Le Sèvero: Steak Frites Perfection

Anyone who knows me even remotely knows this: I am just about the biggest red-meat lover you’ll meet.

Diets and doctors be damned — if it were possible to eat a big hunk of steak every day, you know I would.

So when I found myself in Paris recently with just one night to have steak frites, I knew it had to be the best I could possibly find. “I know the perfect place,” my Parisian friend Kevyn said, mentioning a restaurant called Le Sèvero and then quickly ticking off favorable reviews in the New York Times among others when I gave him my super-skeptical eye.

I figured if it’s good enough for Mark Bittman (and the venerable David Lebovitz) then it’s certainly good enough for me …

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Verjus: Two Americans in Paris

When two people have been cooking together online for almost three years, feeding a budding transcontinental friendship with tales of chili, liquid lunches and more, there’s a lot of pressure to make that first actual meal they have together truly special.

So when I started planning where I would meet Ellise (or, Cowgirl Chef, as you may know her, from the monthly Let’s Lunch posts on this blog) for the first time — in Paris, where she lives, no less — the hunt was on for a suitable place.

Where to meet? It turned out a little place we’d been curious about sounded just perfect: Verjus, a new-ish wine bar and restaurant near the Palais Royal by a young American couple who made waves in Paris a few years ago when they opened Hidden Kitchen, a private underground supper club in a tiny flat.

Now, I’d not been able to check out Hidden Kitchen in its heyday so when I heard that its owners — Seattlites Laura Adrian and Braden Perkins — opened a place last year that I could actually get into, I was all over it.

Almost as soon as I landed in Paris, off I headed …

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Candelaria: Eating Tacos in Paris

The gastronomic Paris in my mind is a swirl of glistening pastries, heady fromages and smoky bistros serving up heaping platters of seared steaks and frites.

It is most certainly not tacos. Not until recently, anyhow.

When a Parisian whose appetite you trust tells you that a certain taqueria is a must even if a visit there is going to take up a valuable dinner spot on a far-too-short trip, I figured it’s good to listen.

Which is how a little group of us hailing from Singapore, New York and a few points in between found ourselves tiptoeing along a dark and silent street in the Marais on a Sunday night, in search of good tacos …. Continue reading

Poilane Miche: Tackling A Legend


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As usual, I had bread on my mind the moment I returned to New York from my latest trip to Singapore.

After weeks away from my oven, I always touch down just itching to bake something. And this time, a quick check with my fellow Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge bakers revealed that they were mired in a difficult spot in the bread lineup.

“We are in Sourdough right now,” said Daniel in Berlin (a.k.a. @MisterRios of the Ährelich Gesagt blog). “Everyone is tRYEing their best.”

Ahh, bread humor. Gotta love it.

After the laughter subsided, however, I started to get worried. Sourdough in the hands of lesser bakers can be a massive pain in the tush. 

I should know.

Just last month, bolstered by a successful pane Siciliano and wondering what to do with a bowl of sourdough starter, I brazenly decided to take on a legend: Poilane miche — the Holy Grail of breads.

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Top 10: The Memorable Eats Of 2009


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You know it’s been a good year when you are able to say this: 2009 was when I began to eat for a living.

I’d always been a devotee of affairs of the stomach. I may have written about fashion and other lifestyle areas for a living but baking, braising, trying new recipes, eating out — those were what consumed me when weekends rolled around. 

Luck has its ways of finding you, however. Now, on the precipice of 2010, I’m beginning to close out a lunar calendar year of cooking and eating with my family in Singapore as research for my book, “A Tiger In The Kitchen.” 

My journey so far has taken me many places – France, where I had the loveliest gingery champagne cocktail with friends old and dear; China, where my father and I went in search of my great-grandfather’s footprints in the village of his birth. And, of course, Singapore, where my aunties and maternal grandmother have been plying me with meals, recipes and much, much love along the way.

With all that I’ve packed into 2009, it’s hard to decide what the highlights have been. But, inspired by some stellar Top 10 gastronomic lists out there (definitely check out Sam Sifton’s list of Top 11 dishes in New York in the New York Times), I decided to give it a go.

Here, in no particular order, are my 10 memorable eats of 2009. 

Enjoy, buon appetito and listen, let’s do this again in 2010 …

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At wd-50: The French, They Came


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Walking into wd-50 early Monday evening, you couldn’t help but notice the distinct stillness.

It felt almost like entering a temple — the air was plump with reverence, laced with frissons of anticipation.

