Category Archives: vacation

Pierre Herme- beyond the macaron

Ahh Pierre Herme. There is no doubt that he is king of the macaron as I’ve already blogged about once during this trip. I never really venture away from macarons when I go to Herme, because my time in Paris is always so limited (as are funds dedicated to luxury pastries) and I know they will never disappoint me.

My parents, though, rarely go for macarons and instead prefer his “verrines.” These are small glasses filled with different layers of gelatins, creams and compotes. So, for Trevor’s last night here, they treated us to verrines from Pierre Herme. Oh my am I in trouble.

Herme is famous for combining unusual flavors that actually work together. In this verrine, he combined citrus, strawberry and wasabi. Unusual, right? Wasabi in a dessert was not something I had tried before. I’ve seen it used in other savory dishes (besides sushi), but never in a sweet. Well, not surprisingly given Herme’s reputation, it worked. The biggest surprise about the wasabi was that there was no heat. Just essence. You knew immediately upon tasting that it was there, but you didn’t get a rush of wasabi heat in your nose. I was seriously impressed.

So, for a rundown of each layer, here is what we decided as we savored our verrines…

The bottom layer was some sort of citrus gelatin. It was very tart and refreshing.
The next layer was a strawberry compote. The sweetness worked to lessen the tartness of the citrus. 

The following layer was a wasabi cream. Like I said above, no heat, just essence. Very interesting and very delicious. 

On top were miniature “pates de fruits” (soft strawberry candy) and wasabi-coated cookies, with a glazed strawberry on the top. 

Pierre Herme has been called the “Picasso of pastry” and once again he has created art for both the eyes and palate.

Creperie des Cannettes

Trevor left to go back home on Wednesday. We had 3 great weeks in France, but now he’s back at work. The day before he left, I asked him what he wanted to eat for lunch. My parents were going to babysit Quentin, so we had a lunch to ourselves. 
Trevor decided to go to our favorite creperie in Paris one last time- La creperie des Canettes. The name descriptively includes the street name, Rue des Canettes, so that you can never forget how to get there. The place is small and unassuming, although it’s clear that word has gotten around that they make great crepes, because it’s filled with both locals and tourists whenever we go. 
Part of the reason Trevor wanted to go back was that the last time we went on this trip, he ordered a non-traditional crepe, with tomatoes and olive oil and some other stuff that doesn’t usually go in a crepe. He was unimpressed and wanted to get a “real” crepe before leaving. In France, savory crepes always have ham, cheese or egg, or all of the above. Preferably all of the above. These are appropriately called “crepe complete,” and they are awesome. The crepe itself is always made with buckwheat flour when used for savory purposes.
Normally I’m pretty shy about taking photos in a restaurant, but I decided to bite the bullet this time for the sake of my readers.  
Une crepe complete, with a pat of butter on top and hard apple cider to drink.

For dessert, I had what I always get at Creperie des Canetttes- a salted caramel crepe. They make their salted caramel in house and The picture doesn’t really do it justice, but here you go anyway. I am going to have to try to recreate this at home. Soon.

So there you have it. If you’re ever in Paris, go to Creperie des Canettes. And really, don’t overthink crepes. They are best when they’re simple. Egg, cheese and ham. Enjoy!

Visiting the south of France

Last week, we went on an adventure to the south of France. Quentin had his first ride on the train, which he took to like a champ. The ride was supposed to take 5 hours, but turned into 7 hours because of various delays along the way. Nevertheless, he did awesome and the people sitting near us on the train gave him lots of compliments for being so “sage.”

We arrived in Cannes on May 16th. What we didn’t know was that the Cannes Film Festival was starting on that day, so the city was a total mad house. We overheard some people trying to rent a car that there were no more cars available to rent in all of the Cote d’Azur. Wowza.

The idea behind heading to the south of France was to get some relaxing time in the sun, instead of spending our whole vacation in Paris. Apparently, the weather had other plans for us, but it was a nice time all the same.

