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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Squish Candies

When I moved into residence in my first year of university, the floor’s theme was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. My mom turned to me and said, “I think you’ve moved into the right place.” And I had. It was the right place for a number of reasons (that are far more important and debatably life changing) but because, at the time, it captured my love of candy and that made me feel comfortable and like I was in the right place.

I absolutely love candy. Anyone who has met me for more than about 5 minutes knows how much I love candy. Here are just a few examples that illustrate my love of candy:

  1. I routinely walk down to Bulk Barn on my lunch to pick up a bag of mixed candies. This is a horrible habit, I fully acknowledge that.
  2. There is usually some sort of candy or sweet at my desk at work. Currently there is a small bag of Kraft Caramels, you know the kind that is typically given out at Halloween?
  3. Our wedding featured one of the best and most varied candy tables I have ever seen if I do say so myself. It had mini gummy cubs (which differ completely from gummy bears in texture and flavour and therefore are far superior), Whoppers, sour watermelon slices, Polish caramels, Rockets and sour gumballs. The candy table was in addition to our sweets tables, because *shockingly* I also love desserts.
  4. I group up in a town that randomly has two candy factories: Rockets and Mars Bars.
  5. I’m born in October, the month of Halloween – enough said.

So when I discovered that there was a new, high-end candy store open called Squish in the Hudson’s Bay at the Eaton’s Center, I obviously had to go and check it out.

IMG_4349 IMG_4350Squish is done by the same brilliant people behind David’s Tea. Everything is marketed and packaged in the most beautiful and simple way. They have an insane variety of candy, capturing every flavour and texture you could imagine. The flavours range from sweet to sour, to salty and they also have chocolate. They package their candy thematically and adorable containers, making it even more enticing to purchase.

This was one of the most difficult shopping decisions I have ever made. Yes, I am married and bought a wedding dress, but this shopping trip made me more anxious and was much more difficult to decide between all the options. I’m obviously exaggerating but it was a very overwhelming and daunting decision. On my first trip to Squish I bought 5 different types of candy.

  1. Cherry Watermelon Hearts1998-cherry_watermelon_heart_paint_can
  2. Strawberry Rhubarb Gummies1994-Staw_Rhu_paint_can
  3. Red Rose Gummies1995-red_roses_paint_can
  4. Pumpkin Pie Chocolates2161-Pumpkin_Pie_
  5. Tiramisu Chocolates2159-Tiramisu

These candies are what I imagine the candies and chocolates in Willy Wonka to taste like. They are the perfect balance of texture, colour and flavour. My favourite candy was the cherry watermelon gummies. They had such a fresh and summery flavour profile that I had never tasted before. The sugar coating added a bit more sweetness and a little grit to each bite. The red rose gummies had the best gummy texture I have ever eaten. They were chewy and moist, with a slight gush of juice at the center of each. They literally exploded with flavour. The strawberry rhubarb gummies are one of their most popular candies but you can skip them. There is no real rhubarb flavour or sourness and the candies taste completely like strawberries.

The chocolates are more like candy. They are silky and luscious and completely taste like the desserts they are emulating. Both were to die for but the pumpkin pie will be my go-to candy this fall. It tastes exactly like a little drop of pumpkin pie without the guilt of a slice a pie.

Now that I have discovered an amazing but expensive candy store, I need to change my approach to eating candy. No, I was not going to change my candy eating habits for health (yet) but I will for price. I have decided that from now on if I want candy, I will only buy it from Squish. The fact that it is at the Eaton’s Center will deter me from going too frequently as that mall is hell on earth. When I go, I will only buy one flavour at a time. This will restrict me from binging on this candy which will be both healthy and cost-efficient. Although they do have ordering online…

Happy munching!

Father’s Day

This year we celebrated Father’s Day with two barbeques: Saturday was spent with GC’s parents and Ninni in our backyard  and Sunday was spent with my family.

Saturday’s menu featured my classic burgers, potato salad and of course, a strawberry rhubarb pie. My burger recipe is simple but delicious. I use ground beef (lean), breadcrumbs, garlic powder, dried onion, oregano, and parsley. My latest change to my recipe is barbeque sauce. The barbeque sauce keeps the burgers moist without making them puff up like an egg will do but still binds the meat together so that they do not fall apart on the grill.

Prior to Father’s Day weekend, I didn’t have a go to potato salad recipe, but now I do. I tried this Yogurt and Dill Potato Salad from The Yummy Life and it is ah-mazing. The combination of mayo and yogurt is light and sweet, making you feel slightly less terrible for eating potato salad. The combination of dill, parsley (fresh from our back garden!), green onion and celery is fresh, summery and light. Make it the night before a big barbeque and enjoy!

GC’s dad’s favourite pie is rhubarb. I am lucky enough that his birthday falls in May and Father’s Day falls in June, prime rhubarb season. Every year I try a new rhubarb recipe and every year his dad loves it. This year, I tried Martha Stewart’s Rhubarb Crumble Pie. IMG_0706 IMG_0716

My crust turned out wonderfully! It was light, flaky and super buttery. The rhubarb was sweet and tart, tender and oozy. The crumble topping was delicious and could have been eaten on its own. Does it get much better then brown sugar, butter and flour? Obviously not. There was a piece left for my mom the next day and it passed her pie taste test so I think my skills as a pie maker are improving!

Sunday we had my sisters and my parents over for Barbeque Part II in the backyard to celebrate JDL. There was bocce, croquet and of course, food. I made Carolina Pulled Pork sandwiches, Yogurt and Dill Potato Salad, Southwestern Black Bean Salad, Pineapple Pink Lemonade Punch and Chocolate Cream Pie.

The Carolina Pulled Pork is one of the easiest things you will ever make! You quickly sear the pork roast on the stove and then pop it in the slow cooker for hours and then impress everyone with your Southern barbeque abilities. It is topped with a creamy, tart coleslaw that is also easy to make. You could be insane and shred all your cabbage yourself or you could just buy your bag of coleslaw mix. The cabbage is topped with a simple dressing. It is not too drenched in mayo, just the right amount. Theresa liked this sandwich so much that she said this sandwich has ruined restaurant pulled pork for her. Sorry!

The Southwestern Black Bean salad is great! It is easy because it is essentially chopping, can opening and stirring. There are so many great textures, colours and flavours to this salad. The avocado is the best part and because of the citrus dressing it doesn’t turn brown and rotten looking. This bean salad was a hit at my barbeque.

Having a large group of people over is a great opportunity to try out a new cocktail or punch. For Father’s Day I made Pineapple Pink Lemonade Party Punch. Literally pour all the ingredients into the pitcher, stir and serve over ice. Oh, and maybe add some rum. I will be keeping my fridge stocked off all these ingredients all summer long.

For dessert we had my favourite s’mores cookie bars and Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Cream Pie. I wasn’t thrilled with how the pie turned out. I omitted the gelatin because it should have firmed up on its own but it didn’t. The slices didn’t come out of the pie dish nicely and it was very messy. It was delicious because it was chocolate custard topped with whipped cream but the presentation wasn’t the greatest. I would not make this recipe again.

Overall, our Father’s Days were a hit! All the above recipes are perfect for any barbeque so you have all summer to try them out! Happy munching!