Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

Food, Friends and Family

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

I need to become a food and travel writer. What am I saying? I am a food and travel writer – what else have I been doing for the past 3.5 years if it isn’t writing while eating and travelling? I just need to convince someone to pay me to do it because it is currently 11.11pm and instead of going to bed like a good girl should, I can think of nothing but turning on my computer and writing about the glorious food experience that I have just returned home from. And while I may not post this until tomorrow when my sober eyes are able to check it for spelling and grammatical errors and perhaps resize and insert some photographs, I am writing this while still high on my foodie buzz. Life is good.

I have just spent the evening with 20-something fellow food lovers (aka Yelp Elite members) at the Bar and Grill restaurant at the Lowry Hotel. We had been invited for another complimentary meal to thank us for writing about restaurants/bars/cafés on the Yelp website.  I was particularly excited about this Elite event – a five course meal with matching wines. If there’s anything in this world that I truly love it is a multiple course dinner with matching wines served in separate glasses. I am but a snob.

Recently relaunched and situated in one of Manchester’s most hoity-toity hotels, we were welcomed to the restaurant with big smiles and friendly service by the lovely staff. Canapés, prosecco and cocktails were served liberally in the ‘library’ (not much reading was done) but most of us headed out on the balcony where we had great views over the brown Irwell River and a lovely 70s mission brown office block. If you squinted it was actually quite pretty.

View from the balcony.

View from the balcony.

We headed inside to the private dining room which, like most private dining rooms, was a bit of a squishy little box but it seated 24 people perfectly and had doors opening out into the balcony area. I was seated next to the door so I had a nice breeze wafting in. Quite pleasant. There was plenty of excited giggling and we were invited to take as many photos as we wanted on our phones. This was a room of happy people.

My name, my seat, my Yelp sunglasses.

My name, my seat, my Yelp sunglasses.

Huseyin was the main man for the evening – he was in charge of everything and knew what was going down. He was smooth with the ladies and suave with the gents and made everyone feel right at home. He introduced us to our first wine for the evening and then out came the asparagus with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. I have never really liked eggs. I think hard boiled eggs should be used as weapons and never consumed. However, I was determined to enjoy this and cracked open that egg sack and watched the yolks flow. And BOY, OH BOY was it good! The asparagus were cooked perfectly with a wonderful chargrilled saltiness and the egg and hollandaise just screamed to be wiped off the plate with a piece of bread. Luckily they gave us bread rolls to do just that. That’s initiative.

Asparagus. poached egg and hollandaise.

Asparagus. poached egg and hollandaise.

We were then served a small amuse bouche of gazpacho served in a small coffee cup. You picked it up and drank it like a coffee and felt the huge kick of cucumber and spice. It was a powerful beast and went down well although I needed to break the code of etiquette and use my mains fork to eat the chunks of cucumber and tomato sitting in the bottom of the cup. Other people were doing it too so I figured it was ok.

Gazpacho.

Gazpacho.

I had been drooling about my main course since I first read the menu about a week ago. My recent realisation that I love eating small birds was elevated further when I discovered I would be adding guinea fowl to my consumption list. To be honest, I wasn’t certain what a guinea fowl looked like or how big it is but clearly it is larger than I imagined. The large breast that I was presented with was significantly meatier and more chickeny than I expected. And geez was it tasty. Crispy skin, a fantastic marsala cream sauce, girolle mushrooms, broad beans and a truffle risotto. It was salty,  creamy, mushroomy and it made me happy. I could have done with more sauce as the guinea fowl was quite a hefty bird and the meat was a little dry. I am horrified to announce that I didn’t manage to eat it all, something I am not proud of. However, for a five course meal, the portion sizes were all quite large. While eating I was reminded so much of the food that I ate while living in Paris, and I couldn’t help but think that the portion sizes were twice those you would get in France. This doesn’t necessarily represent better value for money – instead I felt stuffed and didn’t finish my food which I really dislike doing. But dessert was coming and I couldn’t not eat that.

Hello, guinea fowl.

Hello, guinea fowl.