The first day was the nicest. We spent it doing things like this:

That was a lovely day! The spring in the south of France is normally very nice, like in the pictures above. We just happened to choose to go when it rained almost the entire 5 days we were there. And when it rains in France, it rains. It’s not like in California when it rains for 20 (maybe 45) minutes and then stops for a couple hours. It was pretty non-stop rain. So, the rest of our time there was spent doing things like this:

Oh, and eating and drinking wine. Those are always good things to do when it’s raining. Too bad we didn’t get to enjoy the beach and splash in the water more, but it was still a very nice respite from the city.

The perfect meal: Confit de Canard and Macarons

We’re still in Paris. Trevor is here for about one more week, and I have 2 more weeks. While we’re here, there are a couple things that we always have to eat. There are the usual suspects- cheese, bread, pastries…and then there are a few lesser known delicacies like Confit de Canard and macarons.

Confit de Canard is much more delicious than it sounds when you describe it in English. Basically, it’s duck legs, preserved in rendered duck fat, which you then pan fry and serve with potatoes sauteed in some of the extra rendered duck fat. I promise, it’s totally, amazingly, delicious.

Macarons are probably easier for everyone to get excited about. They are the fanciest oreo you’ve ever tasted. The cookies are a kind of almond-based meringue and they are filled with something creamy and delicious. They come in delicate flavors like fresh mint, salted caramel, rose, jasmine, rose vanilla, passion fruit…all of the possible colors and flavors make my head spin!  I have a bit of an obsession them, as I’ve already written about eating them here, here and here; and I’ve written about making them here and here. Unfortunately, the macarons you can find in even the best bakeries in the US do not compare to those you can get here, so we get our fill when we come to Paris.

Last night, we decided to live it up and have them both.  I documented the entire meal for your viewing pleasure.

Confit de Canard with Sauteed Potatoes.
Macarons from Pierre Herme (arguably the best in Paris)
Fresh mint- I love how much these taste like real mint
Chocolate Caramel- good, but not my favorite. I prefer the more delicate flavors
Rose Vanilla- The flavor was very good and delicate. But the filling was a little too firm for my preference.
Jasmine- Very subtle flavor. Almost too subtle, but still one that I will get again.
Salted Caramel- Hands down, one of my favorites. The flavor of the caramel is so pronounced, while the filling is soft and delicate. Amazing.
Rose- Also one of my very favorites. I never imagined a cookie that tastes like a flower would be so wonderful. This one is perfection.
Aaaaand, gone. If you’re wondering why the knife is there, it’s because Trevor and I always buy 6 different macarons and cut them in half. That way we get to try a good variety of flavors.

Baby’s first trip to France!

I wrote on the Fraises et Tartines facebook page that I probably would not be posting much for right now because of our computer issues. I’m still having problems with my laptop randomly shutting down, but so far this morning, things seem to be okay. So I’ll take advantage to brag share about our trip to France. See, the name Fraises et Tartines did not come about just because food blogs with French names sound more delicious. It was also because I am, in fact, French American. I grew up in the States, but spoke French before English (*gasp*). I spent most of my summers in France visiting friends and family, so it’s very exciting to me to share a first trip to France with my son.

One of the first things we did was take him to the Jardin du Luxembourg. This is the spot where I said my first full sentence, according to my mom. “Veux pousser bateau avec baguette” (or, “Want to push boat with stick”). Fast forward about 20 years, and this was also a favorite spot for a picnic with friends when I was studying in Paris. There’s a bakery near the park that has a “formule” (or, “menu”) at lunchtime. 1 simple baguette sandwich + pastry + drink for 6 Euros and 30 cents. The simple sandwich is half of a fresh baguette with ham and butter, and the pastry I chose was a lemon meringue tarte. For about $7. Add a little sun and people watching and you’ve got yourself my ideal Sunday picnic.

Here are some pictures from the beginning of our trip. I’ll try to post more soon.

Jardin du Luxembourg on a beautiful day.

Wearing his newest hat, made by momma.
Jet lag is hard. “I’m supposed to be in bed right now, but the sun is out.”

