Travel Through Plates

When a plate of food is put before me, I photograph it immediately. This blog, decodes my favorite dishes. It's a happy blog, as I predominantly show you pictures of the winners, the ones I love,

My Greatest Plates!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Carette - A Paris legend that is still in! Best hot chocolate...yup!

Carette, is an institution and rightly so! 

For more than 80 years this art deco temple of tea and sweets has held center court in the famous Place du Trocadero and now it has opened a second outlet in the Place Des Vosges.

It is the pre-eminent cafe par excellence. It has a rare quality in Paris today - astonishing service; kind, caring - motherly waitresses. Some have been here for more than 30 years and they are still happy to serve!!! The food remains fab!

The view looking out from the well heated terrace after a Autumn shower....

They have several specialties which you must not miss. The finger tea sandwiches would satisfy the most discerning pinkie waving Englishman.  The Egg salad, chicken and chive and tomato sandwiches are simple genius. The menu is heavy on salads and the plat de jour always is hyper fresh home cooking.

Today I tried this starter:

Endive and Roquefort salad, this was clever in that the endive was shredded and placed in the endive quills, the walnuts were fresh, from this years season,  just harvested, the perfect bitter foil for the rich blue cheese.

Carette's Onion soup is text book Paris, I guess the capital does not have any particular food specialty of its own beyond Steak Frites and Onion Soup but this is the reference. In fact I'll be honest it was placed before me and I dove right in forgetting to snap it pristine as this picture is three soup spoons later!

It is harmony, caramel, umami, lush veal stock, glistening onions, great bread and of course melting cheese - bubbling brilliance.

The inside of Carette is such a turn on,  macaroons, marshmallows, Paris Brest, St Honore, Tarte aux Citron, all taken to the apogee of the art.

Let me take you through this perfect St Honore - A crusty burnt sugar topped crisp chouxs, piped with vanilla cream then topped with a fleck of gold leaf. This makes me happy!

I guess you are wondering what about the Hot Chocolate.....Wait no longer... I saved the best for last.

Well I must say I mulled over whether Carette or Angelina's provides the best cup of Parisian Hot Chocolate, in fact it has been an issue of some reflection for a while now. They are both so good, in fact Angelina's has made a business of its elixir but Carette does it for me, less sweet, more chocolatey, lingering on the lips and it dances the jig with the whipped cream!

Want some?

4 Place Du Trocadero
75016 Tel (33) 0 1 47 27 98 85

25 Place des Vosges
75003 Tel. (33) 0 1 48 87 94 07

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ralph's clothes are better than his food! (PARIS)

Ralph's is all the rage, hard to get into (beg Chloe or Simone the aloof telephone gatekeepers) and better still read my review and avoid altogether. 

I never go to a restaurant that has just opened as I want the joint to find its feet and get into the rhythm, firing on all cylinders which usually takes a couple of months of running in. I also feel it is inaccurate  to review during the pre-opening - open house, as this never truly represents what a punter experience will be like on an anonymous wednesday evening in November.   

My only positive, the room and courtyard at 173 Bvd St Germain is a gorgeous, sumptuous, clubby, a wood panelled beauty. It is like you are arriving into a wonderful country house with all the luxury trimmings, with attentive and smiling staff.

Then after they pluck down the bread basket it is all down hill.....  the food is a shocker! All the more so as the chef plucked from Frechon's - Bristol kitchen and was trained in NY blah, blah...  

The crab cakes were oily, the inside not warmed just beyond tepid

Drama followed in another failure the bacon dominated grease bucket sold as clam chowder, a sorry soup on the account that the bacon had not been properly rendered (see close-up below) and had become gelatinous porcine chewing gum, the broth was too thin. Anyone hear of beurre manie or a simple roux?

Hoping for things to look up from this point on, my daughter ordered grilled chicken and guess what, they served the Fried chicken, an ordering gaffaw, she decided to keep it but.... when she cut in to it, it was raw, raw at the bone as blood seeped onto the white plate, not nice at all.

Chicken Act II was a huge improvement over bird Act I  but this chick was over-cooked!

Hoping for redemption via a cheese burger, you can probably tell from looking at the picture what the problem is, the burger had sat waiting for service and so its cheese had coagulated into a cold burger cocoon, the meat was dry and over ground, the floury and pasty grey the burger fell apart; the crime - the meat was too lean. Even Ralph's Manahattan consultant, Danny Meyer knows you need a minimum of 20-25% fat and a corse grind to make a juicy NY burger. No need to send the chefs to the big apple when you can send them to the Shwartz's Deli in Marais for a little lesson.

Dessert felt like that little leaf of mint below all show and no substance, the fruit was greenly unripe and made me pucker, as if I had downed a shot of bitters.

