Let’s say you’re cooking dinner.
And you drop something behind the stove.
Like a bit of meat, for example.
Or a piece of broccoli.
But it’s just out of reach.
What would you do?
Let’s say you’re cooking dinner.
And you drop something behind the stove.
Like a bit of meat, for example.
Or a piece of broccoli.
But it’s just out of reach.
What would you do?
France, one of the last countries to ban smoking in restaurants, is ready to ban smoking, alledgedly on January 1st, 2007. Like most things here, it’s not quite a ‘done deal’…(in French, there’s le conditionelle, a verb tense that gives politicians a bit of wiggle room, like shoulda-woulda-coulda).
Restaurant and café owners feel the ban will hurt business. But I’m wondering: Won’t it help? People will tend not to linger, smoking 4-5 cigarettes après dinner, and clear the tables sooner. Will smokers really stop going out to dinner? That same arguement was brought up in California and New York, and hasn’t proved to be true. And smoking will still be allowed in bars, nightclubs, and Tabacs.
Since there’s a big election coming up next spring, the issue’s rather touchy. No one seems to want to ruffle any feathers and alienate anyone, as Prime Minister Villepan learned when he snuffed out his chances of becoming the President of France when he imposed new employment laws for students, who reacted rather fiercely a few months back, forcing him to backtrack and lose much of his political clout. And French folks aren’t necessarily fond of change; Ségolène Royale, a candidate for President, had to backtrack recently when she mistakenly said that French workers need to be flexible, and quickly changed, saying workers needed to be souple, or supple, instead.
Here’s two articles (from the thread at eGullet):
Any guesses as to what’s actually going to happen?
After returning from mon vacance, I timidly opened up my e-mailbox, and out spilled a few hundred messages. As I scanned each one, I found I’d been tagged by my pal Matt, who responded to Melissa’s list for Five Things To Eat Before I Die. While the last thing I wanted to think about when I got back from vacation was dying (well, until we hit le traffic bouchon returning to Paris on the autoroute), here it goes…
The Salad Judy Rodgers Made For Me
When we were both working at Chez Panisse, one evening Judy Rodgers asked me if I’d like a salad. “Why yes,” I responded, and a few minutes later she handed me the most memorable dish I’d ever eaten.
The salad was composed of a big pile of bitter, thick leaves of escarole. Tossed in with the salad was just-softened (and still slightly-warm) slices of tiny Yukon Gold potatoes, garlic chapons, slices of baguette that had been toasted and grilled, then rubbed with fresh garlic, with chunks of roasted rabbit loin. The whole salad was bathed in a mustardy vinaigrette, and it was all just the perfect confluence of ingredients, tastes, and textures.
The Corned Beef Sandwich From the Second Avenue Deli
Almost without warning, New York’s Second Avenue Deli closed, taking with them perhaps the best corned beef sandwich on the planet. Okay, before you get all New York on me, yes, there are other delis in New York making excellent corned beef sandwiches (Katz’s, Carnegie, etc…), but the Second Avenue Deli was my favorite spot.
A heaping mound of salty, coarsely-textured stack of sliced meat piled on soft slices of rye bread with the unmistakably scent of caraway seeds. Only a smear of spicy, dark mustard was necessary, before diving in. The seasoned waitresses were always happy to see me, like a long-lost family member, and were never failed to oblige me by bringing me an extra bowl of their crunchy half-sour pickles, which I’d polish off well before my sandwich ever hit the table.
Porcelana Chocolate from Amedei
If you’ve never tasted Amedei chocolate, it’s probably because it’s so rare they can’t keep up with demand. I was lucky enough to spend a morning with Alessio Tessieri tasting the complete line of Amedei chocolate at his small roasting facility near Pisa, in Italy.
Slipping a tablet of Amedei’s elusive Porcelana into my mouth and savoring the creamy, bittersweet chocolate as it melted lovingly into my complete being, was without a doubt, the pinnacle of my chocolate-tasting experience.
