Archive for the ‘cuisine’ Category

The Taste of India is Not So Far Away! by Samantha Gilliams

Friday, August 11th, 2017
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There is no longer an excuse to skip over foreign ingredients in the Indian recipes you attempt! Velan, an Indian grocery store and wellness shop in the 10th arrondissement, has brought over all the spices and herbs necessary to make authentic Indian dishes at home.

Entrance of Velan Grocery Store
Photograph by Samantha Gilliams

Velan is situated in Passage Brady, an arcade filled with Indian restaurants and shops. Just steps from Strasbourg-Saint Denis, a quarter of Paris that hosts a diverse mix of people and cultures, Velan is one of the many businesses in Paris that are foreign yet embedded in the fabric of the city.

Left: Entrance to Passage – Right: Interior of Passage
Photographs by Samantha Gilliams

Velan caters to those who want authentic Indian ingredients and goods. They sell everything from Ayurvedic oils to hot green chilies to traditional Indian bangles. And the spices… They are all there.

Top: Ayurvedic Oils
Bottom Left: Jewelry – Bottom Right: Dried Goods

Photographs by Samantha Gilliams

I decided to purchase a few ingredients during my visit, as I was planning to host an Indian dinner party that night for friends with whom I traveled to southern India last December. I was able to find all the ingredients I needed to make the dishes that we ate at our hostel daily. Curry leaves, mustard seeds, lentils, spice mixes, naan (flatbread), coconut, okra… I used all these ingredients, plus some produce I picked up at another market, to make dinner for nine.

The ingredients I bought from left to right: whole coconut, MDH’s “Kitchen King” spice mix, sugar-coated fennel seeds, mustard seeds, idli mix, curry leaves, garlic naan, veggie chips, okra, turmeric, and lentils – Total cost: approx. 20€
Photograph by Samantha Gilliams

My friend Zoe, an ex-chef who had been in India with me, helped me prepare the dinner. We ended up making a vegetable curry with dal (using the MDH “Kitchen King” spice blend we bought at Velan), okra with a spicy tomato and chili sauce (similar to bhindi masala), buttery polenta with onions, mustard seeds, and curry leaves (inspired by Ven Pongal), and my favorite coconut chutney, from scratch.

All of the ingredients from Velan made it possible to make these dishes for nine people, in my 15-square meter studio apartment nonetheless!

Our Dinner!
Photograph by Samantha Gilliams

The dinner ended up being a lovely affair. The food was so comforting and a nice reminder of the flavors of my trip last December. I would recommend Velan to anyone who is missing or dreaming of the cuisine of India.

Velan
87, Passage Brady, 75010 Paris
velan.paris
01.42.46.06.06

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A Brunch Cruise on the Ourcq Canal

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
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On the heels of the 4th of July boat cruise that we took with the Seine-Saint-Denis Tourist Office (our blog of July 5), we took another cruise last Saturday. This one was called Croisière brunch sur l’Ourcq avec les Marmites volantes, and it promised to be as fun as the first.

Our Cruise Boat - The Henri IV Photograph by sss.DiscoverParis.net

Our Cruise Boat – The Henri IV
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Monique and I showed up at the Bassin de la Villette, the rendezvous point, at 11:15 a.m. A short time later, the boat pulled up to the dock.

Thomas Guillot Prepares to Greet Guests Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Thomas Guillot Prepares to Greet Guests
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Thomas Guillot of the Seine-Saint-Denis Tourist Office greeted us as we climbed on board. We went to the upper deck to enjoy the view while the boat got ready to shove off!

Enjoying the View from the Top Deck Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Enjoying the View from the Top Deck while Waiting for the Boat to Shove Off
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Lift Bridge on Rue de Crimée Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Lift Bridge on Rue de Crimée
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Bridge Rising Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Bridge Rising
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

The boat left the dock and we approached the lift bridge on rue de Crimée. The bridge rose, we passed under, and we were on our way!

Settling In for Brunch

Settling In for Brunch
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Then came the signal that brunch was served, and we filed down to the dining room where the tables were already set.

What We Had for Brunch Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

What We Had for Brunch
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Surprise! It was a vegetarian brunch! Here’s what we had –
Row one from left to right: Watermelon juice; Fresh country bread from La Conquête du Pain
Row two from left to right: Salad of carrot, red cabbage, white cabbage, pumpkin seed, and herbs; Salad of bulgar, beet, feta cheese, apricot, and parsley
Row three from left to right: Spanish omelet (potato tortilla); Fruit salad with white cheese and granola
Row four: Brownie with hazelnuts; carrot cake
Not pictured: Tomato gaspacho

Coffee and tea were available for free; wine and fruit juice were available for purchase.

