Results tagged butter from David Lebovitz

The Vevey Market

vevey market

I was having a conversation a while back with someone who worked for an international hotel chain and she told me that their hotels in Europe don’t have alarm clocks in the rooms because Europeans – when they take their vacations – aren’t all that interested in keeping track of what time it is. We Americans, on the other hand, seem to have a need to know.

tiny potatoes rhubarbe

Last Tuesday morning I was invited to the market in Vevey to meet and shop with celebrated chef Stéphane Décotterd of Le Pont de Brent. I guess I’m now European because when my alarm went off at 5:45am, I didn’t really want to know what time it was either.

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Le sandwich at Le Petit Vendome

le sandwich

It wasn’t so long ago that if you were walking down the street, or eating in public in Paris, you might get tsk-tsk’d. When I first started visiting Paris, I remember disapproving stares if you were standing on the sidewalk, jamming food into your craw. Croissants got a pass, because they were sort of designed to be consumed on-the-go. And honestly, who can expect anyone to be handed a small paper bag with a steaming-hot buttery croissant in it and walk more than ten paces before diving in to it?

(I also remember way back in 1979 when I first visited Europe and went to a supermarket, and after my twenty items was rung up and paid for, I discovered that there were no bags to put purchases in. So I had to gather everything up the best I could in my arms and try to get them all back to the youth hostel.)

A couple of years ago there was an anti-eating campaign on the métro depicting an obviously Italian man eating a fat, presumably pungent sandwich, surrounded by other passengers who weren’t so happy sharing the same car with a man and his lunch. That set off another kind of stink and the ads were pulled down for being pejorative.

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Larnicol: Kouign Amann in Paris

kouignamann-blog

People come to Paris and want to try Kouign amann and I can’t say I blame them. And I truly feel for them when I tell them that although you can find Kouign amann in Paris, you really need to go to Brittany and have one. Well, I used to tell them that—but I don’t have to anymore because Brittany has finally come to Paris, courtesy of pastry chef George Larnicol.

Kouign amann is one of the most elusive pastries to make, not very tricky, but it involves a few steps..and a whole lotta butter. In fact, the name comes from the Breton language and translates to “butter cake”, and I don’t know of any cake (or dessert, for that matter) that has more butter than this. A few bakeries in Paris make them, and you can come across examples at some of the markets, but some foods don’t really translate outside of where they’re from (few outside of Norway really crave lutefisk, for example, and I can’t say I’m been on the prowl for haggis in Paris) and Kouign amann falls into that category.

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Marché des Producteurs

bacon

I was actually thrilled to see a market of producteurs that was happening this weekend in Paris. We have some great food available in Paris but I don’t get the opportunity often to meet and shop directly from the people who are producing the food. This is especially true with meat, which is sold by butchers and not the people who raise it, but I also wanted to see some of the more interesting roots and vegetables that don’t always find their way in to Paris from the countryside.

Generally speaking, a lot of these tasting salons that are held around the year in Paris are well-stocked with three things: foie gras, mountain cheeses, and sausages. Wine doesn’t count as one of the three, as that’s a given.

raw milk butter thyme

There are lots of people offering tastes of wine. It’s one of the few things where samples of it at markets are gladly given. I remember a few years ago at a wine fair I told the seller that I’d take a bottle of his Muscadet, since I was having oysters that night, and he was rather shocked that I didn’t want to try it first. (So I did, just to be polite.) But I’m actually happier sitting in a café and enjoying a glass rather than manoeuvering around other people en masse, Costco-style, jostling for a little sip.

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Chocolate Mousse Cake

chocolate mousse cake

There are two things hard about living in France. The first is ….well, let’s not get into that today. The second is getting recipes from French women. It’s not because they closely guard their secrets, but it’s because they frequently use recipes as guidelines rather than making them by rote.

So if you ask a question, the response is often—”Because that’s always the way I did it.” Which was what I was told when I read the instructions on the hand-written recipe I snagged, that said to dip the bottom of the bowl of melted chocolate in a larger basin of cool water to bring down the temperature, where lazy old me would just let it sit on the counter until it was cool. Who wants to empty all those dishes out of the sink?

chocolate mousse cake recette

They often refuse to specify exact quantities. “Just add enough flour until the dough looks correct” is a fairly common response when I press for things like ‘details’, and I keep imagining how much easier writing a cookbook (and a blog) would be if I could give instructions like that.
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Irish Shortbread Recipe & Ireland Travel Notes

butter shortbread

Over dinner on my final night in Ireland, one of the other diners who is Irish said to me, “I just came back from Paris…”, and he hesitated for a moment, and continued “…and the food wasn’t very good.” It’s probably unimaginable a few years ago that someone from Ireland would be criticizing the quality of French cooking. But it shows how far Irish cooking has come.

pint of guinness Irish coffee

I was recounting that story to someone over lunch yesterday back in Paris, who assured me that I was fortunate to have eaten so well during my trip. So of course, there’s good and not-good restaurants in every country, but over my dinner in Cork, Ireland, diving in to a pan-seared dry-aged steak, a pile of freshly sautéed spinach, and crisp French fries made from real potatoes and cooked so each one had a deep-brown crust, I had to say that in addition to the multiple Irish coffees, the rest of the food I had in Ireland was fresh, well-prepared, and surprisingly good.

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Brown Bread

brown bread, beer, cheese

People often ask me if I make my own bread. Since where I live, within a one block radius of my apartment there are literally four very good places to buy bread that is baked fresh daily (and it’s very inexpensive, around €1-€2 a loaf), although I admire those who do, I can’t rouse myself to bake my own.

French buttermilk wheat germ

Yet when I got back from Ireland I found myself craving soda bread something fierce. There’s no shortage of baguettes or other lovely breads here, but Irish soda bread has a certain je ne sais quoi—and I wanted some of that hearty, crumbly bread from the Irish isle. Partially to blame were a few rounds of Irish cheese that I carried back, including a tangy, creamy Cashel Blue, that was begging to be sliced and smeared over some wheaty bread.

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Midleton Farmers Market (Cork, Ireland)

Irish blue cheeses

When I leave Ireland, what I’m going to miss most is people calling me dearie. Sure the Irish have a reputation as brawlers and so forth (back in San Francisco, I once hired a group of Irish contractors who would routinely show up on Monday morning with at least a couple of black eyes), but wherever I go in Ireland, like a grocery store or the local pub, people are like—”What kind of beer are ya havin’, dearie?”

Irish baked goods Irish baked goods

That generosity of spirit extended to the Midleton Farmers Market in Cork.

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