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.
Results tagged buckwheat from David Lebovitz
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.
There’s a new girl in town. And she owns a small crêperie which has been getting lots of good press in the food magazines, in spite what some might feel is a relatively obscure address.
To me, though, it’s not all that obscure because I go over there all the time, as it’s located near one of my favorite buildings in Paris, which I keep walking by thinking that one fine, lucky day, there will be a A Vendre (or A Louer) sign up so I can move into one of the fabulous retro apartments. (And as a bonus, I could have fresh crêpes whenever I want.)
I kept meaning to ask owner and crêpe-maker Sophie Le Floc’h how she came up with the name West Country Girl for her French crêperie, located in the nondescript passage Saint Ambroise. But it’s an address I’m happy to travel to, even if I wasn’t apartment-hunting, because she’s a true Bretonne and really know how to fry up a crêpe.
She offers a number of crêpes and buckwheat galettes, and like her, I prefer the simpler ones.
One of the main differences between American and French food magazines, and recipes in general, is the level of detail provided in the instructions. For example, if you were to publish a recipe in America that called for a cuillère à café (coffee-spoon) of baking powder, folks would go apoplectic. “How much is a coffee spoon?”
Then there was the infamous question a copyeditor queried me about. I wrote instructions to butter a cake pan, but apparently I wasn’t clear enough.
“Do they butter the inside or the outside of the pan?”
Another difference is the laissez-faire instructions for assembly: I’ve seen French recipes for puff pastry that simply say, “Roll the pastry six times, folding it between each turn.”
But people here seem to have no problems with that and I’m not quite sure what it means.
When I proposed an article to the Los Angeles Times about unusual ice creams, I was surprised when took me up on it. Yikes! So I went to work, inventing recipes for some new flavors, and adding a tangy twist to a frosty favorite.
So no foolin’…if you’re looking for some all-new wacky flavors to churn up, head to my article 31 Flavors? Think Outside the Carton for three new kooky concoctions.
Related Links and Ice Cream Recipes:
Turn on the television any night in France and chances are excellent that you’ll land on a program, held in a brightly-lit studio, where celebrities, authors, and other French luminaries mingle, chat, and talk about issues—or whatever they feel like.
For some reason, though, they don’t run a banner at the bottom while the person is talking, like they do incessantly on American television. And because of that, I usually have no idea who all those overly-made up people are.
So I’ll ask—”Romain…who is that?”
He’ll be surprised, really surprised…”You mean you don’t know who Valérie Lemercier is? She is a very big star. Très, très connu!” I always hate bursting bubbles, so I’ll nod kind of half-heartedly, although I’m not so good at keeping a poker face and hiding my feelings.
When a British travel writer asked if I’d like to meet for brunch last week, he also asked if I could suggest a reasonable place for the article he was doing. So I put on my thinking cap, kicked off my slippers, tossed my funky pajamas in the laundry bin, showered and…get this…shaved!…and actually took a break from my project and got a few breaths of fresh air.
Imagine that! (This is getting to be a habit around here…)
Le Brunch is indeed available at some places in Paris, but je deteste being around people first thing in the morning—and I’m not so fond of Le Brunch either. So we compromised on the more civilized hour of 1pm. Not much is open in Paris on Sunday, which our President is fixing to change, so I suggested Breizh Café a tidy corner spot specializing in galettes de blé noir, commonly known as buckwheat crêpes.
There’s no shortage of strollers or hipsters hanging out in this part of the Marais on Sunday. Once you get by all the folks peering in gallery windows, cigarettes perched in the corners of their mouth and the obligatory Sunday am dark glasses, it’s a relief to find an inexpensive place to eat where the food is anything but trendy.
Because owner Bertrand Larcher is a true Breton, the Breizh Café focuses on the quality of the products and lets them shine, rather than trying to mess with the originals: there’s no red pepper dust on the corner of the plate or twirls of squiggly sauces that have no business being there.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked the age-old question: “How did you start cooking?”
My usual wise-guy answer?
“Well, I turned on the stove and put a pan on it.”
In reality, I probably should acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Anna Maria Albergetti who got me on this whole obsessive measuring-thing, hawking those carefully delineated bottles for mixing up Good Seasons salad dressing. But I also think some of it began at our local mall, at The Magic Pan, one of those crêperies that popped up everywhere in the 70′s. In the dining room, women in puffy-sleeved dresses stood over a open-flamed, circular crepe-cooker, presiding over a bevy of hot skillets that turned slowly over the flames, frying crêpes as fast as they could.
Wanting to be just like the girls at the mall, minus the puffy-sleeved dresses (which would come later in life), I bought one of those worthless numbers; a Taylor and Ng crêpe pan with a rounded bottom where you dipped the underside of the hot pan in a big bowl of batter, praying it didn’t stick before you could lift it up and flip it over to continue.
And apologies to my family for all those crêpe-filling experiments, especially the chicken in cream sauce, which, in my impatience, I madly kept adding spoonfuls of flour to until it thickened—which I presumed should take all of about 20 seconds.