My (2-week) Life in France

La Belle France

After some substantial Eurostar hell, after the stress of finding an alternate route to the distant shores of France (along with +30k people), and after eventually arriving in Paris a few days later than planned, my winter life in France turned out to be wonderful, as usual. I just wish it could have been for longer than 2 weeks.

In the end, we had about 1.5 days in Paris before we headed up to see Mrs. LF’s family in Normandy. In those 36 hours or so, we managed to sample treats from Ladurée, Fauchon, Gérard Mulot, Pierre Hermé, have lunch at a traditional neighborhood bistrot (Chez Janou, on the edge of Le Marais), and dine in what is possibly one of the finest restaurants in the world right now (but that will be covered off in a later post).

Once in Normandy, we had our traditional Christmas dinner in a many centuries-old farmhouse in a remote village with a warm fireplace, followed by lunch there again the next day, and then a very enjoyable New Year’s Eve meal (and dancing) at a newly relaunched restaurant in Caen.

I hope you enjoy my little photo-diary post. It certainly was a delicious and fulsome trip. As always, you can click on any of the images for the full-resolution versions.

Le Menu de Paris

~ Petit-Déjeuner à Ladurée ~

Le Breakfast Room Upstairs at the Rue Royal Branch

Mrs. LF decided on Le Petit-Déjeuner Ladurée while I ordered a few pastries. It was all a bit expensive (as one would expect), but this was one of the better Chausson aux Pommes I've had, and the Kouign Amann - one of my favorite French pastries, and one that is hard to find here - was to die for!

Mrs. LF had an amazingly thick and luscious hot chocolate, while I opted for coffee - I thought the little silver pot of sweeteners was cute

Trading Paper for Pastries

We didn't have any (because it was breakfast time & we were already stuffed) but we spied some of their beautiful macarons on our way out down, heading down the stairs

The usual beautiful decorations within the Galeries Lafayette department store. We shopped the rest of the day & then had our special dinner (not covered in this post), so no more food photos from Day 1 - sorry 🙂

~ Pâtisseries de Gérard Mulot ~

I always try to stop by Gérard Mulot in Rue de Seine to sample some of their wonderful bread or pastries. So, the next morning we opted for some breakfast pastries from Mssr. Mulot & took them to a nearby café to have them with our morning caffeine injection - an inspired idea indeed

The amazingly tempting window of Gérard Mulot in Rue de Seine

Le Pain

L'étoffe petit-déjeuner

Les pâtisseries

I love this photo & it reminds me of my coffee and brilliant bready breakfast morsels from Mr. Mulot (we took them to a nearby café in the French way)

~ Déjeuner Chez Janou ~

My favorite barman in London, Alessandro Palazzi from Dukes Bar in Mayfair, had highly recommended this neighorhood bistrot (they have over 80 varieties of pastis, which is why he may have heard of them), and after Oliver Thring reported that he had a good meal there a few weeks prior to our trip, we figured we'd stop by to warm ourselves after looking through the shops of Le Marais and the art galleries of Place des Vosges

Yes, over 80 types of pastis, impressive...

They have posters from Marcel Pagnol's plays/movies on the walls and it really has a great atmosphere - I mean, if Gregg Wallace had been there, he might have said 'It doesn't get more Parisian than this' 🙂

Starter: Salade d'endives, Sauce au Bleu et Noix - a really nice simple salad to start things off

Main Course 1: Sauté de Lapin aux Olives & Pommes Fondantes - this was a classic bistrot dish that was well done, the sauce was very moreish and the rabbit delicious

Main Course 2: Filet d'elingue, Sauce Citronnel, Riz Pilaf - Mrs. LF's dish was also solid bistrot fare, a very good dish all in all

Dessert: Poêlú d'ananas et Mangue à la Vanille et Lait de Coco - a very refreshing end to the meal, and a great deal overall (they had a 3-course lunch deal for €12.80, not bad eh?). Included in the lunch were also some very delicious marinated olives before the starters arrived and a basket of dried fruits and nuts that were presented with the bill. Tres excellent!

