Izzy Eats: The art of raising a gourmand, one bite at a time

Stirring tales of eating, cooking and foraging in my never-ending quest to provide, great-tasting (local and organic whenever possible) EATS for me and my boy(s).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Know A Good Tomato When I See One

Or so it says in Palisade Magazine, where the cover article features the CSA I started in my neighborhood, with quotes from yours truly. The piece gives a detailed overview of the various options for buying organic in our area. This glossy new magazine is available, free of charge,in communities along the Hudson (in both Hudson and Bergen counties). Check it out if you can.

Saved From The Munchkins? One can only hope..

As I was dropping Izzy off at school this morning I had the unfortunate occasion to witness the following: One of his classmates was arriving with a box of Dunkin Munchkins in hand. I spotted them instantly and tried not to recoil in horror as she happily reported she would be sharing them with the class. Her mother looked down in shame, admitting they weren't the best choice but her child needed breakfast." GREAT. WONDERFUL. Couldn't she just pick up a bagel or muffin at Basic, the local coffee spot?

My heart sank. Would all of my efforts be for naught? Would Izzy take one bite of a Munchkin and be transported to junk food heaven? Do I need to move to the woods to keep Izzy from Booty and Munchkins? What is a real foodist to do? I left school wondering how many munchkins my boy would eat...

When I picked him up from school, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he had eaten most of this lunch; tofu/broccoli and rice...yogurt for dessert. He made no mention of munchkins and when I asked what he had for snack he said, "Crackers Mama. I told you, crackers." Phew, somehow, some way the teachers kept the Munchkins away.. I would love to know who ate them..

I certainly am not opposed to all doughnuts and Izzy does have a predilection for the homemade blueberry doughnuts from the Stony Hill Farms stand at Newport..but those are a horse of a different color.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lemon Love

Izzy has had a love affair with lemons from his very first taste. Once while I was cooking, he stole a wedge off the table and instead of this, he giggled, smiled and kept on sucking it, as if it were candy. At first I thought this was quite odd and that perhaps it wouldn't happen again. But lo and behold, his second lemon encounter was the same, in fact he grabbed for it. I knew then it was genuine love. I started to give him lemon water as a beverage and I often spritz lemon juice into salad or veggies for him.

For awhile I began to think this was common amongst toddlers..I imagined them all screaming for lemons...that image was crushed this evening, seeing all those tiny sour faces.. Let's see if I can get a shot of Izzy and his lemons...stay-tuned.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Meat Theory: The Cuter They Are...The Better They Taste..

In my quest to feed my family organic meats, I have been researching the various options available in the way of local meat sources. A few farms in our area do offer shares or buying groups in which one can purchase a side a beef, or even the whole cow if you can corral enough takers.

At the moment, the most feasible option seems to be to purchase a lamb which can easily be split into two shares, without either party feeling deprived for not receiving an important part.

When I inquired about these possibilities to the members of my CSA, one member and I shared the following exchange:

She: In two weeks, we sneak onto the farm and rescue the lambs

Me: I didn't know that you were a vegetarian.

She: No, I'm an uglitarian. I can't bring myself to eat cute things. no ducks, no veal, no lamb, no kittens.

Me: The cuter they are, the better they taste! Lamb and duck are my favorites..bunny is pretty good too.

And I might add that pigs are awfully cute and mighty flavorful.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Entertaining With Ease: Not At My House

I like to entertain and each time I do, I vow that next time it will be simpler. I will be prepared. I will do everything in advance and then just enjoy myself with the guests.

Somehow this morning found me and Izzy, on our way to Union Square to pick up some last minute meat and other incidentals. I figured I could get everything done there and it wouldn't take that long..What happened was that we didn't up leaving here until after 10:30.. I blame the injured sparrow we had to stop to examine. We spent a good 15 minutes peering at it, belly up on the sidewalk. I was deciding how to tend to it when it miraculously righted itself and fluttered to the side of a building. Figuring it was safe enough, we left but we didn't get to NYC until 11:30ish and we were not back home until almost 2:00 p.m.

I thought I had plenty of time. After all, I was only making hamburgers and wienies. Easy as pie? Not with me..The city trip had me exhausted and I needed to take to the couch for a short power nap, and even after that I was still dragging. I didn't start to do a thing til about 3:00 p.m. and the guests were coming at 4:00 p.m. That didn't give me much time to do all that needed to be done, which was too much. For it suddenly dawned on me then that I needed to:

make some popcorn, trim green beans, prepare a fritatta, form hamburger patties, clean the backyard table, tidy the hallway, slice tomatoes and wash some errant dishes, put out some snacks, and make iced tea.

None of this was done by the time people started arriving but I figured I could do it and chit-chat, which ends up making things take longer and I never get to really sit down. How could a burger, wienie and corn dinner be so time consuming? What am I doing wrong?

Izzy, on the other hand, was having a swell time. Frolicking through the sprinkler with his friend O., screaming on the grass and tucking into a picnic table feast with his friend T., who he hasn't seen in a while. At the evening's end he asked, "When can we have another party?" I thought..."When I can hire someone to clean up!"

How can I really refuse the budding social butterfly? Next time I will just make it simple.

How Could Plums So Ripe, Turn Out To Be ...

So very wrong! It wasn't the plums' fault though..just mine. The plums were ripe, juicy and syrupy sweet. I had extras and thought they would make a perfect upside down plum cake. Maybe in someone else's oven...

I had a slight inkling that something was amiss, when, after 15 minutes beyond the recommended baking time, the cake still seemed liquified. Perhaps it was the extra juice in the plums but I finally took it out because the top was so brown. I was surprised at how easily it slid from the pan and how lovely it looked.

When I unveiled it this evening it looked like a sodden mess, akin to mushy pancake batter with fruit. I attempted to cut it and then realized that it was

beyond repair. My friend D. kindly suggested that the ends might be edible and one could glean that it may have been a decent cake if something had not gone awry. Perhaps that variety of plum is best left for eating...or a different recipe.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Don't Touch That Booty: Which One Is Worse?

A few months ago, Izzy came home from school and told me that a friend of his there liked to touch girls' booties and run away.. I asked if he knew what a "booty" was and he said, "Yes, a tushy." This was somewhat disturbing but I hoped it was an isolated incident. Thankfully I never heard that word from him again..

But then yesterday, another Booty arrived to plague me...Izzy came home from school with his lunch only half-eaten. This surprised me since there were things in there he liked. He said he wasn't hungry because he ate strawberries and some "junk food" for snack. When I asked what kind of junk food he replied, "junk food with cheese." I still was reluctant to believe that he had been served junk food and continued to press him for answers. He insisted that he was certain it was junk food and finally relented.."They were cheesy puffs like someone once gave me in the park."

I was dumbfounded..his teachers had actually served him cheese doodles or a relative thereof? How could that be? It was time for an explanation..

When I went to pick him up today, I was determined to get to the bottom of the junk food charge. I was told that Izzy was correct. The preschoolers had eaten "Pirate Booty".. Oh no, what I thought was a mere misunderstanding turned out to be practically true. Izzy was being fed the evil puffs, by those charged to take good care of him.

Now in all good faith, the school staff thought that this was a healthy snack.. They as many other well-meaning parents and teachers are being duped.

In recent days, Veggie Booty has been recalled because of salmonella contamination. The Booty empire was also embroiled in misrepresenting the caloric content of their products. Granted, if you read the label, the product looks relatively benign but consumption can cause unnecessary bloating and diarrhea, filling one up with empty calories. I know that parents and teachers often need to resort to convenient snacks but there certainly are better things that could substitute..pretzels, whole wheat crackers, tortilla chips and salsa, to name a few.

I adore the staff at Izzy's school and I know they didn't mean any harm..I can only hope that in the future, Izzy's days remain Booty free!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Octopus AND Sushi? A preschool uproar..

