I am not one for cluttering my kitchen with unnecessary kitchen gadgets. I prize my counter top and storage space, so every piece of equipment has to earn it's place. For me, the electric spice mill is an unsung star of the kitchen and has to rate among my top five favorite kitchen tools. It's of course essential for making my own spice mixes, but is also a dependable little machine for grinding, mixing and blending quantities too small for a blender or food processor, such as kaffir lime powder, dressings, sauces and pastes. It saves on the cleaning up too! A clever trick for cleaning after grinding spices is to grind a small quantity of rice, empty, and then wipe clean with paper towel.

What's your favorite kitchen gadget?


Another side of Montmartre

My fantastic assistant, Emily Buchanan, is taking over the blog today with a guest post about her Parisian neighborhood in the l8th arrondissement. Follow her here for the latest on dependable restaurants, wine shops, bakeries, and more!


Au Bon Coin – a neighborhood institution

Another side of Montmartre

[Guest post by Emily Buchanan]

Over the past five years or so, the outer boroughs of Paris have become hubs for gastronomic renewal. Lower rents and young restaurant-loving locals make the outer arrondissements, particularly in the north of Paris, favored locations for young chefs and restaurateurs to set up shop and make a name for themselves. Of course, not all the outer neighborhoods guarantee fine croissants, good coffee and satisfying bistro dining, but when one does spring to life and the old mingles with the new it’s always exciting to watch.

Just north of the Caulaincourt metro, away from the throngs of tourists on nostalgic Amelie tours and wandering the steep cobbled streets in search of the Sacré Coeur, is a quiet, very residential neighborhood, fast making a name for itself as a culinary hotspot of the 18th.

How do I know this? Because it’s my neighborhood. When I moved here four years ago, there was scarcely a decent bistro to speak of. Now, I can barely keep up with the new openings all over the neighborhood, from new ethical grocers, to hip, modern bistros.

If you find yourself hungry in Montmartre, skip the terraced cafés on rue des Abbesses and head north of Caulaincourt for a more authentic bite of the local Paris dining scene. Here are my favorites, old and new.


Montcalm - Modern French bistro

After only five months, this small 14-seat bistro has hit its stride, serving a simple but flavorful menu. Dishes change daily but you can expect such elegant dishes as an entrée of zucchini gaspacho adorned with thin slices of haddock, or an original take on a salmon tartare with preserved lemons, showered in salty salicorne (sea greens). Or for main course a falling-off-the bone, succulent, slow-cooked lamb from the Limousin, served with a butternut squash puree. It has a certain zeitgeist feel – modernist décor, open kitchen, bar and a menu that only gives a list of ingredients. But the food is honest, and the service genuine and friendly. An excellent addition to the neighborhood.

21 rue Montcalm   | +33 1 42 58 71 35   |   Open Monday to Saturday. Closed Monday dinner and all day Sunday   |   À la carte 30-35€.


Au Bon Coin - traditional café

A neighborhood institution, Au Bon Coin is a welcoming place to refuel at just about anytime of day: for a quick morning coffee at the bar (this is no craft coffee, just straight up French espresso with no frills), or for a more leisurely beer or glass of wine later in the day. The menu remains staunchly classic – good but not spectacular. The sautéed pommes de terre, however, are completely addictive.

49 rue des Cloÿs   |   +33 1 46 06  91 36   |   Monday to Saturday 8am to midnight (lunch daily, dinner Monday to Thursday).

Bululu Arepera – Venezuelan café

This shoebox of a restaurant is run by a super-friendly Franco-Venezuelan couple, Joss and Victoria.  The mainstay of the menu is traditional Venuezuelan areperas, baked and fried cornmeal pockets with freshly made fillings, like chicken, avocado, black beans, cheese and baked plantains. A recent favorite lunch menu entrée was a deep flavorsome beef broth with cubes of white sweet potato, and spiced up with some coriander and hot chili sauces.

20 rue de la Fontaine du But   |  +33 1 42 54 96 25   |   Wednesday to Friday noon-11pm, Saturday-Sunday noon-5pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday | individual areperas 7€, lunch menu 14€

                    Owner Victoria preparing for the lunch service at Bululu Arepera

Melali Coffee Riders – Coffee bar

This new coffee bar (by the owners of Bululu, above) brews one of the best coffees you’ll find in this part of the Montmartre neighborhood, using Belleville Brulerie roasted beans. On hot days their iced coffee is hard to beat, but as the weather gets cooler it's a toss up between the guayoyo (filter coffee) or their perfectly executed cappuccino.

10 rue de la Fontaine du But|   Open daily, Monday to Friday 7:30am-3pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm   |   coffee 2 – 4.50€

                    Melali Coffee Riders


Esquisse – Modern French bistro

Another new bistro addition, the bustling, convivial Esquisse (meaning 'sketch') serves up classic bistro dishes with a modern twist. I loved their hearty reinvention of a caillette (round, pâté-like pork sausage mixed with vegetables and wrapped in caul fat) using veal, a lighter, more contemporary version of its traditional Provençal counterpart.

151bis rue Marcadet   |   +33 1 53 41 63 04   |   Open Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday   |   À la carte 30-40€.


Le Ruisseau – Hamburger bar

At Le Ruisseau you can find a fine burger: a seriously respectable classic cheese and bacon, or go for the more unusual goat cheese burger made with Saint-Maure de Touraine, caramelized onions, honey, mustard and baby spinach. The ubiquitous hamburger joints across Paris aren’t all good, but this one is a keeper.

65 rue du Ruisseau   |   +33 1 42 23 31 23   |   Open Monday dinner-Sunday. Closed Monday lunch   |   Bugers 12 – 14€ (served with home made fries or salad).

                   Le Ruisseau

Boulangerie Bel Ange – Bakery | Pastry Shop

The breakfast pastries in this unassuming-looking bakery are buttery yet light and perfectly flaky. And try the tasty rustic pain aux cereals, mixed grain loaf.

145 rue Marcadet   |   +33 1 42 58 75 74   |   Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday 7:30am-8:30pm, Sunday 8am-8pm. Closed Wednesday.


Delmontel – Bakery | Pastry Shop

The dessert pastries in the window will have you pressing your nose up to the glass and reconsidering your latest diet. Their tourte auvergate, a dense nutty rye loaf, is worth a detour, but I give mixed reviews to their viennoiseries (breakfast pastries).

57 rue Damrémont   |   +33 1 42 64 59 63   |   Open Tuesday to Saturday 7am-8:30pm, Sunday 7am-8pm. Closed Monday.


Il Brigante – Pizzeria

Calabrian chef/owner Salvatore Rototori was voted the best pizzaiolo (pizza thrower) in Paris by French food guide Le Fooding last year and they are not wrong.  Using the freshest ingredients direct from his home region in the south of Italy, everything is good here – try the Garabaldi with buffalo mozzarella, arugula, cherry tomatoes and spicy Calabrian cured meat capicollo or La Salina white pizza withbroccoli (cime di rapa), bufalo ricotta and marinated anchovies and transport yourself to Italia.

