FAQ

French macarons

Here’s a quick overview of my FAQs. Keep reading, just beyond, and you can read lots more down below. If you have a question, it’s likely answered on this page. Here is a list of topics which are covered here:

  • Cooking Classes & Internships
    If you’re looking for advice about taking a cooking class in Paris or France, here’s a list of cooking and pastry classes where you’ll find most listed, with links and specialties. I have also written a post on finding internships in France, too. As for career advice, because I’m basically unemployable, I’m the wrong person to ask.
  • Room for Dessert and Ripe for Dessert Availability
    Many of you have inquired about the availability of my first two books, which are both out of print. The good news is that my book, Ready for Dessert, is a compendium of my all-time favorite recipes, including many recipes from those books, which have been completely updated and in standard and metric measurements.
  • Get Togethers
    Because of my various projects and writing, my schedule doesn’t leave time for get-together with visitors—I barely have time to see my friends! But I host get-togethers in Paris & elsewhere, which I post on my blog and Schedule page when they occur. You can also subscribe to my newsletter over in the right sidebar, or my Twitter feed, to be notified of updates.
  • Appearances and Book Tours
    Occasionally, I go on book tours and appear in certain places. Due to various constraints – and because there is just one of me! – I’m unable to travel everywhere. Most of the decisions about where to go are made by my publisher. If you would like me to come where you are and there is a venue that would like to host me, please have the venue contact my publisher to make arrangements.
  • Restaurant Write-Ups
    Restaurants and shops that I mention on the site are generally places that I recommend, unless otherwise noted. I don’t do traditional “reviews”, which involve copious research and taking extensive notes while I’m eating (which probably sounds as fun to you as it does to me.) On the site you’ll find impressions of places I’ve been to, and most likely enjoy. You can read my Restaurant Write-Up Policy for further information.
  • Errors, Typos, and Goofs
    Relax. Take a deep breathe. Breathe…breathe.. Because the site is my personal space, I don’t have copy editors and proofreaders hovering, as I do with my books. The site is a casual, fun place to report on things I find, places I go, and share recipes for things I’m eating. While I try my darndest to avoid errors, my aging eyes ain’t what they used to be. (Also, I have to write in HTML, ie: lines of code, so my screen looks like this when I’m writing – yikes!) While it’s possible to hire a copyeditor, I’d like to keep the casual and fun, rather than feel like “homework” that I’m handing in to be graded. So while I strive for perfection, I’m bound to mess-up once in a blue moon. I welcome constructive commentary and you’re welcome to shoot me a (nice) comment so I can fix any goofs or gaffes.
  • Recipe & Product Queries
    I’m unable to assist with questions about recipes that aren’t mine, or products. I suggest you contact the author or company as they’re best-suited to help you out.
  • Sending Products & Reviews
    If you wish to send me a product, if I do accept it, I may or may not write about it on the site. I appreciate your understanding that this is my personal blog I don’t allow others to influence what gets published here. I don’t accept products in exchange for a positive review or placement.
  • Food Photography
    If you’re interested in what camera equipment I use & how I take the photos on the blog, you can read the post—My Food Photography Gear.
  • Finding Canned Chicken Stock in France
    You can’t.
My Cooling Rack

Living In Paris

Q: Why did you move to Paris?

A: Read my book.

Q: Did you speak any French before you moved to Paris?

A: Only one phrase: pain au chocolat. I figured that was enough.

Q: How long do you plan to live in Paris?

A: About as long as you plan to live where you live now.

Q: How do you stay in shape?

A: I don’t eat junk or highly-processed foods (except M & M’s, but those don’t count…do they?) For the most part, I eat a well-balanced diet and don’t deprive myself of anything. I consume a wide variety of things: real butter, wine, bread, meat, vegetables, fresh fruit, cheese, chocolate, ice cream, and once in a while, a pain au chocolat, but do so in moderate amounts. I avoid fad diets and don’t obsess about what I eat. I do yoga and walk and ride a bike a lot. I believe you can eat whatever you want as long as you walk (or bike) there, and do the same going home. You can read more at How I Eat.

