05 May 2009

A week in review

You know things are rolling when there have been a lot of cool things to write about but no time to write. That's especially true when you're temporarily retired and theoretically have copious time to write. So I'll let pictures do most of the talking.

The last couple of weeks have finally been good weeks on the bike. I can't tell you how frustrating a winter it has been, but now that things are looking up, it feels great. To give an idea of the slow going, I averaged less than 6 h/month on the bike in Dec, Jan, and Feb, March saw an average of 3 h/week, and finally in April I got weeks of 3, 6, 9, and 15 h. The build came thanks in part to finally being healthy and working hard on stretching and rebuilding core strength, in part thanks to the visit of a friend (Sean) of a friend (Allen) from Philly, who came here for some business and biking, and in part thanks to randomly meeting a British ex-pat on the way back from the Longchamp Hamster Wheel who invited me to join a Sunday anglophone ride out of the city to the Chevreuse valley. As such, I can now update Karen's comment than one can't ride seriously in the city to say that there are escape and entry routes that allow for good riding from the apartment without having to take the train. Not many, mind you, but any is better than none. Anyway, both the roads and the company on the rides have been great, and I'm ready for a week off to try to recover. Feels fantastic to have to recover from hard riding, rather than being sick or hurt.

The 16e from Champ de Mars train station waiting for a train to the southern riding grounds

Chateau de la Madeleine in the Chevreuse: well worth the climb up

Rapeseed fields and wind farms in the south: just flat climbing here in the wind
Labbeville in the north
Taking blurry pictures in the Chevreuse
The blurry Chevreuse
Pre-ride breakfast
Walled hamlet in the south
Torfou, in the south
Counting stops on the way back from Pontoise, exhausted from all of that videography

In the middle of all of the riding we had dinner at Hidden Kitchen, an "underground restaurant" or supper club where the atmosphere is rather like a dinner party: a small number of people eats together at one dining table in an apartment for a suggested, though not optional, donation that covers the food and drink. There are number of these types of establishments around the US and now a couple in Paris. The night we were there, the 16 guests started the evening at 8:00 with an aperitif and worked our way through the menu below, finishing the petits fours about 5 hours later. The food was teriffic, imaginatively conceived and then executed with fresh ingredients and precise technique. It was decidedly not French food (the "hosts" are Americans from the Seattle area), being brighter with more layers of flavor and more playful, but it complements the French food here in the city very nicely. Definitely a fun evening, and with wine accompanying 7 of the 10 courses, the next day's early morning ride was a bit rough for awhile.

The 2nd course of the dinner really resonated with me, because I'd been waiting for good peas to make pea agnolotti. I'd originally been thinking minted pea filling, but the fava raviolo at Hidden Kitchen used chervil in the pea sauce, which was just an outstanding pairing. Never one to shy away from stealing a good idea, I did a pea-and-chervil filling, instead, evened out with an ad libbed substitute for mascarpone (a mixture of fromage blanc and blended cottage cheese). I sauced them in an intensely saffroned light cream sauce (infused chicken stock with saffron threads, reduced with a little cream and creme fraiche from my local fromagerie) and topped it off with a little sliced prosciutto and some chervil. I wish I'd made 3 times as much and frozen the agnolotti for lunches, because they were heavenly.


  1. A couple of random comments:

    1. Cream is such a nice carrier for saffron.

    2. The reason why magrets come cryo-vac'd is because of the disparate value of the parts compared to the whole: the duck industry is driven by the market for the foie while the cuisses and magret and feathers are (mostly) side-effects. That isn't nearly the case for other poultry.

    3. How'd you recognize each other as anglophone?

    4. I don't know if you TT at all but since you have a PT and are close to Longchamps, it's possible to calculate your aero drag. Ask Mayhew.

  2. We didn't recognize each other as anglophones until he commented about the nice weather in French as I passed him riding back toward the city, and my clumsy answer gave me away. First time my lousy French has been an advantage!

    I realized I'd like to have my TT bike to work on position and play with drag calculations the first time I rode Longchamp. Oh well-- the apartment is roomier without it.