The guinea fowl was served with a pinot noir from New Zealand, taking me back to an evening I spent with my best friend, Gill in Sydney, at a New Zealand wine tasting event. Oh, we drank some Pinot Noir that night… Anyway, it was a mighty fine wine and I am once again willing to admit that the New Zealanders can make a nice drop. And they should continue to do so.

Dessert was interesting. Clearly not a regular item on their menu, it was a roll of frozen strawberry cream wrapped in a sheet of meringue that had the Yelp logo printed on it in edible ink. Sadly it looked a bit horrible. At each end of the ice cream cigar were clumps of cold cream that didn’t do much for the presentation. A smudge of caramelised meringue that looked a little bit like the guinea fowl had made a mess on the plate was apparently decoration. Then there were some strawberry jellies and tiny strawberries cubes. It tasted quite good – the strawberry cream wasn’t too sweet and the meringue was nice. But overall it was a bit clumsy and far too big but I give them credit for designing something for the Yelp event. Dessert was served with a dessert wine from Chile which wasn’t too perfumed and worked well to cut the sweetness of the cream and meringue in the dessert. Big win.

Yelp-flavoured dessert.

Yelp-flavoured dessert.

Tea and coffee were served with little macarons which appeared to be encasing blackberry jam, a slice of some sort of cheese and a mint leaf. Pure BRILLIANCE. It was fresh, clean and not sweet. The perfect end to the meal.

Crazy macaron.

Crazy macaron.

I spent the evening surrounded by lovely, friendly Yelpers who were chatty, easy to get along with and just generally fun. Who knew a Monday could be so good? I had spent the day visiting family, driving around the English countryside in a yellow Beetle convertible with the roof down, and I had eaten amazing food with wonderful people next to the stinky Irwell River. This was one of those days that have popped up in my life over the past few years that make me want to chain myself to a tree and refuse to leave the country when my visa expires. Maybe these experiences exist in Australia as well but right now Manchester is really delivering. It must be summer.

63 Degrees of Deliciousness

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

I, Jessica Davies, am a very lucky girl. For many reasons really, but on Saturday night my good fortune was highlighted, underlined, set off in fireworks, and served on a plate by a singing penguin in a suit. I was taken out for dinner at one of Manchester’s top restaurants, 63 Degrees, for delicious French food and wine. I felt like I had been transported back to Paris as I read the menu and saw all of my favourite words – foie gras, vin blanc, et chocolat. Trop bon.

Matt had tried to go to 63 Degrees when he had been in Manchester a few weeks ago, however he hadn’t been able to get a table. So some forward planning and gentle prodding from a nagging Virgo meant we scored a table at the ridiculously early time of 5.45pm. Thankfully it is dark in Manchester by 4 o’clock so stomaches start grumbling much earlier. Plus we were running late so by the time we were seated it was an acceptable dining hour.

The restaurant is run by the Moreau family with Eric, a very handsome and very French-looking chef, out the back working his magic in the kitchen. We were served by a young waiter who was… well… a frenchman. Confident and ready to tell his clientele who was in charge, he kept our wine glasses filled and he briefly allowed me the pleasure of speaking French to him. Briefly.

I talked Matt into sharing the foie gras entrée – two rounds of rich foie gras served with a crunchy brioche and fruity fig compote. It took me straight back to Christmas last year eating excessive amounts of foie gras and drinking cheap wine with friends in Paris – only this was the fancy-afied version and definitely not cheap. It was just delicious. I want more.

Continuing along this theme of my morally challenging meat-eating tendencies, over previous weeks I had been thinking about the delicious small birds (quails, pigeons, spatchcock) that I ate in France so when I saw pigeon on the menu I couldn’t go past it. The dainty roasted bird was served with cabbage and mushrooms with a creamy, buttery sauce. I would have liked the skin to be a bit crisper but the flavours were moreish and warming. Matt’s lamb was the winner though – juicy and tender, it melted in your mouth and was perfectly accompanied by a sweet potato mash.

Pigeon rôti avec petit chou

Pigeon rôti avec petit chou

Of course I was waiting anxiously for the dessert and was extremely concerned by the fact that there were TWO chocolate items on the menu. How was I supposed to choose? But then angels sang and glitter fell from the ceiling as Matt suggested we share the fondant chocolat et caramel and the poire chocolat. It was like winning the lottery twice.

