Category Archives: Shop Talk

Posts about stores and other purveyors of goods.

Some Food Highlights from My Recent Trip to Paris

Just back from France and up early from jet lag, so I thought I’d jot down some of the culinary highlights of the trip. We had about 4 days in Paris that bookended a week in the Dordogne. I did most of the cooking in the Dordogne, as we were staying in a beautiful home overlooking the valley with not one but two kitchens. Shopping in French country markets, cooking for a group of food lovers is really paradise for me. But not much to share, besides a few recipes it would be hard to repeat.

With only a few days, in Paris we wandered the streets like fish swimming from food source to food source. The first night we arrived in Paris we were back in the ample, accommodating and very reasonable Hotel de Sèvres, in a great location on the left bank (1 block from La Grand Epicerie at the Bon Marché, which I always visit no matter where I’m staying). On the way home from the Périgord, we spent two nights in a lovely apartment through AirBNB  in the 3rd arrondissement, on the border of the 11th. It was a great location in the center of a dynamic neighborhood, teaming with new, creative shops, designers, galleries, restaurants and food shops. I’d highly recommend it. We enjoyed exploring what seemed to us to be the Brooklyn of Paris, with all the excitement and style, and within walking distance to the Louvre and almost everything y0u want to see.

Some trends we noted were les cupcakes sont arrivés, mon dieu!. Baby choux creams have taken over the pastry shops, and with too much fondant and soggy pâte à choux, they weren’t very good (I prefer them in Japan). There’s been a slew of  one-item stores that have opened up selling jams, olive oils, teas, and other specialties. Despite France’s recession, Paris seemed lively and dynamic. We had a great, delicious time, comme d’habitude. 

My recommendations appear after the mosaic of photos.

Restaurant Jadis
208 rue de la croix Nivert, 75015
Tel: 01.45.57.73.20
A charming bistrot which reaches back into French culinary traditions to present a contemporary and very satisfying meal. (Nate’s first frogs’ legs were enjoyed here.) It’s a little out of the way, but worth the trek. It’s so off the beaten path the owner asked how we found it. (Thanks for the tip Art of Eating.) We were glad we did.

Spring
6 rue Bailleul, 75001
Tel: 01.45.96.05.72
Daniel Rose is an American chef working in Paris who has created a sensation for his simple, elegant, satisfying, seasonal cooking at Spring. His newer location has a whopping 40 seats, so you stand a chance of getting it. It is convenient, just off the Rue du Rivoli, and worth a visit.

La Chambre Aux Confitures
60 rue du Vielle Temple, 75003
We stumbled into this shop because of the crowd that was standing around tasting jams. Just 2 years old, this shop was fun and exciting. The flavors of jams and honeys and chutneys and chocolats fondants was staggering. You can taste them all, box them up and give them as gifts. Although there is and always will be a special place in my heart for Christine Ferber, Lise Bienaimé has created something noteworthy.

La République Pâtissière
57 rue de Saintonge, 75003
Tel: 09.50.40.41.41
Another shop we wandered into, this is actually a pastry cooperative, a retail space shared by four creative, young pastry chefs, who also share a production kitchen in another location. The four are B[n]S Kitchen, L’Angelique, Mademoisselle Proust, and Choo. The shop was lovely, as was the staff. Pretty tasty stuff, too. Particularly surprised by how delicious the mustard collection of macarons was (violet moutarde de Brive, Coleman’s and wasabi flavors).

Méert
16 rue Elzévir, 75003
Another stumble-on, this beautiful, faux-marble chocolate and sweet shop drew us in. Though we didn’t totally love all the chocolates, we did love the baked goods, which included a palet de chocolat and palet dames (together, like a black and white cookie, only better) , a superb financier au chocolate, and a picture-perfect and delicious brioche (which we brought home with us.)

La Grande Epicerie de Bon Marché
28 rue de Sèvres, 75007
I always come here when I’m in Paris to check out the selection of items from around the country and around the world. They also have the best price on Christine Ferber’s jams, though the selection of flavors is somewhat limited.

Pierre Hermé
72 rue Bonaparte, 75006
Even though we did a taste test this time with like items from Ladurée, and some of Hermé’s lost, I still love this shop and manage to arrive there somehow at least once a day (sometimes that’s because Nate is navigating). His current “fetish” this time was St. Honoré, and we had classique, chocolate, and lemon, which we loved.

Marché des Enfants Rouges
39 rue de Bretagne, 75003
A fun, covered market with cheap and delicious ethnic eats (Tunisian, Lebanese, Asian) and shops. It was great to walk through. Young, trendy clientele. Hope to come back with more time to explore more. There’s a lovely Provencal olive oil shop there, too, that had some great oils and other products.

