Dagoba Chocolate Partners With Hershey’s

For those of you whose interest has been picqued by my interview with Frederick Schilling of Dagoba chocolate, Frederick sent me the scoop on his new partnership with Artisan Confections, a division of Hershey’s chocolate.
Here’s an except from that message:

“So, what’s in store for Dagoba now? Well, for the most part, nothing is going to change. Dagoba will remain in Ashland doing what we’ve always done. All the employees, as long as they want to stay, will still be there. We’ll still be able to wear whatever we want to wear to work. I’ll still be in charge of sourcing the cacao and formulating new products. We’ll still be using 100% recycled New Leaf Paper for our wrappers. We’ll still be using renewable energy for our factory. We’ll still be able to do the tradeshows as we want, when we want. We will have manufacturing support from a company that has been making chocolate for almost 100 years, which will be very nice! For those of you who do your own manufacturing, you know that it’s not always the easiest thing. Yet it’s fun to walk back there and see all this equipment and hear the noises… I love it!…”

“…(the) bottom line with the above statements, to answer your question of how we’re going to change-I really don’t foresee you’ll notice anything. I still want us to do what we’ve always done with each other. I’ve told Hershey’s straight up about our inter-industry relationships and they are sacred to me. They support it. They support what we’re doing… what we’re all doing together. And quite honestly, they want to learn from us; and I’m not going to turn away people who want to learn. Our passion and knowledge must be shared and passed on. Isn’t this what we want?”

“I ask that you all continue to keep an open heart for us. I feel this was the right move to continue to make the impact I want to make. And I still see all of us as being…the pioneers in what we do. We are leading the way. We will continue to lead the way. All of our paths will continue to bring us where it brings us and I want you all to know you have my support in all your directions. I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here, doing what I do.”

DavidLebovitz.com: The Lost Posts

Whew!
I’ve finally turned in my manuscript and off it goes back to my editor to check over everything I did. And so I’m turning my attention to cleaning up some of the stuff I have sitting on my computer.

I have this big, massive, overloaded file staring at me on my desktop, called ‘Blog Entries’. Living between two cultures often presents a lot of challenges, some good some bad, that’s the way it us, but it gives me plenty of opportunities for reflection and observation. Often I’ll be out and about, something will happen or an idea will come to me, and I’ll race home and start writing, only to never go back and pick it up again. Or I lose interest in it and move on.

Since I’m hopelessly frugal and can’t let anything go to waste, here’s a few of the entries that I started but never got around to finishing. Please note, they haven’t been polished, or in many cases, even finished. Some may be slightly off-beat, or off-putting, or slightly offensive.

And for that, dear readers, I can only beg your utmost forgiveness, and to please be easy on me…

A Day on The Beach In Brittany

Don’t you just hate when you’re relaxing at the beach, enjoying the warm sunshine, and some asshole starts playing his bagpipe?

(I was at the beach in Brittany this summer, and started hearing this odd whining noise. And no, that was not me. This dude starts playing his bagpipes in the dunes behind us. That was a first. It was funny and I loved it, since normally it’s someone with a radio at the beach, blasting away driving everyone else nuts. It was pretty funny at the time, but I couldn’t get past the first line.
So there.)

Ice Ain’t Nice?

(This was written awhile back when I was on book tour in the US, and everywhere I ate, they kept refilling and refilling and refilling my glass of over-iced water when all I wanted to do was just a plain glass of water, and to be left alone for 30 seconds in peace and quiet to eat my dinner. It was driving me nuts!
I thought it would be fun to get a real, honest-to-goodness French person to co-write it with me, since a lot of Americans don’t understand why the rest of the world doesn’t share our fascination with a huge glass filled with ice and a teaspoon of liquid barely suspended in it. But then the weather changed, and I never followed up.)

I don’t need the busboy to sprint across the dining room every time I take a sip from my glass.

(That was as far as I got. I guess the subject’s not all that interesting…)

Why?

(Some thoughts that came into my mind for a few days. Then mysteriously vanished.)

Why do people beg for money around ATM machines?
What is the likelihood of someone peeling off a twenty for them?

Why do people walk on my mat at yoga?
(Is that bad karma?)

Why does that bother me?
(Is that bad karma?)

Why do people think spending $20 for a bottle of olive oil is outrageous, but think spending $20 bottle for a bottle of wine at a restaurant is a bargain?

Why do people think $12 for a glass of wine at a restaurant is okay, but spending $5 for a bag of hand-harvested salt is outrageous?

Did the 50% of Americans who re-elected the current US President think that things were going to truly get better, rather than worse?

Why doesn’t someone come up with a flat chapstick that fits in your pocket?

Why don’t people pluck those long hairs hanging out of their nose or ears?

Why do people still think it’s still funny to correct you when you mention the store Target, with Tar-jay?

Why are so many American against universal health coverage when there are 47 million Americans without any sort of health coverage at all?

Why do Americans keep asking me if the French are worried about bird flu?

Why aren’t Americans worried about bird flu?

Why can’t the bird flu just attack he pigeons that sit on my windowsill?

Why do so many French people complain about their cholesterol while simultaneously puffing on a cigarette?

Why do companies have email addresses on their web sites for customers questions but don’t bother answering the emails?

Why do the phone always ring when I just start cutting up a chicken?

Why do I always suddenly have the urge to go to the bathroom with I just start to tackle the sinkful of dishes?

Why do objects always fall just out of reach if I drop them behind the oven?

Why do people smoke while other people are eating dinner?

Why do public swimming pools in Paris make men wear the briefest-cut, tiniest Speedo-like swim suits?

Why do people talk so loudly on their cell phones in airports in America?

Why is Italian coffee so much better than anywhere else on earth?

Why do people think they have to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day?

Why do people keep saying over and over, “Fat is flavor”?
(Is Crisco “flavor”? Is Oscar Meyer Olive Loaf flavor?”)

Why didn’t America switch to the metric system when it should have?

Why do French people keep asking me why America didn’t switch to the metric system?

Why does everyone ask me why America didn’t switch to the metric system?

Why I am obsessed with trying to freak-out the GoogleAds, on the side of this site, which scan content looking for themes in my crazy blog?

Why do readers always think I’m moving back to the US when I say that I’m going back to the US for a visit?

Why would I ever leave here?

Ten Things I Never Want To Hear Again

(Over ‘em…)

1. ‘Tar-jay’
(This is obviously stuck in my craw)

2. ‘Wifebeater’
(Anyone who thinks that’s funny needs to have their head examined.)

3. “David, have you read that book by David Sedaris?”
(Yes, I have.)

4. “David, have you heard that radio interview with David Sedaris?”
(Yes, I have.)

5. “David, do you know David Sedaris?”
(Yes, we’ve met.)

6. “Don’t the French hate Americans?”
(I can only speak for myself, and yes, they hate me and are viscous and cruel and everynight I cry myself to sleep.)

7. “Do you know those guys from Chez Panisse who do dinner parties in Paris?”
(Yes, their link is on my site. Please stop asking.)

8. “Have you read that book about French women staying so thin?”
(No. Please don’t make me.)

9.

10.

The Perfect Fruitcake

(I was writing about fruitcakes, planning to do a post with a recipe. As you may remember, that experiment ended rather, er, badly. But I found a much better substitute for cheesecloth than I ever could have imagined.)

