Site News

We’ve been tinkering with the web site and blog here for the past few weeks, making some changes and adding some features based on some of your feed back. As the blog continues to evolve, I realized that it had quickly outgrown some of the previous formats so I’ve been working with my long-standing (and long-suffering) web master to improve the site

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Wondering where you can find these Orangettes from Jean-Charles Rochoux here in Paris? Try the new search feature.

Search

We’ve added a search engine to this site so you will be able to search for whatever you’d like.
So, let’s say you’re in Paris and you need to find an escort.

You probably won’t find it here.

But If you’re looking for advice about chocolate shops, my favorite wine bars, recipes, great bakeries I visit, knowing the maximum prison term for punching out a Parisian, and restaurants that I recommend, use the search feature to find whatever information you’re looking for.
The search engine is currently at the top of this page in it’s beta form and searches the blog entries and archives.

Test it out and let us know what you think.

Comments

Due to the unrelenting amount of spam, I’ve turned off comments in posts that are archived. While I’m sure that many of you might be interested in increasing the size of your private parts to gargantuan dimensions, or watching videos of sorority girls doing what we all suspected they do when they’re having slumber parties, or helping the Royal Family of Ugibanzubia recover their family fortunes during the horrible revolution of 1998, it was taking too much of my time deleting the spam flooding in so I closed the comments in archived entries.

All comments submitted to the site may be edited and are subject to approval for posting. If readers have any concerns with that, visit here or here, for further information.

Schedule

The Paris Chocolate Exploration Tour is now sold-out with Mort Rosenblum in May.

My Chocolate Classes at On Rue Tatin with Susan Loomis in November of 2006 still has spaces available, for a limited time. We’ll be doing a series of hands-on cooking classes at Susan’s fabulous professionally-equipped kitchen at her home in Normandy, one-hour from Paris, as well as offering an extra day exploring Paris’ outdoor markets, chocolate shops, and bakeries with us.

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KitchenAid and Central Market Appearances and Classes

I’ll be appearing at the KitchenAid Experience in Greenville, Ohio at noon on March 27th, for a free demonstration on making chocolate desserts. Come visit, have some chocolate, and get your book signed!
I look forward to meeting many of you there.

The week of April 4-8, I’ll be teaching a series of chocolate classes at Central Market stores in Texas, one of my favorite markets in the world. Their classes are great fun, the staff does a terrific job, and there’ll be plenty of chocolate desserts to sample…I can’t wait to return for a big Texas welcome (and some Texas B-B-Q!)

You can find the exact dates on my Schedule Page and sign up by clicking on the links there.

Les Carottes Rapées

You won’t often find much in the way of vegetables on the menus of many cafés in Paris. I don’t mean the over-hyped restaurants with the fancy chef names attached that the slick food magazines tend to worship. There you might find a coin of grilled zucchini, a dot of sauce, and perhaps a leaf of parsley as a carefully-draped garnish. But most of the time, those places are filled with Americans with Zagat guides sticking out of their pockets. What I mean are the places where most Parisians actually eat lunch.

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Many French workers get financial help footing the bill, courtesy of le Ticket Resto, a program that allows employees to buy discount coupons via their employer to dine out. The advantage to that is that it keeps many small restaurants thriving, so most of them offer a prix-fixe menu that anyone’s welcome to enjoy, usually costing less than 15 euros for a 2- or 3-course meal.
Another advantage is that it gives workers time to have a proper lunch with co-workers and friends.

(Sidenote: Having worked in restaurants all my life, I was once at a dinner party and mentioned that I never had a job where I got a true a break. All conversation stopped, forks in mid-air, and everyone turned and looked at me in disbelief. When I left the restaurant business I vowed I would never eat standing up again. And I haven’t!)

What that also means is that the food must be quick and relatively easy to prepare. Menus offer steaks or long-cooked stews, and perhaps a sauteed piece of fish. But since vegetables require washing, peeling, slicing, pre-cooking, and a bit of finesse, it’s quite difficult to find freshly-cooked vegetables on menus of ordinary restaurants. The most popular side dish is les frites; all that’s needed is a quick drop-in-the-deep-fryer, and they’re done. Sadly, most of the time, they’re the pre-frozen frites, which arrive undercooked and insipid. I make it a point to find restaurants with real, honest French fries.
And I go back as much as possible, as a show of support.

