to capture it all and save it as I know it.

Paris changes so quickly, and my 'hood especially, that I can't even imagine what it will be like when I next return. Will the same pharmacist, baker, and bar owner be there? What will be replaced, go out of business, or get renovated? And what about my neighbors, and their dogs?

Goodbye Apartment Across the Way. (Which sadly seemed "closed for business" on my very last day) Goodbye Building. Goodbye Street. Goodbye Canal. And just a detail of the tents for those of you who are curious about Les Enfants de Don Quichotte: And I had even, for the first time ever, tried out the video function on my mobile to take a clip of the train pulling away from the train station, to have a goodbye Paris moment. But the quality is so crappy and it looks so bad blown up on a computer screen that I can't bear to post it here.

I have one last post to do on Paris, on my favorite bar of all, Le Petit Chateau d'Eau. I have meant to write about it so many times and just can't put it off any longer. And for the next few weeks I will be in that Alsatian paradise - Strasbourg! - and I will definitely be posting from there. And then finally, the end, back to the US for me, at least for now.

Bonne Année et à bientôt!