Denise Travels to Paris November 2016

If you haven’t joined us already on the England leg of this journey, click here for Part I of Gavin and my travels to Europe this month.
We were staying on the Blv Haussmann, which again was so central that we walked everywhere.  The AMBASSADOR is one of the Marriott hotels, and as Gavin is a frequent sleeper at this establishment, we were upgraded to a gorgeous spacious room, which for those of you are regular guests to Paris, will know that it is a rare thing indeed to be able to put a suitcase down, and actually get into the closet or the bathroom.  They even threw in breakfast, which was a real treat, as we never take extra breakfast at hotels, due to the ridiculous cost of around 25 Euro or so. Much better to pop out to a local cafe and experience the view of the city and the people at the same time.  Oh, those buttery croissants!!!! How do they get them just SO perfectly melt in the mouth and gorgeously flaky!  It was only with severe restraint that I managed on most mornings to stick to one of these, with the promise of lunch in the not too distant future.

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 We enjoyed a great experience at the restaurant  L’AVENUE on the Champs Elysee.  It was fascinating to see the well dressed gorgeous people who frequent this very upmarket, yet laid back establishment.  Clearly a job requirement for waitresses to be employed here is to have incredibly long well shaped legs, and to be able to serve while wearing stilettos or high heeled over the knee boots, with a very short skirt, of course.  Gavin didn’t know where to look first!


 But onto the food:  I enjoyed a wonderful piece of sea bass, which had a Tom Yum sauce, which was absolutely heavenly! Gavin had a Veal chop which was grilled to perfection, with a side of buttery green beans that only the French know how to do, and seriously I have tried!  There is something about their beans that is just different.  These dishes were recommended by a foodie friend of ours with impeccable taste, so we knew we could not go wrong, thanks dear friend!

Oh Paris at Christmas time, this was a first for me… there is nothing to beat the amount of effort that these department stores went to, and our jaws were literally hanging open.  I have tried to capture some of these in the pictures, but they really don’t do it justice.  It was freezing cold, and everyone is bundled up looking like Michelin Men, you just got to love those little kids who look so cute……. not quite true of the adults though, not a great look!!!

There seemed to be a permanent light drizzle, and it was very grey.  We didn’t see the sun at all for a few days.  This of course necessitated remaining in the shops for more of the time, not a hardship to do, right!  I am a seasoned shopper in this respect, and always wear light clothing under the coat, and shoes that slip off.  A real professional!

I had not been to the food hall at GALLERIE LAFAYETTE before, and this was again a real inspiration. Homeware is 5 floors, and has everything from seafood, to seasoned salts and exotic teas, to designer linen, and the best ever kitchen department store.
We went to LA COUPOLE in Montparnasse on the next evening, being a Saturday.  We first experienced the joys of this traditional old French establishment together when on honeymoon in Paris 25 years ago.  I remember so clearly devouring the little grey shrimps, asking for extra bread and butter, proper French loaves  with the crispy outside and soft inside served with the creamiest of butters,  to stretch them further and make the experience last longer (and of course to fill us up, as our budget was rather tight in those days).   We tried the oysters back then, just a dozen to share, and we were overwhelmed with the choice, there must have been 12 different kinds of oysters.  Not wanting to seem cheap, nor ignorant, we safely chose from somewhere in the middle of the price range, as one does.
This time, we had planned to have a bit of a spoil,  and so we enjoyed a glass of champagne at the bar first, observing the goings on from a distance, before being ushered into the “inner circle” of seats.  We must have looked presentable enough on this journey to be honoured with this position, as on our first visit we were definitely seated on the periphery, clearly not the most coveted place to be! So once again we did the grey shrimps, plus a few of the larger plump pink prawns in their shells, as well as a half crab for me (Gav knows this in one of my weaknesses and spoilt me rotten!).   This is served on a bed of crushed ice, elevated on a tiered stand, and then with the lemons wrapped in those little gauze covers to stop you getting pips, and with the most divine homemade mayo/mustard  for dipping.  The temperature of the seafood was just right, chilled perfectly, and we got stuck in with our hands and devoured every morsel.  What an awesome experience!  I do hope to visit many more times in this lifetime, and would put it firmly on anyone’s list of HAVE TO DO, while in Paris.
The next day was Sunday, so a down day for us.  We were actually very disciplined and used the well equipped gym daily for a proper workout, to try to balance the amount of food that was necessary to devour, all in the name of research, right?
We ended up walking under our umbrellas from our area through the Place Vendome, with all the gorgeous designer shops, and huge Christmas trees on to the Tuileries Garden, which look amazingly bare and very different in the beginning of Winter. We walked from there to Les Halles, and sat at a cafe outside (the heating is brilliant) and had a beer while people watching.
We then headed from there to the Marais area, as once again our foodie friends had recommend a local place for a casual meal. This area is fascinating, being the Jewish Quarter of Paris.  There were queues  and queues of people waiting patiently outside these falafel and kebab places, which are clearly very well known.  This is obviously a Sunday must, and had we known how full they would get, we would have gone earlier.  We tried to get into MIZNON, and actually squeezed into the door for a peek at what it was all about, but it was impossible to move in there, so we gave up. But oh my gosh, what heaven!  There were whole roasted cauliflowers, with the edges gorgeously burnt, on huge trays, next to roasted red peppers, artichokes and zucchini.
Below see the info that I found on the web, as we didn’t stay for lunch, but this is certainly a not to be missed experience!
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 Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, lower to a moderate boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the cauliflower. Drain. Brush the cauliflower with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Place in a baking dish, place the dish in the center of the oven, and bake until the top turns golden brown.

