Recently in Paris category

Métro Hands…and Cheeks

Sorry about the less-than-stellar photo. I was trying to take a picture in a hectic métro station, and when there was a break in the frenzy of commuters, I tried to get my shot. But soon the people behind the glass in the information booth started taking notice of me snapping a few pics of the high-security features of the métro, like metal railings and door handles.

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So I snapped quickly and packed up my camera fast, especially when I saw one of the guys stub out his cigarette (a sign I took that he was really serious about coming out of that booth), fearing he’d ask me what I was doing. Then I’d have to explain that I have a food blog but I write about Paris as well and I was going to do a post about something called ‘Métro Hands’ and wanted to take a photo to accompany the text for the edification of my readers which was all in the name of fun but sometimes encompassed serious topics, although often shrouded in stories that are either offbeat, funny, poorly-written, lively, contains typos, insulting, unedited, over-edited, timely, insightful, amusing, pathetic, or when all else fails, is accompanied by a recipe for a chocolate cake or cookies.

(I doubt that he would have understood what I was talking about, though in his defense, I can’t blame him—neither would I.)

Anyhow, I don’t know if the French have a phrase that corresponds to this, but when you arrive at someone’s house or at a restaurant, often one will excuse themself shortly thereafter to wash up, claiming a case of ‘Métro Hands’, which usually gets paired with a slightly queasy expression. I’ve seen both French people do this, as well as Americans, who many folks view as a band of raging germophobes (although curiously, you can’t touch produce at the market, and men must wear bathing caps and a barely-there Speedo in a public pools in France, for l’hygiene…mais oui!.)

So what are ‘Métro Hands’?

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Hot Chocolate with Salted-Butter Caramel

Starting this weekend, you’ll be able to buy my delectable Chocolat Chaud au Caramel-Beurre-Salé, aka Hot Chocolate with Salted-Butter Caramel, right here in Paris.

In partnership with Régis Dion, of La Farandole des Sels, we’ve put together a packet using a special recipe I’ve created for making the richest, most luscious hot chocolate in your own home using his silky-smooth creamy caramel-beurre-salé and fleur de sel, the fine salt hand-raked from his family’s salt marshes off the coast of Brittany.

My Hot Chocolate with Salted Butter Caramel mixture will be available for a limited time at the outdoor markets (below) where Régis offers his fine salts.

UPDATE: Régis has closed his business and the hot chocolate mix is no longer available.

You can try the Wittamer Hot Chocolate Mix, or my Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream.

There’s a classic recipe for Salted Butter Caramel from Brittany in my book, The Sweet Life in Paris.

Continue Reading Hot Chocolate with Salted-Butter Caramel…

John-Charles Rochoux, Parisian Chocolatier

One of the hardest things about writing about food is coming up with that killer opening sentence. It should start with something that grabs your attention right away, tickles your curiosity, then encourages the reader (which would be you) to follow the writer (which, or course, would be me) deeper into the story. Thankfully when writing about chocolate, I can include pictures to help me get going, so most of the work is already done.

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A Handcarved Rabbit Made of Pure White chocolate.

The other difficult thing when writing about chocolate is that there’s only so many superlatives you can use to describe it, and words like: dark, unctuous, bittersweet, delicious, seductive, etc…don’t really seem to pinpoint that feeling that you get when you walk into a pristine chocolate shop and are completely overwhelmed by the heady experience, inhaling that sweet, unmistakable scent of chocolate that permeates the air and overtakes you. There’s that quiet moment, when you step into a special place full of chocolate, where you briefly forget all that’s going on outside.

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Slender Orangettes; strips of candied orange peel flecked with crunchy nougat, dipped in dark chocolate.

