Paris Birthday Bash…The Middle…

PAREiffel

Day #2 in Paris happened to be my actual birthday but first, armed with a well researched but short list, we set off to find a decent cuppa Joe. Paris, despite its well deserved reputation for many of the finer things in life, struggles to cook up a decent coffee. Having lived in New Zealand and then Australia for a number of years, our coffee palates are finely tuned machines.

PARCafeLoustic

Coffee and Port – What Could Go Wrong?

Out of 5 possible destination candidates, we fingered a place called Cafe Loustic in the 3rd Arrondissement. With their motto, “We aim to be one of the best espresso bars in the world”, ringing in our ears, we had to give it a go.

Well, not really a serious challenge to the baristas & cafes Down Under – they can sleep easy. And it was a strange vibe too — a bit aggro with a customer’s-not-always-right chip on the shoulder. The barista actually refused to make a requested coffee because they simply are not made that way if made correctly he said. Ouch.

But it was worth the visit as right next door was Portologia – a sweet establishment that was all about Port & related spirits and staffed by very kind & informative folks. One fella spoke no English but the other one did, so a fun Port discussion ensued. We mentioned we had just been in Porto and he queried us as to whether we had visited their sister store there & in fact we had! Small world…

PARRicherSign

Birthday Lunch @ Richer

Next up was the Birthday Lunch – we had narrowed down the choices to a small few & at the top of the rankings was Richer in the 9th Arrondissement. The restaurant’s description banged all the right drums and after a speedy perusal of the outside menu, we went in.

PARRicher1

Birthday Billie Got a Few Table Scraps…

Paris, as many folks will know, is a wee bit on the pricey side for most things including food & beverages. You won’t break a sweat dropping €100+ ($167NZ, $109US, $154AUS) for an very average bistro lunch & vino. But Richer was worth every Euro and more. A place after my own heart and a menu very much in the same vein as my old place in Lyttelton New Zealand – London Street. A tres simple menu of 4 starters, 3 Mains and 4 desserts which clearly follows the maxim of doing a few things exceptionally well rather than a lot of things mediocre.

PARRicherEntrees

From Top Clockwise: Noodles, Pumpkin Soup and Côte du Rhône.

My starter was, loosely translated by our waitress, as ‘noodles’. I wish more noodles came like this – a lighter take on a carbonara that had a hint of sesame with sweet fried shallot accents, a scattering of mushroom bits, sautéed seaweed and a perfectly cooked egg in the middle. I could have stopped here…Hound #2 opted for the pumpkin soup & we loved the way it was served with the actual soup being poured table side over the delectable bits which preserved their crispy texture. Our Côte Rhône Domaine des Espiers was a superb match…

PARRicherMains

From Top, Clockwise: Dessert, Pheasant and Lamb.

For her main, Hound #2 chose a fowl that our waitress could only describe as ‘sort of like duck’ – good enough for us. We believe it was pheasant, but no matter as it was delicious whatever it was. Lamb was my plat du jour and a most interesting dish it was…slow cooked shoulder that was then shredded & reformed into a wee brick, topped with a crispy thin wafer and four tiny scoops of what I think was a beetroot/crème fraîche combo & a scattering of flavourful greens. And accompanied by roasted cabbage & melt in your mouth turnips. Estupendo.

Hound #2 declared her intentions to have dessert and so she did – a hard to describe light-as-air concoction that tasted amazing to me. For my dessert, I finished the Côte du Rhône…If in Paris folks, do yourself a favour and visit Richer or their other establishments – L’Office and 52. These folks know food and hospitality.

PARCollage7

A decent walk was on order post lunch, so off we went in search of another market on our list, Marché Saint-Martin in the 10th Arrondissement. Now we’re talk’n ‘market’ – a decent notch or two up from the Le Marché des Enfants Rouges as most stalls were here to sell food and not just feed your face.

PARSaintMartinMktSign

PARMktSaintMartin

Top Left: Cheese, Fishies, Veggies and More Cheese.

We had in our possession a timely article from the Guardian’s Travel section on the up & coming area of Paris call South Pigalle. They were calling it the new ‘Soho’ of Paris so that scratched the right itch with us & off we toddled…

Our morning schedule always includes a coffee stop & we wandered the 3rd Arrondissement in search of another of our caffeine targets but stumbled across Café Pinson by accident – most pleasant place to kick up your heels and plan your next wander. We were soon struck with hunger pains that a croissant or pan au chocolate were not going to do justice to, so lunch was in the cards…

PAROngletLunch

L’Aller Retour’s Plat du Jour: Onglet (Hanger Steak)! Yay! Going, Going, Gone…

We had several options that were nearby but in our random walk we came across L’Aller Retour which by shear coincidence was the sister joint to the place we were trying to find. One glance at the plat du jour & the decision was made – Hanger Steak (Onlget in French)! And a price we could not quibble with – Hanger Steak, Fries & a side of veggies & glass of vin rouge for €11.40…Score! On to South Pigalle…

PARKBCafe

KB Cafe & Corsican Joint

We once again, using our ‘trusty’ tourist map with nano font, got a wee bit lost but finally managed to track down one of the cafes our Melbourne mate Carolyn put us on to – KB’s  Coffee Shop. It looked sooooooo Melbourne-y and stood a good chance of passing the Melbourne taste test except….it was mid afternoon & they didn’t do decaf…Plan B was to stroll the foodie street Rue des Martyrs, do a spot of supply shopping and score a beverage. 100% success…

PARBuvette

Buvette – A Beverage & Dessert

Next on our South Pigalle list of to do’s was to track down a place called Buvette and other than the fact we were, by far, the oldest folks in the place, it was hop’n (they also have a New York spot). We managed to grab an outside bench to enjoy a glass of red (me) & a slice of lemon meringue pie (Hound #2).

