One of the funny things about traveling (perhaps coupled with writing about it in a relatively public space), is that no matter where I go, I get told

       
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apricot ice cream with almonds

One of the funny things about traveling (perhaps coupled with writing about it in a relatively public space), is that no matter where I go, I get told that I should have gone somewhere else. When I went to Sydney, I was told that I had to go to Melbourne. When I went to Israel, I was told I had to go Egypt. When I went to Tunisia, it seemed like I was really missing out on something major because I didn't go to Algeria. Unless you're a flight attendant, or rich enough to have your own plane (or have enough clout so you can fly first-class), it's not possible to go everywhere in the world and retain your sanity. Plus there's that pesky issue of who is going to stay home and work in your absence?

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But rather than just stay home and and not go anywhere, for fear of going to the wrong place, I went to Lebanon and this time, no one said I should have gone somewhere else. Whew! My friend Bethany of Taste Lebanon invited me on a special culinary trip for the week with a few other food writers, which was unbelievable – and no, I'm not talking about me waking up before 7am a couple of the day as being the "unbelievable" part. I mean, the food was amazing; we ate and drank incredibly well, and the people were incredibly hospitable. Folks often turn their noses up or organized tours and so forth. But to me, you often can't have the same kind of experiences if you go to a foreign country such as Lebanon unless you're with a local.

That's not to say you can't have an interesting trip if you were to go solo. But I speak no Arabic and I never would have went to a very old souk up near the ruins of Baleek, and I never would have been able to communicate with the young men tossing and turning the gorgeous saj breads at the bakery we stopped at on the side of the road. (And truthfully, I would not have stopped at the faded concrete building where the guys were baking the breads inside, in the first place.)

Anyhow, it was a lot of fun and I wrote a few posts because it was so interesting and there were too many stories (and photos) to smush into one long story.

Al Bohsali – Middle Eastern Pastries
The 12 Year Old Lahham
Lebanese Meze
Saj, Flatbreads, and Lebanese Pastries
How to Eat a Falafel in Lebanon (I want to go back here, pronto!)
Another Lebanese Breakfast, and Two Lunches
Lebanese Breakfast

I have another post on making za'atar coming up. But it's going to take me a bit to get to it because the trip was so overwhelming – I'm still processing that whole day in my mind!

Aside from prompting folks to want to tempt you to go to other places, you learn so much about other cultures when you travel to various places. There's so little known about the Middle East outside of the region and I was thrilled to get a chance to see another corner of it. I just wish the whole region would calm down and folks would search out more peaceful ways to resolve all their conflicts as it's sad to see such beautiful, warm people having their lives overturned.

Now back in Paris, I am busying myself with round-two of a big project I've been working on, and I've been celebrating with cocktails at some of the newer cocktail bars in the city. Which is a little distracting at time, I must admit, I'm not entirely feeling guilty about....

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What's Happening in Paris...

Indian food guru Beena Paradin has teamed up with the folks at Beillevaire, using their raw milk butter to make ghee, the Indian version of clarified butter.
Beer is now more popular than wine in Paris cafés. Pass any café in mid-afternoon, and you'll find large goblets of le bière on the table (with the obligatory packets of cigarettes and smartphones – bien sur!) A few beer-lovers have started making their own craft beers in Paris, and Paris by Mouth has the scoop.
French bus drivers are up in arms (or up in something) over having to wear pants that are too tight. So if you don't want to go stylish, go on strike.

(And I can't say I blame them; I can barely ride a bicycle with those euro-jeans on either - yowch!)

Even though they have security guards for the Mona Lisa, they are no match for the petty thieves that have been roaming the Louvre, extracting the wallets and cash of unsuspecting art lovers. Am not sure what the solution is, but it's another reason to go on strike.
Lover's of French cinema will be thrilled to know that La Cinèmatheque Française is celebrating the fabulous films of Jacques Demy, including The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and other films, now through August.
I wrote about craving a hamburger http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/08/where-to-get-a-great-hamburger-i/ and in the "best careful what you wish for" category, it seems we have too many. One of the best is still Le Camion Qui Fume (who is opening a real sit-down place soon in the city) – however good coffee is still something you need to seek out. Good Coffee in Paris is an interesting resource for finding a good cup – because my list was getting too long. Now if I only had time to try them all out...

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Three New Books from Food Blogging Pals

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A few friends have new books out. One is Absolutely Avocados by Gaby Dalkin, who loves avocados more than anyone. And if you don't believe me (or her), the love is evident in the eighty recipes covered in this lovely book. I'm eyeing the recipe for Guacamole with Bacon, and curious about the Brownies with Avocados in 'em.

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If recipes are your game, than Lori Lange – also known as Recipe Girl – is perhaps a name you should know. She known for family-friendly foods, and The Recipe Girl Cookbook has many of them, most having a southern California bent. Both Lori and Gaby's books were photographed by the talented Matt Armendariz.

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For gluten-free folks, and others, this is the latest book by my friend Shauna Ahern, otherwise known as Gluten-Free Girl, complied along with her chef/husband Dan Ahern. I am looking forward to checking out my copy of Gluten-Free Every Day when it arrives - but the lovely cover is just so enticing...

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Summer Scoopin'

oxo scoop

From the "it's the little things" file, I discovered the best ice cream scoop ever. It's made by Oxo, who I had contacted about something else. While we were e-mailing back-and-forth, they offered to send me their ice cream scoop, which isn't available in France, and since I have a drawerload of ice cream scoops, I almost said no. But they I said yes, and when I got it, well....it didn't look like any improvement over anything else I had. Until I tried it on a batch of very-firm, well-frozen ice cream, which it plowed right through as if there was nothing in its path. As noted, it was a gift from the company but I highly recommend it.

You can check them out on Amazon - the perfect partner with my ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop, or at your local cookware shop. A great gift for yourself to kick off ice cream season!

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May is promising to be lots of fun as the weather (finally!) warms up in Paris, and the first French gariguette strawberries start poking through at the market. I'm looking forward to making my first batch of strawberry granita this weekend, and I plan to have a bunch of new recipes and stories on the blog, just in time for spring.

-David

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