I’m fortunate to live a city where there’s an unusually large amount of very good chocolate shops, and all-too-often one needs a refuge from the fast-pace of the streets and sprawling avenues. Here in Paris, I have my favorites, and one of them is John-Charles Rochoux. His petit shop is located just off the bustling rue de Rennes. It’s not just a refuge from one of Paris’ busy boulevards, but a step back to another era. In his shop, chocolate is both an edible obsession and an object of sculptural craftsmanship, and you’ll find many intricate, precious little chocolate sculptures, as well as a rather serious selection of bonbons from one of Paris’ top chocolatiers.

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Paris Chocolatier Jean-Charles Rochoux

Although there’s several chocolate shops across the city that are terrific, at Jean-Charles Rochoux you’ll find lots of little wonders here to keep you enchanted, including the amazing chocolate sculptures that M. Rochoux creates in his small, pristine workshop just beneath the tidy boutique. This kind of craftsmanship is rarely found anymore, even in a chocolate-obsessed city like Paris.

I was fortunate enough to take some time from my busy schedule to pose for Monsieur Rochoux, so he could create one of the most iconic pieces in the shop: Le torse.

Continue Reading John-Charles Rochoux, Parisian Chocolatier…

Yoga Classes In Paris

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(Please note that this list was recently updated in 2013. However prices, addresses, and policies are subject to change. You may wish to visit the website or call the school for additional information.)

If you feel the need to work off that croissant au beurre you’re likely to indulge in every morning or the daily éclair au chocolat you’ve been treating yourself to each afternoon, for visitors to Paris that practice yoga, there’s plenty of places scattered about the city with classes all day long so you can downward-dog all that buttery richness away.

You’ll find most of the yoga studios in Paris tucked away in old courtyards while others are sleek and modern. In my experience, you’re less-likely to find a ‘power yoga’-style class which feels like a heavy-duty workout in Paris as you’ll find in many US cities, but it probably best not to overexert yourself too much…after all, you’re on vacation!

Most yoga classes in Paris are Vinyasa or Ashtanga-style, with lots of variations. Of course, classes are in French (although some schools do have English-language classes), but more teachers speak some English and if you regularly practice yoga, you should be able to follow along.

Here’s a list of a several studios that are centrally located, with some notes about their classes and styles. Most studios require regular students to pay a cotisation annuelle, an annual fee, although they waive it for short-term visitors. Please note that class prices are the current rates, and you should check the individual studios web sites for updates. If you like to have water handy, it’s best to bring a small bottle along with you.

Most yoga studios in Paris don’t offer showers or towels. Expect to pay more than you would for an individual class in the US, although most places offers series of multiple classes, which is worthwhile if you plan to be in town for a while. Mats are available, but changing rooms in most of the places are non-existent, so be prepare to ‘see-and-be-seen’ (and believe me, I’ve seen everything)—so don’t be shy!

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What Do You Do With A Drunken (French) Sailor?

There’s a style of writing, called “The Confessional”, where the writer talks about their personal life, often in great detail. Sometimes the stories may include spouses or partners. Other times, there might be scenes of intimate family gatherings. Or in extreme instances, they could involve, say, drunken French sailors. And on a less-titillating note, cats for some reason frequently show up as well.

I don’t write like that for several reasons: a) Because I don’t have a cat, b) Because my apartment is too small for anything very exciting to happen, and c) I’m a good boy.

(That is, unless you count that weekend when I first moved here and a friend shared the secret for having beaucoup de relations internationaux.)

Oh-la-la! C’est magnifiq…

Oops. Sorry. I digress…

So I’m ready to admit who I’m sharing my apartment with right now. I thought the time was right to let you all in on it, since it’s gotten to the point where I can no longer contain myself.

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I’ve had this big, hairy hunk lying around my apartment for the past few weeks, and let me tell you, this is the best piece of meat I’ve ever had around here.

Jamón Ibérico is the most delicious ham in the world, cured from black-footed pigs which forage around the forests in Spain, snorting up wild acorns, which gives the meat has a distinctly nutty, earthy, yet robust flavor. The ham needs to be hand sliced, and ultra-thin, s’il vous plait, which is rather difficult since the meat is moist and for some reason (which I don’t remember from high-school biology) the pig leg has a bunch of wavy bones and joints that curve in more directions than a French driver does navigating around the Arc de Triomphe.

