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The end is here (end of the year, that is...)
We’re almost at the end of 2022, and once again, just when I think I’ve got things down, the world has changed. (Kind of like la paperasse; just when you think you’ve gotten on top of it all, within 24 hours, it starts piling up again.) I can’t say if it’s for the better or worse (the general changes in the world, not the paperwork), but I feel I’ve grown a bit more this year, more so than in previous years. We moved, which was a huge undertaking, but I handled the travaux (remodeling) better than before. And while our apartment still isn’t done, we’re almost there. The kitchen was the last to arrive, due to supply chain delays and summer vacations, but that’s mostly done. The grand pooh-bah at Siemens came for the seventh time to fix my stove, and it seems like the seventh time is the charm.
One upside is that I’ve downsized, getting rid of quite a few things: dishes I never used, pots and pans, clothing, etc. But I still have a bunch of boxes to unpack that I’m putting off, at least until 2023. If I say that next year, about tackling them in 2024, I just may leave all that stuff in boxes and keep them in the cave (basement), hoping someone else will deal with them. Wishful thinking!
Rounding the corner to another year, it’s interesting to live in France where people hop off the moving train (i.e., retire) earlier than in the States, generally at age 62 (versus 66 in the U.S.). Although some in France, like train conductors, can begin their golden years at the ripe age of 50.
Last summer we had lunch seated next to a couple who were ten years younger than us, and they had both retired. Maybe because Americans are hard-wired to work, or some of us love our jobs, but it’s a challenge to wind things down. I’ve made a few changes, such as I no longer wake up and check my email first thing in the morning, and I have a zero-tolerance policy on commenting, removing any comments that are unkind or passive-aggressive. In the old days of food blogging, many of us would talk about one negative comment that could negate hundreds or thousands of wonderful or helpful ones. I loved having a blog, but this newsletter feels cozier and entre nous, rather than a free-for-all, and is part of creating a better balance between life online and off, and I hope in some ways for you as well.
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Still, I’m not about to throw in the serviette, yet. I’ve got a couple of book ideas rolling around in my head*, including one about entertaining for people who are bad at entertaining, like me. People are always asking me how long things can be made in advance or if things can be frozen, and I’m like, “I make everything as close to serving time as possible, so it’s as fresh as it can be.” (Few things are improved by freezing them.) So I’m the wrong person to ask, and that’s the reason I’m also ready for bed by the time my guests arrive.
Another idea is a third memoir, although I’m still recovering from L’Appart, which drove me to write a book about cocktails, which was compellingly cleansing.
*I still feel sorry for the book designer on Drinking French after I told her that the font she sent me to look at for the book didn’t meet my approval because it didn’t look at all French. When she told me, “David, it’s called Le François,” it was hard to argue with that. (And just after she told me that, I started seeing the font used in signs all around Paris…of course. 😊)
I also have two TV shows I’d love to see made. No one seems to think the one covering the world of French foods and drinks is as good of an idea as I do. However, the other one is still a work in progress, so perhaps in 2023 that will come out of its temporary retirement and not be another victim of the pandemic.
On the other hand, I think of what I could do with all that free time. I could go to all the places that people tell me that I need to go to, or should go to. I could watch all the many streaming series I’ve put on my watch lists, which span anywhere from four to seven seasons. (As much as we love those well-made series, I am so relieved when many of them finally end.) I could hit all the restaurants in Paris on my go-to list. I could visit my friends in Hawaii and spend a few weeks on the beach eating poké.
I could get to those cases of stuff that I don’t want to unpack. (Since no one else has stepped forward to do it.) And I could finally work up the courage to unhook my old cable box and return it to the company, who charge €49 for the privilege of canceling your subscription. (A friend of mine was charged an extra €100 for a missing power cord, so I gotta make sure I get all the cords into the box.) I have a short stack of new cookbooks that I want to make recipes from, which I’ll be featuring in an upcoming gift guide, and newsletter posts to finish up, one about my visit to a French potter that I’m still mesmerized by, and cost me a small fortune when I lugged home half the shop, as well as some recipes and a post about a popular French activity: Le talking. (And le sitting.)