The chocolate and caramel fondant was served with a chestnut cream and ice cream. The fondant oozed as it should and was deliciously dark but quite sweet due to the caramel. I would have preferred a plain chocolate fondant but I wasn’t about to send it back.

Fondant chocolat et caramel avec glace marron

Fondant chocolat et caramel avec glace marron

Then there was the chocolate sphere – served as a hard-cased chocolate ball, our smooth waiter friend poured a hot chocolate sauce over the top, melting the ball and revealing rounds of poached pear inside. What remained was essentially rich, dark chocolate soup with pieces of pear. HOLY MOLY.

Sphère chocolat avec poire

Sphère chocolat avec poire

I starred at it for awhile, unable to accept that I was allowed to eat it. And eat it I did – I think I may have defended the chocolate and pear delight with my spoon and not allowed Matt to have a very fair share… I ended the evening at 63 Degrees a very happy girl on an extreme chocolate high (my preferred state of being.)

I am very pleased to have found another restaurant in Manchester that delivers gastronomic experiences that take me to my happy place. I still have a long list of restaurants that I want to try and my experience at 63 Degrees has kicked my foodie taste-buds back into action. Thanks, Matt.

Red. Meat.

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Since living on my own, my home cooking diet consists mainly of various combinations of vegetables, some sort of grain and cheese. Lots of cheese. When I eat out I will then choose the meat-focused dish to fill up on my quota of fish/chicken/cow for the week. I had been craving a decent steak and so when my brother said he was coming to visit for dinner on the weekend I booked us a table at Grill on New York Street. Yet another member of the Living Ventures emporium (my ex-employers), the Grill is known for delicious pieces of meat cooked well.

They certainly delivered on this – we both had fillet steaks which were still deliciously rare on the inside but nicely seared on the outer. The peppercorn sauce was creamy and had a good kick, and our sides of hand cut chips, carrot and suede mash, and roasted sprouts were all well done.

Mmm… cow.

Mmm… cow.

As an ex-employee of Living Ventures, it is hard to go into one of their restaurants and not mark the service by the criteria that I was taught as a waiter at Artisan. Times for welcoming guests and bringing drinks to the table are well engrained in my brain and unfortunately the service was a bit lacking on this occasion. There was also a general air of disinterest in our presence – none of the staff members really seemed to care that we were eating in their restaurant.

The other down side were the desserts – Ben had a trifle that was 80 per cent cream and covered in multi-coloured sprinkles, and my apple pie had a soggy pastry bottom (Paul Hollywood would not be impressed.) It tasted ok but it wasn’t remarkable. I was pleased I went against my habit of choosing the chocolate dessert but I had doubts about how enjoyable it would be. The table next to me ordered it and were delivered a giant slab of cake that resembled the Cheese Cake Shop mud cake. A wise decision on my part.

Apple pie with Lancashire cheese crust. Couldn't taste the cheese...

Apple pie with Lancashire cheese crust. Couldn’t taste the cheese…

It was a decent meal and the steak was seriously good. But considering the prices and hoity-toity reputation of the restaurant I expected better.

Birthday Pie

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I wish to officially announce that I am one of the luckiest people in the world and that I am friends with some of the greatest, coolest, best-looking and down right bonza people EVER. Last night I was reminded of this fact when my friend, Pooja, invited me to her house for dinner. Pooja had spent the day saving lives, performing surgery and puncturing people with scalpels and needles and yet still managed to get home and whip me up a SUPER SPECIAL SURPRISE-FILLED BIRTHDAY DINNER!

This three-course menu consisted of home-made beef and mushroom BIRTHDAY PIES served with sweet potato chips and salad.

Birthday pie!

Birthday pie!

This was then followed by TWO dessert courses! I know a friend is a real friend when they feed me two desserts. The first round – a banana BIRTHDAY CAKE adorned with a significant number and cats in candle form.

Birthday cake!

Birthday cake!

