October 2013 Newsletter Well, you could say I was a bad boy, or mauvais garçon. In the middle of a whole bunch of work, I dropped the ball and headed

       
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Tarte Tropezienne

October 2013 Newsletter

Well, you could say I was a bad boy, or mauvais garçon. In the middle of a whole bunch of work, I dropped the ball and headed to the south of France to try to catch (and savor) the last few days of summer in France. I like spending time in Paris in August, when the city is free of, well, everything – and it’s just a wonderful, relaxing time to enjoy the city and the peace and quiet.

But everyone needs a little break, including yours truly, so we headed south, to the Var, where most days were sunny and warm, the rosé and white wine flowed like, well, I can’t think of a good analogy because my head is still on break. But we just kind of pattered about the beach, dining on moules-frites and fresh fish, oily tapenade, and a grand aïoli, which wasn’t the best version I’ve tasted. But it was a fine send-off the last day before we boarded the plane back to Paris. Although we reeked of garlic, so am not sure out plane-mates thought we were so fine...

vin blanc

We also gorged on Tarte tropézienne (shown above, at the top), which is a specialty of nearby Saint-Tropez (there’s a recipe in my upcoming book, which is available for pre-order now), which I felt a-ok doing since it was the official end of swimsuit season.

soileil

Back in Paris, it was back to la grindstone. And although I am a sunscreen fanatic, I felt a bit sexier sporting a bit of a bronzage - so I felt très, très Parisien - as fall swooped in, bringing pears, apples and fresh figs to the market. I hit one of the flea markets and found a vendor selling pins from China, but had a few trays of fresh figs from his tree, which I swooped in and bought all of. I made some roasted figs, ate a lot of them raw, and made a cake with the rest. (Recently mentioned on my site.)

Tapenade

So that's le scoop, as we say. As the days quickly get shorter in Paris, there's an uptick at the market. Fall apples, spicy muscat grapes, and pears are showing up, along with quince (yay!), game birds, and other cool-weather fare. I can't say I'm exactly anxious for winter to begin. But thanks to those cream-filled Tropézienne tartes, at least I'm packing a little more insulation.

- David

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Three Paris Restaurants

I hadn’t been back to the restaurant Thoumieux since the redo a few years ago (it was a favorite old bistro, converted to a 'hip' restaurant, now filled with good-looking people), but was interested in the gastronomic restaurant of the talented chef – Jean-François Piège. And I was fortunate to be invited to dinner at by a friend to check it out. It’s a somewhat sheltered restaurant, upstairs from the Thoumieux, but feels a world away from - well, everything.

The low-slung dining room is dark, with oversized sofas and upholstered chairs, and when I sank into the couch, I almost wasn’t sure I would be able to eat. But eventually I discovered the joys of being comfortable, and settled in with the glass of Billecarte-Salmon rosé Champagne, which you don't often see on menus by the glass, and is one bubbly I love. Diners choose from either the 1 or 2 ingredient menu (€119, and €149), although you can choose another menu that includes wine pairings, although I always find those blinding, with too many wines to try and prefer to focus on just a couple throughout my meals. And what followed was a great meal.

Although it’s not the kind of place I eat at often (I prefer smaller, funkier places) but I can't get the Mouilette de pain out of my head; a moist square of bread, a sandwich if you will, that was cloud-like in texture – almost like a savory Japanese cheesecake – with tomato water, burrata, and anchovy paste. Other dishes in the cavalcade of courses included Blue lobster with figs and foie gras, duck with olive juice, Saint-Pierre (John Dory), and an exemplary selection of cheeses, followed by four courses of dessert. Chef Piège is quite the talent and the meal was lovely. I'm keeping it on my list as a fine place for a special, and perhaps intimate, dinner.

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pirouette mushrooms

More in tune with everyday dining is Pirouette (5 rue Mondétour, 01 40 26 47 81), a restaurant that’s been on the little post-it I keep of restaurants in Paris that I want to try. And when a friend came to town and we found ourselves figuring out what restaurants would be open on a Saturday night (surprisingly, most on my list weren’t), we ended up at Pirouette.

We had a warm welcome in this modern space over by Les Halles, an area which was bustling (as usual) on a Saturday night. My first course was Amanita mushrooms (which I found out have to be parboiled, or could be toxic-gulp!), with crisp bits of Spanish ham and chopped bits of liver. My main course was Maigre (a lean fish) with barely-soft potatoes, not cooked to mush, but slightly undercooked so they had some texture. (Which isn’t very French, but was a nice counterpoint to the soft, perfectly cooked fish.) The very friendly waitress brought over a pitcher of beurre blanc with seaweed crumbled it in, to pour over.

Dessert was an excellent Riz au lait (rice pudding) with a generous swirl of salted butter caramel scribbled over the top, served with caramelized pistachios (and other nuts), and an Ossau Iraty “cheese cake”, a savory half-crescent of Basque sheep’s milk cheese, somehow reformed, and baked into a dense, savory cake, topped with a thin mirroir of dark cherry jam, which was just the right finish. A three-course meal goes for 38 euros and everything was excellent.

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le Bistro Syrien

I seem to be always hungry for Middle Eastern food. And when I found myself in the still-a-bit gritty area of Porte Saint-Denis the other night, we popped into Le Bistro Syrien for dinner. Diners can choose from various mézzé; including taboulé, houmous, cheese or meat-filled pastries, and spicy Lebanese sausages. We ordered mézzé for two (€32) which included a choice of six. And while I wanted to love them, many lacked seasoning that didn't separate them from just being ordinary. Middle Eastern food depends on the freshest ingredients, and I missed the luxurious taste of good tahini in the houmous, fine olive oil drizzled over the taboulé, and the caviar d’aubergines (moutabal) just didn’t have a lot of flavor. The portions were also rather uncopious, so we ended up ordering a lamb brochette to share, which was just okay, but nothing to write home (or to you) about. Dinner for two was €62 with a carafe of house wine.

Although the food didn't knock off our socks (which I guess is not necessarily something to complain that much about since no one wants to sit around a restaurant full of pre-worn socks), it was moving to watch Syrian artists painting the walls, while images of Syria were shown on a television. We talked to them as they painted and worked, and met a photojournalist who was smoking a narghile (pipe) on the patio with friends, and spoke of the situation in Syria. As their country crumbles, all they can do is stand and watch, and it’s hard not to be moved by dining amongst people whose culture is being torn apart.

We also noticed a lot of locals coming in for sandwiches to go, which I think is the better option. But even better is Le Daily Syrien (55 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis), a take-out style place they have in the neighborhood that doubles as a newsstand, where I’ve had some great Middle Eastern sandwiches. So I’d head back there next time.

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October 14th Paris Book Event

I'll be in conversation with Seb Emina, author of The Breakfast Book, in Paris at Shakespeare and Company on October 14th at 7pm. I've never done this kind of thing before (although I'm no slouch in the talking department...) - so stop by and see if I goof up! There will be books for signing and rumors of Bloody Mary's are going around as well....

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Favorite Posts from September

Fresh Ginger Syrup: I love spicy ginger in anything. Here's a recipe to make your own syrup and zippy soda.
Cheese Tastings in Paris: Coming to Paris and want to taste cheese? Here's a list of places to do it.
A Visit to a Za'atar Farm: A recap of an amazing experience I had at a za'atar farm in Lebanon.
Salted Butter Chocolate Sauce: Like chocolate? Like butter? Like salty/sweet? Try this tasty (and simple) sauce.
The Glass Half-Full: In Provence, you'll find your wine glasses are more than half-full. And you might find something else in your wine, too....

prickly pear cactus
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