We had our second snowfall of the season this week in Paris, which once again, blanketed the entire city with a stunning layer of snow. It illuminated what was previously gray and drab, and brightened things up when everyone’s spirits were beginning to sag. Still, a number of people were miffed about it, wishing that winter was over for good. But for once, I didn’t join the chorus of râleurs and seemed to be the lone voice of dissent (“Pas de fraternité, Daveed!”) and basked in the icy crystals spreading light everywhere, covering up a multitude of sins, and gave me a rejuvenating view of Paris.
Results tagged bleu cheese from David Lebovitz
Americans have a reputation for not eating very well which is disputed by the fact that whenever I have a group of guests come to Paris, everyone is always craving fresh vegetables. Another interesting paradox is that portions in America are huge, yet Americans who come to France (where the portions are more reasonable) find themselves quickly full when dining out. And after a couple of days, they start begging away from heartier fare in search of a big bowl or plate of vegetables or a large salad, one with lots of vegetables in it.
People and restaurants in Paris don’t eat or serve raw vegetables much, except in les crudités – usually a trio of simple salads of grated carrots, celery remoulade, wedges of tomatoes, cucumbers, or sometimes even some beets tossed in dressing. Which aren’t technically raw (unless they’re grated), but sticklers are welcome to raise a fuss with the locals if they so desire. But with everyone on le régime (a diet) around here, you’d think vegetables would be more popular.
One of my biggest, deepest-darkest secrets is that a few times a year, I buy a frozen pizza. I used to do it on the sly, but lately I’ve even got so brazen that I’ll go out and do it in broad daylight. I am sure after my goings on about the popularity of frozen foods in France that I was going to get busted one day standing in line, clutching an icy box containing a pizza jambon speck, roquette, mozarella at the frozen foods store. Yet so far I’ve escaped detection.
But it’s not the fin du monde and everyone has the right to enjoy a frozen pizza once in a while, right? I used to make homemade pizza a lot more when I lived in California since it’s a simple thing to make, and you can turn out a couple at a time and eat the leftovers later. They reheat so nicely but for those of us who are impatient, it’s nice to know that cold pizza makes a great breakfast, too.
(And we used to take home leftover pizza dough at the end of the night when I worked in the restaurant, so it was especially easy to roll ‘n bake a pizza on your day off.)
I just got a copy of Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan, a nifty book full of recipes for cooking for one. Joe came to Paris a few years ago and like everyone who meets him, I was charmed off my pieds by his graceful intelligence and instant friendliness, and we ended up sharing a couple of meals together.
The last time Peggy Smith, co-owner of Cowgirl Creamery, came to Paris, we did some cheese tasting and shopping. We’d worked together at Chez Panisse for many years and she’s one of my favorite people—ever, and I wish she’d come visit more often. As we roamed a salon de dégustation of cheese, looking around at all the astounding cheeses from France (as well as a couple of beauties from Ireland, England, and Italy as well), I said to her; “What is the one cheese you would tell someone from the United States that they absolutely should try while in France, which is not available in America?”
After spending a few mornings in the steamy, warm confines of the fruitières, where cheese making begins, I visited several of the fromageries, which are what they call the caves de affinage; the cavernous cellars where the cheeses are ripened.
I was recently joking that when I’m forced to wake up very early in the morning I’m not sure if I should feel sorrier for myself, or for the people around me. So when my friend Jean-Louis, who works with the people who make Comté cheese finally gave in to my incessant pestering to join him for a visit, I was excited when after three years, he finally said “Oui”. Actually, he speaks very good English. So he said “Yes”.
One thing I’ve learned in France, is that if someone who’s an expert tells you to eat something—you should eat it. (Except squid, of course.) When I lead tours, right before I place their hand on the bible, I make guests promise that if I tell them they have to try something, they will. It’s not that I’m on commission, it’s just I’ve sifted through a lot of stuff and it’s not worth filling up on the bland when the extraordinary is within equidistant tasting distance.
When my girlfriends Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, who make the wonderful cheeses of Cowgirl Creamery, were in town recently for the Salon du Fromage, they were surprised to be honored with a medaille along with an induction into the French Guilde des Fromagers.
I’d met Peggy way back around 1983, when I started working at Chez Panisse. She was a chef and I was a bit scared of her, standing over a large lamb carcass wielding a large, and very sharp knife, getting the beast ready to roast on the spit.
There’s sort of some rhyme and reason to my cheese-buying habits. One fromagerie might have the most amazing butter, so I’ll trek over to the place St. Paul to buy a packet of it. But if I want a round of Selles-sur-Cher, I’ll go to the fromager at the marche d’Aligre who always has beautiful ones on display. For St. Nectaire and Cantal, I’ll only buy those from the husky Auvergnate dude at my market on Sunday mornings and refuse to even taste one from anywhere else. His are just so good, I don’t bother doing any comparison shopping.
Last week my neighbors from San Francisco came to visit and I took them to my Sunday market, where I figured we could gather the ingredients for a semi-homemade meal, sans the tablescape.