Parisian Doors

Paris may be known for delectable macarons and amazing museums, but I can never get enough of the gorgeous doors that line the city streets.

Here are a few of my favorites from our recent visit. The first two were just down the block from our hotel on the Boulevard de La Tour-Maubourg. It took us 10 minutes just to walk down to the adorable corner cafe for our morning coffee and croissant, since I kept stopping to snap pictures.

Here are a couple of addresses I specifically sought out - and Scott sweetly indulged my desire to do photo sessions in front of them.

74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine - a third floor flat at this Latin Quarter address was the first Paris home of Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Finally, 81 Rue de l'Université, which was the first Parisian address for Julia Child and her husband Paul. You can read more about our Parisian cooking adventures here, and a bit more about my fascination with Madame Child.

What are some of the out-of-the-ordinary sights you seek out when traveling?

Paris Eats

During our visit to Paris last fall, the city was in the midst of an unusual heat wave with 90-plus degree temps.  So, with cold weather all around us this month, it seemed a good time to bask in the sunshine from those pics - and review a few of yummy meals we had along the way.

Paris is not all coffee and croissants, although we very quickly got used to starting the days with them, lingering over breakfast at Le Recrutement Café, a corner café down the block from our hotel. 

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Yes, there is French onion soup in Paris - and it is amazing!  I have been trying to recreate the delicious-ness of this green bean salad from La Terrasse du 7eme ever since we got back. 

Escargots at one of our favorite spots, Brasserie Balzar.  Sure, they're snails - but with a savory sauce of garlic, butter and fresh herbs, how can you possibly go wrong?

I'm the weird person who actually prefers the profiteroles (also at Brasserie Balzar) without chocolate sauce.  Maybe this is not the most photogenic dish, but if you're into chocolate, this is your place.  Scott caught this shot mid-pour as our server poured an entire pitcher of chocolate onto that plate. 

Happily, Brasserie Balzar was a couple of miles from our hotel, which was ideal for a long stroll back after this meal.

A Sunday morning stroll was a feast for the eyes, with the fruitiers meticulously arranging this mouthwatering produce for Sunday shoppers (more colorful sightings here).

Finally, we had a great time actually cooking our dinner on our final evening, taking a poultry class at La Cuisine Paris. Scott snapped this pic of me channeling my inner Julia Child.   You can see more about that amazing experience - including recipes - here.  

Bon appetit!  What are you cooking tonight?

Climb Every Mountain (Paris Edition)

Every day, I am thankful to live in - as that song in "Hamilton" proclaims - "the greatest city in the world."  But that doesn't keep me from dreaming about and planning adventures to my other two favorite cities - London and Paris.

With New York City and much of the rest of the country currently in the deep freeze, it is a perfect time to reminisce about our trip to Paris last fall during an unseasonably warm (read: hot) September.  (Thanks for coming along!) 

We took an overnight flight out of JFK, and although I used a zillion AAdvantage miles to book business class tickets that had lie-flat seats, I never sleep well on planes.  Scott, fortunately, has no problem sleeping; thanks to the hum of the engines, he can be sound asleep as soon as the plane takes off.  

Based on my history of sleepless red-eye flights, I know better than to plan anything that requires sitting or standing still for more than a few minutes at a time for the day we arrive.  

So, after landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport before 7 a.m., victoriously speaking understandable French while going through customs and navigating the airport, we hopped the RER train into Paris.  We dropped our bags at the hotel, found a café to devise our game plan over coffee and croissants (bien sûr!) and headed straight up - literally - to Montmartre.  What better way to walk off the jet lag than to trek around this hill in the 18th arrondisement.

It is famous for the staircase leading up to the gorgeous Basilique du Sacré-Cœur.  People start out climbing very quickly, and slow down a bit as they approach the final stretches of steps.  If you want to cheat, you can actually take a tram (not visible here) up from the base of the hill (just use one of your tickets from the Metro).  But even if you do, you're still not off the hook, as there is not a level stretch of pavement in this neighborhood.  Which is fine - because wherever you turn, you will savor a million euro view - either of an adorable street, a long narrow staircase or a panoramic view of the city.

A few of my favorite views.*

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And happily - big, dark sunnies hid my very tired eyes all day long.

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Can you sleep on airplanes?  Show me your ways - please!

 

* All pictures taken by Scott, who is, quite simply, a much better photographer than I am.

Bon Appetit! - La Cuisine Paris

Taking a cooking class was one of the highlights of our recent visit to Paris.

I managed to successfully debone a chicken (a first for me), emerging with all 10 fingers still intact.  There are no photos of that feat since everyone's hands were covered in chicken goo, so you'll just have to trust me on this.

