Le Dimanche

When I moved to France from San Francisco, I worried about what every San Franciscan worries about— “What am I going to do without burritos?”

roast chicken

For those who aren’t familiar with San Francisco-style burritos, these bullet-shaped tummy-torpedoes are rice, beans, salsa, and meat all rolled up in a giant flour tortilla and eaten steaming hot. I don’t want to antagonize the burrito folks, but being a purist, I never, ever get cheese, sour cream, guacamole, or the worst offender—lettuce, all of which make a burrito about as appealing as a rolled-up newspaper left out for a week in the rain.

Burritos are cheap, filling, fast, and relatively healthy. (I don’t get the sour cream…remember? So I’m off the hook.) And here, I found my ‘burrito’ in the shape of le poulet rôti, spit-roasted chicken. Each Sunday as I’m winding up at the over-crowded market, I make my way over to Catherine, who has the best roast chickens at the Bastille market. Perhaps in all of Paris, although I haven’t sampled others, since I’m pretty loyal. Some of hers are nature while others are basted with soy-sesame or stuffed with olives and bread crumbs, or just rubbed with an overload of herbs. And she’s not shy with the salt, either. In short, a gal after my own heart.

I’m pretty partial to the poulet crapaudine, which has the added benefit of hyper-crispy skin. Don’t tell the health police…but if it doesn’t have high-fructose corn syrup in it, the assumption seems to be these days that it’s healthy. So there. Seriously, it’s one of the best things you can stick in your craw. But since I’m off to the beach next week on vacation and I’m desperate to get back to fighting weight, I went for the poulet au thym. I mean, how many calories are in a handful of thyme? (Please tell me zero.) I make two of three meals out of a roast chicken. Except the crapaudine, which is just one. Another reason I went sans crap today.

bad, sad cake

Fast forward to this morning. (Er—not too fast…please….) I woke up terribly bleary after trying to keep up last night with a 28-year old sommelier, which was a fitting end to a pretty tough week testing recipes around here. For some reason, my brain is roasted to a crisp, not unlike the poulet rôti and I’ve had a few catastrophes.

Living in a big city, I’ve developed an equally formidable skin. But I’m beat. Aside from making possibly the worst-looking cake of my career, I’m forgetting to add things to recipes, pretty important things like sugar and eggs, prompting me to have to re-make them all over again. One thing I love about Paris is that Sunday is a jour de repos, a day to relax. Stores are closed, and normally taut Parisians unwind a bit. Not too much, but enough to notice a discernible difference: like, someone inching up behind me at the market this morning actually acknowledged to the vendor that I was in front of him, and let me go.

Still, I shouldn’t be too hard on anyone else, especially when I’ve got a cake like that staring at me. I guess I was hoping that when I woke up, the nightmare of a beast would be gone. Yet today it’s still here, and for the time being, so am I.

But not for long…

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  • February 22, 2009 9:14am

    That roast chicken looks wonderful! (And the cake isn’t too bad…just lean to the right when viewing it! – I’m sure it is delicious.)

  • Annika
    February 22, 2009 9:25am

    The leaning really helps…

    Wish you a nice Sunday!

  • February 22, 2009 9:59am

    Last night I made caramel with lumps in it that wouldn’t disappear…they’re still here this morning, unfortunately. But the cake looks edible!

  • February 22, 2009 10:30am

    It can be okay to follow the “if it tastes good, it is good” theory and ignore the fact that your cake looks a little tired too :)

  • LB
    February 22, 2009 10:37am

    I am not trying to be rude here, and I sympathise completely with leaving things out of recipes and producing products, which if you were to gaze at them, would produce an experience only to be described as harrowing, but I would not have guessed that was a cake. I thought it was some kind of newfangled cheese.

  • Rona
    February 22, 2009 10:42am

    Roast chicken is my fav thing to make on Sunday and having leftovers is another big +.
    As far as the cake goes, I’m sure it tastes good. I’m glad I’m not alone in forgetting ingredients…I always say, “don’t drink and bake”. However, most of the time I’m not.
    Wish I could blame it on something, or someone!