It was a delicious, filling, and healthy meal.

Madalena Guerra with Her Marmites

Madalena Guerra with Her Marmites
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Madalena Guerra - Lelio Lemoine

Madalena Guerra and Lelio Lemoine
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Congratulations to Madalena Guerra and Lelio Lemoine, co-managers of Les Marmites Volantes, a restaurant that delivers freshly-made vegetarian and omnivore lunches to office workers in northeastern Paris. Sit-down dining at the restaurant is also available.

Rotonde de la Villette Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Rotonde de la Villette
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Returning to the Bassin de la Villette at the end of the cruise, we were treated to a spectacular view of the Rotonde de la Villette, one of the four remaining tax offices built by architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux in the 18th century .

A good time was had by all!

Special note: The Seine-Saint-Denis Tourist Office has organized other brunch cruises for the summer. Check out their Web site: http://www.tourisme93.com/visites/2002-6846-croisiere-brunch-sur-l-ourcq.html

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Which Dining Guide Do Most French Waitresses Recommend to Paris-bound Travelers?

Saturday, March 21st, 2015
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Waitress Admiring Our E-book

We like to think that the dining guide most French waitresses recommend is our new e-book Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light.

Entering into a restaurant in Paris can be a formidable experience for the uninitiated traveler. Not only do you have to contend with trying to make your wishes understood by a waiter or waitress who may or may not speak your language, but you must learn quickly how to adapt to local dining customs as well.

If you are a first- or second-time traveler to Paris, our new e-book, Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light, will provide you the with the knowledge and confidence that you need to enter into a Parisian restaurant to enjoy a fine meal and to have a wonderful dining experience.

Bonus!
Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light contains in-depth reviews of twelve of the author’s favorite restaurants.

Click here to order! http://amzn.to/1nkgCyu

Note: You don’t need a Kindle device to read Dining Out in Paris. Amazon.com provides FREE reader apps that work on every major tablet, smartphone, and computer so that you can read e-books on whatever type of device you own. Click here to learn more.

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Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know about the New French Law

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014
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Fait_maison_logo

Effective January 1st, a new French law takes effect that will change the way you select your food in French restaurants. On that date, all restaurants in France (whether they claim to prepare homemade dishes or not) will be required to indicate somewhere in the restaurant the definition of what a homemade dish is:

Les plats « faits maison » sont élaborés sur place à partir de produits bruts.

This sentence states that homemade dishes are those that have been prepared in-house from raw products.

Bringing consistency to the restaurant industry, the law goes on to state what comprises a homemade dish:

• “Prepared in-house” means that the raw products arrive from a supplier for elaboration in the kitchen of the restaurant.

• “Raw products” means that each element of the dish arrives at the restaurant in a raw state. It cannot have undergone cooking or transformation by other processes or have been mixed with other products that might have transformed it from its natural state.

However, the term “raw products” does not mean that the produce must arrive fresh from the farm. Between the farm and the restaurant, food items can undergo certain processes that do not affect their basic nature. Examples include cleaning, peeling (except for potatoes), slicing, cutting, deboning, shelling, grinding, milling, smoking, and salting, or processes that preserve them from spoilage, such as refrigeration, freezing, or sealing them in vacuum packs.

Recognizing that it would be impractical to impose the requirement that chefs make all of their ingredients in-house, the law goes on to list products that may be used even though they have undergone transformation from their natural state:

• Cured fish and sausage, but not terrines or pâtés
• Cheese, milk, sour cream, animal fat
• Bread, flour, and cookies
• Dried or candied vegetables and fruit
• Pasta and cereal
• Raw sauerkraut
• Rising agents, sugar, and gelatin
• Condiments, spices, herbs, concentrates, chocolate, coffee, tea
• Syrup, wine, alcohol, and liqueurs
• Blanched offal
• Raw puff pastry
• Fowl, fish, and meat stocks, subject to informing the consumer of their use.

Restaurants that claim to make homemade dishes must identify these dishes on their menus either with the notation “Fait maison” or with the “Fait maison” image (a roof of a house over a frying pan). Restaurants that claim that all of their dishes are homemade may indicate that fact before each dish or indicate it in a unique spot on the menu.

This new law has already provoked controversy in the restaurant industry, with some chefs wondering whether important ingredients that they have been using fall under the list of exceptions. Some wonder how homemade dishes they normally prepare that are accompanied with a transformed element that is not an exception might qualify under the law. An example of such a case would be a homemade crêpe served with an industrially-produced jam.