Marché Bastille Richard Lenoir
Boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75001
Sunday mornings it’s a must to go to this lively street market, considered the largest in Paris, with a terrific selection of produce of all kinds, from meats and cheeses, to vegetables, fish, Italian items, and specialties from southwest France. The seafood at Lorenzo (at the top of the market) is unmatched in quality. Since most restaurants are closed Sunday nights, we picked up a superb picnic and made dinner ourselves.

Télescope
5 rue Villedo, 75001
Coffee’s third wave has hit Paris in this charming shop in the vicinity of the Bourse. It feels a lot like Brooklyn or Portland in there, only the style of the staff and guests is a little better. The slow pace is the same. And the coffee is excellent. We never managed to get to The Broken Arm in our neighborhood when it was open, but we had high hopes for it, too. Next time, for sure.

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More Talk with Great Chefs, Designers and Others: Join Me at these Upcoming Events

Spring has sprung and so has the season for conversations with great chefs and other experts engaged in making cuisine a culturally resonant  art form. Join me for these upcoming talks with great chefs, designers, architects, ethicists, and others working to improve and elevate our experience of eating. Mark your calendars!

calendar_icon2May 31, noon
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
Trust: In Our Restaurants and in Our Food System

A conversation about the importance and role of trust drawn from the theme of the 2012 JBF Food Conference. With JBF Award Winners Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia and Star Provisions and Linton Hopkins of Eugene, plus Karen Karp of Karp Resources and ethicist Paul Root Wolpe of Emory University.

June 6, 6:30 pm
American Museum of Natural History
Adventures in the Global Kitchen: Exotic Flavors in Fine Dining
A conversation and tasting about the many immigrant influences on NY cuisine with JBF Award Winners Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park and NoMad.

June 10, 6 pm
The New School
Dining + Design: Conversations with Chefs & their Designers
An exploration of the relationship of food and design with JBF Award Winner David Chang and business partner Drew Salmon of Momofuku and designer Anwar Mekhayech of The Design Agency.

June 19, 6:30 pm
The Tenement Museum
Cooking Italian in Today’s NYC
Conversation with JBF Award Nominees Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone of Carbone, Torrisi Italian Specialties, and Parm

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The Difficulty of Translating Japanese Food for Americans

So, I’m sitting here at the CIA Greystone after 2 days of their Worlds of Flavor conference on Japanese food, and I’m puzzled by what the takeaway will be for most people in the audience. Certainly, Japan is an inspiration for chefs around the world. This is as true today as it was in the 1960s, when the Japanese approach to dining inspired the Nouvelle Cuisine in France. Every time I hear of an innovation from the wildly creative Spanish chefs or the impressively local Nordic chefs, I can’t help but think, “Yeah, that’s interesting, but have you been to Japan?”

Still, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more useful for the evolution of American food culture if this were a conference about Japanese eating, rather than Japanese cooking, and if accordingly, the room were full of diners instead of cooks. I can’t help but think that it is American diners who need to learn how to eat, rather than American chefs who need to learn how to cook. Our chefs have proven time and again they are as good as the best in the world.

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We have seen some of the most respected Japanese chefs demonstrating the extreme attention to detail and pursuit of simplicity that are the hallmarks of Japanese cuisine. (Sometimes their demeanor and the simultaneously translation makes it feel like I’m in the middle of a Japanese episode of Iron Chef.) This morning I watched famed chef Kunio Tokuoka of Kyoto’s Michelin 3-star Kitcho salt chicken wings to remove their aku or “impurities” before Continue reading

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Travel Log: The Taste of London

If my food experiences last week in London are any indication, hundreds of years of jokes about how awful the food is in England should be shelved. I ate my way around that beautiful, fun town, and the eating is very good, indeed. Not only are many of my favorite foodstuffs from France on offer—Poilâne and Ladurée bakeries have London outposts; Pierre Hermé has a kiosk in Selfridge’s and a stand-alone shop is opening July 10! There are several Pauls, a Maison du Chocolat, and more French purveyors, j’en suis sûr—but the local breads, cheeses, and produce are superb. And the restaurants are creative and exciting. Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin in New York who was in London for the first time, is having a blast. “I had no idea how great this place was,” he told me. During a dinner cooked for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy by Alain Ducasse (who has one of only two Michelin three-star restaurants in London) and Joël Robuchon (who has a London outpost: thanks for the update, Johnny), Ripert chatted with the celebrated French chefs. He mentioned how much he was enjoying London. “Are you kidding,” both Ducasse and Robuchon said. “London is so much better than Paris.” Well, there you have it.

