March 2014 Newsletter Everyone was in a tizzy because of the massive winter storms that hit the U.S. this winter. I guess because I'm not commuting t

       
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March 2014 Newsletter

Jules Verne Paris

Everyone was in a tizzy because of the massive winter storms that hit the U.S. this winter. I guess because I'm not commuting to work or braving the elements to buy milk (or trapped at home with a gaggle of hyperactive kids), I was secretly wishing we'd also get hit by a blizzard in Paris.

Unlike last year, where a lovely layer of snow blanketed the city, brightening it up and putting people in a playful mood, no snow arrived this year. But citrus barraged the markets, and I took advantage of the avalanche of tangerines, bergamots, grapefruits, and a lovely citron that a friend unearthed for me at a natural foods store, which I glacéed.

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Tangelos are somewhat rare and I was thrilled to find a stand at my market with a big mound of them. They're a hybrid of sweet tangerines and tart grapefruits and while they're not my favorite citrus to eat out of hand (I like things either sweet or sour – but not always both at the same time), they make the most amazing sorbet. Which was what I did, using the contents of the bag that I brought home from the market.

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February brought a tidal wave of visitors to Paris and one week I think I had seven different friends and family members in town. Whew! It's fun to see everyone, but I got a bit fooded-out. (Tip: If you come visit, rather than say "You pick a restaurant,” give me some ideas. I got tapped out trying to make suggestions.)

So, many times I simply invited people for dinner, and that was that. I don't need to struggle with trying to get a reservation, no one is nodding off in a bustling bistro, mid-meal from jet-lag (or from my lively banter), I don't need to worry if people will like the food on the menu (at least I hope they like what I make!), and all-in-all, it's just more relaxing to serve up a meal, chez David. Traveling friends from the U.S. often crave a big salad or some vegetables (and fruit), which are underrepresented on Paris restaurant menus, and I'm happy to oblige. So I tossed up hearty salads of winter greens, like dandelions, radicchio, and Belgian endive.

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In between the Salted Olive Crisps, from My Paris Kitchen (a Provençal-inspired cocktail snack, which I like so much, it's the first recipe that appears in the book), and ending with a tangy citrus sorbet (recipe below), there was the cheese board on deck. Although I've had to dial back how many cheeses I have on hand because I want to keep the peace in my refrigerator between the pungent rivals – French cheese versus Thai fermented shrimp paste, I just can't resist buying more cheese than I should whenever I visit the marvelous women at the market who stock crazy-good cheeses.

Lastly, I've announced some dates when I'll be on tour in the U.S. More dates will be added in the coming weeks but tickets to certain dinners may go quickly. So if you're interested, you can check them out on my Schedule page. A few dates are up for my appearances in New York City and Paris, but be on the lookout for others, in Seattle, Texas, San Francisco, and elsewhere.

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And that's the scoop, from fashionable Paris. - dl

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Tangerine Sorbet Recipe

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Tangerine Sorbet

Adapted from My Paris Kitchen

I love a bracing sorbet after dinner and not only is this one of my favorites, it's one of the easiest. I often add a good dose of French Champagne to the sorbet, which gives it a smoother texture. You can omit it if you like, and just enjoy the sorbet as it is. (If left in the freezer, it will get rather firm after a while. So remove if from the freezer 5 to 10 minutes before serving, to give it time to soften a bit.) I serve it with a Champagne gelée (recipe in the book) and sections of citrus fruits. It's lovely with warm or chilled sabayon as well.

3 cups (750ml) freshly squeezed tangerine juice
2/3 cup (140g) sugar
Optional: 1 cup (250ml) Champagne

1. Warm 1 cup (250ml) of the tangerine juice in a small saucepan with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Stir the mixture back into the tangerine juice and chill thoroughly.
3. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions. (If you want to add Champagne, mix it in right before churning.) Makes about a quart (1l.)

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My Paris Kitchen is available for pre-order now. It will be released on April 8th.

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The A-Z of French Food App

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A while back, I wrote about a comprehensive guide that I refer to frequently, a handy little book explains almost every French gastronomic word that you might encounter. It's not merely a menu translator, but a useful dictionary which decodes those detailed bits and pieces of information pertaining to French gastronomy that even confound some of my French friends!

If you've ever wondered how all those beef terms translate (what's the difference between entrecôte and bavette?), what is a topinambour (heck, I can't ever pronounce it...), what kind of fish lieu jaune is, or how you say "shad" in French (which I always have to look up, because I always forget) this is the best guide that I know of. However, due to shipping and the nature of self-publishing, it was hard to distribute the guide for a reasonable price outside of France.

So I was happy to hear that the creater has released an app both for iOS and Android devices. You can check them out in the iTunes stores and Google Play.

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Paris Restaurant Notes

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The heavily touristed streets off the rue de Seine aren't necessarily the best place to find an inexpensive and/or tasty bite to eat. But one that fills the bill on both is Little Breizh (11, rue Grégoire de Tours, no reservations.) This friendly Breton café offers crêpes and buckwheat galettes that are delicious, and generous.

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I had an excellent buckwheat galette, flecked with little nubbins of dark, toothy buckwheat embedded in the batter. I chose from the reasonable lunch menu that included a glass of cider and another crêpe for dessert, for less than €10.

There's a slightly fancier menu at lunch for €13,50, but being a traditionalist, I stuck with the classic complète filled with ham and cheese, polished off a crêpe gilded with a drizzle of housemade salted butter caramel sauce, and left a happy fellow.

