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July 2023 newsletter
Summer is Officially Here in Paris
I usually have a lot to say, but last month something happened to my jaw. I may have been eating something too firm or whatever, but I dislocated it, which prevented me from opening my mouth too widely, so eating anything volumineux (bulky), such as cherries, dumplings, and baguettes, is a problem. Thankfully, since summer is finally here, drinking rosé isn’t an issue.
After my visit with the doctor for a jaw rééducation—which involved her sticking her fingers in the deep recesses of my mouth and trying to coax things back in place—she placed a few bâtons of cotton in my mouth to keep things in alignment for a while and sent me home. Outside her office, someone tried to bum a cigarette off of me. He had to ask me twice because I couldn’t believe someone would ask me that, but not much surprises me on the streets and sidewalks of Paris anymore.
Seeing as I didn’t look like someone you’d want to sit next to on the métro, I tried to get a cab or Uber, but none were available. So I ended up taking the métro home. Fortunately, the French value discretion and are good at looking away, which worked to my advantage. The woman seated next to me didn’t flinch a bit when a trail of something liquid inadvertently slid out of my mouth (which I was doing my best to contain), while just reading about it is probably causing a few of you who weren’t even there to unsubscribe to the newsletter.
Because of that, coupled with a lot of visitors and the general lethargy that takes over France as vacation time rolls around, I haven’t been too prolific. I’ve been trying to stay in the saddle and keep things going. So thanks to those of you who are sticking around!
July is the moment when people start making their exodus from Paris, but lots of visitors seem to be coming*, with more (and more) arriving every day. I walked through the Marais on Thursday and could barely walk as the narrow sidewalks were bustling even more than usual. Despite Martha Stewart saying, “Look at the success of France with their stupid … you know, off for August, blah blah blah…,” her thoughts don’t seem to be stopping anyone in France from taking their hallowed summer vacation, a right that was given to salaried workers back in 1936.
If you don’t live in Europe, it may sound silly. But it’s a collective movement to go away in the summer, and beginning in June, the first question people ask each other is, “Where are you going for les vacances?”
It’s normal to start planning summer vacations in the fall, with hotels and trains filling up far in advance. Personally, I can barely plan for tomorrow—so we haven’t made any plans yet. One day I’ll get it together in November to start thinking 7-8 months in advance. In fact, I’m going to set a reminder right now, for 2024…or 2025.
Speaking of 2024, the scramble is also on for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, with prices doubling or quadrupling (and Airbnb prices rising too). If you haven’t gotten your hotel room reserved by now and are planning to come, stop reading this newsletter and go make it. Our guest room only sleeps two — and it’s a tight fit. (But the price is right😉.)
While summer is in full swing, I’ve been busy using all the apricots, cherries, nectarines, and peaches tumbling forth at the markets. One of my favorite desserts of all time is Apricot-Cherry Crisp. Fresh apricots get extra-tangy when baked, and the recipe is here if you want to give it a go…
Knowing that for many of you fresh apricots aren’t available, the recipe works well with other summer fruits, including nectarines, plums, and peaches, and I give instructions for using them in place of the apricots.
This is also the time of year when visitors en route to Paris wonder what’ll be open in the summer, especially in August. The outdoor markets remain open, although many vendors take off in August, but places that cater to an international audience, such as Ladurée, La Maison du Chocolat, and Pierre Hermé, stagger staff vacations so they remain open—and most have ice cream.
While it’s true that a number of restaurants and bakeries in Paris close, every neighborhood has a bakery open since it’s practically a law that no one can be without fresh bread in France. And some restaurants keep serving;posted a helpful list of what’s open in August.