Perhaps Izzy's artichoke caused a stir amongst his preschool peers. Perhaps it was just something in the air that brought out the conversation about the foods children eat. Was it over his lunch of 1/2 an artichoke, along with an ear of corn, yogurt and some plums that the buzz occurred? Who knows but this is what happened..

When I arrived to pick him up, one of his teachers, Miss A., informed me that at some point in the day, talk had turned to the different things everyone eats. She said that Izzy told everyone that he liked to eat octopus and "raw sushi fish." The entire group ewwwwwwwwwwwed in disgust. Apparently not a single one had eaten sushi.. How is that possible? Granted with all of the bad press and mercury, consumption should be kept at a minimum but no sushi at all? And here I was thinking Jersey City was so cosmopolitan, 8 minutes from the Path from NYC but worlds away? I know Izzy's peers in NYC are munching up sushi left and right.

In any event, Miss A. had to explain to Izzy's friends about how everyone eats different foods, etc...I wish I could have been there. Maybe I need to plan a sushi introduction party for his class...

All that talk of sushi put Izzy in sushi-mode so on our way home from Great-Grandpa's this evening, instead of going to my selection, we agreed to go for sushi. We tried a new place, JC Sakura, which I had long eschewed for other establishments and it turned out to be fairly decent, especially my mango-lobster roll. Izzy was especially awed by the sushi boat. Even I was.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Whoa Whoa Whoa Stuffed Artichokes

I did not encounter an artichoke until I was about 17 years old. My Italian-American boyfriend, R.D., introduced me to them at his house, where I often ate dinner. In that family, artichokes were served on a fairly regular basis, although they did seem to appear on special occasion. We would come in to find huge trays of them left to cool on the counter. His dad's version was stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs and cheese.

I longed to copy that recipe but his dad wasn't the sort to sit down and give up his secrets. So I started to search for my own. As it turned out, one of my favorite first cookbooks, The Silver Palate had a winning recipe for them and soon I was turning out stuffed artichokes to rival those of R.D's family. The filling I made was more complex and contained sausage, and also included cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs. This artichoke is a meal, in and of itself.

When I went off to college, my desire for these artichokes grew and I continued to make them on a regular basis. Friends started to request them and I found myself removing chokes rather than studying.

During my junior year, I went so far as to prepare 26 artichokes for a party I threw for my Italian class. Since then, my artichoke preparation has been sporadic but when Izzy became old enough, I decided I needed to introduce him to the artichoke, so that it would be a normal part of his repertoire. And if you think about it, artichokes are such a perfect food for little hands. The whole process is exciting, from picking off the leaves and sucking them, down to cutting up the heart in the middle. It is a unique eating experience.

Yesterday was a milestone because Izzy was able to actually help in the preparation, making light work of the sometimes annoying task of removing the choke. Together we stuffed six artichokes and he was able to bring one for his lunch and one to give to one of his teachers, Mr. D.
When he came home from school today and I asked him about his lunch he claimed that "Some of the teachers didn't know what I was eating." Curious, were they teasing him or is that possible? I suppose if R.D. hadn't introduced me to them, I might not have known either.
Recipe to follow shortly. Check back.

Stuffed Artichokes (Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook)


4 large artichokes trimmed ( you can easily adapt to make more, which I always do. These make great leftovers)

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup good olive oil

1 large onion finely chopped

4 cloves garlic finely chopped

1/4 cup Italian parsley finely chopped

1/2 lb. Italian sausage, removed from casing and crumbled (I use the turkey sausage from DiPaola Farms which works quite well)

2 cups fine bread crumbs (bakery ones are best)

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

salt, to taste

black pepper

1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

2 eggs


Trim stems of artichokes so they sit upright. Put lemon juice in a pot of boiling water and add artichokes, cooking for 20-30 minutes until a few leaves pull out. Do not overcook.
2. Heat half the oil and saute onion, garlic, and parsley over low heat
for about 15 minutes or until soft.
4. Add sausage and cook 15 minutes more, breaking up lumps as it cooks.
5. Transfer to a large bowl and add bread crumbs, chicken stock, oregano, salt, black pepper and cheese. Toss gently and allow to cool to room temperature. Beat the eggs lightly and stir into mixture.
6.Preheat oven to 350 F.
7. Carefully spread open the cooled artichokes and remove the choke from each with a spoon. Fill the cavities with the stuffing and force any remaining stuffing into the outside leaves.
8. Arrange the stuffed artichokes in a shallow baking dish and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Add a cup of water and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 40 minutes.
9. Warm or cool with lemons and parsley.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

CSA Bounty: Plums Steal The Show

This week's delivery included the following items:

Yukon Gold New Potatoes (thin skin)


Red Amaranth

Small Eggplant

Garlic – Ozark variety (softneck)

Herb of the Week: Chives

Everything looked beautiful, especially the red Amaranth which I served with Baby Spinach and Goat Cheese. But it was the Red Heart plums that stole ours...shockingly sweet and dripping with juice. Izzy found them irresistible, secretly popping them into his mouth when he thought I wasn't looking..

Time to search for something to do with them since it seems some members forgot theirs.

Will Izzy Eat This? Sardines With Cream Cheese And Spinach

After school yesterday, Izzy requested a snack of watermelon. While still slurping on his melon, he hopped from his chair and went into the pantry. He pulled out a can of sardines and asked for some to go with his watermelon. Certainly not a winning combination in my opinion but he insisted. I put a few fish in a small bowl for him and he ate a few forkfuls. I was then left with 3/4 of a can of sardines.

Now Izzy has always enjoyed eating sardines but I think I have yet to pack any in his lunchbox, because admittedly, they smell fishy. I figured it was high time to try as I had no other immediate use for the leftovers. What could be healthier than a sardine, cream cheese and spinach sandwich, which I told him I would be making. I have discovered that one trick to getting him to eat more lunch is preparing him in advance, and explaining what exactly will be in his lunchbox. He likes to look forward to it and then seems to eat more.

Stay tuned to see what comes back in his lunchbag!

The Verdict?

Izzy came home with half a sandwich in his lunchbox. He said he liked it but it was too much too finish. Hmmm.. Yesterday he finished all of his pasta and his chickpea/cucumber salad...

p.s. His wrap mat wasn't too stinky but I did toss the sandwich.

Monday, July 23, 2007

How Much Corn Can A Wee Lad Shuck?

Loads it seems. So Izzy has become our resident corn-shucker. I highly recommend this as the perfect end to an Summer's day. For Izzy it appears to be calming and meditative and I only wish that we needed to eat more than six ears of corn, for the activity could certainly occupy him for at least an hour. As it is now, six ears take about 20 minutes.

Last summer, at the age of three, Izzy began his corn-shucking duties. Back then, he needed some assistance but now he is quite capable of doing it all be himself. He even removes the stubborn silk and is quite delighted with his new ability.

So next time you are seeking some cooking entertainment, pick up several ears and let your kids do the work, while you prepare the rest of dinner.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shocking The Gelato Scooper

Location: Babo Teahouse and Gelateria, Jersey City

Izzy and I went to have some late afternoon gelato. I noticed that they had one of Izzy's favorites from last year, Black Sesame so I asked him if he would like some.. He immediately replied yes but I figured it would be best to get a sample first, since tastes change. The young woman eyed us with an incredulous look upon her face and said, "He doesn't want that. I am sure. It has a strong flavor." I explained that it was one of his past favorites so she handed over the sample and watched with further surprise when Izzy said, "That's what I want. And Bon Bon too."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chocolates For Great-Grandpa: Even 98 Year-Olds Have Trouble Sharing

Izzy and I went to visit Great-Grandpa yesterday. Beforehand, I called to let him know that we would be arriving after lunch, with some Parisian chocolates in hand. I could here his smile in anticipation of our visit and the treat. Any promise of chocolate puts Great-Grandpa in good spirits since he is a confirmed chocoloholic.

