House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Jamon de Euskal txerri Basque Pig

Tapas in San Sebastian: A Fuego Negro

After Paris, we headed to San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque region, locally known as Donostia.  This seaside town is a summertime haven, and in 2011 I visited just after the high season, and immediately fell in love with the surroundings.  That was a very hurried stay, with barely two days in the area, but I managed to visit both Mugaritz and Arzak.  The stupendous arc of the boardwalk around La Concha, the main beach that circles shell-like west to east towards La Parte Vieja (Old Town).  Where last time I barely spent any time in this mysteriously vibrant and cozy corner of the city, which houses some of the world’s best tapas bars.  This visit, I spent my time exclusively here.

The first place we stopped in was the boldly inventive A Fuego Negro, a visually rambunctious bar serving irreverent dishes, whose names are scrawled across a menu board behind the bar in their Basque spellings – lots of x’s and k’s.

A café con leche.House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Cafe Con Leche Makcobe burger with “txips” – a mini wagyu burger with ketchup-infused sesame bun, fried banana chips.  Intensely beefy, lightly ketchup-y.House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Makobe Burger Txips House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Makobe BurgerKit de pikoteo: tuna, piparras (Basque peppers), and thinly-sliced onions.  This was Myra’s favorite here (we ordered it twice) – everything was immensely bright in their freshness, the tuna flaky and meaty, the peppers and onions adding unique undertones of acidity and heat.House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Bonito Peppers Onions
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House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Cod Fish Lemon Butter Sweet Potato Puree Vanilla Saltbush Leaf

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 7: Restaurant David Toutain

We spent Christmas eve at the newly-opened Restaurant David Toutain, the inventive chef who had previously put l’Agapé Substance on the map.  Prior to arriving in Paris, I’d originally made reservations for the latter, somewhere I’d been meaning to go since some of the chefs at Mugaritz recommended it ages ago (2011).  But Chef Toutain had moved on, and Chef Christophe Hache, who I had met when he came to De Gustibus Cooking School, mentioned that Chef Toutain had just opened an eponymous restaurant in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower.

The culinary world is so small sometimes.House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Wine Menu WaterThere was just one tasting menu, a combination of the several selections of tasting menus typically offered (including the truffle menu).  One of the things that the chef gained a reputation was an adroitness with and love of vegetables.  We started appropriately with a bowl of roasted carrots in a parsnip and white chocolate purée, with a sprinkling of crushed sesame powder.  It was an opening note to an extended étude to the possibilities of vegetables.House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Carrots White ChocolateThis worked as well, a purée of smoked potatoes, and instead of chips, we got upgraded to perfectly crisp chicharrones.House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Smoked Potato Puree House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Pork Rinds House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Smoked Potato Puree Pork Rind Chip This adaptation of croque monsieur: a finger sandwich of onion compote, smoked eel, parmesan, and beurre noisette emulsion.House of Haos Restaurant David Toutain Paris Croque Monsieur Onion Compote Smoked Eel Parmesan Beurre Noisette Emulsion Continue reading

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 6: Les Fines Gueules

On one of the other nights that we didn’t have dinner plans, we took to the neighborhood streets of the 1er arrondissement.  We didn’t want glamorous or inventive, just something comfortable and low-key (and delicious).  Les Fines Gueules turned out to be a pretty good find, a whimsical corner restaurant with a charming politesse.  There were some seats next to the bar, and in a wine cellar-esque dining room, romantically dim and sunken a half-flight of steps below street level.House of Haos Les Fines Gueules 75001 Paris ExteriorWe ordered charcuterie to start, and Myra had a steak tartare as her main.  I ordered sea bass with micro-greens and roasted tomato.House of Haos Les Fines Gueules 75001 Paris Charcuterie Coppa Prosciutto Salamai Gherkins House of Haos Les Fines Gueules 75001 Paris Steak Tartare House of Haos Les Fines Gueules 75001 Paris Sea BassWe finished with some cheese, none of whose detailed names I recall, but the Fourme d’Ambert was crazy good.House of Haos Les Fines Gueules 75001 Paris Cheese Plate Fromage My minor gripe with the service is that they seemed to leave us fairly unattended – given the sunken dining room and the lack of free space, there wasn’t a spot for any server to monitor the room.  I can only imagine it being hard to flag somebody down on a busier night without getting up and going to the bar.  The menu was inconveniently scrawled on only one chalkboard, which was then passed around among the tables as needed.House of Haos Les Fines Gueules 75001 Paris BarLes Fines Gueules
43 rue Croix des Petits Champs
75001 Paris
(Paris by Mouth)

