Results tagged buckwheat from David Lebovitz

French Honey

french honey

I had to put a moratorium on jam-making this year because I realized I had enough jam to last a normal person, who doesn’t have a French partner, at least ten years. (I’m not naming any names, but one Frenchman in particular can go through half a jar at one breakfast alone.) But one thing I can’t make is honey, in spite of the fact that I am certainly capable of giving a nasty sting every once in a while. It wasn’t until I moved to France that I fell in love with the stuff.

When I led tours, I’d bring guests to honey shops and people would just kind of look around – or look over me, perhaps wondering when we were getting to the chocolate – as I started to explain fabulous wonders of French honey. And am not sure how convincing I was, but since I have a captive audience here (don’t touch that mouse!), as well as a cabinet-full of the stuff, I decided that as I started to clean out my honey larder, I’d also come clean about my love for the stuff.

Various honeys are said to have various properties. I don’t sit down to breakfast and think about all the polyhydroxy phenols and bioflavonoids, or how my body is going through phagocytosis or endocytosis while I eat my toast and sip my orange juice and wonder how the heck I’m going to make it through another day. (And I have nothing against polyhydroxy pheols or phagocytosis, it’s just that they’re not popular topics at my breakfast table.) On the whole, I eat pretty healthy stuff and am not one to think about the health benefits of food. I don’t need justification, ie: antioxidants, to eat chocolate. I just eat it – and thinking that you’re going to get healthy from eating cheesecake because you put a tablet of vitamin C in it is kind of ridiculous, if you ask me. So geez, just eat!

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10 Ideas for Food Trucks in Paris

Pierre Hermé Truck

Aside from a few crêpe stands here and there, Paris isn’t a city known for street food. And malheureusement, that Pierre Hermé truck isn’t open for business…although wouldn’t that be nice.

(However if it was, I would probably race around my house in search of spare change every time I heard it coming toward me, like I did when the Good Humor ice cream truck approached when I was a kid. Or haranguing my poor mother to dig furiously through her purse to dig up 40 cents for a toasted coconut ice cream bar to calm down her semi-hysterical child.)

Sure, come mid-day, the sidewalks of Paris are packed with people scarfing down les sandwichs (sic), which seem to have taken over as the lunch of choice in Paris. It’s nice to see the crowds and lines at the local bakeries, but it’s sad to see the long(er) lines at Subway sandwich shops, which I suspect are because people are craving a little creativity with what’s between the bread. And while the one Subway sandwich I had in my life was inedible – I didn’t realize you could screw up a sandwich…until then – I think the locals are fascinated by the varieties offered. Plus they’re made-to-order, and served warm.

The French do have versions of les ventes ambulantes, such as the pizza trucks parked alongside the roads in the countryside and there are the gorgeous spit-roasted chickens sold at the markets and butcher shops in Paris. But recently an American launched a roving food truck in Paris to staggering success, and a second one followed her lead. And judging from the line-up, it’s mostly French folks angling for a bite to eat.

While I’m happy for my fellow compatriots, and I love a good burger as much as the French seem to (judging from the crowds), I can’t help thinking how kooky it is that American cooks get to have all the fun, and some French cooks might want to get in on the action. Here’s a few ideas I’ve been thinking about…

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Henri Le Roux in Paris

Le Roux Chocolate Box

A favorite chocolatier of mine has finally made it to Paris, Henri Le Roux – although he’s best known for his C.B.S. caramels, which are made in Brittany, a region known for its copious use of salted butter. Whenever I’ve traveled to that part of France, I’m always delighted at their lack of restraint, and they use salty butter in everything from buckwheat galettes, to melting into large pots of salted butter caramel sauce, which they have no problem dousing on everything.

chocolate pistachio bar buckwheat chocolaets
chocolates at Henri Le Roux paris caramels from Henri Le Roux

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Milan

Italian Breakfast

Even though it’s just next door, every time I go to Italy, I wonder why I don’t go more often. Before I moved to Europe, I used to wonder why Europeans didn’t travel to other countries more often. And now I’m one of them. I think it’s because just to go anywhere, whether it’s a 45 minutes flight or a 4.5 hour flight, you still need to schlep to the airport, arrive in a new city, find your bearings, and by the time you’ve finally figured out most of the good places to go, it’s time to head home.

babas

It also doesn’t help that when I returned from this trip, two airlines were striking at Charles de Gaulle airport, the RER train was closed for some unexpected (and unexplained) reason, prompting a few thousand of us to be bused to a deserted train station in the middle of nowhere, to wait in the cold pre-winter air until a train showed up nearly an hour-and-a-half later, well after midnight, making the trip from the Paris airport back to the city (which is a mere 23 km, or 14 miles), nearly four hours – or three times longer than the flight to Milan.

