Claire Griffon, the new cheese gal in town


Early in December,  having worked for illustrious cheese merchants Marie-Anne Cantin and Laurent Dubois, the young Claire Griffon set off on her own, opening a jewel of a shop just steps from the Rue Cler market in the 7th. Even from the warm grey and white store front you feel a sense of calmness, care, and honor for the treasures inside. Each cheese is displayed with respect and attention, many sheltered beneath glass domes, carefully labeled, with larger cheeses cut into convenient serving sizes. If she has it in the boutique, try the perfumed tomme de montagne aux fleurs sauvages, a Swiss mountain cow’s milk cheese, the rind coated with dried mountain herbs and flowers, which infuse the very special cheese with fragrance and flavor. Equally fine is the goat’s milk pavé de Pontlevoy a fresh, clean, lactic cheese from the Loire.The shop will be happy to put together a cheese plateau, either seasonal or an assortment of more unusual cheeses, such as the tomme de montagne and a fourme d’Ambert seasoned with raisins and Sauternes.


23 bis avenue de la Motte Picquet

Paris 7

Tel : +33 1 45 50 14 85

Métro: Ecole Militaire

Open Tuesday-Saturday 9am-7 :30 pm. Closed Sunday & Monday.

Abri: A shelter from the mundane

ABRI daurade carpaccio 11 1 12

Inexpensive, vest-pocket restaurants keep turning up in the most amazing places in Paris, and that’s great for all budget-conscious diners. Worth the detour is Katsuaki Okiyama’s latest venture, a tiny, “hole in the wall” steps from the Poissonière Metro in the 10th arrondissement . Carefully decorated on a budget – simple but pleasant hanging lamps, exposed stone walls, an efficient open kitchen – Abri  indeed shelters us from some of the expensive, mundane fare one might find elsewhere. The Japanese chef, trained with Robuchon and at Taillevent and Agapé Substance – offers simple, carefully prepared food, no surprises but no real disappointments either. Fresh, seasonal fare prepared right in front of you. What more could one ask? The 22-euro lunch menu offers a daily choice of either fish or poultry/meat as the main course,  with a no-choice starter, soup, and dessert. A first-course carpaccio of daurade (sea bream)(photo) was a feathery light, protein-rich starter, showered with paper thin slices of  fennel and radish, alas a bit too salty for even my salt-loving palate. Next, an alabaster soup arrived, almost like an angel, a delicate parsnip soup with a heavenly jasmine mousse, almost more of a dessert, but instantly appealing.  Main courses might include carefully seared and roasted duck breast, meaty and full-flavored, adorned by a light port reduction, garnished with ratte potatoes; or delicate lieu jaune (pollack, in the cod family) in a yellow tomato sauce. The sure star of the meal was the chocolate tart, a delicate layer of pastry topped with a thick and soothing ganache, paired with a light chocolate sorbet. When a simple café or wine-bar meal can easily cost way more than 22 euros, Abri is definitely worth the Métro ride, unless you live in the 9th or 10th, then walk!

ABRI, 92 rue du Faubourg-Poissonière, Paris 10. Tel: +33 1 83 97 00 00. Metro:  Poissonnière, Cadet, or Gare du Nord. Closed Sunday. 22-euro four- course lunch menu. 38.50 euro six-course dinner menu.

Atao and Galette Café: Good small bites

Atao Langoustines, Turnips, Mint, Basil 10 11 12

It was one of those dark, dreary, damp Paris days when not even the sturdiest umbrella could keep you dry. So what a delight to walk into the pristine blue and white restaurant Atao near the Batignolles covered market in the 17th arrondissement. Dining in the  small, 28-seat restaurant is almost as good as a trip to the Brittany seashore (without an umbrella!) with an original selection of shellfish, including a must-have serving of plump langoustines wrapped in a "leaf" of tender blanched turnips, showered  with the bright, welcoming flavors of mint, basil, and chives and brushed with a touch of top-rate olive oil (photo). This is a dish I will surely copy at home: quick, easy, healthy, delicious. A beautiful serving of daurade (sea bream)  carpaccio was executed with elegance and flair, though even this citrus-loving gal found the seasoning  a bit on the tart side. The palourdes au saké were correct but no more than than, and the generous serving of lieu jaune (a version of cod) flavored with a  coating of the zest of the brightly flavored  Japanese citrus, yuzu, was a great idea, but the fish was a tad overcooked. Despite a few hiccups here,  I'll be back, hopefully on a sunny day to enjoy Aota's oysters and savor once again the incomparable mixed herb and green salad from  Annie Bertin, vegetable grower to the stars.

Atao, 86 rue Lemercier, Paris 17. Tel: +33 1 46 27 81 12. Métro: Brochant.  Closed Monday. About 35 euros per person.

