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Spain isn’t quite known for its breads. It’s probably because bread is more used as a vehicle for eating other foods – like pan con tomate (toasted bread with olive oil, then rubbed with fresh tomato and a bit of salt) or as ...
Spain isn’t quite known for its breads. It’s probably because bread is more used as a vehicle for eating other foods – like pan con tomate (toasted bread with olive oil, then rubbed with fresh tomato and a bit of salt) or as a resting place for marinated sardines, or another tapas, rather than enjoyed on its own. To make a little confession; when I came to Spain, I brought a little loaf of bread from France with me to have for breakfast. Because as much as I like pan con tomate (which is often eaten for breakfast), I didn’t think I would have the time, or the inclination, to gather all the ingredients and prepare them in the kitchen of my apartment. And I’m a creature of habit and the morning isn’t exactly the time of day when I’m looking forward to any surprises. So I was excited the first day when I met Juan Gomez, the owner of La Azotea, and he invited me to come along the following morning to visit the baker who makes the bread for his restaurants. What I wasn’t so excited about was waking up at 6:15am, so I would be all set to go (ie: already coffee’d up) when he would ring me up to meet. Fortunately Spaniards seem to be pretty laid back in the morning and Juan took me to La Campana for my 47th café cortado in twenty-four hours and some pastries, including a tasty flat, crisp bread known as torta de aceite, a local specialty made with lots of olive oil, sesame, and usually a touch of anise – although I did have one version with candied Seville (sour) oranges that blew my calcetínes off*. Continue Reading Masa Bambini Bread Bakery, in Seville...
about 5 hours ago
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Just moments ago, Kim Kardashian shared another adorable photo of daughter North West with her Instagram followers. Swaddled in an all-white blanket, the 4-month-old baby girl sports nothing but chubby cheeks (thanks to papa Kanye) and a...
Just moments ago, Kim Kardashian shared another adorable photo of daughter North West with her Instagram followers. Swaddled in an all-white blanket, the 4-month-old baby girl sports nothing but chubby cheeks (thanks to papa Kanye) and a few dark strands of hair. “I missed waking up with my little [angel emoji],” Mama Kim wrote under what seems to be a professionally shot photo. Nori’s famous parents were last spotted sitting front row at Givenchy’s Paris Fashion Week show and dining at popular Paris restaurants. In the meantime, the tiny celeb will just have to play in her new designer gifts.
4 days ago
I’m not a fancy guy. I don’t insist on expensive clothes, I don’t drive a car, my hair is such a disaster I take the clippers to it once a month just to so I don’t have to deal about it, nor do I give a hoot about...
I’m not a fancy guy. I don’t insist on expensive clothes, I don’t drive a car, my hair is such a disaster I take the clippers to it once a month just to so I don’t have to deal about it, nor do I give a hoot about sitting in a suit in a 3-star restaurant, with a tie closing up my throat while I try to pretend I’m enjoying a fancy meal. To me, one of the great joys in life is simply a good cup of coffee. Over the years, I’ve whittled my tastes down to espresso, which is the true essence of the bean. While I like café au lait for breakfast, probably because it encourages the lingering that I need in order to gather up the courage to face yet another day. But in Spain, however, no matter what time of day it is, I always order a café cortado. Even though it’d described as a similar riff on the caffè macchiato in Italy, or the café noisette in France, which gets its name from having just a noisette (hazelnut) of foamed milk on top (although another description says that it’s because it turns the coffee the color of hazelnuts), to me, it tastes like a very different drink altogether. Café cortado – perhaps it has something to do with the name, the alliteration with those two Cs in a row that roll off your tongue, helping it sound so resolutely Spanish. Or the tiny glasses they serve it in, which the vested waiters with black ties set down before you with one hand, and a moment later, the other hand swoops down with a pitcher of steamy milk, to create a frothy, yet strong, coffee drink. And whatever they do to the milk, it’s especially velvety. They just seem to get the foam right. There’s nothing worse than having a coffee drink with a crown of airy foam on top – who wants to take that first anticipatory sip of coffee, but instead end up with a mouthful of air? Pas moi. And the café cortado combines the soothing creaminess of steamed milk with a reasonable jolt of a café solo. I also like the glass. An Italian friend told me never to order espresso in a cup in Italy – to ask for it in a glass – because the porcelain retains some of the flavors of the dishwashing detergent. (Unfortunately my Italian isn’t very good and I always forget the phrase I’ve tried to memorize, to ask for it in a glass.) That may be one reason the café cortado alway tastes so good to me. It’s the glass. Or maybe it’s the sharp waiters with their slicked back hair and dark Spanish features, accompanied by the smell of sugary pastries in the fluorescent-lit showcases? I don’t know, but standing at a stainless-steel counter watching them pour the milk into the darkly extracted coffee in the glass while the milk foams up around it, knowing exactly when to stop so it doesn’t overflow onto the saucer, is one of my great joys in life. And one of the joys of visiting Spain.
