Results tagged Alec Lobrano from David Lebovitz

Buvette Gastrothèque

chocolate mousse

There was a lot of talk this year about how Paris, and its food scene, are changing. Some of the talk was regarding gentrification by hipsters in Paris and the transformation of certain quartiers of the city. It was discussed widely by people who don’t live in Paris, and by those of us who do. (And those who work in, or frequent, the area.) Among those of us that live here, it brought up some wider issues, many reflected in the very good article, The Other Paris, Beyond the Boulevards.

fruit juice

Paris is often seen as a living “museum” – a city that is constantly referencing its past. “Improvements” often yield mixed results; the city has a spiffy new website and the auto-sharing program, Autolib, has been a hit. Yet the popular Vélib bike program is reportedly reducing the number of bikes by one-third and people are questioning if the current renovation of Les Halles is mirroring the same mistakes of the former structure, that it replaced.

Continue Reading Buvette Gastrothèque…

Vivant

cured pork belly with pepper

If you have a lot of food concerns – if you need to know how something is cooked, or what vegetables are included in les légumes – although they’re happy to answer, at Vivant you should just let your experience of the restaurant be guided by slipping out of the mode of being in control, and putting yourself in the capable hands of the staff of the restaurant. Some of the wines, which are unapologetically natural, are a leap of faith. And you might find yourself being surprised and delighted, or dubious and perplexed. It’s part of the experience.

blackboard menu at Vivanttomatoes for Pasta
herb saladseared white asparagus with Parmesan

Pierre Jancou was the former owner of Racines, an excellent restaurant which featured market-fresh food. Like so many other places in Paris and elsewhere, many say they do cuisine du marché, but a majority aren’t sourcing from the producers themselves and are still getting ingredients from market middlemen.

pasta with eggplant, tomatoes, ricotta

Pierre is someone who does know where everything is from, and he can tell you the provenance of every piece of fish, wine, herb, vegetable, and sausage served at Vivant. After letting go of Racines, he left Paris for a while but is back in a small, personal location in the middle of the 10th, in a colorfully tiled space that was formerly a shop that sold birds. After passing by streets filled with African hairdressing shops and the youthful crowds drinking on the newly-hip rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, when I stepped inside, I was happy that I had pointed myself in the direction of Vivant.

vivant

It was nice to see Pierre and his friendly staff behind the bar, as well as racing back to the kitchen to check a pasta, or taking orders from a table in the small dining room. Because I’m always punctual, I had a quick glass of wine at the bar while I waited for my friends Barbra, Meg, and Alec, although this is not a wine bar so guests should reserve a table for lunch or dinner.

(Because of local laws, this isn’t officially a wine bar, so stopping in just for a glass of wine isn’t possible.)

natural wine at Vivantwine list at Vivant
pierre jancou of Vivantpain des amis

Vivant is funky and fun. But eating here made me realize how different dining is in France than in the states. The chalkboard listing for Poularde indicates that it’s chicken, but there’s no mention of how it’s cooked or which vegetables were going to be the légumes listed alongside. In the states, each vegetable would have to be note on the menu and guests would want to know what cut of chicken it was, how it was going to be cooked, and what kind of sauce it was going to come with. At Vivant, it’s best to put yourself in the hands of the staff and let them do what they do best.

Vivant in Paris

white wine at Vivant

So leave all the stuff outside the door. When my friends arrived, I chose the Lieu de ligne (line-caught pollack from the Basque region) served on a pile of lightly sautéed spinach.

"crazy" salad with smoked mozzarella tilework at Vivant

I don’t normally order sausage in restaurants because the portions are always so huge. And sometimes the sausages can be so rich, it’s hard to digest afterward. But the wonderful cast iron cocotte of vegetables lightly cooked in butter – radishes, turnips with their greens attached, and broccoli – were just the right accompaniment to the meaty andouillette, which French friends that I subsequently dined with, raved over.

