Similar to my inability to choose a favorite dish, I simply cannot pick a favorite restaurant. Though if I had to make a top list, one of them would surely be Christian Constant's
Les Cocottes in Paris. I normally lean towards the hidden gems and steer clear of publicized places (I think as soon as Anthony Bourdain dines anywhere, crowds are sure to follow and diminish a restaurant's unveiled charm), but I can not get enough of this place.

What I look for in a great restaurant is a memorable style, food that is innovative, balanced and well flavored, and great service. This restaurant easily exudes all three and excels in the food category.

Hidden away on Rue Saint Dominique in the 7th arrondissement, the narrow space offers mostly bar seating and only 2 or 3 tables. The dining room reflects a calm, simplistic style. I particularly enjoy the skylight that creates beautiful light during lunchtime hours.

While Paris is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, it also holds innumerable mediocre bistros, commonly lacking in quality, creativity, and ambiance. Unfortunately I experienced a fair share of these during my search for a neighborhood culinary haven. Once I discovered Les Cocottes a few blocks from my apartment, I became infatuated and ate there more times than I'd care to admit. The dishes are consistently gorgeous, flavorful, and executed to perfection. Their menu changes often based on seasons, so I always ordered the prix fixe in order to sample more than one item and of course finish with the unforgettable tarte au chocolat

Everything I've had there has been phenomenal, but one soup, specifically the velouté d'artichauts, or artichoke soup, I had during Spring has really stuck with me.

I'm almost positive that their version is enriched with cream, but my trick for making a pureed soup more rich is by adding white beans.

Trimming artichokes can be difficult, but getting to their tender inner leaves and heart is well worth it. If you don't have the patience for using whole artichokes (I don't blame you), using store bought artichoke hearts work fine as well.

I believe soups, especially straightforward vegetable soups, should remain as minimal as possible. The vegetable's flavor should shine through and not be over dominated by other unnecessary ingredients. I combine leeks, garlic, and artichokes (the white beans only act as a thickener) to create an astonishingly flavorful dish. You would never be able to guess how simple this soup is to prepare after tasting it.



5 artichokes (or 1 large bottle of prepared artichoke hearts)
1 large leek
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1/2 tbs of olive oil
3 cups of water
1 can of white beans such as cannellini

Prepare the artichokes. Rather than explaining the somewhat tricky method, I think it would be easier to share an instructional video. If you are unfamiliar with trimming artichokes, click here.

Once the artichokes are ready, store in cold water with fresh lemon juice while the other ingredients are prepped.

Trim off the top dark green parts of the leek. Split the leek in half horizontally, remove the first outer layer, and wash the leek thoroughly in cold water. Leeks grow in the ground and tend to hide a bit of dirt in their many layers so this step is very important. Slice the leeks.

Heat a pot to medium heat, add olive oil, and sweat the leeks until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat for about 1 minute. Add the artichokes, water, and a pinch of salt and simmer for 15 minutes or until the artichokes have softened. If you are using jarred artichokes, only simmer for 5 minutes. Pour in the beans just to heat through.

Puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Squeeze in the juice from one lemon and add salt to taste.

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