When I wrote my first book, Room For Dessert, people innundated my web site with recipe requests for fruitcake. Every day I would flip on my computer and find another message begging for recipes. It was driving me nuts! So I put not one, but two recipes in my next book.

One of the hardest things living in another country is it’s hard to find things that we take for granted. I spent two weeks looking for mineral oil before finally stumbling across some at Ikea. And cheesecloth seems to be as all-American as using steroids has become for baseball players. You can’t get it here, and I wasn’t willing to patch together little bits of gauze from the pharmacy.

But being France, of course, they have something far more beautiful; they have étamine or toile au beurre, which is the most lovely, gauze-like fabric you can imagine. I found mine at the March&eacute St. Pierre at the foot of Montmarte, the multi-leveled fabric emporium which is so old-fashioned, they still have an elevator man!

The first time I went there, I was looking for light-blocking fabric. Since Parisians like to sleep in, I figured there’s be spools of it everywhere. After bringing my measurements in, no one would help me, until I cornered a surly saleman. When he growled in my direction, I replied, “J’éspere que si vous vous installez dans un autre paye, vous ne recontreriez pas les personnes comme vous.”
(“I hope that when you move to another country, you don’t meet anyone like yourself, asswipe.“)

Anyhow, fruitcakes can be quite good if you make a nice one. My Chocolate Cherry recipe is extraordinarily good and is a great all-around chocolate cake no matter what time of the year. But since it’s date season around here and I bought some wonderful Algerian dates that cost practially nothing, I set out to make my Date, Ginger, and Candied Pineapple Fruitcake. This is a great rum-soaked cake, loaded up with a treasure trove of fruits and nuts. I used pecans instead of the macadamia nuts (which are understandably outrageously expensive in Paris), as well as pistachios, candied orange peel (that I made last year), candied ginger and pineapple and a touch of honey.

Marché St. Pierre/Dreyfus
2, rue Charles Nodier
Métro: Barbes-Rochechouart or Anvers
Tél: 01 46 06 92 25

Sampling Capitalism/A Taste of Capitalism

(I never knew which title to use, but I wanted to talk about why French merchants and shopkeepers don’t offer samples. And yes, I didn’t put the backward accent on the ‘tres’ because, once again, I didn’t feel like getting up and checking what the HTML for it.
If it bothers you, take out a Sharpie and write one on your computer screen.)

They don’t typically offer samples in shops in Paris.
Sampling in Paris is not the normal activity it is in shops in the US, especially in cheese shops where in America they give you a zillion samples. In France, you’re expected to rely on the expertise of the fromager to help you make a decision. (Which is probably why they don’t use French people to hand out samples out at Costco.) And many French cheeses are rounds, which makes cutting a sample out difficult. In my talking to French people about sampling, it’s a cultural difference, which I think may stem from that opinion that in France, the shopkeeper is expected to select the finest for their clients. And if you’re a tourist passing through, you’re not likely to buy anything anyways.
Recently, I had a guest tell me, “But if you get a sample, you’re more likely to buy.” which is true, I suppose. But people here aren’t necessarily interesting in you buying something like they are elsewhere (which may explain their economic woes.) But there’s something refreshing to me about people that are more interested in being ‘correct’ and developing a relationship with their clients rather than simply making money.

France is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Apple over iTunes, since the songs aren’t available to people who use music players other than iPods. When I was explaining that to a French friend, he replied, Well yes, they should be available to everyone.
I then replied that Pple spent a lot of money and time developing their platform, so why shouldn’t they be proprietary about it? Why do they have to share what they developed?

He told me that was très capilatalistic.

(Anyhow, the whole thing kind of helped me learn something about the French, and Americans, and our diverse cultural programmaning. Americans tend to think that if something is commercially-viable or economically successfull, it’s better. Whereas that’s not necessarily an attitude shared around the world. Whether we like it or not. It’s things like that which make living in a foreign country so thought-provoking. Even though readers don’t always agree with my thoughts. *sigh*)

Dog Doo
One thing that separates the Parisians from the tourists is their uncanny ability to escape from stepping in dog doo. It’s a real mark of achievement that I’ve only had that honor once, which for some reason, means ‘good luck’ in Paris (although I think the dog’s owner is the lucky one, since if they were there when I stepped in it, they’d get an American-style smack down.)

Parisians are very defensive about many things and don’t take kindly to criticism from the outside, and if you mention the dog droppings left everywhere, they’ll never apologize or offer an excuse (how can you?). They’ll simply change the subject to something they can defend.

So why it is okay to let your dog poo wherever it wants and not clean it up? Even though there’s a 183€ fine for letting things sit ‘n stink, I’ve never seen anyone give or get a ticket. I think it has something to do with a culture that’s used to the government taking care of things for them. “Ce n’est pas mon faute” (“It’s not my fault.”)
Berlin has a similar problem, I hear, and I found this quote from a resident from awhile back form that non doody-free city, reacting to a proposed law to make dog owners pick up after their pets:

“I am a resident of Berlin. That city’s smeared sidewalks testify to the inadvisability of delegating to another the responsibility of cleaning up one’s own mess. Although Berlin has a scooper law similar to New York’s, it is virtually unenforced and generally disregarded.
A recent court ruling determined that in Germany it is unreasonable to expect a citizen to remove his or her dog’s waste from public areas. Teams of street sweepers are there to do that….”

So if someone can tell me why it’s okay to leave your doggie’s doo on the sidewalk for someone else to step in, please let me know. Good luck…

The Perfect Pan

(I have this really crummy pan, a real cheap piece of crap cookware. It looks like it’s been through World War V. One day it dawned on me with all the fancy cookware I have, it’s the pan I use the most. I was going to write an ode to it, then The Food Whore wrote something about how fancy cookware ain’t the bees-knees (try explaining that expression to a French person!), although she didn’t use those particular words, so I dropped it.)

A roast chicken fits perfectly in the pan, as do 6 ramekins if I’m making a custard. And it’s cheap. And I don’t care if I ruin it. What’s not to like?

Staying In Shape

(This I wrote since it’s the most common question I get asked. I decided not to post it because it’s all rather obvious stuff and kinda boring. I added an odd note, which I first thought was funny. Then I didn’t think it was funny anymore. But I never trashed the list. I used a swear word too, which I don’t normally do…and I’m not proud of it.)

People are constantly, and I mean all the frigging time, asking me, “How do you stay so thin?”

Here’s the Top Ten Ways I Keep in Shape:

1. I only eat when I’m hungry.

2. I exercise about 3 times a week doing yoga for an hour.

3. I don’t eat junk food. I don’t eat at fast-food restaurants or buy pre-prepared foods.

4. I try to sit down and have a real meal rather than eating on the run.

5. I eat fresh foods as much as possible and eat things closest to their natural form. Butter instead of margarine, plain yogurt with good honey instead of all the fruit-flavor and sugar-added varieties.

6. I avoid foods with sauce, which tend to mask flavors and destroy textures. I like crispy, rather than soft foods.

7. I stick my finger down my throat after eating.

8. I walk as much as possible. Going to the gym may work for most people, but I detest treadmills. But just walking to and from places is great exercise. Did you know the average New Yorker walks 5 miles a day?

