It isn’t a competition for me. Really, it isn’t. I have been back from my annual spring break trip for almost two weeks and it has taken me this long to get to the blog. I go through a sort of grieving process and a bit of withdrawal every time I leave France. This year’s kiddos were amazing. Great eaters, non-complainers, roll-with-the-punches-walk-for-miles 8th graders. 22 of them. 2 co-chaperones. 1 tour manager. Me. 26 of us traipsing around France for 11 days. The weather was unbelievably beautiful. Picnics and eating outside were the norm this time. So, I will focus this post on food.
Breakfast. A good baguette tartinée with real butter and some honey or fig jam, s’il vous plaît.
I won’t say no to a pain aux raisins…
Or a croissant, especially the ones at the Hôtel du Musée that Claude and Laurence serve up every morning… (I won’t even talk about their fancy any-kind-of-coffee-hot-chocolate-grind-the-beans-steam-the-milk machine that I covet)
Lunch. Picnics whenever possible. Outdoor cafés.
Our first meal in Paris, however, was falafel in the Marais. My choice. I dream about this and have lunch whenever I am there. The kids deal with it. No, it’s not really French. My vegetarians love it. I love it.
Lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens. A simple sandwich of cantal cheese, jambon sec, tomato jam, and lettuce from a little place right outside the back entrance of the park. Of course, it comes as a package deal. A drink. A sandwich. A dessert. Enough to share. My favorite meal this time. Not necessarily due to the food. Factor in the weather, the ambience, the people I ate with. I said out loud to anyone who was listening that there was no where on earth I would rather have been at that particular perfect moment in time.
Lunch in the Tuileries Gardens after a long walk down the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful Sunday morning. Bertrand giving KR a lesson about the walls that surrounded Paris at one time. Should you find yourself in Paris and in need of a first-class guide to show you the city (and other places around France), call on My Private Paris, Bertrand’s venture. He is the best.
Another Paris lunch- at the sumptuous food section of Galeries Lafayette. We let Bertrand, the expert choose, this time. Cinco Jotas. Bertrand is a Basque so this place takes him back to his roots.
We visited my dear friend GM and my students met their “pen friends” at the Collège Anne Marie Javouhey in Senlis. They treated us to lunch in the school cantine. At our school, we do not have a cafeteria. We eat lunch in our classrooms with our advisees every day. 3-course meal for lunch in France instead of whatever I throw together at the last minute at home. (The sign said I could take 4 pieces of bread… so I did.)
Lunch at an outdoor café in Avignon at Place de l’Horloge. Goat cheese salad. Another of my favorites. Mon dieu.
My après-marché picnic with La Brune in Arles. Anything eaten with her is special. We ate in the Jardins d’Été, a place that holds a place in my heart. In 2005, before my cooking stage with Chef Érick, I took a book and un sandwich there almost every day. My favorite concrete bench was even open and waiting for us… next to the ruins of the Le Théâtre antique.
Lunch near Omaha Beach. We went back to La Crémaillière, a local restaurant we discovered last year in Saint Laurent sur Mer. We were pressed for time, Bertrand called the owner, and she had poulet-frites ready and waiting for my crew. The frites were pronounced the best of the trip. And I have never seen a chocolat crème consumed as quickly as KR polished off hers!
Dinner. I had foie gras once. Sprinkled liberally with sel gros. We went to a salt marsh in the Camargue later in the trip to learn more about harvesting salt.
The starter at a restaurant in Arles. Terrine du taureau (they are proud of those black bulls), eggplant and tomato confit.
A really good beef stew in Paris. Flourless chocolate cake for dessert. I know it is hard to believe that I normally do not eat dessert. But when in France…
Crêpes near La Tour Eiffel. Ham and cheese with salad and caramel for dessert.
We tried something new. We ate dinner in French homes. Divided into 4 groups, with metro tickets and directions in hand, we made our way to our hosts’ appartements. I was with the vegetarian group. It is arranged by VizEat. My crew was in heaven. A tiny apartment, hosted by a delightful woman with two children and two cats who works in a Montessori school and who is a vegetarian herself. The appetizer, baked camembert cheese, was a real hit. I think that we consumed every single one. She told me how she made them, but I am going to have to email her for the recipe. I have forgotten what she said. A great adventure.
