Books I LOVE about all things Parisian

I am always being asked for recommendations of books on Paris– various reference books, cookbooks and recipes, and just fun books to read that are set in Paris. So I decided to set up a page on my Blog where you can go to see the books that I enjoy and a link directly to Amazon so they are easy to buy!

So if you look just  below the main picture at the top of my posts, you will see the titles of the different pages– the “home” where I type most  of my blog posts, the “books” tab for this list, and a “recipes” tab. The “Books” tab and “Recipes” will both continue to be works in progress and I would love any ideas and suggestions you have.

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do. Please let me know of any suggestions of other books to add to the list. Thanks!

Fish Soup

IMG_3322IMG_3323One of my favorite things about Paris is how good the food is EVERYWHERE (or almost everywhere). You don’t have to visit one of the “fancy” restaurants, or go to the newest hole-in-the-wall tiny place opened by the latest avant-garde chef (though that is always a fun outing too!).

You can do what we did on a recent trip, and just go down to the corner café. Le Baromètre is our local hangout, owned and run by several young men who are incredibly nice, welcoming, and who also happen to serve really good food.

Upon arrival, I always first check the specials of the day, and this particular night, the special was fish soup “avec rouille.” (Okay, what in the heck did that mean?) Well, it turns out that a “rouille” is a sauce, made with olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers. It is commonly served as a garnish for fish soup (I have to admit that I had never been served it before). If you look at the picture above, it’s the low bowl at the left, next to the swiss cheese and behind the homemade croutons. So…. the process is this– you crumble some of the cheese and the croutons into the soup, you then take a spoonful of soup, and before you bring it to your mouth, you dip the end of your spoon in the rouille and THEN take a blissful mouthful. Pause, enjoy the various flavors combining in your mouth– fish, cream, cheese, crouton, and finally the rouille which adds a little garlic and “je ne sais quoi” that makes it PERFECT. Absolutely delicious! Of course, to drink with my fish soup, I took their suggestion of a medium dry, white wine from their home region (I meant to take picture of the bottle, but unfortunately didn’t so I can’t tell you where it was from.) But I can tell you it was one I had not tried before, and it was the exact right accompaniment. What a wonderful benefit to going to a familiar place. I knew that I would not be steered wrong on my choices. Of course, I had to finish the meal with his mother’s homemade clafoutis, which is a dessert made up of black cherries, covered by a buttery flan-like batter.

When is the last time you had a meal like that at your local restaurant??

David Lebovitz

Happy New Year! I wanted to share one of my favorite Christmas presents: “My Paris Kitchen” by David Lebovitz. I have been a fan of David’s blog for a couple of years, but did not, until now, own any of his cookbooks. This cookbook is a wonderful combination of story-telling (like his blog) and recipes which do not seem full of outrageous ingredients that normal people would never be able to find. I am already inserting little bookmarks to mark the recipes that I want to try first and will post the results when that happens, but in the meantime, check out his blog at www.davidlebovitz.com and see if you find his writing style as disarming and charming as I do.

Let’s hope his recipes themselves turn out to be as much to my taste as his writing style!

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Sainte Chapelle

If you haven’t been to Sainte Chapelle, on the Ile de la Cite, you need to go. It’s as simple as that. It was built in the 13th century as the Royal Chapel for the king at the time, Louis IX. It has an upper and a lower chapel, and has the most incredible stained glass that I have ever seen, if only in terms of sheer magnitude! If you go during its regular business hours, you will get to tour the whole thing, but it is one of the most popular tourist spots so be prepared for a long line, especially in summer. So, you might ask yourself, how do I get in to see it without that long line?

You buy a ticket for one of the many concerts held there. We went in October to hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and it was truly magical. The concert itself was at 7:00, so we got there at 6:30, in case there was a line. There was a slight line and delay, but it turned out it was just as people passed through the security area. Once through that, it was a short walk to the chapel itself and we arrived when it was still light outside (luckily) so the lighting on the windows was amazing!