Galette Cafe 10 12 12

Bretons seems to be storming Paris these days, and that's a good thing. The newest member of the Breton family is the Galette Café, a small, bright, casual creperie on rue de l'Université in the 7th arrondissment. The organic buckwheat galettes are downright  delicious, almost cracking on the edges, infused  with butter that all but seeps from the  pores of these lacy treats. Always the traditionalist here, I loved their classic galette complete, an almost crunchy perfectly cooked buckwheat galette filled with cheese, ham, and egg, a perfect small bite lunch. I was not as convinced about the daily special with an added touch of tomato sauce (photo), an ingredient that somehow seems at odds with traditional Breton fare. Briny oysters from Brittany are another specialty here, and arrive with a warm rolled galette and plenty of butter to go with it. Students from the various universities in the neighborhood have already turned it into a hangout, making the cafe a lively, fun spot. Service could not be friendlier or more sincere. I think I'll become a regular here.

Galette Café, 2 rue de l'Université, Paris 7. Tel: + 33 1 42 60 22 04. Métro: Saint-Germain des Prés. Open Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. Galettes from 7.50€, 6 oysters for 12.80€.

Anne-Sophie Pic plays her cards right

Anne-Sophie Pic Pea Soup 9 12

Anne-Sophie Pic's week-old La Dame de Pic near the Louvre is the sensation of the rentrée, a pure and calming all-white space,  with crisp white linen table runners, sturdy modern wooden tables,  her black signature knives from Forge de Laguiole in the Auvergne, all punctuated by a series of vases holding single, long-stemmed pink roses. The restaurant -- whose name translates as queen of spades --  is not a place for compromise. Nor is her herb, spice, and aroma-filled menu. Like the dining room itself,  it offers a balance of elegance and comfort, haute-cuisine and everyday fare, all bearing her unique, ultra-modern signature. She sports her feminine role, but does not flaunt it or play it cute. Ingredients are impeccable, preparations are complicated but not overdone, and the taste theme throughout is one of  softness and smoothness with a required touch of crunch. I would never think of pairing warm oysters with cauliflower, but Anne-Sophie offers a regal, cloud-like presentation of warm Gillardeau oysters bathed in a frank and fragrant cream of cauliflower and jasmine, surprising as well as satisfying. Sardines are paired with some of the best tasting leeks I have witnessed, punctuated by thé matcha, making for an exotic turn on the everyday fresh Mediterranean sardine.

Bresse chicken breast arrives meltingly tender, paired with a blend of cooked and raw spinach and a touch of finely sliced couteaux (razor clams) adding a bit of texture to the soft greens. But for me, the triumph of the meal was the vibrant pea soup (le petit pois de montagne) flavored with a touch of réglisse and galanga, and tasting as though the peas had been picked in palace gardens only seconds before (photo). Her flavored butters are not to be missed -- one anise, another thé matcha -- to be carefully if  not sparingly spread on whole wheat or rye-miso bread. The cheese course consists of three perfectly aged picodon goat's milk cheeses from the Anne-Sophie's home Département of the Drôme --- one young, one slightly aged, one firm and well-aged -- served with a delicate rosemary gelatin and another gelatin of beer and honey. Although I am not a huge fan of baba au rhum (usually too boozy)  hers is a delicate delight: tiny mouthfuls of light baba, paired with a burst-in-your-mouth passion fruit creation.The staff is casually but impeccably dressed in crisp blue jeans and  blue shirts. And they all actually seem to be having a wonderful time serving the guests at La Dame de Pic. A  tiny powerhouse of a woman with endless energy, Anne-Sophie will of course continue running her Michelin three-star restaurant in Valence, south of Lyon. She says she'll probably be in Paris a day or so a week. Most of the youthful chefs -- cooking in a beautiful all plancha and induction open kitchen overlooking the street -- spent the summer working in Valence to learn  the tricks of the trade. They seem to be playing their cards right, as well.

La Dame de Pic, 20 rue du Louvre, Paris 1. Métro: Louvre-Rivoli. Telephone: +33 1 42 60 40 40. 49-euro lunch menu. Other menus at 79, 100 and 120 euros. Open Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. and