Q: Ginger or Mary Ann?

A: The professor. Or maybe Little Buddy—if I’ve had a few drinks.

Red Wine

Vacationing in Paris

Q: I’m coming to Paris! Can you give me restaurant or hotel suggestions?

A: Why not? You’ll find many of my personal suggestions already here on the site for hotels, restaurants, and my favorites shops. Search in the Paris Travel Tips as well as My Paris for restaurants and places to eat.

You can also use the search engine for specific suggestions as well as the Categories for shops, bakeries, chocolate shops, and markets.

Q: I’m too lazy to search your blog for tips. Can’t I just ask you?

A: No.

Q: We’re coming to Paris and want to meet you. Can we meet?

A: Unfortunately the three decades I spent working in restaurant kitchens means my social skills are nil. So to spare you the painful experience of sitting through a meal or get-together with me, like chimps in the zoo, I’m best enjoyed at arms-length.

Q: Where are all the outdoor markets in Paris?

A: You can find a complete list of them here. There are markets every day in Paris, except on Monday. My favorites are the Bastille market (11th), Batignolles (8th-17th), and the Marche d’Aligre (12th).

Q: We have just a short time in Paris. What are things, or places, that we shouldn’t miss?

A: If you have a specific area of interest (say, “Paris ice cream”), use the Search engine at the site, to find results. You’ll also find these posts interesting: 10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris, Rue Montorgueil, and Paris Favorites.

For those of you interested in baking supplies, visit G. Detou. If you’re interested in chocolate or pastry shops, visit my Paris Chocolate & Pastry archives.

For those who love pastries and chocolate, you can find all my favorite places on my Paris Pastry app, which is also available as an e-book as well as a Kindle edition.

Q: We want to book a private tour with you. When are you available?

A: I do not offer day-long chocolate or market tours in Paris. If you’re looking for a tour, you may wish to visit my pals at Context Travel, La Cuisine, and Paris By Mouth.

I do offer week-long tours once or twice a year and you can read more about them here.

Q: How do I get a signed book from you?

A: I do events in Paris a few times a year where folks can come and meet up. Those are listed on my Schedule page. When I travel, I sometimes do events in other cities and those are listed there as well. Unfortunately it’s impossible to send signed books overseas by mail because of the costs and time involved, so you’ll have to catch me in person.

Q: What foods can be brought back from France to the US?

A: Fresh meats, fruits and vegetables are prohibited for sure. Often you can bring back raw-milk cheeses as long as they’re in quantities obviously for personal consumption and not resale. Many cheese shops in Paris will pack them sous vide, cryo-vac’d, for transport, which I highly recommend doing. (There is often a small surcharge for that.) Foods packed in cans are normally fine and some things in jars are, but occasionally meat products in glass, like foie gras, can be iffy. Personally, I’ve not had problems with chocolates, either filled or tablets.

Rules change frequently, and without notice, but here’s the latest information that I know of for bringing foods home from abroad.

There’s also an excellent article in USA Today, which has more tips and helpful links.

Q: Do you know those guys from Chez Panisse who do the supper club in Paris?

A: Yes, I do. Unfortunately I believe they are no longer doing dinners.

Q: We’re looking for romantic restaurants. Any suggestions?

A: Oh-la-la! You can find suggestions on the site here.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for cooking classes and schools in Paris?

A: You can find my list of cooking schools & classes, as well as wine-tastings here.

Q: Can you give some advice about the professional cooking schools in Paris?

A: I only attended one, so I can’t offer advice about those I haven’t attended. But there’s a pretty good discussion on eGullet from folks who’ve attended the others.

Q: We are coming to Paris at Christmas. Do you have any dining suggestions?

A: Because Christmas is still a family-oriented holiday in France, virtually everyone eats at home or takes a vacation to visit their family. So most restaurants are closed on Christmas Eve, and many on Christmas Day. Restaurants change yearly so it’s not possible to list a confirmed set of places open during Christmas. But if you want to reserve, do so as far in advance as possible.

