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May 13, 2014

The other day Walter and I were having lunch at our Paris neighborhood hangout, Café Varenne, and just as we were finishing a superb dish of ultra-tender and meaty tendrons de veau (breast of veal)  tossed with fresh pasta, carrots, and slivers of Parmesan cheese (perfect for a cold, rainy day in May!)  two women addressed us: “You’re Patricia Wells, and we are here because of The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris.” Indeed, the mother and daughter duo from Boston had just been to the Rodin museum, and as the guide and iPhone app suggest, this is a great address nearby. Owners Sylvain and Agnès Didier are gracious hosts and the food just gets better and better. Enjoy a sip of their white Quincy from the Loire and the fine, crusty baguettes from Boulangerie Secco right across the street.

36, rue de Varenne, Paris 7, Tel: +33 1 45 48 62 72, Métro: Rue du Bac or Sèvres-Babylone, à la carte 30€.

Open Monday through Friday 7:30AM to 10:30PM, Saturday 9AM to 8PM. Closed Sunday, holidays, and 2 weeks in August.

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April 05, 2014

This coming Tuesday, April 8, the lovely people at WH Smith will be hosting a book signing and talk around the release of the 5th edition of The Food Lover's Guide to Paris. I will be signing books between 6–7PM and giving a presentation on the guide from 7–8PM. Hope to see you there!

WH Smith
248  rue de Rivoli, Paris 1
TEL:  + 33 1 44 77 88 99
www.whsmith.fr

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March 13, 2014

Coretta, the three-week old modern bistro that’s a collaboration of three favorite Parisian restaurateurs, is a win! Chef Jean-François Pataleon of L'Affable in the 7th, and Beatriz Gonzalez and her husband, Matthieu Marcant, of Neva Cuisine in the 8th , have teamed up to create a super contemporary, approachable, just-good-food bistro that’s totally right for the times. The airy, two-story, expertly designed restaurant on the Rue Cardinet in the 17th overlooks the recently created Martin Luther King Park, and is aptly named after King’s wife, Coretta. I love the wood and marble design, the simplicity, the modern menu with food that’s just familiar enough and surprising enough to make us all happy. Do try the anguille fumé or smoked eel, teamed up with thin slices of raw veal, and a satisfying, creamy horseradish bouillon.  Silken mackerel is paired with miso, apples and ginger in a light, refreshing first course. I admired the elegant, aesthetic presentation of the lightly salted cod (cooked to perfection, breaking into giant alabaster flakes) flanked by a kaleidoscope of lightly pickled vegetables: turnips, beets, and radishes. The ris de veau --- veal sweetbreads – is already a bistro favorite here, served with panais (parsnips) cooked three ways: chips, mashed, braised. It was lunchtime, and I was not really in the mood for dessert , but soon I was glad that I changed my mind. Here, a simplified version of Beatriz’s chocolate sphere from Neva Cuisine is turned into a single chocolate disc, perched on a spicy pineapple concoction, melting into a puddle as warm chocolate sauce is poured over all. The prettiest dish of the day (photo) was the clementine sorbet joined by slices of fresh clementine, bites of crispy meringue, and a lemony yuzu (a pungent Japanese citrus), mascarpone-like cream. A few sips of Yves Cuilleron’s well-priced (7€ a glass) pure Roussanne vin de France rounded out the meal with perfection. Baker Jean-Luc Poujauran’s crusty bread is served from a warming wooden box, accompanied by a fat pat of soft butter. Downstairs , there’s a brief but appealing tapas menu.

151 bis, rue Cardinet, Paris 17. Tel: +33 1 42 26 55 55. Métro Brochant. 24€ lunch menu, 33€ and 39€ evening menus, à la carte 45 to 70€. Open Monday- Saturday. Closed  Saturday lunch and all day Sunday.

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March 05, 2014

To celebrate the release of The Food Lover's Guide to Paris 5th edition, our fabulous publisher Workman Publishing is offering the chance to win an amazing trip for two to France. The trip includes airfares, 3 days in Paris and a chance to dine in locations featured in the guide. Enter on the Workman website. Bonne chance!!

