No Man Is As Island. Except Me.

When I decided to move from San Francisco, the two places I narrowed it down to were Honolulu or Paris. The beauty of living in Hawaii is…well, the beauty of Hawaii. Lots of warm beaches and surfing, alarmingly-fresh sushi, tropical fruits galore in your backyard, and an accumulation of frequent-flyer miles from trips to the mainland.

Paris, on the one hand, was France.

So I moved to France.
Here I am, going about my everyday life: in line at the boulangerie waiting for my baguette, negotiating with the fromager for the most interesting cheese of the season, and sitting in cafés all afternoon reading Kant and Kafka.

So this year I won a blog award, and was thrilled that my prize was being donated by ‘Ono Kine Grindz from Honolulu. The prize turned out to be two oversized, heavy cookbooks on Hawaiian cuisine. So instead of the books (one of which I had), Reid offered to send me a selection of tasty Hawaiian products instead.
“Awesome”, I thought, “I can’t wait.”

But wait I did.
And wait some more, did I.

Then then I waited some more.

I know it’s kinda rude to ask, but I finally shot him an email asking him if he had indeed sent it, which he had way back when.
Now I don’t know if it’s La Poste or the US Post, but living in the US I always received packages, most arriving relatively quickly. But in just a few short years in Paris, the arrival rate for packages is hovering at about 26.4%. I mean, where are they going? Are they sitting in some warehouse? Are they being pilfered or stolen? Do packages just simply vanish?

(Note: If any French people have anti-US Postal service stories, post the link to your blog entry in the comments section. Similarly, if anyone works for La Poste and would like to anonymously give some clues as to the whereabouts of my other packages…no questions will be asked. And I promise never to write anymore about lost or stolen packages.)

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So even though I didn’t move to the island of Honolulu, I realize that I’m living on an island right here. One that is impenetrable when it comes to deliveries.

Anyhow…so my second package from Reid managed to arrive this week, and I was so happy when I unwrapped all the fabulous things:

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Loose-leaf Pacific Place Tea, which I am busy brewing. This dark, long-leaf tea is beautiful, scattered with colorful little petals of marigold and cornflowers, with tropical fruit aromas as well. I hope it’s not sacrilegious, but I’m brewing up some iced tea with it.

A sack of real Kona Coffee! Most of the time if you go to Hawaii you’ll get served something called ‘Kona’ coffee, but if you look at the percentage of real Kona coffee in it, you’ll find it’s blended and the actual amount of Kona beans in it is around 10% (my delivery rate is better than that!) I was at Peet’s coffee once and was served true, 100% Kona coffee. And it was amazing and well worth the lofty price tag.
And mine was a gift!

I screwed open the jar of Kiawe White Honey and stuck my finger in the blank-colored, crystallized honey. Boy, was that good! This very rich organic honey is made from the flowers of the kiawe tree which grows from the volcanic soil of Mauna Kea.

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Poha Berry Jam. Poha berries are related to what are called physalis in France and Cape Gooseberries (or Ground Cherries) in America. Poha Berries resemble tomatillos with their papery leaves hiding the dull-orange fruit inside. At the market recently, a Frenchwoman told me they were called, “les feuilles d’amour”, the leaves of love, in French.

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I remember reading about Lilikoi Curd from Planted by the river from Heidi. I adore anything with passion fruit in it, one of my favorite fruits ever. This jar of curd has li hing mui, dried salted plums added. I’m thinking of making Heidi’s Lilikoi Passion Fruit Curd Cake but I fear I’m going to eat it all for breakfast instead. (In fact, I’m certain I will.)

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Being a baker, I am avidly interested in vanilla and always looking for unusual pods to sniff and bake with. Vanilla beans are the most labor-intensive crop in the world, hence their price and scarcity. In 1998, Hawaiian Vanilla began planting vanilla orchids in Hilo, and now they sell vanilla beans and extracts, all cultivated and made in Hawaii. When I pulled the pod out of the glass tube and gave it a sniff, it was sweet and fragrant, one of the best-smelling vanilla beans I’ve had. I’m going to use it to make some Vanilla Ice Cream, plain and simple.

