Nuts and Bolts

28 03 2010

You’ll be pleased, I hope, to learn that the apartment hunt is drawing to a close.  Of course, now begins the packing, cleaning, and administrative goings-on that accompany a move, be it across town or across the ocean.  In an effort to help clear off my desk (which is covered in little pieces of scrap paper with notes, addresses, phone numbers, to-do lists, recipes, business cards, and so on – I can’t be the only one) I have finally finished converting and updating the Gourmand’s Map of Paris!  It’s all new and improved, with color coded markers, phone numbers, and links to pertinent blog posts.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to put in a nifty embedded map like I was able to with Platial, but here’s a link to the new map, and I’ve put one up on the sidebar, too, just below the calendar.  I hope you’ll find it useful, helpful, or at least interesting, and be sure to watch for updates, as they happen fairly regularly.

On this day in 2008: Taking Advantage of France (Hmm, we were moving then, too.  And we’ve been doing these kinds of dinners a lot lately.)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


Pie Therapy

22 03 2010

I know I said I wasn’t going to bore you with any more apartment-hunting stories, but it has become my main activity outside of work.  I have little else to write about, which is one reason my posts have been fewer and farther between lately.  The seemingly endless search for an apartment with a good kitchen (because really, what I do is cook) leaves me feeling tired and depressed, never mind trying to find a location that suits Nick’s and my rather disparate commutes.  Anyway, after yet another disappointing apartment visit on Sunday morning, I needed to work out some of my anxiety.  I needed to get in my kitchen.


Fortunately, Ann had invited us to a cheese-tasting party, the star of which was a wheel of Fromage de Citeaux, a cheese made only by monks in Burgundy (well, and cows, too).  I volunteered to bring dessert, and Nick suggested I make an apple pie, considering how many apples we have amassed this winter thanks to the CSA panier.  So after breakfast I set to work.  I made the pie dough and let it rest while I showered.  Once I was clean and the dough firm but pliable, I rolled it out and lined my pie dish.  I put it back in the fridge to rest some more (lazy stuff, that pie dough) while I peeled, cored, and sliced all the apples in my pantry.  What a great task for forgetting your troubles – I didn’t think about apartments the whole time! A couple small handfuls of brown sugar, a sprinkling of cornstarch, a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche, and dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt rounded out the filling.  Into the lined pie dish the apples went, preceded by a thin layer of hazelnut meal (to help soak up any extra juices) and followed by a light coat of egg wash around the edge of the crust.  I rolled out the top crust and placed it over the apples, pressing the edges to seal.  Trim, fold, pinch, vents, more egg wash and a sparkle of cassonade sugar for the top.

all ready for the oven

Again, the pie got to rest in the fridge while the oven finished preheating.

And now for a minor digression: my last post, the one about corn dogs, prompted a number of comments admitting fear of deep-frying.  Frankly, this puzzles me.  As long as you have good common sense and maybe a thermometer, there is no guesswork involved in deep-frying.  Baking is a different story.  A lot of people have anxiety about baking.  Strangely, I find this more understandable.  You spend all this time measuring and mixing, cutting and rolling, and then you put your creation in the oven where your pie or cake or cookies may or may not behave the way you want them to.  You could have made a hundred pies in your life (or in my case, many, many more) but there is still a slight sense of mystery about the baking process.  What if I didn’t rest the dough long enough?  What if the filling oozes out everywhere and makes a huge mess?  What if I overworked the dough and it’s tough instead of flaky?  The thing is, you won’t know until you take it out of the oven, at which point it’s too late to fix those problems.  But maybe that’s what makes it exciting – the potential for failure.  And then when you succeed, oh, the joy in overcoming adversity!

Pie and flowers

So if making and assembling the pie was therapeutic, pulling the masterpiece from the oven was pure triumph.  I may not be able to control Parisian landlords, rent prices, or kitchen designs, but I can harness the laws of physics and chemistry and use them to create beautiful and delicious things to eat.

On this day in 2009: Fairy Tale Dessert

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Beignets de Chien Chaud au Maïs, or, Corn Dogs High/Low

17 03 2010

Nick’s birthday was a few weeks ago, and as it fell on a Saturday when the horses were running at Vincennes, he wanted to get some people together for hot dogs and beer before heading out to the races.  Since it was a special occasion, I wanted to do a little something extra, and I remembered that I read a post a while back about corn dogs, which I don’t even like, historically, but something about being in France makes me want fried things I don’t normally eat when I’m at home in the States.

Can't you just hear the sizzle?

Anyway, it was Nick’s special day, and he loved the idea.  So corn dogs it was.  I used Alton Brown’s recipe, with a couple of changes.  I left out the jalapeño, and seeing as creamed corn doesn’t exist in France, I substituted regular canned corn, buzzed with the immersion blender.

I bought a huge pack of cheap wooden chopsticks at an Asian restaurant supply store to use as sticks, but since French hot dogs (aka Knacks) are so much thinner than their American counterparts (maybe because they don’t go frying themselves in corn batter?) I used only one stick per dog, instead of the recommended two.

Round 1

I was actually surprised at how well this recipe worked.  I don’t know why.  But let me tell you, it was seriously awesome to pull real live corndogs out of the bubbling oil in the Dutch oven.  And do you know what was even more awesome?

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Around Paris: 6th: Wadja

12 03 2010

On a quiet street just off the busy boulevard Montparnasse, around the corner from such grandiose eateries as Le Dôme, La Coupole, and La Rotonde, sits the laid-back bistro Wadja.