9. Although a cliché, I go for quality, not quantity. I never turn down great chocolates or a fabulous morsel of cheese, but I don’t eat nachos with processed-cheese ‘product’ or the famed, deep-fried onion blossom (which has 3000 calories!)

10. I cook for myself a lot. People wonder why restaurant food tastes so good: it’s because they add butter and oil with reckless abandon. It makes the food taste richer and people complain if they leave restaurants not feeling over-the-top full.

Fat is NOT Flavor

There seems to be this mantra floating around, “Fat is flavor.”

I’ve watched people castigate others who cut off the wide, thick strip of gunky fat from their meat, whining, “But that’s the best part!”

And I just say, “Okay, here you go!”
And pass it over.

(I abandoned this one when Adam picked up the topic.)

Hey Asswipe!

(I never got around to writing anything, but one day I realized that no one in France would know what an ‘asswipe’ meant, so I could call someone an asswipe and they wouldn’t know what I was talking about.)

Culinary Confessions, Part II
(I started this after my first post, which is one of my favorites, became popular. I guess I got most of ‘em out of my system the first time around, since I didn’t find much to say for part II.)

1. I once ate a cinnamon-raisin bagel. And I’m not proud of it.

How To Eat a Wedge of Cheese

(There’s a whole etiquette to eating cheese in France. To me, it’s kinda fun to learn about it since I am totally enamored of all-things-cheese. But I was invited to a cheese tasting here, and someone, a chef from American, reached over and started taking a slice off the side off a round of cheese. Imagine someone slicing a cake like that!
The cheesemakers eyes kinda widened, and I could feel a lot of sphincters tightening in that room as she desecrated that round of cheese.)

If you’re the first person presented with a wedge of cheese, taking the pointed end, or the ‘nose’ off the cheese is like grabbing the blue-icing roses first off a birthday cake if it’s not your birthday.
Hands off!

(Anyhow, I never finished. But here’s a rather simple guide.)

Top Ten Questions Europeans Have About Visiting America

(This came about during the student demonstrations last summer when, due to the overblown US media, it apparently looked like Paris was burning. People were emailing me right-and-left about the riot-torn streets since for some reason the headlines in the US were proclaiming, “Paris Is Burning!”.
Since there’s so little violence in America, I suppose it was a bit of a shock to see it elsewhere, though. Curiously, the immigrant ‘riots’ in America were not shown to similar effect here.)

So I thought it might be fun to show Americans how a French person might view America, or the questions they might have.)

1. Is the water in America safe to drink?

2. With all the unrest and demonstrations we see on the news in America, is it safe to visit?

3. How do Americans not stay so thin?

4. With all the shootings on the news, is it safe to walk the streets?

5. Aren’t Americans rude?

6. Will the waiters try to understand us if we don’t speak their language? Will there be menus in French? Will there be French-speaking people at the front desk at our hotel?

7. Will we get sued?

8. Is it safe to eat chicken and beef?

8. If we get sick, how many months is the pre-approval process before we can get treatment?

9. Why do we need three different kinds of insurance to rent a car?

10.

So anyhow…that’s it.
I feel like I’ve cleaned off my desktop and got another blog entry under my belt. And perhaps offended a few people in the process. Apologies if I did, but I do feel better, and am ready to make a fresh start here.

In upcoming posts I’ll have feature profiles of the food producers that I met on my trip to a rural farm that makes terrific artisanal apple cider, a visit to the birthplace of Kouing Aman (not to be confused with Idi Amin, who was not so sweet), and a trip to a gelateria in Bologna.
There will be more interviews with notables in the food community, including another studly chocolate-maker and an interview with master baker Nick Malgieri and recipes from his new book.

There’ll be a story about the secret French, single-finger lathering-up-in-the-shower technique, plus a post on the most disgusting, vile, filthy objects you’re likely to find anywhere. (And I’m not talking about in the US House of Representatives.)

But yes, there will be pictures.

And of course, there’s likely to be a few surprises…
…like the lost chicken carcass in my apartment.

Which I hope to find soon!

Paris Hot Chocolate Address Book

People come from all over the world to sip le chocolat chaud in the busy and cozy cafés in Paris. Here are some of the top addresses in town to warm up.

chocolat chaud

Angelina
226, rue de Rivoli
Métro: Tuilleries

This famous hot chocolate salon is getting a well-deserved makeover. But no matter; the place is always packed-full of French society women and tourists side-by-side spooning up their gloriously rich, and impossibly thick, le Chocolat Africain. The service has taken some knocks, but most chocophiles forget any glitches in exchange for the priviledge of sipping the world’s most famous hot chocolate.

Berthillon
31, rue St. Louis-en-Î’le
Métro: Pont Marie or Sully-Morland

Pair a mug of frothy hot chocolate with a scoop of Paris’ best ice cream for a decadent afternoon snack. Their salon de Thé next door to the ice cream shop has terrific desserts, including perhaps the best, and most perfectly caramelized, tarte Tatin in Paris. Pair it with a scoop of caramel ice cream making it a wedge of heaven. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Cafe de la Paix at The Grand Hotel
12, boulevard des Capucines
Métro: Opéra

Overlooking the extraordinary Opéra Garnier, this is the most picturesque (and expensive) spot in Paris to sip hot chocolate. Be sure to request fort en gout (strong flavor), unless you prefer your hot chocolate touché delicate, with a delicate touch. Open late in the evening for those after-the-opera chocolate cravings.

Charles Chocolatier
15, rue Montorgueil
Métro: Les Halles

Revitalize in this tiny, modern chocolate shop near bustling Les Halles on the trendy rue Montorgueil with a cup of their dark, bittersweet brew which gushes from their well-polished copper cauldron.

Hotel Meurice
228, rue de Rivoli
Métro: Tuileries

Unwind in fabulous gilded splendor at this chic address across from the Jardin des Tuileries. The ultimate luxury here is ordering your hot chocolate according to the cru (tropical origin), including fruity Manjari chocolate from Madagascar and intense Guanaja from South America.

Jacques Genin
133, rue de Turenne (3rd)
Tél: 01 45 77 29 01
Métro: Filles du Calvaire

The master of chocolate makes a dark, less-sweet hot chocolate, using French chocolate in his modern laboratory. The desserts are works of art as well, and don’t leave without getting a bag of his outstanding caramels.

Jean-Paul Hévin
231, rue Saint-Honoré
Métro: Tuilleries

Divine hot chocolate is served in the upstairs tearoom. I challenge any die-hard chocoholics not to resist one of the rich, elegant chocolate cakes as well.

La Charlotte de Îsle
24, rue St. Louis-en-Î’le
Métro: Pont Marie or Sully-Morland

This funky tearoom serves their ultra-thick le chocolat chaud in tiny Japanese cups, encouraging you to savor it one chocolaty dose at a time. La Charlotte got a boost from a favorable write-up in The New York Times a few years back, so the cluttered shop can get a bit cramped on weekends.

La Maison du Chocolat
8, blvd Madeleine
Métro: Madeleine.
For other addresses, visit web site

Only a few locations of La Maison du Chocolat have tasting ‘bars’ where you can sit in the summer, slurping down a chocolate frappe or during the winter, treat yourself to a steaming mug of hot chocolate made from the world’s finest chocolate. The exotic Caracas hot chocolate is not for the timid, nor is the Bacchus, with a rather adult shot of dark rum.

