31 January 2019

Season's end

 Today ends the holiday season in France.

Above: decorations in the Marais district last night

Bark with bite

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

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


French chocolate: what makes it 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
I've great childhood memories of my father bursting into this refrain from Nini Peau d'Chien (Nini Dogskin), an old French song:

Lyrics / music by legendary Montmartre personnage Aristide Bruant

À la Bastille
On aime bien
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

 In France, the holiday season officially ends January 31st. Until then, decorations and crèches de noël in churches and homes are left up, cartes de voeux sent out, galettes des rois consumed. Wishing shopkeepers and anyone else you run into a Bonne Année won't be considered unusual 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 stretch 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: multiple courses mean several plates and glasses per setting, w/each course 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 on
 rue des Saints-Pères
[start at the river and zig-zag up the street until you arrive at 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


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 - formerly a royal palace - 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, "adorned in masters' loving art."

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

Palais du Louvre

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


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

16 January 2019

Bagels and locks

Bicycles locked up outside a busy bagel shop.

- Tomorrow: my favorite bagel -

14 January 2019

Poet's door

A former residence of poet Théodore De Banville.

Nous n’irons plus au bois, les lauriers sont coupés.
We will no longer go to the woods, the laurels have been cut off.




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 was both sculptor and 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.


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 dark chocolate - would be a great finale, we agreed, to such a filling meal.

But what arrived to our table resembled a slowly melting lopsided hatbox that made us wonder if Salvador Dali had taken over in 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. - BPJ

Merci Dominique, Alexandre et al., and à la prochaine!....
(click photos to enlarge)

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 crème frangipane, an almond cream, but upscale bakers have been creating away with pistachio cream (my current favorite) and other fillings, trying not to stray too far from the original. I've made my own galettes 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 (quelle horreur!) so its crispness remains intact. And did I mention its classic accord is a cidre doux - or second choice, a bubbly crémant? - BPJ
Above: galettes 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 mecca of artists and writers, from my balcony overlooking the bay we could watch as The Kings - Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar - arrived by boat bearing large bags filled with small gifts for the children who'd gather on the shore with lanterns. They’d then follow these Pied Piper "kings" to the main plaza to music, feasting and dancing. - BPJ

Below: bay of Cadaqués, evening; festival of Los Reyes

5 January 2019

Schiele Basquiat Gehry

Extensive works of two ground-breaking artists at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Egon Schiele - til January 14, 2019
Jean-Michel Basquiat - extended til January 15 - 21, 2019

Architect: Frank Gehry

Fondation Louis Vuitton
8 avenue du Mahatma Gandhi 75116

See link for info re late hours, shuttle, more