Upon our arrival, we handed him his box of Jadis et Gourmande chocolates. He promptly put the box aside instead of immediately opening them as I had secretly hoped.

We busied ourselves with chit-chat until Izzy started asking for snacks. He then kept motioning toward the chocolate box but Great-Grandpa pretended not to notice. Then he said that the chocolates were his gift and that Izzy couldn't have any. I thought it must be a joke but he insisted that they were his chocolates and he wouldn't be sharing them.

Izzy was decidedly peeved that he wasn't going to sample any of the chocolates and I am sure he was surprised that Great-Grandpa wouldn't give in. Luck would have it that there was a bowl of lovely cherries in the fridge which calmed Izzy's craving for a while. Then we all settled in on the couch to watch some of Fiddler on the Roof. Every now and then, Izzy would look longingly over at the box of chocolates and I had to shake my head no.

Before the movie was over it was time for us to leave, and still no chocolates were forthcoming. As we were gathering our belongings and just about to open the door, Great-Grandpa says, "Would you like to try the chocolates now?" Was that his ploy all along? The sure-fire way to prolong our visit? Well it certainly worked. We ceremoniously opened the box and each got to have one chocolate, before rushing out the door to catch our train.

Tonight, when I spoke to Great-Grandpa, I asked if he had eaten any more of the chocolates. His reply, "No, I am saving them. It isn't every day that I get chocolates from Paris." Indeed not so I hope they don't end up blooming in his cabinets like some American chocolates I have seen.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eating: It's Not Only About Food (Even For Wee Diners)

I was reminded of the importance of this today when Izzy and I were discussing our dinner plans. We were on our way back from visiting Great-Grandpa and it was getting late. Izzy was tired and longing for home. I said that we could either go straight home and he could have a quick dinner (without me or Papa) or we could go out together. At first he said he wanted to go home but when he realized he wouldn't be eating with us he said, " I don't want to go home and eat something all by myself. I would rather eat with you and Papa." Silly me, of course he would..and he ended up calming down so that he could join us for dinner.

Izzy has been fortunate because I have always eaten with him, even if it has meant that I have two dinners (not good for my waist but did wonders for his palate). Even when he was tiny I would feed him and then have a small plate to sample along with him. For me it was second nature to partake with him. Yet for so many families, this is a foreign concept.

In many families, the children are fed first and put to bed before the adults eat. In this scenario, the children lose out on so many levels. Children learn about the pleasures of the table from their parents (or caregivers). When they eat alone they are not exposed to the entire social aspect of the table.

I have been shocked of late when I see the food crimes that some parents admit to..

While in Paris, we were dining at a communal table. Seated next to us was a couple with an 18 month old toddler. They arrived at the table with the toddler in a stroller. They did not take the child out and said they only needed two seats. I asked if the child would be eating and the mom said, "Il a mange avant, autrement ca sera la revolution." (He ate beforehand, otherwise there would be a revolution.") This truly made no sense to me and I told her that with Izzy it would have been the contrary. If I took him out he of course would want to join in on the eating.. Then the woman said that she never ate with him anyway so it wouldn't make a difference. Alot she knew..The child begged to get out of the stroller so she stuffed some bread into his mouth to quiet him. Then, about half way into their meal, he insisted more loudly and clearly wanted some food. Finally she gave in and let the poor child out.

In another family, the child has consistently been fed separately, rarely if ever partaking in a family dinner. His parents have recently come to their senses and are trying to do better. I am looking forward to hearing about their upcoming family meals.

Granted it is not always easy to gather for a family meal and early bedtimes do make it even more difficult. But try to eat with your children as often as possible so that they may learn to eat what you love and enjoy being at the table too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What is the real definition of junk food anyway?

I bumped into one of Izzy's teachers, Miss A., as I was on my way to pick him up from school today. She told me that she overheard a conversation between him and some other boys yesterday. Apparently they were discussing junk food. She said that Izzy said something to the effect of :

'junk food? I could eat that all day...' She said she had to laugh thinking that he was the last child she would expect to be eating junk food.

When I asked him about the conversation today he said...B. says that junk food is disgusting. I explained that it wasn't necessarily disgusting but that it wasn't healthy for his body.

Then I asked him what exactly junk food was...he said, 'sugary snacks and salty pretzels..., I eat those things when you don't pack a snack for me.

This all had me wondering about what exactly constitutes junk food. When we asked Alex he said,"Potato chips and things that come in icky bags."
The icky bag aspect opens up a whole realm to which many, many junk food items fall into. After all, potato chips are only the tip of the junk food iceberg.

If I were to begin a list it would include chips of all kinds, cookies, candies, sugary cereals, and pop tarts. There are so many items that would warrant inclusion I couldn't possibly list them

What would you include on the list?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monster Soup: Izzy Plays With His Food

Who ever said don't play with your food had it all wrong. Having children play with their food is a great way to get them to eat it. The best way to do that is during cooking, which also turns your chores into play.

Izzy has been a presence in my kitchen since birth. When he was tiny he experienced the kitchen while swaying in a sling. When he was old enough, I put his bouncy seat on the counter and waved spices and garlic under his nose to include him in the preparations. The older he got, the more he could participate. He began by peeling garlic cloves, pulling off onion skins and other small tasks which are perfect for little hands. He has now graduated to cutting, stirring and evening inventing his own recipes.

The best part is, that cooking becomes entertainment. Instead of thinking, what am I going to do with the little ones while I cook dinner, it is easier to just include them in the fun.
Izzy has recently created his own kitchen game. He likes to take all of the scraps from my cooking and create "Monster Soup." Tonight's mixture included shallot skins, garlic peels, lemon slices and artichoke scraps. He insisted that it be boiled for 10 minutes. He wanted to leave it in the yard for the monsters to eat. I hope they liked it.

Fancy Dining In Hoboken: Izzy Eats At Amanda's

Each time my dad and stepmother come to Jersey City, the age old question of where to eat arises. We usually frequent the same restaurants over and over, sticking with the tried and true. Every so often, we veer off and make a new discovery. Last night turned out to be such a night when my stepmother came up with the idea that we should eat at Amanda's Restaurant in Hoboken.

I have read about Amanda's on many occasions but for some reason I have shied away from it. It is always touted as ultra-romantic, good for special occasions etc. and I was concerned that Izzy might not add to the ambiance. Thankfully I found that I needn't have worried at all.

Amanda's is definitely a special occasion restaurant, yet despite the formal atmosphere, we received a warm welcome. Izzy's presence did not seem to disturb anyone (Parisian restaurants, take note!) On this early Sunday evening, we were amongst a small handful of diners. We had a cozy banquette area to ourselves which was perfect. ..To start, Izzy and I shared a Red and Yellow Beet Salad with Blue Cheese and Mango Lime-Dressing. Odd choice for dressing I thought but the rest of the ingredients appealed so I ordered it anyway. The perky fresh beets and lettuce were perfect with the creamy blue cheese but the salad could certainly have done without that dressing. Izzy always enjoys a good beet so it was a worthwhile starter for us.

For the next course, Izzy had the Polenta with Three Cheeses and I had Short Ribs which I seem to order everywhere. Well Izzy took one bite of his polenta and then kept coming over to my fork for bites of my dinner. My ribs were spoon-soft, full of mushrooms and rich broth, a hit for both of us.

As our meal progressed, the polenta remained untouched so I tasted it to determine why. Turns out that three cheeses may just have been one too many. As with the Mango-Lime dressing, extra cheese did not benefit that dish.

We couldn't leave without dessert so Izzy ordered a dish of raspberry sorbet and I had to try the Blueberry-Apple Crisp with Caramel Ice Cream..

