November 2015 Newsletter I feel like a bear about to go into deep hibernation. No, it's not just because winter is almost upon us (or because I just

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November 2015 Newsletter

Cheese  cornichons  etc

I feel like a bear about to go into deep hibernation. No, it's not just because winter is almost upon us (or because I just spent a week in San Francisco overeating), but I've been doing a bit of traveling and am definitely feeling the need to chill out for a bit.

Last month, I led my annual (or semi-annual, depending on the year...) tour of Paris and Lausanne, where I took a wonderful group through my favorite chocolate shops, kitchens, and markets in Paris before taking the train to Lake Geneva, at the base of the Swiss alps in Switzerland to visit caves where Gruyère cheese is ripened, eat fondue, and take in the beautiful scenery from our hotel, which overlooked the spectacular lake.

I usually dial up my cheese consumption in the winter, which is easy in France and Switzerland when you have such beautiful (and tempting!) cheeses, such as the dreamy goat cheese wrapped in a chestnut leaf, just above. (And it's easier too when you're wearing bulky clothing, because you don't notice what all that cheese is doing to your waistline!) In the U.S., people often serve cheeses with fruit, jam, honey, and other condiments. But in France, rarely is that the case. I like mine served with a baguette or some hearty levain (sourdough) bread, and that's all.


I barely got back home, when I took off again for San Francisco, my old stomping grounds. I hit the ground running, taking part in a photo shoot for a magazine. The spectacular citrus that's available in the Bay Area startled me. Pink lemons, tiny kumquats and juicy-sweet Meyer lemons were just part of the mix. I'll let you know in a future newsletter when the magazine is out.

San Francisco is a great food city. I visited old favorites, and hit some new ones. Just below in this newsletter, I list a few new places that I liked. Mexican, Peruvian, American, French, and Asian cuisines all are part of the San Francisco mix, and I was happy to do my part and enjoy a little bit of all of them.

March Newsletter pictures-4

As winter arrives, the bounty of citrus starts to arrive in Paris, including vibrant orange clementines and bergamots (sweet lemons), that I like to use for lemon desserts, including whole lemon bars.

I stocked up on some dried fruit in the Bay Area, including some wrinkly, maroon Angelino plums (above) and California apricots, which are noticeably tangier than their Turkish or Chinese counterparts. I'm not sure what to do with them all, but as the holidays approach I'm eyeing a batch of fruitcake bars for sure and perhaps some other sweet treats that I'll share on my blog. - David


New Vanilla FAQs

vanilla beans and extract-3

I'm a little crazy and have been going back and updating previous posts on my blog over the last few months. While I'd love to go back and redo all 1784 posts there, one that I particularly liked revisiting was a pos where I talked a bit about vanilla. Considered the most popular flavor in the world, people know very little about vanilla, especially that it's also the most labor-intensive crop in the world.

So what's up with cheap vanilla beans you buy online, or those jumbo bottles of "vanilla" from Mexico? What's the best way to swap out vanilla beans or paste for extract? And if homemade extract can match up to vanilla extract that you buy, in flavor and strength. For answers to all these, and more, check out my updated Vanilla FAQs.


San Francisco Notes

PicMonkey Collage

I get back to San Francisco, where I lived for many years, every so often. Each time I go back, the food scene just seems to get better and better. I often forget about the magnificent produce, like unusual citrus and Asian ingredients that can be bought even at corner markets. And each time I go, it seems there are new bakeries, butcher shops, and restaurants - too many to go to in one week! I was pretty busy for the week taking care of some stuff, and catching up with friends, but I did have time to get a few meals in, and made a few new amis in the food community...

Olivier's Butchery: Olivier hails from Burgundy but sources the best American beef, and provides "French-style" cuts. After meeting him, we roasted off a hefty chop of well-aged beef in my friend's apartment, and it was some of the best beef we've ever had.

Smuggler's Cove: If you like Tiki drinks you'll be right at home here. But if you're expecting sticky-sweet libations, fear not - these are more upscale drinks, using top-shelf rums and other liquors.

Neighbor Bakehouse: Self-trained baker Greg Mindel is considered the master of laminated dough. One bite of his spectacular pastries will leave you agreeing. I loved the croissant stuffed with cream cheese and topped with a mix of bagel-like seeds, and it was one of the all-star things I ate that week. The selection (shown above, top right) included Bostock (brioche with almond paste) and croissants filled with blackberries and pistachio. As they say in San Francisco - oh my God!

b. pâtisserie: Every time I go to San Francisco, people on social media tell me, "You have to go to b. pâtisserie!" I've got news for ya...I've been! But that doesn't mean I can't go back. Because it was October, the bakery case had a basket of pumpkin kugelhofs (small yeasted cakes) that were very tasty, and Belinda Leong's trademark Kouign Amanns are better than most that you get in France. You won't see ones in France flecked with black sesame seeds or pumpkin, but you will at this must-stop bakery.

(A nice woman brought me a box of pastries from Arsicault bakery, a newcomer on the scene, and they were great. However I didn't get a chance to visit. Big thanks to her, and I suggest you check them out, if you can.)

Duc Loi Supermarket: The Mission is a multicultural paradise with stores selling everything from fresh lime leaves to cones of Mexican sugar. I had an amazing banh mi of barbecued lemongrass chicken at Mission Banh Mi in the market. Unlike other Vietnamese sandwich places, here they stuff them full of meat and vegetables. It was huge - and delicious!

Kin Khao: I had my farewell dinner here with friends and the food at this Thai eatery wowed us all. Everything from a savory fruit salad, Thai sausage, green rabbit curry, and a gorgeous bowl of raw and tempura-style vegetables with a spicy pork, catfish and shrimp paste were just part of a meal that should be on anyone's "must eat" lists in San Francisco, especially for those interested in experiencing authentic Thai food. (And enjoying some especially excellent cocktails, too.)


Favorite Posts from My Blog

vanilla beans and extract

Good news! Denise Acabo reopens her chocolate and sweet shop in Paris, A l'Etoile d'Or.

Swaddle your next scoop of ice cream in Bourbon and butterscotch sauce, rich, warm, and boozy!

99 comments (and counting...) in response to my story about French keys.

I updated a bunch of my favorite recipe posts with new pictures and revisited recipes.

Three of my favorite things come together - chocolate, marshmallows, and spiced cookies - in S'mores ice cream. It's scoopendous!

See you next month!

- David

My Paris Kitchen hi res
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