Results tagged France from David Lebovitz

Paris is Degrading

According to LoI n° 2006-11 du 5 janvier 2006 d’orientation agricole, article 47

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…as of January 1, 2010, all plastic bags in France will be compostable and biodegradable. The new sacks are being introduced this week as part of a campaign to promote people shopping at the outdoor markets. What a great initiative. Go France!

Favorite Paris Restaurants

Here are some of my favorite places to eat in Paris. This is not an exhaustive list, and I’ve mentioned many of my other top picks here on the site, so you can use the search engine to find them. And there’s others on My Paris page here as well.

Several of these are also not fancy places. Sure, many people come to Paris for fine-dining, and you can find many of those addresses floating around guidebooks and online. But sometimes you just want a big plate of vegetable salads instead of half a carrot garnished by a shredded basil leaf with a dot of saffron sauce. I’ve included a few stand-by, reliably decent restaurants in case you happen to be in Paris on a Sunday, when many places are closed.

If you have some favorite places that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them since I’m always looking for new places to try and I’m sure others would too.
Feel free to leave your dining suggestions in the Comment area.

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Before you start, here’s a few tips when dining in Paris:

  • It’s always a good idea to reserve a table. Even if you arrive and the place is virtually empty, they like to know you’re coming and you’ll get a warmer welcome. Unlike the US, often you can call most restaurants that afternoon and get in easily. Hot restaurants, or ones that are fancier, you should call about a week in advance, or longer. Don’t bother using email links on most restaurant’s websites here since you’re unlikely to get a response.

  • Don’t be embarrased to order wine or water by the carafe. You probably think you’ll feel like a cheapskate…but get over it. If you look around, most of the Parisians are doing the same thing. And yes, the water is safe to drink in Paris. Why do people keep asking that?

  • Adding a tip is not required, but in spite of what you hear, most people leave a little extra for good service. If the check is 28€, you could leave 30€ if you were pleased. Or if your meal is 95€, you could leave 100€. But remember that it’s not required and if they don’t bring you back your change, request it. I’ve had a few places pull that one (in Paris and in the US.) It’s rude and presumptuous.

  • LIke anywhere in France, always say Bonjour or Bonsoir when entering a restaurant, and when you leave, say Merci. Preferably add a Monseiur or Madame along with it.

  • Many restaurants have ‘deals’ at lunch, or fix-price menus that are often a bargain. Some have them at dinner as well, and they’re generally a good value.

  • Please, do not bring out your hand sanitizer at the table. Do your grooming in the bathroom.

  • No one has doggie bags, so don’t even ask. (Although a friend of mine showed some cleavage and got one. Once.)

  • No one has ice, so don’t even ask. (Ok, well, you might get one or two. Wear something low-cut if you plan to ask.)

Rôtisserie Beaujolais 19 quai des Tournelles, tel 01 43 54 17 47. Grilled and spit roasted meats, and typical French fare. In the 5th. Avoid seats just next to the opening to the oven…it’s très hot and they like to stick out-of-towners there, who they think won’t complain. But I do since they invariably lead me to it. Open Sunday night.

Chez René 14, blvd St. Germain. Tel 01 43 54 30 23. Great French classics. The best Coq au Vin in town, with a sauce as smooth as velvet. If you don’t order the fix-priced menu, be prepared for a lot of food. It’s quite an experience and the cheese plate(s) is/are insane. Dinner menu, approximately 40€. In the 5th. You didn’t hear it from me, but there’s a clear brandy digestive hidden behind the bar…with a snake in it! I haven’t been since there was a recent change of ownership, but I hear the food is still very good.

Cuisine de Bar 8, rue Cherche-Midi (M: Sevres-Babylon), tel 01 45 48 45 69, in the 6th. Open-faced tartines, or sandwiches, served on pain Poilâne, the famed bakery next door. Order the 12€ formule with a salad, tartine (I like the one with sardines and flakes of sea salt, or poulet with anchovies), a glass of wine or bottle of water, café and a spiced cookie. Very casual yet chic. And friendly. No reservations…lunch only. If the wait it long, they’ll often pour you a welcome glass of wine.