That dish alone, would have made this restaurant a keeper. Homey, warm and creamy...a perfect ending to our meal. Although not every dish was perfect, I would certainly give this restaurant another whirl.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Few Last Morsels From Paris: Les Glaces et Le Chocolat

Les Glaces: When in Paris you must sample the ice cream whenever you can.

Although Berthillon is the most well-known there are many others worth trying. Many patisseries make their own so look for signs "fait maison" or "artisanal". If you just eat any old ice cream, you will be disappointed. It pays to seek out the best.

Izzy and I did just that when we took a bus ride to sample Le Bac A Glaces.. This old-fashioned glacier is certainly a charming spot in which to enjoy an ice cream sundae with homemade chantilly. Unfortunately, Izzy insisted of having his cup of raspberry sorbet to go because he wanted to play in the cute little park just steps away. Which reminds me..although Parisian restaurants are not kid-friendly, the city itself is. The parks are wonderful and plentiful and seem to magically appear whenever we need one. The sandboxes are huge, filled with enough sand to dig tunnels.

Back to ice cream, there are now many gelaterie in Paris that rival the best French ice creams. Pozzetto is a standout with very grown-up, intense flavors. Izzy didn't seem to mind his cup of dark chocolate.

For a more detailed round-up of ice cream in Paris, check out David Lebovitz.

Le Chocolat: Long ago, whenever I visited Paris, I always made sure to bring back chocolates of one kind or another. Yet there I was with Izzy and we made it until the last day without buying any. Something had to change. On our last afternoon, I was determined to find some chocolate treasures. We stumbled upon a chocolatier only a short walk from our apartment. Jadis et Gourmande is a chain with decent chocolates done up in playful disguises. Look for the Salade Nicoise or the Appetizer tray, all made of chocolate. A great spot for souvenirs that everyone will enjoy. Best part is, you can sample everything before purchasing and the staff was friendly and didn't seem to mind Izzy sticking his nose into everything.

A day of too much chocolat

Friday, July 13, 2007

What Did Mary Poppins Eat Anyway?

Never mind that, what did she feed those children? I can't remember anything about food except a spoonful of sugar.. However, what does matter is that Mommy Poppins, made mention of Izzy Eats. She said, and I gloat:

Possibly the only parenting blog that will make you want to drool more than gag.

Thanks Miss Poppins, I hope to keep you drooling.

As for Mommy Poppins, I just love the very name of this site and from the looks of it, it is filled with insider info on what to do with kids in nyc.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Last Supper? If So It Should Have Been Elsewhere..

For our last night in Paris, I wanted a place with some great rotisserie chicken. I had been hankering for some since our arrival and had yet to eat any. I pored over all of my various guidebooks and was enticed by a photo of chickens roasting over potatoes in the Time Out Guide. It was taken at L'AOC, a restaurant in the 5eme, known because all of the ingredients are Appellation d'Origine Controllee, meaning they must be raised/grown in a specific location and adhere to specific government standards. This had to be our place.

I reserved a table for 8 pm., on the late side for Izzy but I figured it would be okay for our last night, since it would help correct jet lag. When we arrived late, we were not greeted warmly and the sight of Izzy may have added a certain chilliness to the affair. He was not in the best of moods but fortunately was manageable.
As soon as we were seated, the waiter promptly removed all of the wine glasses from his clutches and the hostess kept eyeing us as if some disaster were about to ensue. I ordered a plate of Girolles (chanterelles) for him and some Bone Marrow on toast for myself. Both appetizers were simply seasoned. Izzy adored his mushrooms but I felt that my dish somehow lacked for flavor. I still had high hopes for the mains because everything on the menu sounded wonderful and when I glanced around the restaurant, all the diners were happily tucking into generously portioned platters of delicious looking food.

I ordered the Rotisserie platter and Alex had the Cochon Farci (roast stuffed pig). My rotisserie platter arrived with a piece of chicken, guinea hen and pork served over a bed of roasted potatoes. The potatoes were just the right texture and full of flavor. The pork was succelent and flavorful. The fowl was an entirely different story. The skin was not crisp and actually had an offtaste. I didn't want to say anything and I didn't get a chance to taste Alex's before he gobbled it down. He eventually admitted that his was not really that good either. Neither of us could understand what all the fuss was about. How is it that this restaurant has been so well-reviewed? Maybe we just hit an off night or the wrong dishes.. Whatever the case it was a truly disappointing end to our days of Parisian dining. We should not have traveled across town for this when we could have dined at Chez Robert and Louise right nearby..
Not only were we not thrilled with the food but this meal also provided more evidence that Parisian restaurants do not appear to welcome children. Not once did the hostess warm up to Izzy, despite the fact that he was a calm dining companion who ate up all of his food. As we walked home, I peered into numerous restaurants and there were no children in sight. If this is the case, how do the French raise their gourmands?

Le Marche Des Enfants Rouges: Finding Great Food Where We Least Expected It

Today was our last full day in Paris. What would we eat? Where would we go..I awoke last night in a panic, worrying that I hadn't planned our last day well enough. I decided that Izzy could only stand one real sit down meal so that would be dinner. Lunch was up for grabs.

After the prerequisite pain au chocolat and croissants, we spent a leisurely morning at our local park up the block. I must keep in mind, all eating and no play makes Izzy a crabby dull boy. When it was time for lunch I thought we would just pick up a sandwich at a nearby bakery. I also wanted to try a fougasse from the place around the corner, aptly named, La Fougasse.

Instead, Izzy asked for a socca from Le Marche des Enfants Rouges so we wandered in. I noticed that all of the stands were really hopping today, from sushi to couscous, people were lunching on plates heaped high with delightful looking food. Best of all, the socca man was in the midst of preparing Galettes de Sarassin (buckwheat crepes) and made to order sandwiches. Izzy took one look at the crepe and requested one and I looked at the sandwich and pegged that for Alex's lunch.
The galette was filled with sauteed onions, ham and cheese.

The sandwich was extraordinary for a few reasons. First, it was made to order which is rather unusual in Paris. Usually sandwiches are pre-made and arranged on the bakery shelves. This sandwich was made on organic bread and the "chef" carefully arranged the ingredients, including a just opened avocado, proscuitto, onions, cheese and ample sprinkles of chives and cilantro. It was an irresistible creation. So simple and perfect.

I ended up buying myself a goat cheese and olive fougasse which was decent but nothing compared to what the boys were having. Luckily we all shared and it turned out to be one of our best meals here.

It was also further evidence that guides can only help one to a certain extent. Sometimes it can be better to follow your eyes and nose.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Itty Bitty Gourmand...Parisian Reality or Rarity?

It is said that France is the land of great food...and Paris has no end of wonderful restaurants..yet how many children actually eat in those restaurants? And if they eat there, what do they eat? After today's episode I have to wonder.

Izzy and I, after having spent a rainy morning indoors, were ready for a lunch adventure. I left the apartment with a few places in mind. We peeked into the windows of the first two choices and Izzy, for some odd reason, turned them down. The last place I had in mind was called Alivi, a Corsican restaurant in the 4eme. I liked the sound of it because it was French yet a bit unusual. The menu outside looking interested so I peered in the window and it didn't look that busy. This was it so we pushed open the door.

The hostess arrived immediately, and I asked for a table for two. She looked down at Izzy, then back at me and said, "Si vous cherchez le steak hachee pour le petit, nous n'avons pas cela ici" (Basically, if you are looking for hamburgers for your son, you have come to the wrong place.) I looked her straight in the eye, smiled and replied..Il ne mange pas ca. Il mange le lapin. (He doesn't eat that, he eats rabbit). Which in fact he had asked for when we looked at the menu posted outside. This seemed to convince her and she ushered us in. The place was barely half full, how could she be so choosy?