Bravo to the Bras boys: Embracing the earth

Bras Cebe, Creme Fraiche, Summer Truffles 9 12

I admit that I had not sampled Michel Bras's fare in decades, a bit put off by photos of the restaurant's ultramodern architecture and the hyped "nature boy" publicity. Now I am glad that I gave him, and son Sébastien, a chance. Perched at 1,200 meters in the open, verdant and rugged Auvergne, the Bras complex is welcoming, open, organized, and completely original. The food is kaeidoscopic and full of  Kodachrome flair, but most of all, tastes are  full-flavored and thoroughly delicious. A vegetable garden and  well-chosen plots of  edible herbs and plants provide a living larder for the chefs. You cannot say the Bras family does not make use of every single herb and vegetable that the earth offers. Their famed  gargouillou -- on our visit a colorful and abundant  vegetable salad mix of yellow and green zucchini, caulifower, paper-thin slices of turnips and beets, nasturium flowers, pimprenelle, garlic flowers and arugula, to name a few of the ingredients -- made me return home to appreciate the "supermarket" of herbs and salads I had in my own garden, and had stupidly ignored over time. But the star of the day was ther onion and summer truffle tartelette (photo), a generous, lively creation: a buttery pastry base, topped with soothing and mild young onions (here cébes de Lézignan), then a festive froth of cream and a generous halo of fresh summer truffles. An accompanying herb salad was reminiscent of Joel Robuchon's trademark salade aux herbes fraiches, a well-measured mix of fresh herbs and mixed salad greens. Even though I am not normally a fan of vegetable desserts (I don't like seeing carrots on my plate at midnight), the Bras dessert of dried, paper thin slices of eggplant paired with tomatoes cooked long and slow with a touch of sugar was beautifully architectural and  rapturous in flavor. Although one might not think of going all the way to the Auvergne to sample great Burgundies (or any other French wines)  Bras is worth the detour for the well-priced wine list alone. All the greats are there, and we sampled two favorites from the Lamy collection: including their white Saint-Aubin La Chaténiere 2009 and the red Saint Aubin Derrière chez Edouard 2009, both at their peak of perfection.

Michel et Sébastien Bras, route de l'Aubrac, 12210 Laguiole, France. Tel: + 33 (0)5 65 51 18 20. Menus at 120, 145 ,and 191 euros. A la carte, 170 euros. Rooms from 270 t0 580 eur0s. Open early April to end of October. Closed Monday ,  Tuesday lunch, Wednesday lunch (except July and August.)

A new way to love a tomato

Bristol Tomatoes 8 12

Tomatoes must be very happy. Everyone loves them. Craves them. I have always understood that the Japanese believe that the way in which you cut anything changes the flavor. I agree. Slice something too thinly and it looses its soul. Too thick and you miss the message. But at a celebratory lunch the other day on the new terrace of the the Bristol in Paris, with chef Eric Fréchon at the stove, my friend Susan Herrmann Loomis and I shared a landmark meal. There were many highlights, but as a cook and a  teacher, what I took away  was the "tomato corks" pictured here. I grow more than 20 varieties of tomatoes in Provence, and never tire of them, breakfast, lunch, dinner. I slices them thick and thick, make sauces, etc etc. But I have never seen them cut like this. After lunch, Susan and I emailed about how to do this at home. She was the smartest one who suggested an apple corer might be the right gadget. So I found a fabulous Zyliss apple corer that does a "twist and release" meant for the apple but even better for the tomato. There is no recipe here, but I will tell you what I have done: made tomato corks and drizzled them with olive oil and vinegar and salt, made them part of an antipasti platter paired with thin slices of ham, giant olives, slices of prosciutto, slices of mozzarella, pure heaven. I use any leftover tomatoes to make a tomato sauce. The best advice is to cut the top and bottom from the tomato and stick the corer into the tomato. Release each cork onto a thick layer of paper towels. Salt lightly. Then season and serve as you like!   Tonight I will serve a ravioli with that homemade tomato sauce and toss all of this with more tomato corks. To be continued! I have added the Zyliss apple corer to my Amazon Store if you want one!

For potato lovers: Johannes's potatoes

Potatoes Johannes 6 12

Potatoes Johannes

Golden brown, with a firm and crusty exterior, a smooth and creamy interior, these oh-so-easy potatoes have become a staple at our table.  The potatoes were part of a vegetable medley at a recent lunch with our cooking school students at Johannes Sailer’s Les Abeilles in the Provencal village of Sablet. I like to roast the potatoes on a bed of freshly harvested rosemary.

3 to 4 tablespoons chicken fat, duck fat, or olive oil

1 pound (500 g) firm, yellow-fleshed potatoes, such Yukon Gold (each about 4 ounces; 125 g), scrubbed but not peeled, halved lengthwise

Fleur de sel

Coarse, freshly ground black pepper

  1. Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
  1. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the poultry fat or oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add the potatoes and sear on all sides until a deep golden and well-crusted, about 15 minutes total, adding additional fat if the pan becomes too dry.  Season lightly with salt. Place a bed of rosemary in a roasting pan. Add the seared potatoes and roast until they can easily be pierced with a fork, 25 to 30 minutes. Season to taste and serve warm.

4 servings

Le Bistrot du Paradou secret revealed!