14 rue du Ruisseau   |   +33 1 44 92 72 15   |   Open Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday   |   Pizza 9 – 18€

                   Owner Salvatore Rototori – Il Brigante

Chez Virginie – Cheese Shop

Simply one of the finest cheese shops in Paris – and one of just a handful that ages their cheese in their own cellar beneath the shop (cheese tours and cheese tastings are available in English and French). It's always a difficult decision given the vast choice of excellent cheese here, however you can't go wrong with one of their raw milk goat cheeses such as the thyme-infused baguette du thym. If you’re a cheese lover, don’t miss this gorgeously displayed and extremely well stocked shop. They also carry superior quality milk, Bordier butter, and various condiments to accompany cheese.

54 rue Damrémont   |   +33 1 46 06 76 54   |   Open Tuesday-Saturday 9:30am-1pm, and 4pm-8pm, Sunday 10am-1pm. Closed Monday.


18 sur Vin – Wine Shop

If natural wines are your thing, or you are curious to learn more, owner Alban Le Cam knows the story behind every bottle and has an extensive selection of natural, biodynamic and organic wines, mostly from small French producers, all at modest prices. A recent summer discovery is the bold yet refreshing Côte-du-Rhone white, Vigne du Prieuré blanc 2014 from Château Gigognan, a southern Rhône white blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Clairette.

154 rue Ordener   |   +33 9 81 44 10 16   |   Open Monday 5-7pm, Tuesday to Thursday 10:30am-1:30pm and 4:30-9pm, Friday 4:30-9pm, Saturday 10am-9pm. Closed Sunday.

Primeur Ethique – organic grocer

I am addicted to this newly opened organic fruit and vegetable shop, mostly for its fabulous heirloom tomatoes that taste like they have been grown in the earth and sunshine, as tomatoes should. I love the fact that they have a section of produce that does not carry an organic label but has been minimally sprayed, so there’s a price point to suit all budgets.

64 bis rue du Ruisseau   |   + 33 7 82 59 73 40   |   Open Monday 2:30-7:30pm, Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am-7:30pm. Free home delivery for online orders at

Soul Kitchen

For some California sunshine in Paris, try this breezy hillside café that serves up excellent Coutume-roasted coffee, granola, breakfast muffins and healthy daily-changing lunch menus.

33 rue Lamarck   |   +33 1 71 37 99 95   |   Open Tuesday to Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm. Closed Monday and most public holidays.


Patisserie Boris – Pastry Shop | Bakery

One of the prettiest, and most delicious pastry shops in the 18th, if not the whole of Paris. Recently reviewed here.

48 rue Caulaincourt   |   +33 1 46 06 96 71   |   Open Tuesday-Sunday 7:45am-8:30pm, Sunday 7:45am-7pm. Closed Monday

                    Pâtisserie Boris Lumé

                    Pâtisserie Boris Lumé


Slightly further afield from this Caulaincourt-Lamarck pocket, but still worth a mention:


La Table d’Eugene – Modern French restaurant

This has been, in my view, the best restaurant in the 18th for many years. Previously, the room was a little pokey but every dish was perfectly conceived, using the freshest of ingredients, and the prices were truly affordable. A recent interior décor makeover helped it get its first Michelin star this past March. Prices have gone up a bit, particularly in the evening but the Tuesday through Saturday lunch menu still remains very reasonable, and worth every penny.

18 rue Eugène Sue   |   +33 1 42 55 61 64   |   Open Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday   |  lunch menu 31 – 38€, dinner dégustation menu 79 – 99€ (120 – 160€ with wine pairings).

La Rallonge – Wine bar

Meaning ‘the extension’, La Rallonge is the wine bar annex of La Table d’Eugene. Some favorites from the Table d’Eugene menu have migrated next door to join the wine bar offerings, including the much loved ‘risotto’ de coquillettes (tiny pasta shells with cèpe mushrooms and truffles).

16 rue Eugène Sue   |   +33 1 42 59 43 24   |   Open Monday to Saturday from 7pm. Closed Sunday   |   small plates 5 – 14€, cheese and charcuterie platters 8 – 33€

Les Caves du Roy – Wine Shop

You almost can’t go wrong in this wine shop, who specializes in rare wines and supplies wines for La Table d’Eugene’s extensive and well-selected list. Vintages from Eric and Joël Durand and La Domaine de la Janasse have become go-to favorites.

31 rue Simart   |   +33 1 42 23 99 11   |   Open Monday 3-8:30pm, Tuesday to Friday 10am-1:30pm and 3-8:30pm, Saturday 10am-8:30pm. Closed Sunday and Monday morning.

For the complete reviews of some of these addresses and for other recommendations of where to eat in Paris, get The Food Lover's Guide to Paris 5th edition book or the App for the iPhone (also works on the iPad).


All photos © Emily Buchanan.

Taste of the week: Labeling your way to a more organized kitchen

La rentrée – the time of year in early September when France goes back to real life after a long, lazy summer break – is as much a formalized part of the year as Christmas or Easter. Kids are heading back to school, the papeteries (stationery shops) and supermarkets are piled high with stacks of notebooks, pens, diaries, ready to supply the nation with everything needed to start the new year. And while the only school I'll be attending is my cooking school, I always rejoice in a bit of annual reorganization. I round up unused utensils cluttering my kitchen and give them to friends, reorganize my cupboards after a month or two of hosting guests over the summer, and make sure my kitchen is in perfect order – not just so that my students can easily find their way around, but so that I can turn my hand to any task with a clear work space at my fingertips.

Strangely enough, one of my most frequently used items in my kitchen is not used for cooking. It's my label maker, the key to an orderly kitchen. Here are five ways in which labeling can transform your kitchen storage:

  1. Label and date anything that goes into your freezer, and also note it on a master list nearby. You think you'll remember what's in each container, but two months later, when the bag is frozen and your memory has faded, you'll be happy you have a well-marked inventory of your freezer contents.
  2. When storing leftovers in the fridge in glass or plastic containers, label the outside for clear identification. Then you're much less likely to leave perfectly good leftovers to languish at the back.
  3. Label spices and salts by jar in the same way. And if you like to renew your spices every six months, label the date of opening on the bottom of the jar.
  4. I always decant flours and grains into glass jars for storage. Labeling the jars makes for a much neater pantry, and helps avoid that moment when you're not sure if you're looking at self-raising flour, bread flour or plain flour. For grains, it's always useful to note the suggested cooking time and amount of water to cook in.
  5. If you have a lot of people coming through your kitchen like I do, labeling drawers and shelves for specific ingredients and cooking utensils is one of the best ways to make sure everything ends up back in its proper place at the end of the day.

Of course, you don't have to go out and buy a label maker, a roll of labeling tape and a sharpie can do the trick just as well. Happy organizing!