Larger hotel restaurants, like the swanky Le Meurice and Le Bristol, remain open, and certain chains of restaurants are open as well, such those from the Flo chain of bistros. Unfortunately the food at them isn’t exceptional but the décor usually is – the best of the lot are Terminus Nord, Balzar, and La Coupole. Au Pied du Cochon is normally open, and I’m a bit partial to L’Européen for oysters (currently closed for renovations, and not sure if they will reopen or it’ll be something else.) Le Bar à Huitres is open for oysters and seafood as well. And Le Dôme as well. Chartier, La Rotonde, and Chez Jenny which specializes in choucroute are generally open, too.

You can find a list of places open at Christmas at Paris By Mouth. (The list is often not updated annually, but generally speaking, the restaurants listed likely do something similar each year.)

Please note that many places in Paris are not so adept at answering e-mail (I know, I know – even if they have an e-mail link on their website…) so it may be necessary to call or have someone from your hotel call on your behalf. If you have a restaurant reservation during this period and you have something in writing, be sure to bring it with you. You might want to confirm a few days in advance, and if you can’t make it, be sure to call to cancel so they can give your table to someone else.

Expect to pay a premium to dine out at certain places on Christmas or Christmas Eve as restaurants may have special menus. You can also find Asian restaurants open in the 13th arrondissement (on the Avenues d’Ivry and de Choisy) if you are more budget-minded and don’t mind noodles or roast duck.

At Christmas, outdoor markets do remain open (see list, above) as do many neighborhood bakeries (pastry and chocolate shops will be closed) so you could make a picnic of treats from your local marché. But even though it’s a busy period for them, you may want to stock up on libations since wine shops will likely be closed on those days as well.

Q: How about New Year’s Eve? We want to go out somewhere, but not spend a lot of money.

Unfortunately, like any major world capital, if you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a restaurant, you should expect to pay a big premium for the experience. Paris By Mouth has a list of places that are usually open that night for the festivities.

Q: I’m trying to make French macarons and I can’t get them to have the ruffled foot, or the tops crack. What am I doing wrong?

A: I’ve compiled a wealth of tips, along with resources and links to recipes that should help you out in Making French Macarons.

Q: Can you recommend a private chef in Paris?

A: Since I haven’t had the need to hire a private chef here, I don’t know any. Sorry.

Q: We’re visiting French friends. What are good gifts to bring them from the states?

A: In spite of the fact that we might think they’d get a kick out of things like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or Cheese-Whiz, they don’t share our nostalgic affection for American ‘comfort foods’. I recommend dried sour cherries or cranberries, macadamia nuts, as well as interesting foods like bean-to-bar chocolate, dried Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, or a locally produced honey. Check out my post, Food Gifts to Bring French People from America.

Q: Can we use our mobile phones in Paris?

A: Not being much of a techie, it’s best to contact your provider at home to ask if your phone works abroad.

The cheapest way to have a telephone when you are traveling in France is to buy a sans abonnement or sans engagement phone, where you purchase the phone for around 20€, then add minutes by buying the numbers which you punch into the phone at Tabacs and phone stores. If you travel to Paris frequently, you can use the phone forever and just add time whenever you come back and I recommend one of these due to the low cost. One caveat is that you lose your phone number if you don’t use it after a certain amount of time, often 6 months, but you can get another number on your next trip. There are many mobile phone companies scattered all over Paris and almost all of them sell pay-as-you-go phones with SIM cards for France. In areas where tourists tend to be, there are usually folks who speak English in the stores.

BIC has introduced a temporary mobile phone, which comes pre-loaded with minutes and a personalized phone number. These are available at France Telecom and Orange stores, as well as in the news kiosks at most airports and train stations. Note that with French cell providers, you only use minutes with outgoing calls, not incoming ones. You can read more at: Will My Cell Phone Work in France? There are also links to SIM cards you can use in Europe.

More Tips For Paris Travel

Chocolate Cookies

Cooking, Baking and Recipes

Q: Can I reduce the sugar in one of your recipes?