The second, two flavours of ice cream, strawberries and meringue. Pooja also bought a bottle of something pink, fizzy and containing indistinguishable ingredients that when combined had created a potentially dangerous drink that just tasted like cordial.

We sat by her window and had views out over the Manchester ship canal while discussing the highs and lows of getting old. We’ve now decided that 38 is the new 28 which was the new 18. So we still have another ten years to go before we have to become serious adults. It was a great night. On top of all of this, Pooja bought me a vintage red Parker Pen from 1964 – the perfect instrument for a writer who is slightly obsessed with red. A major thank you to Pooja for looking after me and being my surrogate sister. I still think we could be identical twins, if only we looked more alike.

The older you get, the more impressive the fire you can create on top of your birthday cake.

The older you get, the more impressive the fire you can create on top of your birthday cake.

I Love Half Price Food

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Last night was one of those evenings where the completely unexpected happened and I came away feeling so happy to be living in Paris. My friend and ex-boss, Claire, had put me in contact with a fellow Perthian, Pak. Claire described him as a fellow foodie which made him instantly my friend. In less the 24 hours we had been introduced and had decided to go for dinner and make the most of an awesome restaurant deal that is happening across France. For one week, restaurants ranging from local brasseries to top-end haute gastronomie, are offering 2-for-1 deals on set menus. So essentially, you book a table for two and you’re eating for half price – a great excuse to try higher-end dining. Being a lover of bargain food experiences, I was pretty damn excited.

We ummed and ahhed for a few hours during the day, trying to pick a restaurant that would satisfy our palates as well as offer a great dining experience. Most of the haute gastronomie restaurants had been booked out weeks ago, so we finally found a restaurant in the 11th arrondissement – a restaurant called Le Tintilou that I had read many reviews about and had heard it was good.

And was it ever! Pak really is a foodie, eating his food with an inquisitive eye (tongue?) trying to work out each of the ingredients and how dishes were put together. His descriptions were delightful. Meanwhile my response to the food ranged from, “Yeah, it’s awesome!” to “Oh man, that’s good.” Either way, we both enjoyed our meals.

We started with thin slices of toasted baguette served with a broccoli and bean dip. It had a touch of spice which was exciting and was a brilliant bright green. Very fresh and enticing.

Tintilou dip

So green.

For entrée I had vegetarian ravioli which were spiced with cumin and served in a very thick sauce and some cherry tomatoes. Pak had prawns that were served with a coconut sauce that was also particularly thick. Both of us were a bit unsure about the sauces as they were almost soup-like. Mine was very tasty though.

Tintilou ravioli

Little bundles of yum.

For my main dish I had cod which was served on a delicious bed of spelt. Oh how I love grains. The fish was JUST cooked so it was moist without being underdone. Perfect. The spelt added a wonderful crunch and satisfied the wheat-lover in me. It was served with confit lemon which was a little bit over powering if you had too much in one spoonful. At the same time, when the proportion of lemon to fish to spelt was correct, it was exceptionally delicious.

Tintilou cod

Delicious fishes.

So wish the savoury dishes finally out of the way, I could concentrate on the important course – dessert. We had a choice between a meringue with baked apricots or a ganache with a soft ginger caramel. Not being a fan of meringue, I chose the ganache/caramel which was served with a warm madeleine on the side. The flavours were intense – the ginger was very strong and when mixed with caramel it was quite unexpected. Once you mixed it with the chocolate ganache layer underneath, everything somehow sorted itself out and the mix of flavours was wonderful. It took a few mouthfuls to get used to though and it was extremely rich and buttery. But with small bites of cakey madeleines to cleanse the palate, my dessert soon disappeared. Delicious.

Tintilou dessert

Hooray for desserts.

Throughout this entire gastronomic experience, Pak and I had been getting to know one another and also having brief conversations with the couple at the table next to us. This being Paris, we were practically sitting on top of one another so it was hard not to have some sort of exchange. They were having the same menu as us and so we were soon chatting about the food, the wine and the restaurant. By the time we were eating dessert, we had made new friends with Arnaud and Ariane and were soon ordering digestives and making a non-Parisian amount of noise in the now empty restaurant. It was fantastic! I left the restaurant having eaten great food and wine and having made three new friends. A truly wonderful experience that happened thanks to Claire and the awesome world of food that is Paris.

