Caractère de Cochon: Ham & Charcuterie Shop in Paris

Caractère de Cochon

Many times, I’ve walked by Caractère de Cochon, a slip of a place on a side street, just next to the earnest Marché des Enfants Rouges, in the ever-growing hipper upper haut (upper) Marais, and wondered about the cave à jambons jam-packed with hams of all sorts hanging in the window and from the rafters. But I’ve never stepped inside.

Caractère de Cochon

But recently I was talking to my friend Jennifer, and she’d mentioned the place in glowing terms, letting me know it was, indeed, an amazing emporium dedicated to all-things-ham. So we made a date to go. However as (my) luck would have it, of course, on the day of our date, it was closed for a fermeture exceptionelle.

Caractère de Cochon

Which, in my case, seems to happen a lot.

fermeture exceptionelle

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Paris Booksigning at Treize…a baker’s dozen, this Sunday

This coming weekend I’ll be at Treize…a baker’s dozen, in Paris on Sunday, October 5th, from noon to 1pm.

My Paris Kitchen

I’ll be signing copies of My Paris Kitchen at one of the latest, and sweetest, cafés in Paris – Treize…a baker’s dozen. Located in a gorgeous Left Bank courtyard, Treize…a baker’s dozen, where owner and chef Laurel Sanderson charms locals and expats with her home-style cooking, much of it rooted in flavors from her native South Carolina. Yet blended with a French sensibility, and French ingredients.

The café serves lunch, brunch and le goûter (afternoon snack), and readers of My Paris Kitchen will be familiar with Laurel, as she inspired a story and recipe in My Paris Kitchen. I’m excited to be a guest in her café for this event.

Treize_Logo__-_davidmlebovitz_gmail_com_-_Gmail

There will be copies of My Paris Kitchen available, and you’re welcome to bring previously purchased books as well. Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!

[Note that there is a brunch from 1 to 4pm, which is sold-out. But this event is open to all from Noon to 1pm. If you'd like to RSVP to let them know you're coming, you can on the Facebook Event page.]

Helene’s Brownies

helene chocolate brownie recipe_-5

The French do a lot of baked goods very well. if you’ve been to Paris, you don’t need me to tell you that with over 1300 bakeries in Paris, it’s not hard to find a pastry or baked good on every block that will be more satisfying than you can imagine.

One of the rare baked goods that the French haven’t quite mastered are les brownies. If you see them in bakeries and try one, you’ll find they’re often on the pas humid side. I’m not sure why, because they’re simple to make, and don’t require any special techniques: You just stir everything together, scrape the batter into a pan, and bake them. The only astuce (cooking tip) is that it’s important to watch them like a hawk, taking them out of the oven at the point where they’re still going to be soft and crémeux à l’intérieur.

Hélène's Chocolate Brownie Recipe

In August, we were visiting some friends who live on an organic farm in the Poitou-Charentes, and after dinner, Hélène, presented us with a large tart-like creation that looked like a big, flat chocolate cake that she’d baked up in between her other chores. I was told they were les brownies, but hers were different. In addition to a little bit of coconut that was added, which gave them a slightly elusive tropical flavor, they were moist and uber-chocolaty. I couldn’t keep myself away from them.

Hélène's Chocolate Brownie Recipe

The French don’t usually snack with the same fervor that Americans do (Romain’s father was once shocked to learn that I ate between meals), but I spend a good part of my day picking at any and all desserts that are within arm’s reach. And when everyone else was out in the fields down on the farm, weeding and working on hedges, I stayed back in the house, reading in a comfy chair — and found myself circling back around and around the pan of brownies, cutting off une lichette (a sliver), to help myself.

Hélène's Chocolate Brownie Recipe

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Six Books I’ve Been Enjoying

Stacks and stack of books are piled up here and there, in every possible space around my apartment. I can’t help it — I love books! I’ve got books on my nightstand, there are three stacks on my coffee table (and two precariously high stacks next to the sofa), and, of course, several on my kitchen counter with recipes that I’ve bookmarked. It’s not possible to write about all of them – that post would be as long as a whole book – but here are a few that I found especially interesting.

50 foods

50 Foods: The Essentials of Good Taste by Ed Behr

I haven’t read 50 Foods: The Essentials of Good Taste cover-to-cover, which is actually fine, since the book is a collection of chapters that you can easily flip through and invariably land on something fascinating and enlightening. Ed Behr is the editor of The Art of Eating, a well-written newsletter, and when I moved to Paris. I’d brought along one particular issue, with an in-depth article about a croissant-maker in the 14th. The writing and descriptions were so good, they made me anxious to try his croissants. (Of course, as always seems the case with me, the day I went there was a fermeture exceptionelle. And I never crossed town to go back.)