A: When I write a recipe, I try to minimize excess ingredients, and am very conscious of how much sugar – and butter, and cream – are called for. I test recipes pretty rigorously so the one I publish is the best and brightest version. You’re welcome to take a go at reducing it, but I’ve spent a lot of time tinkering around here already, so you’re on your own.

Q: Can I reduce the amount of butter in one of your recipes?

A: See above.

Q: Can I use milk instead of cream in a recipe?

A: See above.

Q: Can I substitute something in a recipe if I have a food allergy or intolerance?

A: I am not really familiar with gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and other diet substitutions. While I am happy that readers and bakers that who follow those guidelines are interested in my recipes, since none of those are my areas of specialty, I suggest checking websites and books on those subjects to find substitutions. For more information, check out my post: Equipment and Ingredient Substitutions.

Q: Can you tell me where to find American baking ingredients in France, or acceptable substitutes?

A: Sure. Check out Ingredients for American Baking in Paris.

Q: Can you get a recipe for me?

A: Unfortunately, that’s extremely difficult if it’s a recipe from a pastry shop, restaurant, bakery, or bread bakery, because it’s likely that the recipe is scaled to make more than the average home baker could handle. And it’s a lot of work scaling down and re-testing a recipe, using equipment that’s available for home cooks. (I recently scaled down a recipe that called for 800 egg whites, for example!) My best advice is to contact the bakery or other venue directly, and asking them if they can assist you.

Q: Can you help me develop a dessert or ice cream recipe?

A: Man, I do that all day for myself!

Q: Can I use another size baking pan that indicated?

A: In most cases, yes. Smaller sized pans will bake faster so you’ll need to judge for yourself when testing for doneness. It’s impossible for me to know without actually re-testing the recipe in the size pan that you have, so follow any guidelines in the recipe for testing for doneness, including visual clues, such as “until the top is golden brown” or “until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.”

Q: Can I freeze that?

A: I rarely freeze things, mainly because I’ve found that very few things get better after a few weeks in the deep-freezer. I do freeze uncooked cookie, tart, and pie dough, but generally I don’t freeze baked goods once they’re been cooked for the reason mentioned above. (I also tend to forget about things in there, and every year, my annual clean-out brings out all sorts of surprises.) So if you want to know if something can be frozen, I would say that “Yes”, just about anything can be frozen. (Usually two months is the maximum time things should be stored in the freezer, to retain their flavor, and make sure anything you put in there is really well-wrapped; I use plastic wrap, then foil to secure it.) But know that you will likely not be as happy with the results after you pull it out of the freezer.

Q: Can I refrigerate that?

A: As to how long things can be kept in the refrigerator, generally 3 to 5 days is the maximum. Same with holding things at room temperature. Unless noted, baked cookies and cakes should not be refrigerated, but stored at room temperature well-wrapped or in an air-tight container. For precise recommendation, check out the FDA website under Food Safety.

Q: What’s the difference between semisweet and bitter chocolate? And what’s the difference between natural cocoa powder and Dutch-process cocoa powder?

A: Many of your chocolate questions can be answered in my book, The Great Book of Chocolate, but you can find answers to your chocolate and cocoa powder questions at my posts: Chocolate FAQs and Cocoa Powder FAQs.

Q: I have a question about ice cream or sorbet, can you answer it?

A: You’re in luck! A while back I did a post Tips on Making Ice Cream, where I let people post questions about making them, and I responded there. Honestly, I think I answered every possible question (and some I didn’t even know existed!) So head over there and check in the comments. There may be q few to read through, but just use the ‘search’ function on your browser to search the page using keywords for what you are looking for, and I’m certain you’ll find it there.

Q: I have a question about a recipe, but it isn’t yours. Can you answer it for me?

