Caramelized Matzoh Crunch with Chocolate

I make this every year for Passover. It’s not that I’m all that religious (for some reason I seem to celebrate only the holidays where there’s lots of eating, drinking…and presents, of course.) But I always pick up a box or two of matzoh, which is stacked high in supermarkets this month, plus I love the sweet-crunch of this toffee-like confection.
The only problem is that I haven’t figured out how to adapt it for Easter.
Perhaps you can cut it into ovals with a cookie cutter and try to pull one over on your family.

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The recipe is loosely-adapted from baker and cookbook author Marcy Goldman. Marcy’s run a web site devoted to the art of baking since 1997, called Betterbaking.com. In addition, she’s authored a cookbook of the same name with recipes and ideas and funny stories she’s gathered along her life as a mother, professional baker, and consultant.

You don’t have to be Jewish to like or make this (just like you don’t need to be Christian to like Christmas presents) but it’s delicious and super-easy to make…you can keep the candy thermometer in the drawer as well!

Feel free to substitute milk chocolate or white chocolate, and instead of the crushed almonds, to play around with toasted shredded coconut or other kinds of nuts. As I type, I’m thinking wouldn’t pistachios and white chocolate be nice together on top?
Maybe next year…

I spent this morning at my market handing little sacks of this to my favorite vendors (and a few I’m trying to win over.) So if you’re out at a market in Paris this morning and see the lots of butchers, fishmongers, fromagers, and olive merchants snacking on something, you’ll know what it is.

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Caramelized Matzoh Crunch with Chocolate

  • 4 to 6 sheets of matzoh
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted or salted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup (firmly-packed) light brown sugar
  • optional: fleur de sel, or coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Line a 11″ x 17″ baking sheet completely with foil (making sure it goes up the sides) and preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Line the bottom of the sheet completely with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.

In a medium-sized heavy duty saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over medium heat until the butter begins to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof utensil.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the syrup darkens and gets thick. (While it’s baking, make sure it’s not burning. If so, reduce the heat to 325F degrees.)

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips or chunks. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread smooth with an offset spatula.

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Sprinkle with a flurry of fleur de sel or coarse salt, then scatter the toasted almonds over the top and press them into the chocolate.

Let cool completely (you may need to chill it in the refrigerator), then break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

mazel tov!

Related Links and Recipes

Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch (Recipe Update)

Salted Butter Caramels

Candied Ginger

Candied Peanuts

Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramels

A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (Marcy Goldman)

Euro Blogging By Pest…I Mean, Post

This April marks a very special three-year anniversary.
Do I celebrate with a coupe of Champagne?
Do I whip out the KitchenAid and make a celebration cake?
Do I pull out what’s left of my hair and be bitter?

No, no…and maybe.

In April of 2003, I shipped two cases of books to my address in Paris, and somewhere between here and there, someone is enjoying a very carefully edited collection of cookbooks that a certain American living in Paris would really like to be using. So here I am, 3 years later, sans my favorite cookbooks, unable to find solace that someone else is leafing through my personally-autographed copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child herself, (or using it for kindling), or Alice Medrich’s Chocolate And the Art of Low-Fat Desserts (if you’re snickering, stop it. It’s an amazing book.)

Living abroad certainly has many challenges, but one of the most vexing of mine is getting anything delivered. When I moved to Paris, a French friend advised me that you need to be standing there with your door open and your named emblazoned across your chest when they show up to make a delivery.

Before…

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And after…

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When Andrew announced Euro Blogging By Post, it sounded like a fun idea. Those of us living in Europe would swap packages of our favorite local foods via the post. A great idea, so I carefully spent a few days shopping, and off went my package to Kristina at Clivia’s Cuisine in Sweden.

A few weeks later a package arrived at my doorstep, feeling suspiciously light, from Gerda at Dinner For One. I ripped open the package to find lots of ripped packaging and a few meager crumbs, along with a few mouse ‘souvenirs’.

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Apparently the little euro-critters couldn’t resist participating in Euro Blogging By Post #4 either, but at least they left me the bottle of Grüner Veltliner wine that I’m saving. But I salvaged a few of the Mozartkugln, each wrapper emblazoned with a picture of everyone’s favorite Austrian (and no, it’s not the Governor of California…), but the Linzertart, the orange-scented chocolate, and the sausages (Meat?) were gone for good.