And I’m a big fan of their pasta dishes, which are often deceptively simple. A bowl of wide tubes of pasta bathed in a tomato and eggplant sauce came with a scoop of herbed ricotta, that melted into the flavorful noodles. I didn’t want to share!

blackboard menu at Vivant chocolate ganache-meringue at Vivant

Since we had nearly three-quarters of a bottle of wine left after dinner (and it wasn’t our first), we did decide to share a plate of Italian cheeses; a wonderfully salty, crumbly pecorino, and a milky wedge of Tallegio, a cheese I haven’t had in a long time. The dessert menu changes daily but there is often Gâteau Zoe, a chocolate cake named after Pierre’s daughter, and you might find a Ricotta Tart with rhubarb compote, or chocolate ganache with salted butter caramel and a crunchy meringue resting on top.

wine at Vivant

Places like Vivant have replaced the old bistros, many of which have resigned themselves to serving dishes merely reminiscent of their glory days, rarely sourcing fresh ingredients, and disappointing diners that are hoping to get a taste of good French cooking. This is honest food, and very good cooking, and what people in Paris – and elsewhere – should be eating today.

ricotta tart with rhubarb compote

Happily, a younger generation is moving forward and places like Le Garde Robe and Spring, Frenchie, and Les Fines Gueules are part of this movement.

Vivant

Like a lot of the new places serving good, fresh food, in Paris, Vivant is small, intimate – and busy. So there’s no need to panic, but realize that the owners and chefs sometimes find themselves overwhelmed and are often working half in the kitchen and half in the dining room…and also juggling the reservations line.

On a whim, I unexpectedly picked up the phone shortly after my first meal here and made a reservation. My two French friends hadn’t dined there, and we had a great night, beginning with three glasses of (natural) sparkling white wine, then moving on to a plate of tissue-thin lardo served with nothing but flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper. Burrata, from the nearby Italian Coopérativa Latte Cisternino was amazing, doused in very good olive oil, which we devoured before we moved to our main course. If it’s on the menu, be sure to order it. Although it’s hard to go wrong with anything here.

Vivant
43, rue des Petites Ecuries (10th)
Tél: 01 42 46 43 55
Closed Saturday and Sunday


NOTES: I updated this post with pictures from a more recent dinner, so the descriptions in the article are from my first meal there. The pictures shown include browned white asparagus, cured pork belly with freshly ground black pepper, and an excellent pasta with eggplant and ricotta.

As of January 2014, Pierre Jancou is no longer the owner of the restaurant and there will likely be some changes to the concept. There is still the wine bar next door, Vivant Cave, that features small plates and does not take reservations.



Other Reviews of Vivant

Hungry for Paris

Paris By Mouth

John Talbott’s Paris

Barbra Austin

Wine Terroirs

Paris Notebook

Table à découverte (in French)

Ptipois (in French)

Chocolate Mint Brownies

chocolate mint brownie recipe

I know I’m just starting here, but before you and I go any further, I just have to say one thing about these brownies: They’re pretty insane. I made these brownies about fifteen years ago and found it patiently waiting in the back of my recipe files. And giving it a read-through, it all came flooding back to me and I was struck with the urge to make them again.

One of the things I remember most about these brownies is how massive they were and how heavy the pan was. The pan is so heavy that I can’t imagine most people would be able to heft it with one hand. In fact, I was going to weight the pan just to prove it to you but my baking scale didn’t go that high. Yowza.

Continue Reading Chocolate Mint Brownies…

Favorite Cookbooks of 2010

2010 was a very big year for cookbooks. And when I say “big”, I don’t just mean there were plenty of great cookbooks published this year, but some of them were huge. Ready for Dessert tipped the baker’s scale at over 3-pounds, and subsequent books that continued throughout the year tested the limits of my strength, such as Bon Appétit Desserts, which weighs in at a whopping 6-pounds.

But as they say, “Size doesn’t matter” and I found myself attracted to a variety of cookbooks of all dimensions. Here are a few cookbooks, baking tomes, and food-related books that were released this year or that I featured on the site in 2010.


Around My French Table

You’d never know that Dorie Greenspan only spends one-third of her time in Paris because after reading through this massive collection of three hundred fabulous recipes, she nails the city and the food, including stories and recipes from the restaurants, markets, and most endearingly, her stable of Parisian friends—which makes mine look like the unwashed masses. Her moist French Apple Cake was enjoyed from breakfast around here, and eating cake for breakfast probably isn’t very French, but tant pis.

Continue Reading Favorite Cookbooks of 2010…

Paris Holiday Meet-Up and Booksigning

This Friday there will be a get-together at La Cuisine cooking school in Paris. Joining me will be my friends Alec Lobrano, author of Hungry for Paris, and Heather Stimmler-Hall, author of Naughty Paris—and we’ll have copies of our books to sign as well for holiday gift-giving.

I’ll have copies of Ready for Dessert and The Perfect Scoop. If you’d like a signed copy of The Sweet Life in Paris, you’re welcome to bring one along, as well as any of our books that you have previously purchased

The fête will take place this Friday, December 10, from 6-8pm.