PARCollageOdd6

Paris Birthday continued….

Advertisements

Road Trip – Next Stop, Porto…

ABDTowerView

Porto – Tower View

Our drive to Porto, Portugal was non-eventful but driving in Porto was what I would call a ‘day from hell’. A game of musical parking spots is constantly being played out with what seems like 10,000 cars looking for 100 spots. Folks were double & triple parked – some reading books! And our Google Maps was down for the count as we had lost our Spanish cell phone carrier once across the Portuguese border. We finally opted to pay up for the roaming charges & got back on course after several circular round abouts & dead ends & arrived at our home away from home – Yours Guest House. It was a peaceful oasis in the heart of the old town. Not only was the room lovely, but there was a great lounge area and and amazing terrace. The staff were delightful, helpful and informative. One of the highlights of our trip was staying here.

ABDYoursGuestHouse

Yours Guest House – Estupendo!

After a filling dinner at a local establishment recommended by Yours Guest House, we had a great night’s sleep & awoke to breakfast that would please anyone’s gullet. Cereals, fresh fruits, cheeses (mozzarella, brie, gouda), charcuterie, juices, pastries & cakes and of course excellent hot coffee (and milk!).

Then it was off for a walk to the Bolhão Market….

ABDMktCollage3

Porto’s Bolhão Market

Any city or town that we visit, if it has a market, we are there. Markets are just such a fascinating place & process to observe & partake in, having been in or part of all cultures in some form for thousands of years.

ABDMktCollage

Bolhão Market – Fish Stalls….

The only bad thing about being at a market such as this is we are not able to cook  or nor do we have access to cold storage – so we are a wee bit limited on our purchases (still made quite a few – yeah!).

ABDMktVegCollage

Bolhão Market – Fruit & Veg…One of those Garlic bunches hangs proudly in our kitchen…

With our appetites whetted by the market, we proceeded on a zig zag, random walk in search of some lunch. We had read about several places in Porto worthy of a visit, but the one that ticked our boxes that day was Bugo Burgers. All the burgers listed on the menu were soooooooo tempting, but it was the Black Angus that seduced us both – no mistake was made in that choice. The absolute best burger either of us had eaten in years….

ABDBurgerBar

Bugo Burgers – Sensational!

We’d heard from many of our Hondarribia mates that Porto was super cheap, but we found that like many destination places the tourist can take a serious whack. And in Porto, if you stay in the Old Town section or stroll the river waterfront the prices will or can be substantially higher. So with great pleasure we were more than happy to stumble into Casa Santo António (with help from the Guardian) which was just around the corner from Yours Guest House. The Guardian called it perfectly – ‘a “gourmet tasca” with a friendly vibe and great regional ingredients’.

ABDCasaSantos

Casa Santo António

For €16 we dug into 3 main dishes with 2 sides of beans & sautéed carrots and a half litre of the house red…we had found our food nirvana.

ABDSantoPlates

The Meal Deal To Make Ya Squeal…

The next day we opted to explore some new territory outside of the main town & caught the #500 bus out to the city park in Foz and had a leisurely ocean side stroll (in perfecto weather for December!) back into town.

ABDBeachFerry

Beach Walk…Ferry Ride.

ABDCafeTwo

Riverside Beverage Stop…

We’d also highlighted another dining gem in the Guardian guide called Taberna do São Pedro (4400 603, R. Vasco da Gama 126, São Pedro da Afurada, Portugal) which was just a short ferry ride across the Douro to the fishing village of Afurada. You know you’re in the right place as you depart the ferry and the smell of wood grills & smoke’n fish engulfs you…

ABDSanPedroMenu

Taberna do São Pedro, Afurada

It does not get much better than this folks – street side table (in December!) with perfectly grilled, fresh fish & chilled white wine…Eso si que es la vida!

ABDSanPedroFish

Fresh As Fish Cooked on A Grill – Hard to Beat.

Post our piscine lunch, we strolled back along the River Douro to pay our passing respects to the port houses that are stacked up the hill & managed to nab a LBV from Niepoort and my steady fave – 6 Grapes from Graham’s…excellent winter drinking.

ABDPortSigns

ABDPortoSunBoat

View from the River Side of the Port Houses

Our final gustatory pleasure was at the wonderfully idiosyncratic establishment called Maus Hábitos (Bad Habits) which sits atop a parking garage and has multiple rooms where there might be an exhibition in one or a DJ in another or you can just eat. And eat we did – pizzas are a house speciality here so that is the way we rolled & washed it all down with some delicious reds @ €2 a glass – now we’re talk’n.

ABDBadHabits

So if you have never been to Porto – go! Hopefully we will be back to see some more of what Portugal has to offer…

ABDTiles

Infamous Portuguese Tiles

ABDPortoPics

Porto Pics