Results tagged cheese from David Lebovitz

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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Le cottage

cottage cheese

If you live in the United States, you probably are going to want to scratch your head at this one. Because it’s about something very common back there, otherwise known as le cottage here in France. Yes, it’s true. I used to take cottage cheese for granted. You could pick up a large tub of it in any grocery store, because somehow, it’s become a fixture in American dairy aisles along with fresh milk (sold by the gallon jugs with handles, which after living with slender liter bottles of milk for so long, seem absolutely gargantuan), yogurt, sour cream, and other creamy goodies.

I used to eat cottage cheese fairly regularly and fell into the ‘large curd’ camp. As some of you might know, there’s the small-curd and the large-curd people, and I like the bigger soft, pillowy blobs of cheese, which rest in their milky liquid, waiting for my spoon to plow into the container and spoon them out. Then there’s the full-fat, low-fat, and non-fat people, but at this point in my life, it’s all moot due to where I live.

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Mustard Glasses

mustard glasses

It’s been a while since I’ve visited the jelly aisle of an American supermarket. But one thing I have etched in my memory from my childhood are the glasses with cartoon characters on them. Whatever marketing genius came up with the idea deserves more recognition than I can give here, but as a kid, we had to finish all our milk and “see Fred Flintstone” (whose visage was embossed in the bottom), before we could get on to dessert. And imagine where my career would be right now if I didn’t comply?

As long as I can remember, drinking glasses were a give-away item in the states, from being packed in cardboard boxes with powdered laundry detergent to give-aways at the local gas station. And that tradition has crossed the Atlantic when a few years back 6-packs of blue-banded Orangina glasses were offered as a token with a fill-up on l’autoroute.

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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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Coulommiers

couloummiers cheese

When I came back from Australia, something in my refrigerator stunk to high heaven. I was pretty sure I had done a good job before I left, making sure all bits and pieces of anything that could spoil in the frigo were tossed. Since my head was in another hemisphere, I just chalked it up to my fridge not being opened in a while. But a friend had stayed in my apartment while I was gone, and I remembered something in one of the e-mails about leaving “un peu de fromage” for me, to enjoy upon my return. So I did a little more investigating and found that indeed, wrapped in crinkly waxed paper and a loose covering of foil was a hulking round of Coulommiers.

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Globus

green olives

Yes, Switzerland has a reputation for neutrality, but the food in Switzerland is often an international mix. There are some wonderful local specialties but a good number of other dishes are influenced by its neighbors; namely Germany, Italy, and France. So it seems only fitting that the most wonderful department store in the country is named Globus, because its name seem to incorporate a philosophy of not just looking within the borders of Switzerland, but outside of them as well, in search of all things good to eat. And that certainly seems true of the grand food hall in the branch of their store in Lausanne.

shrimp and dillswiss bread
raspberry jam tartswiss egg

Many department stores in cities around the world have entire floors dedicated to foodstuffs and are good places to make a whirlwind food tour, which I did with my tour group recently. But even on my own, I usually make it a point to hit one when I travel, such as the KaDeWe in Berlin, Marks & Spencer in London, or the Grand Épicerie in Paris. But whereas KaDeWe is super orderly and La Grand Épicerie can feel like a train station at rush hour, the food halls of Globus have an air of calm and comfort. And yes, even when you’re in the presence of – *gulp* – my tentacled nemesis: octopus made into sausage.

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Tomato Basil Pizza

tomato basil pizza

The other day, I was looking at the overload of tomatoes that I bought as the season was winding down as the end of summer nears. But I realized that I was being gradually shoved out of my small kitchen by them, so I oven-roasted the louts with garlic and herbs to reclaim a few precious inches back of kitchen counter space. Yet when they were finished, I looked in my refrigerator, and there wasn’t any room in there either. So I was left holding a bowl of roasted tomatoes that needed to get used up.

tomatoes for tomato basil pizza

Coincidentally, I also had a round of yeasted dough in my refrigerator from a batch of recipe testing that hadn’t found its meaning as something else yet—as experimental leftovers are want to do. So I took it out, which made room for the tomatoes – but then I realized that was defeating the purpose, so I decide to use both of them. (Am still stunned to see some vacant space in my refrigerator. But I may keep it empty as a constant memento and testament to my frugality.)

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Septime

Septime

When I go out to eat, it’s usually not with the intention of writing about a place. I go out to eat to have a good time with friends and enjoy the food. (And perhaps a little wine.) But I found that whenever I don’t expect it, I hit on a place that merits talking about. Septime opened and caused a ripple of excitement in Paris. A number of years ago it was gastro-bistros, usually owned by well-regarded chefs who’d closed their larger, fancier places to open smaller dining rooms serving variations on traditional French food, at reasonable prices. They all appealed at the time, when regular dining had because out-of-reach for locals and visitors, and it gave the chefs a chance to relax and serve the kind of food that they (and guests) were happier to eat on an everyday basis.

Then a few years ago, a younger generation of cooks came up through the ranks, who wanted to break from traditional French cooking, the génération coincé, or “cornered generation”, who felt constricted by the rules and traditions, and started doing things out of the boundaries. Some didn’t (and still don’t) do a good job, but those who do, at restaurants like Vivant, Jadis, and Les Fines Gueules do it successfully. And I’m happy to add Septime to that list.

I started off with Velouté refraichi / Haricots verts / Pêche blanche, a rafraichi bowl of room temperature soup blended with green beans. Parisians don’t go for ‘sparks’ of flavor; they prefer subtle and smooth, replying on herbs as the underlying flavors rather than chiles and spices. And I missed those ‘sparks’ of something salty or lemony, or something peppery, to offset the uniform smoothness of the soup. I think the white nectarines meant to provide that jolt, but having big chunks of fruit on top of vegetable soup was a little incongruent. But the somewhat sexy mound of rosy white peach mousse on top served the purpose of incorporating a fruit element successfully. Although I should confess, I’m generally not a big fan of sweets or fruits in soups or salads and it would have been nice to have something salty or assertive to perk it up.

Septime

But then again, I don’t even normally order soup in restaurants. So what do I know?

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