Recommendations

Restaurant Arrantzaleak, Ciboure, France

Arrantzaleak May 2015

Located on a quiet street fronting the estuary of the Nivelle river, behind the fishing docks in the Basque coastal town of Ciboure, Restaurant Arrantzaleak doesn’t give the impression that it might be one of the best known restaurants in the region.  The decor is modest, with even a bit of seaside schmaltz…the walls are decorated with fishing nets, colorful cork floats, mounted trophy fish, tables are wood topped  and sky blue painted benches standing in for chairs.

However, when we arrived, the table of 15 Chinese tourists near the door left no doubt that this was the place we had read about.

Fortunately, Arrantzaleak, or “Chez Remunctxo” as it is known locally, lives up to the billing.  The formula is simple:  very fresh fish , grilled over hardwood coals (the grill is situated in a alcove that you pass through on your way to the bar), accompanied by fresh seasonal vegetables.  Done.

Although everything we tried was very good, selections from the daily fresh sheet were particularly good:  grilled razor clams served with leeks, fava beans and asparagus; wild caught sea bass with more favas, pickled shallot and garlic butter;  excellent whole prawns with persillade; and little flat fish called “langue d’avocat”, which resembled sand dabs and were served with herbed beurre blanc.

Restaurant Arrantzaleak
Address: 18 Avenue Jean Poulou, Ciboure, 64500
Tel: 05 59 47 10 75
Reservations:  Definitely, during the high season

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Marché d’Aligre / Marché Couvert Beauvau, Paris

Photo: Trip Advisor 2014

On the borderline between the 11th and 12 arrondissements and to the east of the Bastille is a neighborhood that is referred to alternately by reference to its main thoroughfare (the Faubourg Saint-Antoine) or its metro stop (Ledru Rollin), or, as often as not, by its market, the Marché d’Aligre.  Which makes sense, because the market is  the heart of this neighborhood, and like its neighborhood, it is an amalgam of the very traditional and the current, old and young, bursting with the flavors of France, which in modern Paris means also North Africa, the Levant and Asia.

The market consists of one of the oldest covered market in Paris, the Marché Couvert Beauvau, and the street market that spills out of the Beauvau into place  and rue d’Aligre , from which the market takes its name.  Quite simply put, this market is one of my favorite spots anywhere, and one that I almost never miss when I am in Paris.

Packed with too much stuff for any description to do it justice, it’s a market that demands that you just wade in and experience it.  Here are some of my favorites:

Poissonerie “La Marée Beauvau”, inside the covered market, a beautiful selection of fish and shellfish, and they have a single table for 2 where you can enjoy a plate of oysters and a glass of muscadet.

Boulangerie Moisan, an organic bakery facing the market  The fennel and raisin rolls are fantastic.

Fromagerie Philippe Langlet inside the covered market offers the most amazing selection of goat cheeses I have ever seen.

Boucherie “Les Provinces” along rue d’Aligre behind the market vegetable stalls;  you can select your preferred cut of “bio”  beef, lamb or veal butcher case, then pay the 9 euro “droit de cuisson” to have them cook it and serve it to you with salad and roasted potatoes in the small dining room next door.

At the south end of rue d’Aligre, Halal butcher shops predominate, some with rotisseries offering roasted merguez sausages in addition to the more usual roasted chickens.

The surrounding neighborhood is particularly rich in restaurants, bars and wine bars, like the legendary Le Baron Bouge, (formerly Le Baron Rouge…it’s a legal thing, don’t ask) where shoppers  meet for a glass of wine and a plate of charcuterie after the market closes.  Also not far are Chardenoux, Au Vieux Chene, l’Ebauchoir and Le Siffleur de Ballons, all places that find their way on to my list when friends ask for Paris recommendations.

Marché d’Aligre / Marché Couvert Beauvau
Place d’Aligre and along rue d’Aligre between rue Charenton and Faubourg St.-Antoine
Paris 12eme

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Chez Canaille, Pau, France

 

Chez Canaille is a bistrot, pure and simple.  That means copious portions, a menu that is meat-centric, heavy on charcuterie and doesnt stray far from traditional and regional specialties and a wine list of well priced bottles  from lesser known appellations.  In other words, no modern monkey business.

Well, maybe a little modern monkey business.

Like the fact that the menu lists the provenience of pretty much every entrecote, pied de cochon, jambon, boudin and andouillette(and sole!) they serve as well as  good number of the vegetables, fruits and cheeses.   Or that the wine list is heavy on wines that are organic or natural or both.  Or that the person who designed the decor harbors a tongue in cheek romance for the look of old time bistros that borders on the ironic.

