Casa Mono- New York

On a cold wet day in New York City when trench coats become studded with specks of rain and speeding taxis create massive tsunamis that engulf the sidewalks, no place feels more cozy and right than Casa Mono in Gramercy Park, the charming little Spanish restaurant of the Batali/Bastianich empire. Since its opening 7 years ago, Casa Mono has become one of my favorite regular spots, one of those special places where I can feast in the familiar flavors of Spanish comfort food while discovering new ways to savor items like frog legs and cockscombs. Chef Andy Nusser’s hearty fare, influenced by Spanish tapas and served with a unique cosmopolitan style, has been bringing in hoards of city dwellers and out of towners into its neighborhood abode every night. After a 3 year blank in my yearly visits to New York City, I was looking forward to revisiting Casa Mono and enjoying what I had hoped would be yet another spectacular meal.

With only 10 small tables and a handful of bar seats, this little Spanish gem is always crowded, its overflow spilling into the adjacent Bar Jamón where the theme is more true to a traditional tapas bar and the food is decidedly Catalan, with classics like pa amb tomàquet, tuna escabeche, crema catalana, a handful of bocadillos and a glorious hock of jamón ibérico shaved to order. On the day that I went, I brushed off the drops of water from my coat, settled into my favorite seat at Casa Mono at the solitary table in the front corner of the restaurant, and watched the bustle of Manhattan through the large window as we opened a bottle of 2004 Baron de Magaña Navarra. With haloed streetlights and muffled traffic, New York City takes on a special glow and a sentimental character in heavy downpour, creating the perfect backdrop for a Casa Mono evening.

In the pulpo dish, perhaps the best dish at Casa Mono, perfectly charred tender baby octopus is seasoned with garlic and parsley, while fennel is served three ways, slice raw, sautéed and its bright green needle-like leaves sprinkled on top, all tossed with juicy wedges of pink grapefruit for a refreshing entrée.

Foie gras with cinco cebollas features a caramelized wedge of seared foie gras on baguette, its luscious fattiness complemented with 5 types of onions- pickled red pearl onions, ribbons of green onions, translucent leeks, sweet sugary sautéed onions and cipollinis, making for a fun dish where every bite delivers a different type of tanginess.

Razor clams a la plancha with generous heaps of garlic and chopped parsley scream La Boqueria, its juicy meaty flesh transporting me back to the vibrant sounds and smells of one of the most exciting marketplaces in the world. While Casa Mono is technically not a true Spanish tapas bar, they have simple fresh dishes like these that pay tribute to the spirit of delicious Spanish soul food.

The robust flavors of harissa, chickpeas, pickled red onions and mint stand up to the thick cuts of lamb chops that ooze savory fatty juice with each slice of the knife.

One cannot speak of Mario Batali’s food without mentioning pork, and at Casa Mono a whole Hudson Valley pig is broken down into several menu items like albondigas, crispy belly and croquetas, and we opted for the chorizo dish with spring beans and manchego cheese. Yellow wax beans, petit pois, generous shavings of manchego cheese and a dash of mint all brilliantly showcased the succulent piece of grilled chorizo sausage.

Roasted bone marrow with radish, caper and parsley gremolata is served with Casa Mono’s scrumptious version of pa amb tomàquet. While the marrow is delicious, the longitudinal cuts served to us are 80% bone and sparse in marrow content.

One of Casa Mono’s signature dishes is the whole duck egg with mojama, a twist on ham and eggs. A large sunny side up egg, perfectly cooked and bright canary yellow in all its glory, garnished with a slice of black truffle and gently laid over a bed of fingerling potatoes tossed in truffle vinaigrette, oozes golden lava into the valley of salt cured tuna. Mojama is traditionally enjoyed thinly sliced with a drizzle of the finest Spanish olive oil, but its savory meatiness is given an alternative dance partner in this soirée.

Every restaurant has its ups and downs, and the lobster dish with clams, peas, pea shoots, pickled red pepper and crispy jamón fails miserably, demonstrating that one cannot just throw in a bunch of tasty ingredients and expect to make it taste good. The lackluster sauce weighs down the beauty of the jamón and the spongy texture of the lobster spells its doom.

While crema catalana and the Mono Sundae made with plum brandy sound enticing, the pudín de naranja, a creamy bread pudding with red wine poached pears and caramel ice cream, is what we order. A slight burn on the edges of the bread pudding gives a nice crispy texture and smoky aroma, and it all goes down well with a glass of Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximénez, an amazing dessert wine with an intense passionate sweetness and honey viscosity.

