So it’s springtime here in Paris. At my outdoor market, I’ve been buying colorful blood oranges from Tunisia and Spain and making refreshing sorbets, then candying the peel to serve alongside. (My grandmother never let me throw anything away…) As the weather gets warmer, dinner’s often a simple salad of peppery arugula and watercress sprinkled with a drizzle of argan oil, a favorite oil, made from argan nuts that have been munched by tree-climbing goats in Morocco, after which they’re “expelled”, then laboriously pressed.
I’ve also been baking tagines (Moroccan casseroles) using spring lamb and plump, sweet prunes from Agen. And sometimes dinner will just be a slice of Terrine Gascon which I get from my local butcher, made from shredded duck confit and I suspect an overdose of duck fat. (I figure if I down enough rosé with it, that will dilute the richness in my system.) There are also many new cheeses that I’m trying at my fromagerie, such as an earthy, crumbly, and pungent bleu cheese from Savoie, ripe and gooey brie de Meaux, and a new favorite, Langres, a copper-colored knob that when sliced, reveals a soft, creamy interior with the lovely sweet-pungent smell of fresh cream, grass, and barnyard.
And I’ve been trying as many new chocolates I can get. I’ve had some lovely bars from Green & Black’s organic chocolate from Great Britain, as well as handcrafted Tuscan chocolates from Slitti and Amedei that I’ll be visiting with guests in May during my upcoming Italian Chocolate Tour.
For those of you unfamiliar with Tuscan chocolates, they are some of the finest chocolates you’ll ever sample. Wish you were coming along?
The International Salon d’Agriculture in Paris
Each winter, the International Salon d’Agriculture occurs in Paris at the enormous Porte de Versailles exhibition center. The French are in love with anything agricultural. I recently saw a huge, room-sized map of France artfully composed of vegetables and fruits from the various regions.
And they love cows. (Well, living in a country with the most exceptional cheeses in the world, I am beginning to worship them as well.) When I last went to the post office, I was offered their newest stamps, which featured a cow. When I showed them off to some French friends that came for dinner that night, there was much ooh-ing and ahh-ing.
Although I do like cows as much as, um, the next person…I was more intrigued by the food representing all the regions of France and several other European communities and Africa. I bought a hunk of nutty Gruyère from the Swiss pavilion that was really, really good and sweet-scented, slender vanilla beans from the Antilles.
There was lots of unusual seafood to gasp at, delicious Basque foie gras conserved with pimente d’Espelette (smoked pepper powder), and much wine to sample, as well as Pommeau, an aperitif of Calvados brandy blended with apple cider.
I meet some lively Africans from the Ivory Coast, who split open a cocoa bean and fed me the slippery seeds within. If you’ve never seen a cocoa bean, they’re beautiful pods filled with slippery, almond-sized beans imbedded in a creamy liquid.
Although the Salon is great fun, it’s always mobbed and this year was no exception. The one thing you never want to do is get between a French person and food. Otherwise, look out!
43, rue de Montreuil (11th)
12, place de la Nation (12th)