  • Mrs Redboots
    February 22, 2009 10:54am

    I bet the cake is absolutely delicious – it looks it! I’d certainly not say no if you offered me a slice.

    The roast chicken looks great, too, but that is less easy to spoil!

  • Esme
    February 22, 2009 10:59am

    While you were keeping up with the sommelier, I was busy buying your new book on the internet. I cannot wait for its release. Roasted chickens are the best-you can make an impromtu pie or turn it into something else.

  • Amanda
    February 22, 2009 11:01am

    I thought is was a big waxed cheese too.

    I am sure it tastes like cake-heaven!

  • February 22, 2009 11:05am

    Funny post! We all have produced ugly outcomes once in a while in the kitchen – the good news is your counter is gorgeous (love marble!) and the photograph itself is well lit. It’s not all bad!

    I recently had a disaster with tuiles – something I’ve made 10,000 times: http://danamccauley.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/daring-bakers-ride-again/

  • Laura
    February 22, 2009 11:18am

    Have a fabulous vacation! All will be well upon your return.

    As to the cake, it still looks better than that poor ham on Failed…

  • February 22, 2009 11:21am

    I’m beginning to get what you said once about loving anything that was goofy looking.

    I just love this cake. Il a l’air sympathique :)

  • February 22, 2009 11:48am

    I was getting pretty depressed about some ‘failures’ around here (which had mostly nothing to do with cooking) but I guess if my ‘God of Sweet Things’ can make a cake like that (even once) then I should pat myself on the back for…errrr…I don’t know what! Oh, well…

  • RachelS
    February 22, 2009 11:49am

    other than a shrinking paycheck and soaring expenses living in NY, I have no excuse to avoid leftovers, but I hate leftovers. So roasting an entire chicken, even the little 2.5 birdies available around here leaves me 2 thighs & 2 little drum sticks to stare at each time the fridge opens…altho an occasional drumstick is good cold with salt.
    i’ve also developed, not that anyone asked, an addiction for rotisserie chicken. if i had a backyard and could char grill, I wouldnt cook inside…baking yes, everything else on the grill. since that isnt possible, rotisserie subs. Many moons ago a store in Manhattan named Williams Bar-B-Que on Broadway in the 70s sold rotisserie chickens that spun near the window, so you could see the pecan brown glistening juicy fat birds turning and could hear them calling you as you passed the shop…rotisserie has a strange and primitive effect on me.
    When I bring said chicken home, half must be cut and wrapped and put away asap because if not, I’ve been known to tear apart chicken with hands and cram smoky bits in mouth like an uncivilized starving person… which is what I am after 12 hours at office and no lunch.
    Maybe a Ronco…hmmmm

  • Janet
    February 22, 2009 11:49am

    You just need a vacation – voila.

  • February 22, 2009 11:49am

    …someone inching up behind me at the market this morning actually acknowledged to the vendor that I was in front of him, and let me go.

    Love it.

  • February 22, 2009 12:10pm

    As long as it taste’s good right?

  • February 22, 2009 12:11pm

    Oh David, I am laughing hysterically at the comments of people who thought this was cheese. But, only because I recognized the image – like, immediately.

    Sadly, almost every layered cake I have ever made ended up looking a lot like that one. My frosting making skills leave a lot to be desired. I guess that’s why I don’t make very many of layered cakes, regardless of how much I love them.

    (This is where the fabulous octopus chocolate/gelatin/cake mold comes in and blows everyone away, instead.)

    I am, however, very good at diverting attention away from my deficiencies, even without a bitchin’ *ss octopus mold…. Lemon bundt cake with glaze, anyone?


    ~ Paula

  • February 22, 2009 12:16pm

    That cake approximates what my best effort would look like. Sounds like you are in desperate need of a vacation though! I do love rotisserie chickens…there is a cart at the farmer’s market in Oakland near the Grand Lake theater that sells both chickens and potatoes cooked beneath the chicken (hence they roast in the chicken fat)…ridiculous. But since I live in New York now I have to do it myself sadly. Not as good, but a decent substitute.