The menu at Casa Mono, which is bigger than the tiny restaurant, is comprehensive if not a bit overwhelming, as it is impossible to conquer it all in even 2 consecutive visits. Bacalao croquetas, calamares fritos, baby chopitos, fideos with chorizo, sweetbreads, scallops, mackerel, cod cheeks, skirt steak and rabbit are but a sample of other items that are all undoubtedly amazing. Although local New Yorkers have told me that Casa Mono’s service and food have been inconsistent in the past few years, my revisit proved to be just as magical as I had remembered. Tucked inside of our cozy nook, far away from the clapping thunder and violent downpour on that gray Manhattan evening, my friends and I raised our glasses to another fun and delicious dinner at Casa Mono- still good, after all these years.

Casa Mono & Bar Jamón

125 E 17th St # 1
New York, NY 10003-3447
(212) 253-2773

Random trivia: Did you know that a baby octopus, which grows to about 2-5 inches in length, is the size of a flea when it is first born?

Mercat de la Boqueria- Barcelona, Spain

A trip to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without at least 1 trip to the fantastic Mercat de la Boqueria, one of the largest and most famous marketplaces in Europe.  Although you will be one of about a thousand tourists at any given time, it’s a must-see place that showcases the local food culture, fresh catches from the sea, and most importantly the live spirit of the hard-working merchants.  Located in La Rambla in the Gothic Quarters half-way between Plaça Catalunya and the beaches (right in front of the Metro stop Liceu), it’s easy to spot the wrought iron entrance to this famous market.  Although the market can be historically dated back as far as the early 12oo’s, it settled into its current location in the early 1800′s.

Just in front of the entrance is a wonderful jamón shop that specializes in the marvelous jamón iberico de bellota, cured ham made with free-range acorn-fed Iberian pigs that have the most flavorful and aromatic fat.  The men behind the counter will skillfully shave as little or as many slices as you want, from a wide range of selections.  You can also buy pre-sliced vacuum sealed packs to take home with you.  I had a few slices of the Joselito Gran Reserva 2006 ham- the intense nutty aroma instantly perfumed my nasal passages as the tender marbled fat melted quickly on my tongue, leaving a faint delectable aftertaste and a smile on my face.  At 169 Euros a kilo, it wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every bite.  There are many more jamón stalls scattered throughout the market, so you can get your fix every few minutes as you slowly browse.

I loved walking through the meat section, slowly checking out the infinite displays of beautifully prepared organ meats from all types of animals.  Most people may quickly pass by these butcher cases in horror or disgust, but I had my nose pressed tightly up against the glass, imagining the tasty dishes that would be created from the fresh tripe, tongue, hoofs and brains.  If only I had enough time to eat everything here…

The seafood stalls also offered a wide variety of local fish and mollusks, even some that I had never seen before.   Everything looked absolutely fresh and beautiful.  They even had about 10 stalls solely dedicated to Bacalao, the Catalan specialty of dried salt cod.  My favorite photo from the Boqueria market is this close up of the razor clams.  Raw, uncensored and strangely erotic, these live navajas looked so delicious.

During my stay in Barcelona, I strategically chose a hotel in the Gothic Quarters that was a short walking distance to the Boqueria market.  I knew that I would be frequenting this market at all times of the day, and my plan worked perfectly.  One of my favorite activities to do was to enjoy the fresh fruit juices at any of the numerous fruit stalls by the entrance to the market.  For only 1 Euro a cup, they offered a wide variety of juices from orange, strawberry, kiwi and mango, to watermelon and pineapple.  I was hooked on the bright magenta colored dragon fruit juice that was light and refreshing.

The wonderful Boqueria market is closed on Sundays, but open from 8am on all other days.  The amazing tapas bars, freshly squeezed fruit juices and hand-carved slices of Jamón Iberico de Bellota are waiting for you.  Come to Mercat de la Boqueria, the heart of Barcelona, and experience how this city center pumps energy and life into the souls of all who fall under its spell.

Mercat de St. Josep de la Boqueria

Random trivia: According to legend, the dragon fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire-breathing dragons.  After the dragon was slayed, the collected fruit would be presented to the Emperor as a treasure and proof of victory.