An inspired meal at Ellsworth

Fried clams, corn, cream, marinated peppers, basil

Braden Perkins the immensely creative chef behind Palais Royal restaurant Verjus, and the adjacent Verjus wine bar, is going for a third win with his latest tapas-style endeavor, Ellsworth (a tribute to Perkins’s Grandfather). Perkins has installed 22 year old Canadian Hannah Kowalenko as head chef, who adds a brand of inventiveness beyond her years to Perkins’s already impressive repertoire.

The evening menu, which offers nearly a dozen substantive little tastes, a cheese selection and two desserts to choose from, is perfect for a quick snack or a multi-course feast, depending upon one’s appetite of the moment. The food is generally full of bright, vibrant flavors, well-seasoned (although at times a little heavy handed with the salt), and cleverly conceived, with no theme that screams “you’ve seen this all before too many times.” Most dishes are priced at 10 to 13€, each copious enough for two to share.

The long, narrow dining room, with plenty of bright window space, is sober but not cold, with light wooden floors, crisp white walls, 1930s style bistro chairs, antique brass wall sconces, and slate grey banquettes. The small white marble tables, white linen napkins (thank you!), and beautifully engraved Ellsworth wine glasses give the place a touch of class, freshness, and modernity.

As if Kowalenko had been given a list of my personal preferences, I happily discovered the seasonal menu (which changes regularly according to market offerings) replete with some of my current favorite ingredients and dishes: seasonal corn, green beans, pork meatballs, deep-fried clams and grilled squid. Each dish has a personal signature and when a dish sings it does so loud and clear. My favorites were the fried clams (palourdes) set on a bed of fresh corn kernels bathed in a light creamed corn soup, a touch of basil, and a few slices of marinated baby peppers. The clams were heavily breaded and fried to a perfect golden crunch, with the sweet corn serving as fresh, lively foil.

I loved, as well, the fresh green beans and pencil-thin baby carrots that were seriously wok-style sautéed over high heat, giving them a smoky, meaty personality. She is clever with flavor pairings and pays close attention to how texture plays in a dish. Here the smoky vegetables were set against a bed of mild creamy houmous, a touch of sesame, and covered with a shower of deliciously crunchy bread crumbs, a combination that awakened one’s palate and could almost have been a meal in itself.

The least interesting dish of the meal was the homemade mozzarella, thin as lasagna, wrapped like Vietnamese rice paper around a very good blend of tiny cubes of sautéed tomatoes and zucchini, seasoned with herbs and capers. While the filling was truly satisfying, the mozzarella itself lacked flavor and substance, and left me wondering why bother making such things in-house when the results are so underwhelming. The dish’s visual appeal cannot be denied though.

The baby squid was decisively seared to a smoky high and was set on a bed of timidly seasoned riced potatoes and leeks – good but I would have preferred a bolder pairing. One of my favorite dishes of the meal – the beautifully seasoned and well-seared pork meatballs – were sadly marred by an unforgivably harsh harissa.

Desserts were winners, with a very moist and intense walnut cake topped with a colorful, generous, full-flavored blend of seasonal fruits – cubed peaches, nectarines, blueberries and giant blackberries just slightly warm – finished with dulche de leche, a dollop of cream and bits of crunchy, crumbled walnuts (photo below). The pairing of malt ice cream and chocolate sorbet was brilliant and quite irresistible, even after the marathon sampling of little plates.


I’ll go back for sure, as this meal rates among the most inspired I have had in many months, and I am keen to follow the culinary adventures of both Perkins and Kowalenko through the seasons.

At lunch time there is a set, fixed price menu, with a trio of choices at each course. The wine list offers a good selection of sips by the glass, and service is swift and pleasant.

Ellsworth   |   34 rue de Richelieu   |   Paris 1   |   +33 142 60 59 66   |   Métro: Pyramides or Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre   |   Fixed price lunch menu 18-24€, Sunday brunch à la carte 8-15€ per plate, dinner small plates menu 10-13€   |   www.ellsworthparis.com   |   ellsworthparis@gmail.com  


For more Paris restaurant reviews, get The Food Lover's Guide to Paris 5th edition or download the app.

Taste of the week: Heirloom tomato platter

This has been a rough year for our vegetable garden, and while my heirloom tomatoes usually supply enough for an army, right now they are struggling to produce their usual bounty. Meagre as the offerings may be,  the tomatoes that are growing have tons of flavor. Some favorite varieties — such as kaki coing, black prince, noire de crimée, and striped germain — offer intense pleasure. At every meal, I slice up a rainbow selection,  shower them with a touch of fleur de sel, homemade lemon vinaigrette, and tiny leaves of basil from my amazing basil “trees” in the courtyard.

This simple platter is a favorite way to enjoy a tomato's fresh juicy sweetness. Here I have topped the tomato slices with ruffles of the firm Swiss cheese Tête de Moine, shaved with a special machine called a girolle, but any cheese of choice can be used here.

Heirloom Tomato Platter

6 servings   |   Equipment: A cheese girolle, a mandolin or a very sharp knife; a large serving platter.

Tomato Platter

6 ripe heirloom tomatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds; 625 g), preferably of varied colors

6 thin ruffles of Tête de Moine cheese, created with a cheese girolle if available (see Note)
A handful of fresh herbs, such as green basil, purple basil, shiso and Delfino cilantro, rinsed and patted dry
About 2 tablespoons Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing (below)
Fleur de sel


Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing

About 1 1/4 cups (310 ml) Equipment: A small jar with a lid.

1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fine sea salt    
1 cup (250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Arrange the tomatoes in overlapping layers on the serving platter. Garnish with the cheese and herbs. Drizzle the dressing over all and season lightly with fleur de sel.

Note: A cheese girolle can be found in my amazon store, . If you do not have a girolle, cut the cheese into paper-thin slices with a mandoline or a very sharp knife.










Place the lemon juice and salt in the jar. Cover and shake to dissolve the salt. Add the oil and shake to blend. Taste for seasoning. (Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.) Shake again at serving time to create a thick emulsion.

Announcing 2017 cooking class dates

With pleasure and anticipation I am announcing our At Home with Patricia Wells cooking class dates for 2017 (all our 2016 classes are now full).

The season will begin, as ever, with our spectacular Truffle Extravaganza in January. In March and April, our popular week-long class Cooking in Paris will include plenty of seasonal hands-on cooking, a market visit, cheese, wine and oil tastings, as well as an unforgettable three-star meal. Our June and September, week-long classes Cooking in Provence, cooking with herbs, fruits and vegetables straight from the garden, sipping wine from the vineyard, visiting the vibrant market in Vaison-la-Romaine, meeting with winemakers and cheese merchants, and enjoying the cuisine of our local chefs.

Advance notice of these dates were offered to our newsletter subscribers and those on the 2016 waiting list. The response has been overwhelming, and some classes are now full.



