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The Best Paris Guidebook

tuilleries

Paris is reported to be the most popular tourist destination in the world. Each year people come from all over the world for their vacations. I’m sure they spend months and months making arrangements, searching the internet looking for a charming, affordable hotel, scouring web site for decent airfares, and searching my blog for places to eat.

So after all that, what do most people depend on to get around this most fabulous of all cities? The free maps from Galleries Lafayette that the hotels give out. Not that there’s anything wrong with those maps.

Ok, yes there is.

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Let’s face it, Paris hasn’t changed much in the past 100 or so years or more, and it ain’t gonna be changing much in our lifetime either. So next time you come, on your very first day, stop by a Presse, or newstand, and buy one of these booklets. They cost about 5 to 7 euros, and are available in various sizes and formats. Few Parisians leave the house without this handy little booklet in their handbag or man-purse. It easily slips inside a coat pocket as well.

Mine lists all the outdoor markets in the city by day and location, addresses for all the attractions in Paris, the location of gas stations and taxi stands, where all the big department stores are, schools and universities (ok, you probably don’t need those), and a complete overview and map of the extensive métro system. And the last kicker: you can use it each and every time you come back to Paris. No need to buy a new one.

Related posts and links:

Paris Dining and Travel Guides

My Paris

Two Delicious Dining Guides to Paris

The Pastry Shops of Paris

French Menu Translation, Made Easy

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe

strawberries

At the markets during the spring and summer here in Paris, there are piles and mounds of strawberries. The sweet, fruity scent pervades the air as you get closer to the stands. I always come home with a kilo (2 pounds), which costs about 3 euros (about $3.50) and I eat as many as I can during their season. Some people swoon for the pale gariguette berries, which are slender and pointed, although I’ve tried them several times and don’t find them much better than the everyday Chandler variety that’s normally available.

While at the market this week, being such a good customer, I got a deal on a large flat of strawberries so after much jam-making, I decided to take my ice cream maker out for a spin and whip up a batch of Strawberry Frozen Yogurt.

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Unlike the stuff at the mall, real frozen yogurt is made from plain, whole-milk yogurt, fresh fruits, and some sweetener. Although some people like to drain their yogurt first for a richer end-result, I prefer the lighter style of frozen yogurt. You can use Greek-style yogurt, which is three times richer than whole milk yogurt. Slicing the berries and tossing them in sugar makes the strawberries bright red in color and can make ho-hum berries quite delicious.

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Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
About 1 quart (1l)

French yogurt is astoundingly good and I suggest you use a good-quality, whole milk or Greek-style yogurt for best results.

  • 1 pound (450g) strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 2/3 cup (130g) sugar
  • optional: 2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch
  • 1 cup (240g) plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.

Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.

Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Continue Reading Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe…

Lucques Olives

While at the market yesterday looking for things to snitch, I bought a sack of my favorite olives, les Lucques.

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Lucques olives are originally from Italy, but are now most closely associated with France and they’re unlike any other olive you’re likely to sample, free or otherwise. Grown in the Hérault region in the south of France, the Languedoc, they’re harvested in the fall and can be difficult to find depending on the time of the year. These olives are meaty and sweet, not soft, salty, or mushy like some olives can be. The green flesh is firm and bright, and the olives themselves must be kept submerged in their light brine since they discolor very easily.

While they are available in jars, I am lucky to have a prime source for these green beauties just steps away from where I live. And they are certainly one of the best things you can possibly eat. The first time you try one, you’re likely to be very surprised to find they’re unlike any other olives you’re used to eating.

These fine olives are meant to be eaten just as they are, perhaps accompanied by thin slices of jambon and a bowl of crisp radishes with a glass of rosés as an aperitif. I buy small sacks of Lucques olives at the market weekly, since if I keep too many around, I tend to eat them all at once; they’re that good.

Jars of Lucques olives can be ordered in the US here and here’s an excellent guide to olives.

What They Say vs. What They Mean

When they say,“Non”, they mean, “Convince me.”

When they say,“We do not take returns”, they mean,“Convince me.”

When they say,“It’s not broken“, they mean,“Convince me.”

When they say, “You need a prescription for that”, they mean,“Convince me.”

