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In France, the ambrosial fruit known as coing, or quince, is usually transformed into jelly or fruit paste. But getting at that wonderful taste takes a little work, and sometimes just finding quinces can be a challenge. But in the French countryside, quinces are there for the taking. Or are they ?
Paris in summer is a ghost town. Even though the juillettistes are back (those vacationers who leave in juillet or July), the aoûtiens (“Augusters”) are away for at least another week. In just a few days, I’ll also be joining the ranks of aoûtiens who have left the city in favor of sunnier climes. And one of the first things I’ll do when I get to my destination – the Var – is to pick up a Tarte Tropézienne.
Last week, a friend who was getting married asked me to make her a wedding cake. She wanted an uncomplicated dessert : nothing like the traditional French pièce montée, nor was it to be an American-style tiered wedding cake. She wanted simple ? I kept it simple.
With the holidays behind us, lots of Parisians are trying to rid their bodies of the excesses of the fêtes and have resolved to eat better and get more exercise. Joggers dash past me on the sidewalk, the swimming pool is splashing mad, and the magasin bio – or organic grocery – near my apartment has a line out the door during rush hour. The word on everyone’s lips again this year ? Détox.
If you’ve spent enough time in Paris, you know that surrendering to the peaceful exploration that Parisians call flânerie is a perfect way to re-discover the city in autumn. Noticing everyone’s new fall
styles boots, uncovering an area of the city under a rain of golden leaves fluttering to the sidewalk, or even stopping in a pop-up, or temporary, exhibit, are all part of the experience.
Belle Hélène pears are one of my very favorite French desserts. Succulent just-ripe pears, simmered in a spicy-flavored light syrup, served with vanilla ice cream and topped with warm extra-dark chocolate sauce… What could be more perfect for fall ? Escoffier got it right when he invented this dessert, a tribute to the operetta La Belle Hélène.
Even though the heat of July has mellowed into late August cool, I’m still craving the warm, sweetly perfumed white and yellow-fleshed peaches that arrive at the markets in Paris from the south of France. But nearly 150 years ago, Parisians stocked up on peaches that came from right here in Paris, or at least, in the neighboring suburb of Montreuil.
When Jasmine Vegas steps onto the stage in Paris, she’s almost always armed with her shiny “suspender piano” (accordion), vintage cat-eye glasses, and maybe even a black panty-liner to match her black dress, as she once told a surprised audience when this short-lived feminine protection was first introduced onto the market. Just who is this provocative “Dada diva” ?
What’s more important : how your food looks, or how it tastes ? Any professional chef, myself included, will tell you that both are essential. What your dish looks like whets your appetite, and makes you want to take that first bite. But how food tastes is the most important, and it’s what keeps you going back for more. Or is it ?
Have you ever had a great cup of coffee in Paris ? If you haven’t visited the city in the last seven years or so, your last cup of caoua [ka wa] here was probably burned, bitter “sock juice,” a purely utilitarian beverage found in any number of the average-to-poor cafés around the city. No longer ! The “third wave” of coffee has arrived on Parisian shores.
Last Sunday, helicopters were still grinding through the blue-gray Parisian skies as I walked home through the blustery Père Lachaise cemetery late in the afternoon and began typing these lines. Far below the helicopters, millions of demonstrators were marching peacefully through the streets of eastern Paris in support of the 17 men and women murdered last week in Paris in connection to the weekly satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo.
Who in the world has ever read a gastronomical crime novel set in medieval Paris ? I sure hadn’t, until a friend gave me a copy of Michèle Barrière’s Souper Mortel aux Etuves, or Fatal Dinner at the Steamrooms. The novel begins in the year 1393 with a murder at a
brothel disreputable steamroom, right in central Paris.
The first time I was faced with a mound of black figs, I have to admit I felt a bit half-hearted, and even a little anxious : a well-meaning friend had brought me a whole basket of the fruit from her parents’ house in the Parisian suburbs. Sure, I’d seen figs a few times at the local market, and I thought they looked good, but I’d felt too intimidated to buy any. Now that they were in my hands, what in the world was I going to do with all these figs ?
It turns out that Pixar doesn’t have the monopoly on epicurean rats living in Paris. Long before rodent Rémy was tasting stew in the 2007 movie Ratatouille, an entire vermin population had to contend with an unwanted move when Paris’ wholesale market left its central location at Les Halles. The Road to Rungis, a young adult novel by Christian Léourier, recounts the story of Gaspard and his son Achille, two uprooted rats who follow their food source from Les Halles to Rungis market, just south of Paris, in 1969.