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Orange Creme Anglaise

cake and ice cream

When I started working at Chez Panisse, there was something called crème anglaise on the menu…and my job was to make it. Of course, I had no idea what crème anglaise was – other than something with a funny name that I got in trouble for pronouncing wrong on several occasions. But I pretended I knew what it was when everyone was talking about making it to go with the desserts. And luckily for my career, after a few years, I probably made at least one batch everyday for the next thirteen years, and stirring up a batch of crème anglaise became second nature to me.

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Café Pouchkine

Café Pouchkine cakes

In Paris, a city full of spectacular pastry shops, it really takes something major to grab me by the shoulders and shake me to attention. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the other ones, but when you see something as jaw-dropping as the pastries at Café Pouchkine, you can’t help but stop and stand at full attention.

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Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Basil

tomatoes mushrooms

In August, most of the businesses in Paris shut down while a vast number of people take their annual holiday vacations. And in case you think that’s a grammatical error, in French one says les vacances, in the plural. So if you have a problem with that, I would tell you to take it up with them yourself, but right now most of them are unavailable at the moment.

It sounds odd, but I know several business in America that follow the same model of shutting down for a few weeks so everyone can go on holiday at the same time, negating the need for constantly changing schedules the rest of the year to adapt to everyone’s particular vacations. (Although I am awaiting the results of a medical test and it would have been nice of the doctor to let me know that he was leaving for three weeks.)

Bread bakeries, which are an integral part of French life, also close up shop for two- to four weeks. But each shop plans their vacation(s?) in conjunction with the neighboring bakeries, by law, and posts those locations on their door so you can always be assured of fresh bread no matter what neighborhood you live in.

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West Country Girl

West Country Girl-3

There’s a new girl (and guy) in town. And she owns a small crêperie which is one of my favorite little addresses in Paris and worth a visit, in spite what some might feel is a relatively obscure address.

table and charis business cards

To me, though, it’s not all that obscure because I’ve forged a pretty clear path to their front door ever since they opened. The original owner, Sophie Le Floc’h, has opened a crêperie in Brussels called West End, and handed over the reins to new owners, the young team of Marc Kinder and Pascaline Cordier. Marc runs the front of the house, greeting customers with a friendly smile and pouring cider, while Pascaline mans the griddle, turning out superb buckwheat crêpes, called galettes, in French – or crêpes made with “blé noir,” another name for buckwheat.

You can order crêpes filled with camembert and bacon, chèvre and spinach, salmon and pine nuts, bacon and mushrooms, or andouille sausage (which they say, correctly, that you have to be French to appreciate) from the menu. I usually stick with complète, a buckwheat galette filled with ham and melted cheese topped with a fresh egg, sunny-side-up, resting on top.

salted butter caramel

If you don’t order the reasonably-priced prix-fix menu at lunch, or even if you do, you can start with a pot of homemade rillettes of sardines, a delicious spread they make in-house. If available, the fresh oysters are excellent, arriving at their door direct from Brittany. The typical drink is sparkling apple cider from Brittany, slightly alcoholic, and is the best accompaniment to the crêpes. Ask Marc about the difference and he’ll explain each one, including the ones that are doux (sweet) or brut (dry). A few of the ciders are organic as well.

When it comes to dessert, homemade salted butter caramel is the way to go. Better yet, the galette with a baked apple and caramel is hard to beat! Lastly, the coffee they serve is really good, which is a sign of a thoughtful restaurant owner. The care that they take with the final coda on the meal is the last impression that’s made before you walk out the door and here they draw shots of excellent espresso – and they do them right. The end to a terrific meal, from start to finish.

salted butter caramel west country girl

West Country Girl
6, passage Saint-Ambroise (11th)
Tél: 01 47 00 72 54
Métro: Saint-Ambroise
Reservations recommended.

(Note that the restaurant is located on a small side street. It’s best if you can make yourself a little map to make it easier to get there from the métro station, which is close-by.)



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