Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eau Potable

Free sparkling water, anyone?  That's what you'll now find flowing out of a public drinking fountain in Paris' Jardin de Reuilly.  Eau de Paris, the city's water company installed a machine that takes regular eau from the tap, makes it "gazeuse," and then dispenses it to the bubbly-loving public.  It's just the most recent in a long line of attempts to get Parisians to give up their cherished bottled water and start reaching for the tap instead.  Bottoms up!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Paris in Florida

I just got back from a long weekend in Orlando, Florida where I spent two days gleefully running around Walt Disney World.   It was my sister’s idea, which she got from the numerous happy family vacations we took to WDW starting when she and I were just two and five years old, respectively.  She reserved a cabin at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, I booked a surprisingly cheap flight from Washington, DC, two others joined us, and we set out to discover what it’s like to visit Disney as adults.  Answer:  Just as much fun as when you’re a kid, except with alcohol.

One of our must-sees at the resort is Epcot's World Showcase.  Here you can visit 11 countries in the time it takes you to walk around the small lake each themed pavilion surrounds. In just a few short hours you can eat bratwurst in "Germany," watch belly dancers perform in "Morocco," and relax amongst ponds and bamboo groves in "China."  Disney even hires foreigners from each of the countries represented to work for them, which I took full advantage of by chatting up some of the Frenchmen and Frenchwomen in “France.”  Ahhh, it felt so good to order my glass of rosé en français…

Here is a photo of Disney's faux Paris.  What do you think?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The New York Baguette Search: Results

I had high hopes for my New York City baguette search.  Armed with Internet research and recommendations from seasoned New Yorkers I hoped to test a solid half-dozen or so loaves in an attempt to find an acceptable stateside version of France's daily bread.  But as so often happens when I move to a new city, I thought I had all the time in the world to explore everything, only to remember, much too late, that time flies.  Especially when you’re having fun.  Before I knew it, moving had begun and my exploring had come to an end.  I did, however, manage to sneak in a taste-test of two baguettes.

Baguette # 1 - The Greenmarket Baguette

Who says France has all the best outdoor markets?  New York City’s Greenmarket organization has put together an impressive multi-borough schedule of farm fresh produce, humanely-raised meat, and all manner of locally-sourced/crafted/raised products.  The best Greenmarket of all is at Union Square, where the Saturday morning selection (and crowd) is impressive.  One stand promised “French-style baguettes,” so I swung by to make a purchase. But the minute I felt that dense-yet-soft stick of bread I knew they were imposters.  Sure enough, a tasting back at home revealed a total lack of flavor, an overly chewy interior, and absolutely none of that satisfying crunch you find with a true French baguette.  I didn’t eat more than a couple of bites before tossing this faux French bread into the trash where it belonged.  Beurk!

Baguette #2 - The Murray's Cheese Shop Baguette

Murray’s Cheese Shop is a swanky fromagerie located in the heart of the West Village.  I headed over there after work one evening with a mad craving for a simple dinner of charcuterie and cheese on a baguette.  It didn’t disappoint: The salami and Cremeux de Bourgogne were expensive but delicious.  The baguette?  It was good.  Not airy-and-light good, but rather airy-and-heavy (yes, that’s possible) good.  In fact, I wouldn’t call this “baguette” a baguette at all. It’s more like a “tradition,” which is one of the many varieties of long sticks of bread one finds in a French boulangerie.  A “ficelle” is another example.  When I lived in Paris I used to order “une tradi” on a regular basis to go with dinner, so I enjoyed sampling a version of this bread in New York City.  But I wasn’t able to find a true French baguette in the Big Apple.  Any suggestions for next time?

If you go:

Union Square Greenmarket
Runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
Union Square West, New York City
Subway: Union Square 14th Street

Murray’s Cheese
254 Bleecker St., second location at 43rd and Lexington
Blissfully un-French in that it's open seven days a week!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sharing Bikes in Minneapolis

Vélib-style biking has come to the City of Lakes!  It's called Nice Ride (a play on "Minnesota Nice?") and it will get you from Uptown to Downtown to Dinkytown for the price of a $5 day pass or a $60 annual pass.  This bike share is seasonal, operating from April to November, so don't expect to be able to bike around town in a blizzard.  Then again, we're talking about Minnesota, where snowstorms can strike at any time (The epic Halloween blizzard of '91 comes to mind).  In other words, don't leave home without your scarf...and boots, and hat, and hand-warmers, and...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pommes Frites

I recently blogged about Belgian waffles.  Today I'm blogging about Belgian fried potatoes, otherwise known as pommes frites and/or a Flemish name I can't remember.  More specifically, it's about a tiny take-out joint in New York City called Pommes Frites that sells nothing but pommes frites.  In short, heaven.

Or so I thought.

First, a little background:  Six months of living in Brussels taught me that Belgian food (and drink) is good.  The waffles!  The chocolate!  The beer!  But for my money the best of all were the frites.  The hot, crispy, served-in-a-cone, dipped-in-a-sauce frites.  I've always been a fan of salty food, especially fries, and the Belgians take this delicious treat to a whole new level.  I went to Brussels' famous Maison Antoine more times than I care to admit.

Needless to say, I was beyond excited to try New York City's own frites shop, conveniently located one block from my former apartment.  I ordered a regular sized cone with ketchup and Irish curry sauce for dipping, and tucked in for what I hoped would be a delicious afternoon snack.  Instead, I got "blah."  The frites didn't taste Belgian at all.  They were too dense, too large, and not nearly crispy enough.  I would call them "steak fries," which can be tasty, but are most definitely not what you find at a Belgian friterie. 

Three months of living in New York City taught me that Belgian food abroad is hit and miss.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Crêpes at the Fair

Last week's road from New York City to Washington, DC traveled through Minnesota and included a stop at the Minnesota State Fair.  All of my favorite fair foods were there: Corn dogs, cheese curds, french fries, and...crêpes?

Yes, crêpes.  The Great Minnesota Get-Together has been home to a crêpe stand for 16 years, but I've never paid it much attention.  It's not that I don't like crêpes - I do! -  it's just that I was never interested in eating them at a Midwestern state fair.  This year, however, I finally paid a visit to La Crêperie.  All the classic toppings are available, which you can enjoy wrapped up in a piping hot crêpe while lounging on the establishment's sizable patio listening to live music and sipping wine from their wine bar.  Vive l'été!