Sauternes is a wine made from grapes that are left on the vine until they begin to rot (called ‘the noble rot’, in fact). Although there are several other fine Sauternes made in this region, Château d’Yquem is produced in the town of Sauternes, near Bordeaux, and is situated at exactly the perfect point where the fine mist from two converging rivers blankets the grapes, forming the basis for this noble rot. The half-dried grapes are hand-picked, and each musty, funky-looking cluster produces perhaps just a tiny sip of this precious, sweet nectar.
The first time I had Château d’Yquem, I was asked to create a dessert for a dinner party where a rare vintage from the 1930′s would be presented (actually, all Château d’Yquem’s are rare vintages, since they don’t release a wine during years when the grapes are not excellent.) During dessert, the host of the party (Danny Kaye) handed me a glass of the deep amber-colored liquid, and as I drew the glass up to my face, the smell of caramel, apricots, toast, and fresh mangoes came tumbling out. By the time I tipped the first sip into my mouth, the sweet liquid totally overwhelmed me with it’s fruity complexity. I’ve had subsequent glasses of Château d’Yquem and each one is unique and rare, but that first sip was unforgettable.
Glace Caramel at Berthillon
Living so close to Berthillon, I can practically go there everyday…and sometimes I do! (Except during most of the summer, when they’re closed.) As I ponder which flavor to order while waiting my turn in the inevitable line, by the time it’s my turn, I’ve changed my mind perhaps a zillion times.
I always walk away with the same thing: Caramel Ice Cream.
Imagine biting into a smooth, creamy mound of frosty caramel, with lots of buttery-sweetness but with a burnt, slighty-bitter edge, totally smooth, without being cloying. Paired with a scoop of chocolat amer, a chewy sorbet made from bitter chocolate, it’s two scoops of heaven piled into a neat little cone.My tradition is to race over to the nearby Pont Marie, so I can enjoy my cornet overlooking the Seine and the city of Paris. If you’re in my way, stand back as you’re likely to be bowled over, so I can can make it to the bridge before my precious frozen boules des glaces melt away.
Shallot jam is a wonderful addition to many dishes. It’s a bit sweet and a little tangy, the best of both – and s generous spoonful goes well with roasted meats, pâté, and can dress up a grilled chicken breast. You might not be familiar with shallots, but they are common in French cuisine and are the sweeter cousin to onions. I buy them by the sack at the outdoor markets and in American supermarket, you’ll find them tucked away in the onion aisle.
Here’s a few general tips on jam-making:
Shallot, Cocoa Nib, Beer, and Prune Jam
About 1 1/2 cups
This goes great with pâté or as a sweet counterpoint to anything rich and meaty. In Paris, there’s normally a gathering before dinner for drinks, such as a kir or a glass of Champagne. I’ve served this with slices of foie gras on toasted brioche, a perfect partnership.
I used the largest shallots I could find since I’m too lazy to peel those little ones. Feel free to substitute raisins for the prunes.
- 1 pound (450 g) shallots, peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoon unflavored vegetable oil
- big pinch of coarse salt
- a few turns of freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup (100 g) beer
- 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons cider or balsamic vinegar
- 8 prunes (3 oz/90 g), pitted, and cut into tiny pieces
- 1 heaping tablespoon cocoa nibs (see Note)
1. In a medium-sized heavy-duty skillet or saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the shallots over moderate heat with a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring frequently, until they’re soft and wilted, which should take about 10 minutes.
2. Add the beer, sugar, honey, vinegar, prune pieces, and cocoa nibs and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the shallots begin to caramelize. While cooking, continue stirring them just enough to keep them from burning.
3. The jam is done when the shallots are nicely-caramelized, as shown.
Store the jam in the refrigerator, where it will keep for at least 2 months.
(Note: You can buy cocoa nibs online, if you can’t find them where you live.)
There’s a little bit of a war going on here in Paris on the rue des Rosiers, in the Marais. The Rue Des Rosiers is the Jewish street, sporting several good (and a few bad) bakeries, a few chic clothing stores, but a string of fafafel stands and restaurants. The most famous, L’As du Falafel, is always crowded, and teeming with locals, who come for their Heeb-Hop (Hebrew-Hop, as we call it), and tourists, who’ve read about L’As du Falafel in their guidebooks.