La Cuisine is located at 80 quai de l’Hôtel de Ville. (Map)

There’ll be wine, chocolate (of course…), cake, cookies, and a big hunk of Comté cheese from my friends in the alps to nibble on.

Bistro Bummer

Au Petit Riche

Always on the lookout for classic French bistros, a friend and I recently stopped at Au Petit Riche. I’d eaten there before and found the food decent, but I remember the company a little better than the food. I was dazzled by the stunning interior and the conversation, which should have been a tip off since I rarely forget anything I eat that’s good.

Many Americans have become more astute about dining and want to know where the ingredients are from, how they are handled, what part of the animal they’re getting. It’s part of the farmer’s market movement, as well as a number of folks striving to eat locally or at least show some concern for where and how their foodstuffs are raised.

And there’s also the do-it-yourself movement, where everything from upstart ice cream shops are opening, and of course the bean-to-bar movement, where every step of the process is carefully tended to. In general, the French don’t ask those questions because France has always been a deeply agricultural country, with close ties to their terroir. When dining with friends from the states in Paris, I know they’d be disappointed to find frozen green beans with their steak, or boiled white rice heaped on a salade Niçoise. So I am always careful to steer them away from some of the classic bistros on their lists, ones they may have eaten at a decade ago, or that a friend recommended.

Continue Reading Bistro Bummer…

The ActiFry

When I read about the ActiFry Fryer, a machine that uses new cooking technology to create crisp fries and other foods with virtually no oil, I immediately wanted one.

drying potatoes 2 French fries

Normally I’m not one to hop on the bandwagon and rush out and get a new gadget, especially when my apartment is bursting at the seams and if I put one more thing on my kitchen counter, I’m going to wind up cooking on the ceiling.

French market potatoes

So I sent a message to a friend who works with the company and she arranged to have an ActiFry machine sent to me, not expecting or in exchange for a review, but because I’m a wonderful person worthy of low-fat frites.

sliced potatoes

I went out and bought a sack of potatoes, then came home, plugged in my ActiFry, and made a big batch of French fries with just a spoonful of oil.

fried chicken1 sliced potatoes 1

I followed the instructions, peeling then cutting the potatoes into bâtons, rinsing them, drying them thoroughly before putting them in the machine. Then the user adds one tablespoon of oil, closes the lid, and sets the timer for thirty minutes.

Monalisa potatoes

Every few minutes, I peered into the machine, and nothing much seemed to be happening – at first. The potatoes were being stirred by the revolving arm, very, very slowly.

potatoes in actifry french fries 2

And as the machine turned, skeptical me was surprised as the sticks of potato soon turned a golden-brown color. And after stopping the machine to pluck one out, a sprinkle of salt was all that was needed, and I had to admit the French fry was very good, somewhat mottled, but crisp!

fried chicken 4

So next on the docket were Korean chicken wings, which were a success as well.

A few pros and cons of this machine:

The pros of this machine are that you can make crisp, fried foods with just one tablespoon of oil or fat, and that the machine does what it says it does: crisp-fried food with a minimum of oil or fat. Or mess: the machine comes apart easily so the non-motorized parts can go in the dishwasher.

The cons are that the machine is not inexpensive (partially due to the fact that it’s made in France, rather than China, and there’s currently an unfavorable exchange rate) and although there are included recipes for curries and roasted meats, those tasks could be done using a standard stove or oven. And because of the cooking time and method, batter-fried foods like tempura likely won’t work in this machine. The ActiFry is also fairly large, about the size of a football helmet for a medium-size gorilla, and the parts, especially the metal non-stick pan, are thin and lacking in heft.

fried chicken 5

Related Links

ActiFry (Official Tefal Website)

ActiFry Fryer (Amazon)

ActiFry Fryer (Amazon UK)

Making French Fries in an Actifry (Video of the process, in Dutch)

ActiFry Review (Gizmodo)

Sweet & Crispy Chicken Wing Recipe

*Disclosure: This machine was sent to me by the company with no expectations or promise of a mention. I tested five different dishes with the ActiFry: chicken wings, two batches of French fries, and fried rice (which ended up like crispy sizzling rice—happily), and I was pleased with the results.

Paris Pâtisserie Event & Booksigning

This Wednesday, October 28th at 7:30pm, I’ll be at the American Library in Paris discussing my favorite topic—dessert!

sweetlifeinparisbooks.jpg

Continue Reading Paris Pâtisserie Event & Booksigning…