Even ratatouille, that famous vegetable dish from Provence is just a big bowl of overcooked, soft vegetables. And please don’t tell me that I haven’t had a good version of ratatouille…I have, and I still don’t like it.

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There is one vegetable dish that’s so popular that it ranks right up there with foie gras and le baguette as classics of modern French cuisine. That’s carottes rapées, a crisp pile of freshly-grated carrots. There’s well-known aversion in France to undercooked vegetables (or as they say, ‘American-style’) and you almost never find raw vegetables offered in Paris.

Corn is always served spooned right from the can onto a salad, or worse, on pizza (with a sunny-side up egg cooked in the middle.) Tiny haricots verts are always cooked until tender. And the little pointed end of the green bean is always removed…and I’ve heard various compelling arguements why.
“C’est indigestable” (I hate lying awake all night trying to digest all the green bean ends I’ve consumed), or “It gets stuck in your teeth” (that is the worst, isn’t it?)

But my favorite reason, “That’s where all the radiation concentrates.”

um, okay…so now like a good Parisian I remove the end of the green bean, or the “boot”, as it’s called.
To limit my exposure to radiation.

Anyhow…les carottes rapées is simply grated carrots tossed in fresh lemon juice, a bit of salt, and sometimes a little olive oil. If you want to get fancy, you can add a bit of chopped flat-leaf parsley. But it’s one of those things, the simpler the better. Simple restaurants like Chartier just toss a plate of carrots at you with a wedge of lemon. Other places arrange les carottes rapées on a plate with tangy celery rémoulade and beets.

I make it often when I’m home by myself, since it’s nice to have something easy to prepare and fresh, and I always seem to have carrots around. I make a plate of carottes rapées, and eat it with a few chunks of Tradigrains baguette from my local boulanger, a nice wedge of soft, fresh, ooaing cheese like a ripe brie de Meaux or a goaty Selles-Sur-Cher, and perhaps a slice of pâte from my local charcuterie.

Here’s my how-to guide for making your own Grated Carrot Salad, French-style.

Alligators and Flies

When I was a kid, it seems like everyone was wearing Lacoste polo shirts (they were also called Izod shirts back then). The shirt was introduced in 1933 and named for French tennis star René Lacoste who was nicknamed “the alligator” after winning a game bet, the prize being an alligator suitcase.

The shirts came in a riot of colors during the 60’s and 70’s, and it was the fashion at the time to dress in the casual, but dressy Lacoste polo, accenting your outfit with something outrageous and in-your-face (but still acceptable at the country club.) Soon others designers catered to people who wished to be ‘preppy’ by advertising a genteel lifestyle, featuring people turning up their collars. I dubbed it “The Vulcan Effect”, since most of the people looked rather stupid with the tip of the stiff color scraping their ears with a Star-Trek like rigidity, rather than the “I-don’t-care-this-is-how-I-put-my-
shirt-on and that’s-how-it’s-going-to-stay-because-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-turn-it-down”
look that real preppy people did.
I went to prep school and if you flipped up your collar on purpose, you would have had the crap pounded out of you by an upperclassman named Rand or Tad.
Guaranteed.

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Eventually the Lacoste shirt fell out of favor until recently, thanks to a spiffy new ad campaign, and the fact the shirts last forever and are wonderfully comfortable and timeless and well-tailored…all that stuff that makes classic clothing come back into style. And so I searched around some boxes of mine last time I was in the US to see if I could find any old ones (the blue-alligator is the giveaway for vintage Lacoste, they switched to green some years back.)

I had lots of Lacoste shirts during my childhood.
My mother came home with the shirts for me, in super-saturated greens and reds, their scratchy fabric softened beautifully in the washing machine and fit like nothing else. Afterward you broke them in, there was nothing like a good, slightly-faded, generously cut Lacoste shirt.

Except there was one demon that I had to exorcise from my past:

The alligator.

I was terrified of the little blue devil. Baring sharp teeth, his menacing red tongue licking his chops, and a sharp, whip-like tail…it was all too frightening for me to deal with on my little chest, and I was scared.

So I did what every healthy, red-blooded American boy would do: I snipped them off with a scissors, leaving a gaping hole in my shirts.