I always feel sorry for the other places on the street. There’s often deserted, while the throngs of people line up at L’As in search of their falafel-fix. The only time they seem to generate any interest is when L’As du Falafel closes for the Sabbath, on Friday nights and Saturdays. But a few weeks ago I started noticing handwritten signs on the place across the street, Mi-Va-Mi, with slogans like “Taste and Compare”, daring to take on the Ace o’ Falafel, just across the street.
Today as I stop by to get my weekly falafel, making a beeline for L’As, I notice a swarm of missionaries agressively confronting passers-by with plates brimming with warm falafel, followed closely by someone with a guest-check book, pen-to-the-paper, ready to take their order. The scene was curious, since the French haven’t quite grasped the concept of ‘Free Samples’ (or competition). When I asked a French friend why anyone rarely offers samples, I was told “Because it’s not ‘correct’. But there’s a guy at the fromagerie on the Î’le St-Louis who’s making a killing offering samples to passers-by, mostly tourists, who get one taste of great French cheese, and invariably come in and make a purchase.
Correct or not, that dude is rakin’ it in.
So although there’s no such thing as a free lunch, especially in Paris, there’s lots of free falafels to be had this week as the street is abuzz with people bearing heaping bowls of freshly-fried falafels. I don’t know how long it will last, and the offer doesn’t extend to those who’ve already purchased. (I tried to get one of the falafel-pushers to augment my half-eaten sandwich, but being très Paris, there’s little interest in the customer after the sale.)
And in an unlikely show of unity, as I was finishing up, I saw one of the fellows from L’As du Falafel pop one of his crisp falafels in the mouth of his main competitor, a woman who was offering falafels from Mi-Va-Mi. She stopped, took a taste, and nodded in agreement before going back to offering her falafels to all takers.
So perhaps there’s something to be said for the absence of competition.
(Although I appreciate the presence of free samples.)
L’As du Falafel
34, rue des Rosiers
Tél: 01 48 87 63 60
27, rue des Ecouffes
Tél: 01 42 71 53 72
One of the hardest things about living in any foreign country is, of course, the language. Seriously, learning any language is really hard I’m sure, but anyone who can master French, who wasn’t pushed from the womb and spent their lifetime in an all-French speaking environment, I take my chapeau off to you. For the rest of us, it’s a challenge. Even the most mundane task, like writing a check, often requires a consultation with le dictionnaíre.
Last week, for example, I was looking for hand lotion (sans le dictionnaíre). As I combed the aisles at Monoprix, I finally found the moisturizer aisle, lined with lots of pretty pink and white bottles. So I picked a few up, reading the labels. After a careful reading and I finally found one that seems like what I was looking for, “Hmmm, that seems about right,” I thought to myself. As I go, I notice I’m getting some strange looks from the women milling around me, but assume it’s because they’re not used to people reading the labels of moisturizers as if they were Camus. As I make my way to the caisse, the cashier, while standing in line, I re-read the label, picking up a line on the label noting the lotion I’m toting around was intended for cleansing, um, shall we say, ‘intimate areas’. And presumably not for men.
(And even if I was, do you think I’d share that with you here?)
So it was no wonder that I got a few strange looks going back, trying to be non-chalant, and returning it to the shelf avoiding eye-contact with anyone in the process.
I’ve gotten in so much trouble mangling the language it’s no longer funny (well, actually it is…) One of my most infamous stories, that I think I may have recounted here before, I was at my favorite épicerie and I wanted red currant, or groseille jam.
So in my picture-perfect French, I said, “Je voudrais le confiture de gros selles (which I pronounced as ‘gross sells’), s’il vous plait.” She looked at me, her eyes incredulous that she couldn’t possibly believe her ears.
It was after a moment, I realized I meant groseilles (pronounced ‘gro-zay’).
I had asked for Big Turd Jam.