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 5: Snacks à la française

Paris takes snacks to a whole new level.  Pierre Hermé macarons, for starters.House of Haos Pierre Herme Paris France Boite de MacaronsAfternoon tea at Ladurée on Rue Napoléon:House of Haos Laduree Cafe Tea Paris FranceMillefeuille pralinée, up close and personal:House of Haos Laduree Cafe Paris France Millefeuille PralineOne night we cobbled together an indoor picnic from La Grande Epicerie, with pâté de campagne, pickles, cherries, grapes, bucheron, pecorino with black pepper, and a half-round of Brillat-Savarin.House of Haos Paris Picnic Pate de Campagne Pickles Cherries Goat Cheese Brillat Savarin Pecorino PepperA rainy afternoon spent in the tea room at Mariage Frères:Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetAnd a nice cappuccino at The Broken Arm:House of Haos The Broken Arm Cafe Paris France House of Haos The Broken Arm Cafe Paris France CappucinoPierre Hermé
4 rue Cambon
75001 Paris

Ladurée
21 Rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris

La Grande Épicerie de Paris
38 Rue de Sèvres
75007 Paris

Mariage Frères
30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg
75004 Paris

The Broken Arm
12 Rue Perrée
75003 Paris

Palais de Tokyo, Paris

The Palais de Tokyo is my favorite museum in Paris (thanks, Russ).  I visit every time I’m back in the city. There’s this indelible image I have from the museum’s Superdome exhibit in 2008, of Daniel Furman’s elephant Würsa (I’ll leave the Google image search to you).

This time, it was Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s enormous revolving bookshelf, La Bibliothèque Clandestine.  Check it out:House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster La Bibliotheque clandestine 1 House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster La Bibliotheque clandestine 2 House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster La Bibliotheque clandestine 3 House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster La Bibliotheque clandestine 4The double-sided door opened up into a secret exhibit room.

There was also Brazilian sculptor Henrique Oliveira’s Baitogogo, a stunning Gordian knot of gnarled roots, a hydra of stories out of some plantation backwoods.  The really cool part was that it was in the children’s area of the museum – it gave the area an unmistakable aura of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and ‘Bridge to Terabithia’, if you grew up with those books like I did.House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Henrique Oliveira BaitogogoAnd of course, the photobooth.House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Foto-AutomatPalais de Tokyo
13 Avenue du Président Wilson
75116 Paris, France
(map)

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 4: L’As du Fallafel

Ever since her last visit to Paris (in 2007), Myra had a craving for a falafel sandwich, so we made a pit stop at l’As du Fallafel in the gentrified neighborhood of Le Marais, the city’s prime destination for simple Jewish food.  The day was drizzly and a bit chilly, and we had a bit of a wait outside, but the line moved quickly.  It was quick-service at its most direct, spartan and hurried, just short of intimidating, but with a smile.House of Haos L'As du Falefel Marais ParisTabletop dish of harissa:House of Haos L'As du Falefel Marais Paris HarissaThe pièce de résistance, fallafel spécial, with pickled cabbage, eggplant, harissa, hummus, cucumbers:House of Haos L'As du Falefel Marais Paris 2House of Haos L'As du Fallafel Le Marais Paris Falaffel Special SandwichAnd an unnecessary plate of fries (the sandwiches were a hot, delicious mess that was more than enough for each of us):House of Haos L'As du Falefel Marais Paris Frites FriesL’As du Fallafel
34 rue des Rosiers
Paris, France 75004
(map)

 

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 3: Breakfast from Eric Kayser

A little breakfast pastry porn: pistachio and cherry crumble, with some almond croissant, from Eric Kayser in the 1st arrondissement:House of Haos Maison Kayser Paris Boulangerie Tarte Crumble Pistache-Griotte Croissant Almands

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 2: Spring

Our second night in Paris was spent in the dining room at Daniel Rose’s Spring – its elegant floor-to-ceiling windows peering out onto a quiet cobblestone’d backstreet, an openness that extends to the restaurant’s tidy cold kitchen.  The design is both industrial chic and rustic, clean lines of white, wood, and iron alongside the dull gleam of copper pots and warped support beams from another era, encased in glass.

Chef Daniel’s story is compelling, the story of an American moving to France and of food and learning and cooking and doing it at an extremely high level.  In some ways it is unique, because of how Spring started as a one-man show in one of the most food-obsessed and -particular cities in the world.  In other ways, it is a story of falling in love.  This Charlie Rose interview is pretty cool (Chef Rose’s part starts around 31:00).