The dinner about to happen wasn’t just any dinner, after all — Michel Bras, one of France’s most highly regarded chefs, was manning the kitchen for just one night. And New Yorkers had been working themselves up into a lather over trying to get in.

Having had the good fortune of seeing the announcement of this dinner the moment Eater.com posted it (and also being in possession of fast fingers and a cellphone nearby), there we were, quietly filing into the dining room — hungry.

The meal that lay before us was a nine-course vegetarian tasting menu. Bras, a three-star Michelin chef, has made his name on dishes with inventive treatments and combinations of ingredients — powdered fruit, crushed seeds, sprinklings of whole flowers for added flavor — that are carefully orchestrated to taste anything but pedestrian. (It’s also worth noting that Bras, who also has a restaurant in Hokkaido, is also known for dishes that are presented with a tinge of Japanese artistry.)

Now, in his little restaurant overlooking Laguiole, a picturesque town in
the mountains of Aubrac in southern France, fresh fruit and
vegetables that grow wild in the region are the stars of the dishes. In New York, Bras applied the same strategy to his menu — from the moment he arrived three days before, he’d been scouring the city’s greenmarkets to come up with this meal after seeing what produce he could find, according to our waiter. In fact, Luc Dubanchet, one of the organizers of the meal along with three others featuring other French chefs at David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants this month, told the New York Times that Bras said he is “incapable of doing it any other way.”

And so it was that we arrived with open minds and eager stomachs.

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Paris: A Lunch With A View


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For a first-timer in Paris, the Sister had not done badly.

Sure, we hadn’t managed to get into L’Ami Jean or Hidden Kitchen, but the basics had been covered: Berthillon ice-cream, Laduree macarons, cervelas at Brasserie Lipp, a cocktail at the Hemingway Bar.

What was left on the list? Much too much.

Nonetheless, we decided, end with a bang we must. And so we found ourselves packing into a tiny elevator and rocketing into the gray Parisian sky.

The lunch to end our lunches (for now) in Paris would be at a classic — Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, which, at more than 400 feet above ground level, offered a sweet spot to sip some bubbly and look out onto the city beneath.

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Paris: Putting The “Ohh” in Aligot


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Like many good New Yorkers, I had come to regard carbs as the enemy.

I’d accepted that Asian noodles were my Delilah. But with a few exceptions — any dish of steak frites that crossed my sight being the main one — I’d been able to stick to this waistline-watching strategy. I would push around (most of my) potatoes on the plate and leave bread (mostly) untouched. 

Paris, however, has ruined me.

There were the perfectly baked breads that just demanded to be devoured. The delightfully salty butters that called to you from the table, insisting on being slathered on said perfectly baked breads and then devoured.

And there was the aligot at L’Ambassade D’Auvergne, a lovely little restaurant that specializes in the super elastic dish of melted Laguiole cheese stirred together with mashed potatoes and garlic.

My breaking point came when I set eyes on the aligot.

Fighting it was futile. I admitted defeat and said, “Just take me.”

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Shhh … People Are Eating


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Not that I was looking, but I may have found a restaurant that’s even quieter than Chanterelle, a place in New York that was so hushed when I dined there a few years ago that you could probably have heard a toothpick drop.

We’re not quiet folk, my sister and I. So we knew we were in for it when we stepped into L’Ambroisie in Quimper, France, and the place was so silent that you could almost hear the soft shufflings of proprietor Armelle Guyon as she glided from table to table taking orders.

There’s been quite a bit written recently about how noisy U.S. restaurants have gotten — like crowded train stations filled with shouts and clangs, really. However, when it comes to dinner, my quibble tends to be with places that are on the other end of the sound spectrum.

After all, who wants to feel like they’re eating in a stalled elevator sans muzak?

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Mont-Saint-Michel: One Ancient Omelette


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We had heard about The Omelette, of course.

About how Annette Boutiaut, a late-19th Century innkeeper in Mont-Saint-Michel, had begun keeping eggs in store to whip together quick omelettes for hungry guests waiting for their dinner. We knew it was a key component of the town’s history — one that has thrived over the decades as a big tourist trap draw. 

Even so, as we approached Mont-Saint-Michel and marveled at its imposing medieval abbey on a mount rising from the water and towering over a vast expanse of grayish blue, it seemed like there should be more. 

If this grande dame of a town had to have a gastronomic one-trick pony, shouldn’t it be something more than a trifling breakfast dish masqeurading as dinner?

But there it was in every restaurant — most notably as the main course on a 55 Euro set menu at La Mère Poulard, where Annette’s omelettes first appeared. 

What could possibly be so special about a bunch of beaten eggs fried in a pan?

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