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Entries in Gourmet Paris (2)

Sunday
May022010

Missing home -- When home is Paris.

I was talking on the telephone the other day to a friend from Paris who is living in NYC.  We were discussing what we both missed about “home”.  I grew up in Southern California, so I miss Mexican food.  Like an ex-smoker who is never around cigarette smoke, my cravings have diminished greatly since the early years when I smuggled tortillas and other ingredients back to Paris. However, once I’m back in California I can’t get enough.  Much to the disappointment of my friends I stay with there who would rather I cooked for them.  Instead I drag them around looking for my favorite dive Mexican restaurants.  Because, at least in Los Angeles, it seems that the best Mexican restaurants tend to be in an abandoned gas station or a similarly insalubrious location. The staff don’t speak much English and certainly don’t take credit cards.  Keep that in mind if you are looking for Mexican food in LA. 

Not surprisingly, my transplanted Parisian friend -- a young woman working in Fashion-- was missing an entirely different food experience.  She told me she missed the dairy case at her local Monoprix (An upscale chain of grocery stores found in Paris).  Huh?  I’m certainly a fan of the myriad choices of butter, cheese and yougurt one can find in Paris, but I have never really thought too much about it when I am home.  After all, I've been too busy chasing down a burrito truck.

So after we spoke, I decided to go to Monoprix and really look at the dairy case.  I stood in the front of them (there were several) looking the same way I look at a work of art.  Looking very closely at every detail, noting the colors, brands, selection and scale of the entire department.  And sure enough I noticed how really enormous the dairy cases were.  They took up more space than the produce section.  In a small (by US standards) grocery store, it was one of the biggest sections with two aisles of refrigerated cases each about 50 feet long.  There were at least 100 kinds of yogurt in all different sizes, Crème Fraiche, 30 different Butters, Milk (Cow and sheep) fromage blanc, etc.  Then there was another section of milk based desserts and fruit compotes.  Every type of creamy French dessert in the classic flavors, coffee, chocolate, caramel and vanilla.  Along with ready to eat îles Flottants, Crème Brulée, Chocolate Mousse, Pots de Crèmes and Crème aux oeufs (my current obsession.)

Of course the products were familiar.  For example, I have several favorite brands of yogurt including one brand that varies the flavors following the fruit of the season.  So it’s fun to take the peach in summer, the sour cherry in fall and lemon in the winter.  Another favorite is a yogurt made of sheeps milk along with all the varieties of Fromage Blanc.  A creamy cross between Yogurt and Sour Cream that is always sold unsweetend and is good with a bit of sugar, some fresh fruit or salt and pepper depending on your mood.  It is also sold as a Faiselle when it comes with a sort of strainer inside the container.  This allows the water to separate from the milk solids and it gets thicker over the few days it sits in the fridge.  Asumming you have the restriaint to wait.  My advice, buy the largest container possible to have any hope of seeing the result.

One of my favorite snacks is steamed new potatoes with some salty butter and a big dollop of Faiselle de Fromage Blanc du Chevre.  A goat’s milk fromage blanc that has a slighty stronger flavor.  Some sea salt and coarse ground white pepper with its warm nutty flavor make the dish perfect.

So once I had really thought about the dairy case, I realized that she was right.  It was indeed something worth missing.  And unlike Mexican food, in NYC you can’t simply whip up a goats milk Faiselle when the mood strikes you the way I prepare some makeshift enchiladas or a burrito in Paris.

My thanks to AmateurGourmet.com for the burrito pic - impossible to find in Paris.  We also seem to share the same taste in Mexican food.

 

 

Monday
Mar222010

Mea Culpa - New Paris Walks

Paris Place VendomeIt’s been a while since my last post, and while there’s little excuse for that, I’m going to offer one in hopes that you’ll appreciate my reasons.   Hence the somewhat cryptic title - Mea Culpa...

Winter in Paris is a slow time for my tour business, and a great time to develop new ideas into tours and for me to enjoy some of the special opportunities that exist here. 

Since I last wrote in January, I have researched and written two new walking tours.  I also developed a fun new workshop about Perfume creation with two lovely Parisiennes you'll definitely enjoy meeting.

 I love history, and I’ve been told I’m at my best bringing history to life while exploring the best of paris with visitors.  What's not apparent to guests of my tours is that it takes weeks to research and plan a museum or walking tour, and that the resulting document is 40 – 50 pages. 

Of course, I wouldn’t ever tourture people with such an overload of information, but I’m expected to be ready for questions when people want to know more.   I think you’ll enjoy the results – initial feedback has been quite positive.  

The first is a gourmet walk through the history of Paris.Gourmet Paris Walks

This innovative culinary tour explores the hidden history of Paris, following a varied menu sampling wine, cheese, chocolate, bread and pastries while taking in the beauty and history of the city.   Together we visit parts of Paris that were witness to dramatic events, architectural innovation and scandal.  Places integral to the lives of the Kings, Queens, Knights and revolutionaries who lived and walked in the same streets.

From stories of 11th century knights to seeing the historic ovens of the famed Poilâne bakery, no matter how many times you’ve been to Paris, you’ll finish the walk with a new appreciation of gourmet Paris.  Read more about the Gourmet Walk

The second walk was parepared as part of my new job as the Paris Destination Expert for TripKick. 

TripKick.com is a great resource to ensure you find the best room in a given hotel.  They've researched properties all over the US and now have a new focus on Europe with Paris as a recently added destination.  In a city where many hotel rooms are disappointning, it’s a great resource to ensure you make the most of your stay in Paris.  Check out Tripkick.com

Paris Walking Tours

The “TripKick” walk takes you along the fabulous rue St Honore to the Louvre and the Place Vendome.  While this is a much visited area, this walk offers a unique take the neighborhood.  We’ll explore the intrigues and scandal that have taken place here from the scheming of Catherine de Medicis to a now beloved public artwork initially thought so ugly the Mayor of Paris halted it's construction.  Then we'll arrive at the Louvre the way Louis XIV intended when he was the last resident King of the Palace.

Besides the work on the tours, I had the opportunity to meet two people who have made a major impact on French culture.  But for that, you have to come back tomorrow to read further.

A demain! - See you tomorrow!