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June 2020 Newsletter

Croque monsieur recipe-2

The French have a unique word: épuisé. When the country opened up in early May, there was a collective sigh of relief that people could go outside without carrying an attestation (note). Outdoor markets would resume and shops opened their doors again. The government advised people to wear masks but didn't require it and gatherings of more than 10 people were forbidden.

The lockdown wore out a lot of people. I had some trouble at first, but adapted as I'm often at home baking, cooking, and writing, so it wasn't a big change for me. But some people had a hard time accepting it. Many were anxious and/or depressed, people with kids found themselves in close proximity to them (and in Paris, in small apartments) 24/7, and young people used to hanging out in bars and cafés with friends missed their daily apéro hour. People said they were épuisé, extremely worn-out.

When the lockdown was lifted in early May, people hit the streets with a vengeance, with young people streaming towards the quais (riversides) and the Canal St. Martin, seeing the good weather as not only a chance to hang out with their friends again, but gave people the feeling that the virus is over. The crowds in former hot spots immediately became remarkably large and the city of Paris had to quickly ban drinking on the quais to break up the hoards of people standing and sitting elbow-to-elbow, having a drink en plein air (outside.)

On the upside, long-shuttered cafés and restaurants tentatively started doing takeaway food and bars sold pre-made cocktails. During the previous lockdown, food shops remained open as essential businesses, but as most people know, dining out (and drinking out) isn't just about getting food (or getting a cocktail) in your belly; it's about spending time with friends and having a good time. I'm not a huge fan of take-away food. If I go out for a drink or a meal, I do it to be with friends.

Like many others, we couldn't resist the allure of frozen pizza a few times during the lockdown, but finally picked up one from a local restaurant making pizzas, which was fine, but was cold by the time we brought it home. I did make the Crispy, Cheesy pizza from King Arthur Flour one night, which was easy and fun, although I added some spicy Spanish chorizo and a few dollops of Calabrian chili paste. (France is the land of amazing cheese, but don't get low-moisture mozzarella easily in Paris, so missed that stretchy cheese that melts into a warm, gooey mass.) But do give it a try if you're at home and want a freshly-made pizza.

Bronx cocktail recipe-2

Like many people, I realized that I was épuisé, not just physically, but mentally as well. Going to the store, or the outdoor market, was stressful as people brushed by rubbing shoulders, not maintaining any sort of distance. Maybe 20% of the people wore masks, and several people I spoke with about the virus told me, "Daveed...it's over."

Yes, the numbers in France (and Spain and Italy) were decreasing, while the numbers in the U.S. and elsewhere were going up. We'll see what happens. As for tomorrow (June 2nd) bars, cafés, and restaurants with outdoor spaces in Paris will be allowed to open but no standing at the bar and having a drink or a coffee, no indoor seating, and everyone outside must remain 1 meter (3ft) apart. As the New York Times pointed out, the limits were tested during the lockdown by crowds of people on the streets, in the parks, and on the river quais, but we'll see how well it works when the café and restaurant terraces open...

In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and others. Wearing a mask really isn't all that difficult, and some people have much worse things going on in their lives than having to stay a few feet apart from friends and other patrons in a café. During this period, I've been grateful to have access to fruits and vegetables, cheese, wine, gin, and bread. On verra...

xx - david

P.S. On a sidenote, for Americans who are (or were) planning to visit France this summer, at present French citizens, people whose primary residence is in France, and those with "essential" reasons, may come into the country. On June 15th the French government is planning to review border controls and perhaps will issue new guidelines. More info here and here.

On another sidenote (with apologies for the newsletter running rather long...), I usually start writing this newsletter about a week before sending it out. Because of the evolving situation with the coronavirus, I was constantly updating things so the information would be as current and correct as possible. A few days ago, the horrific act in Minneapolis occurred. In the U.S., I'd been through a number of protests in my life, including the assassination of our mayor and supervisor in San Francisco (and the subsequent release of the perpetrator), the Rodney King riots, a proposition to quarantine people who had HIV (which is rather timely to recall at this moment, with the current pandemic), and Charlie Hebdo/Bataclan massacres, which have all been wake-up calls for human rights and equality.

(This week also marked the passing of activist Larry Kramer, who I distinctly remember yelling at anyone who'd listen to him, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was his adversary...begrudging became his ally, and his friend. I sat in a room in New York where he hollered at the dozen of us who had gathered together in a classroom at the university to get some news about a mysterious virus that was decimating us, our friends, and our neighbors. He was remarkable and a very important, and loud, voice for disruption and action, and founded ACT UP, which was responsible for making some very powerful changes in America.)

