Hidden Kitchen

I am not the first Paris blogger to write about Hidden Kitchen. Heck, the NY Times, Food and Wine Magazine and about 8 million other blogs beat me to the punch years ago. But I still feel it’s my duty to report back on what was one of the most awesome dinners I’ve had so far in Paris. In life. Ever.

Ok, some of that effusive HK love could be the 6 or so wine pairings plus one spectacular vodka/champagne/pomegranate cocktail talking (3 days later). But there really were so many things that made the evening exceptionally special. Let’s start with the premise: HK is a private supper club, founded by two fairly recent (I’m talking 3 years ago) college grads  when they moved to Paris. They thought hosting 10-course tasting menu dinners for 16 strangers would be a fun way to meet people.

Flash forward to now: Laura and Braden (hi! remember me? I want to be your intern!) are hosting guests at their beautiful Parisian apartment twice a week, and are currently booked through FEBRUARY. Oh, and because they just couldn’t possibly be any cooler, they consult on the side for places like Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma (god I feel like a worthless old fart).

Not bad, huh? I would still be wallowing in jealousy and self hatred if it weren’t for the fact that I cannot get the tiny rabbit pot pies out of my head. Yes, a bite size, mustardy, shredded rabbit pot pie with a perfectly flaky crust. Or how about the crispy pork belly, dressed up with broccoli-cheddar potatoes inspired by Wendy’s? And please do not forget the fact that after an obscenely apt fall dessert of gingerbread and persimmon sherbet, we were presented with homemade Reeses peanut butter cups.

I think that’s about when I offered to help out, ANY TIME THEY NEEDED ME. Braden graciously laughed, I chuckled, and then looked him dead in the eye and said, No really, I’ll be here first thing Monday. Thankfully Husband swooped in and pushed me out the door before anyone could see the crazy in my eyes.

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Hidden Kitchen

Reservations: The good news? All you have to do is email. The bad news? There’s a looooong wait. But they apparently often get cancellations, so checking in with them can’t hurt. All the info you need is here.

Location: At Braden and Laura’s apartment. They keep the address secret until about a week before the dinner. That’s the “hidden” part.

What you’re in for: A welcome cocktail; 10 tasting-menu size courses, made with market fresh, seasonal ingredients; Wine pairings that you’ll struggle to keep up with because the conversation and food is so good; A table full of 15 other guests from all over the world. Oh, and this lovable little guy:

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Vocab Friday: Cuillère

I apologize for the lateness of this post, but I was completely waylaid by a giant bowl of mousse au chocolat.

No, really. A chocolate dessert of epic proportions has an incredible way of sinking you into a happy stupor that makes it nearly impossible to get up at a decent hour the next day or really accomplish anything productive for the next 24 hours. Especially when said dessert was preceded by a few glasses of wine and a hunky piece of steak sprinkled with fresh herbs and sea salt.

But now that I’ve shaken my gustatory coma, I can tell you the tale of the most heart staggering, tears-of-joy inducing dessert I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant. It was at little place called Chez Janou, tucked back in the cobweb of streets behind the Place des Vosges.

Picture in your mind for a moment the cutest, most quintessential Parisian cafe: a cozy glow emanating from the windows, laughter drifting from the terrace, yellow walls and an old zinc bar. Now add a bunch of feisty hipster waitresses and a slightly raucous crowd sipping rosé. That’s Chez Janou. And it’s wonderful.

Except for the part where you’re waiting for nearly an hour for your main course to arrive because the place is so damn bustling that the two waitresses on duty can barely catch their breath. Or the part where you wait another 45 minutes for someone to clear your plates and bring a dessert menu. And you’ve run out of wine.

Let’s just say the charm was running thin by the time we actually had a chance to order dessert. But we stuck around, soaking up the atmosphere and agreeing that we should ask for the check as soon as possible, unless we wanted to witness the sunrise from our table.

And then I saw it: A comically huge, roughly hewn piece of pottery balanced on the hip of our tiny waitress. In the other hand she had two plates. I was confused. Didn’t we order chocolate mousse? That refrigerated pudding usually relegated to fancy glassware?

The crock landed on the table with a thud. I peered inside to see what can only be described as nirvana – a deep vat of dark chocolately wonder that looked rich and fluffy and unfathomably thick at the same time. The waitress handed us our plates and said, “Just don’t lick the serving spoon.”

Yes folks, I found a place that offers serve-your-self, all you can eat chocolate mousse. Let me type that again, just in case you didn’t understand: A big bowl of family-style chocolate heaven, entrusted to each diner who should be so brave to take on the challenge. Once you reach your fill, the waitress carries it off to the next lucky table.

Now some of you may be thinking, Gross! You’re eating out of the same bowl as other diners! And we may not be able to be friends anymore, because you’re totally missing the point. That’s why you don’t lick the serving spoon! And if we all promise not to eat too much and to not spit in the bowl, then we all get to profit from the wonders of the self-serve crock of chocolate! Very simple really, and a shining example of French socialism at its best.

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cuillère

Pronunciation: Nuts. This is a hard one, but if you say it really fast it’s something like coo-ee-air

Definition: Spoon. As in,

“Licking the self-serve cuillère in the giant shared vat of mousse au chocolat will get you kicked out of the restaurant and likely shunned by society as a whole.”