Sunday, January 27, 2008

L'autre salon de the

Or, the tea salon that could've been.

This tea salon had everything going for it. A plentiful display of every pastry or cake imaginable as you walk in; a menu with pages and pages of different types of teas; cosy interior; chic clientele and waiters that were even more chic. I was ready to compare it to Demmer's in Vienna (the ultimate tea salon) or even Sketch in London.

But then I realized it was too cool for its customers.

After we sat ourselves, cleared our own table, and grabbed our own menus from the stack near the back, it was a good twenty minutes before someone came by to acknowledge us, much less take our order. I was ready to walk out after ten minutes of being ignored, but my boyfriend replied guiltily that we had to stay -- he had to use the facilities.

So stay we did, where we were treated to utterly contemptuous service. My favorite moment was when my boyfriend ordered a cappucino, reading directly off the menu. The waiter replied snidely "we don't do that." Then why is it on the menu? Yes, the tea was fine. But I can't say I enjoyed it. I had to get up to grab my own napkin, sugar and cream from the table in the back. Other customers were equally frustrated. At one point, the manager came through and doused the entire room in what smelled like Chanel No.5. Whether or not you like Chanel No.5 to begin with, it is certainly disgusting when it gets in your mouth, drinks, and on your food. Other diners began to cough, and you could hear people hissing "mais c'est degueulasse." I had been ready to leave for a long time, but after that I was outta there.

As we were leaving, an attractive gay couple came to take our seats. I warned them not to bother, explaining that the service was non-existent, and I was happy that they trusted me enough to walk right out of there. This place could be amazing, but if it continues to treat its customers like shit, there will be none left.

If by chance I went on a particularly "off" day, here's the address for you to try it out.

L'Autre Salon de Thé
45, rue des Tourneurs
31000 Toulouse
05 61 22 11 63
M: Esquirol



For anyone who cares (or is still reading this blog): the Hermes store in Toulouse has a few Birkin bags in stock; sizes/color/leather/price vary.

For people like me, who wouldn't be able to afford such a bag even 2 years from now (the longest wait possible in Toulouse depending on what you want), this news is no comfort.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

You can't deny the French this: they have a sense of ritual when it comes to coffee and tea. Even dingy bars, still reeking of their smoking years, will offer a proper pot of hot water complete with cup and saucer and sugar cubes. So this doesn't always happen, and sometimes you might just get lipton yellow instead of a choice of teas or infusions. Compare this to the unromantic steps needed to have tea stateside: you pick out your tazo tea from the dispenser near the cash register, the cashier hands you a paper cup of hot water, and then you grab your sugar and plastic striped stirrer from the dispensers by the trash. Where's the fun in that?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Le Chalet

In my original post on Ax-les-thermes, I mentioned the springs, the ski slopes, and the casino. But another good reason to spend an afternoon there is the bib gourmand restaurant and hotel, Le Chalet.

Le Chalet has a couple different menus. There is the weekday lunch one, which is a deal at 22€ for 3 courses; a 2-course choice from the menu for 26€; a 3-course choice for 30€; 4-courses for 36€; a 4-course menu "decouverte" for 45€; and a 5-course menu "suprise" for 48€. These are all available on their website, I wasn't feeling ready to take on three courses and decided to get a main dish and dessert, while R went for all three.

As soon as we were seated we were brought a platter of breadsticks, pastry puffs, and dip. Unfortunately the pastries were gone by the time I remembered to snap a photo (proof of their success, I suppose):
Afterwards we had the amuse-bouche, an emulsion of potatoes and cepes. Frothy and delicious!
R started with the pot-au-feu with beef, topped with a nice portion of foie gras.

I had a pot of earl grey while R made his way through his entree. I know the waiter looked at me funny when I requested it, and what blasphemy to have a pot of tea in the middle of lunch, but I had a cold!
Afterwards we both ordered the lamb. Here we had our disagreements. I preferred the small pot on the left, the lamb confit. Very tender and tasty. R preferred the lamb in the middle, because it was a better cut of meat and not as fatty. But neither of us liked the side dish of beans, which was terribly bland.
For dessert I had the Ile Flottantes with lemon sorbet and a citrus soup. Perfect for someone with a cold! But an odd choice for a winter menu; it seems like this type of light dessert would be much more refreshing -- and appreciated -- in the summer. It looked so beautiful, topped with the dried slice of orange:
R had the Cafe Liegeois, which was layers of brownie, coffee ice cream and creme chantilly. A very elegant sundae indeed.
After our desserts were cleared, R had cognac (he insists that I mention it was a Remy Martin XO -- his favorite) and we were brought this final platter of sweets. So cute! From top to bottom: mini-caneles, pate de fruit (either blueberry or blackberry, I can't remember), and caramel lollipops.
To accompany our meals R had ordered an excellent bottle of Madeira red wine, and we had some local sparkling water -- the only kind they serve. The total came to about 100€, and we were very pleased with the food, the presentation, the service, and especially our nice window table with a view of the hot stream below. The only low point might be the limited menu -- only 3 each of entrees, plats, and desserts, but the other gourmet menus might make up for that.

Le Chalet
4 Avenue de Turrel
09110 Ax-les-Thermes
Reservations recommended.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008


We have been exploring l'Ariege and Midi-Pyrenees slowly but surely, making daytrips or afternoon visits here and there. Last weekend we went to Ax-les-thermes, which is known mainly for 3 things: the hot springs, the ski slopes, and the casino. Even though we did not partake in any of these activities, we still enjoyed our afternoon there.

Springs, fountains, and spigots with the hot spring water are found all throughout the town, hidden in inconspicuous walls or featured in more central locations. We didn't have an appointment at this spa, but we did dip our feet in the public wading pool near the casino:
And even though we didn't go skiing, we did have a fun time riding the cable cars up to the lower ski slope, Bonascre. Minus one stomach-dropping moment where our car stopped for a few minutes at what felt like the highest point. Unfortunately this region has not really had much snow this winter, and the ski slopes and area businesses are feeling it.
We had a fabulous lunch at Le Chalet, a bib gourmand restaurant, but that is another post entirely.

And finally, what would a Saturday afternoon be without a Nutella crepe?
Ax-les-thermes is cute enough, with winding streets and elaborately decorated crepe stands, and I really enjoyed my afternoon there. If I ever go back I will be sure to research the spas in the area! Plan on about a 2 hr train ride from Toulouse. The cable cars are about 6€ roundtrip to get to the first point, Bonascre.

One last photo, of the Casino:

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Sunday, January 06, 2008


We recently spent an afternoon in Mirepoix. Besides the church, and the cute buildings in the center of the town, there's not much to see or do. There aren't even any bars or restaurants worth mentioning! Still cute and still worthy of an afternoon visit.