Mahalo to Reid at ‘Ono Kine Grindz. Go visit his site.

Two Milk Chocolates

While I was teaching chocolate classes at Central Market stores across Texas last month, in my free time I would wander the aisles of the store. I don’t think I’d ever been in a place that had such a terrific selection of chocolates from around the world. It was a chocolate-lovers dream!
I was particularly intersted in these two, which I had never seen before and was eager to sample.

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In the US, to be called ‘milk chocolate’, the chocolate must contain a minimum of 10% cacao solids.(Cacao solids are the ground paste made from pure cocoa beans.) In the European Union, the legal minimum hovers between 25-30%, although some companies get around it by calling their tablets ‘family chocolate’ or ‘dairy bar’, which is somewhat misleading since people often grab the bars thinking they’re getting milk chocolate when they’re getting something else.

So I’ve taken it upon me to re-name these higher-percentage bars of milk chocolate as ‘dark’ milk chocolate. Both bars shown contain about 35% cacao solids.

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The first bar, the darker and thinner of the two, is Santander milk chocolate, made from Columbian beans. I found the chocolate to be a bit peanutty and malty. It was sharp and acidic but left little lingering aftertaste. It had a nice snap when sliced and had a faint butterscotch finish. I would imagine this would be good for chopping and substituting the pieces for chocolate chips in your favorite recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’m going to use mine to make a batch of Dark Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.

The lighter of the two is Caro milk chocolate. This was far ‘milkier’ tasting with a very creamy taste and texture. It looks a bit whipped and its flavor was somewhat elusive and candy-like. I have to admit that this one left a rather funny taste behind and I wasn’t eager to eat more. Still, it was interesting to taste the two side-by-side.

I’m going to do the David Lebovitz Let-Them-Sit-In-My-Apartment-And-See-
Which-One-Is-Left-By-The-End-Of-The-Week
Test®.

Wish me luck.


The Best Paris Guidebook

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Paris is reported to be the most popular tourist destination in the world. Each year people come from all over the world for their vacations. I’m sure they spend months and months making arrangements, searching the internet looking for a charming, affordable hotel, scouring web site for decent airfares, and searching my blog for places to eat.

So after all that, what do most people depend on to get around this most fabulous of all cities? The free maps from Galleries Lafayette that the hotels give out. Not that there’s anything wrong with those maps.

Ok, yes there is.

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Let’s face it, Paris hasn’t changed much in the past 100 or so years or more, and it ain’t gonna be changing much in our lifetime either. So next time you come, on your very first day, stop by a Presse, or newstand, and buy one of these booklets. They cost about 5 to 7 euros, and are available in various sizes and formats. Few Parisians leave the house without this handy little booklet in their handbag or man-purse. It easily slips inside a coat pocket as well.

Mine lists all the outdoor markets in the city by day and location, addresses for all the attractions in Paris, the location of gas stations and taxi stands, where all the big department stores are, schools and universities (ok, you probably don’t need those), and a complete overview and map of the extensive métro system. And the last kicker: you can use it each and every time you come back to Paris. No need to buy a new one.

Related posts and links:

Paris Dining and Travel Guides

My Paris

Two Delicious Dining Guides to Paris

The Pastry Shops of Paris

French Menu Translation, Made Easy

Do You Own This Machine?

Do you have a Chef’s Choice Waffle Cone Express machine?

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If so, I have an exciting proposition for you.
Contact me.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe

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At the markets during the spring and summer here in Paris, there are piles and mounds of strawberries. The sweet, fruity scent pervades the air as you get closer to the stands. I always come home with a kilo (2 pounds), which costs about 3 euros (about $3.50) and I eat as many as I can during their season. Some people swoon for the pale gariguette berries, which are slender and pointed, although I’ve tried them several times and don’t find them much better than the everyday Chandler variety that’s normally available.

While at the market this week, being such a good customer, I got a deal on a large flat of strawberries so after much jam-making, I decided to take my ice cream maker out for a spin and whip up a batch of Strawberry Frozen Yogurt.

