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David Lebovitz

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Everything posted by David Lebovitz

  1. Here's a few good addresses in Barcelona: Xocoa: a few locations, (http://www.xocoa.com), great packaging, their chocolate is ok Farga: 262, Gran de Gracia...Metro: Lessups Escriba: Yum!, Gran Via 546, great chocolate shop, in cahoots with Chocovic Casa Gispert: Sombrerers 23, a fine old almond roasting shop, with a nice selection of chocolate If you can go to Ca'Pepe for a meal, it's amazingly great food, mostly seafood, belly up to the bar and eat whatever they put in front you you. Always crowded so if you can go in mid-afternoon at the end of the lunch rush, all the better. If you're seriously interested in dessert, eat at Espai Sucree at C. Princesa 53 (reservations a must), they serve multi-course all dessert menus and it's fabulous.
  2. Discount Tickets for the Salon d'Agriculture in Paris: I was on the metro and saw an ad for Tele 7 Jours (a tv guide, available at most kiosks I guess). There is a coupon on the outside of the magazine (which costs 95 centimes) that is '1 entrée achetée =1 entrée offerte'--I'm going to use mine this week.
  3. I can attest to the quality of the bread getting much better here in Paris. I'm always in search of very grainy breads, and even though you still need to search a bit to find them, these are some bakeries that I've been visiting: La Boulangerie Voiriot (for their German-style Norlander bread), 61 rue de la Glaciere in the 13th The pain Nordique at the Grand Epicerie (which they seem to always run out of, which means that I'm not alone looking for grainy breads) Stubli, on the rue Poncelet, which used to have great bread, it's become mushy and undistinguished. Too bad. Bazin, 85 bis rue de Charenton, has a terrific baguette des graines Moisson, in the pl d'Aligre has good bread, but they underbake their pastries 140, near Place Jourdain is great (Kayser pain aux ceriales, and anything at Poilane are favorites too) Interestingly, there was a book called Boulangerie (Ten Speed) that was a guide to bread bakeries in Paris in English, and the book never took off. Two publishers told me guidebooks are pretty dead due to, um, perhaps the internet. My one question is: How does a baguette tradition (or a l'ancienne, and the like) differ from the standard baguette in it's fabrication? -David
  4. Well, they pay to have a store-front in the pricey Bastille neighborhood & their showcases are well-stocked and the window displays abundant; I can't imagine them maintaining all that with some bigger accounts and little walk-in business. I've been in 3 times, same response. Can't figure it out...
  5. All of the shops that I frequent are nice. At first, the women at Debauve and Gallais were as cool as marble, but after a few visits they warmed up to me. Likewise, when I was researching chocolates for an article, the people at Fontaine au Chocolat (201, rue St. Honoré) could not have been nicer. The fellow who helped me at Patrick Roger (108. Blvd st. Germain) was the epitome of helpful. (However there was an American couple in there that were so rude to the salepeople that I almost said something...I wish I had.) And I had an extended conversation with the manager at La Maison du Chocolat on the Raymond Poincaré, who also poured me a nice taste of hot chocolate, gratuit! Too bad about the experience at Michel Chaudun. Usually they are really nice in there; one woman can seem standoff-ish, but in general, I've had good luck. (Sometimes the salesclerks have limited English and they will say things like, "You want this?" instead of, "Would you like this?" which is sometimes taken for being rude as well, I have found.) A Parisian friend suggested that perhaps the woman at a La Petite Fabrique was, um, anti-semetic. I can't imagine anyone shopping in there with that kind of reception. Does anyone know of any other shop in Paris where you can watch the chocolates being made?
  6. Believe it or not, I've gotten some terrific heavy-duty (not the flimsy, cheap kind) of copper pots a few months back at Auchan, at the Porte de Bagnolet. They were about 17 € each (...yes, 17€); I bought a large saucepan w/ lid, a large skillet with the lid, and a Dutch oven that is big enough to cook 4 duck thighs (or whatever else.) You may have to hit them are the right time, but they may have some. I did see a few the last time I was there tucked into all the other cookware.