Paradou Eggplant Tomates Concassees 5 12

For nearly 30 years I have made regular pilgrimages to Le Bistrot du Paradou, where Mireille and Jean-Louis Pons held court, offering us incomparable local Provençal fare, from lamb to rabbit, garlicky aioli and tender roast chicken. Vegetable dishes are honored here, including golden slices of eggplant, always offset by this thick and shimmering tomates concassées, a thick tomato accompaniment glistening with the local oil from the cooperative in Maussane-les-Alpilles, studded with cubes of ruby tomatoes, bits of onion and fresh leaves of basil. Years ago I asked Mireille for the recipe, and she offered that off season she used canned tomatoes and in season usually a blend of fresh and canned. I spent endless hours attempting to recreate the sauce, never achieving any of the elegance of Mireille’s triumph. Mireille and Jean-Louis are no longer a presence in this always lively bistrot, but on my last visit longtime chef Vincent revealed the simplicity of the recipe: Canned diced tomatoes cooked long and slow, embellished with nothing more than the best olive oil, a touch of salt, onions, and basil. Success at last! The aroma that fills the kitchen as the fragrant olive oil hits the warm, thick sauce is worth the effort all on its own. In our house, a favorite use is as a topping for freshly toasted homemade multigrain sourdough bread.

One 28-ounce (765 g) can diced tomatoes in juice (do not drain)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

A small handful fresh basil leaves, chopped if large

In a large saucepan, combine the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the onion, salt, and basil. Stir to blend. Simmer, uncovered, over lowest possible heat, until most of the liquid has cooked away and the sauce is thick, 40 to 45 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pan.  Taste for seasoning. While still warm, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Use as a vegetable garnish or as a  sauce for pastas or pizzas. (Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

2 cups (500 ml) sauce

Time for cooking classes in Provence!

Asparagus with Whipped Ricotta

I am looking forward to our opening  Provence session of At Home With Patricia Wells this Sunday, June 3. We have a full list of classes planned in June, July, September and October. While most of the sessions are fully booked, a few places are still open for the week of September 16 to 21, and we look forward to welcoming everyone then! You will find  full information on this page. To enroll, click here:

The following recipe is a brand new favorite, and one we'll be preparing in class next week:


Braising asparagus --- cooking it in a small amount of liquid, covered  -- seems to bring out the vegetal qualities of this sublime vegetable. Adding a touch of fresh rosemary and bay leaf only intensifies its bright, herbal flavors. In this dish,  a white cloud of whipped ricotta adds a contrast of textures and colors, while a touch Parmesan, ham, and  a shower of fresh herbs turns this into a healthy Salad As A Meal.

Equipment: A heavy-duty mixer fitted with a whisk; a large skillet with a lid; 4 warmed salad plates.

The whipped ricotta:

2 cups (8 ounces; 250 g) best-quality sheep’s milk or cow’s milk ricotta

4 tablespoons whole milk

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

The asparagus:

16 plump spears (about 2 pounds; 1 kg) fresh green asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Several bay leaves, preferably fresh

Several sprigs fresh rosemary

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Fleur de sel

The garnish:

About 40 shavings (about 2 ounces; 60 g total) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

About 3 ounces (90 g) matchsticks of ham or sausage

Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

Fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Minced fresh rosemary, for garnish

1. In the bowl of the mixer, whisk together the ricotta and the milk until light and fluffy. Add the salt and whisk once more.

2. In a skillet large enough to hold the asparagus in a single layer, combine the oil, asparagus, oil, coarse salt, bay leaves, and rosemary. Add enough water to cover the asparagus by about one-third. Cover. Cook over high heat just until the oil and water mixture begin to sizzle.

3. Reduce heat to medium and braise the asparagus, turning from time to time, just until the vegetable begins to brown in spots and are offer no resistance when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 6 to 8 minutes. (Cooking time will depend upon the thickness of the asparagus.)  Shower with the lemon zest and juice.

4. Remove and discard the bay leaves and rosemary. Arrange 4 asparagus on each salad plate. While still warm, shower with the Parmesan strips, the meat matchsticks, and herbs. Place a scoop of whipped ricotta alongside the asparagus. Season lightly with fleur de sel. Serve immediately.

4 servings

THE SECRET: The words “serve immediately” are serious here: Once cooked, asparagus go limp rapidly. Much of the joy of this preparation is the crunch of the just-cooked vegetable, so take advantage of it.

Variation: Substitute yuzu juice and yuzu zest for the lemon, or braise with the addition of either fresh mint or rosemary, removing the herbs once the asparagus is cooked.

What people are saying about the Food Lover's Guide to Paris iPhone app

Our app is just a month old, and we've had a great response. Here are just a few comments we've received:

Patricia Wells's Food Lover's app is not just a guide to the best food in Paris but it's a way to dream about it when you're not there.  It's brilliantly done and so easy to use.  Thank you, Patricia!

Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa cookbooks

"Food lovers rejoice! You can now tour Paris with Patricia Wells, the city's most reliable guide to its very best spots. Her app is fast and easy to use, chock-full of terrific information and a great read. In other words, it's a delicious must have."

Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table and the Baking with Dorie iPad application

“What a well-designed guide for anyone who is looking to be guided through the culinary delights of Paris. Looking for the perfect roast chicken? Truffles? Haute Cuisine? Restaurant tips? It’s all here, plus more, and extremely easy to use! Patricia Wells does it again!”

Laura Tiffany, Minneapolis

“I love Paris. I love food. This is the app of my dreams. And what a bargain. I’d pay this much just for the delicious French culinary glossary. Merci Madame Wells.”

Stewart McBride

“The long-awaited update was well worth the wait! This is the only guide you will need to explore the wonders of the Paris food scene. Beautifully written and extremely well-researched, Patricia Wells takes you on the perfect culinary tour of Paris. Great insights into both the classic bistro cuisine of Paris and the ever-changing ethnic scene…I am ready to book a flight to Paris. A must-have app for the lover of all things culinary.”

Jeffrey Bergman

“It’s worth flying off to Paris (again and again) to eat through this terrific guide. We all want to make the most of our travels, and are always looking for the person who knows to ask “Where should we go? What should we order?” Patricia Wells is that person, and we can call her app 24/7 and ask those questions, and get the fool-proof answer, along with directions, times, and telephone numbers. One other great use for this app: When you’ve returned home after your visit, as we recently did, this app is the perfect reminder of places and plates. Brava Patricia Wells!”

Geof Drummond

“Definitely download this app…and especially if you like to eat! Patricia has done all the leg-work for you. Her reviews are informative and trustworthy and the map is incredibly useful even if you’re just out for a stroll. I has saved me many times when I’ve gotten lost in a maze of winding streets…Don’t come to Paris without it!”

Elissa W

A food loving baker: Gontran Cherrier

Gontran Cherrier's Tart au Chocolat 4 29 12

Gontran Cherrier’s Tarte au Chocolat, Miel, et Noix

In researching The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris application for the iPhone, I kept returning again and again to baker Gontran Cherrier’s breads and pastries, all stand-outs, all delicious. This chocolat tart is totally decadent and totally delicious. A very slim wedge is truly satisfying.

8 ounce (250 g) all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen (see Note)

3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces; 45 g) butter

1/2 cup (3 ounces; 90 g) brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon (15 g) honey

3 tablespoons (45 g) maple syrup

2 tablespoons walnuts, coarsely ground

2 tablespoons almonds, coarsely ground

2 tablespoons hazelnuts, coarsely ground

2 tablespoons dried apricots, preferably organic, minced

2 tablespoons dried figs, preferably organic, minced

2 tablespoons candied lemon or orange peel, preferably organic, minced

1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream

8 ounces (250 g) bittersweet chocolate, such as Valrhona Guanaja 70%, broken into pieces

Equipment: A 9-inch (23 cm)  tart pan with a removable bottom.

Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Arrange the pastry in the tart pan, trimming the edges so that the pastry neatly fits the pan.

In a saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar over low heat just until melted. Stir to blend. Stir in the salt, honey, and maple syrup. Spread the mixture over the bottom of the prepared pastry. Sprinkle with the nuts, and the dried and candied fruit.

Place in the center of the oven and bake the crust is dark golden and the topping is bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the ganache topping. In a saucepan, heat the cream over moderate heat. Add the chocolate and stir to melt the chocolate. Stir to blend. Spread the ganache over the top of the tart. Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving, cutting into very thin wedges.

16  servings

Note: In France we use Marie’s all-butter puff pastry. In the United States, we favor Dufour brand frozen puff pastry, available at most Whole Foods grocery stores.

Gontran Cherrier’s treats can be found at two locations in Paris:

GONTRAN CHERRIER, 22 rue Caulaincourt, Paris 18

Tel : +33 1 46 06 82 66

Métro : Lamarck-Caulaincourt

Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday 7.30am-8.30pm. Sunday 7.30am-7.30pm. Closed Wednesday

GONTRAN CHERRIER (Wagram), 8 rue Juliette-Lamber, Paris 17

Tel : +33 1 40 54 72 60

Métro: Pereire or Wagram

Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday 7.30am-8.30pm. Sunday 7.30am-7.30pm. Closed Wednesday



The new Food Lover's Guide to Paris: An app for the iPhone


Dear Friends

I am very excited to announce that THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO PARIS is back! All new content in an all new format -- as an app for the iPhone, also compatible with the iPad and iTouch. April 17 is the target date to begin sales on the iTunes App Store!

