Taste of Paris: Miznon

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11695902_844701115977_8803345370097266460_n.jpgThis past Summer I spent two months cooking for a private family abroad in France. It was my first time to France, and I arrived not speaking a word of the language and completely unaware of how life changing the experience was going to be for me.

About a month into my stay in France, I journeyed to Paris for five days. I took a beautiful train ride that cut from the coast of La Baule to the city of Paris.

When I arrived, a car took me to Ile Saint Louis, where I stayed in a stunning chateau. It had floor to ceiling windows that opened out to a large courtyard below and the quiet, quaint streets of the island.

I ventured out into the maze-like streets of Paris. I refused to buy a map, but discover the city of my dreams on my own. I memorized landmarks and navigated my way through the city.

My first day was overwhelming. Starving, I decided to walk through le Marais and find an authentic dining experience in Paris.

Everywhere I looked was filled with tourists. I walked through seemingly endless side streets and alleys until I came across a tiny storefront of a restaurant with patrons spilling out the windows and entryway. I knew I had to eat here. 11836827_844700831547_9000377625054051336_n.jpg

The smell coming through the door of the restaurant was amazing! It smelled of slowly cooked meat, char, and smoke. I pushed through the door and saw a room with fresh produce on wood shelves, big bowls of lemons and heads of cauliflower. The menu was scribbled on a chalkboard wall in bright colored chalk. The kitchen was completely open, and the cooks prepared the food right in front of you as you ordered. There was minimal seating, and the crowd was loud and joyous. It felt like I had entered someones home, like everyone there was family. 11796379_844701135937_8055135375021145522_n.jpg

I stood awkwardly- waiting for someone to wait on me, or take an order – it never happened. I felt so embarrassed, I almost left. Then I decided to step out of my comfort zone, and I plunged myself down at the counter bar, and sat next to a beautiful pregnant woman.

I sat a few minutes, and then pushed myself to talk with her. I nervously asked her if she spoke English, (which she did, thankfully), and then proceeded to ask her how to order. I then explained I was a NYC chef visiting Paris, and wanted to taste the best food the city had to offer. She explained to me that her husband owned the restaurant and that I was indeed in the right place for good food.

She brought her husband over, and the three of us spoke about middle eastern food, restaurants, New York, and Paris. It was one of those experiences you don’t forget, and then the Chef decided to order for me. 11846732_844700891427_8813675508574140144_n.jpg

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The man working the counter was a combination host, maître d, and comedian. He poured me some warm red wine on this balmy  95 degree day. The restaurant was open to the street, and the heat everywhere. My clothes clung tight and wet to my body. A runner brought over some fresh made pita with side dish of tahini with tomato water and spiced olive oil. I dipped the hot fresh pita into the cool spread, and it refreshed me. 11846620_844701190827_7939526496194403906_n.jpg

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11836825_844700991227_537711851019361455_n.jpgNext came out a fresh pita pocket stuffed with thinly sliced steak, fresh parsley, red onion, and tahini sauce. It was served with roasted green chiles on the side for spice. (They’re very spicy!)

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Next came out the most incredible boeuf bourguignon stuffed pita. The combination of french and Israeli flavors are absolutely delicious, and was the singularly most delicious and memorable thing I ate in all of France. At the same time, they brought out a whole roasted head of cauliflower. It was perfectly tender, roasted nicely with salt and oil. You cut off sections as you ate it, and it made for a perfect accompaniment to the meal.

11825810_844701016177_7969641697193079440_n.jpg11013217_844701056097_1822053214430203279_n.jpg11825795_844701066077_1189422550208118183_n.jpgI drank a few more glasses of wine, ate way too much food, and chatted with the owners. Before I left, I was treated to one last indulgence. Apple Tarte Tatin, stuffed in a pita. A classic french dessert, with an Israeli twist. It was so delicious, I’m not sure how it hasn’t blown up into a huge trend around the world. (Maybe it will now!) 🙂

11855844_844701210787_2959316317263413118_n.jpgIf you’re in Paris, and venture into le Marais, you must check out Miznon.

Miznon
Restaurant: Israeli-French Fusion
Address: 22 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004 Paris, France
 

Bon Appetit!
Sean Patrick Gallagher

Farm to Table: Quality vs. Convenience

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In my profession, I have the luxury of seeing into the lives of others. I get to sip the champagne, shine the silver, and line the tables with the finest linens and china. Although it isn’t every little boys dream, it has always been mine. I recently had the pleasure of spending the day on a client’s farm, picking, preparing, and serving some of the most beautiful vegetables I have ever had the pleasure to work with. There is something about walking through rows lined with bright-rainbow chard, picture perfect onions, and tiffany blue berries that makes my heart flutter.

This affair took place on the farmstead estate of my clients. A grand property with rolling hills along the Connecticut countryside. We strolled through the garden together pulling onions, garlic, and beets by their roots from the ground. We snipped chard, romaine, merlot greens, parsley, tarragon, and nasturtiums.  With a cart filled, we rolled into the pristine white kitchen and made a mess. Cleaning greens and filling the porcelain farm sinks with mud.

An hour later all the vegetables were prepped, and my delightful client left me to my own devices in the kitchen. For a Chef… I don’t know if it gets any better than this. Cutting onions that I handpicked only moments later. Peeling a russian breed of garlic; cloves the size of golfballs! Embracing the farm to table style, I crafted a menu around fresh-seasonal vegetables.

Over the next 5 hours I rushed around and prepared a fantastic feast. Here’s what I served:

Farm Dinner

Cheese Board

Hor d’ourves

Citrus marinated shrimp with herbed creme fraiche

Avocado chicken salad on corn tortilla rounds

 

Farm greens

 Fresh peas, merlot greens, roasted beets, feta, pancetta crisp, lemon dill dressing

Grilled Beef

New York Strip, au jus, roast fingerlings, zucchini gratin, smothered chard

 

Banana Tarte Tatin

Caramelized banana, pastry, vanilla gelato, cashew

 Banana Tarte Tatin

2 sheets frozen puff pastry

1 bunch bananas

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup dark rum

1 stick butter

1/8 t vanilla extract

1/8 t ground cinnamon

1: In a small saucepan, add sugars and water. Bring to a boil, and cook until dark amber color stirring constantly.

2: Add butter in small pats, whisking in to combine.

3: Add rum, cinnamon, and vanilla.

4. Peel all bananas, slice in half longways. In a large rectangle baking dish, lay bananas down.

5: Pour caramel over the bananas evenly.

6: Place sheets of puff pastry over the top and press down tightly.

7: Bake in a 375º oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

8: Let cool for 20 minutes, invert the pan so the bananas are on top.

10: Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

This dessert is so simple, and absolutely delicious.

All in all it was a beautiful experience and definitely a life lesson for me. Living in New York City has taught me to sometimes choose a more convenient option, but there are far more quality options out there.. just takes a little more time to achieve. In the end, it is worth it.

Cheers!

Sean