50 Foods is one of those books that you can learn something with every sentence that you read. So you can open to a chapter and learn why some honeys crystallize and why others remain liquids (and what big manufacturers do to prevent it from happening). Why the best goat milk cheeses are not available in the winter months. How the preparation of rice various from culture to culture – especially how Asians treat it differently than Italians. And how the normally technique-obsessed French don’t give rice any special treatment at all.

Chocolate gets its due, with a discussion of how it’s made, what’s the most satisfying way to eat it, and what wines go well with it. I agree with Ed’s proclamation that “Chocolate destroys most wines.” And while red wine is a popular, go-to choice for many, I share his feeling that chocolate needs a wine made from sweeter grapes, and Banyuls, a fortified wine from the south of France, and sometimes Madiera, which support and accompany the flavors in chocolate better than tannic reds.

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New York City and Brooklyn Dining

blueberries yogurt and granola

Just got back from a covert trip to New York. It was so top-secret that even I didn’t know about it. The trip happened in a flash and I barely got to see anyone. It was work, work, work. But a guy has to eat, right? And I think it says somewhere in the constitution of the United States that we all have the right to have abundant access to corn on the cob in the summer. And I dove into as many ears of it as I could, as well as heirloom tomatoes, that I picked up at the resplendent New York City greenmarkets.

sweet corn

After my memory card failure from my last trip, I decided to go camera-less, and go light – and safe(r) – and only brought along my trusty iPhone. I indulged in blueberries by the handful, sweet corn on the cob slathered with butter and salt, cheddar cheese, Korean food, and Concord grapes.

Niabell grapes

Sharp-eyed botanists, or would-be botanists, will see they weren’t quite Concord grapes, but Niabells. I used to work with a French chef in California, and when he saw me making something with Concord grapes, he looked at the bunches in the crate, and said, “I do not like those.”

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Bob’s Bake Shop

Bob's Bake Shop in Paris

Although people don’t hug in France, and to be honest, it kinda gives me the willies now, too – there are some people who I just can’t resist giving the ol’ wrap around to. (Which probably explains why a number of people back away when they see me coming.) One is a baker in San Francisco, who always seems to have a big smile on his face. I’m not sure what it is that makes me want to hug him, but perhaps I am hoping some of his good cheer will rub off on me — along with a touch of flour. Or else I’m still, hopelessly, Californian, and will never shake the body-bonding habit of hugging.

Bob's Bake Shop in Paris

But another target, for some reason, is Marc Grossman, here in Paris. Marc is the owner of Bob’s Juice Bar, a hugely popular vegetarian joint. But lest you think it’s full of kooky Californians getting their juice fix, it’s primarily Parisians who work in the neighborhood, obviously as attracted to Marc’s good food as the rest of us, who try to find a seat at the communal table in his café/juice bar.

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Tarama

Tarama Spread

The first time I saw tarama, I hated it. It was a brilliant pink color, one not generally found in nature. And when I heard the paste was fish egg-based, I said, “Non, merci.” Since then, I’ve become a bit accro (hooked) on the Greek spread, and decided it was time to spread the word.

Tarama Spread

And I’m not the only one who’s become a convert. Tarama is a very popular appetizer in Paris, and doesn’t need much introduction here as it’s widely available – even in supermarkets, next to other spreads like hummus and tapenade. (So take that, people who think that the French don’t embrace foods from other cultures.)

Tarama Spread

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Introducing the All-New Paris Pastry App

I’m very excited to announce the release and relaunch of my Paris Pastry App. There are over 370 bakeries and pastry shops listed, with descriptions of what to get where you are there, opening hours, a glossary to common terms and pastries, links to websites and contact information, as well as multiple pictures from each delectable address, and maps to get you there. That’s over 700 photos of Paris pastries — so even if you don’t have a trip to Paris planned right now, you can savor the pastries until you come visit and sample them in person!

Paris Pastry App

iTunesStore

The new app features a sleek interface, and conforms to the most up-to-date iOS7 guidelines. All information is retrievable without a WiFi or internet connection (except, of course, GPS coordinates.) With the app, you can roam Paris and locate specialty ice cream shops, find the perfect tarte au citron or macaron au chocolat, and use the Top 25 function to find what are the top twenty-five places that you absolutely shouldn’t miss. (The Top 25 list is also listed in the free Lite version of the app.)

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