April 19, 2015

Paris: what to do in one day?

I love Paris for so many different reasons; food being one of them of course. But i never pass up an opportunity to  see an art expo at Le Grand Palais, my favourite museum. As there was a close friends birthday to be celebrated, we took the party to Paris.

my survival kit: train tic, Paris Moleskine,
motion sickness meds, fan,
water mist, metro tics, Paris Wallpaper and notepad
Jean Paul Gaultier, a living legend in French fashion, shared his most iconic and transcending pieces of the past 40 years . He explained his grandmother was an important influence in his design and his teddybear Nana, was his first model for his iconic underwear-outerwear. He is also the trendsetter of masculine-feminine fashion,  think of Madonna in her music video "Vogue": those men suits combined with the pink undergarments, whaw...

I loved his reply to criticism of showing a skirt for men in '84: "a fabric has no sex, it is the interpretation we give it that makes it feminine or masculine." 3000 of the men skirt sold and mostly to straight men who rocked the garment.

We stopped by the "Americans Icons" expo as well, where a few contemporary pieces from the San Francisco museum were borrowed like Liechtenstein and Warhol. I loved the comment with the Warhol of Liz Taylor : "Once you become an icon, you are no longer a person; you become a commercial product and can be advertised the same as a can of soup" 

After a stroll on Avenue Montaigne, we had lunch at l'Avenue. Known for where the beaux monde lunches and where the food is exquisite. I loved the super fresh smoked salmon and homemade blinis. My friend had the Peking duck and fries. Those tin fries, absolutely fab. We toasted with a glass of Billecart-Salmon Rose champagne.

We shopped at the grandes boutiques LaFayette and Printemps but were chased away by the many, many Asian tourists. To be honest, it felt more like being in a mall anywhere in the world rather than in a fine high-end parisian department store. It had been years since i had been and i don't think i will go back again. I prefer rive gauche and Faubourg St Honore shops showing a more unique collection and still have Parisian flair.

As the weather was sublime, we took a walk along the Seine from pont des invalides, through the tuilleries gardens and stopped on Faubourg St Honore at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to cool down in their zen garden courtyard with a glass of Billecart-Salmon sous bois champagne; we loved the black truffle nuts.

A quick stop at Fauchon to pick up a few essentials such as madeleines and calissons. Also a chilled bottle of Billecart-Salmon brut for the train ride back. We picked up a Saint Honore a la rose from Laduree as birthday cake.

Before we got on the late, late train home, we had one more stop at Le Forum near place Madeleine for a cocktail: a Bellini for me and a dirty martini for my friend. It's a great cocktail bar stating clearly on the menu's first page they are not a wine, beer nor champagne bar. Fair enough.

on the train home

It was a long but relaxing day in Paris, we had great food, saw beautiful art and admired the fashion. We enjoyed the sun and the beautiful Parisian architecture and each others company. We were exhausted but returned to Brussels with recharged batteries.

A bientôt Paris! 

April 12, 2015

Sunday is market day : in my basket today

Spring is here! The sunshine of the past days has not only blessed us with blue skies and pleasant al-fresco temperatures but also a rainbow of blush, peach and pink three blossoms now brighten up the Brussels streets and parks. At the Flagey market today the fruit and veg stalls allured me to buy fresh produce amongst them the first Belgian strawberries, tasting deliciously sweet and fresh.

April 7, 2015

Easter lunch: asperges a la flamande, lamb shoulder with potatoes and baby carrots

I love the classics and nothing says Easter time more to me than white asparagus and lamb.

I choose the typical Easter colour purple as main colour seen in the table runner and tulips. The little faux grass matts gave it a push into spring and the decorative eggs and the little colourful chickens made it fun. Especially at the end of lunch when my friends decide to wear them in their hair.

Asperges a la Flamande:
It is imperative you keep your asparagus fresh by wrapping them into wet kitchen or news paper when you store them in the fridge before cleaning them. Clean them before your guests arrive but try not to do so hours and hours in advance, again to prevent them drying out, wrap them in wet kitchen paper.

