Results tagged France from David Lebovitz

The Black Truffle Extravaganza

big-ass truffle

When I was in Cahors, I had dinner with a French woman who teaches English. She told me one of the biggest differences between English and French is that in English, we often use a lot of words to mean one thing. And not all of them make sense. I’ve never really thought about it all that much, but she was right; we do tend to use a lot of expressions and words where one, or a few, might suffice.

black, black truffles

“Hang a left”, “Hide the sausage”, and “Beat the rap” are a few phrases that come to mind because another day during my trip, someone was giving driving directions to a French driver, and he didn’t understand why one would “hang” a turn. (The other two phrases didn’t come up during the week, which was both good and unfortunate. And not necessarily in that order.)

But we Anglophones do have to use quite a few words to mean one thing. “That wooden tool that you use to spread crêpe batter on a griddle” is called, simply, a “râteau“.

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The Truffle Market in Lalbenque

Even though we live in a globalized world, I’m always surprised by how many people want to make or eat anything, and everything, no matter where they live. Whether or not it makes sense.

truffle basket at market red basket of truffles

Take Parisian macarons. In the last year or so, they’ve become the new cupcake and not a week goes by when I don’t get a message about someone freaking out and wondering why the top of someone’s batch of macarons cracked, or where someone can get real, honest-to-goodness French macarons in Podunk.

marche aux truffes

Like a Parisian baguette or a croissant, if you want any of those things, you should just come to Paris and have it. If you want Texas chili, you should go to Texas. If you’re craving Kentucky fried chicken, well, then you should go to Kentucky.

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Truffle Hunting

truffle hunting scene

It’s not all fun and frolic—and chocolate—around here. Aside from dealing with banks that limit access to your own money, or scratching your head when the France Telecom representative tells you that it’s going to cost you a mere €465 to keep your mobile number if you change to another one of their other phone plans (although it was a stretch to even get there; his first response was, “Yes. It is not possible”), believe it or not, there are some less-than-pastoral things about life here.

truffle hunter's hands

One of them is not Tuber melanosporum, or black truffles, which as far as I’m concerned more than makes up for anything else. (Well, I would like a new phone…)

Sure, various black truffles are found in Spain, Italy, China, Croatia, and even in the United States of America. But none that I’ve smelled compare to the famed black truffles unearthed from woods and forests of southwest France. Rien du tout.

truffes du Quercy pig

When I worked in the restaurant business, we’d often get knobbly black truffles sent to us, which were shaved over simple dishes like pasta, potatoes, and risottos; anything more complicated competes with their funky, pungent, but highly-prized aroma. People go ga-ga over truffles, but I never caught the truffle bug, which was excellent news for my wallet.

searching for black truffles

On my recent trip to Cahors, we went for a walk in the forest with a truffle hunter—and his boisterous pig, in search of black truffles. And it was there I learned how they work together to find these elusive tubers.

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Kir Menu

recommended aperitifs

Maybe we shouldn’t count out le Kir quite yet. (# 2).

Although I’ll take a pass on one spiked with violet, or à la rose.



Tse & Tse Sale!

scrambled invite

The odd-looking thing arrived in my mailbox recently, and I had no idea what it was.

So I spent some time spinning the wheel around and around, and around and around. And around and around.

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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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Health Care Tips for Travelers to France

pharmacy in Paris

I recently spoke at Bloom Where You’re Planted, a program intended to introduce newcomers to the sometimes perplexing differences of life abroad. I stayed after my talk for a seminar on French health care. While I was familiar with some of the information, some of you might not be, especially those who are traveling to Paris.

This post includes numbers to call and places to go if you need medical attention. Of course, nothing here is meant to be construed as medical advice and you should always speak to your personal health care provider, who can advise you on the most appropriate actions in the event of an emergency or if you have a health-related question.

France has excellent health care and it is open to all. Care is not rationed out and you are guaranteed care regardless of your ability to pay or pre-existing condition.

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Antiquing Outside of Paris

I’m sure I’ve caused more than my share of near automobile accidents when I see a signpost by the edge of a road pointing towards a brocante or Depot Vente. After slamming on the brakes, I do a San Francisco-style U-turn, backing up to head into the parking lot.

(The week I moved to San Francisco, my roommates, who were natives, told me; “Whenever you see a parking space, no matter what you have to do to get it—do it.”)

coffee bowls my coffee bowls

Aside from parking spots, I can’t pass by a promising antique store without stopping everything. And there’s plenty of them dotted throughout France. Not all of them are great, but once you’re out of Paris, the prices drop by at least half, and once safely parked, I race inside in search of bargains.

If you go to La Chiffonière, near Coulommiers, don’t expect to buy those four blue café au lait bowls, because they’re sitting in my kitchen cabinet.

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