Asador Extebarri

Etxeberri Oct 2018 3

Entrance to Asador Etxebarri in Axpe, Vizcaya Spain.

We recently had the chance to have lunch at Asador Etxebarri, a restaurant that has gotten a lot of attention from the culinary press for its grill-centric take on traditional Basque food.  I had read how great the food is but had not realized that the restaurant is so isolated or that it was in such a beautiful place.  It is located in the tiny village of Axpe (in the commune of Axtondo) in the the Basque region of the Bizkaia, which is right on the edge of the Parke Naturala Urkiolako. And when I say right on the edge, I am not kidding; the craggy peaks of the park tower over the village and create a striking view from the terrace at Etxebarri, where guests are offered a glass of champagne before the meal. Continue reading

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Visit to Charcuterie Louis Ospital

Ospital Oct 2018 3

This ham has already been purchased by Restaurant Le Bibent in Toulouse.

En route with friends from Orthez to Spain, stopped for a morning visit to Charcuterie Louis Ospital, where we were welcomed by  owner/operator Eric Ospital.  As mentioned in a previous post, Maison Ospital has grown from a tiny storefront selling house-made charcutere (the tiny original store still exists by the way) into perhaps the most famous ham-maker in France.  The hams of Maison Ospital are featured in some of the best restaurants in France and around the world, with the notable exception of the good old USA, where tough FDA importation laws create too many barriers.

Jim with Eric Ospital, who has become a celebrity for the quality of his hams, considered the best in France

Jim with Eric Ospital, who has become a celebrity for the quality of his hams, considered the best in France

The unique element of the Ospital story is that their success in not about growing in size into an industry giant but instead about maintaining strict quality standards.  Eric’s father Louis was among the tiny group of Basque artisans who, in the 1990s, redefined the standards of excellence in making jambon de Bayonne, in the process developing a new appellation of quality, Jambon Ibaiama.  Every Ibaiama ham is made in accordance with a very strict set of standards, from traditional hog breeds, born raised and slaughtered in the Pays Basque, with no GM feed, no antibiotics and no growth hormones and raised by farmers who are paid a fair price.

However it was Eric who first brought the quality of his families hams to the attention of a wider audience during the time that he lived in Paris.  He met  chef Yves Camdeborde who featured Ospital hams in his ground breaking nouveau bistrot Le Regalade. Since that time, the reputation of both Ospital hams and Eric’s expertise in his field has continued to grow.  To the point where now Eric is asked to co-author cookbooks with top chefs.

In person, Eric is personable, very Basque and passionate about his craft. He talked non-stop for over an hour about the history, logic and technique of what he does, before offering a tasting accompanied by a bottle of Lapierre Beaujolais.

The house also makes a wide range of pates, rillettes, confits and more.

The house also makes a wide range of pates, rillettes, confits and more.

Today, Maison Ospital still only buys 10 hogs a week, which yields 20 hams (plus  a certain amount of fresh pork sold direct to restaurants and a myriad of other porky products including sausages, pâtes and rillettes), not nearly enough to meet demand. The result is that every ham they make is sold before it is hung in their aging room, where it will stay for 20 months before being delivered.

 

 

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Old and new favorite addresses in Toulouse

Bibent

Passing through Toulouse has become a habit, as it is the closest major airport to our house in Orthez. For this reason, magnificent main dining room at Bibent on the Place des  Capitouls has become our go-to first meal in France. After 16 hours in transit (more or less), its reliably plush banquettes, attentive service and simple but well done menu gr, filled with grand classics of the cuisine bourgeois, seem like a the perfect way to decompress.

