Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy First Weekend of Fall

I can't help it-- I'm just so excited about seeing the seasons change with the calendar. Having lived my entire 30 years in Florida, where Fall usually hits sometime around the end of October or even the end of November (shorts and tanktops on Thanksgiving are as normal an occurrence as are flannels and stocking caps), I am really eating up this fall weather during, well, Fall!

Remember these?

Yesterday we went to buy their honey.

Unfortunately, it was all gone by the time we got there at 11 am. That other honey? It's from bees from elsewhere in France. Bleh. I wanted Luxembourg Gardens Honey.

I was sad.

But, then we went and had sausages and frites and beer. So, I was happy!

Bon Dimanche et Joyeux Automne, Mes Amis!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

An All-Organic Dinner

I will admit that there have been an awful lot of posts about food around here lately. I can’t help it though—September in France is culturally known as “La Rentree,” as in “The Return”—return to school, to daily life, to everything! Taking a month off, as the French do in August, really sets September up as a happenin’ kind of time. The streets suddenly buzz with kids in new shoes and new backpacks, with frazzled mommies trying to get back into the routine, with a fresh round of college kids here to have the semester of their lives. And of course, the markets that stood mostly empty for all of August (it was a very trying month) are suddenly buzzing again with all kinds of vendors hocking late summer and early fall fruits and veggies. I cannot resist a busy looking market and have consequently been making great use of my traditional shopping basket.

In deciding on my menus, I’ve been taking a lot of inspiration from my friends, both in blog land and in real life. The Coq au Vin idea came from Jamie who made her version for an adoring and grateful Steve the week before. In setting out to shop last Sunday, I had in mind the recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup by my friend Katie over at The Thin Chef. Now that it’s Fall, I have a huge craving for hearty soups, and her recipe seemed just the thing to satiate it.

So, I grabbed my basket and I off I went to the Boulevard Raspail Market.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, the market is a regular one, but on Sundays it is exclusively for selling and buying organic goods. This means that it is not only packed with people, it is also VERY expensive. I bought all of my food for the soup here this time, but in the future I think I’ll have to be more choosy, possibly buying my meat at my usual butcher’s shop. He can tell you the provenance of all his products anyway, and as the French aren’t really into the whole “fill your meat full of hormones” kick that the Americans seem to be okay with, my main concern is that I’m buying French products.

The Italian Stand from which I bought fresh pasta for the soup.

Beautiful Bounty

The chicken on the left, in front = MINE

All set up and ready to go.


So, in making “Katie’s Feel Better Chicken and Noodle Soup” (which turned out to be RIDICULOUSLY good), I followed her recipe except I made my own chicken stock and used the cooked chicken in the soup. I think she will approve. And, in the spirit of recipe sharing, I thought I’d tell you how I make my stock. It is a very special act for me, because cooking a whole chicken in a pot always, always makes me think of my mother. Putting the Chicken on to Cook was the single greatest act my mom entrusted me with as a young teenager. Mom worked very hard (and still does). She left for work in the mornings before we left for school. Sometimes she would leave me a note asking me to “put the chicken on” at 5 pm so that part of dinner would be ready for her to work with when she got home in the evening. Usually it turned into Chicken and Rice or Chicken and Dumplings (Lordy- that’s a whole other post for the future), but it was ME who had the task of making the base. I always regarded this as a solemn duty and was so very proud that my mom trusted me enough (I think I was maybe 12 or 13 when I first did it) to ask me to not only handle a whole chicken but to also not burn the house down with open flame on the stove. I am a bit accident prone, after all.

But, enough reminiscing. Here’s the way the Kirby/Donovan/Houston women make stock. It isn’t fancy, and it isn’t the way the cookbooks will tell you, but it’s worked for us for who knows how many years, and I think it will work for you too.

