Verjus – Paris 2016

When you visit Paris, patient the restaurant choices are overwhelming. There are literally thousands of restaurants and they are all good. Or at least as a traveller to the city you think they are all good. Everyone you know who has visited the city will have a different list of about ten restaurants “you HAVE to try” and of course, they are in neighbourhoods that are not remotely close to you or anything you want to see. Then you foolishly think, “Ok. Let me look up restaurants with Michelin stars.” Don’t do that. It is the most futile Google search you will ever perform and you will depress yourself as you don’t have hundreds of euros to spend on lunch to go to somewhere with 1-Michelin star let alone something with 3-stars which the official definition is “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” It is overwhelming, daunting and borderline annoying to plan meals in Paris.

However, one meal that was easy to plan was our dinner at Verjus. I learned about Verjus while watching The Getaway, a show by ESPN that features B-list actors and their favourite weekend getaways. Paris is the city of choice for Aisha Tyler. In the episode she eats at a few wine bars (Frenchie which was unfortunately missed on this trip) but Verjus really stood out for me. It is run by an American couple who are part of a change that is happening in Paris about how people view food and restaurants. It began as a wine bar with tasting plates or petits plats (which sounds so much daintier than tapas or sharing plates) and has expanded into a full-on restaurant with a tasting menu and a second restaurant called Ellsworth.

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To get to Verjus we entered through an alleyway called Passage de Beaujolais. We were early for our reservation so we wandered through the short alley and down the stairs that took us street level to a whole other world. From there we could see that Verjus is located in an old, 3-storey, very typically Parisian building that is across the street from the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. We felt like we were transported back in time to the 18th century. We meandered through the archways of the théâtre and discovered the beautiful gardens of the Palais-Royal with its wild rose bushes and fountains. As dusk began to fall we headed back to the restaurant to enjoy our dinner.

The tasting menu was 10 courses for 76€ with wine pairings for an addition 55€. We decided to go for it with the wine pairing because who knows when you will be back in Paris eating a tasting menu at an amazing restaurant because you won a free trip? And yes, for those of you doing the math, this meal was almost $400 Canadian, making it one of the most expensive meals I have ever had.

We were seated at a small table close to the entrance and the stairway leading upstairs. I was more than ok with this because it allowed us to be surrounded by windows offering views of the streets below and an opportunity to take a peek at upcoming courses as they whipped their way upstairs.

We started with a course featuring three different appetizers that were all served with a sparkling white wine, Catherine & Pierre Breton’s Vouvray Pétillant “La Dilettante”

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Violet asparagus, with sorrel mayo and wood sorrel.

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Fava bean fritter with herb tahini.

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Trout roe, with house yogurt, on a flatbread topped with arugula.

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Soup Round Up IV

I haven’t been cooking much lately. It’s been too beautiful outside to not use the BBQ and my go to meals have been burgers and steak. These are my summer staples but unfortunately, they are not too exciting for blogging purposes. I have however, returned to making soups for lunch. I had an epiphany the other day where I thought “I eat other warm foods throughout the summer – why not continue eating soup?” Duh. Below are 6 soup recipes I have tried in the past few weeks and what I thought of them.

1. Chilled Potato Leek

I am still trying to figure out my thoughts about chilled soup. This was the first one I made and it was a good introduction to chilled soups. It is silky and smooth and has a subtle flavour, not jarring enough to confuse your palate with contrasting flavours and temperatures.

4 leeks, white parts only, chopped
4 large green onions, white part only, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and ground white pepper
2 Tbsp minced chives

In a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, combine the leeks, the green onion, and 1/2 cup of the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables have wilted and begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the ptoatoes and remaining 2 ½ cups broth, cover, and cook until the vegetables are very soft, 25-30 minutes. Let for for 15 minutes. Stir in the butter.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, 3-4 hours or up to overnight. The soup wil thicken and become very creamy., Serve, garnished with the chives.

2. Curried Carrot Purée

I loved, loved, loved this soup! It is one of my favourites from my trusty Williams-Sononma cookbook. It can be served chilled or warm, making it the perfect soup for the early summer when randomly cool days surprise us. The flavours are reminiscent of autumn in a way that makes you savour and appreciate our seemingly fleeting summers. I plan to make this soup all through the summer into the long hot days of September and October and you should too!