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Patrick Roger Chocolate: All I Want For Christmas

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That’s the new one meter box of chocolates from Patrick Roger, over three feet of pralines, caramels, nougats, and creamy-smooth ganache-filled bonbons, all enrobed in ultra-dark bittersweet chocolate.

I don’t know how someone would brave getting one of those home on the métro, but I’d surely appreciate their efforts if I found one under my tree!

Patrick Roger
108, Boulevard St. Germain (6th)
Tel: 01 43 29 38 42

Boulangerie 140

At last count, there are 1263 bakeries in Paris.

On just about every street, there’s at least one, if not two, or even three bakeries. Some of them are very good, a few are perhaps not so fabulous, and several are excellent. Parisians eat a lot of bread, far more than their American counterparts.

Visitors often wonder, “How come we don’t have bakeries like this is America?”

“Because people won’t eat bread in America anymore. Everyone’s afraid of it.” I respond

Tragically, most nod in agreement.

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Luckily there’s not too much of that nonsense here in Paris. From early in the morning, until the last baguette de levain is handed across the counter for dinner, you’ll find folks en queue, lined up impatiently waiting to get their daily bread.

And for some reason, I’m always in front of the most impatient one, who firmly keeps nudging me forward. My strategy against those Parisian pests is to gently innocently start backing up, which kinda freaks them out and invariably causes a chain reaction, since the person behind them is usually pressed up against them as well, nudging them forward too.

It causes a certain amount of shuffling and mild hysteria, but tant pis.
Anyone who wants to get that close to me better buy me a drink first.

Or at least a loaf of bread.

But when there’s a bakery as good as 140 in town, Parisians have good reason to get pushy about their bread. And neighborhood residents buy stop here once, or even twice daily to get theirs. And like many of them, I’m happy to stand my ground for a crisp, golden baguette de campagne that feels crisp and warm when it’s handed over the counter to me. Or for the buttery-mouthful of a flaky croissant that shatters into a gazillion crackly shards when you bite into it.

These are some of the daily rituals that go on around here, of which I’m frequently guilty of taking part.

(The pushing part I’m still getting used to.)

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Although I don’t live close enough to 140 to go two or three times a day, it’s one of the handful of bakeries here that I’ll happily scamper across the city to visit. Aside from their numeric name, which always gives me a chuckle, they bake some of the best breads in Paris. And recently, I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes of this top-notch boulangerie.

Continue Reading Boulangerie 140…

Paris Blogs

Last night, celebrating my good health, I took advantage of an invitation I received to meet the Paris Bloggers.

Unlike the Paris Food Bloggers, my friends who are a fine, upstanding bunch of citizens, the Paris Bloggers are a wanton, hedonistic tribe who didn’t have a clue who I was. So they tried to ply me with Cosmopolitans anyways in hopes of getting a picture of the newbie in some sort of Cosmopolitany altered state.
Since they don’t know me all that well, they thought they could tempt me with vodka and raw vegetables with dip. But they were wrong.

At least I hope so. I don’t recall much near the end of the party…

And here’s the bloggers who attended. Don’t let any degenerate pictures on their sites fool you; many of their blogs have great inside tips on Paris, and make good reading.

Hillary Keegin & Aaron Ross of 13

Eric of Paris Daily Photo

Seth from The Paris Times

Pascal Fonquernie of ParisMarais.com

Polly of Polly Vous Français

Amy Alkon of Advice Goddess

Susie & Cesar of Ivy Paris

Richard of Eye Prefer Paris

Elliott Hester, guest blogger of Postcards from Paris/LA Times
(who they should keep, please!)

Heidi of The Paris Update

Catherine, the Petite Anglaise

Jennifer of No Place Like it

Le Meg of Leblageur

Laurie of The Paris Blog