Even since I’ve had a monthly newsletter, I’ve start writing it a week or so before sending it out. I usually add stuff I want to share as I find it, and then edit things out later if they get stale (which I’ll admit it a terrible word to use in a newsletter written by a baker…), before hitting the “Send” button on the first of the month.
This time around, the newsletter is coming out a few days late since I think we all needed a little breathing room after the end of 2021, which was a challenging year. I’d intended to begin the newsletter with a list of “10 Things I Wanted to Get Off My Chest”…which seemed like a fine idea at the time. I hemmed and hawed, adding and deleting things to the list, before deciding that it was better to start 2022 on a higher note, and not look back. (They were meant to be more amusing, rather than rants, and I haven’t deleted them entirely, so may post them into a separate newsletter when we’re all back up and running again.)
So while Emily is back in Paris with all sorts of eye-scorching get-ups, my take is that everyone is doing their best these days - including our friend Emily, whose biggest problem this season is that she has a crush on her best friend’s boyfriend, a hot French chef. So who am I to criticize?
My year ended on a tasty note: After hitting the “refresh” button on my computer at least 387 times, I finally got through the Rupture de Stock (Out of Stock) notices, and was able to order a panettone from Paris pâtissier Christophe Louis, which sell out immediately. If you taste his, you’ll know why. I was caught by surprise as I hit the refresh button, yet again, one day, and there was an “order now” button where the out of stock notice was for his Mendiant panettone. A few days later when we crossed Paris to pick it up, when I got home and unwrapped it, the beautiful panettone was loaded with chocolate chunks from bean-to-bar chocolate maker Nicolas Berger, generous slices of candied oranges, dried figs from Malaga, and roasted Italian hazelnuts (above).
I was going to hide it from Romain because it was so good I wanted it all for myself. But it was too good not to share. (And he drove me to pick it up, too.) Chef Louis isn’t making these particular ones anymore but is doing a Galette de rois version, which is likely great. I’m not on his payroll but it’s definitely something to rave (not rant) about.
(They’re for paid subscribers since many of the pictures and stories are quite personal. If you want to subscribe you can take 20% off using the link below until January 5th.)
The posts show some of the funny (and scary) real estate listings we looked at, as well as some of the places we’ve seen. Writing and sharing stories about them gave me the opportunity to look thought some of the old pictures on my computer, and I unearthed this one, below, of my first apartment in Paris, taken on the day I moved out. I’ve got lots more photos to show in upcoming newsletters, some surprising even to me!
After spending a difficult period during Covid mostly indoors, like everyone else in Paris, we’ve been craving outdoor space, which means that any apartment with a balcony, terrace, or garden is now selling for a premium…if you can find one. A lot of people, like my neighbors, gave up and bought a full-on maison secondaire (second home) in the countryside. You can get an entire home for the same as a one-room studio, without a terrace or balcony, in Paris. But country living isn’t for me, so we decided to stay put.
(And yes, I’ve already started looking for a new kitchen sink too. I have my priorities…)
Romain was definitely on team maison secondaire, but one roadblock is that I’ve never built up the courage to try and get my French driver’s license - which is a big chore (very few pass it on the first try), and it’s very expensive, and I don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way to get anywhere on my own. Being from California, I don’t want to brag, but I’m an excellent driver. And being Parisian, I’ve seen some terrifying driving here. And being a passenger in a car, I’ve also seen, and been involved in, my fair share of panicky situations.* Romain’s father once told me “Les piétons n’existent pas” (“Pedestrians don’t exist”) and if you’ve tried to cross the street in Paris, you probably agree with him.
(*One of the funniest things I’ve seen in my years with Romain was when we were in San Francisco at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market year ago, when he was a smoker. In the middle of the market, he casually lit up a cigarette which, being from Paris, is perfectly normal. Within seconds, the crowd parted like the sea parted for Moses. He was unaware of it. I, however, understood all the movement and muttering and told him it probably wasn’t the best place for a smoke.😉 )
In terms of shocks, after my previous renovation (shown mid-way, above), we’ve endured everything in my current place, from malfaçons and the now constant and steady buzz of food delivery scooters, to boisterous block parties even during strict lockdowns (a few that required visits by the gendarmes to quell…) and hipsters swiping our plants, that it feels like it’s time to start somewhere fresh. So if you want to join us for the ride, stayed tuned for more stories in the newsletter.