Unfortunately, inequality and injustice continue to be global issues, and most countries, and its citizens (that's all of us) have a lot of introspection to do, not just now, but in the future to prevent these kinds of things from happening again. I've found myself drawn to the words of Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, who has spoken with great emotion and passion on the situation.

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Drinking French News

So many people have asked me about which spirits to buy to set up their bar (check out that post here), that I teamed up with Slope Cellars in New York to present a Drinking French Bar Box with four bottles that will get you started! The "box" also includes a copy of Drinking French too!

Much appreciation to the many of you who show up daily for my Instagram Apéro Hour. Many episodes have been archived on my IGTV channel on Instagram and I've shared some on my Facebook page as well.

Other places where you can find me online, recently...

-David Lebovitz Releases Drinking French with Classic and Exploratory Cocktails (Nuovo)

-A Spritz Divided: I discuss with spirits writer Brad Thomas Parsons the similarities and differences between French and Italian Drinking Cultures (Punch)

-The Stressed-Out, at-Wit's-End Quarantine Cook's Companions lists three books, including Drinking French, as helpful getting through sheltering in place. (The Herald)

-8 Best Spirits and Cocktail Books of 2020 (VinePair)

If you make something from the book, or just want to show off your copy of it, use the hashtag #drinkingfrench so I can see it. And should you feel so inclined, leaving a review on Amazon is always appreciated, too : )

To get your very own copy of my latest book, Drinking French can be purchased at these, and other, independent and online booksellers:

Bookshop / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kitchen Arts & Letters / Indiebound / Book Depository (free int'l shipping) / Book Larder / Powell's / RJ Julia / Omnivore / Books are Magic / White Whale / Now Serving / and your local bookseller.

Caramelized shallot chicken-4

Recent Recipes and Posts on My Blog

Perfect for spring and summer, this Fresh Ginger Lemonade will brighten up your days (and if you add a dash of gin or vodka) your apéritif hours.

-Can't make it to France yet? Pas de problème...make this easy Croque Monsieur at home!

-Aromatic white vermouth is the base for this luscious El Presidente cocktail, bolstered with rum and orange liqueur. This drink has gone on permanent rotation with us.

-A one-pan dinner, Caramelized Shallot Chicken (shown above) has just a few ingredients that you likely already have on hand, If so, you can have a French dinner on the table in 45 minutes.

-Want to set up a home bar? I give the Basics for Setting Up a Home Bar, with tips on what to gather and buy, if you feel so inclined, or things that you already have on hand in your kitchen that you can use to shake and stir, so you don't need to buy anything.

-Everyone's favorite apéritif, the Kir Royal, takes a trip to Normandy with this apple-based Kir Normand apéro.

-Shakshuka is one of my favorite meals. Hard not to love soft eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce... Adding chickpeas to this Tomato Chickpea Shakshuka makes the dish a heartier meal.

-An overload of fresh mint prompted me to make a Mint Zhoug, a spicy herbal sauce, that goes great with Shakshuka, but also is a wonderful condiment to serve with grilled or roasted vegetables, fish, chicken, or shrimp.

-You may not know who Lucien Gaudin is (0r was - he was a famous French Olympic fencing champ) but this cocktail, the Lucian Gaudin, with red bitter apéritif, gin, and vermouth will have you saying touché!

-A kiss of honey gives the Bee's Knees cocktail, which is actually a tangy sour, a bit of a buzz.

-One of the most revered spirits, Chartreuse, comes down to earth in this fun Swampwater, a highly-drinkable summer libation with pineapple juice and lime.

-Romain fell hard for the Rosemary Gimlet, but also gave a thumb's up to The White Lady, a super simple sipper.

-What changed in France when it came out of lockdown.

-I put together this Drinking French Bar Box with the folks at Slope Cellars in New York, with four favorite bottles and a copy of the book, for you to shake and stir things up at home.

-The Tunnel Cocktail is a Frenchified take on the Negroni from Cravan in Paris.

-Romain shared his recipe for the beloved French bistro (and home) classic, the Grated Carrot Salad.

-This May Daisy refresher mixes cognac, Chartreuse, and lemon, and a touch of mint for some spritzy refreshment.

-The Algonquin, named for a swanky hotel in New York, will make you feel like a million at home. And the Bronx offers a taste of another borough.

-This Gentian Fizz is an herbal ode to the fragrant wornwood plant harvested in the French Alps. (Which is now made in America, too.)

-When the pantry is bare, this Citrus Risotto came to my rescue.

-To say goodbye, I give you The Long Hello...


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