Continue Reading Paris Hot Chocolate Address Book…

I Was Screwed

“I am screwed”, I’m thinking.

Ok, I’ve been living here for a few years now, and I should know better, but I fell for the oldest trick in the book.

A week or so ago, I invited a few friends and acquaintances over for dinner. One of them, who is French, has always been a bit scornful of me, from my lack of complete fluency in The World’s Most Complicated Language to thinking it’s funny to ask me if I’m going to take out ketchup for my dinner. At my house. Which was supposed to be some kind of joke. I guess.

Anyhow. So I get asked a question, and I should have seen this coming. But really, it just seemed so innocent at the time, he asks“What do you think of France?”

The moment I opened my mouth, to give my opinion, I said to myself, “Merde!…there is no way out of this.” I should have shut my mouth right there and not even bothered. What was I thinking? When I moved to France, I purposely avoided political or cultural confrontations. Not only was my French not up-to-snuff, but there never seems to be any way to win an argument. But I’ve lived here long enough, talked to a lot of people, and have opinions just like any normal-ish person.

So if someone asks,

“What do you think of the Marais?”

If you say…

“It’s beautiful and historic. The buildings are lovely and it’s a wonderful testament to the magnificent history of France.”

…they’ll respond,

“Ugh! It is a horrible place. It is full of tourists and very trendy now.”

But on the other hand, if you say…

“Oh, I used to like the Marais but it’s become so trendy.”

…they’ll say,

“What?! The Marais is the most beautiful part of Paris. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

You basically can’t win.
As I attempted to answer his question, remarking what I loved about Paris, touching on subjects like the fabulous food, French history and culture, the beauty of Paris, and the expressiveness of the French, I also started alluding to the problems here; unemployment, the ailing social state, immigration woes, and the fear of globalization that are plaguing the country (and before any folks start in on the US, I certainly have a few things to say about that as well, but you’ll have to visit my top-secret other blog to read that.)
Well, so all of the sudden I’m defending both sides at once in my argument, kicking myself for being such a stupid boy for falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book around here.

In France, the worse thing you can do is not have an opinion, which was something I learned early on, and that it’s okay to be critical (except in my Comments, so don’t get any ideas…) Unless you’re Tucker Carlson, most Americans think it’s really bad to get into a heated discussion (which was certainly true in poor Tucker’s case, which got his bow-tied ass fired.) But in France, there’s nothing worse than being phony, and saying what you want or expressing yourself is far more acceptable than walking around with a big, dopey grin on your face regardless of how you actually feel.

Well, I guess I should backtrack and say that it’s only acceptable it seems to express yourself as long as you’re in agreement with them.

But the lack of unprovoked smiling is why a lot of people think French people aren’t very friendly, when in fact, that’s not true in most of my experiences. In Polly Platt’s book, French or Foe, she explains that French people wear a mine d’enterrement or funeral expression, and reserve smiling for times when they are truly, actually happy, rather than just slapping a silly grin on their face (…remember the old picture I had on my site here? See how French I am now?) It’s not that French people aren’t happy, it’s just they’re not happy all the time, just like David. In fact, I now refuse to smile anymore unless I absolutely, positively have to. It’s made my life so much easier not having to act happy all the time.
Try it.

So I’ve come up with a solution to this dilemma: Only get into arguments that I can win.

Which leaves 2 things that are absolutely inarguable (well, 3 if you count the political state of America): Dog doo on the streets and retirement at age 50.

I’ve heard some rather ridiculous arguments things around here, such as this choice nugget against the proposed anti-smoking laws…“You have to respect the rights of others,” said Valerie, 29, a smoker since the age of 20.

I think I’ll let Valerie’s comments speak for itself (and maybe cut the poor dear a little slack, since she’s only 29), but no one can seem to defend leaving dog doo on the street, and no one seems to be in the “Pro-dog doo” camp. Are people going on strike to preserve the ‘rights’ of dog owners not to clean up after their dogs?
Likewise with the generous retirement age. I can’t imagine retiring in 2 1/2 years…and with full benefits (well, I don’t get any benefits, so I can’t imagine that anyways.) But letting people retire at 50 seems awfully young to me. I mean, what does one do for the next 40-50 years? (Unless, you’re a smoker. Then you can probably shave a few years off that.)
So I’ve come up with a solution for both problems; instead of those people retiring, voila!: why not hire them to clean up after the dogs in Paris?

Or better yet, teach some of the young people a few lessons in logic.

Who can argue with that?

Les Papilles Restaurant & Wine Bar

Although not Michelin-starred, one of my favorite restaurants in Paris is Les Papilles. I have to admit that I rarely go there, since it’s equally far from any métro station, and I don’t make it over to that part of town very often. But when a friend called me about having a leisurely Saturday lunch, I jumped at the opportunity to revisit the restaurant.

A few people commented when I first wrote about Les Papilles a few months back, and I mentioned the “Small portions“. Well, I guess I had been there on a day when they handed out menus (it was a weekday), when I had ordered a tartine, an open-faced sandwich that I recall as being not-too-filling for my American-sized appetite.

lespaillesmenu.jpg

When I returned for lunch on a saturday, they were offering one menu, which looked great (and since we had no choice), sat in anticipation of a great meal.

lespapilles.jpg

This first thing you notice about Les Papilles is the wine, and the place does double-duty as a wine bar. The window has boxes and boxes of bottles of wine stacked neatly, and as you walk in, one side of the restaurant is entirely devoted to wine and a few choice food products, like smoky pimente d’Espelette, chocolate sauce with sour cherries, and chocolate-dipped almonds, that are definitely worth trying to pilfer…just kidding, no need to take the risk since they offer a small bowl of them with coffee.

papilleswallwine.jpg

Before you start, the waiter suggests ou choose your own bottle of wine, which arranged by region, and the staff are happy to help. Since it was sunny and brisk outside, and the menu was decidely autumnal, I picked a 2005 Sancerre from Domaine des Quarternons, which was crisp and full-flavored, with a hint of cassonade, or cane sugar. I knew it would be good with our first course, and I wasn’t wrong. (It’s hard to go wrong with white Sancerre, anyways.)

We started with a velouté of carrots, served with coriander seeds, a creamy quenelle sweetened with honey, and crisp hunks of smoked bacon, which came alongside in an over sized white soup plate. Aside from the slightly-annoying bits of coriander and cumin dust on the side of the plate (why do places that serve nice wine use cumin with such recklessness?) the soup was lovely, and we were able to ladle out ourselves from the tureen the waiter left on our table.

Our main course was a poitrine of pork, a centimeter-thick slab of braised then sautéed pork belly served in a copper casserole in a rich broth with young potatoes, mushrooms, black olives, and dried tomatoes. Off to the side was a brilliant-green dish of pistou, which had the intended effect of lightening up the whole dish, a wise counterpoint to the hearty pork and potatoes.

Afterwards, a small, blue-veined wedge of artisanal Fourme d’Ambert cheese from the Auvergne was brought to the table with a poached prune and a swirl of red wine reduction on the plate, followed by dessert; a glass of panna cotta with Reine Claude plum puree on top, that we both licked clean.