As for consumers, the new law should go a long way to remove the doubt about whether a dish that they order in a restaurant in France is homemade or not.

On your next trip to Paris, be sure to look for the “fait maison” logo when you dine out.

Bon appétit!

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Which Dining Guide Do Most French Waitresses Recommend to Give as a Gift to Paris-bound Travelers for Christmas?

Saturday, December 20th, 2014
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We like to think that the dining guide most French waitresses recommend for Christmas is our new e-book Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light.

Entering into a restaurant in Paris can be a formidable experience for uninitiated travelers. Not only do they have to contend with trying to make their wishes understood by a waiter who may or may not speak their language, but they must learn quickly how to adapt to local dining customs as well.

First- or second-time travelers to Paris will appreciate Dining Out in Paris because it will provide them with the knowledge and confidence that they need to enter into a Parisian restaurant to enjoy a fine meal and to have a wonderful dining experience. As an additional bonus, the book contains in-depth reviews of twelve of the author’s favorite restaurants.

Click here to order! http://amzn.to/1nkgCyu

Note: A Kindle reader is not required to read Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light. Amazon.com provides FREE reader apps that work on every major tablet, smartphone, and computer. Click here to learn more.

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Which Dining Guide Do Most French Waiters Recommend to Give as a Gift to Paris-bound Travelers for Christmas?

Saturday, December 6th, 2014
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Waiter-with-xmas

We like to think that the dining guide most French waiters recommend for Christmas is our new e-book Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light.

Entering into a restaurant in Paris can be a formidable experience for uninitiated travelers. Not only do they have to contend with trying to make their wishes understood by a waiter who may or may not speak their language, but they must learn quickly how to adapt to local dining customs as well.

First- or second-time travelers to Paris will appreciate Dining Out in Paris because it will provide them with the knowledge and confidence that they need to enter into a Parisian restaurant to enjoy a fine meal and to have a wonderful dining experience. As an additional bonus, the book contains in-depth reviews of twelve of the author’s favorite restaurants.

Click here to order! http://amzn.to/1nkgCyu

Note: A Kindle reader is not required to read Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light. Amazon.com provides FREE reader apps that work on every major tablet, smartphone, and computer. Click here to learn more.

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Cooking Bœuf à la Bourguignonne with Ann Mah

Friday, October 10th, 2014
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Ann Mah bookcover

Last year Ann Mah published a delightful book about French cuisine called Mastering the Art of French Eating. I became aware of it because my own recently-published book Dining Out in Paris—What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light treats a similar theme, namely French food and dining culture. I read her book in two evenings, and then decided to try one of her recipes, Bœuf à la Bourguignonne.

Essential Ingredients for Bœuf à la Bourguignonne

Essential Ingredients for Bœuf à la Bourguignonne
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

She calls this dish Bœuf à la Bourguignonne rather than Bœuf Bourguignon, because she believes that the reader should be able to use any kind of red wine, not just Burgundy wine. I purchased most of the ingredients from the local food market on rue Mouffetard, including a bottle of Rasteau, a Rhone Valley red, from Nicolas. From Pascal Gosnet I purchased two beef cheeks; from Picard Surgélé I purchased a bag of frozen pearl onions and a bag of frozen sliced button mushrooms; from Halles Mouffetard, I purchased an onion, a leek, and carrots; and from Franprix I purchased a small bottle of Cognac, a jar of juniper berries, and lardon matchsticks (bacon chopped into small slivers). I already had the other ingredients in the pantry.

I allotted an entire afternoon for the preparation of the dish. By the time I was finished I had lots of pots, pans, and utensils to wash! But the next day, when my wife and I set down to dinner, I concluded that the hearty dish was worth the effort.

Chopped Leek and Carrots

Chopped Leek, Onion, and Carrots
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I chopped the leek, onion, and carrots into 1″ pieces as Ann instructed.

Cubed Beef

Cubed Beef
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I cut the beef cheeks into 3″ pieces. This was the hard part, because my knife wasn’t sharp and because a membrane on the cheek was too tough to cut. I removed it by cutting away at the meat rather than at the membrane. I saved this meaty scrap and boiled it later for beef stock. Then, I put everything in the pot (except the meat scrap) to await the wine bath in which the vegetables and beef would be immersed.

Pouring Wine into the Pot

Pouring Wine into the Pot
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I poured the wine into the pot. Naturally, I tasted the wine first: it was medium-bodied with a rich aroma of red fruits. Very nice!