But even the French have trouble with their own language. I was at the Petit Palais museum recently with a gal pal (see video above), and came across a Nature Morte, which literally translates to ‘Dead Nature’, but actually means ‘Still Life’. There was one Nature Morte ‘aiguière’, a still life of a peeled orange. So I asked the attendant what an ‘aiguière was, and she was stumped. So she asked another attendant, who didn’t know either. It’s not even in my dictionary, which boasts 120,000 traductions. (Béa…help!)
About a year ago, I had just returned for leading a tour to Italy. My group visited Biella, a city famous for its mountaintop convent. One you’ve made the climb up to the majestic mountain, ensconced in the convent is a Madonna, made of black wood. She’s known, of course, as The Black Madonna (not to be confused with the Jewish Madonna, in America.)
At a dinner party back in Paris, I was recounting how exciting it was to climb this mountain in Italy, to see the ‘Verge noir’.
“It’s amazing, so beautiful to see,” I continued, “and people came from all over to see and worship the verge noir!”
Meanwhile, everyone’s looking at me with a bit of shock, and panic. As I keep talking, I’m explaining the beauty and magnificence of le verge noir. “It’s fantastic. Really a magnificent work of art”, until a friend leans over and says that he thinks I mean the magnificent ‘vierge noir’, the black virgin.
Not the magnificent ‘verge noir’, the black penis.
So I took it with a grain of salt when a French friend started calling me “Stupid boy!, which I told him was somewhat impolite. Then I realized what he meant to say, perhaps, was “Silly boy.” Or I hope he meant to say that.
Now to Anglophones, they are two very different things, but to a non-native English speaker, they’re rather different in meaning. “Don’t be stupid” is far different than “Don’t be silly.”
And, yes, sometimes even I am a stupid boy. For example, I know very little about some things, like Armagnac.
But the great thing about being a wonderful, giving, and caring person, is that occasionally you get rewarded for it and lavish gifts get bestowed upon thee.
After leading a Paris Chocolate Tour last spring, some of my guests bestowed upon me these lovely bottles of Armagnac. Of course, I was thrilled especially since the packaging revealed they were from Michel Chaudun’s chocolate shop and one had a lovely box of his superb chocolates discreetly hidden inside. But I wasn’t aware of how truly special those bottles were. When I wrote Kate about them, who lives in Gascony (the epicenterfor Armagnac), I could hear the gasp all the way to Paris, and she told me that I didn’t just have “the best”, but that I had “the best of the best”.
Living in France, I like to try a new cheese, wine, or whatever I can get my hands on (except tripe, which I don’t feel any great need to familiarize myself with), tasting new things while mulit-tasking and expanding my vocabulary. And although I thought my precious bottles of Armagnac might remain on my Too Good To Use shelf, they didn’t for very long.
So I may be a ‘Stupid Boy’, but I do know about baking and chocolate. And so you’re not a ‘Stupid Boy’ (or girl) you might want to know that Champagne Chocolate Truffles don’t contain any Champagne, but are made with Cognac. I got into an online tiff on eGullet with someone who insisted I was wrong (and some of those eGullet folks get real nasty). She had seen a New York-based French chocolatier on television pour Champagne into his truffle mix. When I went to look at his recipe, sure enough, he did use true Champagne. He also called for a specific brand, and after some checking, I found out…surprise!…the Champagne company is one of his many sponsors.
But for the most part, Champagne in truffles means Cognac and derives from the old French term champaigne which means ‘open-field’, according to the Bureau National Interprofessional du Cognac.
(If that woman from eGullet is reading this, take it up with them, girlfriend…)
Both Armagnac and Cognac are distillations made from grapes, varieties which are generally not used for making ordinary table wine. Like Cognac, Armagnac is a region in France. It’s closely associated with Gascony and it’s cuisine (prunes and Armagnac, for example) and produced in the Pyrenees.
