Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pascade by Alexandre Bourdas, Paris

On our first night in Paris, I didn't plan an epic dinner.  I know this isn't my style, but I had no idea if we'd want to crash early.  If we'd have the energy to go out.  But of course I had a list of easy options ready to go.

So when dinner time rolled around, and we deemed ourselves not up for grand adventures, but wanted to sit and eat a light meal (we snacked at the office all day long), I had a no-brainer suggestion: Pascade.
A light meal.
Pascade was on my list for a couple reasons.

The first is simple: it is a Michelin Bib Gourmand, within 5 minutes of our hotel, and 10 minutes from the office.  This means it was likely decent food at a reasonable price and conveniently located.  Good.

Next, I knew it was casual.  We could go without needing to return to the hotel to change out of our "engineer" clothing.  We really didn't have the energy for dressing up.

Next, it was already on my list due to its Bib Gourmand rating and close proximity, and when I asked  local colleagues for recommendations, not one, but two, immediately suggested Pascade.  If locals like it, that is a good sign, right?

And finally, it sounded unique.  Pascade serves pretty much one thing ... pascades.  What are pascades?  Yes, that is something I was trying to understand myself.  I read, and was told, that it was like a cross between a crepe and a souffle, except shaped like a bowl, and filled with things.  Savory or sweet.  While I don't love crepes or souffles, the unique nature of it drew me in, plus of course the promise of sweets.

Overall, I'd say our visit was a success.  I didn't love it, but I'm glad I tried it.  The concept seems solid.  Service was polite and tolerant of our non-French speaking (English menus were provided).  The atmosphere was pleasant, simple.  We weren't under dressed, and felt comfortable.  The meal was fairly efficient, it probably only took about 15 minutes for our order to be ready.

The Setting

The decor is casual, modern, clean, simple.
Tables for two.
Almost the entire restaurant is tables for two.

The tables, the floor, and the chairs are all wooden, but different types of wood, with different styles of grains.
Long Table.
The center of the space is filled by a long table.  I imagine this is communal seating, but when we were there, it was never occupied.  The restaurant only had 3 other tables filled the entire time we were there.  We were clearly on the early side for Parisian dining.

The back wall was stonework, which integrated nicely with the wood tones.
When we first sat down, these wells in the table held paper menus, rolled up.  Once the staff realized we were English speaking, the menus were taken away as they were in French, and we were provided English menus.

After ordering, the holes were filled with metal tubes.  I must have looked very confused, as the server quickly removed the lids on one of the tubes.  Inside were cloth napkins and cutlery.  We each had our own tube.

I don't think this is normal in France, right?  I thought it was fascinating at least.

Along with the cutlery, a small bowl of cherry tomatoes was brought out.  I was too busy photographing and being amused by the cutlery to get a photo of the tomatoes before Ojan ate them all.  He really liked them, saying it was a refreshing starter and something quite different.

Our experience was starting out as unique as I hoped.

Food & Drink

The menu at Pascade is fairly simple.

For starters, there is a meat plate, cheese, a single salad, and a simple pascade drizzled with truffle oil.

The main attraction is obviously pascades, and there are 4 savory and 3 sweet available, and the varieties rotate out seasonally.

On our visit, our choices for savory were: pollack, calamares y chorizo, green risotto, veal chopped parsley, and shrimp.

I didn't want veal, neither Ojan nor I were interested in risotto, and Ojan vetoed the shrimp.  I was fascinated by the shrimp, as the description read "roasted shrimps with garlic, penne, coconut milk & citronella, aubergine dip".  Penne ... in the pascade?  I guess not much different from risotto inside?  But ... aubergine dip too?  It sounded crazy.  But alas, Ojan vetoed it, thus the other seafood option is what we went for.

For sweets, our choices were: lemon cherry, citrus fruits chutney, and "only chocolat", or a tasting platter.  The dessert pascades were 11€ each for a full size version, or, 15€ for a 2 person mini tasting.  I really only wanted the citrus fruit chutney one, and Ojan really only wanted the chocolate one, and we had no idea what would actually come on the mini platter, so, obviously, we had to just get that and make no decisions ourselves.
Coteaux d'Aix en Provence 2013 Chateau Revelette. 8€.
To go along with my selections, I opted for a glass of red wine.  There were 3 choices by the glass, one for 5€, one for 8€, and one for 11€.  With no other real signal into what they were, I just opted for the middle choice.

