Looking For Another Potato Recipe?

23 02 2011

Look no further.  Well, maybe just a little bit.  I wrote up my recipe for pommes à la dauphinoise, aka gratin dauphinois, for the Recipe of the Month at Girls’ Guide to Paris.  Here’s the before picture…


Click on over for the after photo and the recipe!

On this day in 2010: A Sourdough Attempt, and Why I Cook

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


They Grow Up So Fast…

18 02 2011

Today is the third anniversary of this blog’s coming into existence.  As has become the tradition, I’ll revisit the highlights of the past year, month by month.

February 2010: Was it really only a year ago that I got an ice cream maker for my birthday?  That’s given rise to several tasty recipes this year.  But my favorite post of the month is one where I didn’t follow any recipe, winging it on a loaf of bread and expounding on the reasons I cook.

March 2010: I had a week off, and ate my way through several of Paris’ arrondissements.  I made corndogs from scratch for Nick’s birthday, and when I got stressed out looking for a new apartment, I made apple pie.

April 2010: Ah, the month we moved.  I kissed my old apartment goodbye and with it, my internet access.  I did manage to write about Fribourg d’Alpage, a truly fantastic cheese I found at the cheese festival in Coulommiers.

May 2010: May is undoubtedly the month of long weekends.  I made the most of the one I got, joining Nick and his colleagues on a short trip to La Rochelle on the West coast of France.  We ate a fabulous meal there at Les Flots, and it really felt like a vacation.

June 2010: I spent much of June testing recipes for Hope and D.’s wedding cupcakes.  The best thing to come out of all that (apart from the happy union of two good friends) was this recipe for chocolate-hazelnut financier cupcakes.

July 2010: This summer was neither long nor warm, but I still had a lot of fun getting to know my new neighborhood.  One of my favorite features is the fromagerie-caviste-boulangerie-pâtisserie-traiteur juggernaut that is Julhès.

August 2010: Like the rest of Paris, Nick and I went on vacation for most of August.  I cooked my way around the States, making wedding cupcakes in Massachusetts, raja green beans in Nevada,  and lavender-mint chip ice cream in California.

September 2010: I recapped my eating adventures over the vacation, entered Project Food Blog, and nearly died (not really) in a bee attack.

October 2010: Football season got into full swing, and with it, my weekend baking habits and beer consumption.  Speaking of beer, I tasted my very favorite French beer so far: Agent Provocateur.

November 2010: We took an excellent day trip to Chartres, but if there’s one food adventure from November that is going to stick with me, it’s Le Bistrot des Soupirs.  I want to go there all the time.

December 2010: The highlight of December was without a doubt our trip to Lisbon, Portugal.  I continue to dream about those pastéis de Belém.

January 2011: What did I do last month? From the looks of it, I ate cheese, Chinese noodles, and things I baked at home.  How have I already forgotten about my rediscovery of rugelah?

And there you have it.  Another great year of food, travel, and more food.  Many thanks go out to all of my readers, new and old.  I love it that you come and visit me here in my little corner of the blog world, and your comments encourage me more than you know.  I can’t wait to see what awaits me in my fourth year of writing Croque-Camille, and I hope you’ll all stick around to see where 2011 takes us.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Around Paris: 4th: La Reserve de Quasimodo

15 02 2011

Yes, it sits in the shadow of Notre Dame, one of Paris’ biggest tourist draws.  And yes, the chalkboard menus are in English as well as French.  But don’t let either of those usually deterrent factors stop you from paying a visit to La Reserve de Quasimodo, one of Paris’ most affordable, least pretentious, and – dare I say it – off-the-beaten-path wine bars.

La Reserve de Quasimodo

Wine bar can be a tricky term.  Some fit the description well: bars that serve a larger-than-usual variety of wines, and maybe some nibbles to go with them (Le Baron Rouge and Tombé du Ciel are two good examples).  Others are really more like restaurants, requiring reservations and serving full-on meals (think Le Verre Volé or Chapeau Melon).  Often food purchases are required, due to liquor license intricacies.  Many operate as wine shops during non-meal hours.