 

Eating With Angels

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

The month of May brought numerous visitors to Paris so I have had lots of opportunities to go and eat food. Always a welcome thing in my world where food rules. This month also involved four public holidays – May Day, Victory Day, Ascension Day, and ‘Next Monday’ (I am yet to discover what we are going to celebrate.) Public holidays in Paris usually mean that most shops and restaurants are closed, including my favourite restaurant in Paris, Le Jardin D’en Face. This meant I had to find a NEW place to take my friend/colleague, Brett to celebrate Jesus going to hang out with his Dad.

I previously spotted a restaurant on La Fourchette that looked nice and decided it was time to try it. Located in the 9th arrondissement, La Table des Anges (The Table of the Angels) is just up the road from my favourite café, KookaBoora and therefore couldn’t be bad. Now that I think about it, it was an appropriately named restaurant to go to considering the theme of the public holiday.

The restaurant was lovely – the very friendly but somewhat posh staff were attentive without being excessive and were very willing to translate their strangely difficult menu. Sometimes menus can be easy – other times they are written by someone who wants to use every possible ‘other’ word for chicken, just to make it tricky for innocent people like me.

The food was great – fresh, well presented and tasty, although it was a bit over priced compared to similar restaurants in the area. I had a piece of grilled cod that was served with deliciously buttery vegetables. The fish was slightly undercooked and could have done with an extra minute.

Table des Anges fish

Such delicious vegetables.

My dessert, an apple and rhubarb tart tatin was well done although I have had better. The rhubarb was a nice change from the traditional tart tatin but it could have done with more fruit.

Apple tart

If there is one thing I hate it is ice cream melting on top of my dessert...

Brett tried the chocolate dessert which was mousse-cake-thing that really didn’t quite reach expectations. A shame considering I had been thinking about Le Jardin D’en Face’s chocolate cake all day… really there is no comparison.

Brett commented on how in the two restaurants we went to during his visit (we also had lunch at Les Enfants Perdu a few days before. Just wonderful…) both provided us with great service and special additions that weren’t requested or expected but that added to the overall enjoyment of the meal. At La Tables des Anges, we were treated to a free helping of freshly sliced charcuterie for an aperatif and an apple liquor at the end to ‘aid sleeping’. It is the simplicity of these offerings that just make the whole experience.

Pie.

Monday, April 30th, 2012

As I mentioned in my last entry, one of the main reasons why I am uncertain about my ability to complete the 40-in-40 challenge is that I need to eat. However, I will claim baking and the invention of desserts as a creative challenge. Therefore my strawberry and rhubarb pie that I baked to take to my friends’ house for dinner counts.

Strawberry and rhubarb pie

Pie.

It was a bit of a flop. It tasted ok but the pastry didn’t turn out how I hoped and it exploded in the oven, so as far as baking successes go, this wasn’t really one of them. However, we learn from our mistakes, don’t we kids? Next time I know to be less lazy and make my own pastry rather than blindly buying pre-made pastry from the supermarket and choosing the wrong one. Oops.

Not Disgusting At All

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Restaurants should really change the name “Degustation” because, in my limited but existing experience, they’re not disgusting at all. HA. Get it? Hilarious.

Anyway, moving on from that pun, while visiting the South-West last weekend, my parents demonstrated how much they love me by taking me to The Studio Bistro for a degustation. I think they REALLY love me. I have never had a degustation menu before but my ever growing love for food has made the idea of eating that many courses potentially the best possible thing to do. Ever. I was very excited.

