Monday, October 17, 2011

The Hidden Kitchen

I had the opportunity to dine in one of the private supper clubs in Paris during my visit in September - October 2011. I had read about the concept in various food blogs and was very curious to dine in one of them. I had read about the Hidden kitchen which is run by two Americans who are restaurant consultants by profession but open out their lovely apartment in Paris to a few guests (16 at a time) for a 10 course dinner along with wine pairing for each of the courses.

I was advised to book at least 2 months or more ahead in order to get a reservation at the Hidden Kitchen. I promptly did so but did not manage to get a reservation as they were either closed or full on the dates I requested. But I took a chance and wrote to them after I arrived in Paris and they happened to have a cancellation on the day I wrote. And that is how I managed to find myself a seat in the Hidden Kitchen.

We were a group of 16 that evening, all seated around their large dining table. I was at the dinner on my own. Among the other 15, 2 were Australian and the rest were American. No French!!!

My dinner at the Hidden Kitchen:
Friday, September 22nd.

*Amuse Bouche - Pumpkin Soup with Muscat grape, pumpkin seed oil and Parsley

*Charred Onion with Wine Poached Medjul, Cerely root and Orange

*Grilled Buckwheat Pizzetta, Anchovy, Fig and Taleggio

*House Smoked Salmon, Egg, White Bean Hummus and Broccoli

*Palate Cleanser - Bourbon Jelly with lime sorbet and Mint Leaf

*Crispy Pork Belly with Beet, Wild Rice, Endive and Olives

*Braised Beef Cheeks, Ricotta Dumplings and Chanterelles

*Apple Tart with Marscapone, Pear & Fig Sorbet and Plum Caramel

*Chocolate Ganache with Candied Fennel and Pomegranate

*Finally some Mignardises and more wine........

It was amazing to see the kind of the food churned out of a small kitchen in their apartment. The Chef and Sous Chef did a splendid job plating up and serving our large group in a fine manner. The wines paired with our food was also chosen well and over all, it was a very fine dinner and a memorable experience.

But I do regret to inform that this special private dining experience in not available at the Hidden Kitchen any longer. They have moved on to open their wine bar and restaurant which is not far from where they operated their private dinners. All the reviews I have read so far are very good and I would definitely recommend a visit to their wine bar and restaurant since this couple know and understand food and are highly capable of producing stunning and delectable food.

Restaurant Verjus
52, rue Richelieu
75001 Paris

Verjus Bar à vin
47, rue Montpensier
75001 Paris

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Le Cordon Bleu Experience

One of the first things on my Things to do in Paris list was to sign up for a cooking class or two. I had been researching on different cooking schools in Paris and their class schedules for over 6 months. I finally decided to sign up at the Cordon Bleu and the Ritz Cooking School out of shear reputation. More about the Ritz Cooking School in a later post.

There are two kinds of classes one can sign up for at the Le Cordon Bleu, if you are looking to do something on a short holiday. They have cooking classes that involve hands-on cooking in a kitchen and then there are the demonstrations where you sit in a classroom with the other regular students of Cordon Bleu and just watch a Chef demonstrate the recipes. I had signed up for one cooking class that was named "Desserts in a glass" and one cooking demonstration named "Petit Fours and Meringues".

The Desserts in a glass was a fun class. There were 6 American women, a French woman and me in the class. The chef spoke only French hence we had a translator who did translate every little detail of the recipe for us. In fact, we were only given the list of ingredients. We had to write down the method on our own. The two desserts we made were West Indian style coconut-pineapple served in a glass and Strawberry, pistachio and Speculos served in a glass.

The methods were relatively simple. The chef made most of the items. I wish it had been a little more hands-on. At the end of the class, we were given boxes and bags to carry home the fruits of our labour.

The cooking demonstration was another interesting session. Other than the regular students at the Cordon Bleu (there were about 30 who had signed up for this class) we were just 2 other participants at this class. We sat right at the back of the class but we could hear and see everything the chef demonstrated since they had mirrors on top of the cooking counter and tv monitors. The entire demonstration was translated in English since Cordon Bleu is a bi-lingual school and many of its students don't speak any French.

At the demonstration, the Chef demonstrated the recipes for Marshal's Batons, Raisin biscuits, Macaroons and Cigarettes. At the end of the class we were allowed to taste the end products. It was a very interesting experience.

I would definitely recommend a class or two to any one interested in food and cooking at the Cordon Bleu on your next visit to Paris. They also have schools in other countries and have a very detailed website. Take a look at the website for more ideas.