Around Paris: 7th: Coutume

11 09 2011

Coutume from the street

Though it’s only a couple of blocks from the much-lauded Grande Epicerie, Coutume‘s location on a nondescript portion of the rue de Babylone makes it feel further off the beaten path than it actually is.  Combine that with the mostly Anglophone staff and the artfully unfinished, postmodern-meets-neoclassical décor, and you’ve got a Parisian coffee shop that would be equally at home in New York or London, if not more so.

Coutume interior

I, for one, am glad that it’s here in Paris.  It’s pretty well documented that I am a teadrinker, and the selection of organic teas here make me very happy.  They also take great care, serving each tea in its own individual teapot, with instructions about how long to let it steep for optimum flavor.  But I can appreciate a well-made cup of coffee, too, and Coutume has those in spades.

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Le Pacifique

13 08 2011

I’ve always been intrigued by this place on an uphill corner not far from the Belleville Métro stop.  Something about the design of the place has always made me think of Chinese restaurants in L.A. in the forties – or at least the way they’re portrayed in film noir.  The fact that they’re open until 1:30 am only reinforces this perception.

Le Pacifique, Belleville

The effect is certainly more pronounced late at night, when the neon trim is lit up and you can just imagine the Private Eyes rendez-vous-ing inside.  I know this because I’ve walked past here dozens of times, en route to and from Restaurant Raviolis.  I admit that’s where we were headed last Saturday for lunch before doing some banana leaf hunting at Paris Store.  This being August, though, our regular haunt was closed for vacation, and so, on the strength of a recommendation from Sophie, we found ourselves perusing the dim sum menu at Le Pacifique.

You can learn a lot about an unfamiliar restaurant by observing the other diners.  I don’t mean you should be staring, but do check out what’s on their plates, discreetly.  I learned this way that Le Pacifique serves pitchers! of iced! tea!  Of course it was printed on the menu as well, but now I knew to look for it.  And at 4 euros a pitcher, it’s a hell of a bargain, especially when compared to the price of a single glass of iced tea at, say, Le Loir Dans La Théière.  Iced tea seems to be something of a rarity outside the United States, but it’s something I like very much, so it’s always exciting to see it outside my apartment.

Iced tea at Le Pacifique

And it was good, too – not skunky at all, the way iced tea can get when it’s been sitting around too long – flavorful but not overbrewed, nicely chilled and not watered down by the ice.

Enough about the tea, though.  What of the food?

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Luxury Leftovers

11 10 2010


Chicken Liver and Sage Crostini

Savory Pumpkin Tartlets

Royal Marquissac Saumur Brut


Velouté de Cèpes

Mustard Twists and Rosemary Crème Fraîche

Domaine Prieur-Brunet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot 2007


Pork Roast with Prunes and Hidden Bacon

Smoky Herbed Bread Pudding

Tangy Braised Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts

Spiced Persimmon Sauce

Vaucher Père & Fils Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2008


Bleu des Causses with Fresh Figs

Château Les Rochers Sauternes Voigny 2008


Vanilla-Gewurtztraminer Poached Pears

Caramel-Praliné Ice Cream

Warm Chocolate Sauce and Praliné Crumbles

Eau de Vie Poire Williams


I adore planning menus.  I had a lot of fun with this one, and was almost relieved when I didn’t advance in Project Food Blog, because it meant that I could really enjoy the meal I had created.  Of course, I had planned to do lots of it ahead of time, but in the end it all got done the day of the party, except for the pears and ice cream, which I had the foresight to make earlier in the week.  Believe it or not, I didn’t even know what the meat was going to be until I went out to the butcher on Saturday and scoped out what he had that would go with the sides I had planned.  (I’m also the sort of person who starts her outfit with the accessories I want to wear.)

