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Everything posted by sharonb

  1. You're on to something there... But good champagne might even make us excuse mediocre butter!
  2. In my experience, that's not true at all. Cheese platters are eternally evolving, and they leave the small cuts of the previous cheese; like it or not, you're not helping them "finish" something they would otherwise throw out!
  3. Tête de veau is one of the most delicious dishes. The consistency is so delicate... Mm. I had an excellent, unusual rendition of it recently at Le Comptoir, where it was served as a (warm) "carpaccio"; very thinly sliced, with the sauce gribiche over it and the crumbled egg yolks almost crunchy. I think too many people let their head get in the way of their palate. There is nothing more shocking about a cow's nose than about a cow's ribs. When I was in Charente (the town of Fouras) recently, they were selling pâté de ragondin... Also, we bought eel at the market. They were live, so the fishmonger killed them for us. Cooked on the barbecue and ate them with nothing but sel de Guérande. Delicious! And sated my craving for eel.
  4. Has anyone eaten civelles? What do they taste like?
  5. It all does depend on one's usual food "boundaries." Mine are pretty wide. And in general, in France they're far wider than in America. Calf's liver? Pretty genteel hereabouts. Or rabbit? Just another white meat. Tongue? Classic grandmother's cooking. Etc. In France, I've enjoyed duck hearts, rabbit liver, lamb's brains, a civet de rouget which used the fish's guts in the sauce, etc. etc.
  6. John, I agree with you about the Poteau fishmonger. I shouldn't have said: "Fish." Better catches (so to speak) can be had a little further on, at Guy Môquet. Another market I like is up in the heights of Ménilmontant on the rue des Pyrénées. It stretches toward a street near the church overlooking the métro Jourdain, which is a charming neighborhood, and actually the top of the rue de Belleville after Pyrénées has some good primeurs and a nice wine store called Ma Cave. As far as prices go, I find Monge/Mouffetard very expensive for not necessarily better quality. I'm definitely someone who doesn't mind spending more for better quality, but when I'm spending more for the same or lower quality, I get annoyed... You can see at the place Monge market on Sundays a humongous line for the Korean primeurs, just because their prices are lower than all the astoundingly costly primeurs around. But I have never liked their produce. My favorite stand at Monge is actually the Savoyard charcutier. All of his cheeses and sausages are great.
  7. Nope. I lived for almost a year at Couronnes, and the food opportunities were the worst. The market was cheap but quality mediocre, and try finding bread!
  8. I love the rue Ordener and rue du Poteau markets (the former is twice a week along a normal street, the latter is a market street) in the 18th behind Montmartre, in the pretty, residential area around the Mairie du XVIIIe. The best food producers (butchers with whole sanglier hanging in season, excellent bakeries, fish, etc.). Completely off everyone's radar and a really charming place to live.
  9. What do you all do when one of the slices is smaller, nearer the end of a purchased loaf? And in that vein, does anyone eat the last slice, the one with the white side/brown side? Here in France, they have a great bread called pain polaire they use for making sandwiches, and to which I am addicted. If round, it gets cut in half to form a half-circle, usually with three pieces stacked. But most common, of course, is the baguette. No cutting. People eat sandwiches as long as their forearm. (I'm not a big fan, I have to admit...)
  10. sharonb


    Great suggestions, esp. the puff pastry. In the country, where I used to spend summers, the most amazing appetizer I had the good fortune of eating was at a neighbor's farm: you guessed it, "wild" snails in butter, garlic and parsley sauce in puff pastry squares. Feuilletés aux escargots. Divine! We used to go hunting them along the sides of country byways when it was damp out. The snail hunting season starts August 1 (you can get arrested if you start earlier). Then put them in a cage or aquarium for a week to pass everything through their system. (Kouign Aman, never heard of feeding them anything...) But canned snails can be good, too. I have a great recipe from Jacques Vedel. He instructs to boil the canned snails for a half hour with some mint, parsley, peppercorns and a couple of other things, and then drain. Sauté thick-cut bacon lardons in a little olive oil with minced garlic, add a kilo of chopped swiss chard greens and spinach (60/40), then the snails and some walnut pieces. Cook a few minutes until the greens are wilted and any water evaporates. A great first course, very light and tasty.
  11. sharonb

    Baking 101

    Hello... Rather than start a new thread, I thought I would add this here. What, exactly, is the role of baking powder/baking soda vs. yeast? Why do the prior exist? Since I've moved to Paris, I have access to "levure" (chemical yeast, in little packets). Should I just use the equivalent amount of that when baking powder or soda is called for? What happens when you add too much rising agent? (I know with too little it becomes flat...) Last week I made brownies and added about a teaspoon of levure instead of a teaspoon of baking powder. The batter rose and overflowed and dripped onto the floor of my oven, but afterward, the brownies sank and were delicious. A previous time, though, the brownies came out flat from the start and not great. Any ideas? I hear baking is such a precise science, but I am completely at a loss with American recipes here.
  12. I don't know - I kind of like the French set-in-stone style of not eating between meals. Most restaurants (and generally, all restaurants outside of the capital) serve food from 12-2pm and from 7:30-10:30pm, end of story. (I once went biking and we ended up rolling into a small village, starving, at 1:50pm. The only restaurant in the town refused to serve us because they were closing up their lunch service!) There's something about the anarchically unstructured American eating habits that must be contributing to overweight.
  13. What I want to know is how anyone could taste the "olive oil" that was really hazelnut oil and believe it was, well, olive oil? That's like selling molasses labeled "honey." Who's going to fall for it?
  14. sharonb