A: If you have a question about a recipe in a cookbook that I feature on the site, I suggest checking the actual book for additional guidelines and advice about the recipe. Usually I adapt the recipe, but the best source of information is with the original author. If it’s one of my recipes, I’m happy to answer your questions, but please check through the comments first to see if it’s already been answered as I do try my best to answer reader’s questions there, rather than by e-mail, so others can see them. If you have questions about a recipe you’ve found elsewhere, that isn’t mine or doesn’t appear on my site, please contact the author of that recipe since they are best-prepared to give advice about it.

Q: I made a recipe and it didn’t come out right/didn’t work. Can you tell me what I did wrong?

A: I wish I could! As much as I’d like to, it’s pretty hard to tell people what went wrong when they baked something. Fallen cakes (mismeasurement of dry ingredients, too much leavening, underbaking), ice crystals in ice cream (mixture not pre-chilled long enough, lower-fat products substituted) or ice cream being too hard, and cookies spreading while baking (overbeating batter, greased cookie sheets), have various causes. Ingredients differ by country and region, ovens differ, and baking times can vary depending on material of bakeware, so it’s tough to tell what precisely went wrong if you tried something and it didn’t work.

Recipes in my books are tested at least three times, then sent to someone else to test them again. (To read more about how I put together a cookbook, you can read The Making of My Paris Kitchen.) And in some instances, a professional food stylist makes them again. So it’s rare that there is a problem with a recipe. (Although it happens to the best of ‘em, and I do my best to make sure they don’t.) On the blog, most dessert recipes are tested at least twice. And you can read through the comments to reader’s notes on the recipes, and in some cases, links to other people who made that particular recipe, to see if it was you who goofed, or not. Most problems I’ve found are when folks veer from the published recipe. So make sure you follow the steps carefully (on the blog, I usually include some photos of the process to help), and realize that due to variations in products and materials, results can differ.

Q: Where can I get _________?

A: On the blog, I often use ingredients I get in Paris or during my travels. I try to use things people can get almost anywhere in the world, but availability of things can vary by country and culture. When people write asking where they can get certain items, 99.9% of the time, they don’t tell me where they live (!) For specialty ingredients, I advise “ethnic” markets (ie: ones that specialize in the cuisine of a particular country or culture), well-stocked supermarkets, or online. For more tips, check out How to Find Foods and Other Items Mentioned on the Site.

Q: What reference books do you recommend on baking and cooking?

A: The best books I know of are On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, which answers every question about what ingredients do, and how cooking works. Bakewise and Cookwise by Shirley Corriher also answer those questions, with more of a focus on baking and recipes. Those books are all highly recommended.

For those looking for baking books that are profesionally oriented, I’ve compiled ones I recommend in my Amazon shop.

Chez Panisse

Q: How long did you work at Chez Panisse?

A: I started in 1983 and worked there until 1998, but I took a few years away to be the pastry chef at Bruce Cost’s Monsoon restaurant and to consult. I was there for a total of 13 years.

Q: What’s Alice Waters really like?

A: Alice employed me for many years and as a cook, I could not ask for a better place to do that than Chez Panisse. Alice made sure the ingredients we used were the best available, and unlike many other well-known chef’s today, she isn’t interested in endorsing products or capitalizing on her name, except to promote sustainable agriculture and her various causes through the Chez Panisse Foundation.

It’s difficult running a restaurant and café with over a hundred employees, and I give Alice immense great credit for being able to keep up the restaurant’s high standards and for putting her philosophy on the plate day-after-day. You can read more I wrote about Alice Waters in my posts, Chez Panisse at Forty and Chez Panisse Anniversary Weekend.

rigoletto noir

Living and Working in Paris

Q: I want to move to Paris. Can you give me any advice?

A: The process is complicated and time-consuming, much more so than you can possibly imagine. The first step is to visit the web site for the French Consulate which is nearest to you. Follow the instructions, but be prepared for things not to go quite as you might expect. There is conflicting information on the websites. And even if you follow the instructions, you’ll likely have to provide additional items that weren’t initially requested. It’s a long, convoluted process, but basically, the first step is applying in the United States if you’re an American.

You can find some information here (in French).

