Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Paris! (with a side order of London)

This episode finds us visiting Gay Paris, capital of France, meeting Matt Preston in some pub toilets in London and getting you the top tips on gourmet culture en Paris by remote control.

Paris. What do you think of when I say that magical word? Hilton? The Iliad? Don’t be ridiculous. I’m talking about the city, la ville. Tsk. What are you like?

The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge) ? That’s better. Monumental walks, that go on forever (perhaps you should have hired une bicyclette)? Large flocks of Americans at the Louvre looking for the Mona Lisa and the Da Vinci code? Maybe even hobos in phone boxes, sleeping on Metro exhaust grates to stop freezing in winter and cooking food in shopping trolleys?

That’s strange. Me too!

But there’s so much more. Food. Art. Fashion. Fancy ladies. People wearing lots of mushroom and brown. Neckerchiefs! Gerard Depardieu everywhere!! These things too await you in the world capital of “oh la la.”

We stayed in “gay Marais”, though on closer inspection we were closer to Temple than the Seine, on the Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, and the people there didn’t seem happy so much as cold and exhibiting a particular penchant for crotchless lederhosen. We were, however, a short walk from the Pompidou Center, surrounded by spaghetti Metro lines and found ourselves in a pretty amenable part of town.

Apres Lyon, I had, to put it mildly, a jaded palate. Since we were there for a few days, and had a kitchen, I made more than a passing acquaintance with their supermarches. Monoprix(es) are everywhere, and did a very palatable line in pate en croute, stinky cheeses, saucisons and had wine aisles that were full of French wine (!), to which I dedicated thorough study. Needless to say, not all French wine is good wine, but their mid-price Côtes de Rhone Villages, at around 13 Euro, were knock out value.

Champagne Tours
While en Paris it had been a dream of mine to visit the champagne district, particularly with Blue Vapours relationship with the French studies department at the University of Melbourne (Hello Dr Jacqueline!) and Veuve Cliquot.

But since a day tour was 160 Euro, only took in a couple of wineries, and a decent bottle of bubbles like Mumm demands a mere 30 Euros or so, I decided to acquaint myself with champagne if not in body at least in sp… wine (spumante? - Ed).

If you want to find out about the champagne region, stay there for a few days. If you’d like to take a winery tour, however, check out:

Paris was the business end of our trip, where we met our French contact in IT application roll out and financing Peter Savaas, who we were put on to by Austrade (Hi Peter!). Not only was he a font of knowledge on Parisian culture and the IT scene en Francaise, he also had some fantastic tips for where to go in Paris.

Paris Beaubourg
Place Igor Stravinsky

We met Peter at a bar outside the Pompidou Centre (which is itself a great place to pick up art chicks – see ‘the Official Slacker’s Handbook’). The bar is on a small square with a fountain featuring dada-esque sculptures, murals and Michael Jackson mimes. A very nice spot to drink beers as the sun goes down in the heart of happening town.

Six tentacles.

Café Charlot
38 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris

This restaurant was recommended to us by Peter and was a ten minute walk from where we were staying. Located in an old bakery, it was frequented by a lot of locals. It was, in a word, great. Bustling with patrons, people even had the foresight to put little dogs under their tables. I ordered the most French things I could spot on the menu since we went there on our last night; pate de fois gras on toast, followed by Steak Tartare.

The waiter looked at me strangely:
“Are you sure?”
“I… think so.”
“Oh well.”

I should have known. By the time I’d finished the pate, I was not only full but water proof from lip to my nether regions internally.

Then the steak came, a lump of mince as big as both of my fists combined. Huge! And raw. I got about half way through and “that’s all she wrote.” While the small dogs at surrounding tables looked at me piteously, the extreme richness of their food prohibited their owners letting me feed it to them… no matter how much I begged.

Seven tentacles out of eight!

Peter also told us about L’Entrecote. Apparently, accoridng to Wiki, L'Entrecôte is the nickname of the restaurant Le Relais de Venise – L'Entrecôte, founded by Paul Gineste de Saurs in Paris's 17th arrondissement near Porte Maillot. I think this MAY be it (correct me if I’m wrong Peter!):

It had previously had a limited menu, but ninety percent of people used to order the same thing – the steak. Now, two generations later, all they do is steak with pommes frites. As you line up for a seat the only choice you get is rare, medium or well done. Who would ever have thought that steak and chips would be a popular menu item?

