Results tagged bio from David Lebovitz

Milk from Here

lait

There is an interesting emergence of things that are ‘green’ or écologique, in Paris. Words like commerce, responsable, équitable, éthique, durable and solidaire are being seen on more and more products in supermarkets, and even on some restaurant menus these days. Paris has two popular organic markets and discount grocery stores are now offering products like bio (organic) crème fraîche, butter, and pasta. And the city even has an official to preside over sustainable development and ecological initiatives.

(Although no one has asked me, I’m sure quite a few trees could be saved if there wasn’t so much paperwork to fill out, photocopy in triplicate, classify, then re-classify, around here.)

The forward-thinking action that got the most press internationally was the Vélib’ bike program. The program still has a few kinks to work out, though, most notably the costs and excessive vandalism: a recent article in Paris Magazine estimates that the annual upkeep for the program is €20 million and if the roving bands of repairmen were to stop fixing them, there would be no operable bikes in Paris within ten days.

As a user of the program, I think it’s pretty great, considering that they had to reconfigure a good portion of the city, and some attitudes around here, to accommodate it. Yet in spite of the obstacles, it has survived the initial grousing by drivers and other naysayers. And the bikes, along with various other initiatives that have been applied by the local government, has helped to reduce pollution in Paris by approximately 30%.

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Community Supported Agriculture, in Paris

About a year ago, I was having supper in a friend’s apartment and everything we ate was simple, and tasted really good. He’d lived on a farm near Toulouse for many years, where he worked for one of France’s agricultural organizations. Now he lives in Paris and I was surprised when he told me that the onions we were eating on the tart he’d made were from a panier, or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box.

pannier

He gets a weekly panier from Les Paniers du Val de Loire. I kept hemming and hawing, thinking how nice it was to shop at my local market and pick out everything myself. But I finally signed up a couple of weeks ago, and got my first panier yesterday.

Living in San Francisco and working closely with a lot of farmers and small-producers in my restaurant career, I have a weakness for hard-working small producers who are trying to do the right thing. I remember a woman showing up at our back door with a box of amazing French butter pears, asking us if she planted more trees, would we would buy them? (We took a bite and said that we’d take any and all that she wanted to bring us, a promise we made good on.) I remember an organic dairy sending us their first samples, and customer reaction made us realize that people weren’t ready for the strong taste of farm-fresh dairy products.

And there was Mr. Hadsell, a frail old man who could barely walk, who’d open the kitchen screen door and shuffle inside, balancing a few flats of just-picked raspberries from his backyard. You could feel the warmth of the sun radiating from each basket of plump, perfect berries. Those were the best raspberries I ever had in my life and I hope the lucky customers that got them felt the same.

beet greens

But elsewhere, it can be an uphill battle to find just-picked, fresh produce, even in a country with strong ties to its agricultural traditions, like France.

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Moisan: Ficelle Apéritif

A ficelle is a small baguette, whose name actually means ‘string’. But in French bakery lingo it means a thin little crusty baguette. A ficelle makes a perfect petit snack, especially one like this that’s crusted with lots of poppy and sesame seeds.

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One of my all-time, tip-top favorite breads in Paris is the ficelle apéritif baked at Moisan bakery. Although primarily known for their large rustic pains biologiques, breads made with organic flour, these slender little loaves boast a prime ratio of crust-to-crumb, with a golden, crackly crust enclosing an earthy, slightly-tangy mie within.

But what makes this little devil so appealing to me is the heavy-hand the baker lavishes it with sea salt.

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Each little bit I rip off has a generous amount of seeds. Not just a measly few, but just the right amount of coarse sea salt—enough to taste each grain but not enough to be overwhelming or salty.

(Which is a good thing, since salt can lead to thirst and thirst leads to water and…well…we all remember where that leads in Paris.)

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