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David Lebovitz

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Everything posted by David Lebovitz

  1. You can get Yuzu juice, and other Japanese food products, at: Sté Kioko 46, rue des petit Champs Tel: 01 42 61 33 65
  2. Well, does anyone think those people selling fish at the market actually woke up that morning and caught them?
  3. David, ours is a fusion culture, just like any other. You're right in the fact that many French have forgotten this in the latter part of the 20th century. But the French way of operating fusion is not by adding together, juxtaposing and sometimes mixing: it is done by absorbing, by making a heterogeneous element "completely French". Which makes the fusion not apparent, but it still is fusion. French cuisine absorbed every single spice brought in from the Colonies and Comptoirs in the 17th and 18th century. It absorbed ingredients from the New World (potatoes, beans, tomatoes, etc.) just like other European countries. It absorbed Italian court cuisine in the 16th century and that was the origin of modern French cuisine. It absorbed the many foreign influences from across borders through their "frontalier" regions, i.e. Savoie, Comté de Nice, Pays Basque, Flanders. A little-remembered fact, it absorbed much Russian cuisine and table service in the 19th century, an influence that remained visible until the 1970's and Nouvelle cuisine, and the curiosity for non-french cuisines was quite strong in the first part of the 20th century, as period domestic cookbooks will tell. Cassoulet (see the ingredients), the quintessential French dish, is typically a fusion dish. French culture was built from many fusions and influences, but it is true that it doesn't look that way, and most of the time it won't admit it. One of the most important modern French cultural illusions is this belief of being homogenous and sui generis, which is our particular brand of chauvinism. But one doesn't have to believe it... ← Thanks Ptipois, you're right. As an American, I tend to forget anything that happened more than 20 years ago. One of our many deficiencies... Yes, there is the wonderful assimilation of those cultures, and the fusion of spices, sugar, and chocolate that is a permanent part of French cuisine. Even the venerable macaron was 'fusion' food!
  4. Does anyone know of a gluten-free bakery in Paris? I would imagine it would be impossible for a regular boulangerie to make gluten-free bread if they produce other breads in the same space, but thought I would ask. I know the natural-food stores carry several, but a friend of mine's looking for freshly-baked, if possible.
  5. The Japanese are very good at learning something from a culture, then improving it (ie: American baseball.) Some of the best chocolate & pastry shops open in Tokyo since Japanese tend to be pursuaded by 'names' and 'brands' and will pay for them. If you go into Le Grand Epicerie in Paris, the Japanese are buying products based on the pictures in the guidebooks in their hands, not necessarily for taste or because they're any good. Same with desserts by people like Pierre Hermé or the $200 melon at Takashimaya: it's all about the price and packaging. I know very few people that buy tea at Fauchon or Hediard, where it's more about the branding and labels. And while I love going into Pierre Hermé, I would say less than 1% of my French friends go there to buy pastries. I was at a dinner party recently and someone had mentioned they went in to Hermé and pastries were 7 euros each, which cause a minor uproar at the table! (I argued that was a small price to pay for such an experience...but no one seemed to be pursuaded.) People I know here are scandalized by the price of Laduree macarons. Same with upscale restaurants, where the ratio for natives to visitors seems to be about 50-50; most of them have to cater to out-of-towners since few locals go to those places or will pay those prices. I agree with Ptipois that the French get stuck, which I think has to do with their provincialism (which is why the French classics are usually done very well in France, and new innovations and food trends tend to fall rather flat.) Part of it has to do with the fact that France is a great country, but there is a tendancy to rest on those laurels and not feel the need to improve or adapt. The Japanese tend to want to succeed and excel at whatever they do. And most of the time, French cooks don't look outside their culture for inspiration...and why should they when what they have is so incredible? And in my experience, when they do, the results are rather disasterous. I had a multi-course meal where everthing was dusted with lots and lots of cumin powder recently (at Le Pre Verre) and wondered what the heck were they thinking? I avoid fusion food here, since it's just not done well. But there are excellent ethnic restaurants here (Vietnamese, North Africans, etc...) if you know where to go. They're just not a 'fusion' culture. (On another note, they built a new, upscale shopping center in Tokyo, which I was reading about this week in the NYTimes. Many shoppers were complaining that it was too 'European-style', which they said meant that there weren't many bathrooms to be found. It was a rather funny comparison if you've witnessed the ease of finding a bathroom in Tokyo, versus locating one in Paris.)
  6. I would agree with Pim that Bistro Paul Bert is really good, and well-worth the trip (it's not really that far from anywhere...) I've had desserts there that were truly outstanding...as good, if not better, than those in fancier establishments. The staff is really nice and the food is always great. (They have an oyster bar/seafood restaurant next door that looks good, but someone told me it wasn't so great.) L'Os à Moelle is very good too, but since they do 2 different seatings, (American-style, as they call it...) it's hard to relax with the harried servers rushing around, trying to feed everyone as quickly as possible...you really feel like you have to 'eat-it-and-beat-it'. It's also rather brightly lit.