The Studio is a relatively new establishment with an art gallery and restaurant under the same roof. At dinner time, they spread tables throughout the gallery so you sit amongst paintings and sculptures contemplating what you will purchase after you have had a few glasses of wine. What I really liked about The Studio was the lack of pretentiousness – while the food was of a high quality and there was a general feeling of elegance, I didn’t feel like I was under review or that I had to sit with my hands folded in my lap. This was potentially due to a couple of the wait staff who were clearly still learning the ropes of how to serve in fancy restaurants. Walk to table, place hand behind back, pour water from jug slowly into glasses…

Our dinner consisted of five main dishes, plus numerous little surprises in between. One of my favourite dishes was the amuse bouche – a slice of nectarine wrapped in cured ham. Very simple yet very yum. We had crab, hot smoked tasmanian salmon (an entire fillet – it was incredible), pork belly, fillet steak and then a chocolate mousse cake for dessert. The salmon was a highlight – it melted in your mouth and has a soft smokey flavour. I had never tried pork belly before as usually the idea of eating that much fat doesn’t sit well with my stomach or thighs, so I was keen to give it a go. WOW. Who knew fat could taste so good? Well… lots of people, probably. But as a regular remover-of-skin-and-fat-from-meat, it was news to me, and I am pleased to announce that I ate every last drop of artery clogging flab. Amazing.

By the time we had reached the fillet steak, my stomach was questioning whether or not I really needed to eat more food. Shut up, stomach, was my response. The steak was beautifully cooked and despite thinking I was full, I managed to move things around in order to fit it all in. Then came the dessert.

When I had first read the menu I became instantly excited by the description of the dessert – Caraway and chocolate mousse cake with compressed stone fruits and vanilla. Oh, yes please. Sadly, the description was better than the real thing. I was expecting a real kick from the caraway but sadly I could barely taste it at all. Plus the consistency of the mousse cake was very strange – they had created multiple layers of cake, mousse, cake, mousse, but as a result, the cake had spread out through the mousse layers, giving it a very sandy texture. Mousse needs to be smooth – it’s a fact of life.

Chocolate cake

Degustation Dessert

I am still trying to work out how the stone fruit was ‘compressed’. It just looked and tasted like a piece of peach to me. Plus it was under-ripe peach to make things worse – the consistency was like eating an apple. The plate had a drizzle of a peach and vanilla sauce which was probably the highlight of the dish – lovely and refreshing. The dessert wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I had imagined it to be.

I found that to be the case with many of the dishes in the meal – while the food was of a high quality, the ingredients were generally fresh and the presentation was nice (except for the steak that looked a bit like someone had thrown up on it), there was something lacking. Sometimes it felt that the chef was putting too many things on one plate, other times the combination of flavours didn’t quite work. There were also far too many dishes with carbohydrate-filled root vegetables so by the end of the meal you were feeling very heavy.

It has, however, sparked a new interest for me in long, multiple-coursed meals and I plan on trying some more. I suspect the French do it very well – it is their word, after all.

(One of the) Best Days Ever

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Every now and then days come along that are just fantastic. You wake up and everything goes to plan or amazing things occur that make you laugh and jump for joy. Last Friday was one of those days for me, where I let down my hair and let whimsy take over. Thanks, whimsy. You’re a good one.

Here was my day:
7.30am – I met Becky down stairs for our usual morning run, but poor Becky had to pull out by the time we reached the first corner due to extreme knee pain. So I took it upon myself to run for the both of us, heading straight up hill to Parc de Butts Chaumont, and then down to the canal. Usually at this point we head for home, completing a 7km circuit. But I was feeling good, my legs weren’t tired and I had spring in my step. So I ran on joining one of our other routes and heading to a bridge that has “Cabaret Sauvage” written in shiny lights. By the time I got home I would have completed a 10km circuit. A great start to the morning.

9am – Breakfast. Having showered and de-stunk, I sat down and ate my usual banana, muesli and fromage blanc (it’s like yoghurt but better) concoction and continued to read Le Delicatesse. I am determined to read and entire book en français and have been given a short novel that I am slowly making my way through. I haven’t read much in French in the past as it is hard, slow going and generally frustrating as I realise how few words I actually know. But I am doing it! I am learning new phrases, new verb conjugations and actually enjoying the process. Fun times.

Between 9.30am and 12noon – I worked on some ideas that I have for a new book. I started researching my favourite street in Paris, Rue St Denis, as well as prostitution laws in France. Yes, prostitution. Fascinating history – it has shifted from being an acceptable and socially appropriate career to now being illegal. Despite this, it is extremely easy to spot in certain areas of the city.