Once seated, she presented me with the menu. The plats du jour, served with appetizer or dessert (which were really the only affordable items) were Lotte au Pesto or Pied de Cochon. Izzy insisted on the Pied de Cochon so I had the Lotte. I would get a salad to start, and Izzy would have dessert.Now I have never eaten pig's feet before and neither has Izzy so this was sure to be interesting for us both. When it arrived, along with my salad it was a bit of a surprise. There it sat, a hoof on a plate, practically unadorned, accompanied only by some potatoes in the same shade of light brown. I busied myself cutting it for Izzy, discovering that it was quite bony, hiding but a few meaty tidbits. Is one supposed to eat the fatty stuff? As I removed the little bits, I piled the bones in a corner of Izzy's plate. I felt sorry for him because the tidbits were tasty but not nearly enough to make a meal of.

I thought he would share my food but he didn't seem that interested in my salade aux lardons (which was heavy on the deliciously chewy lardons). Then I assumed that when my bass arrived he would have some of that. Instead, when they served my fish, they served his dessert which made no sense to me but it was too late. He did take a bite of the fish but with two slices of a rich chocolate ganache cake in front of him, it was too hard to concentrate on the fish.

In any event, the hostess kept eyeing Izzy throughout the entire meal, at first with suspicion and then eventually she softened up. As we were finishing up our meal she came over to gush. She said he was so sweet and that he was a rarity..she explained that the reason she had forewarned us at the door was that many people bring in their children expecting "kid" food.

Izzy won her over, not only because he ate his "Pied de Cochon" but because he truly was a stellar lunch companion. We played addition and subtraction games with the wine glasses and geometry games with the napkins. He was sufficiently entertained before the meal and the meal was entertainment in and of itself.
Yet how can it be that here in Paris, restaurants aren't more accustomed to kids eating what their parents eat? Or maybe they are accustomed to that, just not AMERICAN ones.. After all, part of the reason I believe that kids should eat what their parents eat was born out of teaching French children. They always had lunchboxes full of things that American children rarely eat.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Is There More To Paris Than Just Food?

What message am I sending Izzy? Certainly I live to eat and good food is a priority but today I really tried to have an agenda which included more than park visits scheduled between meals.
We managed to go to Le Louvre and discovered that having a stroller allows you to bypass lines...Izzy was most interested in the glass pyramids as we entered the Museum. He did get to glimpse the Mona Lisa, Les Noces de Cana, some breathtaking statues and whatever else he managed take notice of in an hour's time, for once inside, the crowds were truly stifling.

When we left we spent some time outside just looking at the buildings and pyramids.

Since it was still early, we hopped on a bus to the Eiffel Tower, in hopes of finally going to the top. I had forgotten how relaxing and scenic a bus ride through Paris can be. Izzy had a great time looking out the window and recognizing places we had already visited.

When we got off the bus, instead of heading straight for the Eiffel Tower, we walked to the nearby park where we discovered an entire play area, with two carousels, donkey rides and other features. One of the carousels was hand-cranked and had an added attraction. Each child was given a stick with which to grab metal rings, that were suspended in one area as they passed. It was a challenge for Izzy who had never done it before.
Later on in the small park, Izzy attempted to jump from atop a train play toy and landed flat on his face with a mouthful of sand. His nose was bleeding and he bonked his chin. He was hysterical and all of the French moms were none too sympathetic.. They thought he was six and too big to be crying or something.. They kept saying.."Tu est un grand garcon.." And then I said, "He is only four" and they said that they thought he was six and that he was big for his age..

After that episode, I decided to call it a day. We went back to our neighborhood and bought some provisions for Alex's dinner since he would be working late (and the sales clerk gave Izzy another treat..an elephant ear - oops, left that out of the above post!) By the time we returned home it was already time for dinner.

Can I Tame The Sweets Monster?

While in Paris, I allow myself to stray from my generally healthful eating habits. It is nearly impossible to keep myself away from all of the patisseries, brimming with all manner of delights. And so Izzy has joined me and I worry that when get back home, he will expect to continue his three sweets a day habit.

Today started out right..we had yogurt and melon.. Then we left the house and Izzy had a pain au chocolat and I had a croissant..Why does pain au chocolat seem like a breakfast item to me when I would never even consider giving Izzy chocolate in the morning at home? Blame it on Paris.

A bit later, we stopped for some steamed milk and tea (both with added sugar). Then it was time for a brief stop for some sandwiches. As soon as they were finished, Izzy requested dessert. It was probably about 1:30 and it was already time for another sweet. We stopped for an incredible chocolate macaron that was stuffed with salted caramel. Divine!
Later in the day, when hunger pangs struck, I was better prepared. I had saved his sandwich from lunch and he finished it for his snack. Phew..I avoided a third dessert. And shockingly enough, we didn't get ice cream either.
We had dinner and afterwards, a dessert request was denied. When we got back to our apartment, Izzy claimed to still "need" his dessert. So I gave him a banana and that seemed to work! I guess there is hope that I can squelch those dessert cravings once back at home.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sticky Fingers: Tainted Gelato?

There Izzy was, just innocently eating his gelato when, boom bang, out of nowhere, a young Parisian (and not an urchin I might add), bounded across the street and proceeded to stick his finger smack dab in the middle of Izzy's raspberry and chocolate gelato. The perpetrator then licked said finger and proclaimed the gelato, "delicieux" and ran off before either one of us could truly register what had just happened. I immediately grabbed the cup from Izzy and exclaimed he couldn't finish it because someone's filthy finger had tainted it. Izzy, being far more sensible than I, said, "Oh Mama, just scoop out the dirty part and then I can still eat the rest."
Yet I couldn't help but wonder what kind of a creep would dare stick his icky fingers into a little boy's ice cream..
A few minutes after the incident Izzy looked up from his gelato and said, "He wasn't a very nice man."

Who Can One Rely On For Food Recommendations?

In the past I have always relied upon Patricia Wells and I was never disappointed. Her Food Lover's Guides were detailed and accurate, always leading me to a treasure of one kind or another. This time, however, I did not bring along her book since it had not been updated that recently. Instead I purchased Pudlo Paris, having heard it was one of the better ones. I somehow find it lacking and our lunch meal today was reason alone to toss it aside.

We went to a place called L'Estaminet d'Aromes et Cepages. This quote from the guide drew me in, "Thierry Poincin presents dishes as fresh as the morning dew." None of the dishes mentioned in the review were available and the menu was very limited. Not only that but they were out of many items on the menu and it was 1:30 p.m. On top of that, the service was negligent and we had to find our own bread. Alex was none to pleased since this was his last meal before starting a big project. Our experience left little to be desired and the diners seated next to us were disenchanted as well.

After that experience, I decided that I would ask some locals for advice about tonight's dinner. I stopped a family on the street and asked if they were from the neighborhood. I asked for a suggestion and they pointed me in the direct of a restaurant called Cafe Creme. It was basically a cafe with third-rate food. At least it was cheap. But now where do I turn?

I did purchase the Time Out Eating and Drinking Guide and it lists many of my old favorites so I think I will stick with that from now on. The only issue I have is that it doesn't list enough ice cream stores, chocolatiers or patisseries.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Paris: Just An Ordinary Day Of Eating

Our breakfast has been virtually the same every day: Baguettes smeared with bread and butter, fruit, sometimes yogurt and steamed milk and tea (cafe noisette for Alex). If I do say so myself, American breakfasts are far more interesting and varied.

We took Alex to our little market street and tempted him with all manner of cheeses and pates. We also discovered that Le Marche des Enfants Rouges is more interesting than I had first thought. We discovered an interesting vendor of all things Moroccan and there was also a Socca vendor. I promptly ordered one which we all devoured. For those of you who don't know, socca is a savory chickpea flour pancake, a nicoise specialty. After that snack we found ourselves back home for another small feast for lunch.