Once that’s approved, when you come to France, you have to re-apply using the same paperwork – and more. Photocopy everything at least five times (on A4 paper) and always carry along everything you might need for all your appointments; photos, bank statements, lease, electricity and phone bills, proof of health insurance and finances, birth certificate, etc…all translated if they are not in French. And never, ever throw anything away, no matter how trivial you think it is. Someone is certain to ask you for it later.

You’ll need to make an appointment at the Préfecture de Police after your arrival in Paris, which can take months and your appointment may fall after the expiration date on your visa – which is always a challenge since you might find yourself in a position of not getting an appointment before your current visa expires. Plan on things not going quite as anticipated, and remember there’s a reason the French have so much red wine at their disposal. You’ll need it, too. Once you get your Carte de Sejour (one year card) you’ll need to re-apply each year; the rules and qualifications changing unexpectedly. There are no exact answers and the process changes frequently.

There’s an excellent write up of the process over at Chez Loulou and you might want to take my quiz, Should I Move to France? 28 Questions to Ask Yourself.

For information about finding work in France, you can find good advice at Secrets of Paris.

Two excellent stories about moving to France and the process, and issues you’ll face are French Bureauctacy, Explained and Realities of an Expat Life.

Recommended Reading:

Q: Where can I find a long-term apartment in Paris?

A: There are lots of private agencies that will assist in your search, although I have no experience with them. To search for a long-term apartment direct from the owner in Paris yourself, you may wish to start at the following sites:

* Craigslist Paris
* PAP
* FUSAC

Q: I want to come to France and do a stage in a famous restaurant. What do I do? Can you help me?

A: First off, high-end restaurants are tough places to work and if you do a stage (internship) in one, you’re likely to be doing menial work no matter how skilled you are. Don’t expect to be standing on the line with Alain Ducasse dishing up dinner. A knowledge of French is very helpful as is the ability to stand on your feet for 12-14 hours. Kitchens can be tough places so it’s helpful if you are a confident, strong person. And be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. Some places have become so popular they’re now charging people for the ‘experience’ of training in their kitchen. However the upside is that the experience may be invaluable, and it’ll be on your resumé forever.

I don’t have any specific connections that I can help people with, but for more advice and tips, check out my post: Doing an Internship in France.

Q: Will American appliances, such as KitchenAid mixers, work in France?

A: Some appliances can be used in Europe, some can’t. I’ve used some successfully with a transformer, and others reacted badly. (As in, smoke coming out when I plugged it in.) My KitchenAid mixer was obtained here in France and has the correct cords and voltage.

You can read the post I did about this topic, “Will my KitchenAid mixer work in Europe?”

brioche

Cooking Schools

Q: I want to be a pastry chef. Should I go to culinary school?

A: In general, I think it’s best for you to go work somewhere and see if you like the work before committing yourself financially, or otherwise, to any program. But you can read my post Should You Go To Cooking School? for much more on that topic.

Q: Did you go to cooking school?

A: I attended two cooking schools in Europe after I’d worked in restaurants for many years. One was Ecole Lenôtre near Paris, and the other was Callebaut Academy to study chocolate in Belgium. I also attended the Valrhona Ecole du Grand Chocolat. More information can be found doing some digging on their website.

For home cooks, you’ll find a list of cooking classes in Paris here and a discussion of professional programs in Paris here.

goat cheese

Products and Ads On The Site

Q: I’m looking for a certain product that you mentioned on the site in America, or elsewhere. How can I find out where to get it?

A: When I mention a product, I try to put a link to where it can be obtained it in the US, since that’s where many of my readers are. You can check out my post How to Find Foods and Other Items Mentioned on the Site which offers tips and places to check for certain items.

Obviously I don’t know where things will be available in every particular country, but I am open to any generous offers to come visit! (Business-class, please.)

Q: Can our company send you a product to try and review on your site?

A: In general, I only try products that are related to what I do, which share a similar philosophy to mine. (If you take a moment to read through various blog entries, you’ll get some idea of that.) I love trying new things, especially from small companies, and I love trying new chocolates, but I never commit to writing about them. I appreciate your not insisting that I do.

