Results tagged Marais from David Lebovitz

A Very Good Steak frites in Paris

Café des Musées

I’m not the only one who is sometimes confounded by the French language. We recently had lunch at Café des Musées and my (French) partner ordered the entrecôte. Which I was eyeing on the menu, as I always do. But since I just finished a holiday food binge of epic proportions (plus a recent trip to San Francisco, where I gorged on tortillas, chow fun, and burritos), I decided to be a little more prudent and order the daily chalkboard special, a game dish that came with a salade de saison.

Café des Musées

Americans have an interesting relationship with steaks and beef: Before ordering, most people want to know what cut they’re going to get. Fair enough, as the French have their own specific cuts, such as bavette, onglet, rumsteack, and faux filet, among others. Much to visitors chagrin, they don’t all necessarily correspond to American or British (or other) cuts of beef that visitors are used to.

And although Americans are used to eating a wider swath of foods than we’re given credit for, most of us want to know exactly what is coming when we order our food: we want to know how it’s going to be cooked, what it’s going to be served with, if there is sauce with it – and often, if we can modify it in some way, and if we can take the rest home if we don’t finish it all.

Beef cuts France

(Since cuts of beef aren’t my area of specialty, I’ve been know to carry around a diagram of a cow with the French beef cuts denoted, showing which cut comes from where, and let them fend for themselves. Yet sometimes the menu or chalkboard descriptions are a little obtuse, like pièce du boucher or morceau de bœuf, which are “selection of the butcher” and “piece of beef”, respectively, which prompts a lot of questions. And for those times, I usually excuse myself to use the restroom and come back after they’ve ordered. Which I hope doesn’t make me a bad friend.)

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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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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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Jacques Genin

Paris-Brest from Jacques Genin

I first met Jacques Genin a number of years ago when he was (somewhat famously) working out of a battered storefront, on an uninteresting street deep in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.

chocolates at Jacques Genin

I say “famously” because as he became quite a bit better known, many folks learning about him through Mort Rosenblum’s book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Light and Dark. And subsequently, people started gathering outside his workshop door with the one-way mirror, which allowed him to decide whether he wanted to open the door or not. I think I was too timid to give it a try on my first go-around and after pacing at the end of the block for a while, I ended up leaving.

jacques genin lime tart filling

If nothing else, longevity has its rewards and eventually I made it past that mirrored door and into his workshop. It was rather tight in there, to say the least. In order for someone to walk past you, you had to back up and get out of the way while someone held a tray of just-dipped chocolates high in the air, sidestepping someone else walking the other way with a tray of hot nougat.

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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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Clasico Argentino: Argentinian Helado in Paris

ice cream

I’ve come to realize that I’m not very good at ‘watching’. When I worked in the restaurant business, one of my cohorts said to me one day – “There are two types of chefs: doers and watchers.” Meaning that some chefs got right into the cooking with the line cooks, while others like to stand there and watch. I, myself, could be classified as a doer because I’m like I’m a shark: If I don’t keep moving, I’ll wither away.

I’ve kind of had my fill of watching and waiting, so instead of continuing to wither away, I decided to take matters into my own hands and deal with what I could control. This week the weather took a turn for the better in Paris; it’s always one day when the bleak weather suddenly changes and we revel in the hope that the cold snap of winter is behind us.

Everyone on the sidewalks of Paris is a little stunned to see the sunlight, almost walking around in a daze (including the number of people who refused to get out of my way when I was struggling to carry an iron pipe down the sidewalk and as a consequence, almost walked right into the butt of a massive metal pipe) but within a few hours, all the café terraces are packed – and not just with the usual fumeurs – but everyone craning their necks, trying to catch a little wedge of sunshine.

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Poilâne

pain Poilâne

I don’t think about this so much anymore, but one of the reasons I moved to Paris is that I could, whenever I wanted to, go to Poilâne and buy myself nice chunk of pain Poilâne. Just like that. Although I’m from San Francisco where there are quite a number of excellent bread bakeries, there’s something special about the bread at Poilâne – it has a certain flavor, just the right tang of sourdough, dark and husky but with an agreeable légèreté that makes it the perfect bread for sandwiches, to accompany cheese, or as I prefer it, as morning toast with little puddles of salted butter collecting in the irregular holes and a thin layer of bitter chestnut honey drizzled all over it.

Pain Poilâne

A week after I moved to Paris, a friend and I were invited to lunch with Monsieur Poilâne and his wife. Both were lovely people and Monsieur Poilâne was animated and still excited about the bakery he’d owned seemingly forever, which was (and still is) considered the best bread in the world. (I’ve never met a bread baker who didn’t use Monsieur Poilâne’s pain au levain as a reference point for excellence.) He took out a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote down a list of places that he wanted to take me, which I thought was odd – yet rather generous – since the man had just met me.

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Candelaria

tacos

Luis Rendón is my new favorite person in Paris. And the guy who makes the tortillas is my second favorite (I suppose if I got his name, he might be the first.) But it’s Luis behind the great Mexican fare at Candelaria, a narrow slip of a place in the upper Marais that serves authentic Mexican food.

adding masa hefting tortilla dough

Lately there’s a new openness, a willingness to try something new in Paris, and to take other cuisines seriously. When I moved here nearly a decade ago, the Japanese restaurants on the rue Saint Anne were nearly empty and never, ever in a million years (or even ten years, for that matter) would I have imagined that there would be several excellent Mexican restaurants to choose from in several neighborhood.

But here we are right now, and it’s encouraging to see them not filled with folks from elsewhere hoping for a taste of home, but young people happily slurping udon or soba, and yes, even picking up burritos and jamming them in their craw. (Although I still don’t have to worry much about having to share my hot sauce with other diners in the vicinity. Except for my friend Fréderic, who can easily outdo me in burrito and taco consumption. Good lord, can that man eat.)

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