January 23 to 27, 2017


March 27 to 31, 2017
April 10 to 14,  2017
April 24 to 28, 2017


June 11 to 16, 2017 (full)
June 25 to 30,  2017
Sept 10 to 15, 2017 (full)
Sept 24 to 29, 2017 (full)



If your preferred class is already full, email us to be put on the waiting list, as cancellations do happen. Classes are filling up fast, so don't miss out!


Taste of the week: Fig and almond tart

Picking figs is one of the greatest joys of my Provençal garden. I love the pure luxury of grabbing a plump ripe fig straight from a branch, tearing it open to reveal its ruby red seeded heart, and then devouring it right there beneath the tree's leafy canopy.

We have several varieties of fig trees on our property and they are such industrious little producers that I often have more figs than I know what to do with. Which is how I came to develop this recipe. My favorite is the ronde de Bordeaux, small figs with a deep purple, almost black exterior and a vibrant red interior, that are ideal for tarts and jams. I love to serve this tart with roasted fig sorbet.

Fig and Almond Tart

8 servings   |   Equipment:  A 10-inch (25 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom; a rolling pin; a baking sheet lined with baking parchment; a food processor.

A 14-ounce (400 g)all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen (see Note)
1 cup (80 g) almond meal (see Note)
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces; 75 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup (65 g) unrefined cane sugar, preferably organic, and vanilla scented
2 tablespoons (20 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk, preferably organic and free-range
1 tablespoon fig jam
35 to 40 (1 3/4 pounds; 875 g) small purple figs, stems trimmed
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

NOTES: •    In our tests, we have preferred Dufour brand frozen puff pastry, available at most specialty supermarkets. See www.dufourpastrykitchens.com. Be sure to leave ample time for thawing frozen dough, at least 6 hours in the refrigerator.

Almond meal (sometimes called almond flour) is made from whole, unblanched (skin-on) almonds. For this recipe, whole, unblanched almonds can be finely ground in a food processor. Do not over-process or you may end up with almond butter.

1.    Fold the pastry in half, transfer it to the tart pan and unfold it. Without stretching the dough, lift it up at the edges so that it naturally falls against the rim of the pan. With your fingertips, very delicately coax the dough onto the rim. There should be a generous overhang. With the rolling pin, roll over the top of the tin, trimming off the overhanging pastry to create a smooth, well-trimmed shell.

2.    Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the tart shell on the baking sheet.

3.    In the food processor, combine the almond meal, butter, sugar, flour, egg yolk, and fig jam and process to blend. Transfer the almond mixture to the pastry shell. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Place in the oven and bake just until the pastry firms up and begins to brown, and the almond mixture browns, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

4.    Cut an X in the top of each fig and gently squeeze from the bottom to open the fruit like a flower. Arrange the figs, cut side up, side by side on top of the almond mixture.

5.    Return the tart pan to the oven and bake until the figs and the filling are dark and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. While the tart is still warm, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. After about 10 minutes, carefully remove the tart from the sides of the pan, leaving it on the pan base. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges. This tart is best served the day it is baked.

The secret: Use ripe, but not overly ripe figs, which tend to give up too much liquid and turn the pastry soggy.

Tip: Figs freeze beautifully. Treat them as you would berries: Arrange the whole fruit stem side up, side by side on a baking sheet, and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a zippered plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months. For use, thaw at room temperature.



This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Vanilla sugar

I always have vanilla-scented sugar on hand when making desserts, to give an injection of that warm, comforting aroma so perfectly suited to so many sweet dishes.

To make vanilla-scented sugar: Flatten one or several moist vanilla beans. Cut them lengthwise in half. With a small spoon, scrape out the seeds and place them in a small jar; reserve the seeds for another use. Fully dry the vanilla bean halves at room temperature. Place the dry halves in a large jar with a lid, and cover them with sugar. Tighten the lid and store for several weeks to scent and flavor the sugar. Use in place of regular sugar when preparing desserts.

A tip from my latest cookbook The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence.

Taste of the week: Homemade molds

© Jeff Kauck

I love repurposing items, particularly packaging, into something useful in my kitchen. And why buy expensive stainless steel kitchen molds when you can just make them out of an empty tomato paste can? Simple remove the top and bottom of the can and you have an instant mold to make dishes like this gorgeous tomato tartare (you can find the recipe in The French Kitchen Cookbook).

Taste of the week: Tomato Tatins

Tomato Tatins © Jeff Kauck

Now that summer is in full bloom, it's a race against time to use all the tomatoes I have growing in my garden. This recipe, which I developed in my farmhouse kitchen with good friend Jeffrey Bergman, is a favorite way to get tomatoes on my table. It's a deceptive recipe, quite simple to execute but with the marvellous outcome of 'did I really create this beauty?!'. The key here is the balance of sweet and acid. The shallots and vinegar, as well as the touch of caramel, are essential to creating a dish full of contrasting flavors.


Tomato Tatins

Serves 8   |     Equipment: Three baking sheets; eight 1/2 cup (125 ml) ramekins; a 3 1/2-inch (8.75 cm) pastry cutter.


3 pounds (1.5 kg) small, firm, garden-fresh red heirloom tomatoes (about 15)
Fine sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil spray


A 14-ounce (400 g) homemade or purchased all-butter puff pastry, (thawed if frozen) (see Note)


4 large shallots peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into thin half-moons
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Espelette pepper or other mild ground chile pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


1/2 cup (100 g) white, refined sugar (do not use dark, unrefined cane sugar)
4 teaspoons water
1/8 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

16 fresh basil leaves, plus more leaves for garnish
1/4 cup (25 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese



1.    Roast the tomatoes: Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C).  

2.    Core the tomatoes and halve them crosswise (at the equator.) Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, side by side, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Spray lightly with oil. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the tomatoes have shrunk by about one-third, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This is an important step to condense tomato flavor and reduce moisture. (The tomatoes can be baked up to 1 day in advance, stored in an airtight container, and refrigerated.)

3.    Prepare the pastry: With the pastry cutter, cut out 8 rounds of pastry. Arrange the rounds side by side on a baking sheet. With a fork, prick the pastry. (The pastry rounds can be prepared up to 8 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)

4.    Prepare the shallot mixture: In a small saucepan, combine the shallots, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir to coat the shallots with the oil. Sweat – cook, covered, over low heat, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft and translucent – about 5 minutes. Add the Espelette pepper and the vinegar. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the vinegar has evaporated, but the mixture remains moist. Taste for seasoning. (The shallots can be prepared up to 1 day in advance, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated.)

5.    Prepare the caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook undisturbed until sugar begins to caramelize, about 1 minute.  Pay close attention as the caramel will deepen in color quickly at this stage.  Swirl the pan gently and cook until the caramel is a deep amber, about 1 minute more.  Spoon a generous tablespoon of the caramel into the ramekins and tilt the ramekins so that the caramel evenly coats the bottom. (This can be done up to 8 hours in advance. Store at room temperature.)