  • February 22, 2009 12:37pm

    Dear David,
    I want to introduce myself. I live in Oakland and have a preserve making business in Berkeley. I have been preserving fruit for 20 years and recently have been doing a lot more confectionary work – candying peels, teaching myself glace work, etc. I am traveling to London on March 3rd to study in the British library on early confectionary work (1600’s – 1900’s) as well as the history of the early days of sugar importation into the UK (I am from London). I would like to explore London with regard to finding anyone who might still be producing quality confectionary – specifically with fruit rather than chocolate. I wondered if you may have any recommendations of people/places to visit in London? I also have the opportunity to come to Paris (not decided yet if I will come over during my 2 week stay) and would want to make the same explorations. Any recommendations would be very much
    appreciated. I’m sure in Paris there are beautiful examples of this work. Have we lost this craft in London?
    Thank you for any assitance you may be able to offer.


    June Taylor.

  • February 22, 2009 12:41pm

    As a recent transplant from NY, I’ve only just begun to slow down on Sundays, the Parisian way. Today, it was a captivating dose of French tv, which I am realizing is just bad American tv, dubbed in French. Mannix? Beverly Hills 90210?

    Hey, I did learn something – Sulu was in Mission Impossible, the first season.

    Next Sunday I will try your way – roast chicken. There is a nice one at the market in the 4th, on Rivoli on Saturdays.

  • lovella
    February 22, 2009 12:52pm

    hi david,

    i’m from the philippines. i have a small, home-based food business: i cook weekend brunch for my neighbors. so far, it’s doing good. i started this late last year but my superb exposure began when we had our own christmas bazaar here in our condo. anyway, i love your blog! kudos!

    i don’t see anything wrong with the cake. imperfections can be perfect. it looks scrumptious to me…

  • February 22, 2009 1:16pm

    Those chicken pictures kill me! They look so so so good.

  • Lex
    February 22, 2009 1:38pm

    When I moved to NYC from SF I almost cried realizing the lack of burritos and great taquerias. I survived on pizza of course and hot dogs. I mean how else is a line cook supposed to survive in Manhattan? Now that I moved back to the Bay I am so content with my brick burritos from El Farolito at an ungodly hour. I am glad you have found your main fix to the heavenly SF Style Burrito. For I am sure the French would be utterly confused if you demonstrated the burrito but willing to participate in the righteous act of devouring the 8th wonder of the world.

  • February 22, 2009 1:50pm

    I am stunned that June Taylor has left you a comment above! She is a goddess of jam-making. I hope you can help her out.

    I don’t know anything about London but did send her a few addresses and tip for Paris. If anyone knows anything about London, I’m sure she’d appreciate any tips~dl

  • Aron Cramer
    February 22, 2009 1:56pm

    We found the spit-roasted rabbit in the boulevard de Grenelle market to be our Sunday fave during our life in Paris. And now that we are back in Berkeley, our lapin has again (sadly) become a burrito…

  • Susan
    February 22, 2009 2:21pm

    Mmmm…burrito’s. Yes, it’s such an anytime staple here it would definately be a stressful moment away from home when there wasn’t an easy place to grab one. But, I’ll take Paris as the place to stuggle with that stress. Thank you very much!

    Slice that cake up and invite the neighbors in for a tasting..they won’t know from leaning. Well..as long as you didn’t leave out the sugar and eggs, they won’t!

  • rooney
    February 22, 2009 2:31pm

    the ronco rotisserie is truly as wonderful as the advertising claims it to be. chicken is done to perfection.

  • February 22, 2009 2:34pm

    You are my hero! I love baking. I get so excited abt the outcome that, more often than not, I forget some important ingredient or step, just like you. Relieved to know that I’m not the only one with this syndrome and that you can laugh at it too!

    BTW, Love your Tweets. They make me smile.

  • February 22, 2009 3:22pm

    Hey now! Be nice- that’s what my cakes usually look like when I’m done with them!