L’As du Falafel On 34, rue des Rosiers in the Marais (M: St. Paul), closed Friday night and Saturday for the Jewish holidays. The most famous falafel anywhere! Join the crowd clamoring at the window. No reservations.

For something vegetable-oriented, Chez Marianne in the Marais at 2, rue des Hospitalieres St. Gervais, tel 01 42 72 18 86. Come here for decent Mediterranean salads. You choose a combination plate of 4, 5, or 6 salads. This is a good address to know about if you’re craving something without a lot of meat. Perfect with a bottle of house rosé. Approximately 20€. Reserve, or wait for eternity. Open every day and night, but be aware of the often abrupt servers.

Chez Omar is one of my favorite restaurants in town. Specialties are couscous and they have excellent steak and French fries as well, but I always have the roasted lamb, or méchoui d’agneau. Very lively, no reservations. Open daily for lunch and dinner, as well as Sundays. If you go for dinner, be prepared for a wait after 8:30pm. Don’t let any Parisians cut in front of you! A simple shove with your shoulder, followed by a very apologetic “Oops! Pardon” is usually all it take to get them to recede. Do it firm enough and you’ll only need to do it once. Trust me. Moderate prices, which do seem to keep climbing each time I go. In the 3rd, at 47 rue de Bretagne. (M: Temple or Arts and Metiers)

Another couscous place that’s less-hectic is L’Atlas, with fine Moroccan food. Feathery light couscous and savory tagines. Skip the first courses. Not fancy nor too pricey considering the fine food and gracious service. Dine in the lovely tiled dining room, or outside in fine weather. Located at 12, St. Germaine des Pres. Vegetarians will appreciate the large selection of seafood tagines. Tel 01 44 07 23 66 (M: Maubert-Mutualité), in the 5th.

Bistrot Paul Bert 18, rue Paul Bert, tel 01 43 72 24 01 (M: Faidherbe-Chaligny) Out of the way, but definitely worth going to. I love this restaurant. Some of the best desserts in Paris too. Offers a 3-course fixed menu for 32€. In the 12th.

Les Papilles 30 rue Gay-Lussac, tel 01 43 25 20 79. Wine bar and light, ‘market-fresh’ food. Menu approximately 30€. In the 5th. Nice portions, and cheerful staff.

You can follow along at my Paris Restaurant Archives for more suggestions, as well on the My Paris page.



Related Restaurants and Wine Bars in Paris

Le Rubis

Le Garde Robe

Le Verre Volé

Les Fine Gueules

Café des Musées

French Menu Translation Guide

La Maison du Chocolat

We often take things for granted.
Me, for example. I take things for granted. I get messages from readers, “You’re so lucky! You get to live in Paris!”.

To be honest, it wasn’t like one day back in San Francisco I came home and there was an envelope waiting for me with an airline ticket, an apartment lease, and all the blanks filled in on the paperwork filled for a French visa. It’s a lot of work living in a foreign country; it’s so much easier just to stay ‘home’. So when people say I’m ‘lucky’, I prefer to substitute the term ‘fortunate’, as living in Paris has some challenges as well as its rewards.

But each and every time I step out of my apartment, I’m amazed at the beauty that surrounds us here. Everywhere you look is something special, from the stately place des Vosges to the over-the-top Opera Garnier. Perhaps I’m a dork, but each time I pass something of significance, I stop and take a long, deeply-felt look. There’s fresh bread everywhere too. I can have a buttery croissants, a rich, cream-filled éclair, a yeasty kugelhof, or a scoop of glace Berthillon whenever I want.

(Except on Monday and Tuesday, when Berthillon is closed. Or in July or August. Or on Tuesday and Wednesday, when my bakery with the good croissants is closed. And in August. Although this year it might be July. Or on weekends, when the place I go for kugelhof is baking them. If they’re in the mood, of course. But I won’t know that until I get there. Unless there’s a holiday. Or a strike.)

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Anyhow…I spend a fair amount of time here exploring the chocolate shops, which seem to keep reliable hours. Nowhere in the world is more devoted to chocolate than Paris, and there are really excellent chocolatiers here, who I visit and write about often. But although we’re often excited by what’s new and unusual, sometimes we return to the classics for a reason: the simple fact that they’re really good.

