Worthwhile French Beers: Gallia

27 06 2011

Gallia beer tasting

Summer has finally arrived in Paris!  (Again.)  While rosé may be the beverage of choice among parisian picnickers, a cold, refreshing beer on a café terrasse hits the spot just as well.

Enter Gallia.  There are those who would argue (Simon at La Cave à Bulles being one of them) that it doesn’t count as a French beer, because it is currently being brewed in the Czech Republic.  In its defense, though, the company was first started in 1890.  They brewed four types of beer – strong, double, petite, and bock – from their location in Paris’ 14th arrondissement.  By 1896, it was the second biggest brewery in Paris, and in 1900, Gallia won the gold medal at the Universal Expo.  The company continued to grow until World War II, the volume of production decreasing by 30% in the 1940’s and ’50’s.  The ’60’s brought an increased popularity of foreign beers and pressure to join large conglomerates.  In 1968, the brewery closed and beer production ceased.

But in 2010, two buddies, Guillaume Roy and Jacques Ferté, 53 years old if you add their ages together, decided to relaunch the brand.  They wanted to make a signature beer for Paris, and started with the blonde.  The recipe itself is not the same as it was before, tastes having changed in the intervening 40 years.  Like I said, it is currently being brewed in the Czech Republic, but they hope one day to move the brewing operation home.

It’s not perfect, but Gallia’s blonde would make a fine session beer.  Lightly hopped, the clear, golden brew has a balanced bitterness, and I could certainly see myself polishing off a few over a warm, sunny happy hour.

On this day in 2010: The Great Cupcake Extravaganza, Part Frosting

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


Interlude: Saint-Malo

18 06 2011

I don’t know about you, but it seems like these days the weekends are even busier than the weekdays. While I enjoy having a full social calendar, sometimes I just want some time to sit and do nothing. Last night we had a last-minute cancellation, freeing up the evening to do some clean-out-the-fridge cooking (cheese raviolis in leftover tomato sauce, zucchini baked with breadcrumbs and jamòn iberico) and some good old lounging on the couch with a beer and a movie. It was just the kind of Friday night I needed after a hectic week.

A few weeks ago, Nick and I spent the weekend in Saint-Malo with a group of his colleagues.  It was a nice getaway, but there was a fair amount of running around – trying to make it to our lunch reservation on time, figuring out when the buses to Mont St. Michel were, coordinating schedules with 16 other people, and then there was my insistence on making pilgrimages to both of Jean-Yves Bordier’s shops.  I mean, why buy butter at the cheese shop when you can buy it at the butter shop?

Bordier cheese shop

Since the cheese shop was closer to our hotel, we went there first (following a little postprandial nap on the beach).

Goat cheeses at Bordier

Firm, mountain cheeses at Bordier

We were planning to have a little picnic on the train home the next day, and we were sharing with another couple, so we got to indulge and bought about seven different cheeses, including a Trois-Cornes d’Aunis, which I’d been dying to taste, and a Breton specialty cheese with seaweed in it, which tasted much better than it sounds.  We watched as the saleswomen lopped portions of fresh butter from the large slabs sitting on the marble and then used a special set of paddles to beat it into rustic rectangles before wrapping it up in waxed paper.  We didn’t buy any butter, though, because I really wanted to see the mothership butter shop, somewhere in the tangle of streets intramuros.  (The historic center of Saint-Malo is a walled medieval city, now filled with mostly touristy stuff, but there’s still plenty worth visiting.)

On our way there, we passed by the Larnicol pastry and chocolate shop.  And we couldn’t help but to stop.

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In A Pickle

8 06 2011

Homemade dill pickles

I do apologize for the increasing silence on this blog of late.  I’ve been very busy facing some Major Life and Career Decisions, and it’s distracting, to say the least.  I don’t want to go into it too much, but I have two very exciting job opportunities before me, and I’ve been wavering between them for weeks now.  Both jobs would be a big step up for me, and neither would require me to wake up at 5:00 am on a regular basis, so it’s generally a good situation, but I’m having a really hard time deciding which is the right next step for me.

But enough about me.  You don’t come here to read about my career angst, you come here (I hope) to read about Paris and the food I eat and cook here.  Paris by Mouth, an entertaining and informative website run by my friends Meg and Barbra, recently opened a brand-new discussion forum to celebrate the site’s 1st birthday.  It’s a great place for food-lovers in Paris to congregate and ask each other where to find the best steaks, outdoor eating, or ethnic eats in town.  It’s also a useful tool for travelers, as anyone planning a trip here can ask the forum for help finding family-friendly restaurants, places they can use AmEx, or the best food markets in a given neighborhood.  In one thread, somebody asked where to get dill pickles in France, and I remembered that while I’ve been making my own for several summers now, I had yet to post a recipe.

The reasons for this omission are twofold: one, because it’s hard to photograph things in jars; and two, because I never wrote down what I did, and the pickles came out slightly differently each time.  But knowing there was demand, I made sure to take notes on what I was doing when I made my most recent batch of pickles, from a gorgeous organic cucumber that came in my CSA bag.


I make a brine, taking inspiration and direction from Jessica of Apples and Butter and Michael Ruhlman‘s excellent book, Ratio.  While I’m waiting for it to cool, I prep my cucumbers and the jar.  (My favorite pickle jar is one that used to contain peeled chestnuts.  It’s the perfect size to hold a whole cucumber, cut into spears.)  I halve the cucumber, then halve the halves…

…then halve those, take out the seedy bit, and finally cut once more to create perfect pickle spears.  These get jammed into my jar, which is lined with fresh dill and a few spices.  Any whole spices will work, but mustard, garlic, and coriander are pretty classic, and I like the kick the pickles get from a hint of red chili flakes.  As luck would have it, this batch came out just the way I want my dill pickles to taste: cooling and crunchy, with just a touch of garlic and chili heat.  They’re just right next to a sandwich or burger, though I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t just been eating them out of the jar as an afternoon snack.

Dill pickles

Dill Pickles

Combine a dislike of cucumbers with a lack of dill pickles in France, and you end up with a pickling maniac! I haven’t tested the longevity of this recipe – once the jar is open they disappear within a week or two. Though if your jars are sterilized and you store them in a cool, dark place, I see no reason these couldn’t last a few months.

1 large cucumber
½ cup / 120 ml white wine vinegar or plain white vinegar
2 cups / 475 ml water
1 oz. / 30 g salt
3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
A few shakes of red pepper flakes
10 or so sprigs of fresh dill

1. First, make the brine. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. Each of the mustard seeds and coriander seeds, and a shake of red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the cucumber. Wash it well and trim off the ends. Cut it in half so you have two cylinders, hopefully about the same length as your jar is tall. Cut each cylinder into quarters, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Slice the de-seeded quarters in half again to make spears.

3. In a large, clean jar, pack about five sprigs of fresh dill. Add the remaining teaspoons of mustard seeds and coriander seeds, a clove of garlic, and another shake of red pepper flakes, if you wish (I usually do). Pack the cucumber spears into the jar vertically, and pour the cooled brine over them. When the jar is full, use a few more dill sprigs to ensure the cucumbers stay immersed in the brine.

4. Close the jar and leave it out at room temperature for 3-4 days. Move it to the fridge and wait another 3-4 days. Enjoy.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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