Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lyon; Café des Fédérations

For my birthday, about three weeks ago, my boyfriend treated me out to dinner. I told him the only time I went to a bouchon it was in the old Lyon and it wasn't authentic, so he brought me to the Café des Fédérations, in the 1er arrondissement.

We got there kind of late (around 9pm) and were lucky enough to get some seats because the other rooms were full and two other couples were waiting at the door but couldn't make a decision whether to eat there or another place.

You get in there and see all kinds of pig related stuffs (pictures, sculptures, you name it), some sausages hanging over the cash register and an old map of Lyon. It was quite dark inside and people were talking loudly (there were two groups and everyone was drinking) so if you're not in the mood for noise (which was my boyfriend's case that night) this might not be the right place for you.

Basically you come in and pay for a menu. Entrées and desserts are included. Prices and menus are different on lunch and dinner times.

The appetizer, or mise en bouche, was a poached egg in red wine and smoked pork sauce. It was kind of salty and the textures and flavors were very interesting, hard to explain and sort of strange but really good.


Then the entrées came, three of them.

The charcuterie lyonnaise plate was basically rosette, some terrine, and another kind of sausage (the one on the right) which was sort of hard. Everything was quite fat (which is to expect actually). Also very different from the stuff I usually buy at the grocery store and you can tell the quality is much better.


The salade lyonnaise is basically bitter greens with croutons, fried pork (kind of like bacon) and a mustard and egg dressing. Never had it before and it's a recipe I would actually like to recreate at home. Don't ask me why but I like bitter veggies ... like endives and radicchio (most people I know hate them) but yet I can't stand celery and fennel. Go figure. Anyways, the flavors were well balanced, with the saltiness from the fried pork and the tartness and tanginess from the mustard and egg vinaigrette.


The caviar de la Croix-Rousse is basically a lentil salad. I honestly do not remember the flavors and so I cannot describe to you what it tasted like but I remember liking it ... and I also remember my boyfriend telling me not to stuff myself on bread.


Then our main courses came. My boyfriend ordered a gras double, which is basically tripe fried in pork fat, served with a side of gratin dauphinois. I found it very fat and rich (and even with a little bit of my help we couldn't finish the plate) but very good. The tripe were very crispy on one side and soft on the other. The gratin was also very rich and so cute! I think presenting sides in a circular shape is a win.


For my part I had a quenelle sauce Nantua because I never had quenelle before. It's basically a folded dough with fish oven cooked in a sauce. The Nantua sauce is made with béchamel and crayfish. It was also very rich (you could tell butter was involved in every step of the recipe) and the quenelle was soft and airy inside. It felt heavier than my boyfriend's meal but I didn't have trouble eating it, because it didn't taste fat. It wasn't salty, which surprised me, because I had started getting used to the fat that French people like their food salty.


After we were finished and our plates were taken away, we got a cheese platter. Most cheeses were quite old and strong, and some of them were really tricky (ooh what's that soft sweet smelling cheese ... oh god this is the strongest shit I've had in my life). We only tried very small bits because we were too full. I liked the fact that it was a shared cheese platter, you know, à la bonne franquette. I don't mind that as long as people are respectful and don't lay their dirty hands all over the place.


Obviously a meal isn't complete if you don't have a part of cervelle des canuts which is, by the way, not actual brain (though the first time I heard about it I thought that's what it was). If you don't know what it is, it's kind of like chive and herbs Boursin, with a creamier texture.


At the end when the waitress asked us what we wanted for dessert we just said no thank you ... we seriously started hating ourselves and we couldn't shove anything down our throats anymore. In all honesty, we don't eat much in the evening and the entrées alone were enough for us. Sadly, the dessert is included in the menu. Even the table besides us was moaning (but happily, like it wasn't an actual complaint but still) "Oh no, wait, there's also dessert? Oh god no..."

Oh here, a picture of the pretty glass in which I had my beer. Maybe drinking beer wasn't much of a good idea neither.


Overall the food was good, the ambiance was very friendly, but the service ... it's hard to explain. The waitress and the chef were really nice people, but they sort of rushed us because we were taking our time eating our entrées. What happened is quenelle tends to bloat a lot once you put it in the oven. The waitress came and told us the quenelle was ready and needed to be taken out of the oven. My boyfriend told her it was fine and she could bring it out but she said "We don't do that here." So we sort of hurried up finishing our entrées, which kinda sucked and put my boyfriend in a bad mood. At the end, when it was time to pay, he told her how he felt and instead of answering "I'm sorry, I didn't realized I made you feel rushed" all she said was "Well the quenelle was rising, we had to take it out". Overall we felt like we didn't enjoy our meals as much as we could have just because of that.