  • Connie
    February 22, 2009 4:39pm

    I completely sympathize with the longing for a tasty burrito as a CA transplant to Wi. For now, I get my fix with Chipotle’s… Now that roast chicken looks gorgeous!

  • February 22, 2009 4:50pm

    At least it’s unusual for your cakes to look that way. All mine end up that way which is why I stick to cupcakes and single layer cakes.

  • Sarah
    February 22, 2009 5:04pm

    I am weak in the knees from those chickens. I may start drooling on my keyboard. Like Grace, of Will & Grace, I am a Jewish girl with a serious deep real relationship with the chicken!

    As for the cake, just assign blame or praise on a child you know around age 12 and explain it was their first solo effort? Or get some sleep you poor thing. A week of vacation is delicious and necessary, but if you are so tired you are forgetting to put eggs in a souffle you need more rest on a daily basis.

    Have a great trip, indulge in everything, and then come and write us all about it :-)

  • February 22, 2009 5:13pm

    David, I just have to say… This is the cutest post out there.

    I don’t know what it is about today’s post, but it’s just freaking adorable. In a Charlie Brown xmas, want to take you home and adopt you, kinda of way.


    ~ Paula

  • February 22, 2009 6:59pm

    Sunday is the only day I can’t seem to enjoy myself, by myself, in Paris. Today I was in good company, from start to finish. And it never did rain, I’m relieved to say.

    Bonnes vacances!

  • February 22, 2009 7:00pm

    I don’t care if its a sundae or a burrito, I would never refuse guacamole.

  • February 22, 2009 7:15pm

    Aren’t cakes supposed to look like that? The smaller side must have fewer calories….

    I LOVE reading your posts! A bay area gal, who loves her taquerias, when I used to stay in Paris with my daughters, we would have crepes avec jambon et fromage to approximate quesadillas! I prefer crepes, actually.

    I also noticed a comment above by June Taylor, whose marmalades are amazing. She had a big write-up a few years ago in the Chronicle, which I read with interest because I make marmalade out of the oranges at my house.

    Thanks for the vicarious trips to Paris!

  • Sunny
    February 22, 2009 7:16pm

    When we moved to France, hubby insisted I buy a good oven– and we bought a top-shelf model with convection, rotisserie, and everything — and it turns out a picture-worthy rotisserie chicken— doubly good when I throw some root vegetables under the bird. Yummm.

    Thank you for posting that picture…if you — a published author and a professional pastry chef — can turn out the occasional clunker (and have the guts to post it!) the rest of us don’t feel quite so bad when we, oh, have a kid’s birthday cake that falls in the middle. I sent this to my mom, too — she isn’t passionate about cooking, but she hates it when something goes wrong.

  • Jill
    February 22, 2009 7:47pm

    Just close your eyes while you eat the cake.

  • Tiffaney
    February 22, 2009 8:18pm

    Tell people it was a recipe you received from a 9 year old and something must have been lost in the generational translation, because that looks *exactly* like a cake I baked my mom when I was 9. I’ll bet it tastes fabulous: the more rustic looking, the yummier.

  • February 22, 2009 9:04pm

    aren’t you going to explain what Poulet Crapaudine means?
    Le suspense continue…
    Enjoy your week at the beach (and while a handful of fresh thyme doesn’t quite have zero calories, it’s pretty close: 100 calories for a hundred grams, but lots of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C and A, and Iron and calcium… see, thyme is good for you)

  • February 22, 2009 9:07pm

    Are those falling white specks above the cake your tears of despair?

  • Debra
    February 22, 2009 9:46pm

    But, David, you know that when you cut and plate that cake with a bit of fruit, some shaved chocolate or a sauce it will be gorgeous and no one will ever know. Except that you told us first…Many of my best received desserts were mistakes made beautiful with a little behind the scenes magic.

  • Steve
    February 22, 2009 10:15pm

    That would be a perfect cake if you were in Pisa instead of Paris.