6.    Bake the tatins: About 30 minutes before baking the tatins, center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

7.    Arrange the caramel-coated ramekins side by side on a baking sheet. Place 2 or 3 tomato halves, cut side up, into each ramekin. Press down on the tomatoes so that they fit snugly into the ramekins. Spoon the shallot mixture on top of the tomatoes. Place 2 basil leaves on top of the shallots.  Sprinkle with the cheese.

8.    Place a round of chilled pastry on top of each ramekin and tuck the dough around the tomatoes. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the pastry is puffed and golden and the tomatoes are bubbling around the edges, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool for at least 2 minutes.

9.    Carefully invert each tatin onto an individual salad plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, garnished with basil leaves. (The tatins can be prepared up to 8 hours in advance, stored at room temperature.)


Note: In our tests, we have preferred Dufour brand frozen puff pastry, available at most specialty supermarkets. See www.dufourpastrykitchens.com (I have no affiliation with this brand, this is purely a personal preference).

Be sure to leave ample time for thawing frozen dough, at least 6 hours in he refrigerator.


This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Cobb Salad

My Cobb Salad  © Jeff Kauck

In mid summer, it is a fresh, crunchy salad that will get me through the day. This American classic is a favorite with the crunch of the iceberg and scallions, the soft richness of the avocado, the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the tomato, the bite of the blue cheese – this salad has it all!  And it is beautiful to boot.


My Cobb Salad: Iceberg, Tomato, Avocado, Bacon, Blue Cheese. and Scallions 

4 servings

2 1/2 ounces smoked bacon, rind removed, cut into matchsticks (3/4 cup)
1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
2 ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, , peeled, seeded and chopped
1 large, ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
4 ounces chilled blue cheese (preferably Roquefort), crumbled (1 cup)

4 small spring onions or scallions, white part only, trimmed, peeled and cut into thin rounds
Lemon-Yogurt Dressing (below)
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper


1.    In a large, dry skillet, brown the bacon over moderate heat until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to several layers of paper towel to absorb the fat. Blot the top of the bacon with several layers of paper towel to absorb any additional fat. Set aside.

2.    In a large shallow bowl, combine the bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, blue cheese, and spring onions. Toss with just enough Lemon-Yogurt Dressing to lightly and evenly coat the ingredients. Season with plenty of coarse, freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

Makes about 3/4 cup   |   Equipment: A small jar, with a lid.   

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Lemon Zest Salt or fine sea salt

In the jar, combine the yogurt, lemon juice and salt. Cover with the lid and shake to blend. Taste for seasoning.  The dressing can be used immediately. (Store the dressing in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Shake to blend again before using.)  

This recipe was first published in Salad as a meal. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Where to eat in Paris


I never like to say there is the perfect restaurant when it comes to dining out in Paris. So much comes into play when chosing where to eat – season, weather, who you're dining with, the kind of mood you're in, your budget. But I do have a list of favorite places which I find myself going back to again and again, because I always come away feeling inspired and like it has been time and money worth spent. Here are a few must-try addresses that currently top my list, for all budgets and moods. I'll be updating this list from time to time, here on my website.



Bistrot Paul Bert: Classic French Bistro

This here is the quintessential Parisian bistrot that remains completely authentic and honest despite its wild popularity.

18 rue Paul Bert   |   Paris 11   |   +33 1 43 72 24 01   |   Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny or Rue des Boulets   |   Open Tuesday - Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday and August.

Le Servan
: Casual Modern Bistro

Casual Parisian bistro dining at its best – Le Servan has a great neighborhood vibe, the food is simple but interesting, the ingredients impeccably fresh, and the price very reasonable.

32 rue Saint-Maur   |   Paris 11   |   +33 1 55 28 51 82   |   Metro: Saint-Ambroise, Rue Saint-Maur or Père Lachaise   |   Open Monday dinner-Friday. Closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday lunch.

Le Severo: Classic bistro

A carnivore's dream – owner William Bernet, a former butcher, really knows his meat and even has his own aging cellar beneath the restaurant. Don't go near this place if you are a vegetarian.

8 rue des Plantes   |   Paris 14   |   +33 1 45 40 40 91   |   Metro: Alésia or Mouton-Duvernet   |   Open Monday-Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Porte 12
: Modern French

This has all the elements of great dining in the capital: bright contemporary decor, sincere attentive service, and sophisticated, signature fare.

12 rue Messageries   |   Paris 10   |   +33 1 42 46 22 64   |   Metro: Possionnière   |   Open for lunch Tuesday - Friday, dinner Tuesday - Saturday. Closed Saturday lunch, Sunday, Monday and public holidays.

La Table d'Akihiro
: Modern French

Akihior Horikoshi, worked in the kitchen of 3 Michelin starred L'Amboisie, before opening his own fish and seafood restaurant. The influence of this pedigree is clear and his seductive cuisine is always elegant and worthy of the effort it takes to secure a table at this post stamp-sized restaurant.

49 rue Vaneau   |   Paris 7   |   +33 1 45 44 43 48   |   Metro: Vaneau or François-Xavier   |   Open Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday

Ze Kitchen Galerie: Modern French | International

I never get tired of dining on chef William Ledeuil's creative, inspiring cuisine, based on traditional French training, injected with a modern international flare and a love for Asian ingredients.

4 rue des Grands Augustins   |   Paris 6   |   +33 1 44 32 00 32   |   Metro: Saint-Michel or Pont Neuf   |   Open Monday-Saturday. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday.

Astrance: Modern French |  Haute Cuisine

A magician in the kitchen, Pascal Barbot never fails to inspire me with his ethereal nuanced dishes. His 70€ week day lunch menu is one of the best buys in the city.

4 rue Beethoven   |   Paris 16   |   +33 1 40 50 84 40   |   Metro: Passy   |   Open Tuesday - Friday. Closed Saturday,  Sunday and Monday

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Saint-Germain
: Modern French | Haute Cuisine

Always at the forefront of innovation, Joël Robuchon in my opinion is the best chef cooking today. I am always happy to sample whatever Chef Axel in his Saint-Germain atelier suggests.

5 rue Montalembert   |   Paris 7   |   +33 1 42 22 56 56   |   Metro: Rue du Bac   |   Open daily 11:30am-3:30pm and 6:30pm-midnight


Jacques Genin
: Chocolate maker

Truly one of the finest chocolate makers in France. Not to be missed for chocolate lovers.

133 rue de Turenne   |   Paris 3   |  +33 1 45 77 29 01   |   Metro: République or Filles-du-Calvaire   |   Open Tuesday - Sunday 11am-7pm, Saturday 11am-8pm. Closed Monday and August.

27 rue de Varenne   |   Paris 7   |   +33 1 53 71 72 21   |   Metro: Rue du Bac, Sèvres Babylone or  Varenne   |   Open Tuesday - Saturday 10.30am-7pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

La Derniere Goutte
: Wine shop

Owner Juan Sanchez has a rare palate, and carefully sources his selection of largely organic and biodynamic wines from small independent wine makers. For those curious to learn more Juan holds regular tastings at the shop.