IMG_2897IMG_2903 I had ordered our tickets online before we traveled, on the FNAC website www.fnac.com and you can then go to any FNAC store to pick up the tickets (FNAC is a large store that sells CD’s, DVD’s, and electronic equipment of various kinds and has several locations around Paris.)

It turned out that I had bought the most expensive tickets (it’s all that came up when I went online so I assume it was what was still available– 40 euros each), but I’m NOT complaining, because it meant we were very close to the front and this is a once in a lifetime experience, in my opinion.

IMG_2905 It was a beautiful setting for a classical concert!

It was just over an hour so we came out onto the street about 8:15. Afterward we walked back to the cafe close to home for a veggie pizza with an egg on top (true French style!). What a great evening!

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Paris 1900, La Ville Spectacle

1900 was an amazing year in Paris and the exhibit at the Petit Palais right now (through August 17th), called “Paris 1900- La Ville Spectacle” gives you a great feel for all that was happening then. The Universal Exposition opened in April of 1900 and it was the biggest event of its kind ever, covering over 277 acres. Both the Petit Palais, which houses the exhibit, and the Grand Palais, across the street, were built for this Universal Exposition. One of the first lines of the metro was also being built, as well as The Alexander III bridge and two mainline rail stations, the Gare des Invalides and the Gare D’Orsay. The exposition attracted 50 million visitors– imagine that in 1900!

Another thing that was introduced at this time was electricity. Imagine what a difference that would have made in a city like Paris, that has always been filled with people wanting to dine and socialize into the evening. Suddenly, moving around at night was much easier and safer.

The exhibit is made up of various paintings, posters, sculpture, and clothing, all giving us a wonderful glimpse of the people and the places of the time.  There were many paintings by artists that I didn’t know at all so I now have names to watch for in future exhibits.

There is an app that you can download for free that gives you snippets of information on various items in the exhibit through iTunes (and I think there is an Android version as well) and, of course, you can find out more at www.petitpalais.paris.fr as well.

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There’s a new bakery in the neighborhood

IMG_2059IMG_2058One of the best things about Paris is going each morning to the bakery to get breakfast. Baguettes, and pain au chocolat are our favorites, though occasionally we go wild and get other types of croissants and a variety of brioches and pastries. There are LOTS of bakeries in our neighborhood– I can think of six without even trying– and now we have a wonderful new addition. Maison Ganachaud just opened up on Rue Oberkampf. The Ganachaud family has been baking bread and had bakeries in Paris, according to the sign, since 1938 but this is new location for them. I had a great discussion with the man selling me my bread the first day, and he said that Maison Ganachaud prides itself on the fact that ALL of its baguettes (those called “tradition” and those that are the “regular” baguette) are put through a double rising process, which he says is what gives the baguettes their wonderful airy quality and “holey” interiors. IMG_2063

Another great thing about this bakery is that the chef making the baguettes is working in an area next to where you buy your bread, behind a glass window, so you can look in and watch the creative process! I’m looking forward to trying the wide variety of breads and pastries on display!

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Traveling to Paris, at least in my mind

I can’t physically be in Paris nearly as often as I’d like, so I love it when I find things that give me that “warm and fuzzy” feeling of being there, even when I’m still sitting at home. Sharon O’Connor has done that for me with her packet of French Cafe music and recipes:

IMG_1977  This was given to me as a gift and it is a boxed set of simple recipes, each from a specific cafe in Paris. They are generally very simple, reflecting the more traditional meals that you can get at most corner cafes. For example, there is one for an Omelette with Fresh Herbs, one for Sole with Lemon Brown Butter and Creamy Mashed Potatoes, and one for a Nicoise Salad. Each recipe is from a particular cafe that she has visited and each card not only describes the recipe, in simple detail that is easy to follow, but also a description of the Cafe it came from. My husband and I made the omelettes using the recipe the other night, and truly, they were delicious! It comes with a CD of cafe music as well, very upbeat and totally French.

