Monday, 18 May 2009

Weekend = get my chow on!

A few of my classmates and I decided to head out for dinner on Friday night and made the trek all the way across town to the 2oth arrondissement to a bistro we had heard good things about called Le Baratin. The buzz around it was that the food was delicious and reasonably priced and was still relatively undiscovered by foodies. Another guidebook also claimed that Pierre Hermé eats here once every 2 weeks. We got there for the early seating starting at 8pm and got seated in the "tourist" alcove amongst some seriously rowdy Americans! The food was not bad, I started with a quail escoviche - tasty quail marinated in a sweet and sour marinade with some sweet onions, raisins and hazelnuts, scrumptious! I followed this with a main of pork cheeks which was a generous portion of buttery soft pig with a flavoursome sauce. Most of us were feeling pretty full after our mains but as aspiring pastry chefs, we felt that it was our duty to try out the desserts! Unfortunately, the choice was pretty poor but we still managed to choose 4 out of the 5 puds on offer - fondant chocolate, vanilla cream and strawberries, chocolate and coffee mousse and hazelnut pudding. The fondant was the highlight of the selection albeit a little uninspiring and the rest were barely edible, in particular the hazelnut pudding which brought back memories/nightmares of the pudding diplomat we had made on Thursday morning! Was a it a nice bistro? Yes. Did it live up to the hype? Not really. Would I go back? Not before I try the other zillions of bistros in Paris. 

On the pastry front, firstly a re-visit to some old favourites, Pierre Hermé and Carl Marletti. Picked up a classic tarte au citron at PH as well as my current PH weakness, kouign-amman aux fruits rouges (and a few cheeky macaroons!). The tarte au citron was tasty but I couldn't help but notice the slight eggy aftertaste that lingered in my mouth after each bite. My trip to Carl Marletti was prompted after seeing a pic of the heavenly looking tarte au citron that my friend had sampled there. 

Despite there being lots of cakes to try, I decided on an impromptu taste test and opted for tarte au citron again at Carl Marletti (and also a millefeuille au vanille). All I can say that there was only one winner for me and that was Monsieur Marletti. The tart crust was super-crunchy (or friable, as chef would say) and thin and the lemon curd was amazing, the right level of zing and light as air, needless to say, there was no eggy after taste either. My original plan had been to sample all of PH's cakes before I leave Paris, which I still intend to do but have added Carl Marletti onto my "sample all cake" list too :)

After a Sunday afternoon of getting to grips with the world of hiring and riding a Vélib bike (more convoluted than you might think!), I came across a little patisserie in the 5th called Pascal Pinaud on my way to the metro. As a Sunday treat, I plumped for an individual entremet called Jamaica, a palmier and a financier. I think it was Monsieur Pinaud who was manning the shop and when I ordered my 3rd pastry, it was met with several "ooo, lah lah's"!! Just to prove that I wasn't Little Miss Piggy, I explained that I was studying pastry here which developed into a friendly chinwag. People always seem so surprised when I tell them that Londoners are more rude than Parisians but sadly, its the truth. My Jamaica was very nice, a complex combination of flavours including mango and passion fruit mousse, raspberry jam and coconut cream all layered between some genoise and a pistachio joconde. I wasn't expecting them to work but work they did. The palmier and financier were lovely also. Pascal Pinaud may lack the chicness of PH or Carl Marletti (loved his ol' skool cake packaging tho!) but the quality of the pastries are fairly good :)

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