Simple Chicken Stock


  • 1 whole chicken (In the US, the neck and organs will often be in a sack in the chest cavity of the bird. Be sure to remove this before cooking or you’ll be sorry. Don’t ask. Just trust me.)
  • 1 Bay Leaf*
  • Celery Salt
  • Pepper


  • Prepare the chicken by removing it from any packaging, cutting any trusses, removing any inner stuffing (see note above), and rinsing it clean under running water.
  • Place the chicken breast side down (when I was little I used to make the chicken dance on the counter to be sure which side was the breast) in a very large stockpot.
  • Fill the pot with water to cover the bird (he might float, so be sure to press him down to see how much water you really need).
  • Turn on high heat and season your chick with the bay leaf, celery salt, and pepper—use lots of the salt and pepper. Sometimes I throw in a bit of kosher salt too.
  • Once the water begins to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover your pot and leave it alone.
  • Check on your bird in 45 minutes. You know he’s done when the wings pull easily away from the body. If that isn’t happening, leave him cookin’ for another 15 minutes and then check again. Keep cooking until the “wing thing” happens.
  • Once the bird is done, remove him from the pot using whatever utensils you feel necessary. For me, this usually means a wooden spoon stuck in the body cavity, a large spatula and lots of cursing. Let the chicken drain for a second into the pot (hence the cursing—holding that bird over the pot can be a bit tricky).
  • Place the bird on a platter and allow to cool.
  • You now have a large quantity of chicken stock to use for whatever you like and a whole chicken that can be carved or plucked. I usually do the latter and add the bits to rice or soup, as I did with Katie’s recipe. Voila!

* Being married to a chef, I’ve recently discovered the hoity-toity bouqet garni (a mixture of bay leaves, thyme, and some other stuff) and have been playing around with one of those thrown into the pot with pepper and regular salt. We can buy them ready-made here at the grocery store, which is way easier than putting them together ourselves. If you can, try one out too. It adds a different flavor to the stock.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Les Journées du Patrimoine

Last Saturday, Jon and I decided to take part in the festivities surrounding French Heritage Days. Les Journées Europeans du Patrimoine take place one weekend each year during which many of the national buildings and places normally closed to the public open up. This means that historic mansions, laboratories, museums, and government buildings hide all their secret stuff and invite we mere plebeians in.

Our plan was to visit the Elysée Palace, which is the French equivalent of the White House. This is as close as we got- La Grille Coq.

By the time we arrived at the president’s house at noon, the line stretched down the Champs-Elysees and into the Place de la Concorde… this is a ridiculous length. A person near the head of the line told me she and her friends had already been waiting FIVE hours!! So, we grabbed a shot of the coq and left.

On to Plan B. The Moulin Rouge was participating in the festivities by offering tours of all the behind-the-scenes areas of its historic site. We were promised glimpses of costumes, dressing rooms, catwalks, the works!! But, alas, this plan too was foiled by crowds. By the time we got up to Pigalle, there were HUGE bouncers standing at the doors looking staid and grim. They said nothing (of course- they needed to look intimidating). It took a few minutes for a small lady to come out and announce that tours for the day were over. and that we should all come back tomorrow at 7 am to try again. It was 1 pm. No thanks. So, again I was forced to snap a photo of the famous windmill (not so cool looking in the daylight) and off we went.

Plan C? Luckily our third time was the charm. Abbesses was holding a little autumn festival, and since we were already in the Montmartre area, we thought we’d check it out. At the Place des Abbesses we found a brocante. The antique and random stuff sellers were scattered around the pretty square.

For me, it was SUPER fun! I dug through jars of old buttons, piles of old linens, boxes of old costume jewelry and silver tableware.

For Jon, well, let’s just say he didn’t think it was so much fun. He was a sport though, and let me do my rifling, after which we headed back to our hood.

We tried to visit an advertised wine festival over by the Ecole Militaire, but it was an almost non-existent affair, so we walked home instead. At the Champ de Mars we did stumble upon a Diversity Festival, complete with rock band, which struck us both as odd, seeing as how the French are some of the most “non-tolerant of those with disabilities” people I’ve ever met.