The cheesecake, advertised as New Yorky was not even fit to be served in New Jersey, what a joke, over sweet, not dense, not NEW YORK at all!

By all means buy clothes but bypass Ralph's!

173 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris, 6th Arrondissement
+33 1 44 77 76 0

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mirroir D'Argentine mind blowing dessert in a secret Swiss glade!

I have sat on this report for some months now! I am torn between revealing and keeping the secret, I choose to relent, in the gastronomic interest and the greater good of my followers.
The secret alpine vistas are taken from the restaurant pointing down the valley, a magical place of natural beauty, it never fails to send the hair up on the nape of my neck.

Here is my beloved Mirror D'Argentine.

Above the glorious Mountain called the Mirror D'Argentine, in Switzerland near Villars Sur Ollons, over looking an alpine cul de sac quaintly named SOLALEX.

The restaurant is named after the mountain that towers over it; when the sun angles catch the peak just right, this glacier carved rock shimmers in the bathed reflection. Nestled at the base: A wonderful gastronomic address, the restaurant called The Mirroir D'Argentine! It is owned and operated by  Lucien, Andre and Martine Jaggi, this is an address to note, recommend and lust over. On a personal note I have been coming here regularly for more than 15 years.

The menu changes daily and features local produce to such a degree that the board might say, salad of wild herbs I gathered this morning from just behind the restaurant, or sauteed wild mushrooms I just picked. On my last visit it was homemade large ravioli filled with nettles and wild roquette. The pasta pillows were opaque thin, and set off by a tomato sauce that was only part of the story. What I love is that these are one time only dishes, they will never be served again. Good for one night only! I will cover two other dishes but I want to stress above all that it is this dessert that makes this place legend and worthy of a serious drive to get there.... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

 Here fresh water perch are simply sauteed with new cabbage and roasted potatos
Rabbit with Polenta is tonight's other special.

As this place is about two hours drive from Geneva and one hour from Gstaad I may as well give you another picturesque reason to visit. Waterfalls anyone?

I travel for food, often I will travel for one dish in particular, last week I called ahead and said I'm coming tonight make sure you have the Mille-Feuille on the menu, verbatim it translates into a thousand layers!

The best I have ever tasted is not in France but here in Solalex! Without further delay let me show you what I'm talking about, here are  pictures of this pleasure, please click on the image to scrutinize up close. Let me take you through this major sweetie!
(please click on the first photo below to see the pastry up close)

 There are four ingredients, the pastry, the unsugared vanilla whipped cream, the creme patisiere and mara de bois strawberries!

I can reveal that the pastry has five turns and is sent through a special machine to work the dough and butter together.


The dough is also interweaved with icing sugar to caramelise the layers of cooked pastry. The dessert is put together on order, with the pastry meeting the wet ingredient and food as it leaves the kitchen. More than anything this keeps the whole shooting match crisp. This is a major foody address!


Miroir d'Argentine

Famille Jaggi

1882 Solalex - CH

Tél  024 498 14 46

Fax 024 498 41 20

Thursday, May 27, 2010

St Cezaire sur Siagne Brasserie de La Fontaine

Here is a little gem jewel of a town, nestled behind and above Grasse and about 6 miles from Cabris. The Brasserie de la Fountain is now under new owners and they are nice! Settled in the 1400's three thousand lucky people now call it home. The reason to visit is to look out over the Point de Vue. The point of view or lookout to us Anglo's is located at Place du 8 Mai 1945. From here at a altitude of 1500 feet you can see for miles to new horizons. A single of Olive tree set in this perch this is the perfect setting for the infinity before you. The square it's up in the left most corner of the picture the river Siagne murmurs and cascades down in the valley.

I try to come here at least once a year, it is far from the mad rush of Cannes, Monaco and just about everywhere else. This day I was late, late and hungry having been refused a meal in four restaurants in Cabris, (GOOD FOR FOOD) so I had no choice but to search for a meal here.

I was not planning to blog The Brasserie de La Fontaine but it was open and for that I was grateful, my expectations were zero.  As it was so late they offered me the choice of one dish on the menu as they were setting up for a big party later on that evening. I said the Goat cheese salad would be perfect. It was stellar way beyond by expectations. Crisp filo case filled with sharp molten chevre and crisp smoked lardons,  wild leaves all tossed in a honeyed vinaigrette.

With our coffee I tried some apple tart.

The burnt bits were amazing, the apples tart ,celebrating homemade goodness. A simple meal to be sure but welcome nevertheless.
Brasserie La Fontaine
3, Place du Général de Gaulle
Tél : 04 93 60 84 86

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Best PASTA of the year and 15 euro lunch to boot!

