Results tagged baguette from David Lebovitz

La Pâtisserie

 croissant

When you live in Paris, you tend to stick to pastry shops in your neighborhood. Not that there aren’t “destination-worthy” places in all twenty arrondissements – with many notable ones on the Left Bank and in swankier districts. But with young chefs opening bakeries in various neighborhoods, catering especially to locals, one doesn’t necessarily need to go all that far to find extraordinary pastries and confections.

La Pâtisseriepain au levain
baba au rhum at La Pâtisseriekouign amann

Cyril Lignac is a chef who is hosts popular television programs in France, and a few years ago had purchased Chardenoux bistro, an aging warhorse of a place where I once went to meet a good friend who was in town for a month. As I waited for him at the table, the place – and the waiters – looked so tired (both looked ready for a much-needed retirement), when he arrived, I quickly convinced him that we were probably better off going to a corner café for a salad. So it was good to hear that the bistro had been taken over by Monsieur Lignac and just across the street, pastry chef Benoit Couvrand was turning out stellar pastries and breads.

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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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