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Around Paris: 3rd: Jacques Genin

2 04 2010

I’ve been trying to write this post forever.  Like since early 2009, shortly after the place opened.  I went as soon as I had a chance, and tried not to touch anything in the pristine shop.  I bought a sleek brushed steel box of nine chocolates for ten euros, and of course gobbled them up  savored them all before thinking to take any pictures.  (For the record, though, their pralinés are some of the most amazingly smooth I’ve ever tasted, and I find the tea ganaches a tad too subtle for my tastes, but are very obviously of the highest quality.)

Jacques Genin storefront

Jacques Genin’s unassuming storefront on rue de Turenne, in the northern Marais, belies the modern luxury on the inside.  The shop is one enormous room, with a staircase spiraling up to the workshop.  Behind the stairs are several tables, at which you can sit and enjoy house-made pastries like the sublime lemon tart or made-to-order millefeuille with a pot of exotic or vintage tea.  Along the windowed street-side wall is a cash register flanked by a pastry case and the array of chocolates.  Right by the door – to catch you coming or going, I guess – is a counter devoted to Genin’s celebrated caramels.  I managed to resist until my most recent visit, when I sat down for tea and sweets, and was brought a free caramel with the bill.  Let me tell you, those caramels are perfection.  Chewy, buttery, and rich with dark caramel flavor, they are an absolute delight.

So by all means, come for the chocolates, but consider staying for the tea and pastries, and don’t leave without a bag of caramels.

On this day in 2008: Le Bastringue (Still one of the best lunch deals in Paris!)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Kiwi-Jasmine Granita

21 01 2010

Back in culinary school, in the lecture about puréed fresh fruit sauces, they told us never to make one out of kiwi.  They said the seeds would give the sauce a peppery flavor, and that would be bad.  I guess I didn’t feel passionately enough about kiwi to question, let alone defy the rule.  Had it been something I’m crazy about, like blueberries or nectarines, you know I would have gone right out and done it anyway.  But now that I’m getting tasty organic kiwis on a fairly regular basis from my CSA share, I want to do something more with them than simply slicing and eating.

Forbidden purée

Enter David Lebovitz‘ delectable book, The Perfect Scoop.  (I’ve been priding myself on not buying any small electrical kitchen appliances while here in France – except for the immersion blender which takes up so little space and does so much – but since acquiring this book, I am now in desperate need of an ice cream maker.  Don’t know where I’m going to put it, but I’ll find the space somewhere.)  Anyway, in his book, Lebovitz includes recipes for both a kiwi sorbet and a kiwi granita, both of which require puréeing the forbidden fruit.

Scraping the granita

Seeing as I don’t have that sorbetière just yet, granita was the way to go.  And it seemed like a great way to use up lots of kiwis quickly, which is imperative when they’re as ripe as the ones I’ve been getting lately.  Plus, the idea was just so deliciously rebellious.  So I defiantly busted out the immersion blender and puréed a bunch of kiwis.  I was delighted to see that the seeds – the potentially overly peppery (and is that necessarily a bad thing?) dessert-ruiners – stayed whole, leaving no doubt as to what kind of fruit had just been puréed.  I also owe a tip of the toque to Martha Stewart and her team, for giving me the idea of pairing kiwis with jasmine tea.  Thanks to her,  a jasmine green tea syrup sweetened the kiwi purée and gave the finished granita a touch of the exotic.

But what gave it more than a touch of scrumptiousness was the whipped cream on top, lightly sweetened with Tasmanian leatherwood honey.  If you are unfamiliar with Tasmanian honey, it is a delightfully floral and unique tasting honey.  You could substitute another interesting honey, or just use sugar in your whipped cream.  In general, when I think of granita, I think “palate cleanser.”  But a billow of whipped cream on top definitely (or defiantly) turns it into dessert.

Kiwi-jasmine granita with Tasmanian honey whipped cream, kiwi, and ginger

Kiwi-Jasmine Granita

This recipe makes a granita with a mysterious hint of jasmine.  If you want the floral notes to be more pronounced, feel free to double the amount of loose tea in the syrup.  The purée can be prepared in a food processor, blender, or (my favorite) directly in the container you plan on freezing it in, with an immersion blender.