(I also used to wear my Fruit-Of-The-Loom briefs backwards, since I liked pulling out the waistband several times a day and looking down at the colorful fruits lined up on the label.)

I did manage to find a vintage Lacoste shirt that for some reason has escaped my snipping. The fit was still fabulous and the color, Bordeaux, was a deep, wine-like red, still rich and robust after all these years. Wearing it was like finding that perfect partner who you can take shopping at a nice boutique or to a decent restaurant, but comfortable enough for lounging around with in your flannel pajama bottoms.

So I went to the Lacoste store in Paris and bought another new polo shirt last year.
The color?
Acidulé; a wildly-vivid hue, reminiscent of Chartreuse liquor mixed with Orangina. Then electrocuted. I immediately wore it to a café and was swarmed by tiny flies, apparently as attracted by it’s traffic-stopping color as I was.

Last week I made even more progress in getting over my fear of the Alligator and bought two more shirts. The Lacoste shop near the Bastille was having a liquidation avant traveaux (before the construction), and selling off all their stock at a rather nice discount, something you don’t see too often in pricey Paris. The salesperson loaded me up with a stack of polo shirts, pointed me towards le cabine d’essayage, and before I knew it I was standing at the register with a stack of neatly-folded shirts, in insanely over-the-top colors like Bonbon, Framboise, and Tomate.

I shouldn’t be too hard to spot on the streets of Paris, come this spring.

I’ll be the one swarmed by flies.

Lacoste
70 rue du Faubourg St. Antoine

Miss Edna Lewis

One of the nice things about working at Chez Panisse for so long was that I got to meet a lots of famous and important chefs and cooks. James Beard would walk through the kitchen and say hi, Richard Olney brought bottles of Y’quem for us to taste, and Danny Kaye grabbed the whisk out of my hands while I was making soufflés to show me the correct way to beat egg whites into a meringue.
Well, the correct way…according to him.

Not all were wonderful. (Obviously.)
And in fact, there were a few jerks. Of course, the good outweighed the bad (although the bad had gave us much to talk about afterwards…) and I was so very fortunate to meet and work with some of the great cooks of our times, like Edna Lewis.

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Scott forwarded this photo of him and Miss Lewis, by Bill Osinski, with a note saying that it was their favorite.

I met Edna Lewis during a benefit that we were doing for Meals on Wheels in New York City. I walked in the kitchen and her long-time assistant and companion, Scott Peacock, was stirring what was perhaps that largest cauldron of steaming vanilla-scented milk I’d ever seen in all my restaurant years, using a giant whisk. He looked up with a big warm grin, kept stirring, and introduced himself to me. Scott is a big guy, not just in girth, but in his passion for what he cooks and as he stirred and chatted, he became like an old friend.
I instantly liked him: his southern drawl and charm were too sweet to resist.

Standing next to him, wearing a colorful shawl was Miss Lewis. Scott, the ever-polite southern gentleman and her best friend, always called her ‘Miss Lewis’.
(Imagine if my best friends called me Mr. Lebovitz!)

Edna Lewis offered her fragile, delicate hand to me. It was bony and rough, signs of a life spent in a kitchen; years of chopping, measuring, mixing, and carving. In a tiny voice that was barely audible, she introduced herself. And like a fragile scoop of vanilla ice cream uncontrolably melting on a slice of warm apple pie, Miss Lewis’ voice and manner had a way that would just make you melt.

A tiny woman, she wrote the book, (several books, in fact), on real, down-home southern cooking. Not “Y’all take a tub of Cool Whip, stir in some of this here possum-fat…”, but she taught true southern cooking and was the last of the well-respected authors and cooks to write about the subject she loved so dearly, alongside Scott.

My favorite story that she told me was the difficulty she faced when she wrote her first cookbook. She’d always cooked using coins for measuring dry ingredients like baking powder, salt, and the like. She learned to bake that way, scooping up a quarters-worth of baking powder and tossing that with a few handfuls of flour for making her feathery-light biscuits.
She soon changed how she baked; that a quarter became a tablespoon, a dime’s worth became a teaspoon.

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Edna Lewis passed away peacefully Monday in her home and she’ll be missed by many of us who were touched by her warmth and uncommon grace.