In the summer, this fountain is filled with little sailboats that kids push around with sticks.        Hence my request as a young one.
     We went on a beautifully sunny day, which has been rare in Paris recently. We weren’t the only ones taking advantage!

Rocks! Are these food too?

I wanted Quentin to have a little ground beef, so we asked the butcher for a baby-sized portion. This is what we got. Perfect!

             The dairy section of the grocery store in France is my absolute favorite.                                 Quentin seems to like it too.

Jet lagged baby. This is the first time I’ve been able to get a picture of him sleeping without waking him up. He was pretty zonked at the beginning. 

Barcelona Restaurants

I’ve been meaning to write a post about the restaurants we ate at while visiting Barcelona for some time. As usual though, time has gotten away from me, and now it’s been over a month since we left Barcelona. Good thing we took a business card at each of the places we went to!

Actually, part of the reason that it’s taken me some time to muster up the motivation to write about Barcelona restaurants is that our food experiences there were not as impressive as I had hoped. Trevor and I both love seafood, tapas, paella…everything that you’d expect to eat in a seaside Spanish city. We did our research and tried to find the places with a good reputation for this or that Spanish staple, but time after time we were disappointed. Luckily, the atmosphere at many of the restaurants partially made up for what was lacking in quality of the food (but to someone who loves good food, atmosphere can never fully compensate for bad food).

La Tertulia: Bar-Restaurant; Rambla Poblenou 34, 08005 Barcelona
Our very first dinner in Barcelona threw us right into the Spanish nightlife culture. Our plane landed at 9:30pm, and by the time we got to the hotel it was 11:15pm…and we hadn’t eaten dinner. Well this is not a problem in Barcelona (especially on a Saturday night, but really any day of the week). We ventured out to find a bite to eat (figuring we would have to walk a long way to find an open restaurant) turned the corner from our hotel and found at least 5 restaurants with large terraces outside and plenty of people still eating dinner. In fact, when we sat down at 11:30pm, there were several families who seemed to be just beginning their meal. It was quite a culture shock, even for me. In France, it’s not uncommon to start dinner at 9pm, especially in the summertime, but 11:30 is pushing it. We had some beer and tapas for dinner, wanting to jump right into typical Spanish food. The dishes were by no means gourmet, but they weren’t bad and everything was very reasonably priced (1.90 € for a beer! Not too shabby). We also weren’t expecting amazing food here, since it was basically a bar with a terrace, and we were pretty hungry so this could have affected our opinion.
Overall: ★★★✩✩

Da Geppetto; Rambla Poblenou 27, 08005 Barcelona
This is where we went for breakfast every morning (and I use the term morning loosely), instead of paying 15 € each for breakfast at our hotel. The coffee was great, croissants were just okay (but when you’ve just spent a week in Paris, you have to give them a break), and the service was very personable despite the language barrier. The real kicker here was the orange juice- freshly pressed when you ordered it, and delicious!
Overall: ★★★★✩

Agua; Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 30, 08003 Barcelona
We read good reviews about this place in our guidebook and decided to give it a try. The atmosphere and decor was well done- modern and inviting at the same time. We were barely able to get in without a reservation, and had to settle with indoor seating. The terrace is right on the beach, so it’s no surprise this is popular. Our server was very sweet and attentive.

We tried 2 tapas to start: fried artichokes and fried calamari. These were okay, but not great. A bit underseasoned, and the sauces they were served with were nothing to write home about. Next I had gazpacho and Trevor tried a meat dish. Now, to be fair to Agua, we probably shouldn’t have ordered 2 fried tapas to start, especially knowing that I have a weak stomach for fried foods. We didn’t finish either of the tapas, but I was already feeling full and a little ill before my gazpacho came. I think the gazpacho was good, but I honestly don’t remember much about it (probably due to the queasiness). One positive here was that, quite appropriately, the water they served came in a beautiful blue bottle that I snuck home in my purse (don’t worry, it wasn’t a water pitcher that the restaurant had to buy…it was just a glass water bottle, like san pellegrino only prettier).
Overall: ★★★✩✩