Completely sated, we left Les Papilles completely happy, with the rest of our Sancerre in tow, which the waiter gladly re-corked for us before sending us on our way.

Les Papilles
30, rue Gay-Lassac
RER: Luxembourg
Tél: 01 43 25 20 79



Related Restaurants and Wine Bars in Paris

Le Rubis

Le Garde Robe

Le Verre Volé

Les Fine Gueules

Café des Musées

French Menu Translation Guide

Messing With The Michelin Man

I was trying to avoid commenting on the Michelin flap in San Francisco, where stars were recently bestowed on a precious few restaurants there. Since I no longer live in San Francisco, I can’t really comment on their recommendation (except for Manresa, which I did manage to eat at, and was excellent, stars or no stars.)

I’ve eaten at several two- and three-star restaurants here in Paris, and while they’re always interesting, frankly, I’m much happier eating in a neighborhood bistro or wine bar. The food is generally good, and I don’t have to analyze how the chef managed to dry an oyster into a crispy sheet, pulverize it into a powder, then re-liquidifed it with some chemical and form it into a gel to slide up my nose.

(Or since this is France, maybe slide it elsewhere.)

I never really could put my finger on why I felt uncomfortable in those kinds of places, but then read a terrific essay by Charles Shere, which pretty much summarized how I feel: Most of these places aren’t really places for eating, but are showcases for culinary techniques and artistry.
And I like to eat.

So I decided to add my deux centimes worth.
I don’t care much for guidebooks to begin with, since eating a meal, to me, is about sitting with friends, enjoying good food, and having a nice glass of wine or two. Just because some “expert” says that a place is “worthy of a visit” doesn’t really mean much to me. Take Manresa, for example. Normally, I’m the last person to go to a fancy restaurant like that. And if a guidebook told me I had to go there, I most likely wouldn’t. But I had met the chef, David Kinch, and really liked him a lot, and the way he talked about food was not reverential or pretentious, but calm and sensible. He had a great spirit and humor about what he does and I really anticipated eating his food.
Then I went, and had a truly outstanding meal. I was blown away.

I worked at Chez Panisse for many years, widely considered one of the top restaurants in America, which was given one-star. It’s known for simple, honest fare, prepared rather sparsely. Alice always encouraged us to take things off the plate, rather than adding thing onto the plate, which a great lesson; what’s on the plate really has to shine and at Chez Panisse, the quality of the ingredients are supposed to be the star. The food at Manresa (two-stars), while more complex, was designed to highlight the ingredient, not obliterate it, which was why I enjoyed the food so much. Both places are so different; comparing them would do neither one justice.

And I can’t help recalling a meal I had at Arpege (three-stars), here in Paris a few years back. It’s was alarmingly expensive (my bowl of Tomato Soup was 55€, or $70) and frankly, not the transcendental experience I’d read about. I don’t remember much else I had, except for the Burnt Eggplant Puree, which is what they called actually it (which unfortunately, it was). But spending that kind of money, it’s difficult for me to enjoy the experience anyways. And I was with a very-seasoned New York diner, a cookbook editor, who’s used to expensive restaurants and she was shocked too. But price aside, the experience was rather empty to me. In addition, the dining room was hideously ugly, reminiscent of a business-class airport lounge. I just didn’t get it.

Then Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle chimed in, noting some curious errors in the new guide. While mistakes do happen (with the notable exception of on this blog), guidebooks go through many editors and revisions, and some of the errors were not just sloppy, but really makes one suspicious of the quality and thoroughness of the research they did. I assume they have teams of people working on those guides, followed up by copyeditors and fact-checkers.

There is some talk of a ‘French bias’ against American restaurants, and I can’t tell you how many French people have said to me, “Don’t all Americans eat at McDonald’s?”
To which I reply, “Don’t all French people pick their nose on the métro?”

There is a misconception that American food is bad. But one visit to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco would blow most of the greenmarkets away anywhere else in the world. There is some great food here in France, but the food in the Bay Area is extraordinary as well. I don’t compare the two and neither should anyone else. They’re 6000 miles (or 9656.064 kilometers) apart.

I tend to think this is a clever marketing ploy by the Michelin man, designed to twist everyone’s culottes in a knot, and get people talking about the guide (like I’m doing here). Maybe it’s just a case of sour grapes. Or it could just be a bias against American food. I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t care.

As for me, I’m looking forward to returning to the Bay Area next June for a visit. While I’ll miss my morning pain aux cerials from the bakery next door, the sublime chocolate macarons from Ladurée I treat myself to every week, and the delicious grilled sardines dusted with fleur de sel with charred skin and buttery, soft interior that I had for lunch sunday at Chez Paul…I’ll be enjoying those stupendous short ribs at Delfina, tender slices of abalone in nutty brown butter at Manresa, a few icy Cosmopolitans with perfect Caesar salad sitting in the window at Zuni, and a scoop of pan forte ice cream at Ici.

And, of course, whatever Brett’s making at Olallie…starred or not.

The Buzz On French Honey

When I take folks into épiceries in Paris, I invariably drag them to the honey aisle. I start explaining how the French love honey, and buy it based on what varietal it is…rather than just stopping in the supermarket and picking up a jar of that vaguely interesting looking syrup that you know is going to leave an annoying sticky ring from the bottom of the jar in your kitchen cabinet that you’re going to have to get a damp sponge and clean up, and then when you start cleaning that up you’re going to notice that maybe you haven’t cleaned your cabinets in a while, and since you have the sponge already in your hand, you start emptying out the cabinet, pulling everything out jars and bottles of everything, etc…etc…(then there goes your morning).

Still, I hope to engage them, get them as excited as I am for honey. But mostly they respond with a somewhat glazed-over look, similar to the look that perhaps I had when I tried to read the road signs to the Miellerie de la Côte des Légendes, in Brittany.

bretonsign.jpg

But I love honey and it’s become my habit to enjoy a slick spoonful on my morning toast, which I saturated with beurre au sel de mer, or butter with crunchy grains of sea salt, that I buy from the big, golden mound at my cheese shop. So now my job is to convince at least a few of you to give honey another look.

mielbrittanyknifetoast.jpg

I’ve fallen so much in love with honey, that I’ve become a bit of a collector and when I travel, I try to scope out unusual flavors of honey, like Marshall’s Pumpkin Blossom honey, collected from hives in the San Francisco Bay Area. When I go to Italy, I bring back jars of tiglio, made from linden flowers. But my absolute favorite honey in the world is collected at the Miellerie de la Côte des Légendes, on the north coast of Brittany.

honeybrittanymarket.jpg

Last summer I met Martine Prigent, who sells her honey at various outdoor markets in the region and has quite a following. At least at my breakfast table, she does. When we visited for the first time, my friend was raving about her honey, and we made a beeline for her stand. I tasted a few of them, asked a lot of questions in between contented lick-smacking, and bought as many jars as I could schlep (and afford). But they’re definitely worth their higher price and when I went back this year, I bought a whole lot more. Enough to get me through to next summer.

honeybeachbeesjars.jpg

Curiously, she offered me a sample of something I’d never had before: honey made from bees which buzzed around the wild thyme flowers in the nearby dunes of Keremma, an ocean-front site under national protection. This particular honey has an unusual graham cracker-y, buttery-nutty quality and one little taste was so scrumptious that she had to close the container to prevent me from double-dipping. But boy, was that good, and I’d never had any honey with such a deep, complex, curious flavor, and a few jars went into my shopping basket tout de suite.