We ate so much, that Alex and I fell asleep while Izzy played egg games with a sheet. I awoke when it seemed to quiet to find him leaning out the window gazing upon the street scene below. (Note to self..next time find an apartment with safer windows and better views).

Our post-prandial jaunt led us to the Grand Palais, to see the Monumenta exhibit that has kept Alex busy for awhile. The work was impressive and Izzy was thrilled to see where "Papa works." Izzy built up quite an appetite wandering around admiring the enormous pieces. So he needed a hearty dinner.

I had heard that Chez Janou served up hefty portions of hearty fare so off we went. This lively restaurant was bustling with tourists of all kinds. It was charming and the menu had a provencale slant. Our appetizers were memorable. Izzy had a Salade d'ecrevisses, avocat et pamplemousse (tiny shrimp, avocado and grapefruit on a bed of lettuce) which was one of the more inventive menu items I have seen at the medium-priced restaurants we frequent. While I had Fenouil Croquant avec Hareng Fume (Smoked Herring and Fennel Salad) and Alex had Moules Gratinees (Mussels Gratin). These were also quite satisfying and Izzy enjoyed tasting all of them.
Our mains were not quite as pleasing. Alex had what was called, Farci Provencale and turned out to be three very small vegetables stuffed with a meat mixture and served with rice on the side. I had Agneau Roti avec Haricots verts...sliced leg of lamb and green beans which was tasty albeit ordinary in preparation.

And the meal had me thinking that we had eaten something similar the night before and that perhaps there was something to David Lebovitz's argument that, overall, one might eat better in the States. Sure France does have certain foods that can't be beat, and the markets are certainly better, but there may just be more restaurant innovation aux Etats-Unis.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Dinner: Papa's Nose Leads The Way

Just as I do, Alex likes to return to old haunts, revisit the tried and true. He had been to Paris quite recently and held a fond memory of small restaurant on the rue Guisarde. He didn't remember the name of the place or the street but he claimed to feel vibrations which somehow led us there. He recalled that they prepared a decent foie de veau and was yearning to eat it again.

The restaurant was called Le Machon d'Henri ( 8, rue Guisarde, Paris 6eme) Now ordinarily I don't like to eat somewhere without having read about it first but his recommendation was good enough. The place looked cozy and the menu was appealing. Once again, basic French fare in a rustic atmosphere. And they had a perfect table in the far back, so we wouldn't disturb any of the patrons.

Izzy had a lovely Salade de Lentilles aux Lardons and I had a Salade de Petoncles..I had no idea what they were but figured I would find out soon enough. When they arrived Alex called them, "giant barnacles" which is indeed what they resembled.

Izzy contentedly spooned up his lentil salad and was more than happy to taste my petoncles. I ordered lamb chops which he tried but he seemed happier to eat his Papa's calves' liver. I don't generally eat veal myself but I have heard that in the States ethically raised calves are gaining favor..I wonder if the same is happening in France.

All in all, it was another homey dinner and had us debating again, where does one eat better, Paris or NYC?

Papa Appears In Paris:Late Lunch Laughing At Laduree

We are finally all together, at least for a couple of days until Alex has to go back to work. At least we will still be in the same city.

Today some colleagues of his invited us to lunch at Laduree, an extremely traditional tea salon, know for cafe Viennois, Croissant aux Amandes and French Macaro0ns in all flavors. I used to breakfast at the original location which was known for its extraordinary decor and I didn't realize that they have since opened two more. Lucky I happened to check a guide. I automatically assumed we would be dining at the original as it is certainly the grandest of the three. Good thing I decided to inquire for it turned out we were eating on the Champs Elysees, an area I would ordinarily not venture to.

I knew we would be dining rather late so Izzy had some snacks beforehand to tide him over, so he only nibbled on his lunch. Strange thing about the menu..Le Club Sandwich figured prominently on the menu, albeit a French version. I ordered a salad and two club sandwiches, figuring Alex would finish any leftovers. Funny to think, we came to Paris and ate club sandwiches.

They were certainly better than any American club sandwich yet it still seemed a wee bit odd. The salad, however, was decidedly French, composed of a variety of vegetables and lettuces, ever fresh and delicious.

The show stealers here, though, are the desserts. I ordered a Religieuse au chocolate and Izzy ordered the mini-macaroon tasting. He selected four different flavors; chocolate, vanilla, raspberry and rose. When those arrived, the fun began. First he tried the raspberry and set it down, then he tried the chocolate and proclaimed it to be the best. Next he tried the rose and couldn't put it down. Last was the vanilla, he picked it up to take a bite and it escaped from his grasp, rolling to the ground. Soon he and I were under the table in this rather fancy restaurant, trying to retrieve the lost macaroon. We must have made an amusing sight to the surrounding diners. Mission accomplished, we adhered to the 60 second-rule and Izzy ate it up too! Verdict, rose was best (tasted a bit like soap to me!)

When our meal finally ended, Izzy had clearly had enough of was longing to jump and play. We had a long walk along the Seine and some time at the Jardins de Luxembourg. Then it was time for dinner.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

More Tongue Please, Chez Robert And Louise..

Our afternoon was spent doing more neighborhood wandering and then making our way to the Seine. Izzy is fascinated with all bodies of water, large and small, and wanted to do nothing more than watch the boats float along and toss some pebbles over the walls. The main hindrance was our stroller. I couldn't walk down stairs without railings, holding stroller and Izzy. We needed to find a ramp. Mission accomplished, thrill of the day complete.

What next? A dinner adventure. I had read about a cozy place called Robert and Louise, which fit into my neighborhood plan. It was only a few minute walk from chez nous. We had peeked in during our early wanderings and it definitely looked promising. Small, rustic and not outrageously expensive.

At about 7 p.m., we poked our heads in the door. I knew we were the early birds and inquired if we could have dinner. They ushered us in and explained that the fire was not yet on but we could have drinks while we waited. We were the only ones there but that didn't last very long and suddenly we were lost amidst the crowds. People were turned away at the door, while we occupied a table for four!

What a great place. Lively atmosphere, friendly service and decent food. In an attempt to be frugal, I ordered the daily special which was "langue de boeuf" and a seasonal salad to start. Izzy had an "omelette forestiere" and seasonal wood-fired sausages for his appetizer. The appetizers were tasty,homey, no-frills food. We had come to the right place. Izzy kept trying to get up to get a better view of the fire and somehow the restaurant itself was entertaining in and of itself.
My beef tongue arrived, with some sauteed potatoes and salad on the side. It was covered in a red sauce and was not what I had imagined. It was cooked rare and was not the soft tongue I was accustomed to. It wasn't bad but it just wasn't what I had in mind. Izzy's omelette with mushrooms was a far better choice. Turned out that he ate mine and I ate his..how this came to be, one can only surmise.

"Mama, what is beef tongue?"

"It is the cow's tongue."

"I want to have some."

I know this may phase some kids, but not him..I wonder why.

By the time we had finished our main courses, the restaurant was packed and people were sitting at our table. We shared the chocolate cake for dessert and were on our way. Although I didn't adore my dish, I saw what the others (mostly regulars) were ordering and I knew we would be back.

Check out Anthony Bourdain's view of Chez Robert and Louise!

Restaurant Robert Louise (Paris) - Watch a funny movie here

Rainy Paris? Picnic Indoors

Another morning in Paris, another breakfast at home. After yesterday's whirlwind of walking and activity, I decided today was a day for neighborhood exploration. We went out in search of the local "marche" which turned out to be somewhat disappointing. Maybe we were too early, but the Marche des enfants rouges didn't hold much appeal. And I couldn't find a much talked about restaurant near there either.

What we did do, though, was buy some more wonderful fruits, cheeses and bread to have around. Then we searched in vain for a particular creperie, but alas, there was nobody in the window. And so it was back to the sandbox at Place des Vosges, where Izzy was the only child to brave the drizzle. When the rain seemed to be winning, I suggested we go buy some picnic fixings and head for home for an indoor picnic.

