I was recently joking that when I’m forced to wake up very early in the morning I’m not sure if I should feel sorrier for myself, or for the people around me. So when my friend Jean-Louis, who works with the people who make Comté cheese finally gave in to my incessant pestering to join him for a visit, I was excited when after three years, he finally said “Oui”. Actually, he speaks very good English. So he said “Yes”.
Results tagged wine from David Lebovitz
I wasn’t expecting to find a great chocolate shop in the Jura, a region of France known best for its exceptional cheeses, namely Mont d’Or, Comté, and Bleu de Gex. But a friend had arranged a visit for me since he knew I loved chocolate, and I was surprised (yet happy) to see such a sleek store run by a master chocolatier in a lesser-known part of France, where I was visiting.
It’s a bit unusual to find sophisticated pastries in the smaller towns in the countryside. One of the main reasons is that, as you can imagine, they’re expensive to produce because of the work involved and the ingredients. So many of the chocolatiers and pastry makers set up shop in Paris. But Édouard Hirsinger the forth generation of chocolatiers and pastry makers in his family, who’ve been in business for over a hundred years in the charming little town of Arbois, seems to be doing pretty well right where he is.
It’s a standard request. Whenever people ask for a restaurant suggestion in Paris, even before they open their mouth I know exactly what’s coming—they want a suggestion for a restaurant that: 1) Serves traditional French food, 2) Is budget friendly, and 3) Has no tourists.
There are plenty of budget-friendly places to eat in Paris, like Chartier and L’As du Fallafel, but ones where you’ll find honest traditional French cooking are harder to come by these days. If you’re looking for the rare combination of good food and atmosphere, and modest prices, most of us have given up on the classic bistros and brasseries whose food slides deeper and deeper every year into the “lower than ordinary” category due to corporate takeovers.
There are a variety of reasons, and as Alec Lobrano noted in his terrific book Hungry for Paris, “..”it was accountants, who edited the menus” that were often the most responsible for doing a lot of the great old brasseries in. And nowadays most of the food in them is merely passable, but hardly memorable.
When I leave Ireland, what I’m going to miss most is people calling me dearie. Sure the Irish have a reputation as brawlers and so forth (back in San Francisco, I once hired a group of Irish contractors who would routinely show up on Monday morning with at least a couple of black eyes), but wherever I go in Ireland, like a grocery store or the local pub, people are like—”What kind of beer are ya havin’, dearie?”
That generosity of spirit extended to the Midleton Farmers Market in Cork.
After my recent lament about the state of bistros in Paris, where I noted that the wine bars in Paris often had the best food, when my friend Rochelle who owns Chefwear was in town this week, I wanted to go somewhere casual, where we’d be assured of good, honest food.
So we agreed to meet at Le Garde Robe, one of my favorite wine bars in Paris, which serves mostly natural wines. Another plus are the charcuterie and cheeses they serve by the plate (€12 for a platter of each, or you can get one mixed), which make a great accompaniment to the wines. Each wooden board arrives in front of you resplendent, and is a great way to sample some of the top-quality meats and fromages from France, and beyond.
Another thing about Le Garde Robe is that the fun spills into the street. I’ve spent a few late evenings perched on a stool outside with friends, laughing and drinking until way past my bedtime. And the staff often becomes ‘creative’ when using parked cars and trucks to help them out. (Can you imagine the driver’s reaction in America if they came out and saw a board leaning against their car?)
Always on the lookout for classic French bistros, a friend and I recently stopped at Au Petit Riche. I’d eaten there before and found the food decent, but I remember the company a little better than the food. I was dazzled by the stunning interior and the conversation, which should have been a tip off since I rarely forget anything I eat that’s good.
Many Americans have become more astute about dining and want to know where the ingredients are from, how they are handled, what part of the animal they’re getting. It’s part of the farmer’s market movement, as well as a number of folks striving to eat locally or at least show some concern for where and how their foodstuffs are raised.
And there’s also the do-it-yourself movement, where everything from upstart ice cream shops are opening, and of course the bean-to-bar movement, where every step of the process is carefully tended to. In general, the French don’t ask those questions because France has always been a deeply agricultural country, with close ties to their terroir. When dining with friends from the states in Paris, I know they’d be disappointed to find frozen green beans with their steak, or boiled white rice heaped on a salade Niçoise. So I am always careful to steer them away from some of the classic bistros on their lists, ones they may have eaten at a decade ago, or that a friend recommended.
I always seem to have the supreme misfortune to draw the letter W when playing Scrabble in French, as there’s barely one-quarter of a page in the French dictionary devoted to words that begin with that letter. People use “Wu” for Chinese money; although I allow them, it’s not in the French dictionary so I’m not sure that’s in the official rules. In spite of their high-value, I always am irked when I pull that dreaded W tile.
But I’m not a Scrabble expert, plus the fact the French have all those gazillion verb tenses, which is another reason that I never win. And my request to play in English is still pending.
When I lived in the states, I used to wonder why all the people who lived in New York City would go out of their way to proclaim that they could never live anywhere else, that New York City was the best city in the world. That they could only live in Manhattan, etc..etc.. Then they’d spent three months of the year, during the summer, bailing on the city they claim to love.
Where did the time go? I wanted to get one quick cherry recipe in before the season ended because I’m always scouting for ways to extend the unfairly short fresh cherry season. Plus I had some red wine leftover from another cooking project, a bulging sack of ripe cherries that the vendors were practically begging me to take off their hands (I know…it was kind of freaking me out, too), and a desire to make them last as long as I can.
So here’s how they ended up: in a compote that’s incredibly easy to make with the spiciness of red wine, a touch of vinegar to add a little je ne sais quoi, and a few minutes of stovetop cooking to transform them into sticky-sweet orbs with the concentrated flavor of summer cherries.
The good thing is that at the end of the season, they are practically giving away cherries at my market and if you’ve got the time to pit ‘em, then more cherries for you wait as a reward.