Plinks

Welcome to my world, girlfriend.

My Time Machine: A blast from my past, circa 1999.

Japanese terrorized by the Paris Syndrome.

A wine sale I missed.

And Americans keep asking me if Paris is safe

Cool (May 2006) coincidence (October 2006)?

I’m stirring the pots.

Does anyone want to carry around their kitchen floor?

(Thanks to Mark, Jenny, and Kate.)

Bad Behavior On The Métro

The RATP has started a campaign to try to get Parisians to respect each other when riding the métro, including avoiding the noisy, smelly pitfalls of eating a hamburger, not jumping the turnstiles, talking too loud or swearing, having inane, annoying cell phone ring-tones (yeah!), and not putting your stinky feet on the seats.

Watch the films and animations here.

(In French, but hilariously watch-able, especially the animated short films.)

As seen on Eric’s site, Paris Daily Photo.

Molto Gelato in Bologna

“It’s not your fault!” she laughed.

I had just walked in the door of my hotel, clutching my stomach in a bit of a panic, unable to fit in another morsel of food, no matter how small or appealing. Halfway through my 10 day eating trip through Italy, I felt like a plump, overstuffed ricotta-filled cannoli, bursting at both ends. I told the woman at the front desk at my hotel that I could not eat one more bite of anything, or I would surely die.

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“It’s not your fault.” she told me, “The food in Bologna is too good!”

And indeed, she was right. We’d eaten very well, from simple trattorias, slurping up Tagliatelle al Ragú and Tortellini with Ricotta and Zucchini Blossoms floating in brodo, to filling up on pizza bianco, stuffed with everything from roasted potatoes and fragrant rosemary to gooey, stringy Italian cheese and thin-sliced prosciutto. Although I could easily point a finger at the restaurants for the gustory overload, I did have a role in the matter, since between all these meals, I consumed a rather indecent amount of gelato.
So I’ll share the blame, mezzo-mezzo.

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Fresh-churned Gelato di Cioccolato

Eating gelato in Italy is a national pastime. Like Americans who tote oversized paper cups of coffee wherever they go, Italians walk around lapping up cones of gelato instead. You never hear anyone complain about their weight, calories, or anything like that. They just love their gelato and its enjoyment is an integral part of life in Italy. And as they say, “When in Rome…”
(A theme which began a few days earlier, when we actually were in Rome. But it’s not so pretty to say, “When in Bologna, do as the Bolognese do.” Is it?)

But one thing that is pretty incredible is the gelato that’s churned up in Bologna.

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Gianni Figliomeni of Il Gelatauro

Just a short walk from the center of Bologna, is where you’ll find Il Gelatauro, where Gianni Figliomeni makes what many consider the best gelato in Italy. Although I think the cookies deserve an award as well, and just looking at the picture makes me wish I hadn’t been so polite when they offered me a bag to take back with me.
Stupid Boy! What was I thinking?

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Krumiri cookies and Mondorletti al Cioccolatto Fondente

Above are the chewy, excellent cookies that I had from Il Gelatauro. The krumiri are vibrant-green cookies made simply of pistachio paste and honey mixed together and baked. But what pistachio paste that is! Unlike ordinary, dull-flavored pistachios, Bronte pistachios from Sicily are brilliant-green, and not-so-delicate, filled with intense pistachio flavor. You simply can’t make cookies like these without them, nor can you make Pistachio gelato without them as well, so don’t even bother. The other cookies, Mondorletti al Cioccolatto Fondente, are made by mixing ground nuts with rare manna syrup (when Gianni can find it), then dipped in sublime Amedei Chuao chocolate from their plantation in South America.

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Most gelato has less fat than regular ice cream, but it’s denser since less air is whipped in while churning, generally just 20-25%.

But what I came here for was the gelato, which not only didn’t disappoint, but after eating gelato non-stop the previous week in Rome, I wasn’t prepared for how special these gelatos are. Il Gelatauro uses mostly organic ingredients, so when you order a cone of Creme (and they have gluten-free cones), you can taste the fatty, golden-yellow egg yolks used to enrich the gelato base. And although it would take a rather big Italian dude with lots of muscles and a crowbar to pry me away from my beloved Cioccolato gelato, the Yogurt gelato had the fresh tang of yogurt combined with the slippery, lickable texture of gelato. It was the best, freshest-tasting Yogurt gelato I’ve ever had.

