I’m not going to lie- when I travel, I usually like to eat my way through the city I’m visiting. I’m a firm believer that the culture and lifestyle of a destination is enhanced by the local dishes and flavors.
For my summer vacation this year, I went to visit one of my best friends in France. She’s working on her master’s degree in Paris and I also missed her very much, so I decided to spend some days with her.
Now, I’ve been to Paris before so the city wasn’t new to me. But, on this trip, I wanted to make sure I’d make it a priority to experience the city through the food first, and the sights second.
Undeniably, I savored some typical Parisian delicacies during my trip – crepes, French onion soup, quiches, cannelés (!!!!), croissants, steak tartare and the list goes on and on.
There was one ingredient, however, that really made an impact on me while in Paris – foie gras.
The rich and velvety ingredient that is foie gras is synonymous with luxury, in my opinion. It’s also quintessentially French. And you know how the saying goes: when in Rome France…
Being that my favorite food group is carbohydrates (yes, you read right, favorite food group, not just food), I was drawn to the pasta and rice dishes that I encountered throughout my trip. One of these was a truffle risotto dish served over a slab of smooth foie gras.
The risotto came in what seemed to be a big, rectangular serving dish. It was rather large considering French portions (and quite frankly, any portions outside of the USA) are usually smaller. It was accompanied by a piece of white toast and a simple green mixed salad dressed in a light oil and lemon vinaigrette.
I savored every bite- the risotto was creamy, like any real risotto should be, but it was intensified by the butter-like consistency of the foie gras. My friends laughed as I took my time with each bite, but I just smiled and kept on enjoying myself as I sat eating my risotto al fresco in the terrace of this very Parisian café.
That same night, we went to the restaurant of my friend’s friend. I heard rave reviews from her even before I arrived in Paris. She mentioned some delicious spring rolls, a tuna appetizer that was to die for and, of course, a pasta and foie gras dish. “I need to have that pasta,” I reminded her anytime I saw a menu with foie gras. We finally dressed up and went to the Restaurant Legendre Idéal.
First things first, we ordered a bottle of Bordeaux to begin our night the right way. We then had the tataki de thon (tuna tataki) and the petits nems vegetariens (veggie spring rolls) as appetizers. Both dishes were flavorful and memorable but I was ready for my main dish: the penne sce foie gras & magret de canard (penne with foie gras and duck breast).
The penne were nestled on a small pool of creamy foie gras sauce and I didn’t mind it one bit! Small pieces of seared duck breast also adorned the plate and provided a nice contrast from the velvety pasta. A rough chop of parsley brought a pop of color and flavor to the dish that was refreshing and bright. I was definitely not letting any of the sauce go to waste so, as if I didn’t use the pasta to pick up the sauce enough, I mopped what (little) there was left of sauce with some pieces of bread that sat on the table. Do I regret it? Not for one second.
I was riding out my foie gras high when I saw the desert menu. One dish screamed my name: tiramisu poire pomme & Nutella (Nutella and stewed pear tiramisu).
By my friend’s recommendation, this was by far the best desert on the menu. It was a very rustic presentation as it came in a glass cup- no frills, no nonsense. The taste, however, made up for the simple presentation. The pears were sweet and the cream was light and just what you’d expect a French desert would be like – sheer perfection. Not to mention, the Nutella was layered in between the pear and cream so it was a delicious surprise.
And so, my theory is this: if you’re going to enjoy something, go all out. And, if there’s foie gras on the menu, do yourself a favor and order it. There’s really nothing out there like it.