When they say,“The restaurant is completely full”, they mean,“Please come up with a better story.”

When they say,“The restaurant is completely full”, they mean,“We already have enough Americans in here.”

When they say,“Do you mind if I smoke?”, they mean,
“Don’t answer ‘yes’, or we’re going to pout and scowl while you try to enjoy your dinner.”

When they say,“It does not exist”, they mean, “It does exists…just not for you.”

When they walk right into you on the street and say nothing, they mean,“I’m Parisian.”

When they say,“I don’t have change”, they mean,“I want a tip.”

When they say,“Do you want directions?” they mean, “I look forward to telling you what to do for the next five minutes.”

When they say, “I’d like the practice my English”, they mean,“For the next 20 minutes, you’ll feel like a complete idiot while I speak perfect English and demonstrate a far better understanding of world affairs than you do.”

When they say,“They’re up on the seventh floor”, they mean,
“They’re right around the corner from where you’re standing.”

When they say,“We don’t have any more”, they mean,“We have lots more, but they’re in the back.”

When they say,“It’s not my fault”, they mean,“It is my fault…but I’m not taking the blame.”

When they say, “That is not possible”, they mean,“Loser.”

When they say, “I am a Socialist”, they mean,“I’m not responsible for picking up my dog’s poop.”

When they say, “You package hasn’t arrived”, they mean, “I’m just about to go on break. Come back and wait in line for 30 minutes again tomorrow.”

When they say, “The fat’s the best part!” , they mean, “I’m under 40.”

When they say, “The cheeses in France are the best in the world”, they mean, “We are indeed a superior culture.”

When they say, “America is culturally-deprived”, they mean,“Please don’t show us Sharon Stone’s vagina again.”

Where to Get the Best Crepes In Paris

making crêpes

People that come to Paris commonly request “Where can we get a great crêpe in Paris?”

For street crêpes, in the area around the gare Montparnasse in Paris, there are a plethora of crêperies since the trains departing and arriving from that station go to Brittany and the immigrants set up shop there once upon a time. In an area crowded with crêperies, the one that stands out is Josselin. It’s noisy, bustling, and lots of fun.

galette

But no matter where I go, I’m a fan of the classic complète, a buckwheat galette (crêpe) enclosing a fine slice of jambon de Paris, grated gruyère cheese, and a softly-fried egg resting in the middle waiting to be broken to moisten the whole thing. I like my galettes crisp at the edges, with the earthy taste of real, freshly-ground buckwheat. Alongside, there’s nothing better than cider, such as Val de Rance, brut, of course, which is the driest of the fermented apple ciders. For dessert usually get just a simple galette smeared with salted butter and a puddle of honey, warmed by the galette.

One bit of advice; a regular crêpe made with white flour is called a crêpe, and one made with buckwheat flour is called a galette, or sometimes crêpe au blé noir. Some menus list both, so you can choose between them. Desserts are usually served on regular flour crêpes, but you can often ask for buckwheat ones.

Here are some favorite places to indulge. Several are popular, so be sure to call and reserve if you can.

My Favorite Addresses for Great Crêpes in Paris

Josselin
67, rue du Montparnasse (14th)
Tél: 01 43 20 93 50

Crêperie Bretonne
67, rue de Charonne (11th)
Tél: 01 43 55 62 29

Breizh Café
109, rue Vieille du Temple (3rd)
Tél: 01 42 72 13 77

West Country Girl
6, passage St. Ambroise (11th)
Tél: 01 47 00 72 54

Little Breizh
11, rue Grégoire de Tours (6th)
Tél: 01 43 54 60 74


Related Posts

Breizh Café

West Country Girl

The best socca in Nice

Tips for Vegetarian Dining in Paris

Paris Restaurant Archives

Two Dining Guides to Paris

Homemade Cottage Cheese Recipe

Where did I find the inspiration for this little bowl of white, creamy cheese? At the pharmacy in Paris, which are at the top of my list of favorite places to visit in the city. There’s everything you can imagine at la pharmacie, like thyme oil. And Rescue Remedy. And baking soda. And Bio-Gauze (the world’s best burn treatment). And pills that will make you thin and give you the most amazing abs like the male model shown in the window no matter how much cheese you eat or wine you drink.