Rather than getting too wrapped up in eating at specific places, though, you can simply stop in a local café for a croque monsieur or a salade de chèvre chaud (goat cheese salad) and a carafe of vin de table and watch the world go by from your table on the terrace. And since we haven’t planned anything yet, you might find me there too…
Some Delicious Places in Paris That I’ve Visited Recently
A majority of wines in Alison Eastaway’s wine shop, Cavewoman, are either made by women or from businesses run by women. Alison has become a friendly presence in an emerging neighborhood, with neighbors like Ten Belles bakery and café, La Briée brioche shop, La Petite Cagette, Napoli Café, Project Sausage (a British sausage/pie shop), Le Savoyard (specialties from the Savoie region of France), and Laiterie Gilbert cheese shop (an excellent fromagerie) nearby, so you can explore this highly walkable neighborhood in the 11th while you’re there. Alison is a fun, yet seriously knowledgeable, source of wine info and is popular with locals looking for a recommendation for a bottle to go with dinner or to bring to a picnic. She knows the winemakers personally, and I always learn something from her.
When I arrived in Paris, people looked at me like I was crazy when I talked about the wave of bean-to-bar chocolates that were being made in America. At the time, there was just a handful of artisan chocolate makers in the U.S., and now there are hundreds, which chocolate expert Chloé Doutre-Roussel described as a true chocolate revolution.
Thankfully, small-scale chocolate-making arrived in Paris with chef Alain Ducasse blazing the way with Nicolas Berger (who’s gone on to open his own chocolate-making operation outside of Paris), Ara, and L’Instant Cacao roasting and mixing beans a few steps from the Palais-Royal.
Inspired by Dandelion chocolate in San Francisco, Nicolas Rozier-Chabert and Sandra Mielenhausen planted their shop Plaq on the rue de Nil, a “foodie” street in Paris, with Frenchie restaurant and Terroirs d’Avenir as neighbors. I recently stopped by on a warm day for a scoop of chocolate sorbet that was light and refreshing, topped with just-roasted cocoa nibs. The chocolate production is done in the very same shop where everything is sold, and it’s hard to resist buying a bar (or two) with the smell of beans roasting and conching (mixing) away in vats next to rows of chocolate bars.
Porcelaines M.P. Samie
As mentioned, I’m really behind on everything. I’ve got so many places I want to share in Paris with you. But I wanted to quickly share one of my favorite addresses in Paris, which I wrote about in Drinking French: A multi-story shop that specializes in French dinnerware and café accessories at steeply discounted prices.
You’ll need to trek to the 14th, but it’s worth it to stock up on café crème cups and saucers (above), Apilco baking dishes, café au lait bowls in a variety of sizes, and more. Although they’ll wrap things up, travelers might want to bring additional bubble wrap from home if they plan to shop and stow pieces away in their suitcase. But most of the stuff is authentic bistroware, meaning it’s sturdy enough to stand up to a little jostling.
Links I’m Likin’
Before the British Bake-Off, there was the Pillsbury Bake-Off. (Taste)
Now it’s Colombia’s turn for a Dijon mustard shortage. (NYT/Unlocked)
The psychedelic Ebony magazine test kitchen designed in 1972 will end up in the Smithsonian. (Searchable Museum)
Who knew Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary was a (very) accomplished…and opinionated cook? (via)
Chef cuts vegans from his restaurant. (ABC7)
How (and why) the Instant Pot went bust. (Salon)
2000-year-old pizza painting discovered at Pompeii. (BBC)
A humorous look at questions you might get asked at French immigration…
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*Pro-Tips: If coming to Paris this summer, I recommend that you bring linen or lightweight clothes and a nice pair of summer sandals as temperatures can rise precipitously, and hotels, métro cars, and restaurants don’t often have air-conditioning or fans and sometimes keep windows closed, even in very warm weather. A hat and sunscreen are also a good idea. The city of Paris offers up tips for keeping cool when the weather is hot.
(French pharmacies carry good sunscreens, and I use La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50+ Fluide invisible/invisible fluid, which is a lightweight facial sunscreen that’s not greasy. They also make one that’s tinted (teintée), so make sure to check the label that it’s the “invisible” sunscreen.)