Le Smart Car

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Is it called ‘Smart’ because it runs on chocolate?

Classes: Chocolate Cakes, Candies, and Desserts by David Lebovitz

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Next month, beginning in late November though December, I’m embarking on a cross-country tour of the US teaching my Holiday Chocolate Class from coast-to-coast. Come join me as I demonstrate my favorite chocolate holiday desserts…everything from savory appetizers to delectable chocolate candies and chocolate cakes…rich, French-inspired treats.

You can view the class description and menus at Sur La Table’s Culinary Program pages.

And be sure to check out my schedule page for other dates and locations if you’re city isn’t listed there.

My classes are always great fun and they’ll be be your opportunity to add some terrific new chocolate desserts (like a fabulous chocolate cake I’ve just come up with) to your holiday repertoire. It’s also your chance to get a personally signed copy of one of my books in person! And speaking of shopping, many stores will be giving out discount certificates for holiday shopping on most cookware throughout their stores. (Ask when you register.)

Several of the classes are either sold-out, or almost sold-out: additional dates will be added to my schedule page in the next few weeks.

Hope to see you there…

Hermès

Oprah gave us all the okay to return to Hermès.
She said it was all a misunderstanding and because one particular Parisian salesperson who was “rude and rigid”

I, for one, am so relieved that it’s once again okay to shop at Hermès.

If that one experience has been her only encounter with a rude salesperson in Paris…that’s a subject that deserves an entire episode! I’ve come across more than one or two Parisian salespeople I’d like to trap in a room for a good Dr. Phil-style slap-down…and I’d buy the DVD just to watch it over and over and over.

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So anyways, she kissed and made up with Hermès and a rush of relief was visible in the studio audience when she told everyone to that they should rush off to Hermés to buy a Kelly bag. Since there’s an 18-month waiting list for the more-expensive and elusive Birkin bag, I didn’t want to waste another minute of time in getting on that list.

( I had a brief flashback of Martha toting a Hermès bag during her trial, which many felt didn’t do her much good. Carrying a pricey Kelly bag many felt sealed her fate since it made her look ‘elitist’. So if you see a made-for-tv movie about my life starring Cybil Shepard, blame Oprah.)

So I polished my shoes, paid off my Visa bill, and took the Métro to the fashionable rue du Faubourg St. Honoré to worship at the temple of sublime French style, Hermès.

…and I took a cue from Oprah: Don’t be late!

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Located just off the place Madeleine, the windows of Hermès were filled with all sorts of handbags, the featured ones were indeed the Kelly bags (who says the French have no idea who Oprah is? They put those pricey bags on display to torture all those women from Iowa who watch Oprah.) There was a pink ostrich one (10,000 euros) and an alligator model whose price made the ostrich one look like a beach tote from K-Mart.

Since I dressed-for-success, I didn’t hesitate to go inside. I pulled open the door and was warmly welcomed because I was white (…just kidding!) As the cool wave of American-style air conditioning swept over me, I pondered what I’d purchase.

I walked softly over the inlaid vintage tile floor as I passed shoppers rushing to try on Hermès scarves; knots and leafy wisps of silk softly trailing in every direction. The leather handbags were safely guarded within glass showcases and lots of them were being packed up in chic orange boxes.

No one (except me) seemed too interested in the horse saddles which were just hanging off the wall unattended (I guess shoplifters aren’t interested in leather horse saddles.) I paused in front of a tray of slender strips of leather meant to be worn around your wrist, which looked remarkably similar to the ones they sell at H & M for 5 euros. But who says the Kelly bag is all that rare? Aside from the models in the window, I passed by a Kelly bag with a diamond-encrusted Hermès “H”. I considered the purchase, but declined. Not because it was 100,400 euros, but simply I felt it was a bit over-the-top and I couldn’t imagine who I would give it to. Imagine toting that through the Métro?
So unlike everyone else that likes to follow her advice, Oprah would be so upset with me. I left without buying anything.
Do you think perhaps that’s why I never got on her show?

Dejected I left.
But not before checking out the colorful beach towels. Sadly, as the saying goes, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it”. So of course I asked.
One Hermès beach towel: 320 euros.

So what does this have to do with food, you’re asking?
Isn’t this a food blog?

I was prompted to visit Hermés since I had a fabulous Thai dinner at the home of a friend whos family oversees much of Hermés production and even has their own special mark on several choice leather pieces (And no, I didn’t ask about a staff discount. That would be tacky…er, wouldn’t it?)
I was stunned to have an excellent Thai dinner she had cooked, although not surprising since she lived in Japan for 12 years and in Thailand as well. Soon she is moving to Laos, and is trying to learn the Laotian language. She spoke French, Italian, Thai, Japanese, and perfect English. So today I figured I should go see what she did for a living since I’m so nosy.

(And speaking of nosy, this morning I actually explained who Gladys Kravitz is…in French. Then I had to explain the double-entendre of the title, ‘Bewitched’ as well. That was a real test of my French proficiency, I tell you.)

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Anyhow…
With my empty credit card burning a hole in my pocket, I found salvation nearby with a petit sac of chocolate macarons from Jean-Paul Hévin, a chocolatier whose macaron au chocolat won the title of the Le Meilleur Macaron de Paris in Paris this year.

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In there are six luscious chocolat, chocolat-praline, and chocolat-caramel macarons.
Price?
Just under 6 euros.