Aside from their ability to spend an unusual amount of time with the person in front of you (especially when you’re in a hurry), French pharmacists are also trained to identify any mushrooms to determine which are poisonous, and which are okay for la bonne cuisine. If you go to a homeopathic pharmacy, you step up to the counter and stick out your tongue. Then they give you a few bags of pills and cures. And not all of them are administered orally. (Although thankfully, they don’t “dose” you there.)

What also impressive, though, is that I found out that you can order présure, or rennet, at the pharmacy, which is used for making cheese. And I missed the taste of cottage cheese, and I wanted to see if I could replicate it at home. Although Americans eat lots of cottage cheese, most of it’s bland and watery. It’s nothing like real cottage cheese.

So I made cottage cheese at home. It’s remarkably simple and tastes great. And you can make it too! You’ll need to get rennet, and I’ve listed a few sources below. Do give it a try. It’s so much better than the store-bought stuff, and pretty easy to make as well.

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Homemade Cottage Cheese

All utensils should be cleaned very well before beginning.

  • 1 quart (1l) whole milk
  • 4 drops liquid rennet
  • ½ teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream (or half-and-half), or a mixture of heavy cream and buttermilk
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Heat the milk very slowly in a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan. Use the lowest heat possible and if you have a flame-tamer for underneath the saucepan, now’s a good excuse to use it.

Insert a thermometer into the milk (I use a chocolate thermometer, which is easy to read) and heat until the milk reaches 85º F.

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Turn off heat and stir in rennet. Stir gently for 2 minutes.

Cover the saucepan with a clean tea towel draped over the top and put the lid on. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, the mixture will be very softly set and marvelously jiggly. Take a sharp knife and cut the mixture diagonally 5 or 6 times, then do the same in the opposite direction.

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Sprinkle in the salt then set the pan over extremely low heat and cook, stirring gently, until the curds separate from the whey. It will take just a few minutes.

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Do not overcook it at this point or your cottage cheese curds will be tough.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth or étamine, and set it inside a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the cloth and stir it gently to drain off the copious amount of whey. (You can use it in bread making or in soups in place of water.)

curdsincloth.jpg

Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the cheese and chill the strainer (keeping the bowl underneath) in the refrigerator. Let drain for about 1 hour, stirring once or twice.

Spoon the cottage cheese from the cloth into a bowl and stir in the cream, or cream and buttermilk. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.

Here are a few sources for liquid animal rennet in the United States, available here, here, and here.

For more information about liquid rennet, check out Rennet FAQ.

Le Nemrod: Paris Pleasures

croque monsieur (or madame)

Paris abounds in cafés. There is one on each and every corner. In your quartier, you’ll have a favorite, your place to hang out which you affectionately call ma cantine. You go for the camaraderie and the ambiance. Sometimes the food is good, sometimes not so terrific. But that’s not the point. You go since it’s close by, the patron greets you by name, and the wine is drinkable…and promptly refilled.

Café Breakfast

With the weather still chilly and damp (which hasn’t thwarted the hordes of people protesting new government work proposals this week in Paris), those of us with cabin fever (who are protesting the outdoors until the weather becomes more hospitable) find that cafés become the perfect place to hang out and watch the world go by…and beats staying indoors after five long months of grey, dismal weather, when you just can’t take it anymore. In addition to the strikers, there are other signs of spring everywhere: tiny blossoms on the trees, long underwear being tossed out of windows (well, maybe just mine), and the optimistic glimmer of sunshine every now and then peering through the grey skies.

Going for a walk, I like the idea of stopping for lunch in a café since the food is generally simple, modestly-priced, and decent. And with a petit pichet of red wine, the afternoon does drift by rather pleasantly. But most often if you order a salad, it’s terrible. A few tired, leaves of wilted lettuce, the omni-present mustardy vinaigrette, tasteless tomatoes, and green beans so limp you can forget any final money shot. Then there’s the final insult: a spoonful of canned corn plopped smack in the middle of the whole mess, impossible to shove aside.

And don’t get me started about the pile of rice that’s too-often plunked down on la salade Niçoise. They should bring back the guillotine for whoever came up with that brilliant idea. And please, allow me to be the one to release the handle.