I didn't care for it.  It was too tanic for me, but, this isn't the fault of the restaurant, I had no idea what I was ordering.

I did appreciate that the full bottle was presented to me, a small taste was poured first, and then my glass was filled.  Of course, I guess I could have said no at that point, and almost did, but I really didn't want to be complicated.

Ojan opted for sparkling water, served in a Pascade branded bottle, for only 3€, not bad.
 Pollack, calamares y chorizo.  21€.
"Roasted pollack, squids, celery purée, chorizo and riquette."

Our main pescade really was lovely.  I had seen photos online before, but it still looked even more dramatic than I expected.  Almost too pretty to break into!

It also didn't taste anything like I was expecting.

I loved the dough.  It was ... sweet.  Yes, this was our savory main course, but the dough was sweet.  Not sugary exactly, but certainly sweet.  It was crispy, but light and fluffy.  I suddenly understood the descriptions I had read.  It was not just crispy and chewy like a crepe.  It had the airiness of a souffle, except, well, it was thin.  Really fascinating texture.

Inside was a generous amount of seafood, 3 large chunks of pollack and assorted pieces of squid, plus slices of chorizo.

The seafood was ... ok.  The pollack was nicely cooked, tender, moist, but just wasn't a fish I was interested in.  Ojan also didn't really care for it, and one chunk went unfinished.  The squid was also ... ok. It was kinda chewy, not particularly great.  But I liked it more than the pollack.  The chorizo was good, flavorful slices of meat.

I didn't find "celery purée", but there was a cream sauce.  It was orange in color, mild in flavor, and quite creamy.  What it was, I honestly have no idea.  But I love cream, and it went great with the crepe-like base.  A little arugula, "riquette"?, was on top.

Overall, it was all fine.  It was a unique thing for sure, and I liked it more than a crepe or souffle.  The crust really was quite good, but the fillings just weren't quite for me.  I would consider trying another savory one sometime, although none on the current menu really appealed.  I think I'd really like the simple appetizer one just drizzled with flavorful truffle oil.

The price of 21€ seemed ok, higher than a crepe obviously, but there was a lot of seafood.
Les ''minis'' – dégustation pour 2 personnes. €15.
The mini platter was presented on a wooden board, one each of 4 types of minis, so 8 total.  This meant we got to try all 3 from the regular dessert menu, plus a bonus one!  Yes!

The presentation was quite cute, I must say.

All had the same shell, crispier than the main savory pascade, and caramelized.  I imagine if you get the full size ones the shell winds up similar to the savory one, just with more sugar in it.  Personally, I really liked the mini size since it was crispier and seemed more like a kouign amann.  The bite (ok, two or three) bite size was also enjoyable, just as finger food.

Starting from the front, we had:

Lemon Cherry:
Butter & lemon cream, toffee, cocoa biscuit and cherries".
This was my least favorite, and even though tiny, I didn't finish mine.  I would have never ordered this one though, as I don't like lemon flavors in dessert.  It was like a creamy lemon meringue pie filling, just not something I ever want.  Topped with a cherry half.

Coffee Cream:
This was the bonus one, so I don't have a full description.  My second favorite.  I avoid caffeine at night, and planned to only take a single bite of this, but, well, I couldn't resist finishing it.  The coffee cream was smooth and a lovely flavor, and it was topped with even more whipped cream.

Only Chocolat:
"A slightly hot soufflé of dark chocolate mousse."
My third favorite.  This one was quite different from the others, in that it didn't have a cream filling.  Instead, it was molten chocolate!  I wish I had taken a photo, but it was too messy to do so.  The moment I bite in, I had to quickly put the rest in my mouth, as it exploded molten chocolate everywhere.  This was Ojan's favorite, but only my third pick.  Interesting, but I preferred the cream flavors.

Citrus Fruits Chutney:
"Mascarpone cream & biscuit with passion fruit juice, citrus fruits chutney."
My hands down favorite, and, predictably, the one I would have ordered if only ordering a single full size dessert.  I didn't really taste any particular citrus fruit, but it was full of creamy, delicious mascarpone.  I love mascarpone, and the crispy shell, the creamy mascarpone, and the sweetness of the fruit chutney was a wonderful match.