Adagio in Monaco wakens a backstreet above where the train station used to be in Monaco. 

1 rue Bioves is home to this new lunch deal! 

Here is waiter Michele nice chap he is too. This light, white and airy space has a kitchen set to one side.

Poking out of the kitchen is head chef Sandra with second Svetlana. The menu changes daily. This was my lunch:

Macaroni with speck and Gorganzola and ricotta ravioli with tomato sauce, this  was remarkable, the smokey pork was savorised by the blue cheese. The ravioli were perfect with a scintilla of acidity that gave the dish oodles of tomato love.

Next wafer thin slices of rare pink roast beef, rosemary/thyme jus, green bean and sauteed potatoes. Are you seeing the slices! We are talking a thin deal here!!! You get your choice of a glass of wine or mineral water too. PS I had dessert as well but I ate it before snapping a picture, this is a worthy address to remember.

Went for dinner and it was less interesting. My guest had Italian steak tartare which managed to mess her stomach. So now you know!

tel. +37797981556

1 rue BIOVES Monaco

ps they have three parking spaces too

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mirazur Menton

Mirazur is a place filled with talent, and it is easy to understand why Michelin has starred the joint....but the problem is the food just because you can serve someone a vegetable in a dessert, and make it pretty should you?

The table is laid with modern settings, odd shaped cutlery and non-conventional crockery, it's as if the entire rule book of convention has been discarded not because it is outmoded but because the mantra is "different must be better than what has come before" which is often not the case. The place is remarkable value with the food at Eur 55 for the discovery menu (7 courses) however drinks are dramatically overpriced. I ordered a Virgin Mary, tomato juice with Worcestershire sauce, some celery salt and a shake of tabasco that set me back Eur 20.00 NB plain tomato juice is Eur 15.00 when you put that into perspective with the menu at 55 it is a ripoff.
This I likeed alot!! Freebie starter of fennel and other finely sliced greenies, topped with a fragrant infant wild strawberry which was far to young to have been picked from the patch.

2 out of three not bad, let's start with the one dimension onion tart, heavy over-caramelised onion clumped onto dough, greasy, cloying, it did not belong on the same platter with the wonderful cauliflower mousse with roquette pesto.

The thimble of chevre was on a granny smith sliver that was instantly forgettable!

A frothy soup, they said vegetable, (but which) was milky and topped with a Parmesan tuile which was indeed both crispy and parmesanny with a long cheesy aftertaste. No big deal!

One of the best things I ate was the courgette ribbons lassooing asparagus, served with vanilla and honey dressing, which was piqued by pink grapefruit zest and segments. It was delicious.

The bread was innovative, Almond and Cinnamon, Italian flat bread "music sheets" cereal bread, Olive Oil infused foccacia and crusty country rolls came next.

Good idea, mousseline light mashed potatoes with baby fava beans, sauteed Morel mushrooms topped with a garlic foam. Shrooms were dumbly over salted, the garlic foam tasted faintly of a metalic note. 5 out of 10.

The breast of pork was served on a citrus emulsion, but the chef chose to intertwine the decoration with a wasabi sauce which was the equivalent of a sumo wrestler doing a Viennese Waltz. (see the green puddles above) No you shall not go to the dance! The 12 hour Pork was cooked as a low and slow affair at 63C (I'm not making this up, that was what they told us) which was pan seared for crusty crackling. Alas it was not very crisp and rather than melt in the mouth fork tender morsels mine was stringy and too tough!

So capucine flower sorbet with sweetened pea coulis!! In a word....Jabberwocky! The head waiter was very excited for diners to guess the combo...but why???? Unbalanced!

Saffron custard, coconut mousse was slightly better, I kept waiting for the weird combo to hit me and the waiter to announce another strange pairings but this one came and went benign.

This was high strange! Strawberry on a verbena granita, all good so far, then I tried the sugar tuile and which was filled with a Corsican cream cheese known as Brousse, so called because its curd is beaten before being drained. It is ewe's milk cheese sold in plastic cones, it crashed the fruit party with a farmyardy aroma followed closely by a salty mule kick and a lingering dairy barn taste; a gastro train wreck! It triggered an unexpected gag reflex, this was just nasty. I guess turning down the cheese course meant the kitchen had to sneek some in elsewhere.

The last food slate was put before us ushering a final round of guessing, argentinian inspired Mate Macaroons where mated to orange flower marshmallows and Pistachio tuiles. The final humor was iced lollipops that were universally adored.

The restaurant is 50 meters before the Italian border and the parking lot is shared with the French customs inspectors!

Owner Chef Mauro Colagreco was absent on the day I reviewed.
30 Avenue Aristide Briand
06500 Menton, France

+334 92 41 86 86