1 lb./500 g fresh kiwifruits
8 oz./240 g jasmine tea syrup (recipe below)

  1. Peel the kiwis and cut them into small pieces.  Be sure to remove any tough bits near the stem ends.  Add half the syrup and purée in a few short pulses.  Pour in the rest of the syrup (you don’t have to use all of it, especially if your kiwis are very sweet) and purée until smooth with the seeds evenly distributed.  It should look like a burst kiwifruit.
  2. Pour into a shallow plastic container (if it isn’t there already) and place in the freezer.  Wait an hour, then stir gently with a fork, breaking up any ice crystals that are beginning to form.  Repeat every 30-45 minutes until the granita is completely frozen and snowy in texture.
  3. Serve in chilled vessels with lightly sweetened whipped cream.  Garnish with slices of kiwi and slivers of crystallized ginger, if you wish.

Makes 4-6 restrained servings.

* * *

Jasmine Tea Syrup

If you have any of this syrup left over, try using it to sweeten fresh lemonade.  Maybe you’d better make some extra.

6 oz./175 ml water
½ in./1 cm piece of ginger, peeled
1 Tbsp. loose jasmine green tea
½ cup/100 g granulated sugar

  1. Bring the water to a boil with the ginger.  Put the tea in a heatproof measuring jug.  When the water boils, pour it over the tea up to the ½ cup/120 ml mark.  Let steep for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, dissolve the sugar in the remaining water.  (Return the pan to the heat if necessary.)  Pour the tea back into the sugar water, straining out the tea leaves.  Cool, and remove the ginger before using.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Tea for Two Tarts, the Second

17 08 2009

Mise en place for tea ganache

When we last left off, I was hoping for more opportunities to combine tea and fruit for unusually delicious Summer desserts.  As luck would have it, the downstairs neighbors invited us to dinner less than a week later.  I was informed that the pregnant wife had largely lost her sweet tooth, but I like a challenge.  I figured something featuring dark chocolate and fresh seasonal fruit would fit the bill nicely. 

A fan of white nectarine slices

Flipping through Pierre Hermé’s Larousse du Chocolat for inspiration, I found a recipe for an intriguing-sounding chocolate tart with jasmine tea and peaches.  Hmmm…I do like a good ganache tart.  Nick had come home from the market with a bag of assorted stone fruits that morning, so we tasted one of each and determined that the white nectarines were really something special.  Besides the gorgeous blush color of the flesh, they had a unique aroma and delicate flavor that I thought would play nicely off the bittersweet chocolate.  Scrapping Hermé’s overly complicated tart dough in favor of a simple almond sablé (because we all know that almonds and stone fruit are like chocolate and peanut butter – they just go) and subbing in a more robust tea in the (now milk chocolate-free) ganache, I was pretty sure I had a winner on my hands.

Just Glazed White Nectarine and Tea Ganache Tart

For the final touch, I topped the über-shiny ganache with another circle of pretty nectarine slices, which I then glazed with a nappage fashioned from some handmade jam.  The neighbors were duly impressed with the tart’s beauty when I arrived at their door, and not a crumb remained at the end of the night, so I assume it tasted acceptable.  (Ok, it tasted great.  The tea subtly perfumed the intense chocolate, and the nectarines provided a juicy counterpoint.  It may be one of the best desserts I’ve ever made, and it wasn’t the slightest bit difficult.  Look! I did it while drinking a mojito!)  Even the sweet tooth-lacking pregnant woman had seconds.

Want the recipe?  Here it is:

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Tea for Two Tarts, the First

13 08 2009

From the moment the double CSA share’s worth of gorgeous apricots arrived in my kitchen, I knew I wanted to bake something.  As the weekend approached and the supply began to dwindle, I had to tell Nick to stop eating them or I wouldn’t be able to make him a nice dessert on Sunday.  Never mind I didn’t really have a plan, these things usually work themselves out, right?