Robert Linxe founded La Maison du Chocolat in 1977. He was a young man from the Basque region, famous for its abundance of chocolate shops, although many are sadly gone. When he opened shop in Paris, M. Linxe distained fillings heavy with nuts, spices and sugar (which had quite a long shelf life), in favor of smooth, creamy (and highly-perishable) ganache, that suave mixture of pure chocolate and heavy cream, which has since become synonymous with fine chocolates that we enjoy today.

Last week we held a private tasting at La Maison du Chocolat for my guests, which reminded me that I had forgotten how absolutely extraordinary their chocolates were, and still are.

Each time I bit into one, I found something new and delicious, wondering how a chocolatier could consistently hit it exactly right with every bite of chocolate. Each one was melting, pillowy-soft, with the true, fresh flavor of whatever M. Linxe had infused.

Zagora is my favorite. A melange of dark chocolate ganache steeped with fresh mint leaves. Bacchus is filled with Smyrna raisins soaked in the best Caribbean dark rum, then flambéed. And a life-changing Andalousie, where just the right amount of grated lemon peel is mixed with the ganache, is resplendent with spritzy lemon oil without a hint of bitterness, tasting remarkably like grated lemon that was zested just moments before.

When I went back a few days after the tasting to personally thank them for their warm and generous hospitality, I was offered a few more chocolates to sample. Not wanting to be rude, I pulled up a seat at the counter and unwrapped Cerise Griotte, a house-made candied sour cherry enrobed in dark chocolate, which exploded in my mouth, a wash of bitter-sweet cherry liquid bathed in alcohol with a thin, dark chocolate coating…it was pure heaven. Before I could even ask, the salesperson came by with a napkin for me to spit out the pit. (Wow, a salesperson that doesn’t argue with you.)

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I felt like I was coming back home, as I’d first discovered chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat what seemed like so long-ago while on vacation a long time ago in Paris. And here I am now, rediscovering them all over again. La maison means home, and I do feel indeed fortunate, and just a bit lucky, that I get to live here.
And that this is home.

La Maison du Chocolat
52, rue François 1er
Tel: 01 47 23 38 25

Other locations across Paris, as well as in London, Tokyo, and New York. All chocolates ordered through the La Maison du Chocolat web site are handmade in their Paris workshop.

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: I just tried the Rigoletto Noir, buttery caramel mousse enrobed in dark chocolate.
Wow…simply sensational.



Related Links:

Papabubble (New York City)

Le Furet Tanrade (Paris)

REGIS Chocolatier (Paris)

Jacques Genin Opens (Paris)

The Pâtisseries of Paris

A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate (Lyon)

Eye Candy (Paris)

Salted Butter Caramels from Henri Le Roux (Brittany)

The Best Paris Guidebook

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Paris is reported to be the most popular tourist destination in the world. Each year people come from all over the world for their vacations. I’m sure they spend months and months making arrangements, searching the internet looking for a charming, affordable hotel, scouring web site for decent airfares, and searching my blog for places to eat.

So after all that, what do most people depend on to get around this most fabulous of all cities? The free maps from Galleries Lafayette that the hotels give out. Not that there’s anything wrong with those maps.

Ok, yes there is.

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Let’s face it, Paris hasn’t changed much in the past 100 or so years or more, and it ain’t gonna be changing much in our lifetime either. So next time you come, on your very first day, stop by a Presse, or newstand, and buy one of these booklets. They cost about 5 to 7 euros, and are available in various sizes and formats. Few Parisians leave the house without this handy little booklet in their handbag or man-purse. It easily slips inside a coat pocket as well.

Mine lists all the outdoor markets in the city by day and location, addresses for all the attractions in Paris, the location of gas stations and taxi stands, where all the big department stores are, schools and universities (ok, you probably don’t need those), and a complete overview and map of the extensive métro system. And the last kicker: you can use it each and every time you come back to Paris. No need to buy a new one.