Blue bottle from Agua, back home

Llantia Restaurant, C/ Brosolí 5, 08003 Barcelona
This little restaurant is located in the Born neighborhood of Barcelona. It’s a little hole in the wall, and could definitely be missed if you’re not looking for it. The atmosphere was very warm and romantic, with several different rooms and alcoves throughout the restaurant. The tables were all set up for 2-4 people, so I doubt they get many big groups to break up the romantic vibe. The service was very good, too. Again, though, the food was just okay. The tuna fillet I ordered was completely over salted and overcooked (think rubbery). The desserts weren’t memorable (which I guess is better than memorable rubbery tuna). I wish I could recommend the food here, because it was such a cute place, but sadly, it just didn’t cut it in my book.
Overall: ★★★
✩✩ (for atmosphere, and not making me feel sick)

Lonja de Tapas, Pla del Palau 7, 08003 Barcelona

Finally a place we were enthusiastic about! After several disappointing attempts at good tapas, we decided to give them one final go. This place was in a plaza, with a nice-sized, inviting terrace. We split several tapas for lunch, and really enjoyed all of them. We topped it all off with a beer, and then espresso to finish the meal. Lovely! You might notice, this is the first place we took pictures of, because the food was actually worth photographing.
Overall: ★★★★✩

Pitarra Restaurant, C/ Avinyó 56, 08002 Barcelona
This was was such a disappointment. If you search “Pitarra Restaurant” on google, you’ll find lots of positive reviews about the place, in Spanish, Catalan and English, which is always promising.
The whole reason we went here was because I hadn’t yet tried a Spanish paella, and I read several online reviews claiming Pitarra’s paella to be the best. I was in Spain and determined to find a good paella! When we arrived, I opened the menu and went straight to the paella. I was surprised to see that it was a “starter,” but figured it must be a small paella. I trusted that the restaurant would be true to the concept of a starter, and ordered veal cutlets as my entree. When the paella came, I was shocked to see that it was HUGE. Much bigger than I would have expected even an entree to be. I dug in, hoping that my all of my paella wishes would come true. The rice was well flavored, and not overcooked, as is so easy to do when making paella. But the quality of the seafood was so poor that it ruined the paella for me. The shrimp were so shrunken that their bodies & tails were huge on them, the scallops and calamari were chewy, the muscles were overcooked. I made a small dent in the paella rice, but knew that I had an entree coming, so I didn’t go crazy.

Having seen the portion of paella, I guess I should have expected what was coming for the veal dish, but I didn’t. Imagine 5-6 big veal cutlets- enough to feed a family of 4 in my book. I mean, these were bigger than American-sized portions. Plus, the dish wasn’t very good. I ended up eating one of the veal cutlets, and stacking up the other ones into 2 piles, hoping it wouldn’t look like I ate more than I did. Our favorite part of the meal was the wine, and the nice server we had a long conversation with in broken Spanish at the end of our meal. I was really rooting for this place, but it didn’t live up to its reviews for me.

Overall: ★★✩✩✩

Tarantino; Baixada, Sant Miquel 4, 08002 Barcelona

On our last day, we spent the morning walking around the gothic area of Barcelona. We weren’t particularly hungry for lunch (1pm is early for lunch in Spain), but needed to eat something before heading to the airport. As soon as Trevor saw Tarantino, his heart was set. Being a big Quentin Tarantino fan, how could he resist menu items like “Mr. Pink,” “Sin City,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Vincent Vega.” I protested for a bit because the restaurant was dead empty. The decor was creative, with lots of posters from Quentin Tarantino’s films everywhere, but I hate to eat in an empty restaurant. That’s never a good sign. In the end, we compromised and ordered a “Vincent Vega” pizza to go, and ate it in a nearby plaza. The pizza was good, and I bet this place is really fun when it’s more filled up. It probably picks up around 2-3pm…in true Barcelona fashion.
Overall: ★★★★✩

Paris Wrap-Up

Before leaving for Paris, I daydreamed about all of the food-related delights that would be a part of our time there. I had so many foodie things to be excited about that I decided to compile them into a top ten. Now that the trip is over, let’s review it:

Foodie Top 10: Reviewed.

