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Au Revoir, Stuffy French Cooking; Bonjour, Rachel Khoo!

When I moved to Paris in the spring of 2009, I was as ravenous to explore the city’s food scene as I was to find a home and community of friends. One way I found I could meet people, learn a bit about local culture and customs, and eat some delicious food all at the same time was by taking the occasional cooking class. Which is how I met Rachel Khoo, author of La Petite Cuisine (Penguin, UK) and host of Little Paris Kitchen on the BBC, both debuting this spring.

It was a bright and sunny August afternoon that I found myself attending the modern Electrolux-sponsored kitchen inside the Palais de Tokyo. There were 12 of us students and I could tell the pretty Brit with red lips, a retro sundress and kitchen confidence had something going on. That something—I learned while whipping eggs for our plum clafoutis as she filleted our Provençal sardines—was pastry training from Le Cordon Bleu and a  burgeoning career as a “food creative.”

Over the next few months I experienced Rachel’s creative food endeavors: a muesli-tasting party while she developed recipes for her first cookbook, Barres à Céreales, Muesli et Granola Maison (Marabout, 2010). A pie-making class at La Cocotte. An 80s-themed dinner party, complete with Pac-Man shaped foie gras. And, most exciting of all, I was invited to be there for the grand opening of her Parisian restaurant—a wee party of two at La Petite Cuisine à Paris.

Rachel’s itty-bitty restaurant was one of the most coveted reservations in town throughout the spring and summer of 2011. As soon as word got out about her cooking—described by Rachel herself as “an English girl’s perspective on French food”—everyone wanted a taste. My lunch made it easy to understand why. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food | 4 Comments »

A Day in the Life: Paris vs. New York

I’m recently back in New York from Paris and am suffering a particularly acute bout of withdrawal. I think part of the problem is that the structure of my days changes completely when I cross the ocean. On the European side, time expands and flows and I rarely even know (or care) what day it is. Here, on the rational side of the Atlantic, I’m over-scheduled from morning until night. It goes something like this.

Janelle Mentesana - Paris streetJanelle Mentesana

New York Day
• Wake up when my alarm goes off (or when my upstairs neighbor’s alarm goes off—the perils of living in a poorly insulated industrial loft).
• Go running, as need to expend all energy for the day before settling into a chair for the next ten hours.
• Eat cereal. Healthy, practical cereal.
• If have time, stop for an espresso at Euro-favorite Cafe Gitane. Pretend to be Parisian. It’s not the same.
• Brave the Canal Street crush, which involves dodging aggressive pashmina vendors and dozens of dawdling tourists.
• During overcrowded subway ride, contemplate moving back to Paris for the thousandth time. Listen to Serge Gainsbourg to twist the knife in my heart even more.
• Get to work. In essence, I like my job, but I have such restlessness and A.D.D. that it kills me to think I have to spend a day in a chair, when I could otherwise be spending it roaming quiet Parisian streets.
• Post-work, sprint to event / drinks / dinner. Inevitably show up late. Friends annoyed, because they won’t give you a table in New York until all party members arrive. Friends even more annoyed when I accidentally double air kiss them.
• Then stay out too late.
• Then go to bed, way too late.

Dave Bloom New YorkDave Bloom

Paris Day

• Go wandering. On my last trip, I loved heading south from Belleville, crossing the Canal St. Martin, and conveniently finding myself at Du Pain et Des Idées, one of Paris’ best rustic boulangeries.
• Decadent pain au chocolat in hand, I begin my loitering for the day by lounging on the edge of the canal.
• Get restless, so wander through the Marais, stopping at Cafeotheque for a café du jour, before strolling across the Pont Louis-Philippe to the Ile St. Louis, where I install myself at the western tip of the island and gaze off into space for a while.
• When restless again, meander to the Left Bank, stopping to take in the Institut du Monde Arabe, and then strolling over to my old neighborhood, where I stop in at the market at Place Monge and the traiteurs along rue Mouffetard. One shop owner still refers to me as “la plus belle” whenever I see him (I’m always up for some good French-style ego-stroking).
• Inevitably end up lounging by the Fontaine des Médicis, stopping in for macarons at Pierre Hermé, poking around Repetto, and making a pit-stop at Deyrolle (to fuel my inexplicable taxidermy obsession).
• Before you know it, it’s time for an apéro. Convene with friends at Le Baron Rouge for wine. Everyone will be late; no one will care.
Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 15 Comments »

Heidi Swanson’s 10 Days in Paris

Food blogger, photographer, and world traveler Heidi Swanson reflects on 10 idyllic days in Paris. From the flea markets at Clignancourt to the gelato at Pozzetto to dinner at Le Verre Volé, she hit a number of our favorite spots.

Ten Days in Paris

Text and photos by Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks

It’s 5:45 in the morning, the sky is starting to glow ever so slightly near the horizon, and all is still and quiet outside. I’m sitting on my sofa wide awake. My body thinks it’s the middle of the day, and there is no way around it – I’m in for a couple more early mornings before I can shake this jet lag. So. I thought I’d make myself some tea, watch the sun come up, and take a bit of time to share my notes on Paris, before the details of this adventure start to slip my mind. Continue Reading »

Posted in Arts, Events, Parisian Living, Travel | 2 Comments »