Related posts and links:

Paris Dining and Travel Guides

My Paris

Two Delicious Dining Guides to Paris

The Pastry Shops of Paris

French Menu Translation, Made Easy

Les Carottes Rapées

You won’t often find much in the way of vegetables on the menus of many cafés in Paris. I don’t mean the over-hyped restaurants with the fancy chef names attached that the slick food magazines tend to worship. There you might find a coin of grilled zucchini, a dot of sauce, and perhaps a leaf of parsley as a carefully-draped garnish. But most of the time, those places are filled with Americans with Zagat guides sticking out of their pockets. What I mean are the places where most Parisians actually eat lunch.

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Many French workers get financial help footing the bill, courtesy of le Ticket Resto, a program that allows employees to buy discount coupons via their employer to dine out. The advantage to that is that it keeps many small restaurants thriving, so most of them offer a prix-fixe menu that anyone’s welcome to enjoy, usually costing less than 15 euros for a 2- or 3-course meal.
Another advantage is that it gives workers time to have a proper lunch with co-workers and friends.

(Sidenote: Having worked in restaurants all my life, I was once at a dinner party and mentioned that I never had a job where I got a true a break. All conversation stopped, forks in mid-air, and everyone turned and looked at me in disbelief. When I left the restaurant business I vowed I would never eat standing up again. And I haven’t!)

What that also means is that the food must be quick and relatively easy to prepare. Menus offer steaks or long-cooked stews, and perhaps a sauteed piece of fish. But since vegetables require washing, peeling, slicing, pre-cooking, and a bit of finesse, it’s quite difficult to find freshly-cooked vegetables on menus of ordinary restaurants. The most popular side dish is les frites; all that’s needed is a quick drop-in-the-deep-fryer, and they’re done. Sadly, most of the time, they’re the pre-frozen frites, which arrive undercooked and insipid. I make it a point to find restaurants with real, honest French fries.
And I go back as much as possible, as a show of support.

Even ratatouille, that famous vegetable dish from Provence is just a big bowl of overcooked, soft vegetables. And please don’t tell me that I haven’t had a good version of ratatouille…I have, and I still don’t like it.

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There is one vegetable dish that’s so popular that it ranks right up there with foie gras and le baguette as classics of modern French cuisine. That’s carottes rapées, a crisp pile of freshly-grated carrots. There’s well-known aversion in France to undercooked vegetables (or as they say, ‘American-style’) and you almost never find raw vegetables offered in Paris.

Corn is always served spooned right from the can onto a salad, or worse, on pizza (with a sunny-side up egg cooked in the middle.) Tiny haricots verts are always cooked until tender. And the little pointed end of the green bean is always removed…and I’ve heard various compelling arguements why.
“C’est indigestable” (I hate lying awake all night trying to digest all the green bean ends I’ve consumed), or “It gets stuck in your teeth” (that is the worst, isn’t it?)

But my favorite reason, “That’s where all the radiation concentrates.”

um, okay…so now like a good Parisian I remove the end of the green bean, or the “boot”, as it’s called.
To limit my exposure to radiation.

Anyhow…les carottes rapées is simply grated carrots tossed in fresh lemon juice, a bit of salt, and sometimes a little olive oil. If you want to get fancy, you can add a bit of chopped flat-leaf parsley. But it’s one of those things, the simpler the better. Simple restaurants like Chartier just toss a plate of carrots at you with a wedge of lemon. Other places arrange les carottes rapées on a plate with tangy celery rémoulade and beets.

I make it often when I’m home by myself, since it’s nice to have something easy to prepare and fresh, and I always seem to have carrots around. I make a plate of carottes rapées, and eat it with a few chunks of Tradigrains baguette from my local boulanger, a nice wedge of soft, fresh, ooaing cheese like a ripe brie de Meaux or a goaty Selles-Sur-Cher, and perhaps a slice of pâte from my local charcuterie.

Here’s my how-to guide for making your own Grated Carrot Salad, French-style.

What is White Chocolate?

Some people love it, and others leave it.

It’s White Chocolate, that controversial melange of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk (more on that later). Often there’s vanilla, or vanillin (a synthetic vanilla-like substance) added as well.

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Many people will say they don’t like white chocolate, citing a preference for the dark side.
“It’s not chocolate!”, you’ll hear.