  • February 22, 2009 10:23pm

    Hilarious! As a SoCal to SF transplant, I am always deriding the quality of SF burritos. Soggy tortillas over-filled with rice don’t do it for me. But I do miss good ones! Any specific recommendations? I live right in the Mission.

  • Linda H
    February 22, 2009 10:32pm

    Have a restful well-deserved vacation. Buon viaggio!
    (I’ve made cakes that slid, cracked apart, and resolved after several minutes into a good imitation of a cow pile.)

  • Thea
    February 22, 2009 11:10pm

    Nooooo! No guac?!?

    A Mexican food hut shelters down the beach strand, ten miles from the frontera. They make – nuf said – housemade chorizo. Yum with the guac on EVERYthing.

    Mistakes are made when one is in want of a vacation – lesson taught by my Jazzercize instructor, Best Cue-er in the World, when she goes kablooie. Next Week she’s hiking in the Sierras.

  • February 23, 2009 3:24am

    Thea: I have to say that I prefer my guac on the side, where you can taste it-with chips! When it’s all smushed up in the burrito, you lose much of it’s specialness.

    darya: I love the place right across from Safeway, on church street, near the video store. Can’t recall the name, but it’s where all the Muni drivers eat. And everyone knows that cab and bus drivers always know the best places to go. (They also let you pick extra onion and/or cilantro for your burrito.) Pancho Villa on 18th is pretty great, too.

    Paula: Thanks for the offer of adoption, but I think I’m too much of a handful ; )

    Sylvie: Crapaudine means bullfrog in French, but also refers to split-roasted chickens, apparently because they’re kinda ugly…like bullfrogs. There are also crapaudine beets (roasted long beets that get wrinkled), named as such because they’re considered ugly.

  • Michelle B
    February 23, 2009 7:27am

    I am an excellent and experienced cook and baker. I seldom make mistakes or have disasters on my hands but when I do it is always a pleasure, an immense relief! I still got lots to learn (even if it means that I am tired and need an vacation)! And how wonderful is that?

    I don’t like the look (or the taste) of American layer cakes (large cake layers puffed up with baking powder, stuffed with measly and overly sweet filling, and smothered with fluffy, overly sweet frosting). I prefer the European style (thin but robust-with-nuts layers, lots of filling, fruit flavored usually, lightly glazed on top). So what would be considered a beautiful American layer cake is already unappealing in my eyes. So your cake isn’t any uglier than the usual ‘well made’ one! (LOL)

  • February 23, 2009 8:06am

    There is no way I can say anything to follow that comment. I will go back to my corner.

  • Tags
    February 23, 2009 9:26am

    There’s nothing wrong with that cake that a little cheese, sour cream, guacamole, or lettuce won’t fix.

  • February 23, 2009 9:48am

    Tags: Maybe that was the problem!

    ; )

  • February 23, 2009 10:59am

    Now you’ve gone and done it. I must roast a chicken with crispy, crispy skin. Tonight.

  • Vivian
    February 23, 2009 11:03am

    Regarding the burritos, I feel your pain. When I moved to Oklahoma from SoCal I desperately yearned for the fish tacos from Rubio’s. The concept of Mexican food here is Tex-Mex and everything is covered in Queso (not exactly the Baja cuisine that I am used to). I did however find exceptional carnitas here for some wonderful burritos.

  • February 23, 2009 11:31am

    Huh. That looks exactly like the cake I made for my son’s birthday yesterday, except I used chocolate frosting. I hope yours ended up as delicious as ours was. Looks can be deceiving.

  • Vivienne
    February 23, 2009 12:37pm

    “Someone left the cake out in the rain.
    I don’t think that I can take it
    ‘Cause it took so long to bake it
    And I’ll never have that recipe again,
    Oh no…………….”

    Now that song will be worming its way through my brain for the next three days!!

  • February 23, 2009 1:26pm

    Buon viaggio.

    I bet the cake taste delicious and isn’t that more important? I mean who wants to eat a cake that looks perfect but taste like cardboard?