10. Being totally jet-lagged, waking up at 5am, and walking down to the corner boulangerie to pick up a piping hot baguette and croissants for breakfast.

  • Check! This happened on many occasions while we were in Paris, though not always at 5am and not always while we were jet-lagged. Sometimes the piping hot baguettes come out around 6pm….and once in a while they make it all the way home to be eaten with dinner…or even breakfast the next morning.

9. Going to the farmer’s market to buy some melon and asking for one “for today” and having the farmer choose a perfectly ripe melon.

  • Check! We made it to a few farmer’s markets. Although I must say the organic “Bio” farmer’s market was quite a disappointment. The cheese was good, but the vegetables we got from there were not fresh. The Ave de Sachs market is much much better. And the melon was amazing.

8. Espresso at every corner.

  • Well, if by this I meant “drinking espresso at every corner” then I didn’t get this one. But there sure was espresso at every corner! I did partake in a particularly memorable espresso in a cute cafe in Montmartre, on top of a hill (even more so than most cafes already are in Montmartre), with an incredible view of Paris, but without the crowds of the Sacre Coeur.

7. Taking a picnic of baguette and rillettes to the Jardin de Luxembourg.

  • Nope…got this one separately, but not together. We did visit the Jardin de Luxembourg a few times, but not during lunch time. We also had rillettes with baguette for lunch a few times. Maybe next time!

6. Nutella crêpes from the St. Michel crêpe stand.

  • Also nope! Although I did have crepes on 3 different occasions during my 2 total weeks in Paris. We re-discovered a wonderful creperie called “Creperie des Canettes” on Rue des Canettes, near metro Mabillon. The crepes are delicious! For dessert I tried the simple “sugar with butter” and the “salted butter” (on 2 separate trips) and both were absolutely perfect. Highly recommend.

5. Falafel for Sunday lunch in the Marais.

  • Check! We did this the day after we arrived. Our good friends from San Diego arrived on a Sunday, so we walked all over Paris, with a stop at the Marais for falafel. Once again, the line was 1/2 way down the block (with the poor falafel competitor across the way only having a measely handful of people). We realized that our falafel place, L’As du Falafel, received rave reviews in the New York Times, which explains the sudden boost in diners in 2006.

4. The incredible dairy section at any grocery store.

  • Check check check! Mmmm….I LOVE the yogurts in France. Nuf said.

3. Being mesmerized by the selection at the cheese shop down the street from us. And then asking for a camembert, “bien prêt” (meaning, “ready,” which for a camembert means “soft & flavorful”).

  • Check! We also got to enjoy our local cheese shop’s selection at our anniversary dinner. The cheese place around the corner from us is Quatrehomme, and apparently Marie Quatrehomme is famous for her cheeses. I thoroughly enjoyed my camembert “bien pret.”

2. Looking at, taking photos of, and eating delicious pastries, but especially…
1. …Macarons from Pierre Hermé and Ladurée!

  • Okay I realize that I kind of cheated on this one by combining #2 and #1. But the macarons really deserved to be separated from the rest of the patisserie world, in my opinion. And yep! I definitely took full advantage of the pastries and the macarons. Tomorrow, a friend and I will attempt to recreate the beauty by whipping up some Macarons Caramel Fleur de Sel…and maybe Macarons a la Rose. We shall see!

So what do you think? Do I get an “A” for “effort” on my foodie top 10? Cuz I can tell you, it was rough. …(kidding!)… What would be on your foodie top 10 (in Paris or elsewhere).

EDIT: Okay looking at this post I realized that it was way too hard to differentiate between the original top 10 and the “reviews,” so I added bullets to the reviews. Hope this makes the post easier to read!