How to fold a rustic fruit tart

And they did, with a little help from Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan.  Flipping through the French version of Desserts by Pierre Hermé for some apricot inspiration, I was immediately hooked by the recipe for apricots en papillote seasoned with tea.  (For those of you just joining us, I am a big tea drinker.)  The combination sounded wonderful, and I had the perfect floral-citrusy tea to use.  I knew it would be magical.  But I wasn’t so into the papillote.  I mean, who wants to eat roasted parchment paper or foil, no matter how delectable the insides may be?

Look how juicy!

So I joined forces with an old favorite, the rustic fruit tart.  Flaky, buttery pastry is better than parchment any day.   The apricots, tossed with some sugar and a couple pinches of tea, were glistening with juice.  In order to capitalize on the flavorsome liquid, I sprinkled the bottom of the tart with almond meal to soak up some of the good stuff – and prevent leaks, too.

I love a no-fuss crust!

Into the hot oven it went and an hour or so later, I pulled out the browned and caramelized galette.  A friend had joined us for dinner, so we democratically cut the tart in thirds.

A "slice" of apricot-tea tart

Let me tell you, tea does lovely things with apricot.  In this case, the floral aroma and hint of bitter tannin played off the sweet-tart fruit beautifully.  The crust, with its crisp flakes and rich butter flavor was the perfect foil.  Because it wasn’t.  Foil, I mean.  Anyway, I was so pleased with the results that I immediately began contemplating other ways to work tea into my summer fruit desserts…

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Fun with Leftover Herbs

13 06 2008

It’s a question that has plagued cooks forever.  What to do with the leftover herbs?  You pay an arm and a leg for them, use a few sprigs, and the rest go to waste in the bottom of the vegetable drawer.  Herbs are much cheaper in France than they are in the US, but I still hate wasting food.  So I try to have a few projects in mind whenever I buy herbs. 

When we bought rosemary and olives for the eggplant thing, I already had it in my mind to make a loaf of olive-rosemary bread.  I used the no-knead technique that is quickly becoming one of my favorites, adding chopped olives and rosemary during the folding process.  Knead-less to say (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself) it was delicious.

No-Knead Rosemary-Olive Bread

But I still had some rosemary left over.  So I bought a cheap bottle of red wine vinegar and shoved the remaining rosemary inside.

Herbs + Vinegar = Gourmet Herb Vinegar  Oooh, fancy

But I was just getting started.

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Not that I am Obsessed with Tea…

9 05 2008

Brewing sun tea, up close

…But it’s that time of year again, folks!  I mean, of course, time for sun tea!  I got this cool Bodum iced tea pitcher that allows you to brew loose tea and then remove it via a slide-out basket mechanism.  What will those Danes think of next?  For its maiden voyage, I put in a couple coffee-scoops (you know, the ones that come with the French press) of China Gunpowder green tea and two sachets of Hibiscus-Rosehip tisane.  I placed the pitcher in a patch of the glorious afternoon sunlight we get in our apartment, snapped a few photos, and went out to run errands.

Sun Tea, before

When I came back a few hours later, a pitcher of refreshing, golden tea was waiting for me!

Sun tea, after

Looks (and tastes) like I used a little too much tea.  I’ll remember that for next time.  The removable tea basket was actually really easy to clean, so I’m sure I’ll be making a lot of sun tea this summer!

An Oasis for Tea

6 05 2008

After visiting the Préfecture twice in one day, I needed a break.  Nick wanted to check out a Roman amphitheater in the 5th arrondissement, so we Velib’ed over there.  The weather was absolutely perfect for a bike ride.  After sunning ourselves in the amphitheater for a bit, Nick remembered a tea salon he had visited, with an idyllic-sounding patio and mint tea.  Now, I am weird about mint in my tea.  I adore it in iced tea, but can’t stand it in hot tea.  The discord between the cooling flavor of the mint and the heat of the tea bring about some kind of Sartrian nausea.  Somehow, Nick managed to convince me to wander around the 5th until we found this tea place.  After a few wrong turns, we found it, just as he had described:


A big iron gate leading into a large tiled patio filled with greenery and birds.

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