Hope that you all have a great holiday season!
A Few Paris Addresses
La Maison du Chocolat
Paris goes all out for the holidays, most notably the pastry and chocolate shops. When I went to school at École Lenôtre, just next to the facility where they make all the cakes, candies, and other confections for their shops, everyone who worked in the offices went to work in the factory for the month of December. “We don’t need people sitting at desks,” they told me.
I’ve been to the workshop of La Maison du Chocolat, and they work hard for the holidays, too. This year they’ve created a superb Noël Collection of chocolates, which include a pecan praline-orange confit (candied orange) chocolate as well as my personal favorites, Rigoletto, filled with caramelized whipped chocolate and butter mousse, and Zagora, infused with fresh mint. I’m looking forward to tasting their Bûche de Noël later this month.
I like to stop in at Fouquet to see what they’re doing for the holidays and brought home a box of chocolates, taking a few minutes to visit the staff in their kitchens, which are right behind the shop. They just celebrated their 170th anniversary, and I’ve been going there for so long (although not that long…), it was gratifying to see the same chocolatiers still in the kitchen, as well as some new faces, who were smiling and dipping away.
Romain made me promise to come home with pâtes de fruits, as theirs are his favorites. But while I was there, they gave me a few chocolates to sample including Jumelle, two caramelized Italian hazelnuts dipped in dark chocolate, Croustillant, a chocolate-coated, whisper-thin, crisp spice biscuit, and another called Sel (Salt), which made me and my friend Jane from La Cuisine, who came with me, simultaneously swoon.
Tekés is one of the new restaurants in Paris that people have been talking about. It’s vegetarian, and the only way I can describe the menu, which seems to have been under someone’s directive to save ink, is “obtuse.”
Items are listed with just three single-word ingredients, such as Pumpkin’It: Citrouille, Café, Datte (pumpkin, coffee, date) and Gusto: Aubergine, Poivrons Marinés, Kishk (eggplant, marinated peppers, and kishk). Going on that intel, it was hard to figure out what to order. So we threw some darts at the menu, landing on the ingredients that sounded intriguing, and hoped we made good choices.
Our favorite was their take on the Fattoush salad (shown farther above), and we liked the date-filled, deep-fried filo cigars served with a fried egg to dip them in, but we were puzzled by other things. (And I don’t understand when restaurants serve you a dip, then break a cracker in half and think that’s enough for two people to eat it.) The servers and the cooks were very nice, but they have some kinks to work out.
We both loved the chocolate mousse, which was huge, so if you have a big appetite, order the chocolate mousse served with olive oil and flaky sea salt. (The other dessert was a small, rectangular cake, which was quite dry.) Tekés is vegetarian, so if you’re a vegetarian, or want to try something new in Paris, the €30-35 pre-fixe lunch menu would be a low-commitment way to give the restaurant a go.
La Taverne de Zhao
When I first moved to Paris, a Japanese restaurant wouldn’t serve me tofu because they said, “French people don’t like it.” Back then, most of the Japanese, Thai, and Korean restaurants on the rue Sainte-Anne in Paris were rarely full. Now, there are lines up and down the block as Parisians queue for lunch and dinner.
While not on the main drag, one of the best is La Taverne du Zhao, which is so proud of its heritage, the staff wears T-shirts that say “100% Chinese.” I ate at one of their newer restaurants, on rue Moliére, a block away from rue Sainte-Anne. The style is “street food,” which means food that’s served on the streets elsewhere but served inside restaurants in Paris. Since it was 5ºC (41ºF), I was fine dining inside and had a big bowl of biang-biang noodles with pork, a just reward after taking a Pilates Intense class nearby. The noodles are hand-slapped to order, and mine were very good. There wasn’t any chili oil on the table (although I see it on their website), and I wouldn’t have minded a bit to liven things up, so I should have asked. The spiciness was likely toned down for local tastes, but I’ll be back. (Their dumplings are also some of the best in town, and I did ask them before I left if they’d make me a “50% Chinese” T-shirt since I like Chinese food so much. So perhaps next time, there will be one waiting for me.)
