Sunday, November 23, 2008

Walking around Paris.

By day.

And by night.

Paris, part two: marché de plein air.

I landed in Paris at 8:30 on Saturday morning. They'd fed and watered me on the plane, and I'd managed to wash up in the tiny little bathroom (Where, it should be noted, Clarins products were on offer. Love Air France.). These were both good things, since my room was not ready when I turned up at the hotel about an hour later.

I dropped my luggage off at the hotel, grabbed my book and a Plan de Paris, and headed toward the Louvre. It was a brisk, slightly drizzly day, and I was bundled in my jacket, scarf and gloves (All black; after all, this is Paris, darling.). I passed the mairie (town hall) for the 4th arrondissement, and right there in its courtyard was an open-air market (en français: un marché de plein air).*

I'd avoided fresh fruit and vegetables in India (there's nothing worse than sitting through five days of meetings while simultaneously battling Delhi Belly), and so was immediately lured to the fruit stand. I bought three clementines and ate them, standing in the square, in quick succession. Once the fruit was safely in my tummy, I had time to explore.

There were vegetables of every variety, oysters, gorgeous fresh fish, cooked meats, wines, and even a boulanger. I spent twenty minutes wandering around, devising menus in my mind and fantasizing about having such a well-provisioned market as close to my apartment as this was to my hotel. And, of course, I snapped some photos for your are a select few. The full set can be found over on Flickr!

*Obsessive internet research has revealed that the market I visited is the Marché Baudoyer, in Place Baudoyer, and is the rare Paris market open on Wednesdays as well as Saturdays.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Paris, an aside: L'Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais.

A quick note about L'Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais, where I stayed for two nights during my visit to Paris. It's adorable, affordable, and in a perfect location. Just off the Rue de Rivoli, within walking distance of Île Saint-Louis, Île de la Cité, the Louvre, and the Bastille, and about two blocks from two different stops on the 1 line (Château de Vincennes-La Défense) of the tro, it was an excellent jumping-off point for all my weekend activities.

The bonus: it's in le Marais, an adorable neighborhood untouched by the Hausmann renovations of the 19th century. It's full of adorable shops, galleries, and fantastic bistros and bars. Most importantly: it's a real neighborhood, accessible and far less touristy than Montmartre, Place Vendôme, or St. Germain. In short, I've found my new Parisian base, and I highly recommend you check it out, too.

Paris, part one: Dehillerin.

On my first day in Paris, I spent the morning walking all over the place, ending up at the Louvre for a couple of hours. Once I felt like I'd paid enough cultural homage, I headed north towards the Bourse du Commerce to pay a visit to my own personal Mecca, otherwise known as E. Dehillerin. I'd visited once before, back on my 2006 Europe trip (details here), so I knew what my targets were.

Ready to spring into action, I opened the door and was confronted by a teeming sea of Parisians (and a few American tourists). When Louisa and I stopped by in 2006, it was a Monday or Tuesday afternoon; this was Saturday afternoon at 1:00, and all bets were off. Nothing, though, could really bust through the very Zen I'm-in-Paris-so-everything-is-OK-by-me attitude I'd adopted since landing at Charles de Gaulle, so I just sat back, snapped a few pictures, then set about finding the salad servers, charlotte molds and top-secret holiday-related purchases from my list.

In what was to be the first of a couple of deja-vu moments, the first salesman to come up to me was the same one who waited on us two years ago; this time, instead of adorably belligerent, he was belligerently flirtatious, and seemed frustrated that I wasn't really in the mood to banter. He disappeared into the office a few minutes later, and didn't reemerge.

Dehillerin is a wonderland for people who like to cook or bake. Tart pans, springforms, copper cookware, crepe pans and whisks are stacked three and five deep on rickety shelves that stretch all the way up to the 15-foot ceilings. The glare cast by the bare bulbs overhead grows dim as you enter the rabbits' warren of the store's outer aisles, and the overall atmosphere is that of your crazy aunt's attic.

But the passion and enthusiasm of the staff for their products, and of the clientele for their chosen hobby (and, in many cases, profession), is palpable. This is no Williams-Sonoma, with gorgeous displays created to lure in unsuspecting customers who can't tell a saucier from a skillet. This is a store for serious cooks, where you have to know what you need to find what you want.

And what did I want? Well, I'd been entrusted with a mission to replace Louisa's gorgeous salad fork, which broke earlier this year. Check! And me? Well, I've been wanting small charlotte molds for my collection - I will use them to make individual cakes, sticky toffee puddings, and cups of chocolate mousse. Check!

Coming up...Paris, part two

Monday, November 17, 2008

Je reviens!

I'm sitting in the Air France lounge at Charles de Gaulle, quietly weeping into my coffee. In just a few minutes, I'll board a plane (KLM through Amsterdam; merci beaucoup, les pilotes qui font la grève) and be on my way back to the states.

I can't wait to share my Parisian adventures with all of you; sadly, pictures will be limited, as my camera chose Saturday as its day to stage its own petite grève, and only behaved intermittently thereafter.

Regardless - we'll have glimpses of Île Saint-Louis, the Marais, the Louvre, and, best of all: Camille!

They're calling my flight now...a bientôt!