10.30am – Morning coffee with half a gevulde koek.

12.30pm – Tom and I met Pip and her boyfriend, Manu, for lunch. We went to L’As du Falafel, one of Paris’s most famous and popular falafel restaurants in the heart of the Marais. As per usual, it was extremely delicious and ridiculously hard to eat as these pitas are stuffed full of falafel, lettuce, and grilled eggplant that just go all over your face and hands. So good.

2pm – Manu wanted dessert (I like this guy) so we wandered through the Marais before settling on le Pain Quotidien, a chain boulangerie that makes very good bread and desserts. I had a mini chocolate tart that fit perfectly in my stomach after my large falafel.

Chocolate tart

Yum.

3pm – Time to do something crazy. Pip talked me into going ice skating with her outside the Hôtel de Ville in the centre of Paris. It is a beautiful setting and each year the Mairie sets up an ice rink that people come and zoom around on. I am the world’s worst ice skater. Really I am the world’s worst at any physical activity that requires me to be balanced and moving at the same time. I stuck to the wall on the side and pulled myself along, my legs like two planks who refused to bend and glide, bend and glide. Pip eventually convinced me to go around with her. I didn’t fall over! I think that’s a positive. And there was a fun and supportive atmosphere amongst all of the less-talented skaters. I was sure to speak in my strongest Australian accent so everyone realised that I wasn’t from these European, ice-filled lands. I’m quite certain that Australians were not designed for ice skating.

Ice skating

Jess "Ice Legs" Davies

Anyway, for just five euros to hire the ice skates, it was a fun way to pass the time. The boys stood on the edge and froze. Silly things. And on my various turns around the edge of the rink, I could have acquired at least seven phone numbers from French men watching and saying, “Bonjour, la blonde!” They must be desperate if they’re willing to go for the dorky blonde who keeps saying “WHOA!” and almost falls over.

4pm – From here we separated ways and headed home. I went online and bought a Le Creuset pot for even LESS than I had seen in the shops! It arrives in the mail next week (I hope.)

8pm – We met Pip and Manu again for dinner Le Jardin D’en Face. We wanted to take them to our favourite restaurant before Pip and I head back to Australia. I had spoken on many occasions of the world’s best chocolate cake that can be found at this restaurant and so there were high expectations. Thankfully dinner (and the cake) were delicious PLUS the waitress who has been there for our past few visits mentioned that she recognised us and asked where we were from, what we were doing etc. When I said we were from Perth she became very excited and said she had lived there for eight months. Of course she had. Every French person between the ages of 22 and 30 has. So now we have a friend at our favourite restaurant. Hoorah!!

10.45pm – The night didn’t end there. The old saying, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know (or rather it’s knowing people who know other people), came into fruition with Pip having scored us half price tickets to the Moulin Rouge. Pip works in the pub next to the Moulin, and the dancers come in for drinks so everyone is friends with everyone. This is fantastic when you want to save 50-plus Euros and see half naked girls dancing.

Moulin Rouge

Le Moulin

We were allowed to get in through a secret back entrance with a password, gate keeper and locked doors. Very exclusive. Pip’s friend and Moulin dancer, Alex, met us backstage wearing a face-full of stage make up and very dirty terry-toweling overalls. It was fantastic. All of the dancers were wearing these as they walked past with their heads high, shoulders back, looking ravishing from the neck up, and like trailer-park bumpkins from the shoulders down. I need to get myself one.

We were taken to our table as the show began and another friend of Pip’s was our waiter. Once again, this came in handy as he put an ice bucket on our table with three bottles of champagne. Thank you.

So, the show. I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The costumes were fantastic with some great use of colour and they were well designed to cover and reveal the dancers bodies. It wasn’t all boobs – some of the dancers remained covered up for the entire show and only the lead dancers revealed their ‘bits’. The dancers’ bums were more readily on show as most of the outfits involved minimal ‘bottom coverage’. It certainly wasn’t crude, nor was it overly sexy.