Over the past 15 months I have been visiting, re-visiting, and testing the best of culinary Paris, and the result is a user-friendly app that includes more than 350 favorite addresses, from restaurants, cafés, and wine bars, to the best in cheese shops, bakeries, pastry shops, chocolate shops, markets and specialty shops. Features include color-coded pins and GPS locations to guide you to the best spots nearby as you wander the city. You can browse by category or neighborhood, or if you are just looking for a place for a quick late-night bite, you find it quickly. You will be able to call establishments, link to their web sites, and even find directions. Color photos are included for most destinations. The app also features my popular A-Z glossary of French culinary terms. For more information, visit and on Itunes(click here to download now!). Note that you can also gift the app, tell a friend, share on Twitter and Facebook. And a 5-star rating would be most welcome!


PS: for Blackberry and Android users: Not yet, unfortunately. Those smartphone platforms are a future challenge

Back to the country: In Paris

Salade Frisee Lardons Terroir Parisien 3 23 12

Thank you, Yannick Alléno, for bringing us yet another chic, casual, well-priced good-food bistro that’s open seven days a week. I am loving this trend. Alléno is the Michelin three-star chef at the outstanding Hotel Meurice, who several years ago began a lunch menu centered around products of the Paris region: Special carrots and onions, poultry and mushrooms, lettuces and even beef and lamb. He’s now carried his passion one step further with the brand-new bistro Terroir Parisien, a bright, light, airy space in the Maubert-Mutualité area of the 5th arrondissement, home to the twice-weekly produce market, Eric Kayer’s  bread and pastry boutiques,, and Laurent Dubois’s top-flight cheese shop. As Alléno began at the Meurice and continues here, most of the dishes are historic, relating to the days when the bulk of what Parisian ate came from the city’s surrounding fields. There’s a classic – and perfect – salade de frisée, cresson à l’ouef mollet et croutons et lardons (photo), tender curly endive and watercress topped with a flawless soft-cooked egg, crunchy croutons and crisp rectangles of fragrant bacon. A few grindings of the pepper mill and I was good to go. I’d be proud to bring to the table their navarin printanier d’agneau de chez Morisseau, a moist, delicate spring lamb stew teamed up with baby carrots, potatoes, green beans, peas, and herbs. I have not seen the old-fashioned merlan Colbert (whole whiting breaded and deep-fried) since the 1980’s, when Joël Robuchon brought it back to the table at Jamin. Here the dish was as golden, tender, and crisp as can be, served with a delicate herb butter. There is also the classic French onion soup, stuffed cabbage, platters of excellent charcuterie from Gilles Vérot’s boutiques, and a cheese plate. Service here was tentative and distracted, and the wine list needs a serious boost. Soon they hope to continue service nonstop from noon to midnight, meaning you can pull up a stool and enjoy a croque monsieur and a glass of wine at 4 in the afternoon. Sunday brunch will also be offered in the coming weeks.

TERROIR PARISIEN, 20 rue Saint-Victor,Paris 5. Tel: +33 1 44 31 54 54. Métro: Maubert-Mutualité. Open daily. Email Lunch & Dinner: 11-35€

Another Saint-Germain opening: Pinxo

Pinxo Rouleau Crabe Royal 3 16 11
Pinxo Gambas Curry Vert 3 16 12

Another Saint-Germain opening today, with Alain Dutournier’s all-modern, red, grey, white, and black Southwestern-accented Pinxo, his second in the city. Pronounced “pinch-oh,” the word comes from the Aquitaine region of France’s Southwest and signifies “pinching something from someone else’s plate.” Here, Dutournier offers a tempting trio of three significant bites of each dish, focusing on all the finest ingredients of the region: baby squid, or chipirions; foie gras; local ham: beef from Chalosse;, brebis sheep’s milk cheese from Gabas; plenty of piment d’Espelette to perk up any dish; as well as the famed tourtière Landaise (a local strudel-like dessert filled with apples or prunes) and here served with a prune ice cream.The food is streamlined and beautiful, with a well-seasoned variation of the Vietnamese spring roll, tasty pieces of crab and vegetables wrapped carefully in rice paper, a lovely starter (or meal on its own) with crunch and character (photo). The sautéed gambas topped with a fiery green curry were set on a bed of fragrant, perfectly cooked rice, laced with a touch of coconut milk (photo). A third choice, an unusual mix of baby squid and piquillos peppers, tiny macaroni, strips of fried ginger and thin chips of garlic, was pleasant enough, but lacked spark. A sprinkling of ground piment d’Espelette (at each table, along with salt and pepper) helped boost the flavor. Overall, I found the food could have come with a bit more punch, brighter flavors, more focus. But I’ll be back, loving the idea that I could stop in a 4 in the afternoon for a serving of grilled bread and smoked salmon paired with an avocado mousse, or a simple tartine, or open-face sandwich of tomato and aged ham.

