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June 2023 Newsletter
When you live in the most visited (and delicious) city in the world, you’re going to get a lot of visitors. May was a month where some days I’d have a morning coffee planned with one friend, lunch with another, apéro with yet another, and dinner plans with others. So it’s no wonder I ended up with a problem with my jaw, which was likely from all that eating.
Everyone who moved to Paris from elsewhere has to expect that people are going to want to visit, and at first I was so overwhelmed by it, that I wrote a chapter in my book The Sweet Life in Paris called “Les Visiteurs.” But the upside about visitors is that you get to play tourist. And while tourists always tell me they want to do non-touristy things, I love doing them.
Going to museums, trying new restaurants, taking long walks along the Seine while lapping up a cone of buttery caramel ice cream from Berthillon, enjoying a plate of steak-frites with a bottle of Morgon in a bistro, and eating towers of fresh shellfish, are are all the things that I’d like to be doing more of. Count me in!
In lieu of moving away so I could do all those things, visitors mean that I get to enjoy fresh pastries in the morning from the bakery, which is a good excuse to take a detour from our more restrained morning ritual of café au lait and toasted grainy bread. In addition, I got to eat at Septime for the first time in over six years. And even better, friends came bearing gifts, such as bags of pecans, chocolate chips, and Tom’s toothpaste. Europe has not gotten the memo that toothpaste can be fun, and I don’t want the last thing that I put in my mouth before I go to bed to taste like punishment.
One of my best friends spent a week as our houseguest, and he was more than happy to get dressed every morning and go to the bakery on the corner. I, on the other hand, don’t like to get dressed until I absolutely have to.
When you go to a boulangerie in France, you often need to specify that you want your baguette bien cuite (well-baked), because a lot of people like their baguettes pas trop cuite, not too baked. I forgot to mention that a nearby bakery, Magali, has a rack of specifically très bien cuite baguettes for people who like them on the edge of trop cuite, such as the ones above, which are too cuite for me. Someday, I want to sit in the bakery and see who orders them.
Now that spring is here, strawberries aren’t a rarity anymore, and the markets and shops are loaded with them, in addition to apricots and cherries. Being me, I keep buying and buying fruit when it’s plentiful and in season because I can’t resist. I made a batch of strawberry sorbet with some strawberries that were marked at half-price (I also can’t resist a bargain on fruit), and with a few nicer specimens, I made Chambéryzette, a French apéritif created by Marie Dolin in the early 1900s that was very fashionable to drink on Paris’s Left Bank back then. Her resolutely French vermouth company is still family-owned and still making excellent French vermouth in the Alps today.
Vermouth blanc isn’t as well-known as dry and sweet vermouths. While the tendance these days is for everything to be dry, white vermouth has ripe fruit flavors that give it a gentle sweetness, which also comes from elderflowers, hints of vanilla, hibiscus, and basil. Cocktail expert David Wondrich believes that a number of classic cocktails that now call for dry vermouth were originally made with white vermouth, which you can read more about in The Other Vermouth That’s Often Overlooked by.
Get the recipe for strawberry-infused vermouth and the Strawberry Spritz here.
One of the places I got to visit with yet another visiting friend was Olga, a nifty little wine bar and café near the Gare de Lyon. It’s an off-the-beaten-path spot with just a few tables, great for a sandwich made on an excellent (bien cuite, but not too bien cuite) baguette and a glass of wine. It’s perfect for tourists and locals!
I also posted a few Paris Apartment updates (for paid subscribers) as well as recipes for Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread cookies and Pasta with Broccoli pesto, which is holding me over until our three tiny basil plants in our garden bestow upon us lots and lots of fresh basil. And as I write this, there are six little jalapeño seedlings sprouting next to the window in our kitchen. Romain keeps asking me what we’re going to do with them since jalapeños aren’t well-known in France. I plan to pickle a few, make salsa, and add some to guacamole…and any extras may get gifted to others from les amériques—so if interested, you might want to stay on my good side.😉
And for those following my Moccamaster story, it has a happy ending. I’ll write more about that in a future newsletter post — once I’ve figured out how to use it!
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Links I’m Liking
Time to start taking boxed wine seriously. (NYT/Article unlocked)
After this year’s Best Baguette in Paris competition, the city of Paris posted a map of the bakeries where you can score one (or more) of the top 10 baguettes in Paris. (Ville de Paris/Facebook)
France is well-known for its yogurt, and the average person in France eats 170 pots of yogurt per year. (The average price per pot is 23 centimes.) But what to do with those 15 million plastic pots? (France3, in French)
“Botatouille” is bringing AI into your kitchen. What could go wrong? (Buzzkill, I mean…Buzzfeed)
These skillet-baked Romanian stuffed cheese breads look good! (Washington Post/Article and recipe unlocked)
A Few Restaurants in Paris
I had a surprisingly fun and delicious dinner at Fulgurances, a restaurant that changes chefs every few months, giving some of them (who’ve often worked under more famous chefs) a chance to shine on their own. At the moment, and through September, Nazareno Mayol is doing a great job with the €75 tasting menu, which would be €250 anywhere else in Paris, with inventive dishes like oysters with hazelnut praline, lovage, and preserved lemons, asparagus with shaved beef heart, tiny peas with capers and fried spelt, and watercress mousse with crisp chicken skin and blue cheese, which sounds weird…but works! (The dessert, which leaned a little too much toward the savory side, was admittedly a little odd to my taste.)