    It’s funny, I know quite a few expats who complain about things not being open 24 hours or on Sundays. I don’t understand the complaints.

  • February 23, 2009 2:48pm


    1) Have a wonderful time on your vacation.
    2) If you pick the thyme leaves off the stem one by one, they actually contain negative calories. No need to thank me; I’m here to help.
    3) Kudos for showing the cake. Gutsy move, that :) And, MacArthur Park came to my mind, too.

    One time, when I was living in a rental house, the property managers had it “painted.” By that, I mean that they used a paint sprayer and sprayed white paint on the house, yes, but also on the porch, the bushes and about 1 foot of the ground at the base of the house. MacArthur Park, indeed :lol:

  • February 23, 2009 5:48pm

    One of the more charming “fast” food peccadilloes I’ve noticed with San Franciscans is the way in which they prefer their burritos. New Englanders have their roast beef; New Yorkers have their pizza, and it’s a fight to the last burrito in California!

  • Kristina
    February 23, 2009 5:57pm

    If it makes you feel better I made the worst cupcakes on Sunday and fed them to people at my Oscars party–before realizing they were awful. I had one when they came out of the oven and they tasted great, but then they seemed to sink and deflate the longer they were out of the oven eventually become very dense. Thankfully the other batch of cupcakes (strawberry) I made were fantastic, but I am still embarrassed I served the chocolate ones to people!

    I followed a Gourmet recipe for milk chocolate cake but made it into cupcakes. I feel like I left something out, but I followed the recipe exactly!

    Anyways, your cake doesn’t look that terrible. Is it at least good to eat?

  • February 23, 2009 6:26pm

    That roast chicken is a beauty! And so is the cake…in its own special way. :)

  • jenn lewin
    February 23, 2009 6:50pm

    ah, schadenfreude!

  • February 23, 2009 11:07pm

    Just grab the ice cream, everything will be much better in two seconds flat!

  • Michelle @ www.PorktoPurslane.com
    February 24, 2009 1:03am

    David –
    One question:

    Who made your fav burrito in San Francisco?!

    I just moved here in September, and am still seeking out the best!


  • lauren
    February 24, 2009 1:22am

    I’ll eat the cake. Send it my way and I’ll send you a burrito, sans sour cream. :) I’ll second Michelle – where were your favorite burritos?

  • February 24, 2009 1:25am

    michelle & Lauren: I gave 2 of my favorites in the comments, above. Since I haven’t lived in San Francisco in 6 or so years, I’m not entirely up-to-date on the SF burrito scene, though. (Unfortunately!)

  • lauren
    February 24, 2009 1:25am

    Oh! I just read your response to Darya. I haven’t eaten at the place across from Safeway in a while, but I’ll try it once again. I like Pancho Villa, but I don’t understand the peas in the rice!

  • February 24, 2009 4:01am

    That forgetfulness just might be a sign of male menopause! Whatever the reason, thanks for sharing your less-than-perfect results with the rest of us. It’s nice to know that even the pros can have an off day!

  • Phyllis
    February 24, 2009 8:29am

    David, I know what you mean: being from San Diego and living in Paris I recently returned back here with a heavy suitcase (and 130 dollar “excess baggage fee”). Loaded up on everything from maple syrup to corn tortillas from Henry’s. I make my own flour tortillas but the corn tortillas I can’t seem to get right. Don’t feel bad about your cake. Au contraire! It’s nice to know you’re humain! Bon voyage.

  • February 24, 2009 9:02am

    if it tastes good , its good enough for me (;
    the roasted chicken looks so delicious, my mouth is watering
    and to top it off – im a pescetarian! oh boy

  • February 25, 2009 7:36pm

    See, my explanation for crapaudine is different: Butterflied chicken is “crapaudine” in French because it flattened like a toad (“crapaud” meaning toad)…

  • clayton
    July 5, 2009 9:19am

    i made the lenoir market a must-have stop the second i read this post back in february. i found “la reine” today. i ate her “crap.” and it was AMAZING. thank.you.