Friday, November 7, 2008

I almost forgot to ask.

So, in addition to my vacation in Paris, I'm going on a business trip to Mumbai and Bangalore next week. It's my second trip to India (the pictures above are from my trip last March), but on my last one I was working about 20 hours a day, and didn't really get to explore a whole bunch.

Dear readers, I'm at your mercy. Any recommendations for some good dinner and/or drinking hotspots in Mumbai? Pleeeeeease?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We did it.

I don't often go political on you - after all, this is a foodblog. But I just have to say: thank you, America, for having the courtesy to make next week's trip to Paris that much less awkward. My faith is restored (for now), and my spirits are high.

Oh, and thanks to Jason for the cocktails and Jeremy and Miriam for the champagne. And to the rest of you for the awesome, AWESOME voting. Well-played, America. Well-played.

Monday, November 3, 2008


That's right, ladies and just eleven short days (made even shorter by the election and a business trip to India), I'll be back where I belong: France (and, more precisely, Paris). I am stopping over for just two days, staying in a cute little hotel in the Marais, and planning to have a wonderful, relaxing, romantically solitary time of it.

Dehillerin is already on the list, as is a stop into Pierre Hermé for some macarons (I'll be flying business class back to the States, so I figure they actually have a chance of surviving the flight intact.). I'll be dining at my favorite Paris bistro, Camille, both nights. But, other than that, my schedule is pretty open.

Since I'll only be in town for a couple of days, I want to stay in town (so day trips to Versailles or Giverny are out, as are the flea markets, since those require at least a half-day to do them justice).

I'm pondering a walking tour of the Marais, am thinking longingly of an afternoon drinking coffee and wine and reading a novel in a café somewhere in St. Germain, and a colleague has recommended the hot chocolate at Angelina's (just down the Rue de Rivoli from Pierre Hermé's new Rue Cambon boutique, so very convenient). I've never been to the Bar Hemingway, but am also drawn to this little wine bar near the hotel.

Any other suggestions?

Merci bien!

Photos above from the Paris visit during my 2006 trip to Prague, Strasbourg, Champagne and Paris. You can read all about the trip here (Prague only) and here (all of the France leg).

Autumnal goodies abound.

My mom was in town this weekend, which seemed like a good excuse to cook dinner for her, my brother, and my sister-in-law. It also seemed like a good excuse to ring in the fall with some dishes I've been wanting to try out. I settled on a menu of arugula salad, roast chicken, brussels sprouts with bacon and cider, roast potatoes, and an apple galette for dessert. To keep things interesting, I decided to serve the galette (really just a free-form apple tart) with cheese-spiked whipped cream.

I set off for the Greenmarket around 9:30 on Saturday morning. Now that the weather has turned a bit more brisk, the crowds are thinner, so it's actually feasible to make a full circuit of the market, check out everything on offer, and then start your shopping. The summertime crowds make me way too antsy for that kind of lingering.

On my walk around, I spied several in-season goodies, including gourds and other fall squashes, cauliflower in a rainbow of colors, brussels sprouts on the stalk, and dried flowers and herbs. I also saw huge bunches of eucalyptus, which stuck me as odd. My high school gave out sprigs of eucalyptus at our baccalaureate service (mine is still pressed between the pages of my yearbook), and so I've always associated it with springtime!

Still available, to my surprise, were bunches and bunches of concord grapes. Dark blue with slightly cloudy peels, the grapes are so different from their red and green cousins, with soft, jellied flesh and an ambrosial flavor. And unlike with the tart, crisp grapes, you only need a few to feel satisfied - sort of like the difference between M&M's and a tiny piece of dark, luxurious chocolate.

Knoll Crest didn't have any chickens this weekend, so I bought our five-pounder from the wild game vendor. There were more varieties of apple on offer than I've ever seen before in my life, and I had trouble choosing. Ultimately, I settled on Rome and Granny Smith for the galette, and a few winesaps for munching. I grabbed a couple of pounds of brussels sprouts and some fingerling potatoes, and headed for the Ronnybrook stand to buy some heavy cream and farmer's cheese.

A full half-day of cooking and one overheated kitchen later, we sat down to dinner. The salad, served with a honey and sherry vinegar dressing, was tangy, peppery and cheesy, thanks to some parmesan curls showered on top of each plate. The brussels sprouts with cider weren't quite as apple-y as I would have liked, but man, the bacon was good. My brother, Jeremy, picked the chicken clean, which I took as a good sign.

The best part, though, really was dessert. I based the galette on this recipe from Epicurious, sizing it down a bit to serve just the four of us. The whipped cream with cheese (flavored with a bit of turbinado sugar and vanilla, since the cheese was a bit funkier than expected) paired really well, setting off the sweetness and tang of the apples and the rich, buttery pastry. All in all, a good day's work.

Queenie's Whipped Cream & Cheese

1 pint heavy cream
4-6 ounces soft cheese, preferably farmer's cheese or mascarpone dolce
1 1/2 tsp. good vanilla extract (none of that fake stuff - spring for this)
2 tbs. turbinado sugar

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a hand-held electric mixer with the beaters attached), whip the cream and the cheese together until it holds soft peaks. Stir in the vanilla and the sugar. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment to dessert.
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