  7. I had an extraordinarily good tarte Tatin at Jean-Paul Hevin's tea salon (above his chocolate shop) on the rue St. Honoré. Also the one at Berthillon is pretty good, especially if you're a non-purist and get it with a scoop of their caramel, or vanilla ice cream...or both!
  8. I know that Bank of America allows customers to use certain ATM's at foreign banks without paying any fees on either ends. In France, BNP is their affiliated bank, and Barclay's is in England. Other no-fee B of A banks are Deutschbank and Scotiapank. Since there things change, it's worth checking with your bank, but it's far cheaper than paying the whopping 3% that many of the credit card companies charge. You can also ask your bank to increase your limit prior to your trip. That way even if you do have to use ATM's and pay a fee, you can make fewer withdrawls. BTW: I've noticed an increase in US credit cards being denied, another reason to think about using an ATM card (although you'll have to carry cash around). This is due to fraud, since US credit cards are becoming more suspect (due to the fact that US bank and credit card companies have an information-rich magnetic strip and can and do sell and share personal information about you freely) whereas the cards in Europe use a 'puce' which doesn't have that information, nor can they share your information unless you have a problem with your credit standing.
  9. Hi Brian: Glad you like the Fresh Ginger Cake. Thanks for the kudos as well. It's one of my favorite recipes (and prevents me from trying any other Ginger Cakes...) -David
  10. Try a Mont d'Or from Switzerland, instead of the French ones.
  11. I recently had lunch at Balzar and thought it was rather good (much better than I expected) and they serve 'real' French Fries, not the frozen ones (which nowadays is enough reason to return...) Unlike the other Flo restaurants, they don't seem to have lunch of dinner fixed-priced menus and the place was full of Parisians, mostly. I had some roasted veal and a bottle of rosé. All the food around me looked good. Last night I ate at Terminus Nord, which I love for the atmosphere...and the neighborhood. The interior is amazing and the service was great. The food was so-so; I had frisee salad with lardons, steak frites (frozen frites ) and haricots verts. The dessert was a citrus salad (I think the citrus sections were pre-prepped somewhere...) with lemon sorbet. The fixed price dinner for 3 courses with a half bottle of wine is 34 euros. If you go to Terminus Nord, stick with basics & bistro classics; steak tartar and oysters, foie gras, frisee salad, etc... I ate at Julien once about a year ago and was not impressed. Am anxious to try Brasserie Flo, since I love the setting and interior, but have not eaten there. La Coupole wasn't bad when I went; I stuck with oysters and duck confit and was happy. The waiter was great; we were a party of 12 and he remembered each of our 3-course orders without writing down one word!
  12. Unlike the rest of the French, the Bretons don't eat much cheese. Instead, they consume lots of butter and have traditionally salted their butter (with the extraordinary salt from Brittany) as well to preserve it better; and since their butter has less water and higher fat content, the salt retards spoilage a bit. Brittany is the only place in France I've ever been where it's de rigeur to serve butter with bread at the table (and not just with oysters). A Breton caramel-maker, Henri LeRoux is credited for popularizing caramels with salted butter (his are the best, even though there are many others now) and people like Pierre Hermé have brilliantly picked up the idea of re-creating salted butter pastries from Brittany, such as Kouign Amann, as well as adding fleur de sel to chocolate too. You would never find a Kouign Amann like his in Brittany, but his are really good (except I don't like it when they put red berries in them, as they sometimes do.)
  13. We ate at Le Troquet the other night. My first course was way over-salted, the rest of the food was just so-so. The servers raced us through the dinner and hovered all night; the nano-second we set down our forks, our plates were whisked away and the next course arrived. And it wasn't very busy. When I tried to slow things down, they seemed a bit irked...plus they didn't return our change from the money we left for l'addition, assuming we were leaving it as a tip, I suppose...no one would ever dare do to a French customer. (That happened to me at lunch somewhere else yesterday, as well.) L'Ami Louis is great. A better bet. The food is very good, they were really nice, the dining room was lively and convivial, and when we left, my friend from New York was admiring the Basque linen napkin...so they gave it to her!
  14. Visit 'Octave', the ice cream shop in the center square of Toulouse. It's rather good.
  15. I went in there last week, in person, to make a reservation for the end of next month. I read in the reviews they only take reservations 30 days in advance. As it turns out, you can't walk in and make reservations. So they directed me to the hotel next door (which they own) and I asked the woman at the desk for a reservation, and she very tersely told me "We are booked through December". The way she said it was pretty rude and haughty (and I know the difference between rude, and the Parisian reserve, and she was rude.) I asked about the 30-day policy, and she said that was not true. So I left. I didn't feel the need ever to go back. There's too many other places that are more welcoming...sans l'attitude.