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The rue des Rosiers, an iconic street in Paris’ Marais neighborhood, is one of the few that remains reminiscent of the neighborhood’s Jewish community. Lined with Jewish bakeries and delis, this street is probably most well known for its falafel restaurants. Of the many choices, one falafel address reigns supreme: L’As du Fallafel, which is easily identifiable by its long lines and bright green façade. But a new kid on the block is pitting old pitas against new with the arrival of Miznon, an Israeli sandwich shop.

In the two years since Miznon opened, it has become an instant favourite. Locals flock to Miznon, where fresh ingredients come together in fluffy, homemade pita bread. Miznon has left the chickpea-based falafel fare to their neighbors while upping the game with a giant blackboard full of other sandwich selections. Fresh herbs and vegetables are heavily featured in each dish, with the restaurant’s space itself being a showcase for seasonal produce. Walking into Miznon almost feels like walking into a vegetable still life, with every shelf, counter space, and corner adorned with stacks of onions, vases of parsley, dill, and cilantro, and pyramids of sweet potatoes and grilled peppers. 

Roasted heads of cauliflower are sold as a whole, but also incorporated into one of the best sandwiches on the menu, the Chou Brisé. Another favorite menu item is the chicken salad sandwich, which sounds underwhelming, but is the exact opposite. A healthy handful of fresh parsley and thinly sliced red onion complement the tender chicken and just-enough secret sauce to elevate this sandwich from boring bagged lunch to a take-away delicacy. From time-to-time Miznon features a new item on their menu – recently adding a grilled head of broccoli – but the carte stays mostly the same, which is just fine because everything on the menu is so good that you don’t mind ordering the same thing over and over.

So from Paris, it was on to Manchester where Gavin had back to back meetings lined up.  This is one of my favourite places, and really not at all as I had imagined it would be on my first business trip there many years ago.  The food scene is buzzing, and again we stayed in the centre, so you walk everywhere.  The curries are legendary as they have a huge Indian/Pakistani population, and we had a great evening at EAST TO EAST on our first night with Gav tucking into a spicy Lamb Curry which had loads of depth, while I opted for a milder Prawn Butter Curry, with various side dishes.  This was as good as always.

The next day we had a quick lunch at Yo Sushi!, which is just always so good. They still do the conveyer belt, which is laden with all kinds of unusual sushi plates.  I was really craving greens, so ended up having 2 portions of their mixed seaweed salad (have to try doing this, as just SO GOOD, plus being UBER healthy), and some edamame beans, which did the trick.

Then on the last night we went to SAN CARLO, again a traditional establishment which has stood the test of time.  It is Italian, and specialises in the freshest of Seafood.  We started with fresh white asparagus and then as we were feeling in a pasta mood, I had my favourite Spaghetti Vongole while Gav had a spicy Arrabiata pasta.  Both were simple and authentic, and went well with a good bottle of the house Italian red wine.

So that was it as far as the culinary highlights went…….. Phew, did we eat a lot!  I now need to do a raw diet for a few days to balance it out.  I came home and hit the ground running as we were hosting a Batmizvah for 50 people (with outside catering, venue only) that evening!  Fortunately for me, my amazing team had this all ready and prepped, so there was no stress whatsoever, and the evening went off extremely smoothly.

I have come away energized and inspired to bring some of what I have experienced into our kitchen at GINGER & LIME, and to share this experience with you.


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