Results tagged France from David Lebovitz

Champagne, Reims, and Veuve Clicquot

Champagne cave

I was perched on the fence, whether to say yes to staying home to work, and no to Champagne. And, well, I guess I don’t need to tell you that I simply could not fight the battle of the bubbly. And so I headed out for a quick day and night in Reims, where Champagne is made.

Demi-sec Champagne
Veuve Clicquot riddling rack

Fortunately the city of Reims is just a quick 45 minutes from Paris and I was invited to the region to eat, drink, and, well…I won’t tell you what else I did. But it involved a long, hot, much-appreciated bath, and a rest on the adjacent canapé.

Nothing like a couch in your bathroom

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L’Épicerie Breizh Café

Breizh salted butter caramels

Sometimes I think I am living in the wrong département of France. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be able to walk out my door and get a baguette Parisienne or a sachet of les macarons, libremente (freely). But Breton food is all the flavors I crave: buckwheat, honey, sardines, oysters, fleur de sel, seaweed, and sparkling apple cider. Oh yes, and butter.

Bordier Butter

The popular Breizh Café in Paris has expanded into the space next door, creating an épicerie, featuring the best products from Brittany.

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French weekend

fig

Like New Yorkers, Parisians swear they would never live anywhere else. But once the summer – or the weekend – rolls around, everyone can’t wait to make a sortie toward the nearest exit.

leaving paris

After fighting the usual traffic to get out of the périphérique, we took an exit and were shortly in the countryside, where the skies are big and clear, you’re surround by wheat fields and rows of sugar beets, and you can feel yourself unwinding as soon as you roll down your window and catch a whiff of the fresh air.

charcuterie

We wanted to extract every last bit from summer, before the fall weather kicked in. And figured it was our last chance to put on casual garb, sit around while watching the leaves getting ready to drop, and to catch up on some reading. And, of course, eat.

baguette

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Ice

ice water

My new refrigerator has an ice maker. After living in Paris for close to ten years, I’ve kind of gotten used to not having ice-on-demand. And when out and about, I’m now used to being served drinks with just one puny ice-cube bobbing sadly on the surface of a tepid drink. So now, when I go back to the states, I’m always a little overwhelmed by the oversized glasses filled to the brim with brisk, frosty, cracklin’ ice cubes. Because I’ve rounded the corner of converting to some of the European habits (although the 5hr cycle on my dishwasher still baffles me – what the heck is going on in there?) I sometimes have to slip into that “Can I have water with no ice, please?” mode, which pegs me squarely in the minds of American waitpeople as one of “those” customers.

But the glacial movement that’s spread across North America doesn’t seem to be reserved just for France; it seems that there is a European conspiracy against the chilly beasts. One I got used to no ice, I really stopped giving ice much thought. But when visitors come, they would always want me to ask the café waiter for some extra ice for their drinks. Then the glass of ice arrives, with a long spoon, which they shovel into their drinks, scraping the bottom of the glass so as not to miss one single drop of the still-cold water.

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Aux Tonneaux des Halles

steak frites

Every once in a while, it hits me: I need steak-frites. It’s an infrequent indulgence, but when I do have it, I like my steak with a crisp exterior, pan-seared until saignant (medium-rare), with a large pile of real frites. Most my French friends like their beef bleu, which is close to uncooked, and if you order it that way, when you cut into your steak, it’s raw in the center. (My other half will ask for bleu froid, or “cold” in the middle.) I don’t mind raw beef in carpaccio or tartare, but it’s not really my thing to attack a large block of nearly uncooked meat.

Another difference is that American beef tends to be aged and easier to cut, and I’ve learned to only buy beef from a very good butcher in Paris because the difference if phenomenal. In restaurants, sometimes you’ll be served a piece of French beef that slices nicely, and other times you’re faced with something that even the best steak knife – and sharpest incisors – might have trouble ripping into.

telephoneNos assiettes
red wine at barsteak frites

So I tend to be fairly choosy about where I eat beef. Many of the classic Parisian bistros have been scooped up by restaurant chains, so there’s a dwindling number of places where you can find steak-frites done right in this town. But at Aux Tonneaux des Halles, honest bistro fare is still offered, with the daily menu scribbled on the chalkboards. And if you’re looking for a traditional steak-frites, done right, this is the place to get it.

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How I Eat

poulet roti

For some reason, people are obsessed with what I eat and weigh and I get a lot of messages that say things like “How do you stay so thin?” or “How can you eat all that amazing food and stay in shape?” It’s not really something that I’m all that concerned about and not something I pay all that much attention to. And as much as I’d like to, I don’t start the day gorging on platters of croissants, then spend the rest of day wolfing down cakes, pastries, and chocolates. People come in different shapes and sizes. I know people who eat well and exercise, that are not necessarily svelte, and I know people who eat whatever they want and are rail-thin. (And according to CDC calculations, I’m overweight.) And I try to make it a point not to preach about how to eat, but just present recipes that I like, which are how I eat and feed guests.

Because I live in France, there’s a fascination with the French “diet” as well, and I frequently get asked about how they miraculously manage to keep the weight off while seemingly enjoying all the rich food in France. A few hints: They don’t snack between meals, portions are smaller, they smoke, diet sodas are popular, and they don’t delight in “extreme eating.” However that’s changing as well in France and they’re catching up to their friends across the Atlantic in terms of putting on the pounds – or kilos.

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Lamb Melons

melon d'agneau

I was walking down the Avenue Trudaine the other morning, on the way to Kooka Boora for yet another coffee, and they were setting up for the small afternoon market there. Most of the markets in Paris take place in the mornings, which means that people who work don’t get to go to the market except on weekends, when the outdoor markets can resemble the trading floor of a stock exchange. So it’s nice that a few of the markets in the city are open in the afternoons and early evenings, to accommodate those people.

The Marché d’Anvers is a rather compact market, with a few fish stalls, a bread stand, and some vegetables. There is also a butcher that has a very, very long refrigerated counter, which I scanned. I don’t know all that much about meat but I like to look at it. (And, yes, the swarthy butchers are often worth scanning as well and unlike other vendors at the market, women seem to be particularly attracted to them. And even the most reserved Frenchwoman seems to get reduced to a smitten schoolgirl when it’s their turn with the butcher.) When I reached the end of the showcase, I noticed a pile of something called Melons d’agneau.

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Kooka Boora Café

coffee at Kooka boora in Paris

I don’t usually venture out Sunday mornings because after years in the food business, I’ve learned that the one day I was sure not to be working would be Sunday. (I’d eventually made it my sole criteria when choosing where I’d work that I’d only work in places that were not open on Sunday, or for breakfast). I also didn’t think that it was fair that I should inflict myself on others before mid-day. And when I first moved to France, I was happy that only markets were open on Sunday, although I was a little vexed to find out that every store and shop was closed – until I got hip to what a good idea it was since it forced everyone in town to relax and loosen up for a day.

I’ve been dying to try some of the new “good” coffee places that have opened up in Paris but since I don’t drink coffee later in the afternoon (the disadvantage of a lifetime of working nights are persistent sleep issues) the idea of crossing town for an afternoon cup wasn’t in the cards. However since it was Sunday morning and the rest of the city was barely waking up, and I saw the sun finally shining outside, I took a leisurely hike up the barren streets and boulevards near Montmartre to Kooka Boora, for a cup of Australian coffee.

Kooka Boora coffee in Paris

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