Cognac is farther north, on the Atlantic coast, near where oysters are farmed off the Ile de Ré. The salt from the region is famous as well. Armagnac is distilled once, while Cognac is distilled twice and I find when tasting the two, Armagnac feels more rugged to me, which is part of its appeal. Its flavors seems to be fuller and more complex while Cognac is more delicate and refined. It’s been said that “Cognac is the girl you can bring home to meet your parents, while Armagnac is the one you keep hidden away.”
So if I was making chocolate Champagne Truffles, theoretically I’d have to use fine Cognac. But if I had a choice of what to drink, I’m working my way through these bottles of Armagnac, which I’ve decided I’m not going to let sit on the self for too long.
What do you think I am…stupid?
You may have noticed I’ve been making several design changes to the site, and I’ve been adding entries about travel to Paris. Since I get so many request, I’ve adding my tips for those who are planning to visit the city, including hotel recommendations, transportation notes, and astuces to make your visit to Paris more fun from an insider’s perspective. You may have noticed I’ve added a few other features to the site, including the Categories on the left-hand side of the screen so you can find things easier (or waste more time while you’re at work). I’ve updated the Links page too, annotating the links and added lots more places, and listing many more sites of friends, for you to visit.
There may also be some goofy-looking posts in the near future, as I’m experimenting with a new blogging tool, Qumana, which formats words into HTML for me, since when you see évêché I need to type the symbolic equivalent of (B)(em)%eacute,vê,ch%eacute,(/em)(/B) on my mini-Mac laptop screen. So excuse any missteps and misplaced photos while I test out the new tool, and preserve my eyesight too.
Chocolate Tours in Paris and Normandy
We’ve just announced, on my Chocolate Tours page, news about my next Paris Chocolate Exploration with Mort Rosenblum, in May 6-12, 2007. This is a repeat of last year’s sell-out Paris chocolate tour, where once again, our lucky guests will be warmly welcomed into the private workshops my favorite chocolatiers, including Jacques Genin and Jean-Charles Rochoux, and participate in a delicious private chocolate tasting at La Maison du Chocolat.
Since announcing the tour at the beginning of this month, almost half the spaces have been snapped up. So if you’d like to be a part of this incredibly fun chocolate adventure in Paris, you can read more about ithere and follow the link for booking and pricing information.
And yes, that’s Mort on his boat, where we’ll float on the Seine, sipping rosé, eating chocolate, and sampling delicious treats from the city’s finest culinary shops, as we watch the rest of Paris drift by.
Speaking of chocolate, my classes with Susan Loomis at her home in Normandy, On Rue Tatin, are just about sold-out as well. These three days of hands-on cooking classes promise to be great fun, and if you’ve dreamed about cooking up delicious meals, and fabulous chocolate desserts in a magnificent French country kitchen, this is the trip for you. There are just two spaces left for this culinary adventure, and there’s an option to spend an additional day with us in Paris visiting our favorite markets, fromageries, and of course, the prestigious chocolate shops on the Left Bank.
For guests coming to Paris interested in shorter half-day tours, I’ve updated the information about my popular Paris Chocolate Walks and Outdoor Market Tours, and now offer them in friendly small-group tours, making them more accessible to all. You can book online through Context Travel in Paris.
My newest book is currently in production (yeah…I made my deadline!), which will be released in the spring of 2007. This month we’re working on the photography and taking lots of photos of all the recipes. Everyone involved has been going full-steam ahead to make sure the book will be beautiful, in addition to being fun to read with hundreds of new recipes. There’ll be almost fifty photographs, taken by one of the top food photographers in America, and I’m thrilled to be working with such a talented team of editors, designers, and stylists.
I’m planning a tour of several cities across the United States in conjunction with its release next spring and you can find out more on my Schedule page, which I’ll update as the dates become available.
Flying The Friendly Skies?
Ok, so they’re not so friendly anymore (Can someone please tell those idiots screaming into their cell phones at the airports to shut the hell up? What is wrong with people?)
In the September issue of Hemispheres magazine for United Airlines, you’ll find my article: Three Perfect Days in Paris. But even if you’re not planning to fly in September, the article will be posted on their web site, and archived there as well, for your future travel planning.