Perhaps they’re trying to change this, because the festival area was full of Parisians with varying mobilities and abilities. It was refreshing.

Later that evening, we managed to find a bar showing the FLA-TENN game. For the first time this season, we got all dolled up in our Gator gear and headed out to see our boys play.

It was great fun, not least because we kicked some Volunteer ass. We also drank Budweiser and ate chicken wings. It was very American of us, and I’m okay with that. Sometimes it’s nice to just be the loud, exuberant, and a bit dorky individuals we are. Maybe we added to the spirit of diversity in the air???

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eat the View

Last night, I attended a lecture at the American Club of Paris.  Roger Doiron (whose last name has always been a challenge for me because of its decidedly French provenance—how does one pronounce it in English?), the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, presented his organization’s work to get a garden planted on the lawn of the White House.  Beginning in February 2008, his campaign, Eat the View, worked successfully to bring edible sustenance back to America’s First Lawn and in so doing inspired thousands of Americans to do the same in their own green spaces.

Doiron, a soft-spoken man with a dry sense of humor, began his presentation with what he called the “Doom and Bloom” segment.  In presenting the depressing and yet oh- so- real statistics on U.S. oil consumption vs. food production and population growth, he raised the pertinent point that the days of the “3000 mile Caesar salad” are coming to an end.  Did you know that in the U.S., every one calorie of food takes TEN calories of fossil fuel energy to produce?!  That’s insane and completely unsustainable.  In short, Doiron’s statistics pointed out that while (and perhaps because) more people are being born into the world every year, we earthlings are living on less land on which to grow the food needed for these new mouths.  In other words, a new way of feeding ourselves will have to be embraced by the masses or else we will perish.

In comes Kitchen Gardeners International.  Doiron called himself “a crazy gardener from Maine” who started the non-profit in 2003 in order to help “connect the dots for people” wanting to grow their own food.  He considers the mission of the organization to be three-fold: To plant the next generation of gardeners, to teach and connect gardeners on-line, and to do the same on the ground, both near and far.  The organization today boasts a network of 10,000 gardeners in 100 countries (India, interestingly, has one of the most active networks).  Whenever I again have a yard (or even a balcony that actually gets sunlight of any sort), I intend to become involved in this network as well.

 KGI gained real notoriety when Doiron began work on the Eat the View campaign.  He showed us two videos he produced to help spread the message of bringing real food back to the White House lawn.  Did you know that the Wilson’s put sheep on the front lawn during WWI as a way to help conserve resources and Eleanor Roosevelt had a victory garden there during WWII?

Despite the fact that these two instances were the only times in the 20th century that food was grown at the White House and that food powerhouses, Michael Pollan in ’91 and Alice Waters in ’95, tried unsuccessfully to have Bush, Sr. and Clinton put in gardens, Doiron was convinced he could get the next president to grow something. And he did!  Through a successful video, internet, and press campaign, the Eat the View movement succeeded and a White House kitchen garden was planted by Michelle Obama, Chef Sam Kass, and local elementary kids on March 20, 2009. 

Perhaps the best part about the WH kitchen garden is that it wasn’t just for show.  The Obamas actually eat from it, and use the produce grown in official State dinners.  They also donate a large amount of its food to a local pantry.  To date, 450 pounds of food has come from the garden!!  It has also inspired America to get with the program—7 million home gardens were planted this year- and the rest of the Western world may be following suit.  Buckingham Palace put in a kitchen garden, although its people were quick to point out that there was no connection to the fact that Michelle O. had one.  Even still, the influence that one garden can have on the world, whether it be a famous one like at the White House or one in our own back yards, is considerable.

