Paris Booksigning, Sunday – November 30th

Next Sunday – November 30th – I’ll be at WHSmith Paris for a booksigning.

My Paris Kitchen

I’ll be at the book shop from 4pm to 5:30pm to meet and greet. There will be copies of My Paris Kitchen and The Sweet Life in Paris, as well as a limited amount of copies of The Great Book of Chocolate and Ready for Dessert. It’s the perfect opportunity for some holiday gift shopping – for yourself, or for friends or family. Or both!

the sweet life in paris paperback

If you can’t make it to the event, you can order a book from WHSmith and pick it up at the store, or have it shipped to you. (Depending on your location – more information is at that link.) You can visit the Facebook Event Page to RSVP, although it’s not necessary. Just stop by! See you there…

A Visit to Moët & Chandon

Moët & Chandon

One of the things that France is known for, and does very well, is luxury. Or, as it’s shortened to, in French — le luxe. It’s a world that I don’t often dip into. In fact, I’m usually on the other end of the stick. When I worked in the restaurant business, I was always the one in the back of the kitchen, stirring and baking away while everyone else was having a fancy dinner. My idea of luxury in those days was getting home at 2am, taking a shower, putting on a bathrobe, and eating a bag of tortilla chips and salsa with my feet propped up on a cushion while watching reruns of The Love Boat – and not having anyone talk to me.

Higher up than tortilla chips, in terms of price (and to some, in status) is Champagne, which is perhaps the most obvious product associated with French luxury, and fortunately, it’s an affordable one. I don’t sit around drinking it as much as I should, or would like to. (Imagine how much crazier this blog would be if I was drinking Champagne while writing it, rather than my usual trilogy of desktop snacks; bread, cheese, and chocolate?) But I do drink it from time-to-time, and it’s one of those things that in spite of globalization, the French still do best.

Moët & Chandon

One can buy a bottle of it, starting at around €20 or so in France, although prices go up from there, somewhat steeply. Still, it’s something that’s within reach of most people and interestingly, in the period starting in mid-November, through Christmas and New Years, almost every wine shop and supermarket in France has amazing deals on Champagne. I often stock up for the year! Come to think of it, I still have some from last year that I should probably use up before restocking the larder. (Who can resist a sale? Especially when it’s on Champagne…)

Continue Reading A Visit to Moët & Chandon…

Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenée Restaurant

Alain Ducasse Restaurant at the Plaza Athenée

A few years ago in Paris, I was invited to a special lunch by Dan Barber, of Blue Hill in New York City, who prepared a meal at the restaurant of Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenée. I’ve been fortunate to be on the guest list for some of these meals, including ones that profiled Japanese and Chinese chefs, meant to introduce the foods of other cultures to journalists and food professionals here in Paris.

Of course, Alain Ducasse has upscale restaurants in Paris, Monte Carlo, New York, and Tokyo. But during a recent renovation of the Plaza Athenée hotel in Paris, Chef Ducasse and his chef at the restaurant, Romain Meder, decided to break from – and challenge – the traditional definition of luxury dining, and feature the producers and farmers, who produce the food, where good cooking starts. The menu has been completely rewritten, focusing on vegetables and sustainable fish.

Alain Ducasse Restaurant at the Plaza Athenée

Before this transformation, when Dan Barber was at the restaurant, he gave an impassioned talk to the French journalists and food writers (along with a few of us anglophones) that were assembled, about what he’s doing at his restaurants and his philosophy. Unfortunately the translator gave a word-for-word recapitulation, which didn’t (and couldn’t) explain the sociological shift and remarkable, and profound, transformation in American dining and eating habits over the last few decades. People used to say to me, “Don’t all Americans eat at McDonald’s?” But those who have been to the states now come back, and say “The food was incroyable.”

Farmers’ markets are in full swing in most major cities in America, and on airplanes (and in fast-food restaurants), you’re likely to find bits of radicchio in your baby lettuce salad, and even my local Safeway in San Francisco had organic milk from a local producer and bean-to-bar chocolate. French cuisine has taken a notable hit, mostly because of the increased reliance on pre-packaged foods. But that’s kind of becoming a thing of the past, and the tides are turning. And in this case, it’s coming from the top.