Do I recommend the Café des Fédérations? I do actually. It was much more worth it (price wise and quality wise) than the bouchon I tried in the old Lyon. Now I don't think all bouchons in the old Lyon are bad, but because it's a very touristic place it's easy to trick people into thinking they're eating in an authentic bouchon (and also higher up the prices). I remember there was steak on the menu when I went ... which is not bouchon food.

For more information on the Café des Fédérations : http://www.lesfedeslyon.com/

Until next time!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Marseille; La Cité Radieuse

As a future urban planner, I try to visit every city's important urban landmark or project. Marseille is known for being the home of Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse, an important housing project that was, unfortunately (or maybe it's a good thing) rejected by the population. This project is known by architecture and urban planning students because of its key concepts and mostly because Le Corbusier is the father of modernism. Today a lot of people still live in it, but most apartments have been converted to offices. Marie-Eve and I went to take a look on the second day, but we discovered we needed to make a reservation on the tourism office website and pay 10€ for the visit, so we decided to come back another day.




As you can see the building is elevated above the ground, because the idea was to free the most ground area possible for circulation and to have more green space for the inhabitants.


One of the sides was under maintenance because of a fire incident that happened about two years ago. Actually about half of the building has been damaged. Sucks eh? A lot of people lost their homes because of it.


I knew the Cité Radieuse was big ... but seeing it in real life is impressive. Not the biggest thing I have ever seen (I live in Montreal and I've been to Toronto and New York many times) but because it's made of concrete and the ground is pretty much cleared off of anything, it just seems even more imposing. What's that called again? Oh yeah, brutalism. But hey, look at the balconies and their colors. That's actually cute.


Some interesting concrete window, with normal transparent glass and colored glass.


We already knew Le Corbusier was obsessed with functionalism and circulation flows but he thought it to the littlest details : even the doors make sure there is no problem with people coming in and out. Half of the doors open from the outside while the other half open from the inside. Interesting, right? But confusing at first when you try to open a door that doesn't have a handle ...

The day we had to leave, we came back for our visit but totally forgot to make a reservation through the tourism office website. Fortunately for us we were lucky enough to meet people that work in the building (the security guy at the reception office and the restaurant owner) who introduced us to a lovely lady who lives there and, well, made us visit her apartment and taught us SO MUCH about the building's story and the design.



Every door is painted a different color and the red boxes were used to stock ice for refrigeration (a cooler is integrated in the kitchen's design because, back in the days, fridges didn't exist).

I didn't take pictures of the lady's apartment for, well, respect of her privacy. Still, it was very interesting to see the way her apartment evolved as she, her husband and her son evolved as well. Not only could she talk about her day-to-day experience (she's been living there for, well, forever) but she also retrieved a lot of information from a designer. I swear, though I always thought Le Corbusier was totally nuts and had crazy unsustainable ideas, the interior design was thought to the littlest of details and, well, it was simply genius. Now I can't say anything because it would take too long (and we actually stayed about an hour and a half with the lady).

After that long chat with the lady, we went on the roof and saw the kid's pool, the elementary school, and even the projection screen used for movies or plays.











The whole thing was designed to be like ... a boat. The interior of the apartments were like boat cabins and even the roof really made us feel like we were on a gigantic boat looking over the city. I wish there was some green on the roof though.


This is one of the offices galleries. That's also where we opened the wrong door and ended up having to leave the building by taking the weird ass scary concrete stairs outside.

So that's it for today guys! If you ever go to Marseille and are interested in architecture and urban planning I highly suggest you pay a visit to the Cité Radieuse. If you want to, you can make a reservation right here or go to the restaurant, talk to the manager and tell her you'd like to visit. I can't give out the name of the lady who's making people visit her apartment because I don't know if she might get into trouble for that ...

Until next time!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Marseille; Day 1

Hi guys! Back in March I went to Marseille with my friend Marie-Eve, where we have a friend living there for the semester because he's an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence. We took the TGV and when we got there we fetched a map from the Information desk and started walking towards the Old port.

This is the view we got when getting out of the St-Charles train station.


Some Arc de triomphe we came across by accident while looking for the way to the Old port.