During the Q & A at the end of his presentation, Doiron was asked what political repercussions have come from the Obama’s garden (he was also asked what kind of “mud” he used on his garden by a 90-year-old lady in the front row- “compost” was the answer).  He mentioned that the chemical farming lobby had a lot of negative things to say about it because the garden is indeed an organic one.  Michelle O. wisely chose not to respond to the lobby’s statements, but the issue remains.  The lobbies for Big Agriculture are big forces in American politics, and in turn, American lives.  If you read any of Pollan’s books or Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, or Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, you’ll find this out.  And the issue with Big Ag isn’t just in the U.S.  I was dismayed to find out from a follow-up audience comment that it is illegal in Europe to sell the products of heirloom seeds!  That’s right- a European farmer selling fruits or veggies from a non-corporate seed source can be prosecuted for doing so (and apparently has been in France according to the audience member, although I need to research this, seeing as how it came from an older gentleman wearing an all green corduroy suit with red socks- reliable source?  Perhaps not.) 

Despite the political issues and “Doom and Bloom” statistics, Doiron’s lecture was a positive one, as is his message.  He closed the evening with a quote from Hugo, “More powerful than the march of invading armies is an idea whose time has come.”  He thinks that the time for the average man (or woman or child) to get his hands dirty in the garden has come, and I for one, agree.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Feast in A One-Pot Kitchen

Okay, we have more than one pot. But not much more, and what we do have is grossly below the standards of the normal Houston kitchen. We don't have an oven, for God's sake! But, both Jon and I have managed to cook some delish meals in this petit cuisine, and now we can add one more to the memory bank.

Because the weather has suddenly and definitively taken a turn towards the cool and fallish side, I've recently had a mean craving for hearty dishes. The other day, Megan and I decided to make just such a meal-- coq au vin. We decided this around 5 pm however, so we knew we couldn't make traditional coq au vin which calls for the chicken to marinate overnight in wine. Searching on my favorite recipe site,, I found just the answer- Quick Coq au Vin. Making it would require just under two hours. We set out to buy the ingredients.

Because I wanted Megan to get the real experience, we went to different, specialized vendors to buy the supplies, rather than getting everything at the grocery store. We went to the cheese shop to buy our before -dinner snack, to the Fruit and Veggie shop for the carrots, onions, celery, and mushrooms, to the butcher for the chicken (it had its head still on, which really freaked Meg out, especially when the butcher chopped it off on his big chopping block). We did sell out and go to Shopi for the wine and the pasta, but we were tired of walking at this point and already hungry from our dreams of the meal to come.

Megan prepped all the veggies. She was particularly impressed with our garlic stash-- a bunch of garlic heads we bought at a food festival way back in January. For some reason, they've stayed nice and fresh. In Florida, the garlic always sprouts. Maybe it's the variety or just the drier conditions here- who knows?

Because I know nothing about this sort of thing (and Jon was at work), I asked the butcher to cut up the chicken. Dredging the parts in flour, we browned the chicken and set aside.

The veggies had to be cooked in two batches because we don't have a pot big enough for doing it all at once. Once browned, we added a WHOLE BOTTLE OF RED WINE. We'd already broken into one of the bottles purchased for the occasion, so we knew Jon would have to be dispatched for more once he got home.

By this point, the smell in the apartment was OUT OF CONTROL!!!! Once Jon got home and smelled the winey, chickeney goodness waiting for him, he happily ran out to get more wine. Meanwhile, Megan and I kept sticking our faces over the pot to inhale the delicious scents.

Did I forget to mention that we also bought smoked bacon from the butcher? You can see it there on the plate. It imparted a fantastic flavor to the dish.

Once stewed a bit, the veggies and wine were joined by the browned chicken, bacon, and some stock I had leftover from the chicken and rice dinner.

The whole mix cooked for 45 minutes. We added cooked farfalle pasta at the end and voila! It was fantastic, but as we were STARVING and a bit tipsy at that point, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. You'll just have to make it yourself to see what it looks like.