  16. To shop like the French, visit the same fromagerie, boulangerie, charcuterie and each time you shop. Personal relationships with shopkeepers are important and each time you go you'll get better service as they get to know you. Not to generalize, but people in France shop often since there are usually outdoor markets in every city and village. They don't have the big refridgerators like in the US, so shopping is done more frequently and in smaller quantities.
  17. I was going to set up a stage at a famous chocolate shop in France, and they sent me a letter that it was 400 euros to work there for a week. That is, they wanted me to pay them to work there. I guess a lot of these places have so many people want to work there they can do it (...it is more work for the people who work there, and the chef, having people rotating through and asking lots of questions...believe me, I've been on the other side of that...one intern once told me after peeling apples for 5 minutes, "This is really boring.") I asked around and a friend said that some of the really famous places are asking people to pay to come and 'work' there. Also with problems with immigration in many EU countries, some places are reluctant to have people from other countries in their kitchens. I did a stage somewhere and they made me carry my passport at all time, since they said they get 'surprise' inspections. Yes, to stay in France longer than 90 days, officially you need a Carte Sejour, but not many people get them, so I am told (I have one and it took over a year to get it...and you need to begin the process in the US.)
  18. I second La Tupina. It's good, and hearty! The cassoulet is excellent. L'Entrecote is fun, but I think it's best suited to a group (so assemble a group and go!); you sit at long tables and everyone gets the same thing, steak and fries. Be sure to visit Jean D'alos, a cheese 'affineur' and seller. His shop is amazing and he is one of the few master affineurs in France. (His main shop is near the center of town, and his other shop is a bit farther away...I prefer the main shop.) Also Saunion chocolate shop is wonderful too. Thierry, the chocolatier and ownder, makes great chocolates.
  19. It's also because it's easier to close for a few weeks and have everyone take their vacations at the same time, rather than trying to juggle everyone's various vacations throughout the year in a hectic pastry shop or restaurant, where are rarely over-staffed. Also it's a good time for places to have any work or renovation done. (Some places in the US close entirely as well, like the Zuni Café, in San Francisco, which closes for a few weeks in Sept.)
  20. I wouldn't really say I prefer one person's chocolates over another (although there are a few that are definately overrated and overpriced...). Each chocolatier is very different. I think the chocolates at delicabar are amongst the best in Paris, however it's somewhat of a shame and a 'too-well-kept-secret' that Sebastian is tucked away upstairs at the Grand Epicerie, and his chocolates are really top-notch and as good as, or better than, many of the other chocolatiers with shops. Am not sure if you can get them 'to go' so it's worthwhile to stop in for afternoon tea or coffee. -David I got his hot chocolate recipe from a profile in the October issue of Hemispheres magazine (United Airlines) on French chocolate, so if you're airborne during that month, check it out.
  21. I was there a few weeks ago. I highly recommend the chocolates (as in bonbons), which you can get a small plate of, and any of the chocolate desserts as well. But the chocolates are very, very good (no, make that excellent) and are made in the restaurant's kitchen, not in the downstairs Grand Epicerie. I've never had any of the savory/salé food (the entire menu, including desserts, is divided into sweet or savory, sucré ou salé...) and some of the savory desserts aren't as successful as the sweet ones (the chocolate palmier had little chocolate flavor, but I've never had chocolate puff pastry that tasted chocolate-y. I think it's one of those 'concepts' that sounds better than it is.) The buttery sablé cookies are really good and not too sweet; there's a good one with fleur de sel.
  22. The super-green pistachios are Italian pistachios from Sicily. Since the Iranian embargo many years ago, lots of pistachios were planted in California, which is why they're so available (and inexpensive.) Even peeled, they don't have the intensity of color found in the Sicilian variety.
  23. The best Vietnamese in Paris, I think, is at Le Bambou in the 13th, at 70 rue Baudricourt (near Tang Freres.) It's delicious and fresh, plus they have air-conditioning (although don't get too excitied...it ain't all that powerful.) They are open daily for lunch and dinner except monday. Don't expect attentive service but it's really good and inexpensive. I eat here a lot. Everything I've had here has been excellent.
  24. There's a recipe for them in "Made in Marseille" by Daniel Young, who lives in France and NY. I haven't made them. But they sound good.
  25. Patrick Roger: A great chocolatier that just set up shop in Paris in December is Patrick Roger, MOF. His chocolates are not to be missed (in my humble opinion.) They're simple and stunning. The feuilletine are delicious. Some people flip over the fruity caramels (they're dome-shaped and colorful) although they're not my favorites...I prefer pure caramels. The staff is very nice and helpful. Closed sunday and monday. 108, Blvd St. Germain (Métro: Odeon), near St. Michel
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