We enjoyed that so much that we bought a second collection from her, this time of her Bistro music and recipes:

IMG_1976These recipes are in an actual cookbook, rather than on individual cards, but they look just as easy to follow. I’m looking forward to trying the Steak Frites recipe, for example!. This time the music is instrumental rather than the fun vocals from the first one, so I admit I didn’t care for the music quite as much, but I still found it fun to listen to, especially because they often feature accordion which always reminds me of Paris and the buskers in the metro. I strongly recommend them both!

Enjoy!!!

 

Brocantes, Flea Markets, and other “bargain hunting”

One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to visit the small temporary flea markets that pop up around Paris. You never know what you’ll find– I’ve gotten some fun glassware and fun dishes. I’ve talked about them before, but I’m reminded again how much fun they are by David Lebovitz’s blog post today http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2014/03/paris-flea-markets-and-thrift-stores/  He has a great description of all of the various choices for doing some bargain hunting. One thing we love to use, which he talks about, is the app “Brocabrac” which you can use when you are there (it only shows the events coming in the immediate future). “75” is the prefix for any of the Parisian areas so you just put that in and it will tell you what’s happening…..

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Cafe Gourmand

If you’re like me, you like a “little something sweet” after a meal. We were recently eating at one of our favorite local restaurants, La Cote D’Or (www.lacotedorcafe.com) and got into a discussion with Raymond, the owner. I wanted something for dessert, but felt like any of the tempting offerings would be “too much.” His solution is a dessert called “Cafe Gourmand” and he told us that it is a common dessert in France as well. He said that in France, restaurants were finding that people were not ordering dessert and thought that one reason might be the same hesitation that I was having, that it would be “too much.” To solve that, they created the “Cafe Gourmand” which was to make three, small, “tasting” portions of dessert, as well as a cup of espresso.

Raymond was right. His “Cafe Gourmand” is delicious and I’m sorry that I don’t have a picture of it to share here with you– I will be sure to take one next time we’re there. His dessert includes a small helping of Chocolate Mousse, a small creme brulee, and a scoop of coffee ice cream.

I have decided to make it my mission to try the offerings for Cafe Gourmand at other restaurants, here in the US and in France and I’ve included pictures of two from recent forays.

The first is in a wonderful restaurant called Matchbox (www.matchboxmerrifield.com)  here in the US and it includes three scoops of sorbet, a brownie sundae, and homemade doughnuts (as well as coffee). May I point out that, as delicious as this dessert was, it is definitely the “American” version– all three desserts were big enough to stand alone (in my opinion). Again, I’m not complaining- it was absolutely delicious, but I will say that my husband and I shared it and we STILL couldn’t finish it all.

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The second one is one from a French cafe called Bar Au Metre. This one includes creme brulee, tiramisu, and an apple turnover (as well as the espresso). Again, all were delicious, and the portions were definitely smaller than its American cousin.

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Aaaahhh, both experiences lead me to believe that I will have to continue this particular form of research….

Shop Windows

If you have wandered by the department stores in Paris, you have seen their amazing storefront displays. They are a BIG DEAL and are changed seasonally. And they are incredibly creative! From what I’ve seen, the holiday ones are the most elaborate. One Christmas we were there and Galleries Lafayette had Christmas bears dressed in a variety of outfits all singing ABBA songs. It was crazy and very fun!

The non-holiday ones are less elaborate, but just as creative. And very interesting because they go beyond displaying particular items that are for sale. They are “artful.” These were at Galleries Lafayette and are displaying perfumes — amazing, right?

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In a recent trip to New York, I was struck by how uncreative the shop windows were there. Don’t get me wrong- they are beautiful and show the items for sale very cleverly, but they are all about the items and there is nothing “artful” about it.

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Does this reflect something in the American mindset versus the French mindset? We do get the reputation of being “all about the money.” And if I were to coin a phrase for the French mentality on this sort of thing, I’d say, it’s “all about the creativity.” Personally, I’ll take the “creative” attitude all day long…..