Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ten Belles, perfect Canal coffeehouse

The Paris coffee trend (finally) is spreading like wildfire. The best of the bunch so far is this little place just off of the Canal Saint Martin's rotating bridge at 10 rue de la Grange aux Belles, Ten Belles. A joint project with Thomas Lehoux (perhaps Paris' best barrista)  running the front of house and Alice and Anna, the brains and brawn behind neo-British bistro, Le Bal, this edgy, cozy spot offers up single original roasts and fresh baked organic goodies. Only opened last week, the mojo hotspot is already packed with local creatives, bartenders and coffee aficionados for the best cappuccino in town.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Acme, New Nordic, New York

Last month while on vacation/writing assignment for a great new Dutch magazine about which you will be hearing a lot soon, I had the opportunity to try out this iconoclastic new table from one of the dark horses of Nordic gastronomy, and co-founder, with Rene Redzepi of the universally famous Noma, Mads Refslund.

To cut to the chase, Mads and Rene met in cooking school, got the backing for their new idea Noma, and quietly went their ways after less than a year due to the fact that, funnily enough, they couldn't work together. Rene went on to much fame, and Mads created his own restaurant, gained a Michelin star, and lost everything when his billionaire financial backer went bust. Mads became a sort of poster child for the New Nordic cuisine, did lots of food shows and events, and spread his culinary gospel, hélas with no place to hang his own apron.

Cut to earlier on this year, and a freak series of events while Mads was vacationing in New York, led to him staying and heading up the kitchens of Acme, a former honky tonk cajun style place, and bringing his pared down locavore de luxe ideas to fruition.

Dishes such as the Hudson Valley foie gras, flash frozen and micro planed over langoustine with white walnuts and the sweet shrimp with bison , bitter lettuce and green almonds were standouts. Other dishes we sampled included the farmer's egg with cauliflower cream and parmesan, heirloom tomatoes with pickled watermelon and herbs, beetroot topped with cherries, and flavored with buttermilk and horseradish, fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce, lemon juice and blacked pepper, pickled vegetable salad with anchovies, chicken with new potatoes and fried free range eggs, rib-eye steak with glazed carrots, and (deep breath) to top it all off, the best dessert I have ever had, a beer and bread porridge with salted butter caramel ice cream: crack and childhood food nostalgia memories all rolled into one.

I can't wait to see Mads evolve .... more soon

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Canal-side coffee on the up and up / Café Craft

Paris has always been a desert for true coffee lovers for a number of reasons, some historical, as they colonized the wrong side of Africa (the Italians got the right side), some just strange: the French have an innate love for regional, single origin products, a passion for the ritual of wine production and tasting, so why not for a product that has history, regional character and all the attributes that make it a delicious discovery. Why must coffee be relegated to a simple morning pick me up or afterthought digestive?

I documented this in January 2011 for Black Book and have waited patiently for smart openings since then. Slowly but surely they are coming.

One perfect example of the new wave of cool purist coffee cafés is the Café Craft, on a tiny side street off of the Canal Saint Martin in a slightly out of the way, below street level former print shop. The café, meant as a hybrid workspace/coffee shop (high speed wifi, worktables, lots of plugs..) was the first brick and mortar project from designers (yet to be named) who have, until now, been present in industrial design. The project, the brainchild of 5 java obsessed friends sprang mainly from the mind of one of them, patron/barista Augustin, who dreamt up the idea while crossing the United States on horseback (yes, 5000 miles).

The coffee is Lomi, with varieties from Nicaragua, Brazil and Ethiopia, and the growing organic snack menu comprised of light pastries, quiches and salads, munched on by what will surely be a growing large local public of funky creatives.

Café Craft
24 rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 Paris