Having a particular affinity for very dark, flavorful honey, I gravitate towards flavors like sarrasin (buckwheat) and châtaigner (chestnut).

2buckwheathoney.jpg

Can you can see the difference between the two? The honey in the back is the ordinaire buckwheat honey, and the one in the front is the superb honey from Martine. Quelle difference! I also like very much châtaigner honey which is so bitter than many people can’t eat it plain. I couldn’t the first time I sampled it. But drizzle chestnut honey over buttered-toast, or plain yogurt, or vanilla ice cream, and it’s instantly palatable. I also like bourdain honey too, which is called ‘black alder’ in English.

In France, honey is not just eaten for flavor but each variety of honey is reputed to have specific health-giving properties for what ails you. For example, bruyère (heather) honey is said to be good for your urinary tract (no, I’m not obsessed…), lavender honey is taken for respiratory ailments, and chestnut honey is taken to improve circulation. Sapin, fir-tree honey, is said to be good for your throat, and aubépine is a relaxant.

And what can you do with honey? Try puddling a bit of it on a creamy, pungent wedge of Roquefort as a sweet counterpoint, or atop a round of fresh goat cheese with some dried fruit or pomegranate seeds. I spoon honey over fruit that destined for the oven. When baked, the honey forms a lovely, syrupy glaze for the warm, delicate fruit. Swirl honey over hot oatmeal and add a bit to a glaze for roast pork. I also like to poach dried apricots in a honey syrup, adding a splash of sweet dessert wine, such as Sauternes or late-harvest Riesling. I serve the honey-rich apricots with my favorite Almond Cake.

honeycomb.jpg

So if you happen to find yourself in Brittany near the north coast…and can read a Breton road sign while your French-speaking partner tries to make sense of you frantically try to give directions and mangle incomprehensible Breton words with lots of z‘s and pl‘s, like Trégarantec and Plounénour-Trez, it’s certainly worth a visit to Martine and her husband, Pascal.

They offer weekly tours of their miellerie, just 200 meters from the ocean, which are quite popular (call for availability in off-season). Inhaling the odor of the fresh, breezy, salty air, you can watch them demonstrate collecting honey; scraping the thick beeswax from the hives then separating the delicious syrup from the chunky wax. There’s an amazing boutique with floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with all kinds of honeys and locally-baked spice bread, known as pain d’épice, dark brown and fragrant with various spices and a good dose of honey.

honeycollection.jpg

So instead of buying bland honey at the supermarket, why not start trying some of the locally-produced honeys collected in your area? And believe it or not, I recently discovered that there’s even honey collected right here in Paris.




Miellerie de la Côte des Légendes
Prat Bian
Plouescat
Tél/Fax: 02 98 69 88 93
(Offers weekly tours on Fridays, and will ship internationally)

Their honey is available at the outdoor markets in Lesneven, Saint-Pol, Saint-Renan, and in season at Roscoff, Plouguerneau, and Plouescat.

You can find a limited selection of honey from the Miellerie de la Côte des Légendes in Paris at:
La Campanella
36, bis rue de Dunkerque
Tél: 01 45 96 08 92

(Update: This honey has become quite pricey in this shop. It’s very good honey, but be aware of a recent price spike.)

Locally-collected honey in Paris:
Union Nationale de l’Apiculture Francaise
26, rue des Tournelles
Tél: 01 48 87 47 15

In the San Francisco Bay Area, visit Marshall’s Honey, which is sold at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, and is collected from bees buzzing around unusual places in the region.

To learn more about honey, two of my friends have written books on the sticky stuff: Covered In Honey by Mani Niall, and Honey: From Flower to Table by Stephanie Rosenbaum, aka the Pie Queen.

Interview: Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

I always thought it would be fun to have friends who were celebrities.

I mean, wouldn’t it be fun to just pick up the phone, and have conversations like…

“Hey Uma, wanna head out and get a bite to eat?”

“Gee Mariah, I am just too dead-tired to stay home and watch Glitter again.”

“Babysit again, Katie? But you know how Tom feels about leaving Suri. Can’t you just bring her to the Scientology meeting?”

“Oh…um, hey Star. What’s that? Fired? I’d…um…love to get together….but I’m just swamped…how about, um, I call you next week or so and we can, uh…get togeth…oops, that’s my cell phone, gotta run…”

But wouldn’t that be great to hang out with your (employed) celebrity pals, eating in swank restaurants or hanging out in cocktail bars where someone shows you to your table? So I jumped at the chance to mingle with the well-connected Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, who actually do sit around in restaurants with rich and famous people, and probably only go to bars that have people who seat you, instead of the kind of places I go where you’re lucky if someone looks up from their Le Monde to grunt and point.

Because they get the inside scoop, Karen and Andrew have written a number of books interviewing chefs, restauranteurs, and sommeliers, and the book that left the biggest impression on me was Becoming A Chef, which I practically memorized when I was just embarking on my star-studded culinary career. I was a bit hesitant to meet them, though, since they hob-nob with all these fancy New York-type chefs, and here I was in Paris, writing poems about dishwashing tablets, getting my jollies buying Levi’s and ironing my neck.

(And I’ll bet Mario Batali’s never ironed his neck or Rocco DiSpirito’s never been groped in a tight pair of Levi’s…um, on second thought….)

davidandrew.jpg

So when they came to visit Paris last winter (which is why we’re all bundled up in the photo) we made plans to rendez vous for un chocolat chaud at Christian Constant, I raced to get ready, (and I’ve since learned that it’s a good idea to take off your shirt before you iron it no matter how late you are). I did manage to get there, and just in the nick of time: Karen and Andrew had almost polished off what looked like a pretty formidable array of chocolate cakes and tartes.

But in any case, both Karen and Andrew were truly a delight and I loved meeting them. My only regret was not getting to spend enough time with them, although I did take a few minutes to take them to some of my favorite chocolate shops. Then when I learned they had just finished their new book, What To Drink With What You Eat, I jumped at the chance to chat with them again…

what2drink.jpg

David: I’ve seen both of you attack a chocolate dessert here in Paris as if it was your last meal ever. If memory serves me correctly, you were hedonistically drinking hot chocolate at the same time. But to me, chocolate seems like challenge to pair wine with? Is there something you’d recommend?

Karen and Andrew: It’s all your fault, David — if you hadn’t taken us on the single best chocolate lover’s tour of Paris imaginable, we NEVER would have embarrassed ourselves so badly. And since our time in your fair city was all too short, it wasn’t so much about pairing on that visit as it was about “sampling.” (Isn’t that a more refined word for it than “wolfing”?)

Many chocolate lovers (like us) would agree that great chocolate can be a peak experience in and of itself. But imagine being able to enhance the pleasure of a great chocolate dessert through pairing it with a beverage that will elevate the pairing into another stratosphere! That is the potential of food and wine pairing — and for chocolate (esp. dark chocolate) desserts, it can happen with Banyuls (a French sweet red wine), tawny port, or PX sherry.