When looking for an English-speaking class, I saw that La Cuisine Paris had amazing reviews on TripAdvisor.  Students at my alma mater's study abroad program in Paris have also taken classes here, so those seemed like pretty good endorsements to me.

They have a variety of classes, including several popular ones focused on making baguettes, croissants and pastries.  Since I am not a sweet breakfast pastry kind of person, and we can find Maison Kayser croissants two blocks from our apartment -  we decided on the Poultry (Volaille) class.  Also - the "menu" sounded like recipes we might make from time to time in our own kitchen:  mushroom soup, stuffed chicken with herbs and mushrooms, salad with a traditional vinaigrette, and vanilla ice cream topped with salted butter caramel sauce.

Led by the awesome Chef Cyril (pictured below) - who, as it turns out, also does a lot of TV hosting and interviews - we deboned chickens; made stock; chopped mushrooms, garlic and herbs for the chicken filling; and made the recipes below.  Since the class was limited to just 10 people, klutzy people like me got a lot of help wrestling with those chickens.

After prepping the chicken, one of my tasks was grating a small mountain of cheeses for the filling and soup.  Here I am making the cheese croutons to top the mushroom soup (I am getting hungry just writing this!)

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Bonus - this particular class doubled as dinner.  We all sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor at the end of class, in their elegant dining room overlooking the Seine.

Merci beaucoup to La Cuisine Paris for allowing me to share a couple of recipes here!  Their recipes include metric measurements, but I include the conversions here (any errors are mine, not theirs):

Vinaigrette Traditionelle

  • Dijon mustard (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 portion vinegar (balsamic, walnut, Jerez, etc.)
  • 3/4 portion extra virgin olive oil

Put mustard into mixing bowl with vinegar and salt.  Gradually whisk in olive oil until well emulsified.  (As someone who considers mustard to be a major food group, I will not recommend any specific portion of mustard here, since it might go beyond what many of you would prefer).

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) water
  • 7 tablespoons (10 cl) heavy cream
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons (50 g) salted butter, diced

Place sugar and water in a saucepan.  Slowly melt until sugar reaches a golden caramel color.  Add cream little by little into the caramel while whisking.  Be careful not to let the caramel sauce boil over.  Reduced until desired consistency.  Transfer to a bowl, and whisk in salted butter.  Allow to cool before serving.

You can find more info about La Cuisine Paris and their class schedule here

Bon appetit!

Career Lessons from Julia Child

During our trip to Paris last month, I received an email from the publisher of "The French Chef in America: Julia Child's Second Act" to let me know they were sending me an advance copy for review.

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I may or may not have done a little dance in our hotel room.   Coincidentally, we were staying just a few blocks from 81 Rue de l’Université - where Julia Child and her husband Paul lived when they moved to Paris in 1948 (I may have asked Scott to snap photos of me in front of that address on more than one occasion). 

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Yes - I am a fan, something that has been referenced more than once on this blog.

The book, which comes out this Tuesday, was written by Julia's great-nephew Alex Prud'homme.  He also co-wrote her memoir "My Life in France" - which I have read way too many times to count.

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But that story - and "Julie & Julia," the excellent movie it inspired starring Meryl Streep as Julia - only explores her early years.  It does not go into much depth about her "second act" that launched shortly after the Childs returned to the States and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts and "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was published.

This new book picks up where the first one left off, with the publication of what was the first of many books - and how she parlayed interviews about "Mastering" into an empire and a television career that extended well into the 1990s.  Basically, you see the development and progression of how she became the "Julia Child" we know today.

Decades before The Food Network, food blogs and the practice of Instagramming every lunch and cup of coffee, Julia became the first true food celebrity and laid the groundwork for those who would follow.  Viewers related to her approachable style, sense of humor, and ability to teach people to cook what could be complicated dishes.  She appealed to post-war American cooks who were becoming fascinated with French cuisine and culture, and who wanted to move beyond dinner staples such as casseroles and Jell-O "salads."

Julia is also an inspiration for people who have not yet found their career niche.  After all - she did not even start cooking until she was in her late 30s - let alone write cookbooks or become a media celebrity.

In fact, she was almost 50 when she did her first TV interview!  I started my TV career at 31 - which seemed very late at the time.

Another great lesson is the value of having a spouse who is your greatest fan, cheerleader and partner - something I can totally relate to!  Paul Child was just that for her, and he also happened to have the creative, marketing, photography and PR skills that supported her work.  Ten years her senior, his career was winding down as hers was taking off, which enabled him to focus all of his skills and efforts into helping build the Julia Child "brand."

Once you start reading, your only distraction may be a desire to head into the kitchen and whip up something fabulous for dinner.

Bon appetit!