  7. Has anyone had any experience with this little shop near the Bastille? A la petite Fabrique on St. Sabin. I've been writing about chocolate and it's such a charming place & it's one of the only places that I know in Paris where you can watch chocolate being made on the premises. The problem is the woman that works there (who may be the owner, or his wife) is miserable. Each time I've gone in, I've never had a colder reception. My first visit a few years ago, I wanted to buy a box of chocolates and she wouldn't let me choose my own. So I left. Then I went in a few days ago, since I'm writing an article for a magazine, and she was so rude and dismissive (I would like to say hostile) so I just left. I think I've been in every other chocolate shop in Paris and never had anyone not be nice. Has anyone ever been there and what's up with her? I can't imagine going in there to buy chocolates...and I feel bad, since the fellows working in the back look so nice as they go about their dipping and enrobing.
  8. I've dealt with them when I lived in SF and they were trustworthy. I get (real) Mexican vanilla from Patricia Rain at www.vanilla.com, which has a lovely aroma, like vanilla ice cream. Her site is really informative as well. I find Tahitian vanilla is a floral and a bit vague-tasting, whereas I much prefer to use Bourbon or Mexican. I find the Tahitian works well with tropical fruits, where you want the vanilla to be more subtle. The price of vanilla, which went up something like 2000% last year, is dropping a lot this year, back to reasonable levels. So I suspect we'll see a revision of pricing.
  9. Much of the brown sugar sold in the US is not true 'brown sugar' but is white refined sugar that has a bit of raw sugar syrup added back, then centrifuged (or spun) to attach it uniformily to the crystals. That action fluffs up the crystals, which is why most often you need to pack it into a measuring cup, as indicated in recipes. Sometimes you can even rub the grains between your fingers and the brown coating comes off. During the 60's, often people advocating eating brown sugar instead of white sugar, believing it was better for you, when in fact it has marginally more nutritional value. C and H brand is a true brown sugar. Much of the sugar produced in the US, and in France, in beet sugar. In France, although a great deal of sugar beets are raised, cane sugar is more prized and packaging, such as yogurt, will often promote itself as containing 'cane' sugar. True brown sugar (such as turbinado, demerara, and cassonade) are the unrefined grains/crystals of sugar, ie crystallized syrup from sugar cane. The softer brands of cassonade (like Daddy) are not dried out like the more free-flowing brands, like Saint-Louis. (some US manufacturers have tried introducing 'free-flowing' brown sugar, which is dried to be free flowing and to prevent it from clumping together). You can use cassonade like brown sugar in any recipe. The Daddy brand of soft, moist dark cassonade sugar is sublime, but for some reason, a bit more difficult to find. Auchan carries it.
  10. Le Rubis on the rue du Marché St Honoré is a terrific wine bar. It's old and authentic, in spite it's upscale neighborhood. The charcuterie is good as well. If you don't mind cigarette smoke, A l'Ami Pierre at 5, rue de la Main d'Or is rather fun in the 11th. It's off the beaten path and friendly. The wines are not 'serious' but it's a fun place. I did eat there once and it was nothing special, but it's a lively place to have a glass. And Le Baron Rouge, as others have pointed out, is great.
  11. Was in Lyon at the competition, what a lot of hard work. Felt really sorry for the Japanese team, especially since I thought their piece was the most graceful (some of the other's were kinda ghoulish, I thought). What was up with the judge from Mexico? Why was he so rude, knocking down dessert, smashing things, and scowling whever anything was put in front of him?
  12. Here's a good site for information: http://www.chocolateandcocoa.org/
  13. Thanks Wendy... I'd be interested to know how those truffles turn out. To use real champagne (the kind with bubbles) seems like a waste, since once you mix it with a ganache, I can't image being able to taste it. Using marc de champagne seems like the way to get some flavor in there. If you really wanted champagne taste, you perhaps could reduce it down. (Which I can't image any Frenchman doing!) Still, I'd prefer to drink a nice glass of champagne with my truffle, instead of within. David
  14. Champagne in 'Champagne Truffles' almost always refers to the fact that cognac is used in them, not champagne (the bubbly kind). The term 'Champagne' refers to the mountain-region of France (mid-Atlantic) where the grapes are grown for cognac. David L.