What makes it special? Continue reading

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Ingredient Alert! Fresh Chick Peas at Whole Foods (with Recipes)

These fresh garbanzo beans (aka chick peas) were on sale in the produce section of the Whole Foods in NYC's Union Square.

So, after strolling through the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday, I ducked into Whole Foods to pick up a few staples and things I couldn’t find at the market. (Despite the beautiful spring weather, it’s just too soon to harvest much of anything locally.) And there in the produce section, I spotted these beautiful fresh garbanzo beans (aka chick peas) in the pod. I’ve only ever seen them for sale before on the streets of Naples. And here they were in downtown Manhattan!

As soon as the crazy lady who was slowly sorting through ginger, spreading it and her bags out over everything in the vicinity, including my chick peas, was finished, I dove in. I bought about a pound of the peas in the pods, which amounted to a little more than a cup shelled. The pods are small and papery. They pop when you open them, revealing one or two chick peas inside. The fresh chick peas are  bright green in color. When cooked, they are less starchy, more vegetal, than their dried cousins. And they have a great texture that Continue reading

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Eat This! A Delicious New Bread at the Union Square Greenmarket

A new bread at the Union Square Greenmarket from Cayuga Pure Organics.

I have reason to celebrate. The other day I spotted a handsome new bread at the Union Square Greenmarket. Bread is one of my vices. So is greenmarket shopping. But the two don’t always go together. Despite many stalls selling loaves, it’s not easy to find a good bread there. Under-proofed, over-priced, under-baked, and more-often-than-not leaden, the breads (and baked goods) are not the highlight of the market. For good, solid, flavorful loaves I’ve been limited to the consistently well-made, hand-formed loaves of Our Daily Bread. They aren’t there on Mondays, so to start my week I usually purchase the fresh, crusty loaves from the focaccia lady—I can’t recall the name of her bakery—who blesses you as she makes change.

But a couple of weeks ago I spotted a new bread case installed alongside the bags of freshly milled grains lined up at attention at the Cayuga Pure Organics stall. The case was filled with deep, dark, whole-grain, hearth-baked loaves with the distinctive flour rings that evidence banneton (French bread basket) proofing. I was intrigued. I liked the way it looked. And I liked that they only had one bread for sale. It showed commitment. Integrity, perhaps. I asked for a boule, forked over a shocking $8 for it, and brought it back to my office. Unable to wait until I got home, I cut into the bread at my desk. The dark crumb, studded with sprouted grain, was heavy with flavor but delicate to the bite. The crust was well formed. The bread was excellent. It stayed fresh for almost a week. I made egg salad sandwiches, I toasted it and spread it with sweet butter and homemade jam. I was very excited.

The following Wednesday I approached the stall for another loaf. I learned the mill had only been making the bread for a few weeks. They were very happy with how it was going. Me, too, I said.

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Eat This! My Current Favorite Sandwiches: Pork Edition

If there is one culinary creation Americans can claim to have perfected, I believe it is the sandwich. Hoagies, heroes, submarines, pita pockets, bagels, even burgers, you name it and Americans will stick anything and everything between two pieces of bread. (Witness the recent blogosphere frenzy over KFC’s new fried-”chicken”-and-bacon bomb, the Double Down.)

The 4th Earl of Sandwich, the legendary inventor of our favorite American meal.

What sets American sandwich makers apart is that they don’t stop at the main ingredient, the way, say, Italian sandwich makers often do. (See one of my favorite sandwich shops in Florence, I Due Fratellini.) For a fine American sandwich you’ve got to gather up your garnishes and pile on the condiments to achieve the perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, savory, crunchy, creamy, and soft that distinguish the best from everything else.

I realize that the sandwich’s supposed inventor, the Earl of Sandwich, was an Englishman. But despite Woody Allen’s suspenseful spoof of this nobleman’s travails:

1736— [The Earl] enters Cambridge University, at his parents’ behest, to pursue studies in rhetoric and metaphysics, but displays little enthusiasm for either. In constant revolt against everything academic, he is charged with stealing loaves of bread and performing unnatural experiments with them. Accusations of heresy result in his expulsion.

—from “Yes, But Can the Steam Engine Do This,”
in Getting Even by Woody Allen.

I think in general our sandwiches are better than theirs (witness the sorry, boxed Pret A Manger offerings). Don’t get me wrong. Continue reading

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