Boil the eggs ( 1 per person + 1 extra) till medium not too hard but not runny either.
Chop the flat parsley fine.
Melt 60 gr of butter.
Mix the cut boiled eggs and butter with parsley, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Drain the boiled asparagus and serve.

Lamb shoulder with baby carrots and potatoes with a cream sauce:

The lamb shoulder i simply browned in the pan first. Brushed some mustard over both sites, seasoned with salt and pepper and fresh thyme. I cooked it in the oven for 30 minutes, first covered with foil for 20 minutes and the last 10 to 15 minutes uncovered at 200C degrees. The middle slice needed a few more seconds in the pan, and i prefer to do it this way as i prefer that the ends are not dried out.
Always let the lamb rest before cutting and serving in blogger world this means you have time to take photos and your guests can salivate while they wait.

I served the lamb with baby carrots cooked in the oven seasoned well with salt and drizzled with some agave sirup and olive oil. Cook for about 15 minutes into a pre-heated oven at 180C degrees.
I parboiled the potatoes in advance and put them into the oven with rosemary when i took the lamb out, to finish them off.  
I also had some roman cauliflower on the side.
My sauce was simple: reduced beef stock to 1/3, added cream and a bit of mustard.

As dessert i served a shop bought but FAB Paris Brest.

We had plenty of champagne and red wine to go with the lovely late, late lunch as we had all day anyway...

April 2, 2015

Gent, Belgium: a bakery and great lunch signed Kobe Desramaults

Always love going back to my hometown and check out the new eateries. It seems that bakeries are the new trend, so checked out  Chefs Kobe's Superette. His wood-oven produces a fine variety of breads. i loved the spelt bread i tried, it stayed fresh for days. They serve sandwiches and pizza's and as they are located smack in the middle of studentville, i am sure many a students finds their way to the neighbourhood shop turned bakery and eatery.

In the previously notorious red-light district Chef Kobe opened a bistro in an old butchery, de Vitrine, that takes you back in time with it's brown furniture and wall panelling. I discovered a FAB locally-made drink from Elderflower called RoomeR, love it! ( i now permanently stock it in my fridge)
The menu is either 4 or 5 dishes with an option for cheese. I was expecting more like a bistro menu but we had an absolute delightful tasting menu!
His 1 Michelin star restaurant In de Wulf is next on my bucket list.

mussels * back cabbage * fennel

pork * salsify * roquette

parsnip ice cream * sourdough 

March 30, 2015

a dandy engagement dinner: elegant, sumptuous and celebratory

An engagement needs to be celebrated. I took inspiration from Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld to create a modern Dandy table setting: lots of cool greys and whites with a little gold of course.

With champagne i served a homemade hummus with crackers and some nuts.

As a starter i recreated the Red Salad from Babel in South Africa as a trip down memory lane for the happy couple and myself. 
I layered sliced beetroot, radish, tomatoes and pink grapefruit. I shredded some smoked trout, added some pomegranate seeds, a few almonds toasted in honey and raz-el-hanout spices, and fresh oregano leaves. A little drizzle of mature olive oil, a dusting of salt and pepper. et voila ....

For the main course: I boiled spelt pasta, reduced some chicken stock and added cream, adjusted the seasoning. I topped the pasta with pieces of foie gras and magret of duck. Finished it with a sprinkle of parsley and the cream sauce. Most simple, most scrumptious.

As little bit of fruit is all one needs after dinner. I served fresh mango and passionfruit, a drizzle agave sirup and a crushed ginger biscuit with a little lime juice.

I served a Veuve Cliquot Rose champagne to start, a white australian Semillion Chardonnay Willowglen 2013 and as red Cote Roannaise Cuvee Trois Gros 2007.

Congrats dearests! Looking forward to the grand wedding!