Bibent has a storied history that began in the early 1900s.  Ideally located in Toulouse’s central square, Bibent was designed to be the most luxurious address in town. Its Art Nouveau moldings and hand painted frescoes endured for years but were finally painted over in gold to avoid expensive upkeep as the mode for Grand  Brasseries faded after the wars. It was the Grand Crise of 2008 that finally closed its to doors after more than 100 years in operation. Fortunately for Toulouse, Christian Constant, one of its native sons who had made it big with three restaurants in Paris, decided to reopen the space after a meticulous restoration.  Constant, who is often cited as the father of the Nouveau Bistrot movement in the 1990s in Paris because he trained a number of its adherents while he was the chef at the storied Ambassadeurs restaurant at the Hotel Crillon, installed a menu is an ode to top quality ingredients, simply prepared (as much as that sounds like a cliche now, it is still very rewarding when well done). Oeufs a la Meurette, blanquette de veau, hand chopped tartare de bœuf, baba au rhum.  You get the idea.

barallel

Not far from Bibent is new arrival (or at least a new discovery for me)  Barallel.  A wine bar featuring mostly organic, biodynamic or natural wines and specializing selections from the area around Toulouse (pretty much requirements for any up and coming wine bar in France these days), it also features 6 handles of beers brewed in its own mini-brasserie, visible through a glass wall at the back of the room.  A unique feature for a bar that only has room for 50-ish guest. Friendly people behind the bar, friendly pricing on the list and a selection of cheese and meat plates from local artisans. Not surprising that finding a seat is always a challenge.

Bibent
Address:  5 Place du Capitole, 31000 Toulouse, France
Tel: 05 34 30 18 37
Reservations:  Recommended at dinner for sure. If you arrive without one, you may be relegated to the downstairs dining room, which is a cosy vaulted cave, but still disappointing when you are expecting to dine in an Art Nouveau palace

Barallel
Address:  9 Rue Cujas, 31000 Toulouse, France
Tel: 09 82 50 43 58
Reservations:  Not accepted.

 

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Fall Desserts at Café Presse

Chocolate-banana beignets with warm rum bananas and whipped cream

Chocolate-banana beignets with warm rum bananas and whipped cream

The new Fall 2018 menu at Café Presse also featuresa whole slate of warm and cozy desserts perfect for Fall.  Check out the new dessert menu here.

Our Automn coupe glacee features butternut ice cream, candied mixed nuts, butterscotch sauce and whipped cream

Our Automn coupe glacee features butternut ice cream, candied mixed nuts, butterscotch sauce and whipped cream

Warm spice-ginger cake served with caramelized apples and whipped cream

Warm spice-ginger cake served with caramelized apples and whipped cream

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Café Presse Fall menu photos

Salad of treviso, red frilly mustard greens, winter pear, walnuts and thyme vinaigrette, topped with house-smoked muscovy duck breast

Salad of treviso, red frilly mustard greens, winter pear, walnuts and thyme vinaigrette, topped with house-smoked muscovy duck breast

On Thursday October 4th, Café Presse chef de cuisine James O’Hern unveiled his new menu for Fall.  As always, the day started with a menu tasting for the waitstaff.  Here are some photos of the new dishes that feature the best from  the Fall farm tables.

Look for more photos soon of the new Fall desserts.

And don’t fret, the Fall menu also includes Oysters on the half shell and our famous Soupe a l’oignon gratinée!

Salad of escarole, roasted golden beets, parsley, hazelnuts and roasted garlic vinaigrette, topped with warm brandade croutons

Salad of escarole, roasted golden beets, parsley, hazelnuts and roasted garlic vinaigrette, topped with warm brandade croutons

Continue reading

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August Quarterly Dinner Photos

Aug Qtr Dinner guitar

During the tapas reception at dinner, live Spanish guitar was provided by Jon Yerby

The August 2018 Quarterly Dinner at Cafe Presse featured a celebration of the food and festivals of the region of the Languedoc-Roussillon.  The dinner kicked off with a tapas and sangria reception featuring live Spanish guitar from local musician Jon Yerby. Tapas were followed by a 3 course menu of regional specialties.  If you missed this sold-out event, check out some photos below:

Joanne's special recipe for sangria, featuring rosé  from the Languedoc, peaches and blackberries from her back yard!

Joanne’s special recipe for sangria, featuring rosé from the Languedoc, peaches, cherries and blackberries from her back yard!

Bethmale vache, a cow's milk raw cheese from Pyrenees.

Bethmale vache, a cow’s milk raw cheese from Pyrenees.

Fougasse, a country bread made with olives and rosemary

Fougasse, a country bread made with olives and rosemary

Grilled skewers of house smoked mussels and Italian plums marinated with sherry

Grilled skewers of house smoked mussels and Italian plums marinated with sherry

Tielle, a specialty of the city of Sete is a two crusted pie filled with octopus and tomatoes.

