Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pizzeria Vecchio in Toulouse

If you happen to be in Toulouse, you could do much better, but perhaps you couldn't do much worse than Pizzeria Vecchio. I don't know, we didn't stay that long and found little of interest to bring us back. Still, let this be a mild warning that if you really like Italian food, you'd be better off anywhere in Italy rather than in a small city in France.

While we were very happy to be eating, the two items we selected were not the greatest choices. Caprese salad anyone? This was not your standard fresh mozzarella and tomato salad with olive oil and fresh basil, wish that it were. Instead Pizzeria Vecchio served mozzarella most typically seen grated over pizza, with a dried basil and olive oil dressing. Thankfully the tomatoes were ripe, so there was some flavor, but those chunks of aged cheese did not work at all to enhance this classic salad gone haywire. 

Did I mention they had mozzarella appropriate for pizza? Yes, but unfortunately no one in the kitchen saw fit to add any to the pizza. Although the crust was nice and chewy, this pizza was lacking a fitting topping. As I look at the photo, it appears one of us just chewed off the middle without bothering to cut it into slices. I'm envisioning someone's head diving toward the plate and taking a big bite, then thrashing around like a shark during an eating frenzy. The restaurant saw no need to cut the pizza and left that to the patrons, but I guarantee we did not just dig in like that, although I have no clue how it got to that point. What I do recall is that there wasn't enough tomato sauce, there were too many diced onions, barely cooked, and the anchovies with two olives just didn't make much of an impact without cheese.

22 allées jean jaures
31000 Toulouse, France
+33 5 62 73 34 73

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Le Europeen

One of the best reasons to stay near Gare de Lyon is Paris is its close proximity to Le Europeen Restaurant. What a treat it was to decide on giving this late night establishment a try on our first evening in Paris, for this particular trip. They specialize in seafood and really know what they are doing. Champagne flowed freely and everyone seemed to be in a classic Parisian cafe mood, thoroughly engaged and jovial.

Since we did not want to blow our entire budget on this one meal, and since it was later than we normally eat, we ordered modestly. Instead of the amazing seafood platter we saw passing our table with great frequency, we merely ordered a dozen oysters, but they were large, plump, and filling.

The fish soup with croutons, rouille and gruyere was a true classic and very strongly infused with flavor. In all candidness I admit to preferring it to the better known Bouillabase. With all this flavor I had no need of fish bones, nor shells as proof of a grand mixture of seafood. It was delicious with strong garlic overtones.

For the very first time, I found welks on a menu and jumped at the opportunity to try them. They have to be the oddest shellfish I have ever eaten, a mollusk, with a light taste and a chewy texture. If one had to make a comparison, as we often do with new things, a welk can be described as a cross between abalone and escargot, leaning more toward the snail, since it has less flavor. It hardly mattered what it tasted like, since it was covered in aioli; a silky garlic laden concoction that I must learn to make at home. Unfortunately I will never find welks at home.

This is my last chance to look at the fish soup and reminisce. We could repeat this exact meal and be very happy with it.

21 Boulevard Diderot
75012 Paris, France
01 43 43 99 70
Open Daily 7:30am-1am

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cafe Marly

If you find yourself in Paris and suddenly are in need of something extraordinarily extravagant, go to Cafe Marly at the Louvre. It's open very late in the evening and can accommodate you with no problem. Having read about the restaurant, I was intrigued enough to want to go there, but had no idea what an expensive restaurant, according to my guidebook, would actually cost. I must preface this by saying that the dollar to euro was at an all time low exchange rate. We sat at one of the small tables outside the dining room, since we had only intended on eating dessert, something we had passed on earlier in the evening. Our view of the Pei pyramids and fountains was outstanding and I took many more photos than necessary just to make certain I had a good one. The setting was lovely and because it was early May, it was chilly outside, so being bundled up in our coats, mufflers and gloves made it a bit more romantic for me; I like cold weather, but even on a warm evening it would have been romantic.

Because the prices were so astronomical I didn't even bother ordering a drink. As it was we paid about $45 for these two desserts. The chocolate lava cake had a much more romantic description than "left uncooked in the center", so we didn't even realize it was a lava cake until my partner in crime took a fork full. All I can remember was, thinking to myself, for such an expensive piece of cake, they could at the very least put some frosting on it. He enjoyed it thoroughly. My macaroon was much more than I had expected with fresh raspberries, raspberry preserves, and whipped cream sandwiched in between 2 very large macaroons. If I could only translate the French language macaroon cookbook I purchased, I'd attempt to recreate this at home.

The macaroon itself was rather brittle as you can see in this photo, but I savored each and every bite. I wondered if Marie Antoinette had ever eaten anything this rich and delicious here.

93 Rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris, France
01 49 26 06 60