Results tagged honey from David Lebovitz

Al Bohsali: Middle Eastern Pastries

arab pastries

It’s too bad that so many people are only familiar with Middle Eastern pastries that aren’t so well made. If you sample them far from where they originate, often they’re made with old or stale nuts, they’ve sat around too long in plastic packages, or the cheeses aren’t exactly fresh. While it’s true that some of them can be a bit sticky-sweet for Western tastes, but when they’re made correctly, they’re just as lovely to look at as they are to eat.

semolina pastry

At Al Bohsali in Beirut, all the pastries are made on the premises. As you get ready to sip your coffee, you can gaze at all the lovely pastries resting in a shiny glaze, presented in wide stainless-steel trays on the counter. Then make yourself a little plate to try a few, which I was happy to do.

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Food Gifts to Bring French People from America

Dandelion chocolate

Even though globalization has made things pretty available everywhere, and things like Speculoos spread and Fleur de sel can now be found in America, it hasn’t always worked quite the same the other way around. Some American things haven’t made it across the Atlantic and people often think that Americans subsist on junk food because at the stores that cater to expats, and in the “American aisle” at the supermarket, there are things like Strawberry Fluff (which I keep explaining to them that that’s something I’ve never seen in America), boxed macaroni & cheese, caramel-flavored microwave popcorn, bottled salad dressings, and powdered cheesecake mix, which I think I find scarier than they do.

And while there’s nothing wrong with a pour of ranch dressing or a Fluffernutter every now and then (although hold the strawberry-flavor..), those are not exactly the best that America has to offer. I often get asked by folks in the states what kind of things people from America they should bring to their French friends or hosts. And while it’s tempting to bring them something amusing like chocolate cake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese, they don’t see the same humor mixed with nostalgia in them that we do. (And yup, they have boxed cake mixes here too, so they’re not novel.) Peanut butter is also dicey; while we in America devour it, many French folks have an aversion to the flavor of it. Space is also at a premium so while it’s fun to think how delighted they would be to get a 2-gallon drum of “French” salad dressing or red licorice whips from the warehouse store, you’re probably better off devoting that luggage space to something that they’ll actually use and eat.

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French Honey

french honey

I had to put a moratorium on jam-making this year because I realized I had enough jam to last a normal person, who doesn’t have a French partner, at least ten years. (I’m not naming any names, but one Frenchman in particular can go through half a jar at one breakfast alone.) But one thing I can’t make is honey, in spite of the fact that I am certainly capable of giving a nasty sting every once in a while. It wasn’t until I moved to France that I fell in love with the stuff.

When I led tours, I’d bring guests to honey shops and people would just kind of look around – or look over me, perhaps wondering when we were getting to the chocolate – as I started to explain fabulous wonders of French honey. And am not sure how convincing I was, but since I have a captive audience here (don’t touch that mouse!), as well as a cabinet-full of the stuff, I decided that as I started to clean out my honey larder, I’d also come clean about my love for the stuff.

Various honeys are said to have various properties. I don’t sit down to breakfast and think about all the polyhydroxy phenols and bioflavonoids, or how my body is going through phagocytosis or endocytosis while I eat my toast and sip my orange juice and wonder how the heck I’m going to make it through another day. (And I have nothing against polyhydroxy pheols or phagocytosis, it’s just that they’re not popular topics at my breakfast table.) On the whole, I eat pretty healthy stuff and am not one to think about the health benefits of food. I don’t need justification, ie: antioxidants, to eat chocolate. I just eat it – and thinking that you’re going to get healthy from eating cheesecake because you put a tablet of vitamin C in it is kind of ridiculous, if you ask me. So geez, just eat!

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Hot Mulled Wine – Vin chaud

Hot Mulled Wine

Yes, it’s winter in Paris. And while the temperature drops, folks move inside the cafés to escape the cold, except the hearty smokers, who are seemingly immune to the chill outside while they puff away on les terrasses. And while we’re all bundled up, shivering on the sidewalks as we go about our days, on café chalkboards are scrawled the words: Vin chaud.