Adrian Ruois is an excellent, friendly sommelier and guided us toward the right wines, and the youthful staff is lovely and accommodating.
Every bakery in Paris offers up sandwiches for lunch. Sometimes, it’s a lot of bread and too little filling. Favorite places like Caractere du Cochon, Le Petit Vendôme, and Chez Aline (85 rue de la Roquette) do next-level sandwiches…and I’d like to add Graine to that list. Each sandwich is made with their award-winning bread and comes tied up with a little string. But it’s what’s inside that matters.
The lines start forming at 12:15 (I’ve tried going earlier to beat the crowds, but they’re usually still hustling to get the sandwiches in the showcase), and many choose the well-priced formule, which includes a drink and a treat from their baked goods selection. I know you didn’t come to France to get carrot cake, but get it anyways.
I recently had a sandwich stuffed with slices of meaty terrine with cornichons and beets, with a ratio of filling to bread more favorable toward the filling. There’s usually a vegetarian sandwich, as well as classics like a jambon-fromage.
Thai food isn’t well-represented in Paris. A lot of people go to a more famous Thai spot in Belleville, which I just find rather meh. I’m not an expert on Thai cuisine but Leela Punyaratabandhu is. She writes the lively and spicynewsletter (if you’re into Thai cooking, her newsletter is a must to subscribe to) and recommended Thaï Yim and Thaï Yim 2, comparing their food to what she gets in Bangkok.
The two sister restaurants aren’t places you’ll just stumble upon, but I had to do some shopping in the 13th (known as le quartier asiatique) so I stopped in for lunch at Thai Yim 2 and had one of the best green papaya salads I’ve ever had, with sparkling freshly-shredded green papaya that was dressed with a bright, tangy sauce. I also had a green curry which was delicious. I want to go back with friends so I can order more things on the menu…or maybe next time Leela is in town, I can hitch a ride with her and delve deeper into the menu.
After a too-long hiatus, Verjus is back! The prix-fixe multi-course meal features produce from the garden they’ve been tending since being sidelined by the pandemic, which also allowed them to do some updates in the kitchen. We started with socca filled with fresh herbs, crisp saffron chips with dots of intensely-flavored saffron cream, and their spectacular made-on—the-premises bread with just-churned salted butter. I especially loved the smoked potato cake that came with housemade cured trout. The food, and service, is always wonderful here and if you’re not up for a full dinner, or can’t get a reservation, their bar à vins (wine bar) has small plates to enjoy with wines by the glass.
Nope, Paris is no longer a hellscape for people with different dietary needs. A younger generation of chefs and bakers is interested in satisfying all diners and dessert-lovers who live here, or who come to visit.
Emily, aka, who works with me, has come out with her Gluten-Free Guide to Paris with over 100 addresses she’s personally vetted. Paris is no longer a minefield for people with dietary restrictions (including vegetarians), and while you won’t get the scowl you would have from the staff in days gone by, it’s not always a walk in the parc for people with allergies or specific food needs. So it’s great to have a guide for those avoiding gluten so they can enjoy the bounty of Paris, including the pastries, along with everyone else.
Favorite Summer Dessert Recipes
Blacker Berry Galette celebrates the deliciously dark side of the summer. This combination of dark, sweet cherries and inky blackberries makes the blackest, most berry-est dessert that I know of. Serve it with a scoop of cool vanilla ice cream for contrast and, of course, flavor.
Cherry Clafoutis is how cherry season is celebrated in France—pits and all. The controversy of to pit or not to pit is a matter of personal preference…and your proximity to a dentist. But if you’ve given yourself permission to treat yourself to a cherry pitter, here’s the place to use it.
While pedants likely have their fingers on the “comment” button, nope, this Plum-Strawberry Jam technically isn’t a dessert. However, it makes a great filling for this Easy Jam Tart. This tangy plum jam is plumped up with strawberries and is especially good enclosed in crackly, buttery cornmeal dough that gets pressed — rather than rolled — into the pan. You read that right: A tart with no rolling required! It’s so good, you’ll want to have it for breakfast…even though some say you can’t have dessert for breakfast. But I’m here to tell you that yes, you can.
I hesitate to admit that plums are my favorite summer fruit because I don’t want to diss cherries or nectarines, raspberries, mulberries, or boysenberries. (Can someone please grow juicy boysenberries in France and send them to us in Paris?) But feel free to tumble any or all of those seasonal delights on top of scoops of Plum Sorbet.
One of the most challenging words for anglophones to pronounce in French is moelleux. But not to worry, this French molleaux of summer fruits is as easy as pie to make. Actually, it’s easier. You can use whatever fruits are at your fingertips: apricots, nectarines, peaches, or plums, which get baked in an almond-rich filling and is perfect picnic fare as it stays moist during drives to the countryside, métro rides to the banks of the Seine, or wherever your summer travels take you to.
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