Favorite dishes include textbook plate of beef marrow bones finished with a drizzle of persillade (two bones, each 10″ long…the waiter actually asked “Vous avez tout fini?  C’est pas possible!”).

Or a 4-bone côte de porc roasted for two and served with garlic roasted in its skin, thick cut frites and an accompanying saladier of curly endive dressed with grain mustard vinaigrette (although I think that when there are 4 bones, it is officially no longer a chop but has become a rack…this one from a porc noir de Bigorre, the black pigs whose legs are famous as the source of some of the best hams in the world).

Or a choux a la crème the size of a soft ball, filled with crème chantilly and drizzled with caramel.

Like I said, a bistrot.

Chez Canaille
Address:  3 Rue du Hedas, 64000 Pau
Phone:  05 59 27 68 65
Reservations:  Yes for weekday lunch, when it is very busy
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“La Garde Robe”, Paris, France

Photo: Not Drinking Poison in Paris 2012

Le Garde Robe calls itself at “cave a manger”, making the point that it is first and foremost a “cave” or wine shop.  And as a wine shop its offering of organic (or “bio”) and natural wines is impressive.  However, there is a lot more Le Garde Robe than wine.  During the course of the day, it is also a cafe, a wine bar and a petit restaurant, which is where the “manger” or “to eat” comes in.  The kitchen is tiny and the menu very limited.  But everything is impeccably  sourced, from local farms or artisans, organic  and well prepared.  Charcuterie, cheeses, a few salads, a plate of crudites (or raw vegetables) served with basil pistou, and tartines  make up the bulk of the menu.  A few daily specials make up the rest.  The day we were last there, these included a butternut squash soup, house smoked and air cured beef, and a cocotte of boudin noir with apples.

Quality ingredients, prepared without pretension, at a fair price.  And at lunch, there is no corkage when you select a bottle from the wine shop.

Le Garde Robe (Two locations):

41, rue d’Arbre Sec, 75001 Paris  01 49 26 90 60
4 Rue Bridaine, 75017 Paris  01 44 90 05 04

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“Le Petit Commerce”, Bordeaux France

Photo Yelp 2013

The Petit Commerce, a bistro specializing in seafood, reminds me of two points regarding the city of Bordeaux that are not necessarily the first that come to mind when I think of this capital of wine.

First, Bordeaux is a port city and as such, has a rich culinary tradition surrounding fish and shellfish.   Although officially located on the river Garonne, it is very near the river’s mouth and therefore close the rich fishing of the bay of Biscay.  Bordeaux is also in the center of one of the most renowned oyster producing regions in France, very close to the famous oyster beds at Arcachon and around Oleron.
Second, Bordeaux is close enough to both Spain and the Basque countries that its cooking reflects some of these regions culinary traditions.  In this case, I am thinking of cooking on a “plancha” or flat topped grill.  Its a very simple, rustic way of cooking that adds a rich, caramelized, note to any ingredient.  And one finds it often in Bordeaux.

At Le Petit Commerce, the concept is simple:  very fresh fish, mostly whole, cooked on the plancha Continue reading

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“La Belle Auberge”, Castegnede, France

Having grown up reading Elisabeth David, I have always been enchanted with her descriptions of the auberges that populated the countryside of France when she first visited in the 1940’s.  The kind of place that one happens across when driving way off the beaten path, where a lunch of well cooked local fish, meat and vegetables can be had for next to nothing, where the dining room is full of beret wearing locals, a socially mixed group ranging from the local plumber to bank tellers to the mayor and his wife.  In Elisabeth David’s world, the chef was always an older woman who wore a cotton house coat over her dress and pumps; the servers were always jovial and intuitive and happy to Continue reading

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“Chez Mattin”, Ciboure France

Chez Mattin is a Basque bistrot in the fishing port of Ciboure, which lies across harbor from the larger coastal city of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.  With its menu of traditional Basque specialties and its wood beamed dining room, Chez Mattin feels like a portal into a simpler time in dining.  This is good, honest food, emphasizing both “la mer” and “la terre” with a daily chalkboard menu that features equally the products of the green hills of the Payes Basques and the best of the days catch from Ciboure, France’s second most important fishing port.  The quality of the ingredients is irreproachable, the service is friendly (although don’t expect servers to speak English), the wine list full of well priced wines of the region.

Chez Mattin was recommended to me by the owner of the well-known “La Tupina” restaurant in Bordeaux, who lives in Ciboure and commutes to work each day.

Chez Mattin
Address: 63, rue Evariste Baignol  64500 Ciboure
Telephone : 05 59 47 19 52
Reservations:  Indispensable, especially at dinner

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