Vin chaud (hot mulled wine) is somewhat of an anomaly in a country where wine is revered, as the idea of “heated wine”, infused with spices, is a curious paradox. I was never big on the idea myself, and preferred my wine straight up (except for rosé, on ice), but during the bitingly cold winter in Paris, I can see the appeal of the warm soothing drink, tinged with the spices of winter.

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Turkey Melon

turkey melon

Not long ago, I mentioned the Lamb Melons I saw at a butcher stand at the Marché d’Anvers in Paris. Since it’s an afternoon market, I thought it might be fun to mosey over there at my leisure and pick one up for Sunday lunch. However I was surprised to see the market completely packed. Since there are less than a few dozen stands, it’s not surprising I suppose. Plus we had a holiday weekend ahead of us.

french radishesAnvers French market Paris
potato chipscherry tomatoes

I did my usual quick scan of everything and found the produce selection rather limited, although there were a few interesting things here and there. I picked up a musty-looking Selles–sur-Cher goat cheese from a woman who makes her own goat cheeses, and each one was sold by how ‘ripe’ you want it.

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Pickled Radishes

radishes

It always curious to me, when I see “French breakfast radishes” in the states. I know that’s the name for them, according to seed packets and so forth. Or perhaps it’s just in my particular circles. But I’ve never seen anyone offer – or even eat – French ‘breakfast’ radishes for breakfast in France.

Still, the French do eat a lot of radishes. (In fact, they were one of the first things I wrote about on the site after I arrived in Paris.) And with good reason: their radishes are excellent. And because radishes are so popular, they’re often sold in bunches of two at a slightly more attractive price than if you were to buy just one. Radishes in France are often two-toned numbers, glowing red at the stem end, and ruddy white by the thread-like roots.

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10 Ideas for Food Trucks in Paris

Pierre Hermé Truck

Aside from a few crêpe stands here and there, Paris isn’t a city known for street food. And malheureusement, that Pierre Hermé truck isn’t open for business…although wouldn’t that be nice.

(However if it was, I would probably race around my house in search of spare change every time I heard it coming toward me, like I did when the Good Humor ice cream truck approached when I was a kid. Or haranguing my poor mother to dig furiously through her purse to dig up 40 cents for a toasted coconut ice cream bar to calm down her semi-hysterical child.)

Sure, come mid-day, the sidewalks of Paris are packed with people scarfing down les sandwichs (sic), which seem to have taken over as the lunch of choice in Paris. It’s nice to see the crowds and lines at the local bakeries, but it’s sad to see the long(er) lines at Subway sandwich shops, which I suspect are because people are craving a little creativity with what’s between the bread. And while the one Subway sandwich I had in my life was inedible – I didn’t realize you could screw up a sandwich…until then – I think the locals are fascinated by the varieties offered. Plus they’re made-to-order, and served warm.

The French do have versions of les ventes ambulantes, such as the pizza trucks parked alongside the roads in the countryside and there are the gorgeous spit-roasted chickens sold at the markets and butcher shops in Paris. But recently an American launched a roving food truck in Paris to staggering success, and a second one followed her lead. And judging from the line-up, it’s mostly French folks angling for a bite to eat.

While I’m happy for my fellow compatriots, and I love a good burger as much as the French seem to (judging from the crowds), I can’t help thinking how kooky it is that American cooks get to have all the fun, and some French cooks might want to get in on the action. Here’s a few ideas I’ve been thinking about…

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Comme à Lisbonne

pasteis de nata

I remember with curiosity, walking by Comme à Lisbonne shortly after it opened. The shop was merely a tiny storefront that featured Pastéis de nata, the famous tartlets from Portugal that are often served by the platter since it’s often not possible to stop after eating just one. Interestingly, a number of bakeries in Paris do make pastéis de nata – some good, some just okay – but I don’t usually order them, preferring to stick to something French. But I was lunching with a friend in the Marais, and she’s a big fan of these Portuguese custard tarts, so I suggested we stop in for a taste.

We each took one of the two low stools and sat down, ordering a couple of coffees. (I noticed a clean, well cared-for coffee machine, which is an encouraging sign in Paris.) Then we were each handed a warm little tartlet. Taking my first bite was a revelation; I’d had the pastries in Lisbon and remember liking them a lot, but the ones at Comme à Lisbonne just might give any French pastry a run for its money.

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