4 days ago
If you’ve ever wondered how French pastry shops make cream puffs with that distinctive decorative crackly topping, look no future. (If you’ve never wondered, you can skip to the next entry.) The topping is called craquelin, a simple doug...
If you’ve ever wondered how French pastry shops make cream puffs with that distinctive decorative crackly topping, look no future. (If you’ve never wondered, you can skip to the next entry.) The topping is called craquelin, a simple dough that’s easily put together and is a nifty little trick to gussy up ordinary cream puffs. Continue Reading Craquelin...
7 days ago
Although it doesn’t quite translate, Dieu merci, c’est vendredi – or as I’m going to say in English, Thank God It’s Friday (TGIF), because it’s been quite a week. (On a related note, I was recently inf...
Although it doesn’t quite translate, Dieu merci, c’est vendredi – or as I’m going to say in English, Thank God It’s Friday (TGIF), because it’s been quite a week. (On a related note, I was recently informed by a French friend that a 4-day weekend is not a vacation – it’s just a few days off, or a pont (bridge.) But even though I took an actual vacation, it’s been tough getting back up to speed. Since we all live in a 24/7 society, as you likely can attest to, just because you go away doesn’t mean you can “get away from it all.” There is always something to deal with; urgent recipe questions (It’s funny when people say something food-related is “urgent” – unless there is a famine or a natural catastrophe…or another disaster of similar proportion, I’m not sure it quite qualifies as “urgent”), paperwork, sorting through pictures, and dealing with travel arrangements, including the all-important act of making sure you have a decent seat on the plane home.) Then there is a pile up when you get back; stuff that needs to be dealt with right-away; a backlog of mail, correcting typos and grammatical errors in blog entries, accepting invitations, declining invitations, writing back to the response you’ve gotten after you’ve declined, reading and responding to the response asking if you’re available another time, figuring out why teenagers would congregate in the alcove down the street that smells like pipi, realizing that there is a near-urgent need for you to restock your butter supply, and testing some recipes that have been on your mind for your blog. The fun of having a blog is that you get to try to share recipes that you find interesting. I try to put a mix of original recipes, recipes from recent cookbooks, a few oldies but goodies from cookbooks in my collections, and occasionally one from a cooking magazine that catches my eye. Along the way – especially this week – there have been a couple of goofs. The King Arthur Flour company always presents a hilarious round-up of their test kitchen goofs each year on April Fool’s Day. But since I can’t wait that long, I decided to share a few. I was recently inundated with a few barquettes of fresh figs that I bought at a local flea market, where all of the vendors seemed to be from the countryside (who, as this map points out, Parisians consider paysannes, or peasants.) Call me a paysan, but I happen to like them regardless of what other’s say or think, and as I picked up a number of vintage jam jars, I also was able to trade valuable jam-making tips with some of the friendly men and women selling their wares. One guy had three barquettes of figs and because he’s not Parisian and in a constant hurry, he had to count out each fig, one-by-one, speaking aloud about what kind of price to come up with, and how he needed to charge me per-fig. (We have a lot of fees and stuff in France, so at some point, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when there is a per-fig surcharge.) Um, okay. He slo-o-o-wly told me about the history of each fig as I stood there hyperventilating because of the all the bargains that were being snapped up around me, and my shoulder ready to fall off with my bag-full of heavy glass jam jars and the Saint James marinière (striped sweater) that was almost new and was a mere 50 cents, which I got so I can look a little more French. Although I’d have to stop shaving for three days if I really wanted to complete the look. (I also saw a hipster wearing a half-length cape the other day, and I’m not ready to go there, either.) Continue Reading TGIF (aka DMCV)...
