Vive la France!

Vive la France!

Welcome to my blog -- follow us as we travel around France.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Paris - Day 3

I didn't have time to post yesterday, so catching up now.

We we got up yesterday morning, the pavement was wet as it had rained during the night, and the sky was dark.  By the time we got out and about, it was starting to clear up.  After breakfast, we took the 3rd line of the hop-on-hop-off bus tour, which takes in more of  the must-see sights of Paris.  We got our first views of the Eiffel Tower since we'd been in Paris.  I took a bunch of pictures and they all looked different because of the different sky in the background.  Some have clear blue sky and some have dark clouds.  When we were heading back into La Concorde, there was some sort of event or demonstration and the police had it blocked off, so the bus driver had to make a U-turn and take a detour.  The traffic was terrible and it must have added about 45 minutes to the trip.  We were glad to get off the bus, and by the time we got back to the hotel, we had only about an hour before we needed to go out again. 

There is a huge police presence in Paris.  I think I saw more police in 3 days than I see in 6 months at home.  We were surprised at how clean the city is, at least in the parts that we saw, and many of the old buildings have been recently cleaned.  I think in the 4 times I've been to Paris this is the first time I've seen Notre Dame without scaffolding around it.  We were also surprised at the young people, especially in the Latin Quarter.  Tuesday night I think some of those kids were only about 12-13 years old.  I realized later that the French schools are often closed on Wednesdays (they go half-day on Saturday), so maybe that's why so many kids were out that night.  There didn't seem to be as many out last night.  Another thing I've noticed is how much better the cab drivers are in Paris -- maybe it's because I have a bit more French, and maybe it's because the city's tourist board has gotten after them for being so surly, but we've had very nice cab drivers.  People have also been very helpful and considerate of Mom and her ambulator (walker), helping us get on & off the buses, over curbs, etc. 

Last night was our cooking class -- the reason why we decided to go to Paris.  We left the hotel a little before 4:30 to get a taxi to go to Montmarte.  We figured we needed to allow lots of time due to the traffic, but of course we got there in about 30 minutes.  So, we walked around a little and found a nice place to have a cup of coffee.  The Cook'n with Class school is on a pretty non-descript street above Sacre Coeur and from the outside you'd wonder what kind of school is it, anyway...  Inside, though there is a very nice kitchen with a large work table with room for 6 students and the instructor.  The work table doubles as the dining table when you get to that part of the evening.

Our instructor was a young female chef named Constance, who is probably about 26 or so.  She started culinary school when she was 15 and went for 5 years.  She worked in Palm Beach for about 18 months and speaks very good english.  She's also cooked for the American Embassy. Our classmates were a mother/daughter from California, but the daughter has lived & worked in Paris for 2 years (lucky girl!); also, a couple from Toronto who had recently celebrated their 25th anniversary.  They were really nice people and we enjoyed learning and cooking with them -- eating, too.

The first thing we did was make the dessert, which was chocolate mousse and a spiced cracker/cookie (I got to mix the dough).  Next we started on the sauce for the meat course as it needed to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours to reduce -- nothing was wasted as many of the scraps from the other preparations went "into my sauce" as Constance would say: mushroom stems, parsley stems, etc.  She started out with veal meat trimmings & bones the butcher gave her.  Once the fatty parts were browned, she took them out so the sauce was not greasy.  A little carrot, a little onion (Mom peeled and sliced the onion), a little garlic, a little white wine.  It was not salted until the end and Constance explained that is because if it is salted at the beginning, it will be too salty when it reduces.  We all got to cut up chanterelle mushrooms, which Constance cooked twice - the first time to get the water out, then she drained them for quite a while and sauted the again to heat them through just before serving.  She also cooked tiny little potatoes.  She sauted them to give them color, then cooked them in about a pound of butter - seriously! - and they cooked - actually simmering in the clarified butter - for quite a long while, very slowly.  Afterwards she drained them for a long time so there was very little butter left on them, then warmed up again in the same skillet as the mushrooms.  The entree was salad greens with a vinegarette, topped with 2 heads-on prawns (we all got to clean prawns & Mom sauted them) - they were seasoned with fresh ginger & lime zest, and triangles of squid that were quickly sauted until then curled up.  The meat was veal filet which was cut into medallions (I got to cut them), tied with string to hold them together, seared, then finished in the convection oven.   The prep work for the meat course was done before we started on the entree, but the meat wasn't cooked until after we had eaten the entree.  After the meat course, we had several cheeses and breads, and there were 3 different wines served during the meal.  We finished with the mousse which had been chilling in the fridge while we were cooking everything else.  Everything was delicious!  It was 10:30 before we left and 11 before we got to the hotel.  I got an email from Constance today with the recipes and instructions.

Since it was our last night in Paris, we needed to pack up, so that's why no blog posting yesterday.

We had a lovely time in Paris, but were ready to move on with our adventure.

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