Boudin Noir

Boudin Noir

I’m not one of those “extreme eaters” and I doubt you’ll ever see me on one of those television shows showing off how brave I am, boasting about eating Lord-knows-what. In fact, I am the opposite end: I’m a defender of those who don’t want to eat certain things. Who cares what other people’s food preferences are?*

A few years back I got to cook with Andrew Zimmern, the host of “Bizarre Foods” who had come to France. To be honest, I didn’t know who he was because I’ve been away from the States for a while. I was amazed when we went to my local market to shop on a sleepy Sunday morning, when suddenly, out of the woodwork, swarms of Americans descended on him. (Notice I said “him” and not “us” – hrrmmph!)

But being the gentleman that I am, I stepped aside to let the crowd through. And after spending a day with him, I’d have to agree: Next time I see him, I’m going to swarm him (again), too. He is one of the loveliest and most fun people I’ve ever met.

Boudin Noir

As much as I kind of fell for him, I still don’t share his proclivity for eating all sorts of oddities, although I am sometimes curious about them. People have asked me, “Why are Americans so squeamish about what they eat?” which is rather odd because Americans eat a lot of hot dogs – and Lord knows what’s in those…and some eat whatever is in that packet of orange powder that comes with boxed macaroni & cheese. (Which I recently bought on a whim because I saw it in a store, which was definitely not as good as I remembered.) And I have French friends who would never eat rabbit, kidneys, brains, or any of les autres abats (offal).

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Should You Remove the Green Germ from Garlic?

Garlic

Garlic has a season, and depending on where you live, that season is usually spring through mid-summer. In France, we get ail nouveau, which are heads of garlic that are very plump and slightly soft, whose moist skin is tinged with a bit of pink. As it ages, the garlic becomes more rosy in color, and there is even a special “rose” garlic in France called ail rose de Lautrec, whose status is certified by the French government. As the months progress, garlic season ends and the remaining heads go into storage.

Garlic

In France, garlic that has been kept is often referred to as ail sec, or dried garlic. And in many cases, during storage, those cloves of garlic will develop a green germ inside that is said to be bitter and should be removed. I know, because I’ve said that myself. But I’ve never really put it to the test. So when a friend, who worked closely with Marcella Hazan (an expert on Italian cuisine) told me that Marcella never removed the green germ (her reasoning being that since it was new garlic in the making, it was tender and not bitter), I figured it would be interesting to see – and taste – if removing it really did make a difference.

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The Toronto Cocktail

Toronto Cocktail recipe

I was part of a whole generation of San Franciscans that were terrorized by Bruno, a cantankerous, older Persian man who had a bar in the Haight called Persian Aub Zam Zam. I’ve probably mentioned him before, but I recently went down that rabbit hole of the Internet where I found a few stories about him via a search for something else. Then…well, we all knows where that leads…

He believed that if you’re going to have a drink at a bar, you should have it at the actual bar. I don’t know why he had a few tables and chairs around the outskirts of the dark room, because anyone that came in and tried to take a seat at one would be yelled at by Bruno – “The tables are closed. Get the hell out of here!

Cocktail glasses

Am not sure if they were just for decoration or what, but he would also flip out on people if they ordered a foofy cocktail, such as a Cosmopolitan, a Screwdriver…or heck, anything that wasn’t a classic cocktail on his pre-approved list. If you wanted to stay on his good side, you’d order a Martini – one made with gin. An order for a Vodka Martini would get you tossed out. And in contrast to what some “experts” might advise, he didn’t shake or stir his (gin) Martinis, he “pounded” the $2.50 cocktail with a muddler, which resulted in an icy-cold drink, served (or course) in a classic Martini glass. And your change was always a shiny half-dollar coin snapped down on the bar after you paid.

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Time to Pay

coins

I won’t comment on the current foibles of a few amorous souls in Paris, although I’ve had a number of discussions with friends about it, both here in France and in the United States. It seems that not only do Americans and French have different views about the behavior of their public officials, mostly regarding what’s tolerated and acceptable to publish and discuss, versus what isn’t. After watching a presidential press conference where there was a spirited pledge to save a whole bunch of money via methods that have yet to be revealed (kind of like the upcoming discussion about the pesky task of coming up with a seating chart when it hasn’t been revealed who the guest of honor is planning to bring as his paramour), the rest of are spending our time pondering those who act with their unique version of plain ol’ common sense.