Tapas, tapas, tapas! – Barcelona, Spain

When one thinks of Spain, the first thing that comes to mind is probably ‘tapas’. A visit to Spain without going to a tapas bar is an incomplete and boring experience.  I love dropping in to tapas bars to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat with a cup of cava, and to meet interesting locals who can teach me more about the wonderful Spanish culture.  Where did this wonderful concept come from?  One theory states that it started when bar owners used to place a slice of bread or ham over glasses of sherry to deter flies.  ‘Tapas’ means ‘lid’ or ‘cover’ in Spanish, so this certainly makes sense.  Another legend states that while King Alfonso X was sick, he was only able to eat small bites of food with his wine.  After he recovered, he ordered all taverns to offer small dishes to accompany alcoholic beverages.  Whatever the case, it’s one of my favorite ways to savor simple and delicious local food.  During my short trip to Spain, I tried to visit as many tapas bars as my schedule would allow.

The Mercat de La Boqueria, the large covered market near the Gothic Barrier in Barcelona, is perhaps one of the most famous markets in all of Europe.  Infinite numbers of food stalls offer fresh seafood, meat and produce.  There are also many charcuterie stalls that specialize in sausages and hams, namely the famous Jamón Iberico de Bellota that is to die for.  I started my tapas adventure here in the Boqueria market, where they have about 20 bars.

Perhaps the most famous of the Boqueria tapas bars is Bar Pinotxo, ideally situated at the entrance of the Boqueria market.  Legendary server Juanito Bayen, sporting a bright green vest with a green bowtie, works with a smile and a wink to serve a never-ending crowd of locals and tourists who wait patiently for a bar stool to open up.  This place is always crowded, and although there are tables to the side of the food stall, it’s worth waiting for a seat at the bar.  That way you can get an up close look at the busy happenings in the small kitchen, and a chance to have a nice chat with Juanito.

We had deep fried bacalao, which is a must-try in Spain.  These dried salt cod fillets are superbly delicate and tender once re-hydrated, and have the most wonderful salty flavor.  The ones at Pinotxo had a nice light crunchy exterior that gave way to a generous chunk of steaming hot moist cod.

My favorite dish here was a plate of tripe stew that Juanito quickly brought over for me after he saw me drooling over my neighbor’s plate.  Absent in any gameyness whatsoever, this stew was rich in flavor and intensity.  A few dollops on torn baguette pieces, washed down with a few gulps of cava,  and I was transported to a different world.

By the time we ate at Pinotxo at around 3pm, most of the food was gone.  The only last item available was this dish that resembled a hamburger patty.  Although it was good, it wasn’t my idea of eating tapas in the Boqueria market.  I learned a valuable lesson at this point- go to Pinotxo early before the food runs out.  They’re actually quite famous for their breakfasts too.

Just around the corner from Bar Pinotxo is Kiosko Universal that specializes in fresh seafood.  All of the fresh selections of the day can be prepared a la plancha or grilled with olive oil.  I was really excited to try this tapas stall, as I heard that they served great razor clams, or navajas.  I love the oblong succulent flesh of razor clams, and I haven’t been able to find a place in Los Angeles that serves them.  Kiosko Universal is much larger than Bar Pinotxo, and has a bar counter that goes all the way 360 degrees around the central kitchen, in addition to extra bar table seating to the side.  We started with a plate of Salteado de Setas, grilled wild mushrooms. The great assortment of fungi was dressed with olive oil, parsley, garlic and sea salt.

I was very excited to finally be reunited with razor clams, but the dish was a bit of a disappointment.  It had the same flavoring and garnishing as the mushrooms, and was even a tad bit undercooked.  I longed for the delicious razor clams at Mary’s Fish Camp in New York City.

The mussels weren’t that great either. Again, same flavor, same garnish, same degree of being undercooked.  We were ready to move on to the next stall.

El Quim de la Boqueria is another tiny tapas bar, farther way from the market entrance, deep into the central area of the market where the seafood vendors are.  I ordered a plate of huevos fritos con chipirones en su tinta, fried eggs with baby squid and squid ink.  Wow, what an amazing dish.  The tender and delicate baby squid, softly enveloped in a veil of runny egg yolk and black ink with just the right amount of saltiness, was divine.  This was perhaps the most memorable and delicious plate that I had in Barcelona.

I struck up a conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me at El Quim.  He was born and raised in Barcelona, and swore by the tapas at El Quim, stating they were the best in the city.  By the way the baby squid dish tasted, I didn’t doubt his claim.  He told me proudly that he’s been coming here for as long as he could remember, at least once a week.  I asked him where else he could recommend for me, and he did not hesitate to give me the directions to Taktika Berri.

