Recently in Food Markets category

French Onion Dip

frais malo

A few weeks ago, I made plans to meet my friend Terresa in Pigalle, to check out a new épicerie (specialty food shop). I don’t know if you’re familiar with Pigalle, but the area has a certain well-deserved ‘reputation’ and if you’re a middle-aged man walking around by yourself in the evening, casually looking in the windows of the cafés and bars, don’t be surprised if a very scantily-clad woman tries to catch your eye back, and catch your fancy. And a few euros.

My friend was late, so after I cut my walk short though the quartier, I waited outside the shop, where we were planning to meet, which made me only slightly less of a target. And within a few minutes, people were handing me business cards for various ‘services’ of the female persuasion. So I was especially glad when the only woman in the neighborhood I was interested in hooking up with finally arrived and we went inside.

plain yogurt fromage frais

The idea of the store is to be one place filled with many great products. There were indeed some interesting things on the shelves, including Spanish hams and other European specialties. But when you live in France, it’s hard to get worked up about shrink-wrapped cheeses, no matter how good they might be, when there’s so many amazing fromageries in every neighborhood. But I think they’re trying to be both a specialty shop and cater to the locals who need the basics, too. So I give them points for rising to that task, and most of us would be thrilled to have a place like that in our neighborhood.

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Community Supported Agriculture, in Paris

About a year ago, I was having supper in a friend’s apartment and everything we ate was simple, and tasted really good. He’d lived on a farm near Toulouse for many years, where he worked for one of France’s agricultural organizations. Now he lives in Paris and I was surprised when he told me that the onions we were eating on the tart he’d made were from a panier, or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box.

pannier

He gets a weekly panier from Les Paniers du Val de Loire. I kept hemming and hawing, thinking how nice it was to shop at my local market and pick out everything myself. But I finally signed up a couple of weeks ago, and got my first panier yesterday.

Living in San Francisco and working closely with a lot of farmers and small-producers in my restaurant career, I have a weakness for hard-working small producers who are trying to do the right thing. I remember a woman showing up at our back door with a box of amazing French butter pears, asking us if she planted more trees, would we would buy them? (We took a bite and said that we’d take any and all that she wanted to bring us, a promise we made good on.) I remember an organic dairy sending us their first samples, and customer reaction made us realize that people weren’t ready for the strong taste of farm-fresh dairy products.

And there was Mr. Hadsell, a frail old man who could barely walk, who’d open the kitchen screen door and shuffle inside, balancing a few flats of just-picked raspberries from his backyard. You could feel the warmth of the sun radiating from each basket of plump, perfect berries. Those were the best raspberries I ever had in my life and I hope the lucky customers that got them felt the same.

beet greens

But elsewhere, it can be an uphill battle to find just-picked, fresh produce, even in a country with strong ties to its agricultural traditions, like France.

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Comté

goat cheese

There’s sort of some rhyme and reason to my cheese-buying habits. One fromagerie might have the most amazing butter, so I’ll trek over to the place St. Paul to buy a packet of it. But if I want a round of Selles-sur-Cher, I’ll go to the fromager at the marche d’Aligre who always has beautiful ones on display. For St. Nectaire and Cantal, I’ll only buy those from the husky Auvergnate dude at my market on Sunday mornings and refuse to even taste one from anywhere else. His are just so good, I don’t bother doing any comparison shopping.

Last week my neighbors from San Francisco came to visit and I took them to my Sunday market, where I figured we could gather the ingredients for a semi-homemade meal, sans the tablescape.

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I Heart Neufchâtel

neufchâtel heart

Neufchâtel got a makeover when it crossed the Atlantic, to the states, where it’s used to refer to low-fat cream cheese, which bears no resemblance to true Neufchâtel, a cheese that certainly doesn’t fall anywhere near that category.

The cheese is from Normandy, a region that few would argue produces the best cheeses in the world. Camembert, Livarot, and the especially creamy Brillat-Savarin are some of the more famous Norman cheeses, but I’m also happy that Neufchâtel is included in that privileged group.

Neufchâtel is available in industrial or fermier (“farm-produced”) versions. All versions are made with cow’s milk, although sometimes it’s made with raw milk, others are made from milk that’s been pasteurized.

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Spanakopita Recipe

flaky spanakopita

The most commonly-asked question for a certain cookbook author, aside from “Can I replace the corn syrup?” by a longshot, is: “Can that be frozen?”

So the fellow in question wrote an ice cream book, knowing that I—I mean, he would get a break from being asked that question.

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Paris Favorites: Eating, Drinking and Shopping

A number of folks consult the site for information about Paris, but it’s always best to get some second opinions. So I asked a few friends and in-the-know colleagues about their favorite places around the city, and I’m happy to share them with you.

paris

Included are links, when available, for complete addresses and additional contact information. Hours change and places close in Paris without notice so it’s best to call first before visiting. For restaurants and wine bars where food is served, reservations are strongly advised.

If there any Paris favorites that you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments. I’d love to hear about them.

lucques olives


Favorite Outdoor Market

“Paris markets are one of my favorite subjects. I can go to the same market every day of the year and still always find something new. I regularly visit the boulevard Raspail market, a “regular” market Tuesday and Friday, organic (and expensive!) on Sunday. The fish merchants there are incredible on all days, and I adore the poultry people at the Tuesday and Friday market. I love testing one fish market or cheese stand against the other, grading them on each purchase. For 20 years I lived near the rue Poncelet market and still have a soft spot there, especially for Alléosse cheese and coffee beans from Brûlerie des Ternes.”

“When I have time, I also love the President Wilson market on Wednesday and Saturday, where of course one finds the famed produce from Joël Thiebault but also wonderful fish, fresh crêpes, and Lebanese specialties. The market is near my dentist’s office so I always schedule a Wednesday morning appointment.”

Patricia Wells, of Patricia Wells.com
(Author: Bistro Cooking and The Paris Cookbook)

Favorite Steak Tartare

“As an American in France, getting into the French staple of steak tartare means getting past it’s resemblance to an uncooked hamburger patty. At Les Fines Gueules (2, rue la Vrillière, 1st) near place des Victoires they have cap-and-gowned the French standard by hand chopping Limousin beef (the best in France) and tossing the raw meat with white truffle oil, parmesan and sun dried tomatoes. Certainly not a traditional preparation, but an unbelievably delicious part of this American’s weekly diet.”

Braden, of Hidden Kitchen

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Le Dimanche

When I moved to France from San Francisco, I worried about what every San Franciscan worries about— “What am I going to do without burritos?”

roast chicken

For those who aren’t familiar with San Francisco-style burritos, these bullet-shaped tummy-torpedoes are rice, beans, salsa, and meat all rolled up in a giant flour tortilla and eaten steaming hot. I don’t want to antagonize the burrito folks, but being a purist, I never, ever get cheese, sour cream, guacamole, or the worst offender—lettuce, all of which make a burrito about as appealing as a rolled-up newspaper left out for a week in the rain.

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Mini-Tongs

Whenever I go to San Francisco, I stay with a friend of mine who generously offers to put me up as long as I’m in town. It’s fun, especially since she likes to hit the off-price shops and her kitchen is filled with lots and lots of kitchen tools.

Since she knows I live abroad, where many of them aren’t available, if I express interest in something she’ll invariably say, “Oh, go ahead and take it. I can get another one easily.”

3tongs

After a bit of obligatory mock-protesting on my part, I grudgingly accept it, and in it goes, right into the suitcase. On my last trip, I noticed she had a pair of mini-tongs in her drawer, which were not only adorable, but fit too-perfectly in my hand.

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