Obviously, our trip to Europe wasn’t all play (take note Australian Taxation Office!). We zooshed over to London on the Eurostar (five tentacles) to visit the British Museum on a strictly hush hush job we’re working on for the Melbourne Museum that’s coming out in 2012! But, can you believe it, while I was there, I learnt some more things about Paris’ food scene! But first, some celebrity spotting…

London, England!
We arrived under the enormous Olympic rings of St Pancras, and walking to the Museum spotted a fantastic old, black Bentley convertible driving with the top down in five degree temperatures. Closer scrutiny revealed it to be driven by none other than Jonnathon Ross, celebrity television and radio host in the UK. He went on to stall his car in the intersection - he must have noticed me noticing him and choked under the pressure. But our star spotting didn’t end there!

Matt Preston – Mr Master Chef gives us his five bobs worth after spending a penny!
For lunch we went to Soho, and settled on the Coach and Horses.

I tried three cask ales:
* the Gangly Ghoul (a toffee like dark ale);
* London ale (nice, easy drinking); and,
* Green Man IPA (“Indian Pale Ale” – I never knew! - not much chop).

These drinks combined to wash down some palatable fish and chips with mushy peas and is almost unworthy of mention... until we had the second celebrity spot of the day.

“Oh look, there goes Matt Preston, the guy with the cravat from Master Chef,” Jane said from her window seat. “Hang on, he’s coming back!”
The man himself came into the pub and made directly for the toilets. I decided to talk to him as he returned.
“Mr Preston! I hope you’re going to buy a drink and not use the facilities for free?”

He stopped and chatted with us, and was really quite charming. He was on his way to a TV meeting, and was very interested to hear we’d seen Jonnathon Ross (“Where???”), and commented it pretty much put their relative celebrity in proportion: Wossy stalling a convertible Bentley, him sneaking in for a free piss down the pub.

When we told Matt we were staying in Paris, he was full of great tips:

“Ah, you’ll have to look up this Australian woman’s tours of French bakeries. It’s a hundred pounds but absolutely worth it. Called UTE bakery tours.”

Here’s a link, but I see she’ll take you on a tour of anything you like:

He followed it with another tip:
“If you don’t manage that, there’s this gorgeous bakery you have got to try at the edge of the twentieth arondisement. It’s called “of bread, of ideas or something.” Here’s the site:

So he did pay for his wee after all, and I pass on to you what Matt Preston passed on to us after passing water. (Hello Matt if you’re reading this!).

One train trip later, we were facing our last day in Paris. But what to do?

Mont Matre, where else? It is the highest point in Paris, though admittedly too far away from the beating heart to give you an impressive view.

But it’s a tourist hot spot of food, architecture and art! It’s a long held bastion of artists – who are now all up there begging you to do a portrait or a caricature for only a few Euros (I remember when you could be franc with them).

“I am going to do your portrait.”
“No you’re not.”
“Mais oui, I’m already sketching.”
“I am walking away…”
“The best depiction of a retreating head I have ever done! You, madame, I am doing your portrait…” etc.

This is also the area, however, where they filmed Amelie.
Amélie film location
Café des 2 Moulins
Montmartre, Paris

We thought we’d swan up there, dig the Amelie scene and buy some tourist trinkets for our return and had a very nice time.

Cafe Chappe
8 Rue Tardieu 75018 Paris

We went for our last supper in a café that, on photo, looked similar to that whole Amelie scenario, both enjoying a lunch of the salads that the French do so well. Combined with a rosé, the meal was a fitting finish to our trip and well rounded with a pastis and black coffee.

Six tentacles.

So, bievenue Francaise, and merci beaucoup to you, you lovely person you, for sampling my humble ripailles d’Europe. A short hiatus in entries, as I’m now desperately putting the final touches on a short film for Tropfest, titled La Bicyclette. Never fear though, as I still think you are just wonderful and will send you some summer time eating reads in January! Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year! Au bientot! (your friend) Kit ///