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.
Results tagged fromage from David Lebovitz
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.
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.
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.
But then again, I don’t even normally order soup in restaurants. So what do I know?
One of my biggest, deepest-darkest secrets is that a few times a year, I buy a frozen pizza. I used to do it on the sly, but lately I’ve even got so brazen that I’ll go out and do it in broad daylight. I am sure after my goings on about the popularity of frozen foods in France that I was going to get busted one day standing in line, clutching an icy box containing a pizza jambon speck, roquette, mozarella at the frozen foods store. Yet so far I’ve escaped detection.
But it’s not the fin du monde and everyone has the right to enjoy a frozen pizza once in a while, right? I used to make homemade pizza a lot more when I lived in California since it’s a simple thing to make, and you can turn out a couple at a time and eat the leftovers later. They reheat so nicely but for those of us who are impatient, it’s nice to know that cold pizza makes a great breakfast, too.
(And we used to take home leftover pizza dough at the end of the night when I worked in the restaurant, so it was especially easy to roll ‘n bake a pizza on your day off.)
I just got a copy of Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan, a nifty book full of recipes for cooking for one. Joe came to Paris a few years ago and like everyone who meets him, I was charmed off my pieds by his graceful intelligence and instant friendliness, and we ended up sharing a couple of meals together.
The last time Peggy Smith, co-owner of Cowgirl Creamery, came to Paris, we did some cheese tasting and shopping. We’d worked together at Chez Panisse for many years and she’s one of my favorite people—ever, and I wish she’d come visit more often. As we roamed a salon de dégustation of cheese, looking around at all the astounding cheeses from France (as well as a couple of beauties from Ireland, England, and Italy as well), I said to her; “What is the one cheese you would tell someone from the United States that they absolutely should try while in France, which is not available in America?”
A Swiss local in Lausanne was the first to tell me about Café Romand, “It’s one of those places where – and how do you say it? – those men who are very pretty, that sometimes dress as women, go. You would like it!”
I’m still trying to figure out what that means because no one’s every called me “pretty”, and my only experience wearing women’s clothing was trying on my mother’s Emilio Pucci pumps (how could I not?) when I was around eight years old.
When I was at Macheret Fromage in Vevey, Switzerland, I noticed stacks of perfectly piped meringues, piled up to ceiling. I wondered why a cheese shop would have so many meringues? It wasn’t until I headed way up in the alps, to the Maison de l’Etivaz, where a Swiss traveling companion said – “Ooooh, La Gruyère double cream is very good. But very, very dangerous.”
I have a bad habit of reading cookbooks while I’m eating, if I’m alone at home. I like flipping through the pages and looking at pictures, but the downside is that too often I get so excited about a recipe that I don’t even finish dinner and head over to the kitchen and start pulling out the tubs of flour and sugar. To avoid malnutrition, I finally decided that I should just bookmark recipes that look interesting to me and get back to them later.
Quite a while back, I’d bookmarked the recipe for Galettes au Roquefort in Mastering the Art of French Cooking just because these finger-sized crisps sounded so good and the recipe looked so darned simple. Plus I loved the idea of crisp, savory biscuits with the sharp tang of blue cheese in them. Unfortunately I now have a rather imposing stack of cookbooks with recipes bookmarked in them, and as the stack grew, this one moved farther and farther down the pile.