Bicerin Recipe

Bicerin

The city of Torino (or Turin) is one of the great centers of chocolate. In the early part of 1500, a Italian named Emmanuel Philibert served hot chocolate to celebrate a victory over the French at Saint-Quentin. And in 1763, Al Bicerin opened it’s doors and began making a celebrated coffee-and-chocolate drink called il bavareisa. The hot drink was a soothing mixture of locally-produced chocolate, strong Italian coffee, and topped with a froth of whipped cream.

The drink was often served in a small glass, called a bicerin (bee-chair-EEN), hence the name got changed to what we know now today as il bicerin.

Just across the border from France, Torino is the city where chocolate is an integral part of life, and where ice cream on a stick, the pinguino popsicle, was invented in 1935. Now there are exceptional chocolate-makers throughout the city, such as Peyrano and A. Giordano, who still make gianduiotto by hand, selling it at their historic chocolate shop on the Piazzo Carlo Felice.

The Piedmontese region is famous for a few other things than just chocolate and hazelnuts, most notably white truffles, but also for their exceptionally delicious hazelnuts. Back in those days, cacao beans were very expensive and rare, so a local chocolatier named Michel Prochet began blending hazelnuts into the chocolate to extend it, inventing gianduja (gee-an-DOO-ya) and is now perhaps most famously consumed as Nutella, which has become the most popular sandwich spread in the world.

But even now, every afternoon you’ll find the locals stand in one of the city’s historic caffès, sipping a hot bicerin from a small, stemmed glass. Or sitting at a marble-topped table and letting one of the waiters present them with your bicerin, savoring the atmosphere.

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My favorite place is the overly-ornate Baratti & Milano, where I like to sip my bicerin surrounded by crystal chandeliers and bronze sculptures. And I always am sure to pick up a few bars of their handcrafted chocolate or gianduja at the gilded-and-mirrored confectionery counter on the way out. Here’s my recipe…

Bicerin
Two servings

It’s important to use a clear glass; you need to be able to see all three layers.

To make a bicerin, warm one cup (250 ml) whole milk in a medium-sized saucepan with 3 ounces (90 gr) of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Whisk the mixture until it begins to boil, then let it boil for 1 minute, whisking constantly (the chocolate mixture will foam up a bit.)
Afterward, remove it from the heat and set aside. Make a small pot of very strong coffee, or good Italian espresso.

Fill the bottom third of a clear, heat-proof glass with the warm chocolate mixture. Pour in some coffee or espresso. (If you want to help it create a definite layer, pour it over the back of a spoon, into the glass.)

Top with a nice swirl of sweetened, freshly-whipped cream.

Places in Torino/Turin, specializing in local chocolates, gianduiotti, or to find an authentic bicerin:

A. Giordano
Piazzo Carlo Felice, 69
Tel: 011.547121

Al Bicerin
Piazza Consolata, 5
Tel: 011.4369325

Baratti & Milano
Piazza Castello, 29
Tel: 011.4407138

Caffè Torino
Piazza San Carlo, 204
Tel: 011.545118

Gobino
via Cagliari, 15/b

Confetteria Avvignano
Piazzo Carlo Felice, 50
Tel: 011.541992

Peyrano
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 76
Tel: 011.538765

Platti
Corso Vittoria Emanuele II, 72
Tel: 011.5069056

Tropical Fruit Soup Recipe

Have you ever tasted passion fruit?

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If not, I suggest you do as soon as possible since now is their primary season in many parts of the world. If it’s your first taste of this amazing fruit, you’re in for a real treat. Slice one in half and spoon the seeds and pulp right into your mouth. That explosion of flavor is indescribable; a melange of every other tropical flavor that exists, all in one tidy purple orb.

There’s many different kinds of passion fruit. If you live in Hawaii, you’ll find brilliant-yellow lilikoi which grow prolifically everywhere, and in the southern hemisphere, there’s maricuja, which are large, russet-colored passion fruits. But most of the time you see Passiflora edulis, dark violet fruits, and the best tasting of them all. When sliced open, they reveal crunchy seeds and thick, luscious, fragrant pulp. But just in case you think this fruit was given the name ‘passion’ because of the lovely flavor, the name actually refers to the flower of the vine, which is said to tell the story of the Passion Play with it’s multiple tendrils and stamens.

