RAP Épicerie

RAP Italian Epicerie

Due to our closeness to Italy, it’s fairly easy to find an Italian épicerie in almost any Parisian neighborhood. (Although locating an authentic Italian espresso is a little more elusive.) I’m fortunate because there are two excellent Italian épiceries (speciality food shops) close to where I live, but most of the places get their items from a distributor, which means the selection is somewhat narrow. Few places have farro, and I’ve never seen anyone selling farina polenta taragna, the mix of polenta and buckwheat that I first had in the mountains above Milan, and I’d never seen it anywhere outside of Italy. (So I’ve been making my own.)

RAP Italian Epicerie

That’s not a complaint – it’s great to be able to find Sicilian salumi and pasta from Tuscany. And Cooperative Latte Cisternino, an excellent Italian dairy cooperative, is a terrific place for Italian cheeses and other products. (Although they always seem to be closed when I go there.)

RAP Italian Epicerie

But artisanal products, items from small producers, are a little more challenging to find. So I was charmed when my friend Terresa and I took a field trip to discover RAP, which offers rarely seen Italian foods, imported directly by Alessandra Pierini, who curates the selection in her jammed-to-the-rafters shop in the 9th arrondissement.

RAP Italian Epicerie

I haven’t seen such a varied and curious selection of products all together outside of Italy since, well – ever. (Eataly, eat your heart out.) Granted RAP is tiny; imagine if someone pushed eight phone booths together, and you’ll get some idea of its size.

RAP Italian Epicerie

Yet I was incredibly excited to be surrounded by shelves and shelves holding many of the foods I love from Italy, including unusual chocolates, citron soda, and pure, unadulterated pistachio spreads, which were in danger of being eclipsed by things that I’d never seen or tasted.

RAP Italian Epicerie

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Le Nemrod

Le Nemrod

I don’t really have a favorite café in Paris. Contrary to what people think, few people that live in Paris will cross the city to stop into a casual place for a drink or something to eat. Most will go to a local spot where the servers know you, where you’ll get a friendly greeting because the staff recognizes you as a regular. Which is a form of currency in town, one that you really want to hold on to.

Le Nemrod

However, when you’re out and about, it’s nice to have a bonne adresse to stop into, where you can be assured of a bon acceuil (good welcome) and a decent plat du jour, or something else to eat. Over in the 7th arrodissement, after prowling the aisles of La Grande Épicerie or hitting some of the Left Bank chocolate and pastry shops, I’ll often find myself at Le Nemrod, a classic corner café serving French fare with an Auvergnat bent.

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Chimichurri

chimichurri recipe 1

Beef is very popular in France. And it’s not just for the taste: on more than one occasion, I’ve been told I need to eat more red meat by folks concerned about my health. (I guess I need to look in the mirror more often.) I like a good steak every once in a while, and, fortunately for meat-lovers, there are butchers in every neighborhood in Paris. In fact, there are four within a two- or three-block radius of where I live, not to mention the few at my local outdoor market.

Chimichurri

Being surrounded by so much viande, I need to keep my consumption in check so I reserve cooking beef at home for special occasions, rather than make it part of my daily diet. (Unlike chocolate.) What’s also widely available in Paris – and used extensively – are fresh herbs, particularly flat-leaf parsley and fresh mint, which are available in abundance. And it’s a rare day when I don’t return from the market with a big bunch of parsley.

Chimichurri

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Paris Book Signing This Sunday

perfectscoopThis Sunday, I’ll be doing a book signing with my friends at The House That Jack Built as part of their Valentine Jumble Sale. The event will take place at Le Mary Celeste (1, rue Commines, 3rd, Métro: Filles du Calvaire or République).There will be copies of The Perfect Scoop sale priced in hardcover and paperback, in addition to a limited amount of copies of The Sweet Life in Paris and Ready for Dessert.

I’ll be there from Noon to 3pm (the sale continues until 5pm) and you’re welcome to bring copies of previously owned books you’ve purchased elsewhere. There will be vintage items, cocktail punch, and Alison’s sweet-salty treats. So if you’re around this Sunday – stop by and say hi!

Kumquat Marmalade

kumquat marmalade recipe

I’ve been on a marmalade bender lately. Well, it’s actually been for the last few weeks. Winter, of course, is marmalade season and the markets in Paris are heaped with citrus: Corsican clementines, pretty yellow bergamots, hefty pink grapefruits from Florida (although some infer appellations from elsewhere – namely, the Louvre), leafy lemons from Nice, and lots and lots of oranges.