On the way out we spied some of the many pastis (and other liquid treats) they had at the back side of their bar (which wrapped around and had two sides) - cool place & glad we paid a visit

~ Macarons de Chez Pierre Hermé ~

Alright, the moment had finally arrived. After having breakfast pastries from Mssr. Mulot, we went to pay a visit to the shrine of macarons that is Pierre Hermé. I have always been a loyal devotee of their rival, Ladurée, and was curious to try out what are meant to be the best macarons aorund. It looked more like a fancy shoe shop or something like that from outside. Me likey 🙂

Yes, here they were, finally, all arranged beautifully in the little chic boutique - but which ones to choose...?

And there were some beautiful cakes too - but too big for 2 people walking around Paris

They also had some interesting looking pastries, like this Isfahan Croissant, which I would *assume* gets its name from the famous Iranian region & maybe as it has rose flavoring or something like that (?). We finally tasted the macarons on the train ride up to Normandy and they were unbelievably good. I had previously been a proponent of Laduée, but Mr. Hermé's definitely have the edge: they have more filling, the texture in the middle is a tad bit goo-ier and they have some amazing & original flavor combinations, which appear to change with the seasons (somewhat). I am so glad this guy is finally coming to London in February 2010!

Le Menu de Normandie

~ Building up to the Big Day ~

So, we took the train up to Deauville in time to make it for dinner on Mrs. LF's mother's birthday...and were greeted with bright blue Norman skies - here is a typical house from old Deauville

Hotel Normandy Barrière, smack-bang in the center of beautiful Deauville - it has recently been upgraded to 5 stars, apparently

This little dog (yes - he is real) achieved a small measure of twitter fame when I posted pictures of him a few weeks ago. He was really the cutest thing I've ever seen, and was the mascot of a cute little shop in Trouville. Apparently, when the owners take him out for a walk, he decides where he will be taking them! Cheeky little thing 🙂

~ The Big Christmas (Eve) Dinner ~

We began the annual ritual of Christmas dinner late on Christmas Eve (as is the tradition in France) in a centuries-old farmhouse in a village of less than 100 people with a roaring fire and many presents under the tree. Equally as traditionally, we started with some foie gras, which was accompanied by a lovely jelly. It was very high quality & delectable

The accompanying Jurançon wine went beautifully with the foie gras, a much lighter and less cloyingly sweet wine than the traditional Sauternes, with a brightness and acidity that kept me coming back for more

After the foie gras, a turkey was presented in the middle of the table, after which a bit of chaos ensued

The turkey, which was courtesy of the farm next door, was served with a lovely stuffing and some of the best potatoes in the world - after all, they were from Mr. & Mrs. G's garden right outside

We had a nice little bordeaux to go with the poultry main course, it went down smoothly (quite a few times)

And of course, being in France, even though everyone was stuffed by this point, we had to have some cheese...luckily there were some amazing ones on offer from the region

Which of course necessitated some baguettes

But that wasn't all. You see, Mrs. G has a little Christmas tradition, it's called her secret cake. In fact, it seems to be used for most occasions, as her grandchildren request it for their birthdays and other celebrations. We all love it and look forward to it. And Mrs. LF has finally gotten the recipe after some crafty maneuvering . It is a very Norman cake, as it is essentially 5 tons of butter, layered together with a token bit of coffee flavor added. That is well scientific, innit. But seriously, it is veeeery good. And just look at that cute decoration...

A close-up of that buttery goodness

My 'petit' slice 🙂

The aftermath of the christmas cake - poor Frosty got caught in the fray...

Ah, did I mention we went through a good deal of Champagne both before and during the festivities? (Evidence above)

And so it was, our lovely Christmas Eve celebration...but wait, that's not all...

~ The Big Christmas (Day) Lunch ~

The next day we returned to do it all over again, and we were greeted by Mr. & Mrs. G's striking feline

We were warmly welcomed by the family and then plied with a fresh platter of smoked salmon...

...and meat...

...and the left-over wine...

Putting it all together

...but then realized that this wasn't even the main course...THIS was!

