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This month was sort of a downer for me. A lot is going on, which is normal this time of year, but like many of you, I’ve had some trouble sleeping. It doesn’t help when the person next to you is sleeping as if nothing else is going on in the world, night-after-night. If you’re one of those people who hits the pillow and wakes up refreshed and ready to go, eight hours later, I salute you. (And am insanely jealous.) The rest of us are prone to feeling grouchy the next day. What perks me up is a sunny Tarte au citron, which, if I’m not feeling industrious, I’ll pick up from Chambelland (above) or The French Bastards, two of my favorites in town.
During the spring lockdown a number of people jumped on the sourdough-at-home bandwagon. But when people asked me what I named my starter, I mentioned (above) on Instagram that mine was called “I walked to the bakery.” As a home baker, I love baking at home, but I leave bread (and sometimes, Tarte au citron) duties to the local bakery. Not only do they do a great job, but going there is part of the ritual of daily life in France, which is a nice part of the day. When Apollonia Poilâne was a guest on my Instagram Live, she remarked, “Bread likes being baked together.” So who am I to break up a baguette party?
To work on better sleep habits, I’ve been toggling down screen time in the evening. It’s a little hard when I’ve got obligations and meetings on the west coast of the U.S., where the 9 hour time difference doesn’t jibe with French dinnertime. We can change a lot of things, but we can’t change time. (Although for some reason, people keep asking me to.)
Since starting to watch Ozark on Netflix, I’ve learned to switch screens off close to bedtime (…have you watched it? It’s quite eery…) and have been enjoying the books of Edward Behr, including 50 Foods, which has short, but immensely interesting, chapters on everything from oysters and beurre, to pears and pain Poîlane. Another book of his, The Food & Wine of France, is well-worth reading too. Ed is a terrific, thoughtful writer and the founder and editor of The Art of Eating (started in 1986!)
I’ll be taking a bit of time off around the holidays, which also happens to be birthday season for me. I plan to spend a fair amount of time padding around the apartment, staying warm, sipping hot chocolate, and eating cookies and marshmallows.
And…as a little bonus for you, for the holidays, you can download my new free guide to Favorite Paris Pastry Shops, which I’m offering to new subscribers. Since many of you have been long time subscribers, some for over fifteen years, I wanted to make sure you got a copy too. It lists dozen of the best chocolate shops and bakeries in Paris and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. The download will be available at that link through the end of this month (December 2020.) If you missed it, you can go to my blog and subscribe to get blog posts sent to you via email using the “get posts and recipes via email” form in the right sidebar of my blog, or here.
Happy holidays…stay safe, warm, and healthy!
Drinking French news!
Many of you have asked me about what bottles to stock your home bars with (and what tools you’ll need), to make the drinks in Drinking French. While the book has a whole chapter of café drinks that don’t have any alcohol, plus a chapter of apéritif snacks, I did a post on What to buy if you are building a French bar that features the basic bottles I suggest. But I’m delighted to work with two of my favorite spirits shops, Slope Cellars in New York and K & L Wine Merchants in California to present two specially-priced Drinking French Bar Boxes. And as a bonus, each comes with a bookplate-signed copy of Drinking French! A box makes a wonderful gift for yourself, or to send someone for the holidays, which both stores can do to make life easier.
The Slope Cellars Drinking French box includes a bottle of Old Forester bottled-in bond-rye (Boulevardiers!), Citadelle gin (the first gin produced in France), Forthave spirits small-batch red apéritif bitters, and a bottle of Dolin vermouth made in the French alps, great for sipping straight or mixing up a Manhattan. Free delivery is available within Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as in-store pick up. (Due to state laws, the store can ship to New York, Washington, D.C., Florida, and Alaska.)
The K & L Wine Merchants Drinking French Box includes yellow Chartreuse (perfect for The Yellow Cocktail, page 202 of Drinking French) and the Alaska cocktail. There’s also Bache Gabrielson Tre Kors cognac (for French Manhattans), Byrrh Grand Quinquina, and Raymond Ragneau Pineau de Charentes, a très French apéritif that’s an aged blend of cognac and grape juice which I enjoy sipping chilled. If you’ve not had Pineau de Charentes, you’re in for a treat. (Due to state laws, the store can ship or deliver to California, Nevada, and New Hampshire. The boxes are also available for curbside pickup at their locations in San Francisco, Redwood City, and Hollywood.)
To launch the box, I have a great chat with Kate at K&L Wine Merchants about what I like to eat and drink on their blog here.
Some links I’m liking…
Town elects French bulldog as mayor (Messy Nessy Chic)
The most beautiful Bûches de Noël in Paris (Yule Log cakes) for Christmas (Vogue)
Bagel and lox Kreplach with rye pasta and chili oil. מִיקרוֹפוֹן (mike) dropped. (Food52)
Personally, I’m not sure about “jarcuterie” (Today)
American-made blackcurrant liqueur is finally here (Current Cassis)
French ham goes grey (Yahoo!)
What happened when John Lennon self-isolated (NYT, possible paywall)
Want to practice your French? This website will hook you up with French folks of un certain âge (elderly) who wants to chat with you (Oldyssy)
Top tips for better ice for your home bar (52 Martinis)
Paris Olympics to feature breakdancing as a sport (NYPost)
This croissant lamp…
…and these lettuce slippers. (Amazon)
Recent Recipes from My Blog
I’ve been making this Chocolate cherry fruitcake since 1998 and it was time to reshare the recipe. It’s got the flavor of deep, dark bittersweet chocolate, and isn’t super sweet, which is also because I’ve snuck in rum-soaked dried sour cherries. It’s a great cake any time of the year, if you’re looking for something that chocolate-lovers will appreciate for ‘Holidays 2020’, your search ends here. (If you’re looking for something super quick, easy, and healthy…these Fruitcake Bars via my baking pal Alice Medrich hit all those bases.)
I’ve been searching for a great Black Cake, which has roots in the Caribbean. I’ve come across recipes that call for everything, from rum to Manischewitz wine (fat chance of finding that in Paris!) but when I landed on this version, I crowned it the winner.
Before I go, I need to get something off my chest. I don’t to be sour grapes (because sour grapes do not make good sorbet), but several outstanding baking books came out this year that seemed to have avoided the detection of those “Best of 2020” lists. There’s been a raft of pie books and Ed Kimber’s One Tin Bakes, but I want to give a special shout-out to Baking at the 20th Century Café by Michelle Polzine and A Good Bake by Melissa Weller.
I invited Michelle on my IG Live to make the fabulous Hot Butterscotch in her book, which includes desserts influenced by Middle Europe (and elsewhere), served at her beloved café in San Francisco. And I devoured the Chocolate Marshmallows (above) from A Good Bake, a comprehensive guide to baking, with everything from a step-by-step guide to making Panettone (with a detailed weekend schedule for putting it together) to baking projects that range from ambitious to easy. Melissa also explains why she does things like add rye flour to tart dough, which reduces shrinking, and cooks cocoa powder, to bring out the maximum chocolate flavor from it. Both of those books are at the top of my “best of” list for 2020.
Speaking of bakers, I’ll be chatting and doing a little baking and drinking with my friend, baker & cookbook author Edd Kimber, live online with La Cuisine in Paris this month. Like many businesses here, they’ve been severely impacted by Covid and travel restrictions. If you can’t make it to Paris, here’s a chance to show them some support and join me and Edd for a lively conversation and Q & A on Sunday, December 20th. Sign up here to join us! - dl