We headed over to rue St. Antoine, where I used to do my daily shopping. The traiteur (Au Sanglier: 49 rue St. Antoine, Paris 4eme) I frequented was still there and seemed more popular than ever as the line snaked out of the shop. As we waited, Izzy and I perused all of the possibilities and he selected the following: duck pate, rabbit pate with pistachios, beet salad and cucumber salad. It seemed like a bargain for 13 euros (compared to our meals out it was!).
I laid out the spread and we feasted. He loved the rabbit pate and beet salad and we both felt like stuffed pigs. He wanted to know why I never cook rabbit at home..Good question.
After lunch all I wanted was a nap.. I managed to have a small one and then it was time to keep wandering. Off for some ice cream and shopping.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Destination: La Tour Eiffel

This morning, July 4th, we awoke with a plan. We would have breakfast at home and then finally take the Metro to the Eiffel Tower, of which Izzy has been dreaming since long before our arrival in Paris. He and his papa constructed one from wood and it is now forever etched in his mind as a magical venue to visit.
In order to get an early start we would have breakfast at home. So last night I had the forethought to purchase a baguette for that purpose. It wasn't just any baguette but instead one that was "a la tradition francaise" which I am guessing means that they actually prepare the dough at the bakery instead of buying it although I am not quite sure..will inquire next time.
We had it for breakfast, toasted with butter, accompanied by some wonderfully fragrant melon and yogurt. It was definitely an excellent baguette. We always linger too long over breakfast, especially one like this, so we were off to a rather late start.

Izzy was intrigued by his first ride on the Metro and stared out the window in amazement the whole way there. Once on the street, we stopped to have a banana-chocolate crepe, which Izzy munched along the way. When we finally arrived we were faced with lines of over two hours long. Izzy insisted on waiting but I had an inkling that after awhile, the desire for food and play might trump the need to climb the tower. Around 1 p.m., the "I'm hungry" mantra began and within minutes Izzy decided that we would go play in the little park near the tower and then get some lunch. The Tower would have to wait for another day. Although I would say that Izzy had a great taste of the Tower since he played in its shadow until the rain began.

Then I had to think fast..I needed to find a suitable lunch spot, not too far away, a place to shelter (Izzy's favorite expression.."we need to find shelter.") us from the rain, where we would be well-fed. I had actually spent two months living in the 7th arrondisement so was familiar with a few places, one of which, La Fontaine de Mars, was one of the first restaurant memories I have from my days in Paris. I actually went there with friend I met in my hotel, along with Anne Willan, although I had no idea who she was at the time..

The restaurant was still there, on rue St. Dominique. We were ushered inside but I was somewhat disheartened when the hostess claimed we could only eat upstairs in the smoking section. Izzy and I were crestfallen but then she exclaimed that it was unlikely that many people would be smoking we decided to stay. After our order was placed, Izzy dictated his journal entry to me and then we discussed the rest of the day. I said that we would probably eat dinner at home since we were having this special lunch. He said, "I want to eat lunch AND dinner out mama!"

Izzy had an appetizer of leeks with herbs and I had "Oeufs en Meurette" which is eggs baked in wine with bacon. We then shared a confit de canard which is one of my favorite french dishes. The crispy duck leg was served atop rounds of fried potatoes. Although it was tasty I am afraid its crispiness was a result of frying rather than broiling which made it a tad greasy.

That didn't seem to bother Izzy, as he kept opening his mouth for more, like a hungry bird, and then running off to play with an ill-behaved French boy who soon had him crawling under the table, as his parents dined in an adjacent room. The women who were dining next to me, recognized my plight and shooed the boy back to his parents. They recognized that Izzy had been quite the angelic dining companion until he fell prey to evil influences.

Thankfully, lunch ended with no incident and the sun emerged once more.
It was time to visit Notre Dame. We walked the whole way there, stopping along the way to pick up some pain au chocolat at Millet, a great pastisserie along the rue St.Dominique.

Stuck Inside? Have A Cheese Feast

Our third day in Paris it rained. Without raincoats, boots and other accessories, this meant far too much time spent indoors. We breakfasted on baguette, fruit and yogurt and ventured out to a nearby boulangerie for a very mediocre sandwich au poulet for lunch. We scurried back in because we were both cold and wet. At around 2 p.m., when the rain finally took a short break, we wandered out in a new direction. We found a park for Izzy and he ran around for a brief spell before it started to drizzle at which point I decided we needed to stock up on some provisions.

It suddenly occurred to me that we were only steps away from a great market street and some first-rate cheese. At the fromager, I selected a soft, round St. Marcellin and a hunk of Chaource, both cow's milk cheeses. At the fruit shop we bought some bananas and some framboises that were so irresistible we ate them on the spot. A baguette completed our purchases. We hauled it all home and had a late afternoon cheese fest.

Izzy slathered his bread with the ripe and oozy St. Marcellin. He proclaimed, "It is like butter!" (Albeit a tad more odoriferous, I might add). He sampled the Chaource but the St. Marcellin was clearly his favorite, mine too. Cheese and bread, bread and cheese, some butter in between; we ate and ate until the sun came out again and off we went to play in another park.

At dinner time, neither one of us was particularly hungry so we shared a spinach quiche and called it a day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Chez Omar: First Dinner Out And About

On our second night in Paris, I decided it was time to dine out. Fortunately Izzy has adapted his sleep schedule to coincide (at least to a degree) to the late hours the French keep. He now awakens between 9-10 a.m. and goes to sleep between 9-10p.m.

We left our apartment around 7:30 in search of a suitable meal. I didn't choose anything from a guidebook because I had noticed several intriguing possibilities nearby. We didn't have to wander far before we happened upon Chez Omar, a couscous restaurant. I was reminded of my first encounter with couscous during my first visit to Paris and decided this was the spot for our first dinner.

The place looked lively enough, even at the early hour of 7:45 p.m...It turned out we were dining with the geriatric set, as we were sandwiched between two older couples. At first I was worried that Izzy would disturb them but they turned out to be fine company for us, very forgiving of Izzy and mostly enchanted by his fine dining habits.

He couldn't have been a better dining companion. We started with Moroccan salad, which Izzy refused to eat, aside from a few bites of cucumber. We shared a couscous with lamb and a Pastilla de poulet (sweet chicken in a flaky sweet crust). Izzy was thrilled with the couscous and vegetables and couldn't stop eating. I too was quite pleased with my choice. The staff was very accommodating and the fact that we shared didn't seem to phase them. All and all, a delightful meal.

Groseilles: Red Currants At The Market

Izzy honed in on the tiny red berries almost instantly. I mistakenly called them gooseberries and he insisted on trying them. I thought they might be quite tart and I was right. The tartness must be part of their allure because Izzy has been nibbling on them all day. For me they would be good in some type of sauce but alone they make my lips pucker.
What is amazing to me about Paris is that you can find red currants at any ordinary fruit vendor while in the New York you can only find them at some place like Dean and Deluca, being sold for some exorbitant price.

Paris: In Search Of The Best

Izzy has quickly learned that Paris is a food-lover's paradise. It seems that we have spent the better part of our time either shopping for food or eating it..I am trying to intersperse some cultural highlights into our days but it is difficult when thoughts of chocolate croissants and fresh red currants are dancing in our heads. And let's not forget about the great playgrounds!

Somehow I managed to lead Izzy over to the Musee Picasso and we had a brief though memorable visit there. We had to leave quite quickly when cries for a snack began to mount. Off in search of some decent ice cream which is not always so easy to find. This is part of the reason we spend so much time looking for the right food. For although there are great things to be eaten in Paris, not everything is great and you have to seek out the best.