This is really what I prefer for dessert.
Snacks. Extras. Indulgences. Call them what you want. Éclairs from Christophe Adam, an award-winning pâtissier. Bertrand knows all the best places. Tiny little shop. I guarded the door (from the inside, of course) to allow 4 kiddos in at a time to drool and make their selections.
And, as Laura Florand knows, it sure doesn’t hurt when the pâtissier is handsome.
Fougasse in Aigues Mortes. Flavored with fleur d’oranger. Really generous portions. The sugar crunch on the top is divine.
Ice cream. Café et chocolat. Bought some for all of the kiddos who were hanging around with me. A reward, of sorts, on a sunny afternoon.
Alain Ducasse, rock star chef, has started a chocolate-making business in Paris. A taste of his version of Nutella at Galeries Lafayette. Divine.
Cooking classes with the kiddos. Éclairs and gougères at La Cuisine Paris. Macarons at L’Atelier des Gâteaux. I was with the éclair crew. The macarons group gave me samples. Being the good teacher that I am, it was my duty to sample all of the flavors. I did this while on the TGV from Paris to Avignon. Bertrand supplied the coffee.
A few other random food photos–
A quick pit-stop on the way to Normandy and the display of Haribo candy.
Cheese- on Rue Daguerre and at the market in Arles
A sign above a shop in Paris
Feeling a little crabby? So is this guy spotted at a poissonnerie–
Oreos have hit France with a boom! One of my kiddos has quite a few allergies, but Oreos are on his approved list. So, when we were in Monoprix in Arles and I saw the Strawberry Cheesecake Oreos, I called him over to take a look. Thank goodness he bought some so that I could sample one.
Sacks of pommes de terre outside a café in the Marais waiting to be made into frites–
A sign in the window of the Monoprix on the Champs-Élysées (I was sorely disappointed to find out that the main store is closed for renovations)-
Enough is enough for one day. My tummy is growling and grumbling. But let me finish by saying that I do not think that I have to chose one or the other. Baguettes or biscuits? France or the United States? I can love both equally. Just because I miss France and want to go whenever I have the chance, it doesn’t mean I do not love my home. Voilà. I needed to get that off my chest. I have the best of both worlds.
Throw together some gougères to impress your eaters. And eat them warm, right from the oven. I am going to do that right this minute. Then I will come back and post the recipe. Be patient! I just happen to have some gruyère cheese in my cheese drawer…
recipe gleaned from several sources, including La Cuisine Paris and David Lebovitz
This is the same pastry dough used to make cream puffs or éclairs minus the cheese and herbs.
1/2 c. (125ml) water
1/2 c. (125ml) milk
7 Tbsp. (100g) butter
3/4 c. (150g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. (6g) salt
Grated gruyère cheese (1/2 – 3/4 cup) or other “dry” cheese
Freshly grated pepper
Finely chopped herbs
Heat together water, milk, and butter on low heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add flour and salt and stir. Bring back to very low heat and mix quickly until it forms a dry ball that pulls away from the pan. Remove and add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth and when you hold up the wooden spoon it falls into a sort of V. It should be smooth and glossy. Add cheese, pepper and herbs, if using.
Fill pastry bag and pipe small rounds (about the size of a cherry tomato, although I made mine larger this time- you really want them bite-sized) onto parchment paper. Brush with beaten egg, if desired. Sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, if desired. Bake at 375˚F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and on the sides. Do not underbake. The puffs will deflate. They will still taste good, though, they just won’t be as pretty. I took mine out of the oven and then decided they weren’t quite done enough and put them back in for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and eat warm. You could slice them open and fill with ham and a little Dijon mustard.
Bon appétit! Bon Poisson d’Avril! Pack your suitcase every chance you get and see the world around you. Be happy, mes amis et mes amies.