I had a visit from the cat, she was hungy for left-overs too 🙂

~ Indulgences Between Christmas & New Year’s ~

In the intervening period between Christmas and New Year's, Mrs. LF and I visited old friends and indulged some more...and some more...this was some champagne we had at a friend's house, which he said was his favorite (the only one he drinks). It was rather nice - anyone ever heard of it?

The same friends had prepared some homemade foie gras as well (it's all the rage right now in France), which was lovely with the champagne

As some of Mrs. LF's family lives in Caen, we spent a good deal of time there too...this was a nice shot of one of the many churches (it was soooo bright there during our trip)

I was quite proud of this shot taken from a back-alley in downtown Caen

After all that walking in the cold, we were hungry and decided to go to an Italian place which was packed (when most other places were empty) - it turned out to be a good decision & this was my HUGE turkey escalope w/ pasta (where did they think they were, America?), which was very good & satisfying

Mrs. LF's very satisfactory pizza from La Buona Tavola in Caen

I really liked the little bowl they served the parmesan in - it looked like the skin that usually encircles the rind

And my petit café to get me through the rest of the day

Another night, we went for a couscous with friends in Deauville - it's called Restaurant Berbère (www.berbere-deauville.com) & they served some of the best couscous I've had - look at the beautiful snow-like couscous, it was feather-light & amazing!

The main courses were beautifully presented & really delicious

The meat fell off the bone and was to die for - yum!

~ Images from Another Year’s Passing at Villa Eugène ~

We had a very small New Year's celebration with Mrs. LF's brother and wife. We went to a new & very stylish restaurant in Caen called Villa Eugéne (www.villa-eugene.fr), which had a great all-inclusive New Year's Eve menu for €82/person, including about 7 courses, canapés & une coupe de champagne

We started with an assortment of canapés, which came with a glass of champagne (I believe it was Moët and it was nice)

Ah yes, here's a shot of that Moët champagne - they had very pretty water glasses too

Oeufs de Caille au Foie Gras & Toc' l'oeuf aux Truffes - a very well presented and delicate start to the meal

Carpaccio de Homard Juste Tièd à l'huile d'Argan - a nice little lobster dish perfumed with Argan oil

Saint-Jacques Trufées en Habit d'algues, Services avec une Crème Truffe - the scallops were cooked well & cleverly concealed in green (algues), though the truffle didn't exactly come through for me

We were drinking a fairly nice bottle of Pouilly-Fumé alongside all of this fishy stuff…but back to the food

Mrs. LF's brother had decided to order some red wine to accompany the main course. It was a wine known by the short-hand name of 'Moulis' in France, and is apparently quite well known. It was a nice little wine, and all the components were there, I think it just needed a year or two more in bottle for it to really shine

Suprême de Chapon au Foie Gras et Morilles - the poultry main was served with two little fried numbers alongside (right), with a sauce of morille which was quite rich. Chapon is a castrated chicken, and this procedure is meant to increase tenderness, moistness and mass...it certainly was tender and tasted good but nothing out of this world. The stuffing within the chapon was a nice little surprise

Cromesquis de Camembert, Bouqet de Salade - these were some pretty ordinary cheese balls, but they were prettily presented as everything else had been

Chocolat Éphémère - this was a 'solid' chocolate dessert, whose shell melted when the hot chocolate was poured on top...I enjoyed it, but then again I enjoy most things with dark chocolate 🙂

Mousse Mangue Nougat aux Éclats de Macarons - this was actually better than the chocolate dessert and a very refreshing end to what had become a very long & enjoyable evening/morning

Well, the music was getting louder, people were dancing, I was a minor celebrity (being the only American, everyone wanted to tell me how much they had enjoyed their vacation there - whether 1 year or 20 years ago), it was now 2010 and I was going to need some coffee to get me through this night. It was served in those great cups that look like they're crinkled plastic...I saw them in the Conran Shop not long ago and have been tempted to buy them...I think they're really cool!

And so it was, a grand finale to 2009. Here’s looking at you 2010 – in the words of John Lenon, I hope it’s a good one…!