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February 04, 2014

This Wednesday I am going to be joining Ann Mah in a panel discussion at The American Library of Paris on writing about French Food. We will be talking about our respective books The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence and Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons on Food and Love from a Year in Paris. There'll be wine, snacks and the opportunity to buy the books thanks to WH Smith.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday February 5, 2014, 7:30pm

The American Library of Paris
10, rue du Général Camou
75007 Paris

Tel: +33 1 53 59 12 60

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January 20, 2014

The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris was the first book I ever published back in 1984, and on the year of its 30th anniversary, I am elated to announce the release of its 5th edition – completely revisited, rewritten, and newly photographed for 2014. This has truly been a labor of love – visiting, exploring, scouring Paris in search of the city’s best gastronomic offerings. While some of the favorites have stood the test of time, much has changed in Paris over 30 years. Chefs have come and gone, others who were just starting out in 1984 have matured to excellence and have become beacons for some of the best dining in the world, and mentors for a whole new generation of talent. Paris now is a much more casual place of course, so this edition includes a whole new chapter on cafés and casual eateries. I have also included my favorite markets, bakeries, pastry shops, chocolates shops, cheese merchants, specialty food shops, shops for kitchen and tableware essentials, and of course wine shops. And as always, there is the ever-useful (and updated) French to English glossary of food terms, and a ready reference section to help you navigate the myriad of dining options in the city. And so that you can enjoy a touch of Paris in your own kitchen, I have included 40 recipes.

This new edition is the perfect companion to The New Food Lover's Guide to Paris app for the iPhone and iPad.

The book (and e-book!) will be released on March 11 in the United States and on April 1 in Europe, and is available for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and from Indiebound once released.

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January 09, 2014

David Toutain is a cerebral chef. Nothing is accidental and when you enter his brand new 7th arrondissement restaurant you are subject to his rules and his way of thinking. Yet you never feel as though your arm is being twisted. This is not a restaurant for a casual meal, but rather one that is meticulously planned and thought out, and begs for, yes deserves,  your attention. And it’s well worth your time.

Toutain, a farm boy from Normandy, appeared on the Paris scene like lightening a few years back at the wildly experimental Agapé Substance, and then disappeared almost overnight. I am so glad he is back.

The setting of the new restaurant on Rue Surcouf, seems at first somewhat of a contradiction. The sparse, cool space -- flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling glass wall at the front of the restaurant -- feels relaxed, with its light wood and leather furnishings and minimalist décor. Yet the suited and formal service suggests a more serious approach to the dining experience. Immediately, this feels like a restaurant like none other.

As plate after plate arrives from the 68€ carte blanche menu, we are presented with flavors that explode in our mouth but do not overwhelm, as Toutain draws out the essential flavors of each and every ingredient. On the plate, he presents other-worldly creations, but in the mouth, flavors are familiar, calming, and even unusual combinations seem natural and obvious in his care.

Toutain’s ability to see new and interesting potential in ingredients makes him extremely unique – a bouillon of potato skins that smelled like someone walked past you with a dish of freshly baked potatoes, or Jerusalem artichokes transformed with a little sugar into an apple-like dessert. And who on earth would think of combining kiwi fruit with a raw oyster? And who would believe that, on the palate, the pairing would appear perfectly matched, totally sublime.

On one hand, this multi-course excursion can make your brain spin, even give you a headache. The food that comes from the hands of the boyish, mild-mannered Toutain reminds me of many meals I’ve experienced at the table of Pierre Gagnaire: the same cerebral attention, the same wildly experimental flash of genius, the same surprise and pleasure.

There is so much going on – porcelain, glass, cutlery that dazzle and beg for your attention – that a diner might lose sight of what is best about Toutain’s food. Each ingredient is impeccably chosen, each cooked to a perfection that makes me gasp. It’s as though he puts a camera lens on each ingredient and then blows it up, eeking the most honest flavor, texture, pleasure imaginable. He makes any oyster taste like the freshest, most delicious oyster you have ever tasted. He draws a new, welcoming seamless texture from a tiny cube of foie gras, turns what he calls gnocchi into a little pillow that melts in your mouth (photo). The meal is full of “why didn’t I think of that” combinations, like a sprinkling of freshly ground coffee beans at the edge of the plate, for dipping bites of exquisitely roasted pork.

To say that the 68€ menu is a bargain is an understatement. But for my money and time, I could have had a bit less food. And though I am not a huge fan of the no-choice surprise menu, I’ll put myself in Toutain’s hands any day. Service here is friendly and personal, and the wine list offers some real treasures. I loved the sommelier’s two wine recommendations: The Vincent Gaudry aromatic Sancerre was willing to serve as a quiet understudy to Toutain’s food, while Christophe Pichon’s 100% Syrah Saint Joseph was clean, spicy, and forceful. So go, sit back and enjoy, and don’t think too much – David has already done the thinking for you.

RESTAURANT DAVID TOUTAIN, 29 rue Surcouf, Paris 7. Tel: +33 1 45 50 11 10.Métro: Invalides or La Tour Maubourg. Open Monday-Friday. Closed Saturday & Sunday.davidtoutain.com reservations@davidtoutain.com Lunch & dinner: 68 and 98€ menus (118 & 158€ with wine), 158€ seasonal truffle menu (210€ with wine) Reservations: recommended.