We actually found some homemade gelato which was fine and then we were off to the sandbox. Today our ice cream find was not as successful and we barely finished half of the overly sugary strawberry, cherry concoction we tried. I should have known better since we bought it near Les Halles which is chock full of tourist traps and the like.. I was actually searching for an ice cream parlour from long ago but was unable to find it. It was impossible to hold off the snack yearning for much longer hence the unsatisfactory results.

First Breakfast In Paris

Izzy and I awoke to a sunny first day in Paris. We had plans to eat and then shop for some essentials. We found a nearby cafe and since it was chilly, seated ourselves inside. I knew that Izzy would delight in a foamy steamed milk which he sipped while eating his baguette slathered with butter and jam. I had tea and we enjoyed our first morning in my favorite city.
Later on, we stopped by a boulangerie in the 4th where I had been a regular back in the day. A language first occurred when I ordered Izzy's Macaroon au Chocolat. He overheard me ordering and piped in , "No, I want pistachio instead." He understood the word "chocolat"! Since when did he eat pistachio desserts?

Apparently he doesn't. The green color appealed to him, maybe because it matched his car. After one bite he decided he didn't need anymore. I didn't finish it since I am not fond of pistachio desserts myself.

We lunched on a fougasse from the same bakery. In case you are wondering, fougasse is a southern french relative of focaccia but the dough covers the filling and has large holes in the top so you can see it peeking out. They come with different fillings and I had goat cheese and vegetables. I was a bit disappointed since it didn't taste as I had remembered...though Izzy seemed happy with it so tant mieux. It's been such a long time I wonder if the bakery is owned by the same family.

Off To Paris: Dreaming Of Falafel

Izzy and I left Italy for Paris on July 1. Unfortunately, we left A. behind, as he had business to attend to in Switzerland and Spain. He will catch up with us soon.

Upon arrival, Izzy was out of sorts and fell asleep in the taxi on the way to our apartment. We spent our first afternoon wandering the streets of our neighborhood and playing at my old haunt, Place des Vosges, which happens to have two very large sandboxes. We snacked on a mini-challah and a spinach brik from a jewish bakery on the rue de rosiers and later on made our way back through the Jewish quarter for falafel. I have always been partial to the falafel at Chez Marianne but others swear by L'As du Falafel which I have yet to try. Perhaps a comparison is in the cards during this trip!

We got takeout from Chez Marianne and took it back to our apartment. I bought two sandwiches but one would have been sufficient. Izzy nibbled on bits of the falafel but decided he didn't like the eggplant (which is my favorite part) or the purple and green cabbage (which he ate despite himself). He kept eating the hummus soaked pita which had bits of tomato stuck to it. I first ate this falafel back in 1986 and I still dream of it, even when in New York.

Culinary Highlight: Fresh Pecorino Cheese

One thing that I will remember is the lovely fresh, local Pecorino cheese that J. served us during our last lunch in Greve. It had a somewhat firm rind and a lovely, soft interior. We had it with local honey and I would have eaten the entire round if left to my own devices. The light, white wine she served was the perfect match. Izzy and I have never had the cheese honey combination before and I will certainly try to recreate it at home, though I doubt I can find a cheese quite like that one.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A Day In Florence, A Descent Into Lollipop Hell And Other Tales

I decided to take Izzy to Florence one day, which meant a bus ride through winding hills. I decided a lollipop might be in order since I thought they somehow aid in alleviating carsickness. Since that lollipop, the whining hasn't abated. Every time we see a lollipop a request is made. MAKE IT STOP...

But back to Florence...we arrived at lunchtime but although I had lived there for a short spell many moons ago, I hadn't a clue as to where to eat. So we ended up eating some mediocre panini on our way to the Piazza Santa Spirito which was the neighborhood in which I lived back then.

Once in semi-familiar territory, we hung out by the fountain while Izzy whined for gelato. I was and am more than happy to indulge that request so we found some right on the piazza. After that interlude, we made our way over to the Palazzo Pitti (I couldn't deal with the Uffizi..too many crowds etc.).

Izzy was content to search for some "People with wings" and we found some and then left. We wandered the Boboli Gardens and then found our way back to the bus. It was a long day for the boy, especially since we went without our stroller.

Our adventure was neither a food or cultural bonanza so I decided one day there was enough. Izzy seemed to have more fun in Greve, wandering and playing with some new friends who he misses already.

The Butcher, The Baker...

Whenever I arrive in a small European town, I feel it is my duty to sniff out the best bakery or pastry shop. Our first morning in Greve, Alex sent us to the one bakery he knew of, to pick up a morning snack. I wasn't impressed and neither was he but it was the only one he had tried. So the next day, Izzy and I discovered a different bakery on the other end of the piazza. This one had a line, which is often a sure sign that you have found the right place. There we had some schiachiatta (Tuscan foccacia) and some flaky cream-filled horns. We continued to frequent this bakery, each time, discovering a different item. We ate rice and cream-filled pastries, raisin cookies and some breads that were a bit too hard for my tastes.

The highlight of the these bakery visits, occurred the evening when Izzy noticed the baker at work in the shop window, immediately adjacent to the retail shop. He was mesmerized as he watched the enormous mixer and it's giant "arms", knead the dough. The baker was quite friendly and when his young daughter joined him, Izzy became even more enchanted by the entire scene. They offered him some biscotti but he declined since his belly was already full of the other treats we had just eaten. He stood in the doorway of the bakery for more than 1/2 an hour until I had to practically drag him away with promises to return.

The Scent Of A Wild Boar?

Izzy and I spend our days wandering the tiny piazza Matteoti. As we poke about the local food shops, we make all manner of little discoveries. Yesterday we came across what could only be called ‘the wild boar shop’.. At Macelleria Falorno they sell boar meat, pig meat and all manner of porcine delectables. Where does this wild boar come from? How could they possibly hunt enough of it in the nearby hills to produce the huge amounts that seemed available..that is another story to ponder. In any case, the aroma upon entering is overwhelmingly boarish, though not in an unpleasant way if you go in for eating pig in all guises.

Proscuitto legs hang by the dozens, some with hoofs attached and there are bins of salamis in a variety of flavors. Sausages and beef are also available. You will also encounter pre-sliced meats to grab for an on the go picnic.
We brought home a small salami, bread and cheese for a quick supper since Izzy was still drooping from jet lag and it was just the two of us for dinner.

The following evening, we made our rounds of the piazza for the umpteenth time when most of the shops had already closed up. As we passed the Macelleria, Izzy yelled out, "I smell wild boar, Mama!" How odd I thought and then I looked over and watched as he stood by their open door, inhaling the pungent aroma. I don't suppose he will encounter that odor in the near future but I wonder if it has created a scent memory for him.

Izzy Eats Italian: Days In Greve in Chianti

Through a stroke of good fortune and kindness, Izzy, Alex and I are spending a week in a small Tuscan town. We are staying in a wonderfully large, beautiful apartment situated on a piazza. We can peer out of our kitchen window at the splendid countryside, both in the near and far distance.

We arrived on Sunday (June 25th) and today, Wednesday, Izzy continues to suffer from jet lag. The town is small and there are only a few restaurants from which to choose in the nearby vicinity. Our first meal took place at Cafe Nerbone, a few doors down. They boast quite a meaty selection of dishes one of which I couldn't resist sampling, Cow Udder with Salsa Verde. It came thinly sliced on bread with a dollop of the green sauce on top. It looked fairly appetizing and Izzy tried it along with me. When he inquired as to what it was, my first answer was meat. When he probed further the truth emerged. He was eating cow "boobie".

I had never heard of it until now. What was it like you wonder? Well it was soft and tender though I don’t know that I will go out of my way to eat it again. In fact, after having eaten it I began to doubt the sagacity of feeding my child cow offal, here in the land of mad cow disease.