So what kind of wine bar is La Reserve de Quasimodo?  Well, it has a wine cellar, from which you can buy wines by the bottle.  You can either take them away and do as you see fit (Nick and I are looking forward to summer, when we can stroll in, pick up a nice bottle of something chilled, and then take it to the river bank to sip), or you can enjoy them in the dining room.  The droit de bouchon, or corkage fee, is a mere six euros – probably the cheapest in Paris.  It is one of those places where eating something is required, but if you aren’t in the mood for a full meal, they offer cheese and charcuterie plates to share.

Cheese plate at La Reserve de Quasimodo

I have yet to try the charcuterie, but I’ve had the cheeses twice.  A little round of aged chèvre, a slab of piquant bleu d’Auvergne, a hunk of earthy Saint Nectaire, and a quarter-wheel of creamy Camembert.  The Camembert is the standout, but all are good, and a little variety is important, no?  On an unrelated note, did you know that a pie chart in French is called a Camembert?  I find that hilarious and awesome.

Duck and foie gras salad

Making up a large part of the menu are salads and tartines.  The salads are big enough for a meal, the selection of hearty toppings ranging from duck prosciutto and foie gras terrine (pictured above) to jambonneau with Puy lentils (below).

Jambonneau and Lentil salad

The tartines are of the open-faced sandwich family, as opposed to the bread smeared with butter and jam ilk, and are piled high with goodies like cheese, tomatoes, and anchovies.

For those hungry for something warmer and stodgier, there are hot menu items as well, though I can’t vouch for them as I haven’t tried any.  Yet.

The space itself is worth a visit.  Steeped in history, it’s been operating since the 12th century, and among other things, once served a s a hangout for the infamous Cartouche, Paris’ most notorious criminal of the early 18th century. But you can read all about that, and other historical tidbits, on the signs out front.  Inside, the front room is like a glass-enclosed patio which offers great views over the Seine of the Hôtel de Ville, while the back room feels much older with its exposed beams of dark wood.  The toilet is, just as they claim, “atypical.”


La Reserve de Quasimodo serves both lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, and the wine shop is open continuously from 10:45 am.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

An Elegant Breakfast and a $75 Giveaway

10 02 2011

Oh, and an award, too.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve been given another opportunity to do a giveaway from CSN Stores, whose stores range from the general (office furniture) to the specific (a whole store devoted to beanbag chairs!) and include, of course, a cookware store.  Once again, the giveaway is for a $75 gift certificate, and is open to anyone living in the USA or Canada, or has a mailing address in one of those places.  Apologies to my more international readers.  To enter, just leave me a comment on this here post, and I’ll choose a winner via random number generator at 8:00 pm on Tuesday, February 15th.  This time, I’d like to hear about your favorite weekend breakfasts.

In the “One Meal, One Photo, One Sentence” tradition, here’s one I made recently.

Smoked trout, scrambled eggs, and biscuits

Smoked French trout, scrambled organic eggs, and buttery drop biscuits.

And now for the award.  The Mistress of Spices, a blog I found a few weeks ago, has conferred upon me the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

It acknowledges the amazing community of women in the blogosphere, and I’m so pleased that Ramya – an Indian-American living in Paris who writes up her adventures in vegetarian and spicy cooking – thought of me.  These awards work in a pay-it-forward manner, so I’m going to pass on the love to a few of my food blog sisters: five who are relatively new to me, and five I’ve been following for at least a year.

The new: Fiona of Life on Nanchang Lu, Jessica of Jessica’s Dinner Party, Lisa of Tarte du Jour, Grapefruit of Needful Things, and Mimi & Katie of Foodie and the Chef.  I’ve been enjoying getting to know all of you!

The old friends: Hopie of Hopie’s Kitchen, The Hungry Dog, Melissa of Researching Paris, Jennifer of Chez Loulou, and Hannah of Wayfaring Chocolate.

