Results tagged baguette from David Lebovitz

Bourke Street Bakery

bourke street bakery pastries

Wow. I go to a lot of bakeries, but I’m rarely wowed all that much anymore. Living in France, where there is literally a bakery on every street corner (and a few on each block, in between the corners..), it’s not that I’ve become blasé. But to me, a bakery is more about just racks or showcases of pastries, lined up, then dropped into bags and sent off with a customer.

sticky bun croissant bourke street bakery

bourke street bread rhubarb tartlets

Without getting all gushy, bakeries are really parts of communities; places where people get their bread, but also places where friends gather for coffee or a snack. And as soon as I pulled up in front of Bourke Street Bakery here in Sydney, I felt it was somewhere very special.

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La crise de la baguette

Bread

A while back, a food editor in the states asked me to send him daily some ideas for articles that I might want to write-up for them. I thought about it for quite a while, then sent a response for an article with recipes for using up leftover bread, which I tentatively titled: The French Bread Crisis. They kindly responded, thanking me for the idea, but passed on the story. I’m not sure why, but maybe it was because they couldn’t imagine anyone in France having leftover bread lying around.

To avoid this crise, a number of people remarked in the previous post on French supermarkets that they bought Harry’s “American Bread” because the puffy, pre-sliced white loaves lasted quite a bit longer than regular French bread. But I’m still perplexed because what’s the point of living in France if you don’t eat French bread?

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The French Bread Machine

I was a little surprised when I moved to France and learned that bread machines were popular here. I was equally surprised to see a generous selection of frozen breads at Picard, the chain of stores that spans across France which sport a comprehensive, and somewhat impressive, selection of frozen entrées, appetizers, main courses, and fancy desserts. Out of curiosity, I’ve tried a few things, and came to the conclusion that most of it tastes like the food you hoped to be served on an airplane, and might be if you were seated in business class.

Interestingly, I have not met a French person that ever had a bad think to say about Picard. In fact, a survey showed that it’s the most popular chain in France. Even people I know who are accomplished home cooks rave about it. I have to say that I like the frozen pitted sour cherries, and the corn kernels taste good to homesick Americans, especially when sautéed with ancho chile powder, butter, and cilantro, but I don’t crave frozen sushi nor do I need (or have space in my freezer for) a bag of already chopped onion pieces.

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A la Biche au Bois

oeufs dur mayonnaise

It’s a standard request. Whenever people ask for a restaurant suggestion in Paris, even before they open their mouth I know exactly what’s coming—they want a suggestion for a restaurant that: 1) Serves traditional French food, 2) Is budget friendly, and 3) Has no tourists.

There are plenty of budget-friendly places to eat in Paris, like Chartier and L’As du Fallafel, but ones where you’ll find honest traditional French cooking are harder to come by these days. If you’re looking for the rare combination of good food and atmosphere, and modest prices, most of us have given up on the classic bistros and brasseries whose food slides deeper and deeper every year into the “lower than ordinary” category due to corporate takeovers.

There are a variety of reasons, and as Alec Lobrano noted in his terrific book Hungry for Paris, “..”it was accountants, who edited the menus” that were often the most responsible for doing a lot of the great old brasseries in. And nowadays most of the food in them is merely passable, but hardly memorable.

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American Chocolate Hazelnut Paste

hazelnut chocolate spread

No one was happier than I was to receive the news, directly from the chocolate-maker himself, that Askinosie was jarring up a chocolate and hazelnut spread. To make the spread, cocoa powder is made from pulverized cocoa beans sourced directly from the farmers in the Philippines, and hazelnut butter is made from nuts harvested from an orchard in the Pacific Northwest. Then they’re both ground together with a modest amount of sugar and a few cocoa beans tossed in the mix.

I don’t have any problems with Nutella, but I know some people are concerned about exactly what’s in that too easily-reachable oval jar. I don’t regularly buy it, but have been known to dip my knife into a jar every now and then myself, and wonder what quantities people are eating it in that makes it problematic? I suppose if I was plowing through a jar a week, I’d be more concerned. But for an “occasional user” like myself, I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Still, I was happy to hear that there was a chocolate-hazelnut spread made with ingredients sourced direct from their origins, created by a pioneering American bean-to-bar chocolate maker.

sliced baguette chocolate hazelnut spread

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Le Garde Robe and Spring

rosé on the street

After my recent lament about the state of bistros in Paris, where I noted that the wine bars in Paris often had the best food, when my friend Rochelle who owns Chefwear was in town this week, I wanted to go somewhere casual, where we’d be assured of good, honest food.

sliced jambon

So we agreed to meet at Le Garde Robe, one of my favorite wine bars in Paris, which serves mostly natural wines. Another plus are the charcuterie and cheeses they serve by the plate (€12 for a platter of each, or you can get one mixed), which make a great accompaniment to the wines. Each wooden board arrives in front of you resplendent, and is a great way to sample some of the top-quality meats and fromages from France, and beyond.

blackboard cheese

Another thing about Le Garde Robe is that the fun spills into the street. I’ve spent a few late evenings perched on a stool outside with friends, laughing and drinking until way past my bedtime. And the staff often becomes ‘creative’ when using parked cars and trucks to help them out. (Can you imagine the driver’s reaction in America if they came out and saw a board leaning against their car?)

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le Week-end

leaving paris

I always seem to have the supreme misfortune to draw the letter W when playing Scrabble in French, as there’s barely one-quarter of a page in the French dictionary devoted to words that begin with that letter. People use “Wu” for Chinese money; although I allow them, it’s not in the French dictionary so I’m not sure that’s in the official rules. In spite of their high-value, I always am irked when I pull that dreaded W tile.

But I’m not a Scrabble expert, plus the fact the French have all those gazillion verb tenses, which is another reason that I never win. And my request to play in English is still pending.

baked apricots

When I lived in the states, I used to wonder why all the people who lived in New York City would go out of their way to proclaim that they could never live anywhere else, that New York City was the best city in the world. That they could only live in Manhattan, etc..etc.. Then they’d spent three months of the year, during the summer, bailing on the city they claim to love.

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The Barbès Market

fish radishes

Every once in a while there are contests in Paris to decide who makes the best croissant, a hot new restaurant list get published somewhere, or a market way on the other side of Paris that supposedly has great onions grown in the same soil where Louis the XIV once took a squat, becomes a “must visit”. It’s pretty encouraging to see and hear about new places, especially when it’s a young baker or chef getting some recognition for maintaining the high-quality of one of France’s emblematic pastries or breads. And often I add the restaurant to my hand-scribbled list in hopes of one day being able to say “I’ve been there!” (The jury is still out on those onions, though.)

strawberries at market

When I moved here years ago, I’d gladly cross the city to find and taste all these things. I remember one day tracking down what was known as the best croissant in Paris, as mentioned in an issue of The Art of Eating. At the urging of a visiting friend, we trekked out to some distant bakery in the far-away fourteenth arrondissement, only to find the baker closing up shop for his mid-day break. There seems to be a corollary around here: The longer you have to travel to get somewhere, the more likely it is to be closed when you get there.

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