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Attached was a note from Gerda, “MOZART Of course!!” but thankfully she included a book for making Austrian desserts that apparently held little interest for the mice and soon I’ll tackle some of the recipes, like Burgenländer Marillenknödel and Powidltascherln, or maybe Weicher Marillen-Topfentommerl.

(Raabtaler Weinbackerl and Salzburger Nockerln mit Ribisel-Rotweinsosse sound good too, don’t they?)

Or…I could wait until the next round of Euro Blogging By Post, and take my chances….

Meat? No Meat?

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When I was young and had no deadlines or mortgages (or a blog), I was footloose-and-fancy-free right after I finished college. So just about the day after graduation, I hitched on a backpack and headed to Europe. In was the 80′s and it was the thing to do. As I traversed the continent, I met scores of other kids my age doing the same thing and we world-wise travelers (or so we thought of ourselves) were a friendly bunch and would easily meet up and just go off and travel together. My fondest memory was when a small merry group of us banded together and decided to hitchhike through the former Yugoslavia with the intention of ending up in Turkey where we’d explore the entire country in one exhilarating month.

One fellow that came along was a very, very blond fellow named Kaj, who was from Finland. His hair was stark-white and wherever we went, people would drop everything, stop and gape, having never seen locks so blindingly void of color. Occasionally, their curiosity would get the best of them and the locals would reach over and caress his hair. In addition to his popular noggin, Kaj was a vegetarian, which made dining out a challenge. Luckily the Turks are very friendly and they were happy to take us into their restaurant kitchens to look over what was available so we could decide without deciphering the menus. Speaking no Turkish, Kaj would point at the various pots and cauldrons simmering away and ask, “Meat?” while pointing at one. Then “No meat?” while pointing at another. Then “Meat?”…No meat?…Meat?…”, while working his way through all the dishes simmering away.

It because a source of amusement during our travels and the question would crop up at the most unusual times. Whether we were sitting on a bus taking one of our many long voyages, shopping at the Grand Bazaar, or just sunning ourselves on a pristine beach, one of us would completely out-of-the-blue pop the eternal question…“Meat? No Meat?”

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I don’t know where Kaj is now, but he would have not been very content traveling with me this time during my recent US tour. I ate so much meat that I’m about to get fitted for a turban and become a card-carrying veg-head for a few weeks. Yes, I think I’ve reached my fill of ‘ol Bessie. But let’s face it, it’s hard to beat meat. She’s an integral part of American cuisine. We Americans are real meat eaters and in between the most exceptional plates of beef ribs I had for lunch in Fort Worth, Texas at George’s Bar-B-Q, to the beef brisket I had at Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas, I sampled the best of the best.

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The original Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas opened in 1910. Nowadays the parking lot is full of pick-up trucks and once you step inside, it’s pandemonium trying to reach the counter to place your order. Even though I live in France and am used to people trying to wedge in front of each other, I assumed that it’s not prudent here to cut in line…especially after eyeing the fully-loaded gun racks in the trucks parked in the dusty lot outside.

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Seeing as I left my overalls back in Paris, I did my best to fit in and ordered a combo plate, speaking with a bit of a drawl. My platter was some soft, warm slices of beef brisket and turkey (I added the turkey since I’m beginning to sport a ‘muffin-top’ after this trip.) But I couldn’t resist those jumbo, cripsy onion rings, which tasted every bit as good as they look.

The past week has been an orgy of meat, and it all began at Salumi, in Seattle. I was attending a culinary conference and my friend Judy proposed a multi-course lunch there, how could I say no?

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Armandino Batali is the owner of Salumi. And if his name sounds familiar, his son is the muffin-man himself, Mario Batali. After years of working as an engineer for Boeing, Armandino packed up and went to Italy to learn the art of air-curing meats and making sausages. And when we showed up, the line was out the door with locals waiting for warm sandwiches crammed with slices of porchetta and spicy oxtail meat.