Quick Coq Au Vin

  • Butter and/or olive oil (we used both)
  • 2 or 3 thick slices bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 handful flour, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 to 10 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, rinsed and halved
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 large sweet onions, chopped
  • 1 bottle good red wine (I've learned you should never cook with wine you wouldn't drink.)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cook the bacon in a large pot until crisp. Set aside.
  2. Shake the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour in a paper or plastic bag.
  3. In the same pot as you cooked the bacon, add butter and brown the chicken, 4-5 minutes per side. Set aside with the bacon.
  4. Add more butter and/or olive oil to the pot and sauté the veggies until they just begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Pour half the wine into the pan and cook over high heat for 8-10 minutes.
  6. Add the broth and the remaining wine. Bring to a boil and then add the chicken, bacon, and the bay leaf. Salt and pepper to your tastes.
  7. Return to a boil, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions (we used farfalle, but any short-type pasta would do. You could even use rice or potatoes if you were so inclined).
  9. Serve the coq au vin over the pasta. Bon Appetit!

*Note: We did play with the recipe a bit, so if you looked this up on, you would notice a difference. I also forgot to mention that this will serve 6 normal people or 4 fatboys.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Julie & Julia

I just got home from seeing the movie. It doesn't start until Wednesday here, but I was invited to a private screening by a friend in the American Women's Group. Words cannot express how much I enjoyed this film- but I'm going to try anyway.

Of course there are the obvious correlations-- Julia Child (like me) lived in Paris with her husband for a while, a sejourn that inspired within her a lifelong love of the French and their cooking. Her cooking, as it soon became. Some of my earliest tv memories are of watching her show on PBS (were they re-runs by then?) with my mom. I thought she was funny, especially the voice. Later, as a young woman, the first gift I ever received from my future mother-in-law was a copy of Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first thing I ever made from the book (and I am not making this up) was Boeuf Bourguignon, which also happens to have been the first thing Child's editor made in order to test the recipes in the work. It was that dish that sealed Julia's fate as America's culinary queen and that sealed mine as a lover of cooking. Unless you have slaved through the steps yourself, you cannot understand the feeling of accomplishment and pride you get with your first taste of the tender beef stewed in red wine and spices. Heaven on a plate, and the credit is all yours (and Julia's, of course).

On to Julie Powell. My sister-in-law gave me her book, the title of which was lent to the movie, for a birthday a few years back. I read it, but was not really impressed with her tone or her voice. In the movie, however, she is lovely. I just fell in love with her- I wanted to be her- I hate that I didn't come up with the idea myself! To spend one whole year, 365 days, cooking your way through Child's masterpiece and then writing about it? Imagine the things you would learn!!!

I think really though that why this movie makes me so happy is because I can identify with both women- Julia in the 50s and Julie now. Both women found their purpose well into their adult lives. For Julia, it was cooking, and through that cooking she found a career as a teacher and writer. For Julie, it too was cooking that gave her the start she needed to find success as an author. It makes me feel better-- being 30 with absolutely no idea what I'm to do with my life isn't the end of the world. I just have to keep looking for what truly makes me happy and make a career out of it.

On my way home tonight, I was walking down the Champs-Elysées in the rain. There were few people out once I got away from the hustle and bustle of the main drag. I felt peaceful, and looking ahead I could see the long line of the famous street lights winking through the mist. It looked just like one of the old photos I've seen a thousand times now on postcards and posters. The moment reminded me that I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to. Whatever I make of my life, I hope I find the same joy that both Julie and Julia got (and continue to get in the case of Julie) from theirs. I think I will. Now, if only I can learn how to de-bone a duck...

Let's Walk: Le Jardin du Musee Rodin

Having Megan here to myself for a whole week was a treat the scale of which I haven't had in quite a while. It was so nice to have someone to wander around with, or to watch downloaded movies with (we spent almost the entire day Wednesday watching the BBC's miniseries of Dicken's Bleak House), or to shop with, or just to talk to. We did lots of things, like going to the Musée D'Orsay, or wandering the banks of the Canal St. Martin, or walking in the garden of the Rodin Museum. I thought you, fair reader, might like to come along on that one, as it isn't really something most first (or even second) time visitors to Paris often see.