Kumquat marmalade

The stands are so piled up that it’s not uncommon to be walking down the aisle and have an orange roll off of the piles and land on your foot. (Which is why it is a good idea to wash any fruit before you use it.) This means I’ve got so many jars of marmalade, that when my friend Luisa stopped by and saw the jars piled on top of a shelf in my bedroom, she said “I’ve doing the same thing ” at her apartment in Berlin. Sometimes I think jam-making could be classified as an epidemic and if so, there’s ample evidence that I’m ready for an intervention.

kumquat marmalade recipe

While kumquats were once classified with their look-alike citrus brethren and sistern (admittedly, it can be hard to tell as it’s difficult to get a look under their navels), they are now placed in another genus category (Fortunella), even though they share many characteristics of citrus fruits.

Kumquat marmalade

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No-Bake Granola Bars

granola bar recipe picture

Someone once asked me how I know when to give up on a recipe. Sometimes I realize after a few tries, that I should just forget about it. And others, like the tarte tropézienne in my next book, I made seventeen times until I got it just right. (Because I got a little crazy about getting it just right, including bringing slices around to local bakeries to get their opinions. Plus making a second trip to the bakery in the south of France where I had the one that inspired me to include it.) And the cake has four components, so multiply that times seventeen, but I still didn’t give up until I got it just right.

No-bake granola bars

Speaking of my next book, I had a kind of funny idea (well, at least to me…) to end the book with a recipe that has been vexing me for ages: granola bars. And I would accompany my spectacular barre de müesli recipe with a triumphant story about how I was able to succeed in the face of multi-grain adversity, which somehow I could turn into a metaphor for my culinary life. (In that very special way that I do…which has editors scratching their heads as my writing curves from one completely different subject to eventually landing on another – which, if I/they have any luck, is on the recipe at hand.)

No-bake granola bars

But after a whole other round of testing, as my deadline loomed – and I had depleted all the flacons d’avoine (oats) in the natural food stores of my neighborhood – I realized that it was time to give up my idea of including a naturally delicious dream bar, and move on with the rest of my life.

No-bake granola bars

Then, one day, I had little peanut butter frosting leftover from a project, sitting in a bowl on the counter. And since we were taking a trip and I wanted to bake up something to take along to snack on, I mixed it up with some nuts, dried fruits, and whatever I had around – then pressed the whole shebang into a pan and baked it up. And you know what? Bingo! They were the best granola bars I’d ever had, hands down. C’est la verité.

No-bake granola bars

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Purple Paris

Paris

I was buying a bike recently and, for some reason, the store offered the bike I wanted in two shades: black and prune (plum), one of the many variations on purple (which include, but are not limited to, violet, purple, and magenta) in the French vocabulary. I wasn’t sure I wanted a purple bike, but then I thought about how purple has invaded Paris – especially evident when an old-fashioned, traditional French butcher shop reopened this fall after an extensive renovation…

But it wasn’t just the butcher…

Paris

It was also the purple pâtisserie and pain maker…

Paris

And the purple pane-maker…

Paris

And the eyeglass maker…

Paris

Or you can peep across the street, to another eyeglass maker…

Paris

And there’s the make-up maker…

Paris

The phone broker…

Paris

And the salad maker…(ie: me)

Paris

The ticket maker…

Paris

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Étamine

Étamine

Sometimes when I’m asked about what I miss from “home” (ie: the US). I might answer dried pluots, crunchy organic peanut butter, aluminum foil that you can’t read the newspaper through, and an unending supply of Sharpies. (Although thanks to a slew of well-meaning friends and other folks passing through, I now have an unending supply of them here in France.) But I no longer sherpa over cheesecloth, because I’ve found something better: Étamine.

Étamine

Way back when, I brought over a few packages of cheesecloth for such culinary projects as soaking fruitcakes in liquor (with mixed success), at times…and draining cream or yogurt for homemade cheeses, marmalade-making, and labneh. Then I discovered the gauzy, wispy fabric known as étamine and I haven’t gone back to cheesecloth. Nor have I asked anyone to sherpa some over for me. (And I can finagle them into bringing other things, such as dried pluots.)

Étamine

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