A divine tea experience

Tea indulgence at Mariage Freres in Paris

On a recent day trip to Paris I treated myself to a tea experience at Mariage Freres. Situated in the heart of the Marais area, this tea salon is a perfect respite for legs aching from a long Parisian promenade.  Once seated in the small colonial style dining room I was handed a tea menu and a little book, titled ‘The French Art of Tea’, to help in my selection. The book was perfect tea table reading covering history, selection, characteristics and food matching for all the main varieties of tea.  It was so informative that I bought one to bring home with me!  The menu was similarly impressive, a vast list of teas that are all available to taste.  Their storage must be huge.

The tea menu at Mariage Freres

I selected the top tea on the right hand column (and it wasn’t just because i was overwhelmed by the choice), called Tibetan White Tea.  Like any good white tea, it was delicate with a hint of fruit and beautiful perfume.  The tea came prepared and strained in a beautiful pot with it’s own felt insulation layer, so my brew stayed warm as I enjoyed my other indulgence.  Nothing marks a perfect Paris afternoon more than a cheeky cocktail so I selected the house named ‘Mariage’s', Marco Polo red tea with champenoise methode sparkling white wine.  The red tea was sweet and syrupy and added a lovely depth to the fresh and fruity wine. Gorgeous!

I will definitely be going back one day, after all there are so many more teas to try!  The menu also includes a whole range of snacks and meals prepared using different teas.  I can picture many more indulgent afternoons to come, I just have to get back to Paris.  It is such a pleasure to enjoy an experience where tea is front and centre, where it belongs.

Tea takes centre stage at Mariage Freres

Fish #2 (Europe)

My trip to Europe was a fantastic excuse to explore local cuisines and try foods that I don’t usually come across in Australia. I continued my mission to encourage variety in my fish consumption by taking every opportunity to eat dishes that included new types of fish. Some of these were prepared in restaurants or pubs, like the wonderful battered Haddock and pan-fried Halibut with chunky chips and mushy peas at Steels in the English seaside town of Cleethorpes, and some were cooked for me by friends.  Here is a selection of the highlights for me:

Grilled Sardines with sea salt crust, Matoshinos, Porto

Grilled Sardines with sea salt crust, Matoshinos, Porto

These giant sardines were cooked in front of us on a barbeque out in the street and served with garlic and olive oil potatoes, char-grilled capsicum and grilled squid.  Small fish like this are a great choice especially if, like me, you tend to eat a lot of much bigger fish like salmon.  The smaller the fish, the less time spent in the ocean accumulating waste.  If you can eat the whole fish there are other benefits: skin and organs contain high levels of omega 3 fatty acids and bones are a great source of calcium.

Codfish with Cornbread, Porto

Codfish with Cornbread, Porto

This dish had a simple name but stacks of flavour.  Based around Bacalhau, dried cod which is a specialty of Portugal (although often imported from Norway or Newfoundland), this was a new take on a fish pie with potato and leeks mixed with shredded cod and topped with a delicious cornbread crust.  I love a good fish pie, an excellent way to include some vegetables in your meal.

Scorpion Fish with zucchini, olives and piquillo peppers, Le Train Bleu, Paris

Scorpion Fish with zucchini, olives and piquillo peppers, Le Train Bleu, Paris

The full title for this dish is much longer and fancier than my description, but that is to be expected from one of the most incredible restaurants in Paris.  High above the hectic bustle of the Gare de Lyon, Le Train Bleu is an oasis.  Scorpion fish is a notoriously venomous species, however I found the flavour was lacking something, until I tried all the elements of the dish together and realised that the fish had been balanced to take the vegetables into account.  What a nice approach  – a meal where the meat and veges work together in perfect harmony!

Fresh Girelles royales

Fresh Girelles royales

Our friends in Provence introduced these beautiful fish as Girelles royales.  They were bought fresh that day and cooked for us on a barbeque hot plate.  We ate them whole with bread, white wine and sunshine. Magnifique.

Grilled Girelles royales

Grilled Girelles royales, Provence