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Spoon passion fruit over icy-cold slices of blood oranges for an instant, and beautiful, dessert

When buying passion fruit, unless you’re lucky enough to live in a climate where they’re abundant, they’re likely to be pricey (depending on the season.) Fortunately a little goes a long way: the pulp and seeds of one or two fruits will assert it’s powerful flavor into a cake, sorbet, or tropical beverage (with a shot or two of dark rum!)
Buy fruits when they’re inexpensive and freeze the pulp and seeds together. It freezes beautifully.

Don’t be put off by punky-looking fruits. Lots of wrinkles means they’re very ripe and at their peak. (I’ve found perfectly wonderful passion fruits in produce bargain bins, since people pass them over.) Signs of mold, however, usually means they’re too far gone and I’d take a pass on ‘em too.

If you’re making a beverage and wish to use just the pulp, slice your passion fruits in half and spoon the pulp into a non-reactive strainer set over a bowl. Use a flexible rubber spatula to force the pulp through the strainer, then discard the seeds. With a little searching, you can find pure frozen passion fruit pulp if you search though Asian markets or places that specialize in tropical products.

Tropical Fruit Soup with Passion Fruit
4 servings

Use whatever combination of tropical fruits you like or follow my suggestions. This is a fun chance to visit your nearest ethnic market and experiment with any unusual fruit you might find there. Don’t be put off if the soup base tastes strangely spicy by itself. Combined with the tropical fruits, the flavors work. Chill the serving bowls in advance so everything stays refreshingly icy-cold.

The soup base:
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 small cinnamon stick
1 star anise
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Zest of 1 orange
1 piece lemongrass, 2 inches long, sliced (use the white part from the root end)
2 thin slices fresh ginger
2 teaspoons dark rum

The assembly:
6 kumquats, sliced and seeded
1 kiwi, peeled and diced
1 basket strawberries, sliced
2 blood oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/4 pineapple, diced
1 banana
2 passion fruit, pulp and seeds
Sugar, if necessary
Fresh mint to garnish

1. To make the soup base, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Coarsely crush the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and black peppercorns in a mortar, or put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin or a hammer. Add the spices to the water then add the vanilla bean, orange zest, lemongrass, and ginger. Cover the pan, and steep for 1 hour.
2. Strain the soup base and discard the flavorings. Add the rum and chill thoroughly.
3. Toss all the prepared fruits together in a bowl. Taste for sweetness, and add a sprinkling of sugar if they’re too tart.
4. Divide the fruits into four wide soup bowls and ladle the chilled soup base over them.
5. Tear some mint leaves into tiny pieces and scatter them over the soup. Place a scoop of a favorite tropical fruit sherbet in the center.

Like….Brigitte Bardot!

As the shops re-do their store windows after les soldes, in their half-finished state, there’s always a little note (usually hand-written), saying something along the lines of, “Please excuse us, the window display is in the midst of réalisation

An elderly couple, parents of a friend who live across the street, invited me for dinner last night. Both are in their early 80’s and their apartment is filled with years and years of memories adn relics of a lifetime in Paris. The walls in the apartment are filled with paintings done by their children (who are artists in Paris), shelves have weathered religious figures and peculiar sculptures. Most of the lampshades were so old, the shades were parchment-like, and a giant model of an ancient sailing vessel rests on the wall. The flickering candles dripped copious amounts of wax, spilling over the candleholders, forming little pools on the crisp, French linen tablecloth.

We ate off dinnerware centuries old. My plate had a tableau of some peasants with large blades eviscerating a small cow that hung limply from a tree. Everything else was a hodgepodge of mismatched forks and knives as well as chipped or cracked stemware that had been gathered during decades of accumulating. All evidence of a stubborn refusal to part with a past, I suppose.

They’d been avant-garde window designers in Paris, during the middle of the last century, starting in the 1950’s. And after dinner, the scrapbooks came out (at my urging) as we looked at some of their designs.

Then, I turned the page and saw her…

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“What’s this?”, I exclaimed after I picked myself up from the floor, “C’est fabulouse!”

“Mais oui”, they explained, “…she came to model for the display that we had created for a shop that was opening, and our friend took that picture while she posed for us.”

(If you look behind her, to the right, you can see the crowd gathering outside the window.)

Oh-la-la!très sexy!

Photo by Sabine Weiss

Le Petit Dejeuner of Champions

Garrett’s caramel corn for breakfast…

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Is that wrong?

(Merci Louisa!)