Then I covered the pot, making sure that all of the meat was immersed, and put it in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

Browning the Meat

Browning the Meat
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

The following day I removed the beef chunks from the marinade and put them in a frying pan with olive oil to brown. Ann said that they would turn golden and crusted, but they never did. Oh, well.

Browning the Vegetables

Browning the Vegetables
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I removed the meat from the frying pan and set it aside. Then I browned the vegetables. They never got very brown either, so I had to pretend that they were browned.

Flaming the Cognac

Flaming the Cognac
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I put the vegetables and meat back into the frying pan and flamed them with cognac. Then, I returned the beef and vegetables to the pot with the marinade and let them simmer for three hours.

Sautéed Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, and Bacon

Sautéed Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, and Lardon Matchsticks
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I prepared the garniture: sautéed mushrooms, pearl onions, and lardon matchsticks. This all went into the pot with the beef, vegetable, and marinade to simmer for an additional ten minutes.

Bœuf à la Bourguignonne

Bœuf à la Bourguignonne
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

It was finished. Voilà! (The vegetables are discarded. The beef is served without the marinade. Later, I used the marinade to make a rich cabbage and carrot soup.)

At the Table

At the Table
Bœuf à la Bourguignonne Served with Mushrooms,
Lardon Matchsticks, Green Beans and Quinoa

Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

It was truly a dish that was suitable for serving on a chilly fall day. We found the beef to be tender with a somewhat gamey flavor. I speculated that the flavor came from the mushrooms, wine, and smoked bacon, not from the meat. (I tasted the meat in the beef stock that had been prepared without marinade, and it didn’t taste gamey.) There was enough beef left over for another meal, which we had two days later.

Thank you, Ann Mah, for writing the book and sharing the recipe for this savory dish!

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Which Dining Guide Do Most French Waiters Recommend to Paris-bound Travelers?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
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Waiter Holding Copy of Dining Out In Paris

We like to think that the dining guide most French waiters recommend is our new e-book Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light.

Entering into a restaurant in Paris can be a formidable experience for the uninitiated traveler. Not only do you have to contend with trying to make your wishes understood by a waiter who may or may not speak your language, but you must learn quickly how to adapt to local dining customs as well.

If you are a first- or second-time traveler to Paris, our new e-book, Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light, will provide you the with the knowledge and confidence that you need to enter into a Parisian restaurant to enjoy a fine meal and to have a wonderful dining experience.

Bonus!
Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light contains in-depth reviews of twelve of the author’s favorite restaurants.

Click here to order! http://amzn.to/1nkgCyu

Note: You don’t need a Kindle device to read Dining Out in Paris. Amazon.com provides FREE reader apps that work on every major tablet, smartphone, and computer so that you can read e-books on whatever type of device you own. Click here to learn more.

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Tasting Mediterranean Dishes at Bistrot Mavrommatis

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
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Bistrot Mavrommatis

Bistrot Mavrommatis on Rue Duphot
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Monique and I were recently invited to sample a new line of Mediterranean dishes that Bistrot Mavrommatis, a restaurant, catering, and take-away service, offers for business luncheons and seminars. The tasting took place in the upstairs dining room of the restaurant, located at 18, rue Duphot in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.

We entered the handsome food shop, where I saw several customers at the sales counter ordering take-away, and made our way up the spiral staircase to the dining room. There, on a table on one side of the room, we saw all of the “coffrets” (individual servings of food assembled as a four-course meal) laid out for our inspection. Each assembled meal was arranged on a tray, and each had its own name. All were inspired by Mediterranean cuisine: Italian, Greek, Spanish, Moroccan, French, and Mid-Eastern.

Coffret Petra

Coffret Petra
Photograph courtesy of Mavrommatis

For example, Coffret Petra contained a tabbouleh salad, a cucumber stuffed with tzatziki (thick yoghurt with herbs), thin slices of lamb stewed with cumquats and baby vegetables, Kasséri cheese, a red-fruit crumble, and a bread roll. Each course was protected in its own clear plastic box, which were all carefully arranged on a serving tray. Mavrommatis offers eleven different coffrets, and all of the food (except for the cheeses, bread, and certain desserts) is prepared in its kitchens.

Assortment of Appetizers

Assortment of Appetizers
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

After we viewed each of the coffrets, we proceeded to another table where samples of the food were presented as little appetizers. These we got to taste.