We randomly saw this church in the distance and started walking towards it. We decided to visit the Cathedral Saint-Marie-Majeure, also called "pajamas" church because of its black and white stripes.


There was a lot of construction work all around it. Apparently the City is working on a new public place to make the whole Old port and new museums ensemble better linked together. For now they just look like different sets that have nothing to do with each other.





We had amazing views on the Mediterranean Sea, the new museums, the forts ... oh and that's when we discovered Marseille is a FREAKING WINDY city. Damnit. By the way I got my hair cut not long after we got back.






We saw some kitsch tourist train that offered two circuits : one around the town and the other one around the old part of the city. We took the latter and our driver was really funny because he realized we were Canadians. I don't know why but people seem to like Canadians.


I didn't take pictures during the tour because I can't stand taking pictures while moving ... or with a vehicle frame all around the picture.


When we got to the subway station Vieux Port, we saw this huge mirror just hanging above the public place.



Our friend lives near the subway station Cinq Avenues Longchamp. Though we didn't take the subway because we felt like walking around a bit more and get to know the city better. Oh, and we got into a totally Maghreb like market street. Like. We thought we were in Algeria or Morocco. Anyways! The Palais Longchamp looked totally beautiful at night.



The Palais Longchamp has a garden and kinder park in the back. It's also two museums : beaux arts and natural history. According to my friend Gabriel, it was built to celebrate the construction of the Marseille canal and thus solving the problem of providing water to the constantly expanding city. Yay guys we got water! Now let's waste it!

Finally we got to Gabriel's place and went out to get a bottle of wine, some stuffs for breakfast, and a tartiflette pizza.


Gosh were we hungry.

So that's it for today folks! Some more is coming about my trip to Marseille. I hope you enjoy it so far!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Lyon; HD Diner

Hi guys! Today's post will be quite short, since I have gotten back from Dublin only two days ago and am already leaving for Bruxelles.

In March my friend Marie-Eve turned 28. To celebrate her birthday we went to HD Diner, a restaurant located in the shopping center La Part-Dieu and which design and concept is inspired from American Diners.

Her boyfriend made a reservation for 10 people and though some of us were late (especially the birthday couple) our table was still waiting for us. When we got in the restaurant was full, so I was actually grateful they didn't cancel our reservation (some restaurants do if you're more than 15 minutes late).

The whole thing was pink and baby blue, with chairs and tables designed exactly like in the diners you find in the USA. We were all quite hungry, so the waiter took our orders.

I ordered a Route 66 : Double patty, 3 cheeses (comté, reblochon, and I don't remember the third one), confit tomatoes, pepper sauce.

Pictures were taken with my cellphone.



All burgers are served with a side of thyme French fries.

My boyfriend had the Avocado burger, but I didn't snap a picture because I was too busy with my own food. It's basically a burger with fresh avocado, guacamole and cheese.

Your patty is cooked to your liking (most of us asked for rare, only the non-French ones asked for well cooked). Everything was good enough, even the buns were slightly toasted. You have a slice of pickle, tomato and Roman lettuce on your plate so you can put them in your burger if you feel like it but honestly I found these were poor toppings (they looked pitiful on the plate).

Overall the burgers were good and the fries also (though maybe a little dry) but I found the service quite bad. First, it took our waiter about 10 minutes after we sat down to come and take our drink orders (my boyfriend and I only wanted to drink water, so it sort of sucked for us to wait 10 minutes just to get a glass of water which, by the way, the waiter didn't fill during our meal until one of our friends asked him to refill my glass). Then it took him another 10 to 15 minutes to get our food orders. At least the food didn't take too long to arrive (maybe another 10 to 15 minutes), but that means we started eating 30-45 minutes after we sat down. This is a freaking burger place. Not an Italian restaurant.

Then at the end he came and took the desserts orders. My boyfriend and I didn't order any because we weren't hungry enough for that. I think everyone ordered milkshakes.

Do I recommend HD Diner? Yes and no. The concept is cool, the names of the meals are funny, the selection is pretty wide, but the quality of the food is normal (thus this place is overpriced for what it's worth) and the service is bad. Well it was bad that night, I don't think it's always like that, but if it is then it sucks. Still you could give it a try, I found it was worth the experience but I don't think I would want to come back unless it's to take out.

That's it for today! Until next time!

For more information on HD Diner : http://www.happydaysdiner.com/
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