Service was cordial, unpretentious, attentive.  The sommelier brought us some champagne, and recommended me some ridiculously tasty peach nectar from Alain Milliat (unpictured).  At our 7pm sitting, the restaurant was just whirring to life, with only a table or two having started before us.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Kitchen House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris ChampagneThe meal started with small bites: fried oysters, cured foie gras with artichoke hearts, and marinated scallops.  The foie gras was especially delicious, cold and intensely savory, with a bit of crunch from finishing salt and cracked pepper. House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Fried Oysters Foie Gras Artichoke Hearts Marinated Scallops House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Marinated ScallopsThen this amazing langoustine tail, in a broth of enormous depth with crisp bok choy, atop of a bed of tapioca pearls.  It conjured obscure memories of some magnificent soup that an old Chinese restaurant might nurture out of a master stock, but with the precision in that langoustine tail of a technically savvy kitchen.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Langoustine Bok Choy Tapioca Pearls House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Bread BasketAfter the bread, a filet of red mullet with baby spinach, squid, and shredded Galician beef.  Again the broth was very satisfying, enhanced by the beef’s pungent salinity.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Red Mullet Filet Baby Spinach Squid Galician BeefRoasted venison with venison jus, kumquat, and another garnish I don’t remember:  House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Venison Kumquat JustA play on shepherd’s pie with braised venison and celery root purée:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Venison Shepherds Pie Puree Celery RootA glimpse of the restaurant:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Open Kitchen House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Exterior Main Dining ROomA trio of sweets – sorbet, clementine, and pineapple (the last cooked in butter).House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Dessert Trio Sorbet Clementine Pineapple House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Dessert PineappleAnd Spring’s play on a traditional bûche de Noël – a little hazelnut cake with meringue and caramel hazelnuts.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Hazelnut Bouche de NoelChocolate truffles and tea & coffee to finish:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Chocolate Truffle Cappuccino TeaA view of the passe as we were leaving:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris PasseSpring Restaurant (map)
6 Rue Bailleul, 75001
Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 45 96 05 72
(le fooding)

 

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 1: Verjus

As part of a ten-day jaunt at the end of the year in 2013, Myra and I ate our way across Paris, my favorite city in the whole wide world.

We had great cause for celebration than any other time that I had been in the City of Lights, as we’d just gotten engaged.  So each meal started with a nice glass of bubbly.

Verjus was our first stop, and for the first meal post-engagement, it was as near perfect as I can remember.  Maybe because we were famished and a burger would have been the best burger in the world.  But where I could remember through the haze of joy and jetlag and hunger, each dish was soulful, a creative departure from the next, building intricately course on course, the timing and the service were warm and attentive and unrushed despite the late hour, and the joyful murmur of the dining room a serendipitous cocoon of sound for our happiness.

House of Haos Verjus Paris France ChampagneBurlap bread baskets: House of Haos Verjus Paris France Bread BasketScallops two-ways – seared and tartare, with watermelon radish, fennel, and citrus.  It was the perfect first course, the intensified savoriness of seared scallop in balance with the tart cross-sections of fruit and the chopped pieces of raw, briny scallop, tender and buttery against the radish’s earthy crunch. House of Haos Verjus Paris France Watermelon Radish Orange Scallops Seared Tartare House of Haos Verjus Paris France Watermelon Radish Orange Scallops Seared Tartare 2Ricotta agnolotti with crushed nuts and cantaloupe:House of Haos Verjus Paris France Ricotta Agnolotti Clams with artichoke puree:House of Haos Verjus Paris France Clams Artichoke PureeWild boar confit, slow-poached egg, flower petals, hearts of palm, mustard seeds.  Not since Maui had I had wild boar, and that had been slow-cooked underground for a whole day, supercharged with an intensely smoky gaminess.  This version was slightly more understated, but still wonderfully rich with that feral pork flavor, tempered by the mildness of egg yolk and mustard seeds.House of Haos Verjus Paris France Wild Boar Confit Slow-poached Egg Mustard Seeds Continue reading

House of Haos Toro Chelsea NYC New York Paella Valenciana

Dinner at Toro – Chelsea, NYC

I suppose the main takeaway from a relatively splurge-tastic meal at Toro, the expansive Chelsea hotspot and import from respected Boston chefs Ken Oringer and (newly-crowned James Beard Foundation Best Chef Northeast) Jamie Bissonnette, is that the food is honest.  It is decidedly Spanish in influence, the food prime in its choice of ingredients, with a clear dedication to technique and some incorporation of international ingredients, particularly uni.

The restaurant is cavernous, and when we went it was packed with well-dressed and well-heeled people.  There is a raucous vibe, halfway between the flashing-lights sheen of Tao and the txicholi-fueled camaraderie of a Basque tapas bar.  It is a tapas restaurant, inflected through a lens that part Wall Street and part West Village.  There was a pair of barely twenty-somethings making a mess of their porron glass, and our neighbors were discussing their love of their new X5 (compared to their Porsche Cayenne).  That’s not the communal table companionship we were hoping for, but there is (by comparison) a row of seats around a mini-open kitchen (just the plancha).  That would be a fun place to sit.

So amidst that, here’s some tortilla española.House of Haos Toro Chelsea NYC New York Tortilla EspagnolVentresca – Spanish tuna belly, tomato tapenade and celery leaves on toast:House of Haos Toro Chelsea NYC New York Tuna Belly on ToastPulpo: Galician octopus with potatoes and charred onions:House of Haos Toro Chelsea NYC New York Galician Octopus Potatoes Charred Onions

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