Results tagged supermarket from David Lebovitz

Le cottage

cottage cheese

If you live in the United States, you probably are going to want to scratch your head at this one. Because it’s about something very common back there, otherwise known as le cottage here in France. Yes, it’s true. I used to take cottage cheese for granted. You could pick up a large tub of it in any grocery store, because somehow, it’s become a fixture in American dairy aisles along with fresh milk (sold by the gallon jugs with handles, which after living with slender liter bottles of milk for so long, seem absolutely gargantuan), yogurt, sour cream, and other creamy goodies.

I used to eat cottage cheese fairly regularly and fell into the ‘large curd’ camp. As some of you might know, there’s the small-curd and the large-curd people, and I like the bigger soft, pillowy blobs of cheese, which rest in their milky liquid, waiting for my spoon to plow into the container and spoon them out. Then there’s the full-fat, low-fat, and non-fat people, but at this point in my life, it’s all moot due to where I live.

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10 Goofy Foods You’ll Find in a French Supermarket

mes 4 croissants opening croissant

1. Mes 4 Croissants

Poppin’ fraîche has gone global and even with over 1200 bakeries in Paris, why would anyone bother walk all the way across the street to get a fresh, buttery croissant in the morning, that only costs 90 centimes, when you can simply unroll a package of doughy crescents and never slip out of that comfy peignoir de bain? For all you lazy types out there, I took a bullet for you and tried them out.

And speaking of taking bullets, when I peeled back the first layer of the package, the dough exploded with a startlingly loud pop, which so shocked me that I jumped as the dough quickly expanded as it burst from its tight confines. I almost had a crise cardiaque.

rolling croissants

The ingredient list was nearly as wordy as the instructions but the upside is that I learned a few words to add to my French vocabulary, such as stabilisant and agent de traitement de la farine. (Margarine, I already knew). As they baked, my apartment took on the oddly alluring scent of the métro stations equipped with “bakeries” that “bake” croissants this way, whose buttery odors may – or may not – be a result of some sort of traitement.

unrolling croissant dough  croissants

One thing I often have to remind people is just because something is in French, like croissant or macaron (or elementary school lunch menus), doesn’t mean it’s a good version of that item. Just like one could conceivably call a hot pocket of dough with some warm stuff in the middle a calzone, after ripping off an end of one of the soft, spongy crescents, in the words of the late, great Tony Soprano..with all due respects, I’ll stick with the croissants pur beurre from my local bakery. Even if I have to put on something other than my bathrobe in the morning to get them.

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Milk from Here

lait

There is an interesting emergence of things that are ‘green’ or écologique, in Paris. Words like commerce, responsable, équitable, éthique, durable and solidaire are being seen on more and more products in supermarkets, and even on some restaurant menus these days. Paris has two popular organic markets and discount grocery stores are now offering products like bio (organic) crème fraîche, butter, and pasta. And the city even has an official to preside over sustainable development and ecological initiatives.

(Although no one has asked me, I’m sure quite a few trees could be saved if there wasn’t so much paperwork to fill out, photocopy in triplicate, classify, then re-classify, around here.)

The forward-thinking action that got the most press internationally was the Vélib’ bike program. The program still has a few kinks to work out, though, most notably the costs and excessive vandalism: a recent article in Paris Magazine estimates that the annual upkeep for the program is €20 million and if the roving bands of repairmen were to stop fixing them, there would be no operable bikes in Paris within ten days.

As a user of the program, I think it’s pretty great, considering that they had to reconfigure a good portion of the city, and some attitudes around here, to accommodate it. Yet in spite of the obstacles, it has survived the initial grousing by drivers and other naysayers. And the bikes, along with various other initiatives that have been applied by the local government, has helped to reduce pollution in Paris by approximately 30%.

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Biscoff Spread (Speculoos à Tartiner)

speculoos cream

I don’t have conclusive proof, but I’m going to say it anyways: the cashiers at my local Monoprix are perhaps the least pleasant people in all of France. I once needed to use their photo machine for some documents, which required a €5 note. So after waiting in two lines, asking two different cashiers to change a €20, they both refused. So I went downstairs to the supermarket and bought some groceries, which totaled something like €9.68.

When the cashier handed me back a €10, I politely requested 2 fives, mentioning that I needed one to use their photo machine. When she refused, I asked her why. And she snapped back, “Because I don’t have any change!” So I walked to the end of the counter where I could get a pretty clear view of her her cash box brimming with bills. Even though she had a sizable wad of €5 notes stacked up in there, if I wanted to change, I had to go back upstairs to the one particular register that is equipped to give change.

After waiting behind four customers, which I won’t tell you how long that took, when it was my turn, I handed over the €10, asking for 2 fives.

When she said, “What for?”…it took every gram of patience for me not to say, “So I don’t strangle you.”

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Spring Things

spring flowers

Stop the Insanity!

Michael Ruhlman pointed out the absurdity of sugar becoming the new “ok food”, as reported by the New York Times. The interesting thing about getting older is that you see how foods go out of fashion, then invariably come back.

In my life, I’ve been through warnings about sugar, margarine vs butter, salt, white flour, fat, trans fats, tropical fats, chocolate, eggs, corn syrup, and carbohydrates.

I can’t agree with Michael more: if you want to be sure you’re eating correctly, cut out as many processed foods as you can. You don’t need to wait for the latest medical study to tell you what to eat. (Which will invariably be negated by a contradictory study a few years later anyways.) I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but swilling soda isn’t good for you, sugar or no sugar.

No, not everyone is going to be able to cook a freshly-laid farm egg over an open fire in their kitchen. I know I can’t. But it’s pretty easy to eat decently no matter where you live. To eat well, one needn’t need to live near a greenmarket. The quality of American supermarkets have improved vastly over the past decade and I’m always astounded to see how the selection of things available, from fresh produce to good olive oils and dairy products, has improved dramatically.

Fortunately, rainbow sprinkles haven’t been demonized. But I’m still trying to find some that are locally-produced.

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Caillé

caillé

The yogurt aisle in any French supermarket is the largest, longest, most well-stocked aisle in the store. (Wine, I think, runs a close second.) While there’s a disconcerting number of dubious treats there (coconut macaron or lemon madeleine-flavored yogurt anyone?) the simplest varieties are wonderful.

I’m hopelessly boring, but I like whole milk plain yogurt, which is my afternoon snack. I eat it with dried fruits, a tipple of berry syrup, or just slicked with honey. Luckily yogurt here comes in handy 4-ounce portions, the perfect size, and I don’t miss those hefty pots of purple, super sweet, gelatin-thickened gloop, which barely resembles what yogurt even is.

In between all the yogurts here, you’ll find a few oddities buried in there.

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