Recently in David’s Favorite Posts category

Stop the Stuffing!

The other night I was standing on the métro and found myself face à face with a little affiche advising me, minding my own business as I rocketed below Paris, that it’s not alright to eat Mr. Ed. Then on Tuesday, I was taking a stroll through the thirteenth, on my way to have lunch with a friend in Chinatown, and came across a sign pleading a stop to the practice of le gavage, the forced stuffing of ducks and geese to make foie gras.

stop the gavage!

A lot of Americans think that all the French are unequivocally daring eaters, or aren’t picky, which is partially true: when you have a dinner party, you don’t have to worry about someone showing up who’s allergic to peanuts or dairy. Aside from a certain American who won’t eat squid, everyone around here eats almost anything, and just about everything might show up on a menu if you get invited to dinner. Except offal, which, in spite of the fact everyone thinks the French like to chow down on stomach lining, testicles, and kidneys, there’s plenty of them that turn up their noses at the idea of digging into a steaming dish of any of the above. btw: In case you invite me over for dinner, I’m with that camp.

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How to Make French Vinaigrette

One assumption that I’m going to make about the French is that they’re not afraid to make things au pif, or “by the nose”.

utensils

I don’t know if a precise recipe for sauce vinaigrette actually exists. But if there is, I bet few people follow it very closely. And Romain is no different from his compatriots when it comes to recipes, and rules.

They are both for other people—and don’t apply to him.

adding salt salad basket

Vinaigrette is just one of those things. It’s a few simple ingredients which come together so well, when done right. Anyone can make it: you just pour, stir, marinate, then taste until it’s just right. But the salad dressings in France always taste better to me than elsewhere. So thought I’d follow Romain when he made a true vinaigrette. He was surprised at the idea of measuring anything, so I follow him through the steps, taking a few notes along with way (see Recipe, at the end) and along the way, I learned two French secrets for a great salad dressing.

One is that you must use good Dijon mustard.

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Cognac

How does Cognac get to this…

Frapin cognac

…from this?

Old cognac

I didn’t know, but I was determined to taste as many glasses as I could to find out.

The first thing I was asked before heading down into my first Cognac cellar during my recent visit was, “Are you afraid of spiders?”

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Nancy Silverton’s Bran Muffins

cupcake liners bran muffin + moka

I don’t know if my grandmother loved to cook, but she was certainly good at it. Which was a good thing, because she sure loved to eat. When people tell me, “I don’t have time to cook. I have a job and two kids at home” I think of my grandmother, that had four kids, opened and ran a huge five-story furniture store which she worked in every day with her husband (who she told me was rather, um, “difficult”, amongst other things), and somehow managed to get dinner on the table every night. And this was before bagged salads, frozen broccoli, and electricity.

bran d'wheat

Okay, she did have electricity. But even if she didn’t, I still think she was pretty amazing—even though she had a mouth that would shock a longshoreman, and after she let some choice words slip, would always tell me, “Oh s&%t, don’t tell your mother I talk like this.”

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Coasting la Côte

When I heard there was going to be an inaugural voyage for the recently refubished Club Med 2 sailboat, I was so excited to go, that I actually invited myself to come along. Since the trip was a press preview, with a sprinkling of the rich and perhaps famous to rub elbows with, and since I lived so close, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t be able to easily race down to catch some sunshine, and participate in the buzz—cruising past St. Tropez, Cannes, Nice, and Portofino.

Portfino

So after spending a few days on land in Provence, I was ready to set sail and meet my travel mates. Having not gone on many press trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect and happily, our rag-tag group was from all over the map: Japan, the United States, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Italy, and, of course, France. We boarded boat and set sail eastward.

sailboat

I’d been on one boat before, a medium-sized cruise liner, and was less-than-impressed with that one. It was freezing cold from the boat being severely overly air-conditioned, so I was wearing sweaters indoors, while sunny Mexico was right outside. Not only was it cold physically, it was also uninspiring and I felt like I was on a floating hotel, it was so big and impersonal.

But this was a small vessel, a 5-masted sailboat, with less than two hundred rooms and sure enough, it was just the right size and pace for cruising the Côte d’Azur.

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15 Things I’d Miss About Paris If I Moved Away

At a recent book event, there was a little Q & A session after I chatted and read from my new book. The only guidelines were that I told people that two questions were off limits.

white asparagus

One was; “Why did you move to Paris?”, and the other “How long are you planning on living in Paris?” Because I get asked them at least six times a day, and I’ve been here seven years, (so do the math and you’ll understand why j’en ai marre ), I figured I should just answer them in the book and be done with them once and for all.

Except when I said that, for a moment, I kind of blindsighted the crowd as I could tell that everyone was about to raise their hand to ask one of those two questions. Multiply that by 150+ people, and I’m not going to ask you to do the math again, but you see what I’m up against.

But someone did ask me a very good question: “What about Paris would you miss if you moved away?” which rendered me uncharacteristically speechless. In the book, I wanted to be truthful about my life here and balance the good with the not-always-good, and sometimes people focus on the less-alluring aspects of my life in this city, mostly because they’re more fun than to hear what a spectacular city Paris really is.

So here are 15 things I would miss if I moved away from Paris…..

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Valrhona Chocolate School

chocolates

Aside from the massive safe in the Banque de France, probably the toughest place to get in to in France is the Ecole de Grand Chocolat Valrhona in the little town of Tain l’Hermitage. Admission to the professional cooking program I attended is by invitation only, and several times of the year, pastry chefs and chocolatiers from all over the world come to Valrhona to watch and learn how their chocolate is made. And even more important, to discover the best and tastiest ways to eat it.

chef givre checking his refractometer chocolate

Our chef-instructor was Philippe Givre, who was good-natured, but never let us forget that we were there to work-work-work. And he was perhaps the best example of the hard-driving pastry chef.

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Why Stealing is Wrong

recipe book

Well, I wouldn’t say it was exactly stealing. But last time I was in the states, I was going through one of my frighteningly-full storage lockers (there’s your glimpse into the glamorous life of international living…) and while rifling through cookbooks, I came across my own personal book of handwritten recipes, a fat mess of pages, stained with butter, eggs, almond paste, and lord-knows what else, that I compiled during my years working in restaurants.

It really is a treasure trove of recipes and I was thinking I should start a “working my way through the book” blog, dedicated to doing each-and-every recipe in there. Then I thought the better of it and got that idea out of my mind—fast.

The main reason being that most of the recipes make a hundred servings and call for things like 80 egg yolks or 5 1/2 cups of honey or 8 quarts of heavy cream.

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