6 rue Bourbon le Château   |   Paris 6   |   +33 1 43 29  11 62   |   Metro: Saint-Germain des Près, Mabillon or Odéon   |   Open Daily:  Sunday 11am-7pm, Monday 3-8pm, Tuesday-Friday 1:30am-1:30pm and 3-8pm, Saturday 10:30am-8pm

:  Cheese Monger

Marie Quatrehomme was one of the first women to be awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France title, and her dedication to quality shines through in her well-tended shop, one of the finest in France. Whether you know a lot or a little about cheese, her shop is always educational.

62 rue de Sèvres   |   Paris 7   |   +33 1 47 34 33 45   |   Metro: Vaneau or Duroc   |   Open Tuesday - Thursday 8.45am-1pm and 4-7.45pm, Friday and Saturday 8.45am-7.45pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

: Bakery

Known for their country sourdough loaves, to my mind and palate, they make the best bread there is. My Paris cooking class includes a visit to the wonderful, flour-dusted underground cellar to watch the famous loaves being kneaded, shaped and then baked in the ancient wood burning oven.

8 rue du Cherche-Midi   |   Paris 6   |   Metro: Sèvres-Babylone or Saint-Sulpice   }   Open Monday - Saturday 7.15am-8.15pm. Closed Sunday.


Marché President Wilson: Roving market

This is the market I bring my students to. It is the market that Parisians will cross town for.

avenue Président Wilson, between rue Debrousse and place d'Iéna   |   Paris 16   |   Metro Alma-Marceau or Iéna   |   Open Wednesday and Saturday 8:30am-1pm


For the complete reviews of these addresses and for other recommendations, get The Food Lover's Guide to Paris 5th edition book or the App for the iPhone (also works on the iPad).

Taste of the week: Yveline's chilled cucumber and avocado soup with avocado sorbet

                                              Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup  ©Jeff Kauck

On hot weather days, is there anything better than a cold, no-cook soup? This zesty and refreshing recipe is a favourite that my friend and neighbor Yveline came up with. It's now a perenial favorite at our summertime lunch table.


Yveline’s Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup

Serves 8   |    Equipment: A blender or a food processor.  

1 large European cucumber (about 1 pound; 500 g), chopped (do not peel)
2 large ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
2 cups (500 ml) chicken or vegetable stock (best quality you can find, or homemade if you can)
1 cup (45 g) chopped cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt   
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime, preferably organic
Avocado Sorbet (recipe below; optional)

1.    In the blender or food processor combine the cucumber, half of the cubed avocado, the stock, 3/4 cup (34 g) of the cilantro and the salt, and process to blend. Taste for seasoning. Chill for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

2.    At serving time, garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, the rest of the avocado, the lime juice and zest.  If using, ass a spoonful of the sorbet to each bowl.

Note: Using a blender rather than a food processor will give you a much smoother, more velvety consistency.


Avocado Sorbet

8 servings   |   Equipment: A blender or a food processor; an ice cream maker.

2 large, ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
2 cups (500 ml) Greek-style plain whole-milk yogurt
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground Espelette pepper or other mild chile pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons invert sugar syrup or light corn syrup

1.    Combine all the ingredients in the blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Chill completely.

2.    At serving time, transfer the chilled mixture to the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For best results, serve the sorbet as soon as it is frozen.


These recipes were first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

All the words you'll ever need: My French-English Glossary

A new addition to my website – my French-English food glossary

For many foreigners dining in France, the French language can often be a frustrating and intimidating barrier to truly enjoying a meal out. A simple mistake in translating a menu can mean disappointment when an unexpected dish arrives. The subtle nuances of the French language don't make this any easier either. It's easy to confuse tourteau (crab) with tortue (turtle), ail (garlic) with aile (poultry wing) or chevreau (young goat) with chevreuil (venison) .

When I wrote the first edition of The Food Lover's Guide to Paris and France back in the 1980s, I knew a thorough glossary of culinary terms would be an essential component of the guides. It was painstakingly compiled from hours of research (this was pre-internet days of course!) and translations of menus that were sent to me from the restaurants I was reviewing. The result includes translated names of ingredients, regional cooking styles and dishes, meat cuts, cheeses, fish names, and cooking techniques, and is still as relevant today as the time I first wrote it.

I have continued to update it with modern culinary terms that are often found on menus in France, for the glossary section of The Food Lover's Guide to Paris app for the iPhone – a handy pocket reference when dining out, no internet connection necessary.

And for those of you without iOS devices, I have now made it available here, on my website. Enjoy!

Patisserie Perfection: Boris Lumé

Summers for me are almost exclusively a Provençal affair. With temperatures soaring into the 80s and 90s, I bunker down in the cool stone kitchen of my hilltop farmhouse in Vaison-la-Romaine, to test recipes, cook from my bountiful summer vegetable garden and prepare for my late summer cooking classes.

So for those of you travelling to Paris this summer looking for gastronomic inspiration, I leave you in the capable hands of my good friend and co-conspirator on the fifth edition of The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, Emily Buchanan.

Patisserie Perfection: Boris Lumé

[Guest post by Emily Buchanan]

If the original Belle Époque exterior of this immaculate Montmartre patisserie (a classified historical monument, built in 1900) is not enough to draw you in, then the rows of Boris Lumé’s signature finger-shaped tarts, glistening in the glass vitrine, surely will. The pastries here have as much charm as the décor, with its off-white and duck-shell blue wall tiles, butterfly-themed tile frieze, and original heavenly ceiling fitted out with a crystal chandelier – this is what dreams of Parisian pastry shops are made of.

Pastry chef, baker and owner Boris Lumé opened his first shop with his Japanese wife Mihona (also a baker) on the leafy rue Caulaincourt in the 18th arrondissement in 2013, after time spent under the tutelage of the likes of Joël Robuchon in Tokyo, and Cyril Lignac and Meilleur Ouvrier de France Frederic Lalos (of Le Quartier du Pain) in Paris.

His selection of tarts and viennoiseries (breakfast pastries) is small, but finely tuned – each creation a small work of art, but without pretension. His tarte citron doesn't have many  rivals with its irresistibly crisp base, thick pillowy lemon cream that has just the right balance of acidity, sweetness and creaminess, hiding a thin layer of soft cake-like hazelnut biscuit.

Among the lineup is an excellent version of the classic Paris-Brest, a light choux casing filled with praline cream and punctuated with a crispy praline crunch. Other offerings include tarts with seasonal fruit toppings such as strawberry or fig, and a less traditional matcha and black sesame tart with red fruits, a nod to Mihona’s Japanese origins.

I love their homely tartelettes, soft pastry casings filled with dark acidic cherries (griottes) and an earthy pistachio cream.

The viennoiseries  are without fault: buttery, light and perfectly flaky. The baguette tradition has a flavorful crumb, although I prefer my baguette a little more bien cuite – well baked – with a crunchier crust. I’d rather go for their near-perfect, nutty pain d’épeautre (spelt loaf), and I can hardly pass by this shop without grabbing a loaf.