I strolled over to my favorite wine bar in Paris just down the street, located near a cramped, little oyster bar that I once had the nerve to send chef Thomas Keller to, which luckily he loved (whew!… otherwise that would have shot down my Paris cred big-time.)

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I had two nice glasses of Chinon, a fruity red wine from the Loire Valley, served slightly chilled.
Price?
2.6 euros per glass.

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So instead of being in the hole for 100,400 euros, I had spent just 10 euros and had a wonderful Parisian afternoon. And no one was rude to me! Maybe Oprah ought to give me a call next time she’s in town and I’ll show her a good time and perhaps she’ll buy me one of those nice leather Hermès bracelets as gratitude…although with my luck, it’ll be the saddle.

Why I Live Here, Reason #67

One of my responses to the frequently-asked question, “Why do you live in Paris?”

Je presente Le caramel au Beurre Salé…dark, bittersweet chocolate surrounding a pocket of sweet-salty oozing caramel, flecked with grains of fleur de sel de Guérande.

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They are amazing


Richart
258, Boulevard Saint-Germain
Tel: 01 45 55 66 00

My Garden

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Canellés?…Not!

Some of your are sharper than I thought and were very, very close.

And thanks to Aude, I’ve added a new French word to my vocabulary: Nounours, or, Teddy Bear (ours means ‘bear’.)
Brian thought they were the French version of Mallomars™and he shares my passion for the little dome-like marshmallow mounds resting on a disk of graham crackers finished with an über-thin dark chocolate coating.

Luckyguess perhaps mockingly thought they were breasts, but if breasts were indeed available in a chocolate-coated variety, I suspect they’d be a lot more popular than they already are. And Pru fell for the oldest trick in the book, the ‘slide-your-cursor-over-the-blog-photo’, which effectively threw her off-track completely.

So what are they?

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They’re chocolate-coated candies with a marshmallow filling, and a nubbin of hazelnut paste (a word that may send Aude to the French dictionary, as Nounours sent me to mine), all enrobed in a thin shell of delicously-dark chocolate. Each candy perfectly resembles a canellé, those little cakes from Bordeaux, baked in copper molds coated with beeswax, creating a dark, crusty shell around the eggy cake batter.
Canellés became all the rage amongst American bakers a few years back, but they’re difficult to bake correctly (…and before you get your panties in a knot about how I’ve spelled canellés, there’s a few different ways to spell them.)

When you find one, a good canellé will be very good indeed…but a well-made one is indeed rarly encountered (there’s a kiosk in the gare Montparnasse in Paris which sells terrific canellés direct from Bordeaux). The best have a hard, tough outer-coating, yielding to a soft, rich, vanilla-scented center that’s eggy and pillow-soft.

When I spotted these in the confectionary shop, the proprietor excited told me all about them…but in such rapid-fire French, that although her enthusiam had become contageous, I could only comprehend about one-third of what she was saying. When I detected the word guimauve (marshmallow) jumbled in her exhaltations, I had to try them.

And luckily for me, I did!

Now I have to find those little chocolate-dipped nounours

Guess What?

Anyone know what these are?…

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(Clue: They’re not what you think.)

Latte Sal

I was never a big fan of milk chocolate.
It was always too sweet, too bland, and never gave me that same chocolate rush of pleasure that a nice chunk of dark, bittersweet chocolate did. When I wrote my chocolate book, I heard from more than a few people, sheepishly, that they preferred milk chocolate. So I wanted to find out why a chocolate-lover would prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate.

Even pastry chef Pierre Hermé in Paris prefers milk chocolate in most of his desserts, including his famous towering 70€ Chocolate Cherry Cake:

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Note: My birthday is coming up in December…and I’ve never had one.

Just letting you know.

After much thought (yes, I think about these things all the time) I came to the conclusion that the problem is when you compare milk chocolate to dark chocolate. One is not necessarily better than another. They’re both two different things. I think of milk chocolate as a ‘confection’ made of chocolate with a bit of milk added. Eating milk chocolate isn’t like eating bittersweet chocolate just like eating red licorice (yum) should not be compared to black licorice (ick).

It’s similar to comparing a Vodka & Tonic to a shot of vodka.
Both are drinks that people drink, and both use vodka as a base, but they’re entirely different and don’t warrant comparison. Sometimes you want a Vodka & Tonic, and other times you want, or in some cases need, a neat, icy shot of vodka.

Remember the 80′s when people drank spritzers? (weren’t we cool when we ordered one…)
That infamous concoction of white wine topped off with sparkling club soda. It wasn’t a glass of white wine anymore, but something different, but it was made with white wine. And they weren’t bad, although I wonder what react I’d get here in Paris if I asked the waiter for a glass of white wine with some fizzy water added?

So chocolate-makers are trying to convert us dark chocolate lovers with new milk chocolate bars, which contain anywhere from 40%-65% cacao solids (the amount of cacao beans used to formulate the bar.) Milk chocolate must be at least 10% cacao solids to legally be called milk chocolate.

So in my quest to appreciate milk chocolate, one favorite is Domori’s Latte Sal. It’s a bar of cioccolato al latte made with 44% cacao solids and a clever touch of fleur de sel. That little pinch of fine sea salt from the Guérande takes the sweetness off the chocolate and adds a nice, curious counterpoint.

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Domori’s Latte Sal milk chocolate bar is available from Chocosphere in the United States.