But great pairings are not limited to wine alone!
A chocolate stout or a fruit-flavored lambic beer (with essence of cherry or raspberry, for example) can be shockingly great with a chocolate dessert. And just last week we had one of the best cocktail-and-food pairings of our lives: a Chocolate Decadence Martini (made with Chopin vodka, Godiva chocolate and white chocolate liqueurs, etc.) paired with a banana-chocolate cake. Heaven!

There are also lots of non-alcoholic beverages that can provide great matches for chocolate desserts, with the first and foremost being coffee. The flavors of coffee and chocolate were made for one another. As for teas, the berry notes in African (and especially Kenyan) teas play off chocolate beautifully — and believe it or not, Japanese green tea contrasts really well with chocolate, too. And a Champagne flute filled with a berry-flavored sparkling fruit juice or even a mint-flavored sparkling beverage like snow can be a fun pairing with a chocolate dessert.A As you can see, the possibilities are virtually endless! But our first encounter with chocolate and Banyuls, served to us by sommelier Jean-Luc Le Du at four-star restaurant Daniel in New York City, was one we’ll never, ever forget.

David: Sorry but when I eat chocolate, it’s closer to “wolfing” than “sampling”. It used to freak French people out, but I’ve seen a few of them lately doing the same. I guess I’m a bad influence.
But, speaking of wine, what’s the least amount of money you’ve spent on a bottle of wine?
Karen: Two bucks. Can you guess what it was??

Andrew: When I worked in an Alaskan fishery, the local store would give customers who bought beer a free bottle of Thunderbird, just to get rid of it. Even given our standard 100-hour workweek and its price, it still wasn’t much of a bargain.

David: Alaskan fishery and Thunderbird? Now there’s a story in there, and next time we get together, I want to hear more about that.
So what’s the most amount of money you’ve ever spent on a bottle of wine?

K & A: More than a decade ago, we saved our pennies and once splurged for a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem to serve on New Year’s Eve to an architect friend and his wife who had always hoped to try it. We used to it recreate chef Jeremiah Tower’s “Epitome of Decadence” dinner — d’Yquem paired with aged roast beef — he wrote about in his book Jeremiah Tower’s New American Classics, along with precise instructions to chew the beef, take a draft of wine, chew twice, and swallow. He swore that the experience was so intense that the only sound you’d hear was people falling out of their chairs! That sounded like fun to us.

David: There are a few jokes I could make in there, but (uncharacteristically), I’m not.
So why does everyone like California Chardonnay? It’s truly awful stuff; thick and oaky. After I drink a glass, I feel like I need a toothpick. It’s like drinking an oak tree. Why do people keeping buying it?

K & A: As usual, you raise a great point about wine: There are wines that you couldn’t pay us to drink by themselves that can be peak experiences when paired with the right dish.

As for oaked Chardonnays, we’re with you when it comes to drinking one. But a year ago, sommelier Joe Catterson of Alinea (which was just named the #1 restaurant in America in the new issue of Gourmet) served us an extraordinary pairing. By itself, the Slovenian Veliko Bianco was an oak bomb, and was said to have been aged three years in new oak, a year in old oak, and three months in the bottle. We each took a sip — and shuddered. So it was a revelation to taste it again after the Dover Sole with “mostly traditional flavors” (albeit in powdered form) that it accompanied, and to see the combination surprisingly rise to a +2 (our highest rating, on our -2 to +2 point scale).

David: To be honest, after dinner, by the time I’ve hit dessert, I’ve had way to much to drink already and can’t drink any more wine without things getting embarrassingly messy and people talking about me for days afterwards. But I once had Claudia Fleming serve me Belgian fruit-flavored beer with dessert, called Kreik, which was amazing (as were Claudia’s desserts)-surprising and refreshing. What do you think of that pairing?

K & A: We love Belgian fruit-flavored beers, and urge anyone who’s never tried one to do so. The essence of fruit in these beers — whether the flavor of cherry in Kreik, or of raspberry in Framboise — is staggeringly delicious. And they’re great matches not only for chocolate desserts, but also for custard-like desserts, cheesecakes, berry tarts, and even fresh, creamy cheeses such as mascarpone. We both really like the carbonation that beer provides, which helps to cut the richness of a dense dessert or cheese.

coffeecups.jpg

David: It’s funny. In America, people drink coffee with their dessert, but in Europe, that’s a big faux pas. Europeans use coffee like a final, little punctuation mark to a meal. And they never add milk to coffee after a meal. Can you explain your philosophy on coffee after dinner to my guests and readers…so I don’t have to explain it anymore?

K & A: We don’t know that we can explain it.
As we said, chocolate and coffee can be ethereal together, so it just sounds like good common sense to us.

David: Um, thanks for helping me off the hook, guys…but speaking of hot beverages, it seems like tea is a big thing lately. I like tea on occasion, but don’t know anything about it except the kind of people drinking the good stuff scare me when they start going on about it, using all these fancy terms like monkey-picked and first-flush (which never sounds all that appetizing.)
Those tea people freak me out. They’re like pod-people or something, living in a parallel universe of civility and good-taste. I’d love to learn more about tea (so I can become civilized and have good taste too), but I don’t know if I’m ready to be one of “them”. Is there help for me?
Do tea drinkers scare you too?

K & A: We’ve been privileged to have some of the most extraordinary tea tutors in North America — such as America’s first tea sommelier James Labe, Canada’s first tea sommelier Michael Obnowlenny, and Japanese tea ambassador Kai Andersen — so we’ve been spoiled. (Note From David: I’ll say…) They are as cool and passionate about tea as the best of the wine sommeliers are about wine, and they’ve taught us a lot.

Here’s tea and food pairing in a nutshell, using gross generalizations: Think of green and lighter oolong teas like white wine, and black and darker oolong teas like red wine. What would you pair with white wine? White meat, chicken fish.
What would you pair with red wine? Red meat, lamb, game.

When it comes to flavored teas, which can be awesome, think about classic flavor combinations that you already love. Blueberry tea is a revelation with banana pancakes. Maple tea goes great with butternut squash or pumpkin.
From there, you can play around. Tea can be fun, we promise!

David: I’ve never heard of some of those fruity teas. I only know black currant and Earl Grey, scented with bergamot. I must be living in an aspirateur, or vacuum.
On the other end of the spectrum from tea is Champagne. I was at a fancy party where ‘vintage’ Champagne was being served. While the bottles were lovely, the Champagne was quite rich and full-flavored, not the dry, refreshing sparkler I’m used to. The hostess, a prominent and famous cookbook author, told me that I didn’t know how to appreciate good Champagne. Am I a rube?
How should I have responded?

K & A: We think any hosts who take their guests to task are probably in need of the response of a good etiquette book as a thank-you gift (!), unless this one did so with the passion of a gourmet who dearly wanted her guest to share her enthusiasm for a particular beverage. But it sounds like lessons and insights were not forthcoming, which is a shame.

It’s eye-opening to learn about all the delicious varieties of Champagne out there, which can range from brut (dry) to sec (slightly sweet) to demi-sec (sweet) to doux (sweetest). There’s also Blanc de Blancs (made with 100 percent Chardonnay grapes) and Blanc de Noirs (made with 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes). Sounds like you might have been served a Blanc de Noirs, which is richer and more full-flavored than your “standard” Champagne.