PINXO SAINT GERMAIN, 82 rue Mazarine, Paris 6. Tel: +33 1 43 54 02 11.Métro: Mabillon. Open daily noon to midnight.

www.pinxo.frEmail Lunch: 29€ lunch menu (includes glass of wine). A la carte, 10-45

Dinner: A la carte 10-45 €

The original Pinxo is at 9 rue Alger, Paris 1. Tel: +33 1 40 20 72 00. Open Monday-Saturday. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday.

Semilla: A new kid on the block

Semilla Opening 3 15 12
Mushrooms Semilla 3 15 12

American Juan Sanchez and New Zealander Drew Harré have become favored food and wine fixtures in the Saint-Germain neighborhood (with restaurants Fish, Cosi, and wine shop La Dernière Goutte) and my good friends seem to have hit yet another all-bases-loaded home run with their newest endeavor, Semilla, a tapas, or small-plate style restaurant carefully designed for the way we want to eat today. A “soft” opening on Thursday produced winning dish after winning dish, with Meilleur Ouvrier de France chef Eric Trochon at the helm, dreaming up a mix of totally new and amazing to-the-point inventions, as well as soothing classics with a modern, updated edge. Here’s the idea: a nice mix of little and large tastes for vegetarians, meat eaters, lovers of the classics as well as the adventurous. Juan, Drew, and their crew have spent more than a year fine-tuning this lovely spot, updating the beams and brick décor into a clean white yet bistro-like space, with an all-stainless open kitchen. On the menu: paper-thin slices of delectable charcuterie from Corsica;  an amazing  starter of grapefruit, coconut cream and Asian herbs; a creamy velouté of mushrooms; a must-have plate of seared shitake mushrooms grilled-seared with just a touch of oil, salt, and pepper (photo); fabulous skate-wing topped with a peppy sauce vierge;  a state-of-the-art blanquette de veau; a rosy-rare côte de boeuf; a  dessert of winning citrus-based soupe d’agrumes. And more to come! The wine list is on its way, with always dependable and affordable selections from Juan the Magnificent. They are still in test mode, so lunch only this Friday and Saturday. Sunday will be brunch, then steaks and stuff for dinner. Coming Monday, it’s 7/7. To be continued…………..(By the way, Semilla is Spanish for “seed.”)

SEMILLA, 54 rue de Seine, Paris 6. Tel: +33 1 43 54 34 50.Métro: Saint-Germain des Prés or Mabillon. Open: Daily.

Lunch: 19€  unique menu. Open between lunch & dinner for charcuterie and drinks.

Dinner: A la carte 35-55 €

Chez Rene: Back to the classics


Anyone in the mood for classic Parisian bistro fare should reserve a table at the ultra-traditional and purely authentic Chez René set on a sunny corner along Boulevard Saint Germain in the 5th arrondissement. This has been a favorite haunt for decades, with copious portions of excellent preserved duck leg (confit de canard), whole beef kidneys (rongon de veau), and classic Burgundian beef stew (boeuf Bourguignon). The fries are hot and crispy, and taste of real potatoes. The cheese comes from Madame Quatrehomme, so you know that the warm goat cheese salad (chèvre chaud) will be first rate, with the greens a superb blend of lamb’s lettuce (mache) and arugula (roquette). In winter months there is a terrific starter, a gratin of blettes (Swiss chard), a recipe that uses the wilted leaves as well as the chopped stems, tossed with a flavorful Bechamel and topped with plenty of beautifully gratinéed Gruyère cheese. On my last visit, the famed saucisson de Lyon chaud pistaché left me a bit disappointed: the potatoes were lukewarn and rather tasteless, while the slices of pork sausage were dry and ordinary. But I’ll keep coming back, for the service is thoroughly professional and décor right out of central casting: regular male diners feasting all on their own, newspaper in hand and napkins tucked beneath the chin. The walls are filled with classic art show posters dating from the 1940’s. Woody Allen would be right at home here!

CHEZ RENE, 14 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris 5. Tel: +33 1 43 54 30 23 Métro: Maubert-Mutualité. Open: Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday-Monday, 10 days at Christmas, & August.Lunch and Dinner: A la carte 40-55€