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As we crowded around the table, the family-style meaty platters began descending on the table. The first sausages were thin rounds of mole salami, with a curious chocolate flavor from a good dose of Guittard cocoa powder (which Armandino told me was very popular with the local Mexican community.) There were also slices of prosciutto made with flavorful lamb and cured pigs cheek, called guanciale. Armandino used to teach a class, ‘Make Your Own Prosciutto’, which sounded like great fun. On the first day, you’d be presented with a pig leg, then you’d return each week to rub your leg with spices and whatever else goes into making prosciutto. He had to discontinue to classes since he no longer has the time.

He then presented us with enormous, steaming bowls of tiny French green lentils from Puy, topped with warm rounds of cotechino sausage, softly-scented with real vanilla. The course that really got the most comments were little toasts covered with just-melted aged cows-milk cheese, topped with crunchy nuggets of salt. Yum! Was that ever good. And I ate pig’s ears for the first time (I abstained from eating the stewed tripe so I figured I needed to keep my ‘cred’ and not look like a lightweight with all those famous eaters around the table.) So I ate all my pig’s ears, which were really quite good. Served on a pile of mixed salad greens, the crunchy slivers of pig’s ears tasted like faintly-cooked, crunchy onions, but with a bit more ‘bite’.

Taking a non-meat break, we had a fabulous platter of giant white beans tossed with tinned white tuna, finely-sliced red onions, all tossed in a simple dressing of olive oil and vinegar. It was great, and I made a mental note that it would make an easy, and nice summer salad if Paris ever warms up.

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At that point, I was begging to stop so Judy reached in her purse (is there no end to what a woman will pull out of her purse?) and brought out the Italian secret weapon: grappa.

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Packed like cigarettes, each cylinder was a thin glass tube of grappa, a perfect shot of this high-test liquor, which primed us for the few more courses that were to follow.

Finally, after eating way too much and trying to scribble notes, we all begged ourselves away from the table before Armandino could set another platter amongst us.

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Salumi
Pioneer Square
309 Third Avenue South
Tel: (206) 621-8772

Sonny Bryan’s
Visit web site for locations.

Pay Dirt!

Why is it when you order French Fries, a disappointing majority of the time they come out in a limp heap, underbaked, greasy, and soft.
Does anybody really like their fries that way?

Anyone?

(start rant) I always want to take the plate back into the kitchen, present them to the cook, and ask why they didn’t leave them to cook until deep-golden brown and crispy? And don’t get me started on undersalted fries. French Fries need to get salted immediately when they come out of the blazing-hot oil, so it clings to the crunchy fries. (end rant)

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So imagine my surprise when my friend Dylan whisked me away from the recent culinary conference I was attending in Seattle to walk me a few blocks away to the Baguette Box.

The Baguette Box is a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop, owned by chef Eric Bahn, who also owns Seattle’s Monsoon restaurant where I’d eaten the night previously. I will spare you the details of the dreaded conference lunches I was forced to endure, but will let you know that it took very, very little prodding to get me to come along (and Dylan’s mom is the famous Fran Bigelow of Fran’s chocolate, inventor of the most amazing grey salt caramels, dipped in chocolate, and finished with smoked sea salt.) So since there the possibility of chocolate in there, it took little encouragement on his part to get me to play hooky for a few hours one afternoon.

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The Baguette Box is basically one long communal table with a chalkboard above the open kitchen announing which sandwiches were on offer that day. Feeling like I needed a break from all the meat I’d eaten in Seattle (more about that in a later post), I chose the Tuna Salad Baguette with Sliced Boiled Egg, which came with crisp-sliced radishes. Dylan wisely chose the Salmon Gravlox Baguette which looked delicious but once you pick up one of these hefty sandwiches, if you put it down you risk it spilling its contents all over the place.

But the French Fries were what really astounded me. A pile of just-fried French Fries were piled into a nice-sized paper cup and generously sprinkled with very good salt. In fact, it was just the right amount. They were dark brown and crackly-crisp. Outstanding, and when I told Eric that I they were the best French Fries I’d ever had in my life, I don’t think he took me seriously (he obviously doesn’t read my blog!) but they were. And at $2.50, they were the best bargain in town. Hedonists can opt for a drizzle of white truffle oil, but I think that might ruin the sheer perfection of les frites.

Baguette Box
1203 Pine Street
Seattle, WA
Tel: (206) 332-0220

Inside The KitchenAid Factory

mixer melange

“You’re going to flip out.”That was the message I got from a representative and friend from KitchenAid when he found out I was finally going to visit their factory. It was a visit I’ve been waiting years to make.