My philosophy is to only recommend products that I like and use personally. I don’t often write negative reviews since I think most people are trying their best and it’s hard to criticize them. (Although there are exceptions.) I’m not paid to recommend anything by anyone, so things I write about on the site and blog are products I know from my personal experience.

Please note that I live in Paris, which is in France, which should be evident, but isn’t to some pr folks out there.

I strongly urge marketers to read Elise Bauer’s article, Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Bloggers which gives guidance on how to pitch products to food bloggers.

Q: Why are there ads on your site?

A: Most of the ads are for my books, which I hope readers will buy…and use!; that’s how I make a living. There are also Google Ads and some from Martha Stewart, Blogher, and Platefull. All are clearly obvious and I try to keep them as unobtrusive as possible. The ads make the site possible and keeps it free and open to all, paying for site hosting and storage fees, web design, and updates to the site.

For more information, read the disclosure statement.

The Blog and Blogging

Q: How come I can’t leave a comment?

A: If comments have been turned off, it’s because I’ve answered all of the questions that I possibly could about the recipe in the comments already.

Q: You don’t always write positive things about Paris on the site. Don’t you like Paris or French people?

A: Of course I like Paris. Why would I live somewhere I didn’t like?

On the blog I write about my life in the French capital, the good and not-so-great. Like any city, Paris has its good side and its flaws and for those of us living here, we have to deal with them all. It’s a great place, but is a contemporary city grappling with urbanization, bureaucracy, immigration, strikes, and globalization, and is trying to come to terms with all of those things.

While many visitors come to Paris for a week and savor the chocolates, the cafés, the museums, and eat in bistros, living here presents a variety of challenges and because I live here, I write about them as well. There are plenty of entries which highlight the amazing cheeses, breads, bistros, and delicious confections around town, in addition to my tangles with the cable company, banks, and other facets of living in a modern city.

If you’re looking for stories about shopping for shoes or handbags, strolling on the Left Bank, drinking a €7 café crème on the Champs Elysées, taking a boat down the Seine, or falling in love with a Frenchman and living happily ever after, there are lots of good books and blogs which cover those subjects much better than I do.

Q: Why don’t you have a print option for recipes on this site?

A: Because the site was started in 1999, there are nearly a thousand entries. At this point, if I was to add a ‘print’ option, I would have to go back and re-format each and every post, which would likely take me weeks and weeks and weeks. (If that sounds as much fun to you as it does to me, then you understand.) You can use websites such as Print What You Like (or another one), which allows you to print web pages easily. Either that, or I have to start a new blog.

Q: Can I get the recipe for___________?

A: Unfortunately I’m unable to provide or send recipes that don’t appear on my site or that are in one of my books, for copyright reasons. Occasionally I’ll post a picture or story on my site (or in a social media stream) and folks will request the recipe. If no recipe is given on the site, please contact the venue, such as a bakery or restaurant, where the photo was taken to obtain the recipe. Ditto with my social media streams, where I’m unable to compress a recipe into 140 characters or post recipes on Facebook, Flickr, or Pinterest. So it’s best to contact the venue if one is listed.

Q: I left a comment and it was deleted. What the f$&%k!?

A: I subscribe to the comment policy espoused here. And reserve the right to delete or edit comments. Please remember this isn’t a democracy—it’s my dictatorship. Dissenting opinions are fine, and constructive comments are always welcome. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me (although it would sure be nice…), but please, don’t be a dick.

Sometimes my spam filter drops comments in there which unfortunately get whisked away, which happens sometimes if you’ve left a URL in the body of a comment. If yours hasn’t appeared on the site, that’s sometimes why. You can contact Akismet for an explanation but generally speaking, it’s likely your URL was hijacked by spammers and was blocked by their system.

Commenters must leave a verifiable e-mail address, which won’t be public. Click here to read more about my comment policy.

Q: What kind of camera and photo gear do you use?

A: I’ve listed all my gear, and a few tips, at my post: My Food Photography Gear.

