Friday, 29 May 2009

Paris Connections

What's my excuse for not blogging for a week? Quite simply - Paris. Being in Paris for anyone who likes to cook is pure joy. There are three traveling markets - that appear on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, on Thursday and Saturday I can shop at the permanent street market on rue Daguerre or walk to the place at Alésia for fish, cheese and vegetables. So you can see that only on Mondays is there any chance of me spending time on my computer.
Yesterday I was planning to blog but we decided to put WiFi,that's French for wireless, in the apartment, the ethernet cable was driving us crazy Paris is a great place for staying connected as almost all the parks have free Internet access. I've tried blogging in the local park, but the sun made it hard to see the screen and I was distracted by the playing children and the beautiful flowers - I know this azalea photo will delight my mother.

Well the addition of WiFi turned into a whole day affair. At the store, taking the advice of the seeming knowledgeable salesman, we selected the device (instructions in English and Mac friendly) and then spent 2 hours trying to set it up! After a particular nasty experience with my internet provider - they are not only unhelpful but rude plus they charge you to talk to them - I called the Airport manufacturer for the price of a local call and found myself talking to a French woman in England who then directed me back to France. The Frenchman was helpful and polite - we'd bought a modem/router instead of just a router. Back to the store to make the exchange, and then back home. It was a breeze to set up but.... why it is never simple? I had to name and lock the signal, which proved beyond me. Another call to the charming Frenchman and all was fixed. By then it was late afternoon leaving just time to do the dishes from last night's dinner before meeting friends for drinks. I'll tell you about Wednesday's dinner soon, for now let's just say I may have a bone marrow addiction.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

More True Love

I am back in Paris where life has been rather hectic, which explains the lack of posts. I am posting a photo that my friend François took on a trip to Huangshan a mountainous region of China. Here, engaged couples celebrate their eternal love by attaching a lock to the chains running up the mountain trails then toss the key into the ravine below. Perhaps there are other places where true love is proclaimed this way.......

Friday, 15 May 2009

Garlic Bread Latvian-Style

Here is a popular snack in Riga, the Latvian version of garlic bread. It's kiploku grauzdini which translates as garlic toasts. Slices of rye bread are fried in butter and then rubbed with a cut garlic clove. They are served with sour cream enhanced with more garlic and the herb of choice in Latvia, dill. They are delicious and addictive, especially with a beer. Their texture is reminiscent of the fried bread we had with our bacon and eggs when I was a kid, crisp on the outside and moist and flavourful on the inside. Sometimes the bread is cut into fingers or soldiers, but the best ones are bigger like those pictured because they allow you to double dip.

Monday, 11 May 2009

True Love

I left my beloved Paris and flew east to Riga, the capital of Latvia to celebrate my husband’s birthday. Riga is very eastern European, Paris seems like it is on another planet.

We explored the old town with its narrow cobble-stoned streets filled with churches and pretty squares. In the central park there are two bridges spanning the canal with padlocks attached to them. The smallest bridge is almost completely covered with locks of all sizes and each is inscribed with two names and a date. Instead of carving their initials into a tree, amorous Latvian couples etch their names into a padlock and attach it to the bridge.

I like to imagine that they pledge undying love tossing the key into the canal to seal the deed.

Friday, 8 May 2009


We often take the 28 bus from our apartment along Avenue du Maine, round the ugly Tour Montparnasse, along the boulevard to Duroc, then past the children's hospital Necker to Place de Breteuil. From here two wide tree-lined street with large grass promenades running down the middle stretch out; Avenue Breteuil pictured here, heads towards Invalides where you can find Napoleon's tomb, while the other, Avenue de Saxe runs to the Ecole Militaire and provides a spectacular view of the Eiffel tower. This is a beautiful part of Paris although it is quiet and very residential.
Each time we take the bus we notice this champagne store and say to ourselves that we must stop one day and look. Well finally we did.

It is the office for a small champagne house that specializes in supplying restaurants and bistros however they do sell to anyone who happens to wander in like us. It is a father and son team who make a small amount of champagne at Damery in the Marne. We chatted, with the son who was working that day about champagne and bought two bottles of their Cuvée Prestige 1999, a bottle of their Rosé Brut, and a bottle of their everyday Grand Reserve champagne, an everyday champagne to drink even if we don't have a special event to celebrate. So far we have only drunk the two Cuvée Prestige. The first after news of my Beard win and the second one with Mark Bittman, a fellow Beard winner, who is in Paris at the moment. We toasted our wins and decided to plan an event where we could actually where our medals!!!!(Anyone else wanting to wear their medal is invited).
The Rosé is slated for consumption tonight with my Paris friends. There is something special about discovering a small producer so proud of his product and luckily for us he is only a bus ride away.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Well I'll be.......

I woke up in Paris this morning to discover that not only did Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes win the Best Single Subject Cookbook at the James Beard Awards last night it also won Cookbook of the Year. I'm stunned and happy and luckily in the country where champagne is made. It will still be cafe au lait for breakfast but tonight it will be champagne, champagne and more champagne.

Books are created by many people and while I wrote FAT, without my agent Liv, who fought so hard to sell the idea, Doug Pepper at McClelland & Stewart who first realised fat was a good subject, and Aaron Wehner and the team at Ten Speed, especially Clancy, Fat wouldn't be the book it is. Thanks to all of you.

Monday, 4 May 2009


We arrived at Roissy airport under gray skies threatening rain but by lunchtime they'd cleared and we ate lunch on our friends terrace enjoying the warmth of the sun surrounded by greenery and flowers. I was particularly jealous of their huge rosemary bush covered in purple flowers.
Chez nous our rosemary is still going strong, but no sign of flowers and my beloved bay tree has come though the winter. The sage has survived and the thyme is making a valiant effort too.
Sunday morning with a steaming bowl of cafe au lait in one hand and a buttery croissant in the other I knew I was in Paris.
It seems that this trip will be one of discovery, already we've eaten crozets, a pasta from the Savoie, and a seaweed from the bay of Mont St Michel, more about both of them later.

Friday, 1 May 2009

May Day

Finally it's May Day!
This is a holiday for workers in many parts of the world, but for me May Day means two things - my return to Paris and lily of the valley, one of my favourite flowers. Tomorrow I'll be picking a few stems from the planter in the courtyard, my Parisian neighbours don't seem to share my lily of the valley passion, plus they'll all be away for the long weekend. Lily of the valley will be everywhere in Paris for the first week of May. In the markets there will be enterprising citizens with buckets full of small bunches gathered from the woods, or perhaps the gardens around Paris.
Lily of the valley is ephemeral and by the second week of May it will be gone until next year - that's what makes it so special.