Tielle, a specialty of the city of Sete is a two crusted pie filled with octopus and tomatoes.

The Tielle was served with a salad of bitter summer greens, raw zucchini and lemon-parsley vinaigrette

The Tielle was served with a salad of bitter summer greens, raw zucchini and lemon-parsley vinaigrette

Bull from Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island, simmered with red wine, orange peel and sweet peppers, served with brown rice

Bull from Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island, simmered with red wine, orange peel and sweet peppers, served with brown rice

Rousquilles, cookies from the Roussillon flavored with fennel seeds and honey, served with melon sorbet and melon-lime-basil salad

Rousquilles, cookies from the Roussillon flavored with fennel seeds and honey, served with melon sorbet and melon-lime-basil salad

 

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Paris recommendations Summer 2018

Recently, a guest of Le Pichet asked me for advice for an upcoming trip to Paris. She is to stay on the Île de la Cité, and was hoping for recommendations on a simple Left Bank restaurant in the style of Le Pichet, a grand restaurant for a splurge, museums and  some advice on tipping.

I am reprinting my reply here in the hope that they may be useful to others lucky enough to be heading to Paris soon.  Note that these recommendations are not intended to be comprehensive, as Paris offers an endless palette of choices;  these are just the things that answered her request.  Enjoy!

Restaurants:  Honestly I have not spent a ton of time on the left Bank as we generally stay either near the Marché at Place Aligré (between the Place de Bastille and Place de Nation) or near the Place Batignolles in the 17th.  That being said, I do know a few good places not far from the Cité.  Continue reading

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Menu for August 2018 Quarterly Dinner

     Feria en Languedoc-Roussillon Menu

Tuesday August 28, 2018, $60 per person

 Buffet de tapas à la Feria
A selection of small bites from the Languedoc-Roussillon:
Anchovies stuffed with green olives
Fougasse, rustic bread made with olive oil, black olives and rosemary
Fromage du Languedoc
Boles de Picolet, pork-dried porcini meatballs simmered in spiced tomato sauce
Grilled mussel-baby artichoke skewers

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La fameuse tielle à la sétoise et sa salade aux courgettes
Tourte filled with octopus-tomato ragoût, with a salad of bitter summer greens, raw summer squash and lemon-parsley vinaigrette

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Gardianne de taureau au vin rouge
Shoulder of bull simmered with red wine, onions, sweet peppers and orange peel, served with brown rice

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Sorbet de melon et ses rousquilles aux graines d’anis
Anise-scented cookies from Roussillon, melon sorbet and basil-melon salad

Visit our website for full event details

Reservations by phone only at 206 709-7674

Ingredients subject to change due to seasonal availability

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August 2018 Chef’s Dinner at Café Presse

Flag_of_Languedoc-Roussillon.svg

Feria en Languedoc-Roussillon!

In the south of France, Feria is the word used for the summer festivals that bring together everyone in town to celebrate the season, good food and the sweetness of being alive.  The menu for our August 2018 Quarterly Chef’s Dinner is inspired by a traditional Feria from the region of the Languedoc-Roussillon, a land that stretches from Provence to Catalonia.  Join us as we celebrate Feria!

What:   Tapas reception followed by a 3-course family-style Feria dinner

When:  Tuesday, August 28, 2018, 6:30pm sharp

Where: The back room at Café Presse

Cost:    Dinner including  beverage* $60
*your choice of paired wines or non-alcoholic beverages

Visit our website at www.cafepresseseattle.com for details and menu

For this special dinner, NO SUBSTITUTIONS please

For reservations, telephone Café Presse at 206.709.7674  

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Bastille Day T-shirts still available

Tshirt

If you missed your chance on Bastille Day to purchase our limited edition t-shirt celebrating the 16th anniversary of Le Pichet’s Fête de Quatorze Juillet, fret not…Yes they are still available!

The shirts are 100% cotton, made in America and are available in unisex sizes S to XL.  The price is $20 and they are available at both Le Pichet and Café Presse while they last.

Come by or call to check size availability.

 

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