The choreography was a bit tired and could do with an upgrade or perhaps return to how it really used to be when the Moulin was in full swing. It seemed very 80s and some of the dancers looked bored to tears. It was the late show and I don’t blame them for being sick of doing the same steps over and over again, but the crowd is expecting some sort of enthusiasm. The girls were definitely better than the boys, with most of the guys looking like their mum was making them do it.

There were a few interesting moments involving snakes and miniature ponies, but really overly I felt the show lacked some sort of spark. Maybe my expectations were too high, but really I’d much prefer to spend that sort of money and go and see a band perform. It was a bit naff. I think the other problem was that the crowd was full of tourists, half of whom didn’t really seem to get into the performance. There wasn’t much excessive clapping and the atmosphere was generally quite flat.

The show finished at 1.30am, our day of Parisian fun over. Tom and I walked home and were finally in bed by 2.30am. It was a long but fantastic day and a great way to say “A bientôt, Paris!” It also made me even more determined to be back here in six weeks’ time for more good times and more good food.

Another to Add to the Dessert List

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I have a few favourite desserts scattered throughout Paris that I seek out in order to satisfy cravings. There is the banana bread at Kooka Boora, gateau chocolate de Grandmère at Le Jardin d’en Face, and the créme brulée at Les Enfants Perdu. At one point there was also a chocolate and basil tart at Hotel du Nord but certain a grumpy waiter named Adrian has removed that from my list of must-eats. Shame, really.

Last night I managed to welcome a new addition to my “Top Desserts” list, something I was very happy to do. Let me state from the beginning that in order to be in my Top Desserts list, the dessert has to be exceptionally good. I don’t hand out this status willy-nilly! I have eaten MANY desserts and only those that really excite my taste buds and make me all gooey inside are allowed into the Top Desserts category.

Tom and I decided to celebrate my 50,000 word writing achievement and his recent skill at easily gaining freelance work by going out to dinner. We La Fourchette-d it and chose a restaurant that I had been wanting to go to for some time, Le Vernissoir. It is a cool and hip restaurant located in a side street that as we walked down it made me feel like I was walking in NoHo in New York. Very cool. Lots of little restaurants and plenty of BoBo’s hanging out and being cool-and-stuff-without-trying.

I wanted to have an early night as we have been going out a LOT lately so we booked the 7.30pm time slot. We were, of course, the only people eating and no one else came until at least an hour later. It didn’t matter – the staff were friendly and didn’t poo-poo us for being there so early. We both managed to order the exact same dishes for both mains and desserts so we didn’t really get to experience a large extent of the menu, but there were plenty of interesting items to choose from. Duck with truffles, a japanese tapioca risotto with mushrooms, and sword fish with sea urchin juice (yuck.) But we both went for the ‘thick cut’ beef with parsnips and we weren’t disappointed with our choice.

Beef

Mmm... Beef.

The meat was tender and deliciously cooked and the parsnips were a wonderful change from potatoes. I never cook with parsnips but I am now excited to do so. The sauce was soooo good although the plate was covered in a soup of olive oil which, while delicious, is sometimes a bit excessive.

Our La Fourchette booking required us to order desserts. DANG. It was an easy decision. The final item on the menu was a ‘mille feuille’ like dessert – two pieces of thin, flaky pastry with a chocolate mousse (with a very slight hint of chilli) inside and then a drizzle of salted butter caramel sauce over the top.

Chocolate dessert

Winner of Jess's Top Dessert Award

It arrived in front of me and I gasped with joy. OH YES. It was rich. It was good dark chocolate. The pastry was lightly caramelised and then the salted butter caramel sauce was just pure heaven. It was one of those desserts that you want to continue eating forever, no matter how sick you are feeling. By the end of it I was feeling very chocolate-afied and I needed a litre of water to quench my thirst but I WANT MORE!!!

And then came the joy of asking for the bill and paying a tiny amount for fabulous food and half a bottle of wine. The accessibility of eating out in Paris is something I am never going to be able to get over. I don’t know how I will survive back in Perth where for the same price as what we paid last night, I would only be able to get one main dish – no dessert, and maybe a glass of wine.