The gentleman told me that the waiting list for table reservations is about 2 months long, but the place to go isn’t there anyway- it’s at the pintxos bar up front.  Similar in concept to tapas, pintxos are more representative of Basque cuisine and are small bite-sized morsels held together with toothpicks.  Pintxos, or pinchos, means ‘spike’ in Spanish, precisely because of the way these delicate eats are speared with a toothpick or a skewer. Taktika Berri specializes in montaditos, which are pintxos featuring ‘mounted’ heaps of meat, seafood and vegetables on a slice of bread, held together by a toothpick.

As soon as I walked through the glass double doors, I was glad that I trusted that gentleman’s advice.  This place was packed with locals only, and there was not a single tourist in sight.  This was the real deal, and I knew I was in for some authentic Basque delights.  We squeezed our way to the bar and managed to grab a couple of seats.  The system here is such that you must first ask for a plate, which lets them know that you’re ready to start eating.  Then the pintxos commander behind the bar will come around with a plate of one type of montadito at a time, setting it on your plate if it’s something you want to eat.  This process happens only once every 10 minutes or so, reflecting the cultural notion behind pintxos that it’s an adjunct to drinks and long conversation, and not necessarily the main act.

We tried some lovely pintxos here, including deep fried ham croquettes and a savory bacalao cake with potatoes and eggs.  Montaditos included fresh anchovies with diced peppers, chorizo wrapped in bacon, fried sausage, and smoked salmon.  All were simple but flavorful and simply satisfying to the palate and stomach.  I loved the lively atmosphere here, and by being a part of this wonderful experience, I could really see how this style of eating and drinking is such a crucial part of socializing in Spain.  I met a lot of interesting people in the hour that I was at Taktika Berri, including an architect and a science professor at the local university.

At the end of the meal, you get charged for the number of pintxos that you ate, made apparent by the number of toothpicks on your plate.  A simple and smart system.  Ahhh, tapas.  What a joyful way of experiencing food and life!

Bar Pinotxo- Stall 466, Mercat de la Boqueria

Kiosko Universal- Stall 691, Mercat de la Boqueria

El Quim de la Boqueria- Stall 584, Mercat de la Boqueria

Taktika Berri- Carrer Valencia, 169, Barcelona, 08011.  Tel: 934-534-759

Random trivia: Did you know that the Norwegians were exporting salted fish like bacalao as early as 875 AD?

Inopia- Barcelona, Spain

“You know you are experiencing true creativity when you go to a restaurant and have the feeling that you’re eating in a country that you’ve never visited before”
- Ferran Adrià

While in Barcelona, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of strong yearning and sadness at the fact that I was so close to El Bulli, yet so far away.  When will I finally get my chance to dine at the best restaurant in the world?  To feel like I was at least a step closer to fulfilling my dream, I went to Inopia in Barcelona.

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Inopia is run by Alberto Adrià, the younger brother and partner of Ferran Adrià, the renowned and famous chef of El Bulli. During the 6 months that El Bulli is open for service, Alberto heads the pastry kitchen at El Bulli, but otherwise he mans the kitchen in his small casual tapas bar in Barcelona.

In stark contrast to El Bulli, this place is very casual and it’s almost hard to believe that it belongs to a chef of such pedigree.  Brightly colored red, orange and yellow Andalucian tiles, bare fluorescent lights and graffiti on the walls decorate this tiny neighborhood joint that only has 1 dining table.  IMG_6697Most patrons sit on the tiny stools by the bar or stand by the counters as they watch fútbol on TV.  In fact, this particular evening the whole city was buzzing with excitement as all eyes were glued to the TV to watch the 2009 UEFA Champions League finals.  In a country that is loco for fútbol, you can imagine the frenzy in the air as their beloved Barcelona team battled Manchester United.

Just as we sat down at the counter, Barcelona scored their 2nd goal and everybody, including the servers, started screaming and whistling.  Their team was on fire, and the place was buzzing with passion.  Many were wearing the red and blue jerseys and cheering on.

Although Inopia doesn’t have an English menu, the server was eager to explain the specials of the day in English to us.  All of the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming.  The menu, like most tapas bars in Barcelona, has a good selection of olives and canned seafood (conservas).  We opted for prepared items to see what Alberto Adrià could do.