I’d been meaning to visit the KitchenAid factory ever they brought up the idea to me a few years ago, asking me to give a baking demonstration there as well. I can’t imagine life without my KitchenAid mixer and most other bakers I know feel the same way (and I love seeing how things are made, anything. I just find it fascinating, no matter what I’m watching being put-together.)

And if you have a KitchenAid mixer, you know what I’m talking about. It’s without a doubt the one essential tool that most home bakers can’t live without. The mixer we used at Chez Panisse was a solid performer after twenty years of hard restaurant use (it outlasted me!) and my personal mixer has been in service for well over 15 years. When I began doing baking demonstrations over a decade ago, I was so enthusiastic that I reached my arms around the one that I was using and gave it a big, generous hug.

Word of that hug reached KitchenAid headquarters and ever since then, I’ve been lucky to get to know many of the terrific folks who work for KitchenAid, both in the United States and Europe. And when they heard I was heading to the US this month, we worked in a date to visit their factory for a private look at how the mixers are put together. They gave me special permission to take photographs so much of what you’ll see here was generously allowed by KitchenAid.

A visit to the factory begins with a viewing of some of the classic stand mixers. The first produced was the Model H, introduced in 1919 and sold until 1927. It weighed a hefty 60-pounds and stores were so skeptical of its saleability that it was lugged door-to-door by housewives, hoping to convince other homemakers of its value.
The price? The Model H sold back then for $199 which is the equivalent today of about $1400.

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The First Ever KitchenAid Mixer


Over the next several decades the designs changed to reflect the times, with my favorite being this one, totally streamlined with swoops and curvilinear lines, suggesting speed and industrialism. Someday I hope this one is re-issued as a Special-Edition, since I think it’s the most beautiful of all the models ever produced.

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I love the graceful curve of the (useful) handle, which you grasp to lift the head of the machine. And I love the little ‘fin’ that’s affixed to the back.

Others models were made of materials strong enough to withstand the rugged KitchenAid motor within.

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There were contemporary mixers on display too, including custom models made to commemorate certain events, including this one. One hundred of them were made and donated as thank-you gestures to the New York City Fire Departments for their efforts and heroism after September 11th.

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Another 100 were made later and sold on eBay, with the proceeds going to 9/11 charities.

I learned that KitchenAid is the only company in America which still makes counter top appliances in the United States. All others brands are made overseas, although a few select KitchenAid appliances like the heavy-duty Pro-Line Espresso Maker (which I seriously envy) is made in Italy. Each and every KitchenAid appliance manufactured out of the United States is taken out of the box, vigorously-tested, then re-sealed before it’s ready for sale.

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The first thing that I saw when I entered the factory are the newest models and colored mixers lined up, practically floor-to-ceiling! They ranged in hues like sunny Meyer Lemon, Martha Green (named after…), Caviar (black with silver flecks), a cheerful Green Apple, Olive, and colorfully-red Bing Cherry.

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Mixers Ready To Be Dipped in Paint

If I didn’t already own several mixers, I would have tried to sneak out the brilliant-yellow Meyer Lemon model under my jacket, although it’s being considered for retirement. New colors are constantly introduced, then retired, sop that new ones can be added. So if you ever see a color that you like, get it while it’s hot. One enduring color that’s been offered for years, with a new expanded product line, is the pink mixer, with 10% from the sale of each going to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. There’s no plans to retire that one, and in fact, they’ve added other products in that color range.

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Each KitchenAid mixer takes about one-day to assemble. The actual building of the mixer is done in several stages: The engines are assembled and installed in the cast-metal housing by one team, the parts are heavily oiled (using three-times the amount of lubrication required for a lifetime of use), then sealed tight by another group, then the mixers are tested in another area, replicating 30 years of normal home use. Once they pass inspection, they’re packaged up and ready to be shipped off.

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Blenders Are Tested With Cubes of Ice, Which Are Perhaps the Hardest Things You’d Put In a Blender.

Each person in the factory makes an average of 92 standing mixers per day, with 22 people working on the line at any given time. Christmas starts in June at KitchenAid, when temporary workers are hired to assemble mixers to meet the upcoming holiday demand.