11 days ago
Many moons ago, I worked with Bruce Cost at the now-shuttered Monsoon restaurant in San Francisco. Bruce is an amazing Asian cook and I’ve rarely had better Chinese food than what came out of his wok. Early on, he prompted me to ma...
Many moons ago, I worked with Bruce Cost at the now-shuttered Monsoon restaurant in San Francisco. Bruce is an amazing Asian cook and I’ve rarely had better Chinese food than what came out of his wok. Early on, he prompted me to make a sharp, gingery syrup that we could serve at the bar, as an elixir, mixed with fresh lime juice and sparkling water. And although the customers loved it, the reason I later found out why I was going through so much ginger syrup every week was that the staff liked it even more. In Australia, I remember seeing big bins of fresh ginger in the supermarket (I always try to go to a supermarket in a foreign country – it’s one of my favorite things to do.) And when I was telling some Australians how intriguing it was how they’ve adopted Asian ingredients, like fresh ginger, into their cuisine, a few looked at me kind of funny,and said that they considered fresh ginger just be to an ingredient they happened to use frequently – not necessarily Asian. Continue Reading Fresh Ginger Syrup...
14 days ago
Perched on a hillside overlooking Paris, Montmartre, once a country village and later a bohemian neighborhood known for its lively cabarets and popular with artists like Toulouse Laurtrec and Utrillo, is one of the most visited districts...
Perched on a hillside overlooking Paris, Montmartre, once a country village and later a bohemian neighborhood known for its lively cabarets and popular with artists like Toulouse Laurtrec and Utrillo, is one of the most visited districts of the city. The basilique du Sacre Coeur and the Place du Terte, where the artists once congregated, are its main attractions, but to enjoy the handsome church and the fine views over the city from its steps, I send out-of-town friends up there early in the morning and also advise them to skip the tourist-heavy Place du Terte in favor of a long walk with no itinerary through the streets of the neighborhood to enjoy its particular atmosphere and interesting architecture. If they think they’ll want lunch during their idle perambulations, I book a table for them at this excellent little restaurant on a side street near the Mairie (town hall) of the 18th arrondissement, a lively area with lots of cafes and interesting boutiques. Chef Gregory Maillard worked with Eric Frechon at L’Epicure, the three-star table at the Hotel Le Bristol, before going out on his own with this intimate and casually chic storefront dining room. The precision and flawless quality of his sophisticated market-driven contemporary French comfort food shows off why Paris still deserves its vaunted gastronomic reputation, too, since you still eat remarkably well in small neighborhood restaurants like this one. The haute-cuisine background Maillard brings to the modern- bistro register is his signature, too. Plotting a post-summer vacation reunion dinner recently with pretty Franco-American Claire and handsome Breton Denis, a delightful couple we met when we were staying in the same bed-and-breakfast in Stonington, Connecticut almost ten years ago, I knew this place would be ideal, since they’re as avidly gourmand as Bruno and me but dislike food that’s fussy or too cerebral. So two of us began with the terrine of duck foie gras topped with a fine quince gelee, and two settled on the langoustine tails wrapped in crisply fried pastry parcels and garnished in a successful feint at the Asian palate with squid’s ink wafers, cucumber slices, sesame seeds and fresh coriander. The main courses we chose on a cool night were thick pork chops in a lush sauce of pan drippings with a garnish of elbow-macaroni lashed with more of the same deeply rich sauce and chopped ceps and truffles for the gents, and a juicy rack of lamb with vegetables for Claire. An exceptionally good cheese plate gave the boys an excuse to order a final glass of wine, while Claire tucked into an elegant lemon tartelette with a fine pane of caramel and a crumbly buttery crust. The only drawbacks to this fine restaurant are the expensive wine list, service that’s a little more formal than it needs to be, and the fact that reservations have to be made well ahead of time. But these constraints don’t stop it from being my favorite restaurant in Montmartre, and Claire and Denis loved it, too. 18 rue Eugène Sue, 18th, Tel. 01-42-55-61-64. Metro: Jules Joffrin or Marcadet-Poissonniers. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. Lunch menus 29 Euros, 35 Euros. Average a la carte 60 Euros.