    I love eel, especially grilled with some kind of thin Asian sauce. But not only do the (very few) Japanese places I've eaten at in Paris not have eel on the menu, I have never seen it on any fishmonger's stand, in any season. (I'd rather make it at home. I'm also not a huge fan of soupy sauce-based preparations such as en matelote or au vert). So, question: is it ever available at the markets? When? Where? Or do any restaurants serve it grilled? The last time I had eel in France was in a restaurant near the Lac de Grand-Lieu in the Muscadet region, where it was served in a delicious preparation with tons of garlic and frog's legs.
  15. sharonb


    Or lapin à la dijonnaise. Slather the rabbit (whole) with mustard and put in a baking dish. Bake for an hour. Afterward, scrape off the mustard into the juices in the pan, add a big dollop of crème fraîche, and reheat, stirring and scraping. As far as the loin/saddle goes - it's not really equivalent to white meat chicken, since it is the fattiest part of the rabbit. Much fattier (and tastier) than the legs, though with lots of treacherous little bones...
  16. Why is eating dinner later somehow considered more "urbane" or fashionable? Just a side question; no one has mentioned that in this thread. Growing up, if I recall correctly, we ate around 5:30 or 6pm. I think I carried that through college - until my junior year abroad, when my host family in Tours, France ate at ostensibly 7:30pm but in practice closer to 8pm, and that seemed impossibly late to me and I was always ravenously waiting for dinner time. In Paris, people tend to eat around 8:30pm. Except me and my boyfriend, who is French but fortunately has a hearty fork and usually will dive into a bag of cheese doodle-thingies and a glass or two of wine if I don't put dinner on the table around 7pm! That said, I think in the country, people tend to eat earlier. I used to spend a lot of time on a farm in the Berry. We usually invited the neighbors, an older couple of farmers, over for dinner once or twice while we were there. In the summer, they would show up at 8:30pm. Then we were there in the winter, invited them, and were shocked to hear the doorbell ring at 7pm! Their schedule was based on how long it was day out.
  17. Sounds like the Mexican food I make. In a complete vaccuum (and I'm not talking about sous-vide). I should have eaten some before I left the U.S. ...
  18. My opinion is the reverse of Marky Marc's. It's a stylistic choice to serve the salmon with the skin; I prefer that, especially when the skin is nice and crispy, and the grey layer doesn't taste wrong to me. I like fish to taste like fish. But as for the oysters, yes, the person opening them didn't know what s/he was doing. You have to finesse oysters when opening them, and pour out the "first water" (a second water forms; this, the oyster eater usually drinks from the shell after eating the oyster); and I even sometimes wipe the surface of the little animal itself if I clumsily leave a shard of shell.
  19. I have to agree that this is totally, totally surreal for someone who hasn't lived in the Netherlands. Wondering, though, if the French incorporation of Maghrebin food is an apposite parallel. Maybe not, because merguez, briks, couscous and pastillas are probably more common in other places than the dishes you're describing as commonplace in the Netherlands...
  20. Mark, this blog is fascinating. Not only do you have the most clever pen, but so many issues, food and otherwise, are arising. Interesting that as an immigrant, you attach yourself to a different yet still immigrant cuisine... What are your thoughts on Dutch food (though you do make an interesting point that the Dutch themselves have widely adopted this immigrant cooking)? And what about your food roots; do you ever think back to them or recreate dishes from them? Thanks for a great and addictive read.
  21. I agree that Rougié is not good, but have to disagree that any tinned foie gras is unworthy. It's a pis-aller (what you do when there's no other option) but can be good from a better producer. One that is good, I've found, is Godard.
  22. This is fascinating. I have often wondered why American recipes are volume-based, which is relatively imprecise, whereas French ones are weight-based. I use a little electronic scale, though I always have to have cups and table-/teaspoons on hand for American recipes. On the other hand, despite the precision, too many French recipes are too vague. Bake something "à bon four" (in a hot oven) is not uncommon! For recipes I always measure, even though I've done them a million times, I would say the most important for me is pesto. It just doesn't taste as good if I stray from the very strict proportions of my favorite pesto recipe.
  23. This is fascinating; so close to my adopted country, yet so drastically different (except the cheeses!). One question again about the term "keuken" - is it possible it's like the French word "cuisine" which means both "kitchen" and "cooking"? (I.e. "J'installe une nouvelle cuisine" and "J'aime la cuisine chinoise"?)
  24. If the hot dog is good, I like it plain!
  25. I had lunch there yesterday, so yes, it's open. (I assume we're talking about the Bistro Paul Bert.) I'd never been there before; I'd been planning to go to La Muse Vin because my friend and I are both wine geeks, but it was closed. Something annoying happened at Paul Bert. First, they have a lunch menu at 16 € that is entrée + plat + fromage + dessert, with only one choice for each. The regular menu is also all the courses, but for 32 € and with around 10 choices for each course. You can also order à la carte from the same menus, with the lunch plat du jour at 14 € and the longer menu's plats at 21 €. Feeling all those courses would be too much, I just ordered the lunch plat. My friend ordered one of the menu plats. But then he felt like having dessert, so ordered that, too. (So with just a plat and a dessert, his meal was 30 €.) Since I was taking him out to lunch, I paid the bill without wanting to seem too concerned with the total, though it was somewhat annoying that less food/courses cost more. But the real kicker was that afterward, I looked at the printout, and saw I'd been charged 21 € for my plat rather than 14 €. That upset me, but I didn't want to make a stink in front of my friend, so I just swallowed my sense of injustice and left. But when I think about it, I actually paid them 7 € not to be served the lunch entrée, cheese and dessert. Not the best deal in the world... The food is pretty good, but I don't think the higher prices for certain dishes are worth it. (And several have supplements, even when ordering the menu.)
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