While wandering through the 6th arrondissement this week to visit a favorite fromagerie in the area, we decided to stop for lunch at a café I’d heard about, passed by several times, but never sat down for a meal. The menu, frankly, never looked exciting enough to make me want to eat there rather than another favorite lunch spot in the neighborhood.

But we sat down and since I had reservations that night at Le Meurice, the swank restaurant in the Hotel Meurice, I wanted a salad. Scanning the menu, I noticed an entire portion devoted to French Fries, les frites. My interested piqued, certain they were à maison, made in-house. So with little convincing, we ordered a plate to share. I decided on the salade œuf mollet, whose brief description didn’t do it justice.

salad at le nemrod

When the salad came, I was thrilled to find it practically perfect. Each bite was a wonderful revelation of textures, contrasting salty bits of meat and croûtons with the perfect ratio of crispness to tenderness. Fresh lettuce leaves topped with enormous lardons, cubes of smoked bacon fried extra-crispy with just a bit of fat to bind the pieces of succulent pork together. Mixed in were cubes of brioche, perhaps tossed with butter or bacon fat then toasted until crisp and toothsome. (Have I used the word crisp enough?) Moistening everything was the soft-cooked egg resting on top. Once split open, the runny yolk invaded everything, melding all the crisp (!) ingredients into a gorgeous and exceptionally tasty lunch.

Wine Glasses

And the frites? No bad at all. They would have benefited from an extra minute in the deep-fryer (What’s up with that? Does anyone really like soft French Fries?) but they were very good and fresh. After a sprinkle of fleur de sel, they disappeared tout de suite.

At the next table the waiter set down one of the most magnificent Croques in Paris. (It’s a favorite lunch of mine so I’m in a position to know.) The version at Le Nemrod is served on a jumbo crusty slab of pain Poilâne, topped with a smear of béchamel sauce, then a few choice slices of ham and cheese. It arrives at the table still sizzling, the smell of soft, caramelized cheese bubbling away. It made me want to summon up a little bravado and ask for a bite. But I kept my attention digging into my salad but made a mental note to order that next time. And there will certainly be a next time. Any takers?

For dessert we strolled a few blocks to Sip, a corner cafe specializing in house-made ice cream, but I had heard about their hazelnut paste-infused hot chocolate and was anxious to give it a try.

paris menu

It was good, not great. It wasn’t too thick, nor too thin. It was pretty to look at and went down rather smoothly. I loved the interior, a 70’s palette of pink and gray. Lots of chrome and mirrors and perhaps the goofiest clock in Paris. And being Paris, there was just a smidgen of attitude from the server. As anyone know who lives here, the fun is learning how to win them over and get what you want (…if you’re lucky!)

Back in the drizzle, I headed home, stopping by the pharmacy for a tube of la présure (to make homemade cottage cheese), which, due to my accent, they kept thinking I was asking for la pleasure.

Which I already had that day. Twice, in fact.

Le Nemrod
51, rue du Cherche-Midi
Tel: 01 45 48 17 05
(Map)

Sip Babylone
46, Boulevard Raspail
Tel: 01 45 48 87 17

Continue Reading Le Nemrod: Paris Pleasures…

Saucisse/Saucisson

An extraordinary tarte Tatin, the one I consider the best in Paris…

tartetatinberthillonparis.jpg

A clever ruse, and now that I’ve gotten your attention with something sweet and luscious, I decided I wanted to show how I got to the bottom of something that’s been bugging me all week: the difference between saucisse and saucisson.

So this morning I braved the biting cold and went to my local market with a real Frenchman, aka Romain, hoping to have him explain the difference between the two. And being 100% Parisian, I learned to set a few hours aside if I want something explained.

So bundled up in our wool coats, sweaters, long underwear (me), thermal shirts, gloves (him), a hat (him: I look funny in hats), mitten (me: my hands get cold, I don’t care how funny I look), and scarves (both), we wandered the market, first stopping at the stall with my favorite women from the Savoie, the mountainous region encompassing France and Switzerland, home to many of the finest sausages (and Comté cheese as well.) As we perused the piles of dried and fresh sausages, his explanation was this; Saucisse is any little sausage, fresh or dried. Saucisse seche is the term used when it’s dried. Saucisson is any sausage that’s dried, but big.”