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Once the gelato is scraped from the machine, chunks of cake crumbs are scattered over and soaked with liquor, then mixed in.

Other flavors included Principe di Calabria, scented with bergamot and Calabrian jasmine flowers, rich Mascarpone, Zucca e Cannela, made with squash and cinnamon, and Semi di Finocchio, a gelato flecked with sugared, candied fennel seeds, which were originally given to pregnant women to increase milk production. Since I’m neither pregnant, nor lactating, I’ll have to take their word for it.

But it’s not just esoteric or the unusual that tempt, delight, or whatever they say in Italian (Hey, lay off—I’m having enough trouble with French…let’s not toss Italian into the mix.) His Chocolate-Brownie gelato was an amazingly right-on recreation of an all-American idea, although that should come as no surpise since his wife is American artist Angela Lorenz,whose artwork is shown on the walls of the gelateria. Perhaps she also had a hand with the creation of the Baked Apple and Cinnamon gelato and Caki, or the creamy, autumnal Persimmon gelato with a soft orange hue as well. If so, I suggest they revoke her American passport so she has to stay in Italy.

As they walked me through the gelateria and the spotless laboratory I learned much about his gelato-making techniques. Many gelaterias make just one base, then add flavors to build them up. But at Il Gelatauro, each base is made separately and to certain specifications, then frozen at the start of each day. All Gianni’s gelatos are made with fresh, organic cream and milk, unrefined cane sugar, and a touch of the highest-quality powdered milk to increase the milky-smooth flavor and mouth-feel without increasing the fat. He confided in me that many of the thick gelatos we taste at other places have added vegetable fat to make them thicker and smoother. But there’s nothing like that done here, and as I watched and tasted a spoonful of each and every flavor they had to offer (how could I resist?), I finally made my way back to my hotel.

To do—what else? Make plans for dinner!

Il Gelatauro
San Vitale, 98/b
Tel: 051 230049

(More food photos of my trip to Italy are here.)



Other Gelato in Bologna

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Stefino
Via Galliera, 49/B
Tel: 051 246736

Sicilian-style granite, or shaved ice. I can’t imagine anything better in the summer (or even in the winter) than espresso and chocolate granita piled into a cup.

la Sorbetteria
Via Castiglione, 44
Tel: 051 233257

Rich, thick gelato in flavors such as ricotta with caramelized figs, dulce de leche, and chocolate-studded straciatelle.
Make sure to visit their chocolate shop, il Coccolato at Via Castiglione, 44/B, just down the street too.

Restaurants in Bologna

Trattoria Tony
Via A. Righi, 1/B
Tel: 051 232852

Simple basic Bolognese fare. Great pasta, tortellini en brodo, and bollito misto. Friendly service, but the food requires a grappa chaser afterwards if you plan to sleep that night. Seriously.

Trattoria Anna Maria
Via Belle Arti, 17/A

Angela from Il Gelatauro was so rapturous about the barely-there, super-thin strands of tagliatelli that I knew if I didn’t go, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. I followed my Tagliatelli Ragu´ with roasted, fork-tender Guinea Fowl. Be sure to reserve.

Enoteca Italiana
Via Marsala, 2/b
Tel: 051 235989

Lovely, lively wine bar with an amazing selection of Italian delicacies for sale as well, including well-stocked shelves of Domori, Slitti, and Amedei chocolates.

A.F. Tamburini
Via Capriarie, 1
Tel: 051 234726

Glorious shop featuring all sorts of cheeses and salumi. Casual cafeteria if you wish to sample their fare on the premises.

Hotels in Bologna

Two reasonably-priced hotels in the center of town, just a 10 minute walk from the train station, and just minutes from all the gelaterias listed above!

Hotel Paradise
Vicolo Cattani, 7
Tel. 051 23179

Hotel Metropolitan
Via dell’Orso, 6
Tel: 051 229393

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.

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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



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Le Rubis

Le Garde Robe

Le Verre Volé

Les Fine Gueules

Café des Musées

French Menu Translation Guide