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October 2019 Newsletter

Summer season ends with plums, and I spent a while saying goodbye to my favorite fruits of the year.

The first night of my vacation, I slept twelves hours. I kid you not. When I woke up and looked at the clock, I was stunned to see how long I slept, and was happy with how refreshed I was.

It's true that in France, it's difficult to get enough sleep. Constant contact with computer screens, noise from late-night revelers (every pharmacy in Paris has earplugs by the cash register), and a variety of other reasons, cause people to get less sleep. So it was heaven to wake up every morning for a few weeks, and feel relaxed and ready to hit the day. Or in some cases, do nothing. After all, that's what vacations are for. Right?

We started in France, weaving our way through Burgundy, drinking plenty of Chablis and eating giant gougères. We visited a mustard factory in Dijon (one of the bummers of not planning too much in advance was that the tours were booked), but I bought a few jars of mustard in the gift shop, and we had a great lunch just down the street at La Dilettante, that was happened into by chance. We hadn't reserved so had to wait for everyone to leave, and ate after most of the other guests had. The downside was most of the menu items weren't available - I wanted that Croque Monsieur, darn it! - but the upside was we had a great chat with the owner, and had excellent wine. Highly recommended if you're in Beaune.

We stayed with a few friends in the region, and part of the trip had us cooking and baking for a friend's birthday party, where I (and a team I recruited of other houseguests) put together 50 0r 60 tarts. I don't remember the exact number anymore, but the most popular were the Pissaladières, Niçoise onion and anchovy tarts (recipe in My Paris Kitchen), which were enjoyed with local sparkling crémant. Like some French summer fêtes can do, this one ended around 4:30am. I was in bed a few hours before, working on that sleep deficit, and was glad I made a dent in it when I saw the condition of the others, after them finally woke up the next morning.

plums for sept newsletter

From there it was down to Spain to visit my friends Michael and Sylvie Sullivan. I've known them both for years and Michael and I worked and cooked together at Chez Panisse. We usually only get to see each other when we happen to be in Paris at the same time, so it was nice to spend a few days really catching up, and catching some beach time on the Costa Brava.

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I also tasted the best anchovies I've had in my life, from the region. (Michael, who's now a wine importer, also made a fantastic paella, below.) Alice Waters liked them so much, she convinced him to start importing them to the U.S. and they're available on his website, Beaune Imports. In Paris, they carry them at Épicerie du Verre Volé (52 rue de la Folie Méricourt, 11th). We ate as many as we could when we were there, but still, I ended up bringing three good-sized jars home.

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It was hard to leave Spain. I love the food there so much - the ham, the sherry (which Romain was delighted to taste), and those anchovies, we headed north, stopping in a small town that had quite a few tourists who also wanted to enjoy the beach, then spent a week with our friend who grow much of their food, or only shop from local producers. We felt so clean and refreshed that it was a little tough to be home.

Fortunately many in Paris were still away on vacation so we could ease back into life a little more smoothly. Within 24 hours, I was unpacking, catching up on a backlog of paperwork, cooking and baking, and stocking my kitchen with lots of vegetables, grains, and the kinds of food we enjoyed during our travels.

It's fun being back in my own kitchen (and just making one tart at a time!), with sharp knives: Next time, I'm not going to forget to travel with my own knife - I never understand how people cook with such dull knives...that post got 249 comments, and not everyone agreed you should bring your own cooking utensils along with you - but they obviously didn't have to make 50, or 60 tarts.

Hope you have a good rentrée (re-entry) if you went away, and (now that I've been reunited with my knives) look for some new recipes and stories on my blog this month.

- David


Say "Oui" to the new SNCF (French Train System)

In case you've been trying to book a ticket on the SNCF website for a train in France, you may (as I did) think you landed on a bogus site. After refreshing my browser a few times, I discovered that the SNCF TGV has been rebranded to inOUI. The new name is meant to evoke the French word for "exceptional" (or, "unheard of.") Uh, okay.

Regardless, the name has changed so the website name and URL have changed. In addition, a new low-cost TGV train service named OUIGO has begun.

When searching for tickets, OUIGO tickets may be offered in the search results. Fares vary but start at 10€ one-way, which is a bargain for high-speed train service. However, as one journalist wrote, "They took the things people hate about flying and applied them to trains." So if you want to bring a suitcase, that'll cost extra. There's no bar or food car, some seats are three across, and you can't reserve a seat on your own; it's chosen for you. (If you purchase tickets with someone else, however, you should be seated next to them.) You also need to be at the station 30 minutes before the departure of the train, which is a big change, and for some reason, they don't have garbage bins. That didn't work as well as they figured, and now agents roam the aisles collecting trash. I took it once and it was fine but the seats were narrower than others and the trains lacked features I liked about train travel, so prefer to pay a little more and get a more comfortable seat, have electrical outlets...and not have to look at the electrically-colored turquoise and pink color scheme for a three-hour train ride.

If you're overseas and find the website unwieldy, or you want to connect between countries, Trainline is the official retailer for the Eurostar, Thalys (Belgium), Lyria (Swiss-French), and other European railway systems.

One last tip. The SCNF website is great and you can store your bar-coded tickets in their app. However on a recent trip, the bar code disappeared and the agent couldn't scan it. I had my confirmation number, but (oddly) they can't look up a reservation by that, only by your birthday. Mine wasn't in there but he let me ride. Whew. So while I usually take a screenshot of my bar code, I didn't. But I won't forget in the future!

Mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe

Recent Recipes and Posts on My Blog

I updated the post on Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream...I think it's my new favorite flavor!

Got kids? Here are 10 Things to Do with Kids in Paris.

With over a hundred comments, this Tomato Tart has (justifiably) moved into the slot of one of the most popular recipes ever published on my blog.

I swiped some fig leaves off a friend's tree on my vacation to churn up a batch of Fig Leaf-Honey Ice Cream. Sound funny, but you should trust me by now...it tastes amazing!


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