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Armagnac choice in PDX area

I live in the Portland, Oregon metro area, and would like to buy a bottle of Armagnac. Choice is pretty limited, but I wonder if someone with some Armagnac knowledge/experience might be able to help me narrow down my options. Here's my list of choices:

Sempe' VSOP
Sempe' 15 year old
Demontal VSOP
Les Domaines Grassa
Lasrressingle VSOP

The 15 yo Semp' is getting a wee bit out of my comfortable price range, but I saw a reference to it online where it was referred to as "beloved." The Grassa was another mentioned in glowing terms.

Many thanks!

Mar 02, 2013
krystof in Spirits

You get what you pay for

On my first trip to Paris, in August 1995, my premier dinner was at Laurent off the Champs-Elysees. The most I'd ever spent for a meal, around $150, but very well worth it. I had a superb main course of lamb rack with tapenade, and a fabulous bottle of 1989 St. Emiion. Don't remember the starter or the desert.

Another spendy meal was a few years later in Vienna at Korso. Chef's tasting menu with Austrian wines. A real experience. Likely around $125.

I have a friend who has the same birthday and we regularly would go out for "lavish" birthday meals. One year we dined at the Windsor Court in New Orleans and I think the tab, with tip and wine, came to $400. We never topped that!

Sep 17, 2012
krystof in General Topics

What foods do NOT live up to their reputation or hype, in your opinion?

I second the motion for caviar, and sea urchin.

Bananas. I hate them.

Fresh fruit that isn't ripe.

Tomatoes out of season.

I second Balsamic vinegar. Unless it's the aged type.

Al dente vegetables of any kind. Al dente DOES NOT mean partially cooked, one step beyond raw.

The sandwiches in Pittsburgh with cole slaw. That just doesn't work for me.

White chocolate.

Pickled herring.

Deli sandwiches with more than 1/2" high meat. Bad.

Brains; kidneys; most liver, except foie gras.

Sep 17, 2012
krystof in General Topics

A newbie to France/Paris with no French skills

Aug 20, 2012
krystof in France

Dinner Near Eiffel Tower

Both times I dined at CC I went in at the beginning of dinner service, and watched at my table while the place completely filled up. So, as John mentions for lunch, the same is true at dinner.

Aug 17, 2012
krystof in France

Dinner Near Eiffel Tower

I second Cafe Constant, but the owner has several restos on the street that are supposed to be good, including Violon d'Ingres. I've eaten at CC twice, a few years back, and both times it was great, and reasonably priced. Both times I had memorable strolls in the neighborhood after - one time around the Tower, the other time just strolling through the neighborhood. Wonderful!

Aug 16, 2012
krystof in France

Should You Tell Your Host He's About to Poison You?

It's ridiculous to marinate it for four hours at room temp. An hour's marination at room temp would be fine. Why don't they marinate it OVERNIGHT in the 'fridge? Duh.

Aug 16, 2012
krystof in Features

A newbie to France/Paris with no French skills

Your question regarding my statement about English menus has already been answered. Yet another reason is when you are in Paris on a budget, the places to seek out are the restos frequented by regulars - which most definitely will not have English menus.

I understand about the book thing with being in Iran. But I still would like to suggest purchasing a pocket map when you get to Paris. BHV is a large department store where you can find almost anything including all kinds of maps - and likely a Marling Menu

Make sure you have a croissant from a good boulangerie. To die for... and raspberry tart (tart aux framboises). heaven...

Best of luck on your trip and I hope you enjoy it!

Aug 14, 2012
krystof in France

Pressure-cooker chicken stock [split from France board]

Here's my recipe:
4-6 chicken legs (just legs)
2 carrots sliced into 1/2" pieces
2 celery stalks slice the same
1 large onion halved then sliced in 1/4" slices (you can also use green leek tops)
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
5 peppercorns
1 clove
parsley stems

cover with water up to about 3 inches from the lip of the cooker.
Bring up to temp. Cook 25-45 minutes under pressure. Let pressure naturally release.

If you use a 4 quart, this should yield about 3 quarts of stock. If the flavor isn't deep enough, boil it down by half or more.