Well, no, it’s not. It’s different. A different kind of chocolate.

Dark, or bittersweet chocolate, contains cacao mass (the ground beans), sugar, cocoa butter, and sometimes vanilla and lecithin.
White chocolate has none of the cacao mass, hence the delicate, ivory-like color, which it gets from the cocoa butter. Instead it’s rich with cocoa butter, which gives it that suave, subtle taste, that I find compliments dark chocolate desserts and bolder flavors. I make White Chocolate Crème Anglaise and pour the cool custard alongside a dark chocolate cake. Or I steep fragrant fresh mint leaves when making White Chocolate Ice Cream.

Cocoa butter is derived from the chocolate-making process, or more specifically, when cocoa powder is made. To make cocoa powder, roastedcacao beans are ground into a paste, known as chocolate liquor, then the paste is pressed through a powerful hydraulic press, which separates the cocoa mass from the cocoa butter. The cocoa mass comes out as a solid block, which is grated into cocoa powder (which is why cocoa powder is always unsweetened and relatively low-fat) and the soft, rich cocoa butter is extracted. I’ve been to factories and watched the process, and the smell of warm, fat-rich cocoa butter is intoxicating.

The valuable cocoa butter is often sold to the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, since it has the perfect melting point for things like lipstick…and why chocolate melts and releases its complex flavors like nothing else when you pop a piece in your mouth. But it’s also that reason that true white chocolate tastes so good and is loved by many pastry chefs.

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Here’s some tips and facts about white chocolate:

  • Both white and dark chocolates are emulsions. Adding small amounts of liquid, like water or milk, will cause the emulsion to break or seize. Therefore, any milk that’s added to white chocolate must be first either dried into a powder or cooked to a paste, removing the water, before it’s used. So you’ll often find the ingredient ‘milkfat’ on the label.
  • In the United States, white chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa fat.
  • Because white chocolate contains a dairy product, it’s highly perishable. Purchase it in small quantities as needed (unless you’re like me, and use so much you buy it in 5-pound blocks…as shown above.) I make sure to get white chocolate from a reliable source that rotates and checks their stock regularly. Store it in a cool, dark place, but not the refrigerator, since it’s high-fat content makes it a good medium for absorbing other odors…like the stinky camembert in my fridge.
  • White chocolate will keep for up to one year. If you’re unsure if it’s any good, taste it before using (which most of us do when baking with chocolate, right?)
  • Buy only ‘pure’ white chocolate and check to make sure the label reads only ‘cocoa butter’, and no other tropical fats, such as coconut or palm kernel oil.
  • Due to the higher fat and sugar content, white chocolate melts very easily and at a lower temperature than dark chocolate, but more care should be taken when using it. Avoid excessive or direct heat. I like to pour a hot liquid over it and use the heat from that to melt the white chocolate.
  • There’s only a few companies in America that make white chocolate: E. Guittard, Baker’s, and Askinoise. But most of the white chocolate you’ll find is European-made, perhaps since few American bake with white chocolate.
  • White chocolate should never be pure white. Since cocoa butter is ivory-colored, real white chocolate should be off-white as well. Products labeled as ‘white bar’ or ‘white coating’ are often not white chocolate and just tastes plain sugary and should not be used in recipes that call for white chocolate.

Continue Reading What is White Chocolate?…

A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate

Jean-Charles Rochoux has perhaps the tiniest chocolate shop in Paris, located on an unassuming side street off the Rue de Rennes. It’s hard to see and easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But what causes most passers-by to stop are the window displays, filled with intricately-sculpted statues and figures, crafted entirely of chocolate.

M. Rochoux spent many years in the workshop of Michel Chaudun, one of the best chocolatiers in Paris. And indeed, a look around this sleek boutique reveals much inspiration from M. Chaudin, including his version of Colomb, little disks of chocolate studded with cocoa nibs, and Les Pavés, tiny cubes of chocolate ganache that instantly dissolve in your mouth, the lingering pleasure lasting a few precious minutes. Then you decide it’s time for another. I always buy at least six at a time for that reason.