I left my resumé.

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One of the newest improvements to the KitchenAid standing mixer is their sturdiest whip yet. Unlike the dough hook and paddle attachments, the whip has several different parts affixed together, making it the part that takes the most abuse (sometimes I think I know exactly how it feels.) I watched how each individual whip was spun around while a woman patiently threaded each wire, interlacing them and securing them to the core.

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A Woman Wields Her Whip


The happiest folks in the factory are not on the floor, but in a special, plusher chamber. These are the “call girls”, as they’re known. These happy cookers spend their days servicing clients, tirelessly, one right after the other. They’re the on-site customer service team, helping customers seeking advice about their appliances. Although the main call center is elsewhere (in Michigan), KitchenAid likes some of their customer service workers to remain in the factory, keeping them in touch with the manufacturing process, so they can respond to requests quickly and accurately.

So when you call KitchenAid, you can ask to speak to someone in the factory in Greenville. You’ll get connected to one of the highly knowledgeable service team members there (…and tell them I sent you…they’re not likely to forget me!)

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Is your mixer making a funny sound?
Hold the phone to the machine while it’s operating and they can diagnose it for you.
Wondering how you can raise the bowl so that the whip reaches the absolute bottom of it?
There’s a tiny screw located underneath the mixer head that you can turn counterclockwise (on the K5) that’ll do the trick. I’ve been using my KitchenAid mixer for years and never knew that.
Of course if I had read the instructions…and we all read instruction manuals, don’t we?

Just a short ride away is the KitchenAid Experience, an interactive center where everything that KitchenAid makes is available to try out and play around with.

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How Do You Decide?

There’s also a teaching kitchen with demonstrations throughout the day. I did one, making all sorts of chocolate treats for guests, including chewy Chocolate Financiers, Rocky Road with Homemade Marshmallows, Peanuts, and Cocoa Nibs, and Double Chocolate Ice Cream with Stracciatella, using the brand-new ice cream attachment, which works with all KitchenAid standing mixers.

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Homemade Rocky Road, Recipe From The Great Book of Chocolate


Each and every appliance is available on the floor to play around with and bargain-hunters should descend to the lower-level, a room packed floor-to-ceiling with factory refurbished mixers and blenders.

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When a KitchenAid product is returned to a store, it’s sent back to the factory. The box is opened, the appliance removed and thoroughly inspected and tested. Then it’s re-sealed and offered for sale at a substantial discount: Each appliance meets the same rigorous standards as a spanking-new model.

I saw hyper-powerful 6-quart KitchenAid mixers available for slightly more than $200 and chrome blenders being sold for less than half the retail price. And there was lots and lots of mixers and other appliances in colors that had been retired or in various experimental finishes that you won’t find anywhere else.
If you can’t make it to the KitchenAid Experience, you can shop find your own bargain on a reconditioned model at Amazon.

Big thanks to the staff at KitchenAid for taking the time to show my everything, as I poked through boxes and rifled through bins of parts. They answered all my questions and I’ll never rev up my KitchenAid standing mixer again without thinking of what went into it before it became a fixture in my kitchen and my life.

Related Links:

Bargain KitchenAid Mixers & Appliances

You can find amazing bargains on reconditioned KitchenAid appliances at Amazon, such as powerful K5 mixers for only $129, and gorgeous chrome-plated blenders for only $39, which will save you hundreds of dollars.

The KitchenAid Experience

The KitchenAid Experience is located in Greenville, Ohio, about 45 minutes from Dayton and 2 hours from Cinncinati.

The KitchenAid Experience
423 South Broadway
Greenville, Ohio
Tel: 1-888-886-8318

Factory Tours of KitchenAid

KitchenAid
1701 KitchenAid Way
Greenville, Ohio
Tours given Monday through Friday, at 10am and 1pm (subject to change, so call ahead.)

Local Bed & Breakfast

St. Clair Place
224 E. Third Street
Greenville, Ohio
Email: stclairplace@earthlink.net

110V-220V, and International Questions

Will my KitchenAid Mixer Work Abroad?

KitchenAid International

Au Revoir, David!