I oftentimes will be down this stock to about two cups of very intense stock. You could, if you have the space, pour these into ice cubs trays and freeze them.

Personally, I would prefer this to any cube or powdered product.

Aug 14, 2012
krystof in Home Cooking

Pressure-cooker chicken stock [split from France board]

If you are going to be in France for awhile, I would heartily recommend buying a small pressure cooker. I have two, the smallest of which is 4 quarts, made by Fagor, whose products are sold in France. You can make homemade stock in approximately 45 minutes, including prep time, in the cooker. I do it all the time. It's a lifesaver, and I don't have to buy stock. Plus you'll have some nice leftover chicken. (I use legs from Trader Joe's.)

For some reason, people still have this idea that pressure cookers are a problem. As long as you follow the instructions, they are easy and quick.

Aug 14, 2012
krystof in Home Cooking

A newbie to France/Paris with no French skills

First thing to keep in mind: don't worry about the issue of speaking French. As stated before, as long as you can and DO say "bonjour" and "bonsoir," you're going to be treated better than someone who doesn't make the attempt. Listen to how the locals say it, to, because inflection is important - and basically pretty easy. Even though the standard misconception in the states is the French are rude, my experience is Americans seem that way to the French because we are so used to NOT using the basic greetings. Saying "bonjour" to anyone - the cab driver, the hotel staff, the metro window clerk - immediately sets you apart from the tourist who doesn't attempt these things.

Get yourself a food translating dictionary. Marling's Menu Master, which is available on Amazon and in many bookstores, is very good. Not the best, mind you, but very good. Get one before you go over, by all means. Also, get yourself a decent French phrasebook with an abridged dictionary included. I think the one published by Lonely Planet is quite good. BTW, that's a good thing to study on the trip over!

I would also recommend getting a pocket sized map of Paris, and start checking out where the places are you might be interested in eating. That way, you'll know where the places are in relation to metro stops. Pick up a metro map. These are free at the stations where there is a real person (some metro stations just have machines for tickets). Likely there will be a tiny one in the Paris map book, too.

I just did a quick look on Amazon for books. If you are OK with used, you can get the Marling book, a Michelan Map of Paris by district (arrondissement), and the phrasebook for less than $20. I can't stress enough how important these things are.

Likely if you're doing a package deal, they will include breakfast with your hotel. If they want you to pay for it - don't. You can always get cheaper and better breakfast at a cafe in Paris. But don't be tempted to sit outside as you'll be charged more. (Unless you specifically want the experience.)

Avoid any restaurant that has an English menu or photos of the dishes outside. ;-)

You have been given a lot of great suggestions for restaurants. Check them out online with yelp, trip advisor, or google, read the reviews. You can get a lot of great information that way. Sometimes you can even read the menus, and using your food dictionary and NOT google translator, prepare yourself for the experience. I check out menus all the time this way (mostly, however, to get ideas for cooking).

Make sure to go to a food market while you are there, even if you don't intend to buy anything. It's a great experience.

I'm in no way proficient in French although I've spent a good deal of time there, including living in Paris for about six months. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and not worry about it. Don't have a panic attack!

Aug 14, 2012
krystof in France

If the cafe only accepts cash should they get pissy if you want to include some coins in your payment?

Then there's even LESS reason for them to get pissy if they are paid in cash.

Consumers these days have many choices where to take their business, and owners need to realize this. The OP obviously is a regular customer there and to treat a regular this way is a lousy way to run their business.

Aug 07, 2012
krystof in Not About Food

If the cafe only accepts cash should they get pissy if you want to include some coins in your payment?

It's ridiculous in this age not to accept credit cards in a coffee place. Of course, every business has the right to do whatever they please regarding payment. But if this happened to me, I'd take my business somewhere else.

You paid the correct amount in CASH. I think if I was in that situation, I would have said "oh, I'm sorry, let me go to the atm and I'll bring back a $20 bill." Likely your cash would be perfectly acceptable, given the alternative.

Next time you go, offer them a $50 bill for your latte' ;-)

Seriously, I wouldn't patronize their business. It's time for them to join the 21st century.

Aug 07, 2012
krystof in Not About Food