Results tagged cheese from David Lebovitz

Tasting Rome: Gelato, Pasta and the Market

porchetta

Whenever I go to a foreign city, within a few hours of getting oriented, I invariably find myself mentally preparing my move there. I walk around the streets, admiring all the shops and interesting people speaking beautiful languages, and looking up at the apartments with curving iron railings and linens hanging out to dry I imagine myself being a part of it all and making a new life for myself there.

rome

It happened when I moved to San Francisco, and I remember arriving and thinking that it wasn’t quite as pretty as people said it was. No one told me that South San Francisco, near the airport, wasn’t actually San Francisco. And twenty or so years later, when I moved to Paris, I was in for another shock.

I’m not a particularly good traveler; I like being home. (And I love my pillow.) So perhaps that’s the appeal of moving somewhere and staying put for a few decades. I can really get the feel of what living in whatever city I’d like, and come home and sleep in my own bed every evening.

Italy is a special place and many of us are quite fond of it. And why not? The people are friendly, the food is great, and Italians have an easy-going, sometimes boisterous nature, that I think appeals to Americans. Initially I’m usually reluctant to jump into a local restaurant, especially if I’m alone. But in Italy, if you show the slightest interest in the food, people are very excited to explain more about it. Whenever I’ve made the effort, it seems like they can’t wait to feed you.

burrata

You might be presented with a plate of mozzarella, a soft and supple cheese completely unlike the rubbery bricks most of us are used to, when cut with a fork, ooze out a sweet, warm puddle of milk.

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Les Crayères

desserts

I realized that a little while back I posted some pictures about my visit to Les Crayères, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Champagne region, about an hour from Paris. But I never wrote about the meal or my experience. Since I’ve been planning another trip back—hopefully soon, it prompted me to share my lunch, at last.

Champagnes

Perhaps some people coming to Paris want to take a day trip out of the city. Or for those of use who live here, it’s a nice break away from the hectic city life and away from the stress of it all. (Especially after tangling with those Monoprix cashiers.) If you fall into either of those categories, a swift, new TGV train will whisk you from the Gare de l’Est and right into the heart of Champagne country in less than an hour. And before you know it, you’ll be sipping sparkling wine in high-style, surrounded by trees and servers waiting on you dressed in sharp suits, with a bottle of bubbly always ready and waiting.

French butter King Crab

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: I love Champagne. When I worked at a well-known restaurant, we had a rule (which, admittedly, we made up on the spot one evening), that every night that we did over a hundred diners, we’d open a bottle of Champagne from the cellar for us.

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Involtini: Feta & Prosciutto Rolls

ham & feta rolls blog

I was having drinks at a friend’s house last night, who is a cuistot, the French slang for a cook. I don’t think you’d say cuistat for a woman, but whatever you want to call us, the conversation pretty much stayed on one topic: Food. We talked literally for hours while we drank brisk sauvignon blanc and picked apart an amazing wedge of 30 month-old Comté cheese from a giant wedge on a cutting block positioned strategically between us.

ham and sage

For some reason, the conversation turned to food intolerances and allergies, which aren’t all that well-known in France. I’ve never been invited to a dinner party at a French person’s house and quizzed about what I don’t eat in advance. (Although since being served squid once, I’ve learned to be pro-active so it doesn’t happen again.) Yes, there is a growing consciousness about various food intolerances, although there isn’t a large-scale comprehension about many of the various diets and regimes out there.

Some friends from California were surprised when they went to a vegetarian restaurant in Paris recently and there weren’t any vegetables on the menu. And I’ve heard from numerous people who’ve told waiters that they didn’t eat meat, and were offered foie gras instead, since that wasn’t considered “meat.”

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French Onion Dip

frais malo

A few weeks ago, I made plans to meet my friend Terresa in Pigalle, to check out a new épicerie (specialty food shop). I don’t know if you’re familiar with Pigalle, but the area has a certain well-deserved ‘reputation’ and if you’re a middle-aged man walking around by yourself in the evening, casually looking in the windows of the cafés and bars, don’t be surprised if a very scantily-clad woman tries to catch your eye back, and catch your fancy. And a few euros.

My friend was late, so after I cut my walk short though the quartier, I waited outside the shop, where we were planning to meet, which made me only slightly less of a target. And within a few minutes, people were handing me business cards for various ‘services’ of the female persuasion. So I was especially glad when the only woman in the neighborhood I was interested in hooking up with finally arrived and we went inside.

plain yogurt fromage frais

The idea of the store is to be one place filled with many great products. There were indeed some interesting things on the shelves, including Spanish hams and other European specialties. But when you live in France, it’s hard to get worked up about shrink-wrapped cheeses, no matter how good they might be, when there’s so many amazing fromageries in every neighborhood. But I think they’re trying to be both a specialty shop and cater to the locals who need the basics, too. So I give them points for rising to that task, and most of us would be thrilled to have a place like that in our neighborhood.

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West Country Girl

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.

table and charis business cards

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.)

paris

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.

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Saint Marcellin

saint marcellin

If you go to Lyon, you’ll find Saint Marcellin pretty much everywhere. It’s the best-known cheese from that region, and the user friendly-sized disks are inevitably piled high at each and every cheese shop you step in to. Locals bake them at home and slide the warm disks onto salads, and I’ve not been to a restaurant in that city that didn’t have Saint Marcellin on the menu doing double-duty as the cheese or the dessert course. Or both. At the outdoor market stands, you can see how popular they are with les Lyonnais. And if you don’t believe me, their presence is so pervasive that I once bought a ticket on the bus in Lyon and instead of change, the driver handed me a ripe Saint Marcellin instead.

Because they hover around €3, I used to pick one up at the fromagerie since they’re an inexpensive way to add variety to a cheese platter. The ones I’d buy were decent, although I never heard anyone put a dab on their bread and say, “Good gosh David, that cheese is friggin’ amazing!” (Although I’m not sure “friggin” is a well-used word around here.)

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Warm Baked Goat Cheese

cheese plate

It’s funny, because some people get the impression that I don’t like where I live. Which is kind of strange, because I don’t understand why anyone would think that I’d live somewhere where there was a dearth of clothes dryers if I didn’t like it. And if you saw the paperwork that I have to fill out just to stay here, well, let’s just say that one really has to want to live here to plow through it all.

I’ve read a lot of books extolling what a glorious place Paris is, with tales of skipping along Left Bank streets, happily shopping for new shoes whenever the mood strikes, and resting in one of those cafés on the boulevard St. Germain sipping a $7 coffee.

They certainly paint a rosy view of the city. But then I realized something: The authors of those books no longer live here.

Like all cities, Paris is a real place. A lot of people understandably come here looking for old bistros and quaint cafés, often to find those kinds of place disappearing, or disappointing. Then they’ll step into La Maison du Chocolate, take a bite of a Rigoletto Noir, filled with caramelized butter mousse, and realize that life doesn’t get any better than that.

Sometimes I’ll be riding my bike around at night by the Seine, under the softly-glowing lights. I’ll look around, and think, “Paris is breaktakingly beautiful.” Other times, I’ll scratch my head when the bank tells me they have no change that day. Or stare at the pile of paperwork that’s arrived in the mail, filled with endless forms that need to be filled out, and think, “Can someone remind me why I moved here?”

Anyhow, I still live here and accept that like anywhere, Paris is a real city with its flaws and its fabulousness.

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Making Ricotta, at Simply Recipes

It’s easy to make your own cheese at home. All you need is a bottle of milk, a scoop of yogurt, a touch of vinegar, and a few minutes over the heat.

ladling milk

Don’t believe me?

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