Alain Ducasse Restaurant at the Plaza Athenée

Continue Reading Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenée Restaurant…

Camembert de Normandie

Camembert de Normandie

Althought it’s hard to blame it, my camera ate all of my Camembert de Normandie (pictures), which I discovered when I went to download them. I was miffed (to say the least…), but in the end, decided that it was tough to blame my mischievous machine because I understand how hard it is to be around a perfectly ripe Camembert de Normandie and not want to wolf the whole thing down. As they would say in Paris when presented with an irresistible cheese — C’est un catastrophe, a demi-joke referring to the devastating effect it has on la ligne. (One’s figure.)

Like the genie in the bottle, once you let a soon-to-be goopy camembert out of its container, no matter how firm you think it’s gonna remain, there’s no turning back once it starts doing what comes naturally. And if you are able to resist eating the whole runny thing in one go, in France, you can get a little plastic box to store your camembert in, with little hinged plastic “walls” to keep your camembert from running. (Even though plastic isn’t the best thing to store your cheeses in; most fromageries wrap cheeses in waxed paper sheets.) I don’t buy a lot of Camembert de Normandie because it’s hard to stop eating it. But for the sake of you all, I went and bought another one, just because I like living dangerously. And what’s another catastrophe between friends?

Camembert de Normandie

Continue Reading Camembert de Normandie…

Le Richer

Le Richer

I’ve had a swirl of visitors lately, and every morning it seems like I open my Inbox to find more “We’re Coming to Paris!!!” in subject lines. I’m not complaining because I love seeing my friends, especially those I don’t see often enough, but the joke about needing a social secretary has become a reality for me – just so I can get my other stuff done. I could probably also use a personal trainer at this point as I’m in the midst of 3-days of non-stop eating out. (Sunday is a day off, then Monday, it’s back out there to eat some more.)

In addition to having a great time catching up with friends from afar is that I get to try restaurants in Paris that I’ve been meaning to go to, but haven’t had the time to. Of course, everyone wants me to pick a restaurant and telephoning for reservations is another task for my yet-unnamed social secretary. I had suggested to my other-half to do it, but judging from the look he gave me, I don’t think he’s the right person for the job.

Le Richer

Taking a breather from eating copious amount of food, yesterday I had lunch at Le Richer with a friend from Nice, and decided to share it with you. It’s in that “happening” little area in the 9th, clustered around other new and interesting places that have popped up in recent years, such as Vivant and L’Office, the latter owned by the same team that owns Le Richer. And yes, that was me having dinner at L’Office last night, just after having lunch at Le Richer, right across the street — see? I wasn’t kidding..

Continue Reading Le Richer…

Coffee-Braised Lamb Shanks

Coffee-Braised Lamb Shanks

When I moved to France, I was surprised that lamb shanks were somewhat hard to find. Many butchers sold all sorts of cuts of lamb, including lamb shoulders, ribs, and cutlets, but shanks proved elusive. Then I learned that you had to ask for them; for some reason, they’re always kept in the back. I’m not sure why, since it’s my favorite cut of lamb and it deserves to be out in the open. Souris d’agneau (lamb shanks) don’t require a lot of work. They rely on time, which turns a tough cut of meat into something soft and succulent. And with shanks, each person gets their own portion, which makes a nice presentation.

Coffee-Braised Lamb Shanks

Last spring when I was on book tour in Houston, Joshua Weissman stopped by to say hi. At the ripe age of seventeen, Joshua runs a blog called Slim Palate. Joshua had been a hefty kid and decided to do something about it. So he challenged the way he ate, began eating healthy foods, and cooking for himself, which is the best way to eat well. By doing so, he lost a whopping hundred pounds on a Paleo diet. It was such a success, that kids who’d previously teased him about his weight at school started asking him for advice. So yes, it’s true: eating well is the best revenge!