The ensalada rusa was listed as an Inopia specialty, so we started with that.  The potato, mayonnaise, red pepper and olive salad was good, but…this was a specialty dish?  Really?  It’s something that I would make half-asleep with leftovers.

IMG_6691There’s a section of the menu called El mundo de la anchoa, or ‘the world of anchovies‘.  That evening there were 6 types of anchovies to choose from, and they were to be ordered by fillets.  Our server told us that the San Filippos, for 1.90 Euros a piece, were the best quality.  These anchoas del Cantábrico en salazón San Filippo were indeed meaty, perfectly fatty, and deliciously salty.

IMG_6693The Torrada Mallorquina was a really interesting take on bruschetta.  Chopped tomatoes, onions and olive oil were carefully spooned over a layer of sobrassada mallorquina, a spicy and smokey chorizo spread.  The ‘air bread’ that they used was crispy, light and delicate, and I could’ve eaten these all night with my glass of red wine.

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The moment of victory for Barcelona!

It was around this time that Team Barcelona officially became the champions of the 2009 UEFA League, and the place went crazy. Horns, crackers, shouting, whistling, singing and skyrockets went off outside in a mass celebration hysteria.  It was an amazing experience to be in the middle of this city-wide festivity and eating tapas while soaking it all in.

The plato frío de lomo de atún soasado con escabeche ligero, seared tuna belly with a Montserrat tomato side, drizzled with soy sauce and olive oil, was quite good.  I was surprised to be having this very Japonesque toro sashimi dish at this famous Barcelona digs.  The drizzle tasted almost exactly like ponzu.  The lightly seared tuna belly slices were extremely tender and delicate.

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The croquetas caseras de Jamón ibérico were piping hot, straight out of the deep fryer.  It took a whole 5 minutes until we could even get close to it.  The rich interior was creamy, hearty and decadent.  Although my dining partner enjoyed these, I wasn’t blown away.  However, for 1.90 Euros a piece, it’s not a bad deal.

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The big and meaty sardinas en escabeche were quite good, well infused with thyme and bay leaf aroma, but it wasn’t as good as the one that I had at Tapaç 24.

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The pincho moruno de cordero or lamb skewers, were really good.  Listed on their menu as one of the Inopia specialties, these tender and juicy pieces were delectably seasoned with fennel seed and parsley.  This was my favorite dish at Inopia.  IMG_6711

In another head to head competition, we ordered Inopia’s  Bikini de mozzarella y paletilla Ibérica hervida, the mozzarella and Iberico ham grilled sandwiches.  It wasn’t just the presence of black truffles that made Tapaç 24 the undoubted winner again, but also the quality of the bread and the way it was grilled.  IMG_6714

Although the service was great and the atmosphere on this particular victorious night was incomparable, the food was mediocre at best.  Perhaps I came in with too many expectations, but the food simply fell flat.  After all of the hype and rave reviews, I couldn’t believe that this was all that Inopia had to offer.  I wanted to give Inopia the benefit of the doubt, and thought that perhaps Alberto Adrià was not in house that evening.  But no, there he was, behind the bar and at the grill, and I even got to meet him and chat with him.  He was a charismatic man with a powerful intensity that was almost intimidating, but his food reflected none of that.

Alas, what I thought would be the closest thing to El Bulli ended up being the farthest thing from El Bulli.  Given the number of restaurants in Barcelona whose chefs have trained with the grand master Ferran Adrià, it’s probably better to go elsewhere for spectacular cuisine in Barcelona- Inopia is not worth your time.  Obviously, none of this would even be an issue if you’re one of the lucky few who have a reservation at El Bulli.  As for me, until that happens, I guess I’ll just keep drooling on my A Day at elBulli book.

Inopia

Carrer Tamarit 104

08015 Barcelona

Tel: 93 424 52 31

Tuesday to Saturday: 7pm-11pm

Random trivia:  Did you know that you can get something called clupeotoxin poisoning from eating anchovies contaminated with the toxin?  Death occurs in 50% of people poisoned by clupeotoxin.  If you experience a metallic taste in your mouth and your nose turns blue after eating anchovies, then you’re in trouble.

Afaria – Paris

IMG_5878Afaria, a small French bistro tucked away on a tiny street in the 15th arrondissement, is a relative newcomer to the Paris culinary scene.  We became interested in dining at Afaria after reading an alluring review on a travel magazine.  Young and handsome 27 year old chef Julien Duboué worked with fellow Basque Alain Dutournier at Michelin starred Le Carré des Feuillants, then at George V, and Daniel Boulud in New York.  When he decided to open his own place, it wasn’t so easy.  He was turned down by 9 banks before finding funding for the restaurant.  Now it’s become an important landmark for locals and a go-to place for foodie tourists in the know.