Of the four, I would gladly get the mascarpone one again, and would share the coffee one, but the others I'd skip.  Again, I'd love to see what other flavors rotate though though, because I really liked the concept behind them.
The Bill!
The bill came rolled up and presented inside a metal tube.  The little touches of the decor really were quite nice.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Club Europe, BA 336, LHR-ORY

The flight: BA 336, LHR-ORY
Travel class: Club Europe
Departure time: 4:40 PM,
Meal served: Afternoon Tea.

Our final leg of the journey to Paris was on board BA 336, a A319 .  This was not my first time flying Club Europe, so I knew what to expect.  Skipping all the general preamble here, since you know know it by now.

The Cabin

Middle Seat - with fancy tray.
The seat was slightly nicer than what I’ve seen in the past.  The middle seat was blocked off, as is standard for Club Europe, but this time we had a nice tray in the middle, perfect for setting drinks throughout the flight.  The space under the seat was also large enough that both Ojan and I were able to stow our bags, keeping the space under our own seats free, greatly enhancing our foot space.

Service was friendly and efficient.  It started with an offer of a scented hot towel, something I noted was missing from our previous long haul flight.  I was really impressed with how quickly they got meal service going, but I guess it was kinda necessary, given the short flight time.


Afternoon tea on British Airways is always a bit sad.  A trio of dry, stale finger sandwiches on a plate/bowl with a spring of limp lettuce, a boxed “sweet treat” from Do&Co, and warm scones.  At least they have clotted cream.
Afternoon Tea.
The selection of sandwiches for the day was:
  • Cheese and chutney on white
  • Egg mayonaise with chives on rye
  • Tandoori chicken on wheat
I tried a nibble of each, and, as expected, the bread was totally stale.  The cheese and chutney was my favorite, but I couldn’t really identify what kind of cheese it was, nor what kind of chutney.  It reminded me of a non-grilled version of the grilled cheese my Dad always made with american cheese slices and relish.  The egg mayonnaise was a bit off putting because it was warm.  I didn’t try the tandoori chicken, because, well, chicken.

Also on the tray was the standard Wilkin & Sons strawberry jam, Rodda’s classic clotted cream, and whole milk to go with tea or coffee.

A basket came around with warm scones soon after, raisin or plain.  Again, no tongs, you had to reach in with your hand, as did everyone before you.

I opted for the raisin scone.  The scone was a standard BA scone.  Awesome?  No.  But tasty enough,  particularly when slathered with the entire pot of jam and clotted cream, and, uh, the unfinished clotted cream of your travel companion.

The "sweet treat" this time around was a new one for me, an orange hazelnut slice.  It wasn't good, but it wasn't awful.  Nice grittiness from the hazelnuts, orange flavors to accent, but certainly not a fresh baked good.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pierre Hermé, Paris

It is no secret that I adore desserts.  And baked goods.  Ok, basically anything sweet.  So it shouldn't surprise you that finally visiting Paris was a bit of a dream come true for me.  Pastries, sweets, everywhere!

One realm of desserts I am never excited by however are cookies.  Yes, even if they are macarons.  I've just never really liked macarons.  Why eat one?  I just don't get it.  I want more textures, more ... something.  I dunno.  So this is one area I was a mismatch for Paris.  Parisians, it turns out, are quite serious about their macarons.  Like Starbucks stores here (or Dunkin' Donuts for you east coasters), they are on every single corner.  And of course, there are great epic debates over who makes the best macaron (the answer seems to be Ladurée or Pierre Hermé, depending on who you ask).  Both of these brands have several shops around town, so I obviously ran into them over and over again.  Luckily for me, they don't just make macarons.

I sought out Pierre Hermé for one specific reason.  Another grand debate in Paris (along with where to get the best croissant, baguette, etc) is where to get the best mille-feuille.  Not an item we see all that often in the US, so I was definitely interested to sample some local options.  For the uninitiated, mille-feuille is a layered dessert with crispy flaky puff pastry and cream.  Usually 3 layers, but some pastry chefs go crazy adding more.  Usually stuffed with vanilla pastry cream, but sometimes it can be whipped cream, or other flavors.  The top usually has just confectioner's sugar, but I saw many that were iced too.   You might know these as napoleons, or a vanilla slice perhaps?

Anyway.  According to the all knowing internets, Pierre Hermé makes THE BEST mille-feuille in Paris (unless of course, you want one that is always made to order to ensure maximum crispness, in which case, there are other answers ...)

So I sought it out, venturing to the location in the 6th Arr.  There were several closer locations, but only a handful of Pierre Hermé shops actually sell the pastries, most sell chocolates and macarons exclusively.