In other news, I’ve also been trying to get rolling on a book, which I’ve had to put on hold while I take care of a bunch of other admin and stuff before the end of the year. Now that December and 2021 are behind us, it’s time to start fresh and take stock of what’s ahead. And if I do sign up for driving school, which you’re obliged to take before taking the French driver’s test, I’ll be adding another project to my roster. But for the time being, I don’t mind being a piéton, but will steer clear of the drivers, and stay safely (I hope!) on my feet.
After giving it a go for a year, I’m expanding my newsletter to be my main focus and place where I share stories and recipes. I’ve been enjoyed the more relaxed nature of writing it, which reminds me of the early days of blogging when things were looser and more fun. I’m also more interested in a reader-supported, rather than ad-supported, place to write. So I’ll be moving most of my content here. (You can read more about it, including answers to some FAQs, here.)
If you’re getting this, you’re already a subscriber. Thank you! If you’re a free subscriber you’ll get a few extra posts and recipes each month. If you’re a paid subscriber you’ll get all of the posts and recipes, plus you can participate in the comments. I’m not a fan of pushing people toward things so you can take your pick. (Here’s that 20% off link again in case you do want to upgrade.)
Links I’m Liking
…this assessment of Emily in Paris, Season 2. (NYT, unlocked)
14 biggest cheese myths - debunked! (The Guardian)
Paris phases out carnets, the former iconic packets of ten paper métro tickets. (RATP, in English)
Want to know the cheese you’re about to eat by taking a pic of it? Yup, there’s an app for that. (Cheezam)
Midnight Trains promises overnight sleeper trains in France with elevated experiences; craft cocktails, good food, nice bedding, and sustainability. Sign me up! (Midnight Trains)
Homeowners find themselves in a sticky situation with 80,000 bees and 100 pounds of honey in their bathroom wall. (NYT, unlocked)
San Francisco’s legendary bean-to-bar chocolate emporium closes its doors. I was a big fan of this shop and there was no bigger cheerleader for artisan, bean-to-bar chocolate makers than Adam, the owner. He’ll be missed. (48 Hills)
Have the cast iron pan fans gotten out of hand? (Taste)
Prices for “humble” baguettes rise in France. (Straits Times)
I was profiled as Six Chez Panisse Alums Reflect on the Job of a Lifetime, including the best life advice Alice Waters ever gave me. (Inside Hook)
Recent Recipes from My Blog
Is the “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese called that because of the cheese used, or its simplicity? This one mixes the best of both worlds - cheddar and Comté - although is adaptable to whatever cheese you have on hand, or whichever you this is “best.” In the middle of winter, I can’t think of anything I’d rather eat more than a gratin dish of bubbling cheese surrounding hearty spoonfuls of pasta.And don’t sleep on that crispy topping either!
Flan Parisien never fails to draw curious looks from visitors to pâtisseries in France, where flan pâtissier differs from its Mexican and Spanish counterparts. In the spirit of flan for all, this impressive looking tart (or flan) is easier to make than it seems. And you’ll feel like a pro once it cools down and you slice into the charred top, to reveal a creamy, custardy, wobbly, vanilla-scented center.
You might think the Italians and Austrians have a lock on the Spritz, but this French Harvest Spritz I mixed up uses a decidedly French apéritif as its base, melding the flavors of wine grapes and apples, the keys to this seasonally-appropriate spritzy apéro.
This delightfully easy, spiced Graham Cracker Cake is great with everything from poached pears and mangoes, to sliced peaches and strawberries, so you can enjoy it year round. But it’s also wonderful on its own. It’s got a secret ingredient that dials up the spices and we enjoyed it at teatime, if that’s your bag.
The legendary Madeleine Kamman was a force in the culinary world. She famously dissed a French chef who said that women belonged in the bedroom, not in the kitchen. She was quite the personality, and in addition to knowing how to speak her mind, she was a remarkably accomplished cook. Her White Chocolate-Chartreuse Bavarians are dreamy-smooth treats, and delightful topped with shavings of dark chocolate, but they’re so versatile that they go just as well as fruit or berries on top. I broke into my stash of frozen cherries to top these, putting a cherry on top of 2021…before moving on to 2022.
As a former California, I can make the claim of being an expert driver. I had a Saab stickshift in San Francisco and if I could tackle those steep hills, I can tackle anything, even the chaos around the Arc de Triomphe, where accidents are so common that insurance companies agree to split the costs of any, 50:50, between drivers. (Another story used to go that your auto insurance wouldn’t be valid when driving in the infamous chaos around the arch. Since I don’t have auto insurance, I’m not sure what’s true.)
Even so, I’ve been avoiding getting my French driver’s license due to the challenging written and driving tests. But maybe I shouldn’t worry as mastering the latter, as it doesn’t seem to be such an issue…
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