Duboué’s food combines classic French techniques with bold Basque flavors, served in a casual and friendly environment.  Simple wooden chairs and tables fill the small dining room, flanked by distressed mirrors enscribed with an extensive wine list.  The space is quaint, unpretentious and relaxing- the friendly staff made us feel immediately at home. They have French and English menus, and most of the staff spoke English, although we were the only non-locals that evening.  IMG_5793There was an elderly gentleman celebrating his birthday that night with about 10 friends and family.  A few couples were holding hands and looking longingly into each other’s eyes.  Next to us was a party of 8 young beautiful women, giggling and toasting to a girl’s night out.  After-work Parisians were sitting around the tall communal table by the entrance, nibbling on tapas and laughing out their hard day’s work over glasses of wine.  This is a warm place of gathering, where people from all walks of life come together to enjoy life, drinks and good food.

We started with Boudin noir aux pommes en croûte de moutarde, black pudding with apples in a mustard crust.  For those of you who don’t know, black pudding is made from pig’s blood which gives it a distinct savory depth with an irony finish.  The pudding was light and fluffy in consistency, and due to the thick layer of rich apple flavor it didn’t taste gamey at all.  It was lovely with the tart acidic salad greens.

IMG_5790We really wanted to get the magret de canard rôti grilled duck fillet over a bed of grapevines, which is one of the house specialties, but a large party of 8 next to our table snagged the last of it.  For what it’s worth, it looked and smelled amazing!

Couteaux et moules cuisinés a la basque, Basque style shellfish of mussels and razor clams was delicious.  This dish truly represents rustic Basque cuisine- hearty tomato broth with bold chorizo flavors, earthy spices, crisp flavors of fresh parsley and herbs, and an abundance of garlic, onions and smokey dried red peppers.  The fresh razor clams had a beautiful plump texture, and the sauce was addictive.  We kept ordering more bread to soak up the wonderful juices.  It also went wonderfully with our carafe of white sangria which had ginger, lemon and pineapple.

IMG_5785Mignon de porc ibaiona grillé, grilled pork fillet with spring vegetables in a basil sauce, with pommes gaufrettes homemade chips. The pork was moist and tender, and the basil sauce was an incredibly refreshing complement to the fresh and sweet vegetables and mozzarella cubes.  It went well with the light and dry Elian Da Ros 2007 Côtes-du-marmandais red wine from Cocumont France.

IMG_5797The escabèche of chicken Landaise with artichokes and summer truffles was a surprise, as we ordered it thinking it was a hot dish.  It felt a bit strange to eat a cold chicken dish, and the chicken was a bit on the dry side.  The summer black truffle aroma was disappointingly absent, and the dish lacked depth and flavor.

IMG_5796IMG_5852Afaria came back strong with a fascinating and heavenly dessert dish- the Baked Alaska with cognac flambée.  The torched cognac was poured onto the dessert at the table, making for an exciting and mesmerizing experience.  Hidden under the flambéed white meringue layer was a wonderfully rich vanilla bean ice cream.  By the time we reached the bottom crust layer, it was nicely soaked in cognac and had an intoxicating rich flavor.  This was one of my favorite desserts on this Europe trip.

IMG_5859We followed the dessert with shots of raspberry-spiked Armagnac, a recipe said to have come from the chef’s Basque grandmother.  A most ideal digestif to eIMG_5861nd the meal with.  By the time we finished dinner at around 1 am the restaurant had closed and we were the last customers there.  The friendly staff and Chef Julien invited us over to the bar area to share a lovely bottle of 1995 vintage Billecart-Salmon champagne with them.  It’s always such an extraordinary and memorable experience to get to know the people who create the food- especially over drinks and laughs (and some dancing!).

If you get tired of stuffy and expensive restaurants while visiting Paris, go to Afaria to relax and kick back.  You can leave your worries at the door and get pampered with comfort food and friendly service.

Afaria
15 Rue Desnouettes, 15th Arr.
Paris, France
33-1-48-56-15-36
Closed Sunday and lunchtime Mondays
Random trivia:   Did you know that the Basque language is unrelated structurally or historically to any language now spoken anywhere on the planet, or to any known to have ever existed?