If you’ve been searching for the perfect Parisian pastry shop, you may well have just found it.

Patisserie Boris Lumé   |   48 rue Caulaincourt   |   Paris 18   |   +33 1 46 06 96 71   |   Métro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt   | Open Tuesday-Sunday 7:45am-8:30pm, Sunday 7:45am-7pm. Closed Monday   |  


For more Paris restaurant reviews, get The Food Lover's Guide to Paris 5th edition book or iPhone app.

Taste of the week: Chicken fricassée with fennel, capers, artichokes, and tomatoes

This recipe is a one-pot wonder, ideal for week night family dinners, or casual get togethers with friends. It's a rustic and hearty dish, yet the artichokes and fennel give it a lift of sophistication. It requires minimal effort to throw together, and can easily be made in advance and reheated at serving time. Serve with rice, pasta or polenta


Chicken Fricassée with fennel, capers, artichokes and olives

6 servings   |    Equipment: A large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, with a lid.

1 farm-fresh chicken (3-4 pounds; 1.5-2 kg), preferably organic and free range,  cut into 8 serving pieces, at room temperature
Fine sea salt
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced   
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1 28-ounce (794 g) can diced Italian tomatoes in juice
1 cup (115 g) green Picholine olives, pitted
1 cup (115 g) brine-cured black olives, pitted
1/4 cup (60 ml) capers in vinegar, drained
12 artichoke hearts marinated in olive oil, drained
Cooked rice, fresh pasta, or polenta for serving


1.    Liberally season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper.

2.    In the large, deep skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) and brown until they turn an even golden color, about 5 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown them on the other side, 5 minutes more. Carefully regulate the heat to avoid scorching the skin. When the pieces are browned, use tongs (to avoid piercing the poultry) to transfer them to a platter.

3.    Reduce the heat to low, add the onions and fennel to the skillet and sweat  – cook, covered, over low heat – until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Add the wine, tomatoes (with juices), olives, capers and artichokes. Cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through. About 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve with rice, fresh pasta or polenta.



This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the Week: Mini croque monsieur

            Ham and cheese squares   ©Jeff Kauck

I love to serve these small grilled ham and cheese squares, brightened by the tart crunch of a cornichon, as a fun palate opener when we have guests over. Assemble these baby croque monsieur sandwiches (not the classic version in the strictest sense as I have removed the bechamel sauce for a lighter summer touch) earlier in the day and then grill them at the last minute, when family and friends are gathering.


Ham and Cheese Squares (mini croque monsieur)

Makes 18 squares, to serve 6 to 8   |    Equipment: A toaster; a nonstick skillet; toothpicks.

4 slices Honey and Saffron Brioche or white bread (pain de mie) crusts removed
2 teaspoons French mustard
2 thin slices best-quality cooked ham, cut to fit 2 slices of the bread
About 1/4 cup (30 g) freshly grated Swiss Gruyère cheese or other hard cheese
1 tablespoon (15 g) clarified butter or unsalted butter
9 cornichons, halved lengthwise

1.    Toast the brioche or bread. Coat one side of each slice with the mustard. Place a slice of ham over the mustard on two sides of the slices. Sprinkle the cheese over the ham. Place the other slices of bread, mustard-coated side down, on top of the cheese.  

2.    In the skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Brown the bread evenly on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Cut each sandwich into 9 even squares. Pierce each cornichon half with a toothpick and secure the toothpick to the grilled bread. Arrange on a serving platter and serve warm, offering guests cocktail napkins.

Wine suggestion: Grilled cheese and champagne? Why not? I love Pierre Moncuit’s blanc de blancs, a medium-bodied, clean, and always reliable offering that has a purity that matches just about any opening taste.


This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

L’Oustalet: another Perrin family success

Strawberries, raspberry macaroon and mint sorbet

The Perrin family of the winery Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape – led by brothers Jean-Pierre and François and their seven offspring  – has over the past 30 years created a very specific and appealing, contemporary style that has become an environmental model in organic wine making, and a leading global brand.  Their portfolio is impressive, whether it be an august old-vine red, such as their rare Hommage à Jacques Perrin, their more simple daily-drinking red Côtes-du-Rhône, or their spectacular wine boutique in the Provençal village of Gigondas (population 585). Included in this incredible package is their welcoming restaurant L’Oustalet in the center of town, where an interior decor seamlessly blends ancient and modern. The outdoor tables spread out onto a stone terrace overlooking the renovated square, which is peppered with ancient sycamore trees – a spot that was once a parking lot and is now a sybaritic space filled with picnic tables and a spot for sitting, strolling, reflecting.

I wouldn’t even want to try to guess the number of meals I have savored in this setting over the past 35 years, the best of which were relished at the hands of the Perrin family and their slim, self-effacing, and super-talented chef Laurent Deconinck. Here, like most everything the Perrins do, nothing is overwrought, or laid on with a heavy hand. There is thought to the balance, energy, look and feel of both the interior design and the food itself.

Laurent’s summer bouillabaisse, which I wholly appreciated this week, is like a modern love poem to this Provençal fish soup classic, a dish that is often too hackneyed, boring, overcooked, even in the most famous establishments. Laurent’s soup –  a mix of fish and shellfish that includes lobster tail from Corsica, and a medley of rockfish stars of the sea: monkfish, John Dory, and rascasse or scorpion fish – is a modern masterpiece. The fish all look and taste as though they just leapt from the sea, bathed in a thick broth, enlivened by dollops of velvety, spicy aioli or garlic mayonnaise. Thick strips of crouton-like toast come along, for dipping in the bright-flavored broth or for slathering with the aioli.

The genius in Laurent’s food is in its balance and freshness so that, despite having had a multi-course, two-hour feast, you walk away with a forceful pep in your step. His recent dessert creation is a case in point: strawberries at their peak of ripeness are topped with a single half of a raspberry macaroon, teamed up with a brilliant green mint sorbet, flanked by cubes of fresh berries and paper-thin strips of mint (photo).

The all-male staff at L’Oustalet is at once forwardly familiar and professional to a fault. You feel they are having a great time at work, and why shouldn’t they, with all the great seasonal ingredients of Provence, the sun shining, and a wine cellar that would make almost anyone weep? I won’t even begin to tick off the great wines one finds here, but suffice it to say that if you have a favored wine from the northern or southern Rhône, you’ll find it here, at such great value prices you’ll squint and look twice. My latest discovery is the Châteauneuf Clos St Pierre, an ancient Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard taken over in 2009 by Carole and Pierre Perveyrie. Their tannic cuvé Urbi, with 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 20% Mourvèdre, is truly appealing and pleasing, especially for those who love a bit of leathery, animal sensation that so many southern Rhône wines can produce.

Wine lovers should not miss a visit to their wine shop just up the street from the restaurant. There are also three modern hotel rooms above the shop, if you’d rather not walk too far “home” after lunch or dinner.