Q: Can I use one of the photos on your site or Flickr page on my site, or in our magazine?

A: While I appreciate folks who enjoy the photographs on my blog, as well as on my Flickr page, since they are intended to either accompany a recipe or be part of a story about a place I visited. For that reason, they’ll be taken out of context so I don’t allow them to be used elsewhere, whether online or in print (including commercial enterprises as well as non-profit ones.)

Q: Why are there typos in your blog entries? Can’t you spell?

A: I write for a living, and when I do an assignment for a book, for which I get paid, I have the luxury of taking the time to proof and re-check my copy before it’s submitted for publication. The blog is intended to be lighthearted and a place for me to share my stories about life in Paris. Since I do this for fun, I can’t give it the same attention that I do for my paid work.

Lighten up…it’s a blog!

(If you’re interested in error-free text, buy one of my books.)

Q: How do I get added to your links page?

A: As you can see, there’s lots of links already there. It started out mostly being friends, but it’s blossomed into a long list of food blogs that I wanted to share as well. At this point, I’m not adding any more links.

So if you’re not on the links page, it doesn’t mean I don’t like you, nor does it mean I don’t like your blog. There’s plenty of blogs I read and enjoy, but aren’t necessarily on my links page. A good way to get readers is to leave a good comment, and put your URL in the appropriate field (rather than the name of your blog, where your name goes), where the site automatically links to it.

Q: I want to start a food blog, or make mine better. Can you give me any suggestions?

A: A blog of any sort is a personal diary so what works for me may not work for you.
A general rule would be to look closely at blogs you like and read regularly, see what they do, and figure out why you find them interesting. Is it your humor, your photos, or your recipes? Take inspiration from others, but make it your own.

You can read an in-depth post I did on Food Blogging, which talks about various facets of blogging.

A few things you may wish to concentrate on are: design of the site, good content, and expressing your voice. The most important advice I can give is to edit.

Most writing is improved when it’s distilled down to the best nuggets: less is more. On the internet, people have limited time to read, and to me, a post should be easily readable in 2-3 minutes.

If I had to name a short list of things to strongly consider:

  1. Get your own domain name
  2. Use a good host (server) that has customer service
  3. Don’t use the same blog template everyone else is using
  4. Buy a DSLR camera and learn how to use it
  5. Update your blog regularly, but make all your content count
  6. Make friends with other bloggers, network with them, and link to them
  7. Don’t leave spammy comments (ie: “Looks delicious – check out my site!”) on other blogs
  8. Break up large blocks of text with pictures

Still, I advise you not to take it too seriously. It’s not a popularity contest and if it’s not fun, don’t do it.

In addition to the article on food blogging on the site, that I mentioned just above, you might wish to read my article, Do’s and Don’ts About Food Blogging for Cookbook Authors, whether you are an author or not.

You can get helpful tips at these links:

Q: I want to write a cookbook. Can you help me?

A: Sure…click here to read my tips.

Q: How can I contact you?

A: You can use the Contact Form.

Q: I sent you a message and never got a response. What kind of jerk are you?

A: Unfortunately I’m not always able to answer each message as I’d like to, so I apologize. Sometimes I get really busy with other projects. I do read all my messages and appreciate any and all feedback.

Q: I don’t agree with something you wrote on your blog. What should I do about it?

A: While I wish that everyone agreed with me all the time, unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. These are just my opinions and ramblings and I welcome constructively-written, friendly counter-opinions in the comments area. I will delete any personal attacks or insane remarks…unless they’re especially well-written.

Hey, I’m just a cookie baker and what I say isn’t worth getting anyone’s knickers in a knot.

Web Design and Maintenance

Q: What blogging platform do you use?

A: The site is on WordPress, which I switched to in August of 2010.

Q: Who is behind your site?

A: The site was originally designed by Jesse Gardner of Plasticmind, who no longer designs personal websites.

My current web developer and designer is Cre8d Design.

The site is hosted by Liquid Web.

My newsletter is powered by Mad Mimi.

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