Middle Eastern restaurants that focus on freshness and quality of ingredients have been proliferating in places like London (Ottolenghi and Honey & Co.) and in the U.S. (Glasserie and Zahav) over the last few years. And now, we’ve got a spate of new ones arriving in Paris.

The foods of the Middle East had mostly been relegated to kebab and falafel stands, but new places are showcasing the variety of foods and cuisines found in the Moyen-Orient, focusing on casual, shared dining experiences, with fresh ingredients (often with an emphasis on grains and vegetables), at places that include Liza, Miznon, and Mokonuts, as well as newcomers like Balagan, Salatim, Ibrik, Café Oberkampf (for shakshuka), Tavline, and Yafo.

The owner of Yafo houmous café is Lotan Lahmi, who spent most of his career baking, working at Ladurée and in the pastry kitchen of the Prince de Galles hotel, before going over to the savory side. He told me that he used to have to get up at 4:30am every morning, which I’m sure is one part of baking professionally that he doesn’t miss!

His architecturally simple, yet functional café is a welcoming place to pull up a stool, with a friend or two, which I did when my pal Romina (of Les Madeleines bakery) came to town. She was taking a break from making macarons and her famous Kouign amanns, and I’d been meaning to check out a few of the newcomers I had on my “Restaurants I Want to Visit” list (which are actually a series of scribbled on post-it notes scattered around my apartment, and in my pockets, wallet, and messenger bag). Her visit gave me the opportunity to head to Yafo for lunch.

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Summer is a great time for ice cream. It’s cool, it’s creamy, and I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t like ice cream. It’s the absolute crowd-pleaser when the temperatures climb. Add toasted marshmallows, salted butter chocolate sauce, and Graham crackers? I’m in, all the way. Unlike others, I don’t have nostalgic memories that involved S’mores, so I’m making up for lost time. This S’more…

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I once got into a Scrabble tiff when I was challenged for using the word “ade.” I’ve played Scrabble in English, and in French, and I’ve determined that it’s impossible to win if facing French players due to the astounding selection of verb conjugations they have at their disposal. Except for this guy, who doesn’t even speak French, but memorized French words in the dictionary….

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Once upon a time, there was something called I Hate Peas – French fries with ridges that you baked in the oven, aimed at kids who wouldn’t eat their vegetables. They supposedly had all the nutrients of peas without whatever it is about peas that apparently some kids don’t like. They didn’t last long, and I (or my mom) was fortunate because I always loved vegetables, including…

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Ara Chocolat

There’s no shortage of chocolate shops in Paris. Many of them are concentrated in areas like the Marais or Left Bank, which are swankier places set up shop, but offer easy access. So in what are called the “double-digit” arrondissements, you’ll find more quirky places, and you’ll never know what you might come across if you wander around them. Having dinner one night at Churrasqueira…

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Who knew that Mexico was famous for ice cream? I didn’t, until my first trip many years ago, and saw all the heladerias stirring up ice cream and pushcarts, parked on sidewalks, handing out popsicles. It was my first visit and I had no idea what a remarkable range of flavors Mexicans incorporated into their scoops and paletas. There was chocolate, corn, coffee, cheese, peanut, and rice…

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Flo Braker was a good friend to me and many others, in addition to being one of the best bakers that I knew. She unexpectedly passed away last week and will be deeply missed by everyone in the baking community who knew and loved her as much as I did. She was known for her generosity, which came through in her recipes. I wrote a…

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Rillettes is a funny word. It always sounds like a card game – “Care to play a few rounds of rillettes?” I never figured out how this spreadable cornerstone of the charcuterie world got its name, but I’m sure some etymologists out there might have some insight to share? In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying being back in the kitchen. After sweating over my next book,…

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I know this doesn’t sound like a problem to you, but I’ve got too much gin on my hands. I love gin but suddenly I found myself with five or six bottles of the stuff. I do plan on more Gin and Tonics, Martinis, Negronis, Jasmines, Rosemary Gimlets, and other gin-forward cocktails in my future. But I also had too many pink grapefruits on hand, the…

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