Rodin, the great 19th century sculptor, had his studio in the Hôtel Biron, an 18th century mansion built by a man who made his fortune from wigs. By Rodin's time, the mansion had been divided into individual apartments, one of which Rodin used to showcase his large-scale sculptures. He agreed to leave the greater part of his works to the State if the Biron mansion was turned into a museum to house them. This was done, and today the public can view both his works and those of his lover, Camille Claudel, inside the museum. The real draw, however, is the gardens, where Rodin's most famous pieces can be found and which cost only 1 Euro to enter!

Hôtel Biron

The first thing we see when we enter the garden is a statue I think we'll all recognize - Le Penseur.

The Thinker

A view of the dome of L'Eglise St. Louis, under which Napoleon is buried. Interestingly, there is a large space between the interior and exterior domes where French Resistance fighters hid Allied pilots who had crash-landed in Occupied France during WWII.

Crossing to the left, we come upon the huge piece called Les Portes d'Enfer. We're excited to see it, not just for the detail on the piece, but also because we just saw the mold for the work in the Musée d'Orsay.

The Gates of Hell

Detail from The Gates of Hell... Recognize him?

The next piece we come to is Les Burghers de Calais. This piece was commissioned by the town of Calais to commemorate the six brave men who surrendered themselves to the invading English during the Hundred Years' War in order to save the lives of their townspeople

The Burghers of Calais

Now, let's admire the actual gardens themselves. Looking around, we're amazed by how all of this greenery and lushness is hidden in the middle of the city, behind great walls. If we didn't know better, we could never imagine what was hidden here. It makes me wonder what's behind all the other great walls I pass on a regular basis in this town.

A last bit of summer.

But it really is fall, as we can see from the chestnuts, all ready to shed their leaves...

... And their fruit! Maybe we'll follow in Karen's footsteps and forage some to roast at home.

Finally, we find the statue of Balzac in a little corner of the garden. We saw the mold for this one at Orsay the other day. There's something about him that is a bit unsettling, a bit too grand. I think Rodin was trying to capture more of the greatness of Balzac's work than of the man, himself. I mean, he did write La Comedie Humaine.


That's it for the garden. We could have spent hours there, but we had a dinner to cook. More on that later...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jon's Got Skillz!

During Jon's days off last week, I was treated to two nights in a row of his cooking. Jon's always been a good cook, but since his training here in France, I can honestly say that he is now a great one.

When he used to cook back home, before Ferrandi and the Ritz entered the picture, it was a 50/50 chance that what he threw together would actually be tasty. I say it this way because despite a ridiculously large collection of cookbooks, the man does not believe in using them to actually cook with. Rather, they're nice things to look at. Seeing as how I am a stickler for following a recipe and am only really comfortable with deviation after a thorough knowledge of making the dish, i.e. I've done it a million times, I never really understood Jon's attitude towards cooking. It seems now, however, that he was just waiting for the training necessary to create great dishes from only the information floating in his head.

Exhibit A: Sauteed Shrimp with Creamed Leeks and
Herbed Potatoes

Jon learned how to make the leeks the other day at work and, as I am a complete FREAK for leeks (and for cream for that matter), he knew I would love them. He also sauteed up some shrimp, another of my favorite things to eat, and practiced his turning skills with the potatoes. This was one of the best meals I've eaten in quite a while. It was even yummier because we watched Mad Men while we ate. That Joan is one fine broad, let me tell you.

Exhibit B: Thai Chicken and Noodle Soup

Something else that I really enjoy eating, but rarely do, is coconut-milk soup. It's just not something that I think of, but when placed in front of me, I will go to town on a bowl or two. Jon wanted to practice his knife skills, so he hacked up some chicken wings and legs, made a DELICIOUS broth, cut carrots into pretty flower shapes (can you see them in the photo?), added baby corn (love!), snow peas, and noodles, a bit of sriracha, and coconut milk, and voila- a yummy, spicy, filling, and simple dinner for two.