  15. I posted: Is that not the one? ← I ate there December 27, 2004 and it was lame. It was charming inside and they give you a complimentary shot glass of sugary sangria (ick); the duck liver terrine was just a store-bought slab, the 'potato baked in the cinders' was a plain ole' baked potato (nothing wrong with that, but as an appetizer?) My steak was ok and the well-cooked fries that I asked for were still pale, and when we left the grill was virtually on fire, with flames enveloping the meat that was roasting on there. (My Parisian dining companion said "mauvaise pour le sante", aka, "bad for your health"). The meal was fair, at best. The night was saved (it was my birthday) by walking to the I'le St. Louie for some always-fabulous Berthillon caramel and chocolate ice creams. Then in the middle of the night my dining companion got up and was violently ill. He'd had the lamb chops. People in the past told us Ecurie was good, and the dining room does have a lot of charm, but I tossed their card out the next morning.
  16. I use different chocolate for different things. In the US I use ScharffenBerger 70% a lot for baking (I love this chocolate), E. Guittard Sur de Lago (which rocks) for eating and desserts, and Guittard French Vanilla for large-scale baking. In France, I like Bonnat for snacking (they are really nice people and make interesting chocolates and are giving the 'big guy' in France a run for their money). For most of my baking I've been using Cacao Barry 'Cuba' and 'Santo Domingo' since it's hard to get other chocolates in bulk. I also like Callebaut, but it's hard to get in big blocks for me. I don't know for certain is acid affects tempering for sure, but I did want to mention it as a possible factor. I did some experimenting a few years with a noted food scientist to try to determine how to use all these new, high-percentage chocolate. We did not come up with any conclusive answers, but I've heard that Alice Medrich addresses that in her latest book, Bittersweet. I also like when a scientist says "I don't know", which proves the variances & uncertainties that can and do happen in baking and candymaking in spite of our best efforts.
  17. A friend of mine who's a customs officer in LA (uh...now it's "The Deptartment of Homeland Security"...whatever), said that as long as you're not bringing in quantities that are obviously for resale, like a few hundred pound of raw milk cheeses, it's not a problem. Last time I returned from France with a big bag of cheese, I told the customer, I mean, Department of Homeland Security officer at SFO who just waved me through when I told him. I live in Paris, and my fromager told me they're no longer going to carry the French Mont d'Or, since the quality was getting bad (true: each one I've had in years past was tough and never ripened). The Swiss are much better at it they told me. I did see Mont d'Or cheeses in New York this fall, so people are getting them in. David Lebovitz
  18. The higher-precentage chocolates can be more difficult to temper, since the higher amounts of cacao solids mean there's more acid in the chocolate, the reason why few professionals in France will use it for enrobing. (And which is why at Hershey's Spa they can do facials with their chocolate, and the like, due to the low cacao/acid content of milk chocolate). This is perhaps why some of these chocolates cause a ganache to break as well. I had a very enlightening conversation with a scientist from a chocolate company when they had introduced a new line of high-percentage chocolates. I was told, "They're new, we don't know how they're going to behave in the future" when I asked what the tempering curve was. And they weren't being rude, they were responding to the 'newness' of these chocolates. To me, that's kind of the beauty of artisan chocolates. I normally find chocolate tempers between 88-91 degrees, but had trouble when tempering some of the high-percentage chocolate. My advice to newcomers is to use a chocolate with a range of 35% to 55%. I've never had problems with chocolates within that range. And my 2 cents on the white chocolate issue: Why do we call milk chocolate "chocolate" when it has milk in it? Do we call a spritzer a glass of "wine" since it has club soda added to it? Both are fine, but I like to think of milk chocolate as "a confection made with chocolate" since it's adulterated chocolate. David Lebovitz
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