There is no seating available, so all goods are packaged to go.
One large counter area was devoted to the famous macarons.  I quickly moved on.
Pound Cakes and Confectionary.
Opposite the macarons along the wall were assorted jams and spreads, and beautifully decorated pound cakes.  Still, not interesting to me.
Individual Chocolates.
The wall also had a display case of individual chocolates.  While I was browsing, I was offered a chocolate.  Chocolates are the other big speciality of Pierre Hermé, so I wasn't about to say no to that, even though it wasn't a flavor I was excited by Mogador, "passion fruit and milk chocolate ganache, enrobed with milk chocolate"

The chocolate was fine, and I liked the smooth creamy chocolate ganache, but the fruity flavor of the passion fruit inside the chocolate wasn't my favorite.  Still for a free chocolate, I was happy (these are not cheap!)
Pastry Case.
But I had my eyes on the pastry case, filled with stunning creations.
My Prize!
It turns out, I must not have been the only one who wanted the mille-feuille.  There were only two left!
After I ordered it, I was given a ticket, and sent to the cash register.  I paid.  And then I waited.  And waited some more.  Finally my treat was delivered to me.  They weren't just being slow or lazy.  They uh, take the packaging seriously.  Every order, even if just a single item, goes into a special box, with some marketing materials, in a bag.  I didn't need the bag nor the flyers, but, ok.
Fontaine Saint-Sulpice.
Since there was no where to sit at Pierre Hermé, I walked just a half a block away to the Fontaine Saint-Sulpice, and sat on a bench in the sun, prize in hand.

Let's just say I was excited.  I also knew that Pierre Hermé did not sell drinks, not even bottles of water, so I brought along my own coffee.  Because desserts need to be paired with coffee!
The Un-Boxing.
It was a bit difficult to get into, as the box was the type that kinda falls apart and is held together by a sticker.  I quickly realized that I couldn't eat it inside the box with the high walls, so I had to keep deconstructing that elaborate boxing job.
2000 Feuilles. 7.30€.
"Flaky caramelized puff pastry crust, crispy praliné with Piedmont hazelnuts, praliné mousseline cream."

It was beautiful, right?

I grabbed the PH logo thing on top, assuming, as it was part of my dessert, assuming that it was edible, and tossed it in my mouth.  It was not.  What, seriously?  I assumed it was printed on chocolate, or at least edible paper.  Nope.  Ok, major strike, this is worse than a garnish on a plate you aren't supposed to eat!

I carefully cut a slice, getting all the layers.  I tasted it.  Hmm.  I wasn't happy.

I seem to have missed an important memo ... the mille-feuille at Pierre Hermé is hazelnut based, not vanilla.  I don't really like hazelnut.  This isn't what I wanted!  I won't count this against them though, this is my own preference and fault.

So, take everything from here on with the knowledge that I was very disappointed.  I know I had read that it was "praline" and I saw it wasn't white, but somehow, I just didn't think about what I was getting.  It was supposed to be the best, I didn't question it further!

Anyway.  There were three layers of the crispy puff pastry crust.  This is what I like about mille-feuille, the contrast of that super crispy, caramelized crust with the cream inside.  It was crispy.  It was flaky.  But it tasted burnt.  There is a line between burnt and caramelized, and they went over it.  Was it supposed to be this way?  I'm not sure.  But it was bitter and burnt, not sweet and caramelized.  Strike two.

There were also three layers of the cream, "praliné mousseline cream".  It was creamy, it was hazelnut flavored.  It was fine.  Not much more to say there.

Wait, how were there three layers of cream, if there were three layers of pastry?  Because they added a bonus layer, the third from bottom.  Instead of another puff pastry layer, it was ground hazelnuts with more hazelnuts embedded in it.  Even more hazelnut flavor, but at least I liked the texture.

The ends were covered in feuilletine (those flaky little pastry crunch things).

Overall, it hit some checkboxes: yes, the pastry was crispy.  Yes there was a creamy layer.  The bonus hazelnut layer added some needed texture.  But ... it wasn't sweet enough.  The cream wasn't sweet, the hazelnuts were rather bitter, and the pastry layer was incredibly bitter.  It just wasn't what I was looking for.  I can deal with hazelnut, but it needed to be balanced by sweet (or chocolate!).

The 7.30€ price is also pretty high, but makes sense, given the elaborate nature of all of it, including the packaging.  Serious meh from me.