31 January 2019

Season's end


Today ends the holiday season in France.

Above: decorations last night in the Marais district

Bark with bite





Looking back on the holidays there was much activity in my small Paris kitchen.

Some of the sweeter highlights:
Several varieties of home-made chocolate bark were paired with after-dinner espresso or turned into gifts.
Vanillekipferl, Austrian hazelnut vanilla butter crescents (below), a family recipe, disappeared as fast as I could make them.

Above: candied ginger, sea salt, pistachio, hazelnut, almond, fennel seed dark chocolate bark; milk chocolate bark with sea salt, sesame seeds, fennel seeds and Lapsang souchong (smoked) tea leaves



***

French chocolate: why it's so good
February newsletter

30 January 2019

Reading for pleasure


Paris' kiosks remain a mainstay of urban life despite the internet and go hand-in-hand with its café culture.

Above: a weekly news magazine issue devoted "to the pleasure of women"

29 January 2019

À la Bastille


In Paris, everyone has their favorite cafés, and this is one of mine.

Café de la Bastille
8 Place de la Bastille 75011

Below: my father used to sing this refrain from Nini Peau d'Chien (Nini Dogskin), an old French song.
Lyrics / music by Montmartre personnage Aristide Bruant

À la Bastille
On aime bien
Nini-Peau-d'chien:
Elle est si bonne et si gentille!
On aime bien (Qui ça?)
Nini-Peau-d'chien (Où ça?)
À la bastille

28 January 2019

A Christmas table


I'm posting this today because in France, the holiday season officially ends January 31st. Until then decorations and crèches de noël in churches can be left up, cartes de voeux sent out, galettes des rois consumed. Wishing shopkeepers and anyone else you run into a Bonne Année will be considered tout à fait normale and, as the month wanes, "It's still January!" ("C'est encore janvier!") might be added. Like now.

Christmas Day with its magnificent sit-down lunch is bigger than New Year's Day or even La Fête des Rois, January 6th. Celebrated mostly among family, it's an occasion to dust off that wedding gift or heirloom china, crystal, and silver, and when the pre-lunch apéritif is taken into account, it can easily run into five hours. At the end of the meal, a digestif (to help digestion, as its name implies) will also get its own glass. BPJ

Above: napkins folded comme il faut; several plates and glasses per setting for multiple courses, each requiring its own wine

See post: En famille

***

  - L'art de la table dans la tradition française -

Where to find it:
Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Europe's biggest flea market
rue des Rosiers 93400 Saint-Ouen
[best Saturday or Sunday; try to avoid lunch time 12:30-2:30 p.m.]

Upscale antique shops for glassware, tableware, crystal, silver
 rue des Saints-Pères
[start at the river and zig-zag up the street until rue Jacob]

27 January 2019

A Sunday breakfast


With a boulangerie on almost every block it's easy to get fresh pastries every day.

Above: a steamy cafè au lait and custard-filled croissant aux amandes

26 January 2019

Coquillages



Seafood lovers will be heading to Montmartre's annual Fête de la Coquille all weekend as Paris celebrates shellfish in all its forms.

Above: a Sunday lunch

Merci Marcel

January 26 - 27, 2019

21 January 2019

Louvre to myself


Anyone who's ever visited (or tried to visit) the Musée du Louvre, the most famous if not biggest museum in the world, knows about the endless crowds, the lines, the mayhem, the coveted skip-the-line tickets.

But last week, thanks to an unexpected invitation, I found myself in the surreal position of being practically alone roaming its vast halls, galleries and sumptuous rooms and, as in the epilogue to The Da Vinci Code, surrounded by "masters' loving art."

Photos: the Louvre Museum as few will ever see it
(click to enlarge)






More in February newsletter



19 January 2019

Tiny trees


A tiny Christmas tree is attached to each of these rainbow parasols in the Marais district.

Below: a street view



18 January 2019

Viennois


Hot chocolate, coffee, and tarte tatin warm up a late winter afternoon.

Above: add crème chantilly and suddenly it's viennois

Café de Flore
172 Boulevard Saint-Germain 75006




17 January 2019

A bagel in Paris

 



 Years ago living in Spain I taught myself how to make bagels. Quite simply, I craved them - and couldn't find any to my liking. I'd been making my own breads for awhile and found the entire process - measuring, mixing, kneading, letting the dough rise, baking (or, in the case of flatbreads, rolling out and pan grilling) - a relaxing way to spend a weekend afternoon.