Not only do the French and Americans have different relationships politically, socially…and intimately with each another (being from San Francisco, admittedly, my views are a bit more skewed than others), there is also a difference in our relationship to money. The difference is easily observed at the cash register; when it’s time to pay in the United States, as the cashier is ringing up your stuff, you plan ahead and get your money ready so you can pay up when the time comes promptly, and be on your way. In France, when it’s time to pay, you stand and wait until the cashier gives you the total that’s due. And then, and only then, do you painstakingly extract your wallet from your pocket, and start the process of le règlement.

I assume that most adults have been buying things all their lives. But it seems like a shock to those who are told that the price of a head of lettuce will cost them 95 centimes. And it takes a moment to let it fully sink in. Then, and only then, each centime is counted out with more scrutiny than that which is bestowed upon our remarkably fearless leaders. Including someone who doesn’t fear slipping out the back door and zipping through their fancy-schmancy neighborhood of Paris strapped to the back a scooter in the dark of the night.

la-derniere-en-date-apres-la-revelation-par-closer-d-une-eventuelle-relation-entre-francois-hollande-et-julie-gayet-capture-d-ecran-sixt-fr

(But for those who wish to be a little more prudent, a local car rental outfit offered that perhaps éviter, or ditching, le scooter and switching to a car with tinted windows might yield a little more privacy.)

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En Vrac

En Vrac

I’ve been trying to tick off some of the places on the wad of post-its that are next to my front door, noting spots I’ve been meaning to visit in Paris but haven’t quite gotten around to. There are a few restaurants, some pastry shops that at some point piqued my interest, and a couple of Turkish sandwich places that really should be moved to the top of the heap.

Looking at them now, I see that some of the restaurants have already closed. (So it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t go there in the first place.)

En Vrac

One place that was on my radar was En Vrac. In French, that means “in bulk,” which is how the wine is available there. I’ve heard people snicker about le cube, or wine sold in quantity, especially in boxes. But for those who live near a winery, it’s much more economical and easier to get wine, saving a few bottles – and a few euros – in the process. It’s a perfectly acceptable way to handle wine that is meant to be drunk young. Which means more money for wine!

En Vrac

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Les Enfants Rouges

Les Enfants Rouges

To be honest, I’m not one to run to the newest restaurant right after it opens. The main reason being that I don’t like being disappointed, nor do I like eating bad food. It happened recently at a new place in town that had gotten some good press (which, suspiciously, may have been because they were invited guests), and found myself wishing I’d shelled out a few bucks for a sandwich jambon-beurre instead of a hundred or so euros for a meal that was misguided, with the food being mediocre, at best.

Les Enfants Rouges

The company made up for it, fortunately. So when a fellow (or fella?) San Franciscan was in town recently, it was Sunday night and she asked me where we should go for good food. Sunday’s tough because many places in Paris are closed. Some restaurateurs point the 35 hour work week, which was intended to employ more people and let people work less. And part of it are employee costs, which make it pricey to hire new people. So if you’re wondering why small restaurants in Paris don’t have dedicated people to answer the phone and take reservations, or are closed on weekends, those are some of the reasons.

Les Enfants Rouges

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White Chocolate Cake with Lemon Glaze

White Chocolate Cake Brownie recipe-11

It’s curious when people say, “I don’t like white chocolate. I like dark chocolate.” Because it’s not fair to compare them, just like black tea is different from green tea. They’re different and each has their fans. And honestly, you can enjoy both, on their own – for what they are. Happily I’m a fan of both on their own, and together as well, especially when they play off each other in desserts, such as white chocolate-fresh ginger ice cream with a dribble of bittersweet chocolate sauce. But white chocolate also goes well with tangy, citrus flavors, especially lemon.

White Chocolate Cake with Lemon Glaze

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Maison Castro Sandwiches

Maison Castro

A while back, I wrote about the first food truck that hit the streets in Paris. And at the time, that truck, as well as the ones that followed, were spearheaded by folks from other countries making food from their various homelands. And I expressed some ideas for how, perhaps, the food truck phenomenon could encompass la cuisine française as well.

Maison Castro

Since then, a number of food trucks have, indeed, done that. And there are a number of people rolling around Paris, offering everything from candied nuts to Breton food. [I like the fact that their website says their salted butter caramel is "Fait camion" (truck-made), rather than "Fait maison" (homemade).] In spite of recent changes to dining habits in France, le sandwich remains a popular lunch and just about every bakery in Paris has a line that begins around noon of people clamoring for sandwiches to chow down on before they need to go back to school or work.

Maison Castro

So I was excited to hear that Jérôme Boulestreau, who previously owned the Beillevaire cheese shop (which is now being run by people he worked with), opened up a sandwicherie with the Castro brothers. And in addition to sandwiches, their tiny shop is also crammed with interesting products like sardines from Brittany, tight links of Corsican sausages, Italian pasta, and even pistachios from California.

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