But stacked discretely in the corner are stacks of chocolate bars, and after we had a lengthy discussion on chocolate one day, M. Rochoux handed me a tablet labeled noisettes to take home as a gift. When I got home, I tore open the wrapper and took a bite.
I was completely surprised by what I found inside.

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Each individual roasted hazelnut was coated in crunchy, crackly caramel, then enrobed in the chocolate bar. The contrast of hyper-crisp hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate makes this my new favorite chocolate bar in Paris.

Although I love finding something new, sometimes I have the opportunity to discover something nearly forgotten.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of touring the workshop and chocolate boutique of the world-famous Bernachon, in the city of Lyon.

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Bernachon’s Signature Cake: ‘Le President’

Not only does Bernachon make great chocolates, they actually make the chocolate itself. Let’s say you go to a shop to buy filled chocolates, or bars of chocolate. You’re buying chocolate that the chocolatier has bought (and perhaps mixed to his or her specifications). That’s the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate-maker. There are very few chocolate-makers in the world, only 14 exist in the United States at present. Bernachon is a small shop, but it’s stunning what they’re able to produce.

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Piping ‘Couronne Noisette': Hazelnut and Praline Paste Blended with Milk Chocolate

I love Bernachon chocolate, although it’s nearly impossible to find outside of their shop in Lyon. But what great chocolate it is and it’s certainly worth the 2-hour TGV ride from Paris.

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‘Les Roches’, Just-Dipped in Freshly-Made Dark Chocolate

Their most famous bonbons are the seriously-rich, ganache-filled palets d’Or flecked with bits of real gold. At the shop, they barely have time to keep them in the showcase, as customers come in, the saleswomen fill boxes directly from the decades-old wooden storage trays.

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A Super-Skilled Chocolatier at Bernachon Making Chocolate Ruffles

But when I visit, I stock up on their chocolate bars, which allow me to commune with the pure chocolate all by my lonesome. I like the Nuit et Jour, the Night and Day bar, where one side is bittersweet dark chocolate. Flip it over, the reverse is smooth milk chocolate. Moka is made by grinding roasted coffee beans along with cocoa beans for a double-buzz, and Extra Amer is a super-dark bar of chocolate with very little sugar. It’s bliss for some, and too intense for others.I fall into the first category. But my absolute favorite is Kalouga.

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Kalouga is a rather funny name for a chocolate bar. It’s the Basque word for ‘Caramel’ (any scholars of the Basque language out there?) But I found the Basque word for tasty, gustagarri, and that’s what this is. I first tasted one of these bars about 5 years ago, but was dismayed to find they stopped making it since. Too much of the luscious caramel would begin oozing out after the tablets were made and it was problematic to store them.

But I kept asking them to make them, and word got back to them that there was an American living in Paris who was insane for them. And lo and behold, they’re back in production! (Yes, that was the story I was told…whether or not I believe it is another story…)
Either way, you may thank me later…once you’ve tried one.

Once you bite inside, the gooey salted caramel immediately begins spilling out, and it’s hard not to eat the whole thing at once. If you’re the generous type, I recommend opening it when you have a bunch of friends over to share the bounty.

Otherwise, you can just eat the whole thing yourself.

Guess which I did?

Jean-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Paris
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45

Bernachon
42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt
Lyon
Tél: 04 78 52 67 77
Lyon

(Bernachon chocolate bars are available in Paris at A l’Etoile d’Or.)

An Open Apology

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To Whoever This May Concern:

I apologize for stealing your Sharpie® during my current book tour. As you can see, I couldn’t help it.

It started with the one I borrowed when booksigning in Virginia. But somewhere between there, and San Francisco, my obsession went horribly wrong.

But you see, we don’t get Sharpies® in France. And I just couldn’t resist yours.

Your Sharpie® was so new and so very alluring with that perfectly tapered ink-filled tip.

So round.
So firm.
So plump.

Yes, I kept promising myself, “David…make this the last one!”

But one thing led to another. And another Sharpie® found its way into my pocket.

Then another.

But I will make sure that your Sharpie® has a nice, cozy, and safe place in Paris.
I apologize for an inconvenience this may have caused you.

Thank you for your understanding.

Yours truly,

David Lebovitz