(My Schedule page lists the article as being in the October issue, but United bumped me up a month, although they didn’t offer a bump-up on my next overseas flight.)
France via Flickr
Subscribing To The Site
You might have noticed the pretty green box up to the right (well, I think it’s pretty…), where you can subscribe to the site and get updates from me. Normally, I send out about 4 updates a year, a friendly email with up-to-date news and information, but you need not worry about being innundated with emails. Enter your email to be the first to get the news directly from moi.
Your email address is not shared or sold so you won’t get emails hawking videos of sex-crazed lesbian cheerleaders (unless you want) or men’s herbal supplements guaranteed to ‘put an eye out with that thing’ (which don’t work…or so I’ve heard.)
No, this isn’t a plea for money. For that, you’ll have to wait ’til my next book comes out.
Do you know what an RSS Feed is? It allows you to find out instantly when your favorite sites and blogs, like mine, are updated. (Well, not all sites…Get on the stick, dude!)
You can learn more about RSS Feeders here. Google has come up with their own Google Reader, and there’s several others out there, but if you’re a Mac person, I strongly recommend NewsFire which is incredibly simple to download and use, and melds perfectly into our fabulous Mac desktop designs.
Then you can add this blog to your feed using the icons on the upper right, so you can do a Mac mind-meld with me!
Thanks to all for reading the blog, and leaving such fantastic comments. Many of them give me a big grin, and others I find laugh-out-loud funny. Others I find informative, which I’m sure many of the other readers appreciate as well. I appreciate all your positive feedback and thoughtful comments that are left here on the site. Keep ‘em coming!
In the future, I’ll be posting about lots of things, including the world’s best caramels (made with Breton salted butter), a lesson in harvesting salt, new recipes, and more Paris travel ideas and tips. And once the cooler weather of fall returns (it’s pretty brisk now), more Paris chocolate finds and discoveries. Mais oui.
In spite of the appearance of these herbs, I assure you they’re perfectly legit.
No, I didn’t open up my Pink Floyd double-album to remove any seeds. And no, I wasn’t listening to The Moody Blues at full-volume on my headphones hoping my mom wouldn’t smell anything funny (even though we rolled up a towel and pushed it against the bottom of the door.) And no, I no longer have my strobe light from many years ago when we’d be, um, getting-groovy down in my parents basement, laughing uncontrollably about something that any sane person would have found completely meaningless…as we did, the next day. But they sounded like good ideas at the time. Right?
So now that I’m a law-abiding adult, I get my rush cooking, and this is my stash. My friend Judy showed me how to make this easy herb mixture and now I make it every summer, making sure I’ll have enough to last me through the next twelve months.
It’s simply a mixture of fresh rosemary and sage, all chopped up with garlic and coarse salt. Since we’re just about at the end of fresh garlic season, I made sure to snag a few of the tender, violet-colored bulbs at the market, bringing them up to my nose to ensure they’re aromatic and pungent. Green garlic’s also very easy to peel; the fleshy skin merely slips right off, so you’ll have plenty of time to raid the pantry, on the rampage for anything sweet, just in case you get the munchies.
To make this herb mixture, take a very large bunch of fresh sage and pick the leaves off. Then take a large bunch of rosemary and strip off the oily leaves as well. A good proportion is about 2 to 3 parts sage leaves to 1 part rosemary. Then take about 8 small peeled garlic cloves and a heaping tablespoons of coarse salt (I use grey salt from Brittany) then chop it all up until the herbs are very fine, as shown. Discard any sticks or seeds.
Then spread the chopped mixture on a baking sheet and let it dry for about three days. (Hint: Don’t keep it near an open window where their might be a breeze. It would be a total bummer if you wasted your stash.) Once dry, store your herb in a tighly-sealed in a jar. Dude.
I use it as an instant rub over poultry, tuna filets, and meat; since I always have some on hand, it’s simple to mix with some good olive oil and rub in in well before roasting.
Judy likes to toss a small fistful in a bowl of olive oil as a dipping sauce, too.
I tasted it once, and found it totally awesome. Although for some reason, we found it hysterically funny.