1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large shallot
½ lbs carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
6 cups of chicken broth
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, curry powder, and broth. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the orange juice. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper. This soup can be served warm or chilled. To serve warm, return to the pot and gently warm over medium heat. To serve chilled, let cool, transfer to a covered container, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight. Serve, drizzled with oil.

3. Spinach and Leek Soup

This is one of the most intensely green things I have ever eaten. If you want to feel like Popeye, eat this soup. It is rich with garden freshness and sweet onion flavours. It doesn’t make a huge batch of soup so this is the perfect soup to make when you need lunches for only a day or two.

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ cups vegetable broth
2 large brunches spinach, tough stems removed
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and the nutmeg and sauté until the leeks are softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot, add the cream, and bring just to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

4. Simple Asparagus Soup

I did not like this soup at all. Asaparagus is one of my favourite vegetables and unfortunately, I live with someone who does not like it which means I rarely get to eat it. I thought a soup that masked the taste and texture of asparagus would be the perfect thing to eat. Maybe it was a little too perfect because GC loved this soup and I hated it. The problem lay in how much zest and lemon juice I used. I followed the recipe but that is too much lemon flavour. It results in a bitter tart soup that only tastes of lemon and not much else.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves glaric, minced
3 cups chicken broth
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1é2-inch pieces
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot, add the cream, and bring just to a boil. Turn the heat off and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

5. Cucumer-Dill Soup

Another chilled soup to ease my mouth into this way of eating soup. The texture of cucumber is slightly mealy and when blended, this is the texture that shines through. It was completely impossible to get this soup silky smooth and it was lumpy. I didn’t leave the chunks of cucumber in the soup because this was not a texture I was looking for. Texture and consistency aside, this soup had great flavour. It was cool and refreshing, with a hint of bite like a perfectly mixed gin and tonic. This mixture would make a good chilled salad and cucumber added to a gin and tonic is just delicious.

3 English cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded
1 cup Greek-style or thick, whole-milk plain yogurt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 green onions, white and tender green parts, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped dill
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds, crushed
Salt and ground white pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Coarsely chop 5 of the cucumber halves and transfer to a large bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, green onions, dill, garlic, caraway seed, 1 tsp salt, and 1é4 tsp white pepper. Stir to combine, cover, and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to blend the flavours. Dice the remaining cucumer half and set aside.

Working in batches, purée the cucumber-yogurt mixture in a blender. With the machine running, slowly add the broth and purée until fully incorporated. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours.

Just before serving, stir in the diced cucumer and oil. Pour the soup into wide-mouthed glasses and serve.

6. Roasted Red Pepper Purée with Spicy Corn Salsa

I made this soup on Thursday night and haven’t yet tasted it! GC took some to work and said it was yummy but that the salsa was too hot for his tastes. This soup is incredibly easy to make because the main source of flavour is already done for you: it uses jarred roasted red peppers. You can obviously make your own but who wants to turn on the oven in the summer? Turning on the stove is bad enough.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar (24 oz/750 g) roased red bell peppers
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp mined jalapeño chile
1 Tbsp thinly sliced green onion, white and tender green parts
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and ptoato, stir to coat, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot, stir in the sour cream, and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, to make the salsa, melt the butter in a small frying pan over high heat. Add the jalapeño and green onion and cook, stirring constantly, until the butter begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels, stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup, topped with the corn salsa.

Eggs in a Cloud

photo 1 photo 4It’s Friday night and I am dreaming of weekend brunch. A few weeks ago a co-worker stumbled across a beautiful, yet simple recipe, Rachel Ray’s Eggs in a Cloud.

How could I not make this recipe? Bacon, cheese and eggs and no bread needed? Giving the illusion of being healthy due to a lack of carbs? Of course. This recipe would be perfect for a brunch – it is simple but looks impressive and would be nicely accompanied by a simple, garden salad. The recipe is straightfoward and the flavours are simple but completely connected and fresh.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Potato Rosemary Soup

Another day, another soup.

IMG_4800The other day I made Potato Rosemary soup (November 10th in the Williams-Sonoma cookbook). This soup is simple and delicious. It is surprisingly thick from the potatoes and has a lot of deepth of flavour. It is the perfect side for a sandwich. And bonus, (if you care) it’s vegan!

Recipe is below the cut! Happy munching!

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