For bagels I'd get up early, and as the morning edged towards brunch time there would be drop-ins, music, a glass of something and, in cold weather, a blazing fire, and in no time at all the bagels were ready. They were water bagels - boiled before baking - and when finished we'd split them open and toast them, open-faced, then pile alongside a huge platter of smoked salmon, smoked whitefish, flavored cream cheeses (home made), thinly-sliced tomatoes, red onions, some capers, olive oil, lemons, salt and pepper. Champagne with a splash of Cointreau, a "French touch" (thank you Ralph), was the standard accompaniment. And Moroccan spiced coffee. Making bagels from scratch meant I could control every aspect: size (I prefer smaller), types of flour, ingredients, and toppings - which changed with every batch depending on what I had on hand.

So where is my favorite bagel in Paris? As of this posting, and as far as I'm concerned, chez moi. BPJ

Above: whole-wheat bagel tartines topped with chicken salad made with a light dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, chopped mint, salt, pepper

Topping: black sesame seeds, fennel seeds, coarse salt, za'atar (Middle Eastern mixture of thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac. Make your own or buy at Lebanese market stalls)

***

[Photos were forwarded by dear friends to a cousin whose brother was Barry of Barry's Bagels in Ohio and, I am told, they "made his mouth water" - and that's good enough for me]

- Recipes in February newsletter -

16 January 2019

12 January 2019

Miró Miró on the wall





Since the September rentrée Paris has been awash in heavy-hitter artists - Picasso, Basquiat, Schiele, Giacometti, Mucha, Klimt, Hundertwasser, Caravaggio, more - and now, Catalan artist Joan Miró, who few realize was a prolific sculptor as well as painter. 

An impressive representation of his work from the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona and private collections will be in Paris for three more weeks.

"Miró Rétrospective"
Ends February 4, 2019

Grand Palais



11 January 2019

What were they thinking?



In case you hadn't heard January 2nd marked National Cream Puff Day in France.

***

Above: It was a few days before Christmas and the end of a long splendid lunch. We were three, and decided to order "profiteroles for one" for dessert as we'd just gorged ourselves on foie gras, cassoulet and roasted duck. Sharing this bistro classic - usually three or four small puffs of choux pastry filled with whipped cream (or vanilla bean ice cream) and drizzled in melted chocolate - would be a great finale, we agreed, to such a filling meal.

But what arrived to our table resembled a lopsided slowly melting hatbox that made us wonder if Salvador Dali had taken over the kitchen. It was so monstrous, so un-French, that diners at adjacent tables stood up to take photos with their cellphones. At first we thought there'd been a mistake but were told that that really was a single serving! After one taste our initial shock turned to awe and we ended up polishing off every last bite. BPJ

Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie
34 rue Montmartre 75001

9 January 2019

Vendôme #2


In France it is not unusual to see holiday decorations until the end of January.

Above: two more trees on Place Vendôme

7 January 2019

Galettes de foie



 
 
Foie gras, that is: This weekend, while traditional galettes des rois were flying off pastry shop shelves, their savory cousins - foie gras galettes and terrines-en-croûte - were taking center stage at a gastronomique gathering on the Left Bank.

As Champagne flowed and groups of men burst into spontaneous song, talented chefs toiled away preparing foie gras tartines, canapés, and lovingly slicing showcase terrines. A giant galette de roi was distributed at the end and, flutes in hand, we strolled through narrow streets to the cheers and thumbs-ups of well-wishers on café terraces. And it was barely 11 a.m.

All this to support a noble cause: childrens' charity Association des POIC.

MERCI Dominique, Alexandre et al., and til the next time....
B&F

6 January 2019

Feast of Kings


Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, and in France it is celebrated with a galette des rois. The tarte-like cakes begin to appear in pâtisserie and boulangerie windows in December and children adore this tradition where the youngest goes under the table and calls out each person's name to receive a slice. Whoever's parte contains the coveted fève - usually a small porcelain figurine of one of the gift-bearing Magi (although there are now many variations, including cartoon characters) - he/she will be crowned King or Queen and get to crown his/her King or Queen of choice, so every cake is (or should be) sold with two crowns. 

The galettes usually contain almond cream, crème frangipane, but upscale bakers have been creating away with pistachio cream (my current favorite) and other fillings trying not to stray far from the original. I've also made my own in the past - it's not difficult - and like to serve the cake warm, heated for a short time in the oven, never micro-waved so its crispiness remains intact.


Above: galettes des rois galore at Pâtisserie Gérard Mulot - 76 rue de Seine 75006

***

In Spain, La Fiesta de Los Reyes Magos upstages Christmas and is the big day of gifts for children. When I lived in Cadaqués, a magical white fishing village of artists and writers near the French border, from my balcony overlooking the bay we'd watch The Kings arrive by boat - Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar - where excited children would be waiting on the shore with lanterns then follow the Kings like The Pied Piper to the main plaza where, to music, dancing and feasting. the "kings" would distribute small gifts. BPJ

Below: bay of Cadaqués Spain, evening; at a Los Reyes festival