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Allez et Retour en Normandie / Return Ticket to Normandy

On a recent weekend trip to Normandy, we visited the coastal towns of Arromanches-les-Bains and Colleville-sur-Mer. These are both locations that featured heavily in the war, and The Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial is located in Colleville-sur-Mer. It was a pretty unusual experience…the pristine and perfectly laid out graves go on forever and it does make you contemplate what took place there and the sacrifices that were made, i.e. ‘the price of freedom’. So just one picture of this beautiful memorial.

The Normandy Amiercan Cemetery & Memoria

The Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial

In any case, the title of this post is ‘Food Photos from Normandy’ so this is what you’ll have! I hope you enjoy them.

Arromanches-les-Bains

We stopped for lunch in Arromanches at the appropriately named 'Le Bistro d'Arromances' which looked cute from the outside

We stopped for lunch in Arromanches at the appropriately named 'Le Bistro d'Arromanches' which looked cute from the outside.

Le Bistrot d'Arromanches:

Le Bistrot d'Arromanches: A delicious Norman 'shrimp' cocktail with tangy homemade mayonnaise.

Le Bistrot d' Arromanches: A simple but well preapred goats cheese salad

Le Bistrot d' Arromanches: Mrs. LF ordered a simple but well prepared goats cheese salad.

Le Bistrot d'Arromanches: My mother in-law ordered the sea snails, one of the local delicacies, which she loved - they were chewy but tasty

Le Bistrot d'Arromanches: My mother in-law ordered the sea snails, one of the local delicacies, which she loved - they were chewy but tasty.

Le Bistrot d'Arromanches: I also ordered what I thought would be a 'side' salad of mozzarella and tomato - as you can see, it was huge, and the mozzarella was much less salty & creamier than the Italian varieties I am used to

Le Bistrot d'Arromanches: I also ordered what I thought would be a 'side' salad of mozzarella and tomato - as you can see, it was huge, and the mozzarella was much less salty & creamier than the Italian varieties I am used to.

On the way to the bistro we had spotted this ice cream shop, which looked pretty good - we had a few scoops after lunch and the chocolate was particularly dark, rich and creamy...

Compagnie des Glaces: On the way to the bistro we had spotted this ice cream shop, which looked pretty good - we had a few scoops after lunch and the chocolate was particularly dark, rich and creamy...

Some of the flavors on offer - again, that chocolate was rather tasty!

Compagnie des Glaces: Some of the flavors on offer - again, that chocolate was rather tasty!

Ouistreham

We strolled through Ouistreham (where the ferry back to Portsmouth departs) and Mrs. LF really fancied a gauffre (waffle) - she only likes the French version and prefers it with Nutella

Just before departing to come back, we strolled through Ouistreham (where the ferry back to Portsmouth departs) and Mrs. LF really fancied a gauffre (waffle) - she only likes the French version and prefers it with Nutella.

I was actually the only one to get Nutella (the rest of the family wussed out and had just sugar) - it was one of the best I've ever had, perfectly crispy and cooked through properly (i.e. none of that mushy dough-ey mess in the middle)

I was actually the only one to get Nutella (the rest of the family wussed out and had theirs sugar-dusted instead) - it was one of the best I've ever tasted without exaggeration, perfectly crisp and cooked through properly (i.e. none of that mushy doughy mess in the middle) - again, American-sized portions...I was liking it :).

Brittany Ferries (Mont St. Michel Boat) – Seriously!

On the boat back we decided to have dinner at the relatively new 'Le Comptoir de Saveurs' on Brittany Ferreis' Mont St. Michel boat: this was the first time I'd travelled to France by ferry and I was extremely impressed with the quality of food on-board (just wait 'till you see the next photos), even in the self-serve cafeteria section. For instance, the raspberry tart we had on the way there was fantastic and much better than most tarts I've have in the UK, even at supposedly good places

Le Comptoir de Saveurs (Brittany Ferries): On the trip back we decided to have dinner at the relatively new restaurant area called 'Le Comptoir de Saveurs' on Brittany Ferreis' Mont St. Michel boat. This was the first time I'd travelled to France by ferry and I was extremely impressed with the quality of food on-board (just wait 'till you see the next photos), even in the self-serve cafeteria section. For instance, the raspberry tart we had on the way there was fantastic and much better than most fruit tarts I've tasted in the UK, even at supposedly good places. And it was less than €2 - amazing value, no? Sorry, no picture of that.