I particularly enjoyed the tabbouleh, a salad made from chopped dill; the aubergine caviar, a preparation of smoked eggplant; the dolma, which are rice- and meat-stuffed grape leaves; and the pissaladière, an onion and anchovy tart. All good…all appetizing. While we dined, cocktail-style, a waiter circulated to pour white and red wines. The crisp white wine called Santorini Argyros – 2012 – Assyrtiko, went especially well with these dishes.

Desserts

Desserts
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

The big surprise came when the desserts were served…and how sweet it was! I tasted baba, a yeast cake soaked in limoncello and served with a small dollop of pistachio paste. The chocolate tart was rich and bittersweet; and the traditional Greek baklava was sublime.

Eric Julien - Sales Director

Eric Julien – Sales Director
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

We met the sales director of Mavrommatis, Eric Julien. He and his staff readily answered all of our questions about the ingredients of the food that we tasted. Orders for the coffrets can be made up until 5:30 p.m. on the day before the business event.

Bistrot Mavrommatis
18, rue Duphot
75001 Paris
Telephone: 01.42.97.53.04

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A Cocktail Dînatoire at Mavrommatis

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
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Mavrommatis

Mavrommatis
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I was happy when I recently received an invitation to attend a cocktail dînatoire at Mavrommatis, a Greek restaurant located at 42, rue Daubenton in the 5th arrondissement in Paris. This would be an opportunity to learn more about Greek food and to get reacquainted with the restaurant that I have reviewed on two occasions for our Paris Insights – The Restaurant Review page.

I last reviewed the restaurant on March 19, 2012, and at that time was quite pleased with the cuisine, ambiance, and service there. “Has the food changed? Has it gotten even better?” I wondered. I was soon to find out that it would exceed all expectations!

Dining Room

Dining Room
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I was one of the first to arrive and had a chance to stroll freely around the two handsome dining rooms before other guests came. I admired the tables set with food and drink and read some of the table cards that announced the names of the dishes:

Crevette obsiblue, pates avoine, jus de crustacé, condiment roquette, artichaut et mastiha (Obsiblue prawns with oat pasta, crustacean juice, rocket, artichoke and mastic condiment)
Bar de ligne mariné aux algues et citron (Bass marinated in algae and lemon)
Saint Jacques grillées marinées aux épices (Grilled scallops marinated in spices)
Huitres au raifort, crème de choux fleur et mastiha (Oysters with horseradish, cream of cauliflower and mastic)
Chocolat et mastiha (Chocolate and mastic)
Crème de lait à la fleur d’oranger et masthia (Cream of rice with orange blossom and mastic)
Riz au lait et mastiha (Rice pudding with mastic)

One can readily see from the names of these dishes that masthia (mastic) was a featured ingredient. Mastic is a resin from the mastic tree, traditionally produced on the Greek island of Chios. To my taste, it has a mild flavor of pine.

Enosis and Metaxa

Enosis and Metaxa
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I started the evening with a cocktail made from Metaxa, a grape brandy fortified with Muscat grape, herbs, and rose petals. The cocktail was mixed with Enosis (a mastic liqueur), tonic water, and mint. It was a refreshing beverage with a nutty flavor.

Hot Entrées

Hot Entrées
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Waiters began circulating, presenting platters of warm, savory appetizers, including keftèdes and crispy pittas.

Red Mullet in Mousse of Lobster

Red Mullet in Mousse of Lobster
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

I also enjoyed a goblet of red mullet and tarmasalata (fish paste) in a lobster mousse flavored with mastic, all topped with a layer of green-apple gelatin.

Chocolates with Mastic

Chocolates with Mastic
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

By the time dessert was served, I was quite sated, but couldn’t resist trying a dark chocolate ganache. It, too, was flavored with mastic.

I met two of the founders of Mavrommatis, several members of the staff, and several VIPs.

Mavrommatis Brothers - Andréas and Evagoras

Mavrommatis Brothers – Andréas and Evagoras
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Christophe Roy - Restaurant Manager

Christophe Roy – Restaurant Manager
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Marios Lyssiotis - Ambassador of Cyprus to France - Anna Papasawa - Consul

Marios Lyssiotis – Ambassador of Cyprus to France
Anna Papasawa – Consul

Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Hélène Moussoulos - Communauté Chypriote de France

Hélène Moussoulos
Chargée des Relations Publiques for the Cypriot Community of France

Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Madame Moussoulos told me that in her opinion Mavrommatis serves the best Mediterranean cuisine in all of Europe. (That would include Cyprus and Greece!)

A good time was had by all!

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