Salon des Vignerons Indépendents
Every year the Salon des Vignerons Indépendents takes place in Paris and selected other major cities in France, where you’ll find hundreds of independent winemakers pouring, swirling, and selling wine. There’s a lot of wine, from Alsace to Gascony, from crémant to Sauternes, and even some cognacs and Armagnacs in the mix. You pay for entrance, they give you a glass, and you use that for tasting.
I went with my friends Forest, a spirits expert, and Jennifer, a culinary guide who specializes in French cheese but knows her wine as well. Rather than drinking some of everything, we decided it best to keep our focus on wines from Burgundy, mostly whites, and had some very good Macôns and Aligotés, both of which haven’t been highly coveted, so prices are still affordable enough for everyday drinking.
I diverged from the pack as I’m interested in Jura wines these days, which aren’t for everyone (Wikipedia called them, um…“distinctive”), but I love that each bottle has its own individual character, and one of the world’s great pairings is Comté cheese with vin jaune, a wine that’s aged under a veil of yeast, which gives it a unique sherry-like, nutty flavor. I picked up three bottles of that and a few bottles of Macvin de Jura, an apéritif that does double duty as an after-dinner wine, made from late-harvest (sweeter) grapes and fortified with grape eau-de-vie. It’s hard to find, even in France, and a few of the winemakers offering it were surprised that I knew about it.
Upcoming salons in Paris and across France are listed here.
A Few Tips: We went on Thursday morning as I’m told weekends and evenings can be crowded and sometimes a little raucous. Almost all the winemakers were very friendly, but remember that you’re talking to the people who make the wines, so if you sample something, take a moment to engage with them, even if you speak little to no French. This ain’t Costco.
The food offerings for lunch were pretty unexceptional, and we had lackluster (and expensive) sandwiches. There was an oyster stand and a Spanish ham stand, but there were very few stools to sit on to eat, and rest, and more would have been very much appreciated. Next year, I’ll bring my own sandwich from a local bakery. (And perhaps a stool!)
Also, many people bring a wheeled shopping caddy or small suitcase. A tote bag for a couple of bottles of wine is fine, but I ended up with eight bottles so was glad to have my trusty chariot. People do shop for wine by the case here, and the winemakers will ship to an address in France (shipping will be added), or perhaps elsewhere, depending on the winery.
Quick Question: Would you like me to continue to put restaurants and other addresses in Paris in the monthly newsletter, or send them out in a separate newsletter?
Links I’m Liking
French man wins legal fight not to be “fun” at work. (Washington Post, article unlocked)
She’s baaaaaack. Emily in Paris returns for season 3. (Netflix/YouTube)
Inflation is causing French elementary schools to reduce portion sizes. (Le Parisien, in French)
Where to eat in Paris during Christmas and the holidays… (Paris by Mouth)
🎶Thank you for being a friend🎶 New Yorkers can now immerse themselves in a Golden Girls restaurant experience. (Bucket Listers)
Lawsuit filed, claiming that Velveeta Mac & Cheese isn’t ready in 3 1/2 minutes. (Washington Post, article unlocked)
JetBlue to begin flights to Paris this summer. (One Mile at a Time)
Paris Olympic mascot draws similarities to, uh…even on French news. (Euronews)
Man who lived in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport from 1988 until 2006 recently moved back in and passes away in Terminal 2F. (NBC)
30kg (66-pound) whopper of a goldfish caught in French lake. (The Guardian)
The best apples look like potatoes. (Taste)
Anyone else remember Space Food Sticks? The precursors to energy bars, they tasted terrible and never really took off, at least here on earth…
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