It all seemed a bit confusing, so I decided to ask a Parisian foodie Clotilde what was correct, someone who understands French ingredients but also has a fine understanding of American food as well as an excellent grasp of the English language.

Ok, so I didn’t actually ask her.
But instead checked out her useful Bloxicon of French-to-English food translations.
Her definition:


  • Saucisson: dry sausage.

So I had confirmation that saucisson was dry sausage.
But what about saucisse seche?
What’s the dif?

Still grasping for knowledge (and a glass of Sancerre, which will come later) I checked my trusty Le Robert et Collins dictionnaire. You would think a volume that boasts 120,000 translations would have a bit more information about one of the most important and meatiest items in French cuisine.
Realizing perhaps that they’re treading on extremely thin ice, they offer these rather sketchy and non-committal responses:


  • Saucisson: (slicing) sausage
  • Saucisse: sausage

Patricia Wells, in The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris gets a bit more in-depth, although there’s a touch of confusion:


  • Saucisson: Most often a large air-dried cured sausage, such as salami, eaten sliced as a cold cut; when fresh, usually called saucisson chaud
  • Saucisse: Small fresh sausage

Wait a minute. When ‘fresh’ it’s called saucisson chaud (presumably when cooked), and saucisse if it’s small?
I know the truth is out there, but I needed to find it.

So I turned to a little volume that claims to be “An exhaustive compilation of terms from French gastronomy…”, The A-Z of French Food. I picked up a copy of this book years ago when I was at cooking school at Ecole Lenôtre and struggling with the subtle difference between Suprême de poulet and blanc de poulet and poitrine de poulet
Geez, how many words for chicken breast does one language need?

Very informative, here’s what the The A-Z of French Food had to say:


  • Saucisson: A large variety of sausage preparations of minced or chopped meats and organ meats, which are seasoned, cooked, or dried (often called saucisson sec. Saucisson is eaten sliced , and usually cold, as it is bought.
  • Saucisse: The generic term for sausage (cooked, uncooked, or cured) which is served hot or re-heated, as opposed to saucisson which is generally eaten cold in slices.

So there you have it.
I hope that helps you next time you’re at the market in France and it’s your turn to order and the pressure’s on and everyone’s waiting for you to decide and madame behind you is not-so-gently pressing you forward and all you want to do is turn around and smack her upside the head which you can’t do (but boy, would that make you feel better.)

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So now that we all completely and unequivocally understood the difference between the two (right?), I decided to reward myself with a nice Sunday lunch of chipolatas, highly-seasoned, meaty, and slender sausages, along with a few dozen fresh oysters.
(To be honest, by this point I was thoroughly confused and a bit terrified, so I let him do the ordering. But I did offer to stand guard and smack-down any ofles dames that tried to take cuts.)

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Our next stop was for the oysters, and since we needed help making up our minds, the vendeuse was more than happy to pry open a few and let us pop them in our mouths. After much discussion (which always happens in France when there’s food involved) we chose 2 dozen No. 2 Huîtres de Normandie with the fresh, briny taste of the sea.

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Once home, Romain expertly shucked the oysters while the chipolatas sizzled and the bottle of Sancerre, also chosen at the market (after the obligatory tasting), chilled quickly in the freezer (although with the freezing temperatures in Paris, the rooftop outside would have been faster.) The crusty baguette de pavot was sliced and each piece smeared with salted butter then I mixed up a simple sauce mignonette of white wine vinegar, cracked pepper, and lots of finely-chopped shallots.

And there we had it. A rather excellent Sunday lunch, my only consolation for another unsuccessful attempt at comprehending the nuances of the French language.

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And the tarte Tatin?
Dessert from Berthillon, who I think makes the best tarte Tatin in Paris. An enormous wedge of caramelized apples resting on crisp pastry, served with a big, melting scoop of their amazing caramel ice cream alongside.

Now that’s something I have no trouble understanding…

Berthillon
31, rue de St. Louis-en-I’le
Tel: 01 43 54 31 61