I think this evidence helps my argument that my husband is a good chef. I don't want to call him a cook anymore. I'm a cook- I learned any skills I might have from my mom, an excellent cook in her own right- but I'm not trained. I can't take random ingredients and make a gourmet meal out of them. I can't cut carrots into shapes or make each onion dice the exact same size as the next (in fact, my onion chopping skills are deplorable- it's a miracle I've made it this long without cutting off a fingertip or two). But Jon-- he can do all of these things and he's getting better every day. As evidence of this, he was promoted the other day. Chef Michel Roth (Two Michelin Stars, People. TWO.) walked up to Jon, pointed at him, and said in broken English, "I want you for the Espadon." That was it. Jon was filled in later by an English speaking colleague that as of the end of September, he will be on the petit garde manger station at the big restaurant. This is a BIG deal, even though Jon speaks lightly of it.

I'm really proud of him. So proud, in fact, that we took a little trip to E. Dellherin, the rambling, old restaurant supply store in the 1st arrondisement. It's been around since 1820 and it looks it. I took contraband photos of the interieur (I hear they ban you indefinitely if you're caught) while Jon spent an hour deciding on which turning knife to buy, but hey, it was his reward. I couldn't (and didn't want to) complain.

Yes, you could cook a small child in this pot, it's that big!

You will be mine someday, Stuab Pot.
Oh yes- you will be mine.

A Brush With Food-Writing Fame

Yesterday I had the chance to meet David Lebovitz, the very popular Ex-Pat food blogger and writer.  Originally from San Francisco and the school of Alice Waters, he moved to Paris years ago.  His eponymous blog is a wealth of information on the city's food culture.  I really enjoy his writing and, lucky for me, he was signing copies of his books at one of the green bouquinistes stalls along the Seine.  So, I grabbed my camera and my wallet and off I went in search of foodie fame.

Being the super dork that I am, I was of course the first person there.  Lebovitz and his partner, Romain, seemed a little out of sorts that someone would arrive on time for the beginning of the event (Lebovitz is a self-professed vrai parisien, which of course means that he now has no concept of time in relation to keeping to a schedule.  In France, show up to everything at least 30 minutes late- it will keep you from looking like an early-bird and an idiot).  Oh well- I was out walking and just happened to be in the vicinity of the river at 2 pm- what could I do?! 
Truth be told, I actually considered walking non-nonchalantly past the stand and down the quai, turning around and heading back when the appropriate time had elapsed.  But, sometimes I just feel the need to embrace my American exuberance, and this was one of those times.  I made some joke along the lines of, "Am I the first one?," which elicited anxious chuckles from the hosts and well... that was that.  I bought a book (his latest, The Sweet Life in Paris), had it signed, asked for a picture, and voila!  Romain acutally chatted with me for a bit and offered me wine, but I passed.  I was just there to meet the man whose blog I read religiously, who has introduced me to many of the culinary pleasures of Paris that are to be found off the beaten path, and really, to get some material for my own blog.   Mission accomplished all around, I'd say.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lazy Afternoon in Luxembourg

Megan came back yesterday and as her hubby skedaddled back to the States this morning and mine went to slave away in the bowels of the Ritz, we had the whole day to ourselves.  She's been traveling and on the go a lot lately, so we decided to take it easy.  We lounged about all morning, getting motivated to leave the apartment only when our bellies growled for food.  After a nice salad lunch at one of my favorite local cafes (The Cafe St. Placide), we strolled down to Luxembourg Garden.  Here's a bit of what we did:

 Reading at the Medici Fountain

Watching this adorable old retriever evade his owner and the police while chasing ducks in the Grand Basin.

Watching the old men play a serious game of Boules.
Peeking at the beehives-- the honey will be for sale at the end of the month!
Admiring the abundant fruit trees-- Napoleon instituted courses here in the fruit-growing arts, open to the public, that continue to this day!

 Afternoon tea at Bread and Roses Cafe.

Although it was a nice and warm day, with plenty of sun, the faint hint of fall was still in the air.  Summer is over here in Paris.  Everyone seems to know it, even the trees...