16 days ago
It amuses me to see outfits that promise to let folks “experience Paris like a local!” While there’s lots too see and do here as a visitor, I wonder why so many people want to come and experience the more mundane aspects of life in a cit...
It amuses me to see outfits that promise to let folks “experience Paris like a local!” While there’s lots too see and do here as a visitor, I wonder why so many people want to come and experience the more mundane aspects of life in a city, such as calling the gas company to find out why your bill is 300% over what it is supposed to be, or dealing with a forest’s-worth of paperwork that would make the most anti-environmentalist weep, when they could be exploring world-class museums, dining in historic bistros, visiting amazing chocolate shops, and gorging themselves on sublime cheeses all day? When I’m on vacation, I want to be on vacation, thanks. But every so often, I try being a tourist is my own city. Because I get to stroll around and discover wonderful new places, as I did when walking near the Jardin du Luxembourg and passed by La Coop. Continue Reading La Coop: Beaufort Cheese Cooperative in Paris...
16 days ago
A visit to France is, of course, a cheese-lovers dream. And for those who come and want to experience a variety of French cheeses in Paris, there are a number of places that offer dégustations (tastings) as well as tours and wine pairing...
A visit to France is, of course, a cheese-lovers dream. And for those who come and want to experience a variety of French cheeses in Paris, there are a number of places that offer dégustations (tastings) as well as tours and wine pairings with experts. Most are in English and in the boutiques that offer cheese tasting plates, there is normally someone on hand who will happily explain all the different cheeses. Here’s a list of places that offer a variety of experiences for anyone interesting in sampling les fromages: Madame Hisada: Specialty cheese shop with salon offering dégustation platters. Fil’O'Fromage: Cheese shop and restaurant, with tasting plates. Meeting the French: Wine and cheese tastings. Chez Virginie: Cheese shop with guided tastings. La Coop: Cheese cooperative from the Savoy region offers self-guided cheese tastings. La Cuisine: Guided cheese tasting workshops. Marie-Anne Cantin: Guided tastings, by appointment. Paris by Mouth: Cheese tastings and walking tours. Ô Chateau: Wine and cheese tasting lunches. Cook’n with Class: Wine and cheese tasting, and pairing classes.
16 days ago
Whew! It feels good to be back. I go caught up on a whole bunch of stuff. But boy, do I need a drink. Good thing I have this barrel of Negronis on hand. I featured my rotund wooden beauty in a recent newsletter, although I was concerned ...
Whew! It feels good to be back. I go caught up on a whole bunch of stuff. But boy, do I need a drink. Good thing I have this barrel of Negronis on hand. I featured my rotund wooden beauty in a recent newsletter, although I was concerned about mentioning my Negronis on social media because I often get in trouble with auto-corrected text. But there’s nothing to “clean up” after a few Negronis except perhaps you, and your guests. I am in love with my barrel and was delighted when a friend in Paris saw it in my newsletter and called right away to tell me she had an old barrel holding up a bookshelf in her house, and brought it by as a gift the other day. However when I filled the it with water, it became what is probably the first indoor water sprinkler, with water spraying everywhere from between the bulging staves. So I’m glad to have a “pro” model to fall back on. Continue Reading Negroni...
21 days ago