My scallop starter was very nice - I had to keep reminding myself I was on a ferry! The presentation was beautiful and while the scallops were slightly tough, the flavors were all very distinct and went well together. I particularly like the very sweet itsy bitsy cherry tomatoes that were served on the side

Le Comptoir de Saveurs (Brittany Ferries): My scallop starter was very nice - I had to keep reminding myself I was on a ferry! The presentation was beautiful and while the scallops were slightly tough, it had a nice sweet taste and the accompanying flavors were all very distinct and went well together. I particularly like the very sweet itsy-bitsy cherry tomatoes that were served on the side.

Brittany Ferries Mont St. Michel (Le Comptoir de Saveurs) - Chicken Salad

Le Comptoir de Saveurs (Brittany Ferries): Mrs. LF ordered the chicken salad, which she was very surprised by as it was exceptionally good (and, as I've said before, she is very fussy with her salads and vinaigrettes!).

The apple crumble very satisfying and was served with fresh cream and a cold shot of calvados, which I thought was a nice touch and was something you'd expect in a nice restaurant, not a ferry (sorry to bang on about this, but it's true!).

Le Comptoir de Saveurs (Brittany Ferries): We shared the apple crumble, which was delicious and very satisfying. It was served with thick fresh cream and a cold shot of calvados, which I thought was a nice touch and was something you'd expect in a nice restaurant, not a ferry (sorry to bang on about this, but it's true!).

They made my espresso exactly as asked for (and understood what I meant by a 'long' espresso - rare occurrence indeed). It was even served with a little chocolate cookie and a chocolate ice cream cube - plus a fancy sugar crystal twizzler. The other great part about this meal is that it came to under £30 total, including a glass of Pouilly Fusse which was about £7. We ate leisurely, read our books and looked out the window at the passing sea...au revoir for now...

Le Comptoir de Saveurs (Brittany Ferries): They made my espresso exactly as asked for (and understood what I meant by a 'long' espresso - rare occurrence indeed). It was even served with a little chocolate biscuit and a chocolate ice cream cube - plus a fancy sugar crystal twizzler. Again, very posh and nice. The other great part about this meal is that it came to under £30 total, including a glass of Pouilly-Fuissé which was about £7. Such good value. We ate leisurely, read our books and looked out the window at the passing sea...au revoir for now...

American Food Porn

I plan to post a few in-depth reviews of restaurants I visited while in the US of A in the coming week, but I thought it would be worth posting some food and drink related photos from the trip in order to share some of the nice and interesting things I ate and experienced over the 9 days. I hope you enjoy them :).

I don't know if you've had it, but I really do like Pinkberry frozen yogurt, which began in Los Angeles and is now in many cities across the US - this one was their plain yogurt flavor with some strawberries & mangos on top

I don't know if you've had it, but I really do like Pinkberry frozen yogurt, which began in Los Angeles and is now in many cities across the US - this one was their plain yogurt flavor with some strawberries & mangos on top

Pinkberry - Almond & Strawberry

This iteration had almonds & raspberries

Pinkberry on Urbanspoon

On our first weekend in the New York Area, we were invited to a barbecue at the house of my brother's good friend...amazingly fresh asparagus & corn-on-the-cob (it has taken me a few years to get Mrs. LF to admit that un-tinned corn is not just food for cows!)

On our first weekend in the New York Area, we were invited to a barbecue at the house of my brother's good friend...amazingly fresh asparagus & corn-on-the-cob (it has taken me a few years to get Mrs. LF to admit that un-tinned corn is not just food for cows!)

There were also pork chops and vegetable kebabs...mmm...

There were also marinated pork chops and vegetable kebabs...mmm...