L’Oustalet   |   Place du Village   |   84190 Gigondas   |   Tel: +33 4 90 65 85 30   |   Closed Sunday and Monday   |   Menus from 35 to 56€   |   Wine tasting menus from 89 to 136€   | www.loustalet-gigondas.com   |   contact@loustalet-gigondas.com


Taste of the week: Ruby rhubarb bars

In France, rhubarb appears fleetingly in the markets in May and June, just in time to be paired with gariguette or charlotte strawberries, before disappearing for another year. In this dish however, rhubarb is the sole star, the shining tart crown atop a warm pastry crust.

Both green and red rhubarb can of course be used for this dish, but it's the red varieties that really leaves an impression visually if cooked properly. So often it can lose its gorgeous ruby hue as it cooks but the trick is not to precook the stems and instead bake them in extra-thin slices, so they cook quickly and retain their shape and bright red color.

Ruby Rhubarb Bars

Equipment: A 9 1/2  x 9 1/2-inch (24 x 24 cm) baking pan   |   baking parchment   |   a food processor.

4 tablespoons (60 g) salted butter, chilled
1 cup (140 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (65 g) confectioners’ sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt   
2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt

3/4 cup (150 g) unrefined cane sugar, preferably organic, vanilla scented (see Note)
1/4 cup (40 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 large egg whites, preferably organic and free range
3 cups (300 g) thinly sliced red rhubarb stalks, (about seven 10-inch; 26 cm)



1.    Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
2.    Line the baking pan with two pieces of baking parchment, letting the parchment hang over the sides. (This will make it easier to remove the dessert once baked.)

3.    Prepare the pastry: In the food processor, combine all the pastry ingredients and process to blend. The mixture should be soft and pliable.

4.    Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the baking pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake until firm, about 12 minutes.

5.    While the pastry is baking, prepare the topping: In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and egg whites and whisk to blend. Add the rhubarb and stir to coat it evenly with the egg-white mixture.

6.    Remove the pan from the oven and spoon the rhubarb mixture over the warm pastry. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake until the topping is firm and golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove from the pan and cut into 16 squares. Serve at room temperature. (Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Note: to make vanilla-scented sugar: Flatten 1 or several moist vanilla beans. Cut them in half lengthwise. With a small spoon, scrape out the seeds and place them in a small jar; reserve the seeds for another use. Fully dry the vanilla bean halves at room temperature. Place the dry halves in a large jar with a lid, and cover them with sugar. Tighten the lid and store for several weeks to scent and flavor the sugar. Use in place of regular sugar when preparing desserts.

The new Guy Savoy

Guy Savoy staircase.jpg

The red carpet is out for Guy Savoy all over the city of Paris. With his new restaurant celebrating an official opening Tuesday, May 19th, this three-star chef and his almost giddy staff are luxuriating in their new sunlit home inside the 6th arrondissement Hotel de Monnaie de Paris along the Seine. With no less than five dining rooms boasting huge windows, the restaurant overlooks tall shimmering chestnut trees, the Seine, out onto the Louvre, Pont Neuf, the Île de la Cite. and beyond. 

For Savoy, 62, the adventure and the dream began in 2009, when he visited the oldest institution and oldest factory in France, the French mint. He bid, and won a chance to move his 17th- arrondissement restaurant on rue Troyon to the mint. Construction proceeded more slowly than anticipated, since asbestos was found in the structure and needed to be eliminated. Today, the restaurant sits on the top floor, with spacious kitchens just below, sporting welcoming windows with the same bright view as Savoy’s diners. 

One enters the august, newly renovated space walking regally up the red-carpeted stairs decorated with medallions and laurel wreaths. Dining rooms are warm and cozy, in colors of brown and anthracite with touches of modern lighting, all fully respectful of a building founded in 1864 and rebuilt in the 20th century. 

Two “soft-landing” preview lunches in the new dining rooms attest that Savoy’s food remains on the same steady course he has followed since first opening in Paris in 1977, achieving his third Michelin star in 2002.  Guests will find many of his signature dishes, such as the landmark soupe d’artichaut à la truffe noir et brioche feuilletée aux champignons et truffes (a masterpiece that marries earth with earth, the earthy flavors of artichokes and the wild mushroom essence of the truffle, embellished with an unforgettable mushroom brioche brushed with fragrant truffle butter). His famed huîtres en nage glacée never fails to excite or delight, nudging the briny, iodine-rich essence of oyster to new heights as a mildly creamy oyster puree lines the oyster shell as the real deal sits atop it like a king. A spoonful of jelly created with the oyster liquid tops it all for a celebratory hit of oyster heaven. 

Savoy constantly works to capture the essence of an ingredient and bring it to your palate: His pea soup, made with peeled peas (!) and a puree of that regal vegetable,  topped with a soft-cooked quail egg, blends on the palate with intensity and clean, welcoming, spring flavors. 

And there are new dishes --- such as salmon “cooked” on dry ice at the table – with the fresh, brilliant strips of salmon embellished by an avalanche of varied citrus, including lemon, lime, and the rare Australian caviar citron, sporting little, citrus-flavored beads that look just like the caviar of our dreams.

Savoy’s masterful pastry chef, Christian Boudard, has outdone himself with spring desserts: In one, rhubarb is sliced paper-thin and dried to bring out its brilliant flavors, molded in the shape of onion skin, which serves as a perfect vessel for his vibrant rhubarb sorbet. He works the same idea with this season’s strawberries, a fine sorbet, paper-thin slices of strawberries, dried to bring us its very soul.

Do not forget Sylvain Nicolas, Savoy’s sommelier, a man I trust with my wine life! He has never steered me wrong, visit after visit. Discoveries at a recent lunch include Josmeyer’s Grand Cru Brand Riesling, 2009, a wine that is at once authoritative, regal, lively, and pure. As well, Domaine Rebourgeon-Mure’s pinot noir Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Arvelets moved everyone at the table, emerging with a purity of fruit, finesse, and expression of delightful ripe tannins. 

The Hotel de la Monnaie restaurant is not his only project for the moment. In December he opened  L’Huîtrade on rue Troyon, a compact oyster bar offering some of the world’s finest oysters and oyster dishes; the former Restaurant Guy Savoy on Rue Troyon will become a fish restaurant, d’Etoie sur Mer in June of this year; and already famous for his brioche,  Savoy will open a brioche boutique, Goût de Brioche, at 54 rue Mazarine, Paris 6, in June.         

GUY SAVOY   |   Monnaie de Paris   |   11 quai de Conti   |   Paris 6   |   Tel: +33 1 44 80 40 61   |   Métro: Pont Neuf   |   Open Tuesday to Saturday, closed Saturday lunch, Sunday, and Monday   |   www.guysavoy.com   |   reserve@guysavoy.com   |   Lunch and dinner: 360€ menu, à la carte €200, not including beverages   |   Reservations suggested.