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December 18, 2013

Time after time, the students in my cooking classes in Paris or Provence tell me “I don’t bake.” These same students are often delighted when I assign them a dessert, for they know that they will at least learn to make one wonderful sweet. I think that they also secretly hope that by week’s end, they may actually get over their fear of baking.

When it comes to cooking, my philosophy is to keep it simple and make sure it’s delicious. One foolproof recipe in my repertory is for chestnut honey squares, a confection that satisfies in a single bite. It can be made ahead, does not require exotic equipment, is relatively simple (you pat the crust in the pan) and it’s beautiful, with a glistening glaze. Stored in an airtight container, it stays fresh for days.

The inspiration came from the Paris bakery Moulin de la Vierge. I was sampling a wide selection of sweets, and as I bit into the honey-kissed square, I stopped, almost stunned at how special it was, something you could eat out of hand with a bit of crunch and only a hint of sweetness.

The crust is butter-rich but not too much so, an easy blending of flour, almond meal, unrefined sugar, butter, an egg yolk, vanilla extract and a touch of fine sea salt to brighten the flavors.

A quick pulse in the food processor with a bit of water, and the pastry is ready to pat in the pan and bake. We all think our ovens are sometimes temperamental; I love that this crust will turn out just fine at a range of temperatures.

I find that most home cooks tend to underbake, especially pastry, so I instruct my students to make sure the pastry is golden and crisp, not pale and limp. I don’t even mind if it is really, really dark. As my friend Eli Zabar likes to say, “Burnt is best!” I might not go that far, but it must be fully baked.

The topping comes together in minutes while the pastry bakes. Sweetened with just 2 tablespoons of intensely flavored honey, like chestnut honey, it is a simple blend of butter, sliced almonds, cubed candied orange or lemon peel, and vanilla extract, just melted in a saucepan over low heat. The darker honey is crucial; you can find it online if not in a specialty store.

Once the pastry is golden, spread on the topping, bake until deep golden, remove from the oven and let cool. I cut it into tiny squares (32 is a good number) to produce a bite-size dessert.

I am thinking of creating a variation with the flavorful organic Sicilian pistachios I find at my local co-op, toasting the nuts, grinding some to a powder and chopping the rest for the topping. I’ll make it with the organic lavender honey from our farm in Provence. It will glow, and I’ll pat myself on the back.

This article was originally published by the  New York Times, December 17, 2013 Photo by Jeff Kauck

I share this recipe from my latest book, The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence.

CHESTNUT HONEY SQUARES

For the Pastry:

120 grams (3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
45 grams (1/2 cup) almond meal (see note)
35 grams (3 tablespoons) sugar, preferably unrefined vanilla sugar (see note)
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Topping:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
80 grams (1 cup) sliced almonds
30 grams (1/3 cup) candied orange or lemon peel, cut into tiny cubes
65 grams (1/3 cup) sugar, preferably vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons chestnut honey or other intensely flavored honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9 1/2-inch-square baking pan with parchment, letting it hang over the sides for easier removal later.
  2. Prepare the pastry: In a food processor, combine flour, almond meal, sugar and salt. Pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of water. Pulse to incorporate. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water through the feed tube, tablespoon by tablespoon, pulsing until just before the pastry forms a ball. You may not need all the water.
  3. Turn the dough out into the prepared baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place in the oven on the center rack and bake until the pastry begins to brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. While the pastry is baking, prepare the topping: In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the almonds, candied peel, sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Heat just until the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Remove the pan and spread the almond-honey mixture evenly over the pastry. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is a deep gold, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and transfer to a rack to cool in the pan. Once it has cooled, remove from the pan and cut into 32 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Makes 32 squares

NOTE: Whole, unblanched almonds can be finely ground in a food processor to make almond meal. To make vanilla sugar, cut 1 or several vanilla beans in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and reserve for another use. Dry vanilla bean halves at room temperature and place in a large jar of sugar. Store for several weeks to scent and flavor the sugar.

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December 11, 2013

It's wonderful to be home in Paris after my chock-a-block US tour for The French Kitchen Cookbook. Thanks to everyone who came along to the events, it was great to meet all you food lovers!

The tour continues in Paris however, with an event next Tuesday, December 17 at WH Smith, from 6-8pm. I'll be signing books from 6 to 7pm, with a presentation from 7 to 8pm. I'd love to see you there!

WH Smith, 248 rue de Rivoli, Paris 1

Tel.+33 1 44 77 88 99


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November 08, 2013

The dining room at Press Restaurant, St. Helena, California, Napa Valley. Join me for a book signing with Napa Valley wines and appetizers from The French Kitchen Cookbook, Thursday, November 14 from 5 to 6:30 PM at Press Restaurant, 587 St. Helena Highway, St Helena, CA 94574. Tel: 707 967 0550. $8 per person. See you all there! Patricia

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