Artisan is one of the latest in the wave of "small plate" places to eat in Paris. The new-ish style of dining is often referred to as "tapas" (ie: Japanese tapas, Italian tapas, et al) but at Artisan, they concentrate more on food than concepts. A big feature of the place is the zinc cocktail bar, where you can get excellent drinks from the printed list, or order a favorite. I thought I'd give the list a try. Bijou came in a slender cocktail glass, and was a delirious blend of gin and Chartreuse. I also tried Mr. Bochart, which was fruity and thick. In future, I’ll stick with le Bijou because I'm into less fruity libations. The thinly sliced Iberian ham was a nice treat alongside as was the fried mini croque monsieur, that was perhaps the best I've had in Paris. Expect to pay about €50 per person. The place gets hopping--we arrived at 7pm on a Wednesday night and it was empty. But within an hour, it had filled up quickly and was jumpin'.

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Italian cuisine isn't especially well represented in Paris though there are great Italian ingredients available. My friend Zeva of Yelp France, who I never get to see enough of, suggested Procopio Angelo for our semi-annual lunch. The place is tucked off a side street across from the Hôpital Saint-Louis and I wasn't sure how she found it. But I guess that's her job.

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For €17, we had two-course meal, including coffee. I started with a marvelous block of stracchino, a soft, young cow's milk cheese with roasted radicchio and potatoes, and she had a crostini of zucchini, scamorza (smoked mozzarella), and bacon that was pretty terrific - even though the picture I took, the pic above the pasta, doesn't look as good as it tasted.

(Hmm, thinking about the croque monsieur at Artisan, and this Italian number here, perhaps the next trend to sweep through Paris will be grilled cheese sandwich places. But I still haven't worked up the courage to go to Balls, a place in Paris that sells only meatballs and the servers wear t-shirts that say "Eat My Balls," in English.)

My main course, spaghetti with olive oil, piment, and garlic wasn't very pimenté (spicy), nor was there much garlic (Parisians aren't fond of lots of garlic), and out-of-season – firm - cherry tomatoes, but Zeva had a terrific pasta à la Norma with tomato sauce, eggplant, and cheese. The staff and owner are very engaging and it's a nice place for lunch, if you're in the neighborhood.

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North African food, like couscous and tagines, are represented in Paris. But most of the places aren't quite as good as what you get on their home turf. (And even there, folks say the best food is made in homes, not restaurants, because that's where the natives eat. Restaurants are for tourists.) So I'd read a few reports during the past year, here and there, about Le Tagine, featuring the cuisine of Morocco.

It was fairly empty on a gray Tuesday night in the winter (it's a school holiday week), and one patron had brought her parakeet with her - which, fortunately, was well behaved. The menu features some nice first courses and we had excellent merguez (spicy sauce), boulets (meat patties), and deep-fried tuna packets.

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The wine list is impressive. Not in length or breadth, but because the wines are natural wines. We ordered a Cheverny rosé (€20), which took the server (who may be the owner) by surprise and when he poured it to taste, he said "If you don't like it, I'll bring you something else." It was fine. In fact, it was pretty nice (!) - so we kept it.

Mains were, well, fine - but I wouldn't cancel a trip to Morocco for them. My lamb Berbère tagine had some fresh vegetables baked over lamb, along with a bunch of peas (that were from the freezer) and my friend Jane from La Cuisine had chicken with preserved lemons and olives.

The hit for me were the desserts, all made in house. There were gazelle horns, crescent-shaped cookies filled with almond paste, makroud, semolina cookies filled with dates, and a cake that had my undivided attention when checking out the pastries, and knew that I had to have it. It was dense, made with toasted nuts and toasted flour, dusted liberally with sugar, and packed with flavor. I would go back just for that, although the place is fun and next time, I may go with the couscous and check that part of the menu out. Along with some of the other wines. (Or stick with that rosé!)

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Some Favorite Links Around the Web

-Andrew Zimmern on Bon Appétit talks about Twitter, Instagram, and social media – and I agree (with or without the f-bombs) with how he feels about those who think you need to "strategize" (shudder) your social media presence.

-The Williams-Sonoma Taste blog features yours truly in their Blogger Spotlight

-Wanna "pick someone's brain"? Not so fast. Check out these 10 Tips for an Awesome Coffee Meeting –including my favorite - don't be late! (via Pret à Voyager)

-Coming and going from the Paris airport? Le Cab will meet you there for a fixed fare (often lower than regular cabs) – and can be booked online or with their app.

-Organic winemaker in France charged with breaking the law and facing €41,000 in fines for refusing to used pesticides. Huh? (NYT)

-Living abroad and tired of getting the "Sorry, this content is not available to you"? (We want our Nurse Jackie and Modern Family!) Hola is a (free) Chrome extension that changes your IP address. Another is ZenMate.

-One of the sweetest addresses in Paris, A l'Etoile d'Or, Denise Acabo's lovely shop filled to the rafters with chocolates, candies, and caramels from across France, is gutted by a gas explosion.

-Pinterest user? Install this Pin It button for your browser (Chrome only) to easily pin and save articles from your favorite websites and blog to Pinterest.

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Posts from My Site in February

-Beautiful red wine poached pears grace a lovely winter tart.

-My favorite gauze in Paris (not that there is a lot of competition...) but I love it for cooking and jam-making.

-There's no reason to be scared of boudin noir. Really.

-Make some marmalade with those little tangy kumquats, like I did.

-Paris has gone purple!

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And for those of you in Paris this weekend, there is a brocante (flea market) at Oberkampf, on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir: March 1 and 2nd.

Better get there early – if you want to get all the good stuff before I do! ... david

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