Outside Wadja.

Nick and I met here for lunch on a sunny day last week, and despite the long list of more expensive offerings, we thoroughly enjoyed the 14-euro, two-course lunch menu.  As we do in these situations, we split a starter and dessert, so as to make up a three-course lunch that doesn’t put us into a postprandial coma.

Lentil salad at Wadja

After ordering beers, we started off with the lentil salad.  It was good, with nice firm lentils and big chunks of meaty sausage.  The lentils were dressed with a punchy red wine vinaigrette that really helped take the edge off the richness of the dish.

Next, I had the bacon-wrapped monkfish.

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Worthwhile French Beers: La Klintz

8 03 2010

I had last week off work, and while I didn’t manage to stockpile blog posts as I had hoped, I did manage to stockpile material for blog posts, which is almost as good.  I also spent a lot of fruitless time looking for a new apartment, about which I won’t bore you further, until I move and I inevitably hate my new kitchen, at which point I will bitch and moan.  But this post is about beer.  Specifically, La Klintz, an organic blonde from Brasserie Uberach.

Brasserie Uberach's La Klintz Blonde

I met Nick for lunch last Thursday, and we went to a delightful little bistro near Montparnasse (more on that later).  We were delighted to learn that the restaurant’s only beer offering was “an artisan beer from Alsace.”  So we ordered two.  Negligently without any kind of notepaper (I prefer to let my camera do the note-taking), I resorted to jotting down our tasting notes on my phone.  (Hey, it’s worked before…)  Looking back at them, I find the shorthand almost poetic.

La Klintz
smells grassy citrusy
Unfiltered cloudy
Gold. V good.
blonde, bio
Clean sparkly flavor.
Almost saison
Light spice,
maybe coriander.

So yeah, we liked it.  I’m glad to see that it’s available at La Cave à Bulles, an excellent beer store which features French craft beers and is much closer to my apartment than this restaurant.  They also stock a number of Brasserie Uberach’s other brews, which I am now very interested to try.

On this day in 2009: Tommes de Savoie

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Around Paris: 8th: La Maison Du Chocolat

5 03 2010

It’s tough to come by cheap eats in an arrondissement where shops like this are the norm:

View from La Maison du Chocolat...

In the block or two that I walked between the FDR Métro stop and La Maison du Chocolat, I passed Dior, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Chloé, and a number of other shops with security guards and salespeople better dressed than I was.  Fortunately, all this scenery makes chocolate look like a positively affordable luxury, and paying 5 euros for an éclair seems like a bargain.  (Really, though, when it’s hands-down the best éclair I’ve had in Paris, 5 euros IS a bargain.  Caramel éclair fans, get yourselves to La Maison du Chocolat ASAP.)

I have a picture of the storefront, as viewed from the Cartier shop in the previous photo, but for some reason WordPress doesn’t like it, so I’ll have to send you over to Flickr if you want to see it.  Or the unopened box of chocolates.

Since I’m on their mailing list, I had a good reason to go over there.  (Ok, there are several locations throughout the city, but there are two in the 8th, and when else do I have such a good excuse to go window-licking* on the Avenue Montaigne?)  I had a certificate for a free box of birthday chocolates!  Yay!


Of which I seem to have greedily eaten one before remembering to take a picture.  But let me tell you, that coconut praliné (lower right in the photo) is out of this world.  That comes as no surprise though, as La Maison du Chocolate delivers consistent high-quality, whether it’s ganaches, pastries, or service.  It’s vexing, then, that they don’t allow photography within the shop, which is always beautiful and clean, with neat stacks of chocolates and other goodies lining the case and even a few seats for enjoying a coffee or treat on the spot.

Attention to detail

Even the bottoms of the chocolates show their exquisite attention to detail.  So if you happen to find yourself hungry in the 8th arrondissement, I highly recommend stopping by a La Maison du Chocolate for sustenance, and then heading off to cheaper climes for lunch or dinner.

* faire de la lèche-vitrine – literally, “window licking,” this is the French expression for “window shopping,” which I totally love.

On this day in 2008: Reubenesque

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Around Paris: 18th: Chez Virginie

2 03 2010

Chez Virginie storefront

The reason for my Montmartre wanderings last Friday was this: a fromagerie.  Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing that I hadn’t made it over there before last week.  I mean, it’s Jennifer Greco’s favorite cheese shop in Paris!  (That Loulou knows her cheese.)


Chez Virginie is a charmingly packed cheese shop on the less-touristy side of the Butte Montmartre.  Mountains of artisan cheeses are flanked by bottles of wine, cured hams, cookies, and other cheese-friendly treats.

 More cheese!

The salesgirl was enthusiastic and helpful.  When I was curious about a cheese, she offered me a taste immediately.  I managed to limit myself to three cheeses, but was very tempted by the four-cheese flight for 7.50.  Next time.  This would be a perfect place to build a picnic, because about half a block down the street lies Arnaud Delmontel‘s famed boulangerie, as well as Arnaud Larher‘s chocolate and macaron shop.  Make sure to take a peek at the Montmartre Cemetery before you go too far – at the very least, do what I did, and snap some photos through the trellis on rue Caulaincourt.

So what did I choose from among that array of beautiful cheeses?  Well, I got a funky-looking cendré de Champagne, a “rarissime” raw mountain cow’s milk cheese, and…

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