Continue Reading Coffee-Braised Lamb Shanks…

Juveniles Wine Bar

Juveniles Wine Bar & Restaurant in Paris

My interest was piqued the other day when I was reading a popular user-generated review site, and came across a review for a restaurant in Paris. The author said they could tell they were in a good place because when they walked in, nobody was speaking English. In an international city like Paris, I don’t mean to be Déborah Downer (pronounced dow-nair), but a lot of people in Paris speak English. And I find it curious that tourists don’t want to go to a restaurant where there are other tourists. (Good thing they don’t feel that way about hotels – I doubt there’s be any place to sleep!) It’s as if the presence of foreigners equals bad food.

I, for example, am often a tourist and I love eating well when I travel. I hope the presence of me and my friends dining in a restaurant, say, in Palermo or Vancouver, don’t portend to potential diners poking their heads in, that a restaurant sucks.

Juveniles Wine Bar & Restaurant in Paris

Restaurants in Paris often offer menus in English for a couple of reasons. One is that it makes the servers lives easier as the servers (who often has their hands full), don’t have to stand there and translate a menu for each and every diner. (You’ll notice dining rooms in most small restaurants in Paris don’t have busboys, runners, hosts, etc. The servers do it all.) And other reason is that it’s easier for the diners, too.

And for his or her host as well. Such as in my case, since I often translate menus when dining with out-of-town guests and friends who don’t read French. While I’m happy to run through the menu the first time for everyone, no one seems to pay attention. Then I have to go back and explain things item-by-item again. (And people always want to know things like, “If it says poulet fermier, what piece of chicken will I get?” or, “Is there going to be a sauce on that?”) And by the time I’ve read it all through for someone, I need a glass of wine — which at this point, is a priority.

Continue Reading Juveniles Wine Bar…

Whole-Wheat Sunflower Seed Rye Bread

Whole wheat sunflower seed rye bread recipe-6

I had a phone interview the other day, and the journalist was so nice and interesting that we ended up talking about a whole bunch of other subjects that we didn’t intend to talk about. Like a good interviewer, she didn’t start off by asking the usual questions, but came up with some original ones, which was a lot more interesting than being asked for the name my favorite bistro (I have a whole list here) or who makes the best macarons in Paris, which are now available around the world. One particular subject that we talked about extensively was blogging. The interviewer asked me how long it takes to write a post.

While massaging my wrists, I thought about it for a moment and while contemplating my dwindling vision as I removed my glasses, I replied, “After writing, editing, proofreading, translating terms, adding foreign accents (sometimes by hand-coding each one), writing the recipe (it’s fourteen keystrokes just to type oven temperatures – no wonder my wrists are a mess!), formatting text in internet code, taking pictures, deciding which pictures look best, eating the leftovers because I can’t stand to wait any more, editing pictures, uploading pictures, and placing the pictures in the post — which is a challenge because the whole document looks like a jumble of code, rather than the pictures and text that you see here — then re-reading and proofing, and finally, publishing the post, it can take me a couple of days to get it all together.”

Add to that, I love blogging and have so many things that I want to share, that I always seem to have five posts in the pipeline that I want to put up on the site as soon as possible. And I can’t wait to jump into the next one.

Whole-Wheat Sunflower Seed Rye Bread

Over the years, I’ve been playing around with photography, trying to take better pictures for you (and me) – not for any particular reason other than I enjoy taking pictures of food. Plus living in France, there are so many beautiful products and places, that I can’t help taking a snapshot when I see something enticing. (Which I sometimes get in trouble for in Paris, if I don’t ask first.) I’m not really all that interested in carefully arranged things, but I find something charming in a mess of oozing cheeses, fresh herbs tied in bundles from the market, and knocked-around avocados (with bruises and all, since I haven’t quite mastered many editing tricks). Or sometimes I’ll be sitting down to eat something, and it’ll look kind of interesting, so I’ll get up and take a few pictures. Then, one thing leads to another, then another…and before I know it, I’m racing to write up another story and a recipe to share.

Whole-Wheat Sunflower Seed Rye Bread

Continue Reading Whole-Wheat Sunflower Seed Rye Bread…