Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pot au feu

You approach a Parisian restaurant and look at the menu posted in the window or at the door. The price looks right (a three-course "Menu" at 34 Euros), but you see that the starters (entrées) include a choice between Crottin chaud en salade and Consommé princesse; the main course (plat) choices include Pot au feu and Blanquette de veau; dessert choices are Île flottante and Profiteroles. You scratch your head and wonder, "What is this stuff?"
I can come to the rescue by sprinkling the occasional menu item (with a photo) into future posts, and today we start with Pot au feu (literally "pot on the fire"), which has always been popular in France. This unpretentious, bony stew of boiled meats and vegetables is the perfect French comfort food. A variety of meats and root vegetables are cooked together until everything in the pot is fork tender. Beef is generally the main meat (beef shank, short ribs or rump steak, along with big pieces of bone, which are used for their flavorful marrow). A pot au feu is served in two stages. Diners start with a bowl of the concentrated broth accompanied by bone marrow spread on slices of toasted baguette, then usually salted (trust me, it's better than it sounds). A second course consists of the different meats and vegetables removed from the pot and served with mayonnaise, mustard, and horseradish.
Note: in France a starter is called an entrée; a main course is a plat.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Canal St-Martin

Strolling along the Canal Saint Martin will reveal a bit of the hidden Paris that locals know. It is a delightful 3 mile long waterway that cuts through the northeastern part of the city (the 10th arrondissement). Lined with trees and pathways, the canal links the Seine with the other canal networks to the north. The idea for the canal dates back to the Napoleonic era to resolve a pressing need for more fresh water in the city center. The Canal St-Martin opened in 1825. There are boats that you can ride and wonderful cafés and boutiques to patronize.
In the early 1870s the canal inspired the paintings of Alfred Sisley and fellow Impressionists. Most recently Amélie, the 2001 film, opened with a scene shot on the canal’s double lock, Écluse du Temple, with its swivelling road bridge.
Today, a portion of the canal is covered, from Rue du Faubourg du temple to the Bastille.

Metro stops Jacques-Bonsergent and Gare de l'Est
are closest to the shops and cafés;
Jaures is closest to the top of the canal.

Canal cruises are offered by Canauxrama and Paris Canal. The boats travel through more than a mile of tunnel and nine locks, under two swinging traffic bridges and eight footbridges. Duration, approx. 2.5 hrs., departing from the Metro Bastille area.