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Unlike the stuff at the mall, real frozen yogurt is made from plain, whole-milk yogurt, fresh fruits, and some sweetener. Although some people like to drain their yogurt first for a richer end-result, I prefer the lighter style of frozen yogurt. You can use Greek-style yogurt, which is three times richer than whole milk yogurt. Slicing the berries and tossing them in sugar makes the strawberries bright red in color and can make ho-hum berries quite delicious.

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Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
About 1 quart (1l)

French yogurt is astoundingly good and I suggest you use a good-quality, whole milk or Greek-style yogurt for best results.

  • 1 pound (450g) strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 2/3 cup (130g) sugar
  • optional: 2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch
  • 1 cup (240g) plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.

Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.

Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Continue Reading Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe…

Lucques Olives

While at the market yesterday looking for things to snitch, I bought a sack of my favorite olives, les Lucques.

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Lucques olives are originally from Italy, but are now most closely associated with France and they’re unlike any other olive you’re likely to sample, free or otherwise. Grown in the Hérault region in the south of France, the Languedoc, they’re harvested in the fall and can be difficult to find depending on the time of the year. These olives are meaty and sweet, not soft, salty, or mushy like some olives can be. The green flesh is firm and bright, and the olives themselves must be kept submerged in their light brine since they discolor very easily.

While they are available in jars, I am lucky to have a prime source for these green beauties just steps away from where I live. And they are certainly one of the best things you can possibly eat. The first time you try one, you’re likely to be very surprised to find they’re unlike any other olives you’re used to eating.

These fine olives are meant to be eaten just as they are, perhaps accompanied by thin slices of jambon and a bowl of crisp radishes with a glass of rosés as an aperitif. I buy small sacks of Lucques olives at the market weekly, since if I keep too many around, I tend to eat them all at once; they’re that good.

Jars of Lucques olives can be ordered in the US here and here’s an excellent guide to olives.

How To Get Banned For Life From Whole Foods

Do you wander the aisles at Whole Foods, soaking up all the good vibes from the organic, sustainable, and good-for-you products?

Ever been tempted to snitch a sample?

Well, you’d better not

What They Say vs. What They Mean

When they say,“Non”, they mean, “Convince me.”

When they say,“We do not take returns”, they mean,“Convince me.”

When they say,“It’s not broken“, they mean,“Convince me.”

When they say, “You need a prescription for that”, they mean,“Convince me.”

When they say,“The restaurant is completely full”, they mean,“Please come up with a better story.”

When they say,“The restaurant is completely full”, they mean,“We already have enough Americans in here.”

When they say,“Do you mind if I smoke?”, they mean,
“Don’t answer ‘yes’, or we’re going to pout and scowl while you try to enjoy your dinner.”

When they say,“It does not exist”, they mean, “It does exists…just not for you.”

When they walk right into you on the street and say nothing, they mean,“I’m Parisian.”

When they say,“I don’t have change”, they mean,“I want a tip.”

When they say,“Do you want directions?” they mean, “I look forward to telling you what to do for the next five minutes.”

When they say, “I’d like the practice my English”, they mean,“For the next 20 minutes, you’ll feel like a complete idiot while I speak perfect English and demonstrate a far better understanding of world affairs than you do.”

When they say,“They’re up on the seventh floor”, they mean,
“They’re right around the corner from where you’re standing.”

When they say,“We don’t have any more”, they mean,“We have lots more, but they’re in the back.”

When they say,“It’s not my fault”, they mean,“It is my fault…but I’m not taking the blame.”

When they say, “That is not possible”, they mean,“Loser.”

When they say, “I am a Socialist”, they mean,“I’m not responsible for picking up my dog’s poop.”

When they say, “You package hasn’t arrived”, they mean, “I’m just about to go on break. Come back and wait in line for 30 minutes again tomorrow.”

When they say, “The fat’s the best part!” , they mean, “I’m under 40.”

When they say, “The cheeses in France are the best in the world”, they mean, “We are indeed a superior culture.”

When they say, “America is culturally-deprived”, they mean,“Please don’t show us Sharon Stone’s vagina again.”