Just writing this list makes me realize just how many more blog friends I have made, and I’m happy to have each and every one of you in my life, online as well as off.  (Check out the links on the right there for more of them!)

So, to recap: leave a comment to win $75 at CSN Stores, weekend breakfasts rule, and blogging is a shockingly social activity for one that requires so much alone time at a computer.

On this day in 2009: Brownies Are So Hot Right Now (I’ve been remiss in posting these “day in history” notes, but I’m trying to get back on the horse.)

Apologies for all the broken links.  CSN wants it that way, and I want to have a prize to give you.

UPDATE 8:05 pm, Feb 15: The number has been drawn, and the lucky one is commenter #17 – Curt!  Congratulations, and I’ll be emailing you with the prize information shortly.  Thank you all for your comments and delicious breakfast suggestions!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Worthwhile French Beers: La Véliocasse

1 02 2011

Saturday morning dawned, as many weekend days do in Paris, bright and sunny.  Despite the cold, Nick and I thought we’d take a day trip to one of the many small towns around Paris.  We like to do this from time to time, because it’s really amazing how short a train trip it takes to find yourself in what feels like a very small burg in the middle of nowhere.  Of course, by the time we had eaten breakfast and bundled ourselves up for a nice long walk in the country, the sky had gone completely overcast.  Not to be deterred, we hopped on the metro to the Gare St. Lazare and caught a train to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a town about half an hour’s train ride northwest of Paris.  It is located at the spot where the Seine and the Oise rivers meet, ans as such, was once a hub of river transport in Northern France.  Now most of its barges are being used as houseboats, but if you’re interested in that kind of thing, they have a whole museum dedicated to the barges.  It also happens to be twinned with Chimay, Belgium.  This post is about beer, I promise.

Our original plan had been to explore Conflans, then walk about four kilometers along the river to the next town, which we would also have a gander at, before heading back to Paris.  Well.  It turned out to be much colder and windier than we thought.  We walked into town from the train station, sat down on a bench on the riverfront to plan our route, then walked uphill to the Tour Montjoie, the remains of an 11th century castle.  We passed by the Saint Maclou church, built around the same time, but it was mostly covered in scaffolding and not much to look at.  The views over the Seine from the top of the hill were, though.  We made our way back down to the river via a series of almost hidden staircases, debating whether or not to go through with the 4K walk we had planned.  Cold and hunger were starting to set in when we spied a cozy-looking bar offering Belgian beers on tap and plates of sausage from the Aveyron.  The decision was not a difficult one.

We settled in with a couple of beers and a tasty sausage.  We noticed that in addition to the well-chosen tap beers, there were crates of bottled beers from England, Belgium, and France lining the walls.  A Frenchman and an Englishman walked in (I know it sounds like a bad joke) and we got to chatting.  In talking with them it came up that there is a brewery in a neighboring town which is open to visitors on weekends.  As luck would have it, the bar carried at least one of their beers, and that is how I got to taste La Véliocasse from the Brasserie du Vexin.

Bière du Vexin

La Véliocasse is a honeyed amber beer which won the gold medal at the Concours General Agricole de Paris in 2008, and silver in 2010.  It poured out a lovely amber color, its effervescence in the form of very many tiny bubbles which formed a good, thick head.  Aroma-wise, there was a lot going on with this beer.  I smelled toasted grains, Nick picked up on the fruity and grassy notes, while the Englishman thought it was floral and perfumey.  Upon tasting, the sweet, malty, caramelized flavors dominated, but not overly so.  La Véliocasse remains an eminently drinkable beer despite the rather high alcohol content – seven percent.  Strangely enough, the beer trails off at the end, leaving you waiting for the flavor punch alluded to in the nose.

Seeing as I’m always on the hunt for locally-made food products, beers are no exception.  I’m interested to take a trip to the brewery one of these days, and I’m definitely looking forward to returning to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine when the weather turns warm again.  I can just imagine sitting on the patio of that bar (whose name I irresponsibly neglected to note), sipping delicious beers and watching the boats go down the river.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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