Bu the thing that took the cake was the lamb, which had been marinated in an Indian marinade for looong time - succulent. It was so good, I nearly ate it all before I rememberd to take a photo!

But the thing that took the cake was the lamb, which had been marinated in an Indian marinade for looong time - succulent. It was so good, I nearly ate it all before I remembered to take a photo! BTW - his wife had also made a delicious Japanese noodle dish, which was perfectly refreshing for the summer weather

We went for burnch one day at my Aunt's favorite diner in her town of Great Neck (Long Island) - always a safe bet

We went for brunch one day at my Aunt's favorite diner in her town of Great Neck (Long Island). It has been around for ages, and despite its looks, it has good service and the food is a safe bet

Proper waffles with bacon & maple syrup - what can go wrong with that?

Proper waffles with bacon, maple syrup & a poached egg on the side - what can go wrong with that?

I know, I know...more bagels, but hey, when you're in Rome...Anyhow, the more interesting thing about this one is that it is 'scooped'. In the US, you can now ask for them to scoop out the dough-ey bits in the middle, leaving mostly the crisp outside crust, which is a very good option - in the words of Borat: "I liike, is niice"

I know, I know...more bagels, but hey, when you're in Rome...Anyhow, the more interesting thing about this one is that it is 'scooped'. In the US, you can now ask for them to scoop out the dough-ey bits in the middle, leaving mostly the crisp outside crust, which is a very good option - in the words of Borat: "I liike, is niice"

I just like this image because it is so American

I just like this image because it is so American

This is the facade of Carnegie Deli, one of the true NYC institutions, with sandwiches that will cause an on-the-spot heart attack (they have one called the 'heart attack sandwich). But even with their schtick of rude service, it is a damn good deli. Didn't get to go on this visit unfortunately

This is the facade of Carnegie Deli, one of the true NYC institutions, with sandwiches that will cause an on-the-spot heart attack (they actually have one called the 'heart attack sandwich'). But even with their schtick of rude service and their branching out to Las Vegasit, is still a decent deli. Didn't get to go on this visit though

Carnegie Deli on Urbanspoon

I found this invitation to taste wine in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California quite amusing

I found this invitation to taste wine in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California quite amusing

This was some really good French onion soup we had at a great little restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea called Bouchee

This was some really good French onion soup we had at a great little restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea called Bouchee

Bouchee also served up a mean salad nicoise during our lunch, just the way it should be

Bouchee also served up a mean salad nicoise during our lunch, just the way it should be

Andre' Bouchee on Urbanspoon

We also went to a great place called Fandango for dinner one night in Pacific Grove, California (another town on the Monterey Peninsula) - you can Google it for information on the interesting way the restaurant came into being

We also went to a great place called Fandango for dinner one night in Pacific Grove, California (another town on the Monterey Peninsula) - you can Google it for more information on the interesting way the restaurant came into being...it is kind of a fusion of Italian, French and Spanish cuisine

Their version of Veal Picatta was truly exceptional...extremely thin and tender veal with an amazing tangy sauce - absolutely loved it

Their version of Veal Picatta was truly exceptional...extremely thin and tender veal with an amazing tangy sauce with citrus accents and capers - absolutely loved it

A starter of yellow and red tomato salad, with mozzarella, olive olil & balsamic was perfect too

A starter of yellow and red tomato salad, with mozzarella, olive oil & balsamic was perfect too - such fresh produce

My mom really liked her paella, but I guess it just isn't my thing...

My mom really liked her fresh seafood paella, but I guess it just isn't my thing...

Fandango also had a shelf of very nice mangums and jeroboams - would have liked to have gotten some of this but didn't have the $10,000+ it probably would have costed...

Fandango also had a few shelves of very nice mangums and jeroboams - would have liked to have gotten some of this but didn't have the $10,000+ it probably would have cost for the privilege...not a bad dream to end the post on though

Fandango Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Reviews of Le Bernardin (3 Michelin stars) and maze at The London NYC (a Ramsay Empire outpost) to follow as soon as I can find the time.

Until then, have a great weekend – over & out.