Watercress soup One of the differences between French and American dining is that the green salad is normally served after the meal, either with cheese or on its own. I remember Romain being very surprised when I told him that Americans usually ate cheese before a meal, with the apéritif. “Ah bon?” he replied, having a moment believing that we did that. (And this is from the only French person that insists on having his coffee with dessert, which is unusual in France as well.)

There are some exceptions; gut-busters like Hachis Parmentier (meat pie with mashed potato topping), and Brandade (salt cod puree), are often served with a salade verte, a few leaves of lettuce in a mustardy dressing. But most of the time, the salad arrives after the plat principal. (Curiously, we call the main course the entrée in America, whereas in France, the entrée is the first course – or the “entry” into the meal.) The after-dinner salad in France isn’t usually a complicated affair with tomatoes, eggs, croutons, and all other sorts of other things tossed in with it: it’s often a nice bowl of leafy greens with a punchy dressing.

Watercress soup

A friend who used to live in Paris was visiting last week and I invited her to dinner. I always like to serve guests who don’t live here certain French cheeses, like Brie de Meaux or a raw milk Saint-Nectaire, which are hard to get outside of France, and I know they miss them when they are not here. I know when I go away, the first thing I do when I get back is to go to a bakery, buy a fresh, crunchy baguette, slice it wide open, smear it with lots of salted butter from Brittany, and eat that. And then, I dive into the cheeses…

Continue reading…

  Every time I go back to San Francisco, there is a crush of people that I want to see. In addition to everyone that I want to catch up with, there’s also a whirlwind of places I want to go to visit, from favorite taquerias to new chocolate and pastry places. (Not sure what happened in my absence, but the city has really ramped…

Continue reading...

Mon Eclair

I was recently part of a panel on France24 television to debate the subject: “The argument over French cuisine.” Rather than being a debate, though, it was more question-and-answer session once the cameras were rolling. But beforehand, the four of us on the panel had a very lively discussion in the lobby about the subject, which at one point, I stopped and told the producers that this was…

Continue reading...

When I started baking professionally, whenever a recipe called for chocolate, we grabbed whatever chocolate we could get in bulk, lopped off a chunk, and used that. At the time, there wasn’t much consciousness about chocolate and all the differences that there are today. (I know, I sound like a dinosaur!) Often “European” chocolates were talked about as being of the best quality. But when I started at…

Continue reading...

When people ask me “Why did you move to Paris?” I’ll usually stop, point to the nearest cheese shop or bakery, and let them figure it out for themselves. There are a lot of pastry shops in Paris, over a thousand of them. But the first was Stohrer, which opened in 1730 by pastry chef Nicolas Stohrer, the pastry chef for Louis XV of France and his…

Continue reading...

While I wish that I could try everything and go to all the places that are suggested to me. I used to keep lists of restaurants and bakeries in Paris that I intended to go to. Then, invariably, a few weeks later, that list would get updated with new places and I’d realize that I’d never make it to the older places. (Or maybe I would, just…

Continue reading...

Mint Pesto

Holidays always feel like a sprint to me. Perhaps because I spent a lot of time working in restaurant kitchens, holidays don’t feel so much as celebratory, as they do an extra dose of work. I’m used to it and know that the key is advanced planning. I don’t cook much in advance, nor do I freeze things (except ice cream), but I make sure I’ve…

Continue reading...

    Not long after I’d arrived in Paris, I met Jacques Genin. At the time, he was working out of a small workshop deep in the 15th arrondissement. Inside, he and his team of five or so worked in a very tight space: A large table where they worked sat in the center of the room, taking up probably 90% of the space, enrobing machines…

Continue reading...

Pretzel Bites

Bakers and pastry chefs crave two things: Salt and vinegar. When I worked in the restaurant business and got home way after midnight, too-often I’d park myself in front of the television, put my dogs up, and dig into a bag of tortilla chips along with a big jar of spicy salsa. Of course, I was half the age I am now and a bag of…

Continue reading...