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Back in a bit…

Where to Get the Best Crepes In Paris

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Addresses for Great Crêpes in Paris

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

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

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

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

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


Related Posts

Breizh Café

West Country Girl

The best socca in Nice

Tips for Vegetarian Dining in Paris

Paris Restaurant Archives

Two Dining Guides to Paris

Neal’s Yard Dairy in London

Disneyland is often called ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’.
I don’t know about that.

For me, Neal’s Yard Dairy is that place.

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I’d been anxious (well, more than anxious, practically hysterical) to visit them in London ever since I first tasted their cheeses, which are imported by my gal-pals Peggy Smith and Sue Conley at Cowgirl Creamery in the San Francisco bay area.

Neal’s Yard Dairy has been making cheese since 1979. The founder, Randolph Hodgson stated the cheesemaking operation in London’s Covent Garden. On their web site, he states “We didn’t know what we were doing and so we gave the customers a taste of everything and asked them what they thought.”

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And indeed, I was a bit startled when I inquired about a cheese and the affable salesperson (who wear knee-high white rubber boots and other cheesemaking garb) grabbed a knife, plucked off a nice slab, and handed it to me. When I wasn’t sure (yes, really), he repeated the process with several of the other cheddars (someone once asked why in France they don’t give tastes freely, and a French friend replied, with a bit of derision, and perhaps sadness, “That wouldn’t be ‘correct’.”

(Incongruously, the fellow who helped me at Neal’s Yard was French. Maybe he should come back and start a new trend?)

When I entered Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, there were huge rounds of cheddar piled way, way up high.

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And Neal’s Yard cheddars are the best in the world.
The exteriors are covered with dark, dusky rind, but when cut open, the interior is revealed. The cheeses are a sunny, golden yellow, often with little streaks of blue mold running through. Dry and crumbly, they left an indelible sharpness when eaten.

My favorite was the Westcombe Cheddar which was well-aged and had a sweet-sharpness that I knew would be fabulous. And it was.

I think I tasted every cheese in the shop, at their suggestion, and I waddled out with lots of wedges of English cheese to bring home and savor. The best blue, I think, was Harbourne Blue, a rather crumbly sort of cheese, yet soft and tangy. I purchased a stack (well, actually about 7 stacks) of oatcakes which are the perfect vehicle for the blue cheese.

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I also loved the slightly dry Gorwydd Caerphilly. Even though I could barely wrap my tounge around the name, the cheese went down quite well. Both cheese, including the Harbourne Blue, I’ve been enjoying with a salad every day since I got home.

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On Saturday at Borough Market, across the Thames, locals line up outside Neal’s Yard for freshly-grilled cheese sandwiches made with Montgomery’s Cheddar, finely diced red onions, and heated on a griddle between pain Poîlane. The other option (which I passed on…how can I pass up a perfect grilled cheese sandwich?) was raclette. Ok, it was an easy decision: My fingers were so frozen that I didn’t think I could wield a fork properly and was afraid that most of it would end up on the ground. The sandwich was the prudent option. I would hate to waste a single, delicious morsel.

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Raclette is often made over an open fire. The ritual is a big, sexy affair. A huge slab of cheese is heated until super-hot and bubbling, then the hot, gooey stuff is shaved over a plate of sliced potatoes and gherkins (or cornichons, but it’s a relief to me typing in English and not having to code everything in HTML, so I’m using gherkins today.)

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I also brought back several blocks of Montgomery Farmhouse Butter, which boasts a whopping 85% butterfat (I think. I was in a butterfat-induced haze by that point.) I thought it would be tasty when spread over a warm, toasted crumpet, and sure enough, I was right. I ran out of crumpets at home before I ran out of butter and will have to make a batch to finish off the buttery block. I guess I wasn’t spreading on enough butter?

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If you’re interested in learning more about Neal’s Yard, I urge you to visit their website, which is full of excellent information and lots of terrific photos of the cheesemaking operations.

In the United States, Neal’s Yard cheeses are available at Cowgirl Creamery and Central Market stores. If your local cheeseshop carries any of their cheeses, don’t hesitate to bring a slab or two home.

You won’t be disappointed. Just make sure to pick up plenty of oatcakes, and perhaps some crumpets, as well.

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Neal’s Yard Dairy
17 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden
and
6 Park Street, Borough Market
London