Each type of Champagne has its own peak pairings.
You’ll want to serve drier (i.e. brut) Champagne as an aperitif or with foods like oysters, smoked fish, and sushi. And you’ll want to save sweeter Champagnes for desserts and pastries. Regarding the latter, a good rule of thumb for all dessert wines (Champagne included) is to make sure the wine is as sweet or sweeter than the dessert it’s accompanying.

pate.jpg

David: Okay, well I’m glad I decided not to ‘out’ her, since you took her to task. Okay. I’m going to throw out a few of my favorite things to eat, and you can give me beverage pairings:
K & A: Fair enough — hit us!

Frozen Fish Sticks…
K & A: Do frozen fish sticks have any flavor, other than what they’ve absorbed from their cardboard packaging? Yes, we’re kidding again. You want to be guided by whatever you’re dipping that critter into. Are you a ketchup man? If so, you want a slightly sweet wine to play off the ketchup — like a white Zinfandel. (If you’re eating fish sticks, you can’t cop any attitude, so you might as well drink a white Zin.) Is tartar sauce more your thing? Just remember that “tart likes tart,” and pair it with something with some acid. And mayonnaise pairs surprisingly well with a gin martini. If you’re avoiding alcohol, how about sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon? Those bubbles and the lemon will cut through the fattiness of the fish sticks, so you can eat even more!
(Or do you have a stomachache from all those fish sticks?)

Rocky Road Ice Cream…
K & A: After having spent a year waitressing at an ice cream parlor while in high school, Karen is the expert here and suggests water — ice-cold, still water (no bubbles) — which is the ideal palate cleanser for ice cream. Andrew, on the other hand, prefers coffee, which goes so well with the chocolate and nuts.

Pain au chocolat…
K & A: Coffee or espresso.
Preferably sitting outside in a cafe in Paris.
A beret is optional.

Hot Corned Beef on Rye with Spicy Mustard and Half-sour pickles…
K & A: No question: Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, which is a celery-flavored soda. Don’t knock it (like we did) until you’ve tried the combination. It’s extraordinary!

(Note From David: I have had it, and I am knocking it. Celery Soda tastes just as bad as it sounds, sorry guys. Though Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda is my fav.)

Tapioca Pudding…
K & A: Since Andrew has a childhood tapioca bruise, he’s passing this one on to Karen, who envisions a nice cup of maple tea — or something like tawny port or Sauternes, if she were in the mood for something a bit stronger.

Oysters and Buttered Rye Bread…
K & A: While oyster fans alternatively recommend Champagne, sake, Sancerre, or vodka with oysters, the buttered rye bread gives vodka the edge here.

Bar-B-Q Ribs; pork or beef, I’m not getting into arguments with any of those bbq people…
K & A: Zinfandel. Or a chilled rosé, if it’s really hot out. Or a nice smoked beer (a little intense on its own, but the combo is great).

Microwave Popcorn…
K & A: Sparkling wine, like Spanish cava, Italian prosecco, or German sekt. Don’t waste a fine Champagne on the combo, because if you like as much butter and salt as we do on our popcorn, its subtleties will be lost.

Rice Krispy Treats…
K & A: A glass of slightly sweet sparkling sake, to enjoy the study of rice.

Caesar Salad (the kind you get in California, not the kind you get in France
with canned corn or other weird stuff on it)…
K & A: Karen seconds the recommendation of the guy who sat next to her in her first class during her first week of her freshman year at Northwestern University. Arneis from Piedmont, because the wine is nutty with good acidity that plays well against the dressing and Parmesan cheese. (What does HE know, you ask? He’s award-winning sommelier Scott Tyree of Tru in Chicago.)

Caramel Corn…
K & A: You’ll have to understand that caramel corn is a sacred ritual to us.
There are few things more delicious on this planet than the Caramel Crisp at Garrett’s Popcorn on Chicago, served hot and buttery and loaded with caramel coating. It deserves to be eaten on its own.The only worthy accompaniment we’ve found is Garrett’s equally hot, buttery and loaded with cheese Cheese Corn.

Gnocchi with Pesto…
K & A: Here we defer to someone who knows more about Italian wines than almost anyone we’ve ever met (with the possible exception of Joe Bastianich and David Lynch of Babbo), Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino restaurant in Los Angeles. He recommends a regional pairing from Liguria — the home of pesto — such as Albenga, Cinque Terre, or Vermentino.

Comté cheese…
K & A: We include suggested pairings for more than 100 cheeses in What To Drink With What You Eat. If you look up this cheese, you’ll find: “beer, esp. port or stout; Champagne; Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Noir.”
They all sound pretty good to us!

Mallomars…
Karen: What’s a Mallomar?

(Note: David flips out here…)

Andrew: I’m with you — and with Billy Crystal’s character in “When Harry Met Sally,” who eats them on New Year’s Eve, praising them as the world’s greatest cookie. You can’t go wrong with an ice-cold glass of milk. Or, if I were alone on New Year’s Eve pining over the love of my own life, I might have something a little stronger with it, like the aforementioned Chocolate Decadence Martini (whose recipe is on our Blog (9/28/06) on our own web site, if you’d like it) which I sampled for the first time last week.

becomingachef.jpg

David: Okay, so I couldn’t stump you, but the martini sampling sounds like fun! I’ll check out the recipe.
So one last question: You know all these famous hot-shot chefs and you hob-nob with the superstars. Aside from me, tell us about a really bad experience you had with someone famous, preferably someone on Food Network. You don’t need to give us a name (although perhaps if 50 readers commit to buying your book you’ll reveal who it is) tell us the worst, most atrocious, meanest, rudest, horrible famous chef behavior you’ve ever witnessed. Feel free to use names, objects thrown, or anything else to embellish the story and brings you slightly closer to litigation.

K & A: As not all of your many readers will have had the pleasure of meeting you in person, you have to let us testify that you are as knowledgeable and passionate and fun in person as you are on your award-winning Blog!

We’re very fond of several of the TV cooking show stars we’ve met and interviewed for our books, including chefs Mario Batali and Rocco DiSpirito. We’ve had great fun over dinner with Tony Bourdain with our mutual friends, and at cocktail parties with the lovely and hilarious Daisy Martinez.

That being said, we once read a West Coast food writer’s column about her shockingly appalling encounter with an East Coast Food Network star with whom we had also had a rather appalling encounter. We had never met the writer, but we called her immediately and left her a sympathetic voicemail saying, “It’s not you — it’s HIM.” We definitely bonded over that!

David: Hmmm, that sounds rather cryptic. I might guess it was me, but since I’m not on the Food Network, so I’m off the hook. (Any guesses, readers? Let’s hear it, put ‘em in the comments.)

Okay, I lied. One more question. When are you coming back to Paris?

K & A: Not soon enough! If you and all your readers manage to help us turn our new book What To Drink With What You Eat into a bestseller, we’d love to come back over Christmas. But whenever it may be, we’ll look forward to sharing more chocolate with you then!

David: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I can’t wait to really read through my copy of your book, which is full of interesting and creative ways to pair food and drinks in ways that people might not have thought of before.

And next time you come back to Paris, would you mind bringing me some Mallomars?

I seem to have a thing for marshmallows and chocolate lately.