La Table d'Aki: A one man show

Table d'Aki Ravioli de Langoustines 2 29 12

Akihiro Horikoshi brings new meaning to the phrase "one man show." His new, 16-seat restaurant has a single employee: Aki. He shops, he creates the menu, he cooks, he takes orders, he serves, he cleans up. And this is the way the Tokyo native wants it. He has been on his own at La Table d’Aki since January 10, having worked under the tutelage of Bernard Pacaud at the Michelin three-star L’Ambroisie since 1991. The spotless, tiny restaurant is bathed in light and white from head to toe, with a few flashes of red from the lamp cables that bring the room together in a quiet, festive way. His food, too – pure, simple, and sensational in an understated way  – is white. A giant. alabaster ravioli filled with sweet, fresh langoustines dotted with herbs arrives with a thin but potent meat sauce that makes the dish look like dessert (photo). A delicate, moist fricassée of chicken with carefully turned potatoes and baby onions tastes as though it was dropped from on high by the angels. The delicate lieu-jaune (Atlantic cod) is offset with the punch of a brunoise of celery root, all those precision-cut cubes, and a nice hit of capers. Dessert, all white again, arrives as silken crème brûlée, paired with an apple baked with a touch of cake inside, a pleasant surprise on the palate. At night, Aki cooks only fish. On the menu now, the freshest scallops from Brittany. The food has the Aki signature, as well as the echo of Pacauad’s sublime perfection. La Table d’Aki is a nice little new star in Paris’s ever-glistening sky.

LA TABLE D’AKI, 49 rue Vaneau, Paris 7. Tel: +33 1 45 44 43 48. Métro: Vaneau. Open: Tuesday-Friday. Closed  Sunday & Monday. Lunch & Dinner: A la carte 38-50€

Daube au vine rouge: Best-ever beef stew

Beef Daube Rue du Bac Butcher 2 22 12

There is a story behind each recipe. This one has several. The last day of our last Provence class one September, I sent a student to the vegetable garden for salads and herbs. She came back screaming “Your garden has been destroyed, everything is in disarray.” Sure enough. Big chunks had been chewed from the pumpkins. Zucchini plants had been pulled out, salads trampled, there were crater-like holes everywhere. The wild boar had had a midnight party. I didn’t cry because we were leaving the next day and wouldn’t be back for several months. But I laughed when I saw that they had not touched the arugula or the shiso! No gourmets, those boars.  Fast foreward to Christmas: A neighbor who is a veteran hunter arrived at the door with a huge package of frozen wild boar, promising me that this was not the animal who had destroyed my garden. (How could he be sure?) I thought about re-gifting the creature but decided cooking it myself might be the best revenge. The daube was delicious.

Back in Paris, I decided to re-test the recipe with beef, and when I went to my local butcher and simply asked for 2 kg of beef for a daube, preferably two or three different cuts, he created a veritable still life. I arrived home with three cuts of beef, strips of caul fat, marrow bones and of course a garnish of fresh parsley! While the daube can be prepared with a single cut of meat, I like to use two or three, to allow for more complex flavors and textures. Careful searing of the meat is essential, to seal in juices. Flaming the wine adds another layer of flavor. A few marrow bones and strips of caul fat add a fabulous, silken texture to the final product. And while most French daube recipes recommend using either fresh tagliatelle or dried penne pasta, I prefer sheets of fresh pasta. They’re prettier on the plate, easier to eat, and more quickly absorb the silken sauce.

Equipment: A heavy-duty casserole with a lid; a 10-quart (10 l) pasta pot, fitted with a colander;  8 warmed, shallow soup bowls.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 pounds beef (see Note) cut into 3-ounce (90 g) pieces

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 bottle red wine, such as a Cotes-du-Rhone

1 quart (1 l) Homemade Chicken Stock (page 000)

2 large onions, peeled and halved  crosswise, cut into thin rings

4 carrots, peeled and cut into think rounds

4 fresh or dried bay leaves

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Several strips of caul fat (optional)

Several marrow bones (optional)

Final garnish:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound (500 g) fresh mushrooms

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

5 ounces (150 g) pancetta, rind removed, cut into matchsticks

Eight 5-inch (12.5 cm) squares of fresh pasta

3 tablespoons coarse sea salt

Parsley leaves, for garnish

In the casserole, heat the oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add several pieces of the meat and brown them over moderate heat, regulating the heat to avoid scorching the meat. Do not crowd the pan and be patient: Good browning is essential for the meat to retain flavor and moistness. Thoroughly brown the meat on all sides in several batches, about 10 minutes per batch. As each batch is browned, use tongs (to avoid piercing the meat) to transfer the beef to a platter. Immediately season generously with salt and pepper. Return all the meat to the casserole. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Flame the wine to burn off the alcohol. Be very careful here: Be sure nothing flammable is near the burner. It will take about 4 minutes  to burn off the alcohol.

Add the stock, onions, carrots, bay leaves, and tomato paste. If using, add the caul fat and marrow bones. Cover and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat. Cook, covered, maintaining a very gentle simmer,  until the meat is very tender, 3 to 4 hours. Stir from time to time to evenly coat the pieces of meat with the liquid. The sauce should be glossy and thick. Taste for seasoning. (The daube can be prepared a day in advance, covered and refrigerated.) Reheat at serving time.

Prepare the mushrooms: In a large, covered saucepan, combine the butter, mushrooms, and lemon juice. Cover and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the mushrooms warm while finishing the dish.

Prepare the pancetta: In a large skillet with no added fat, brown the pancetta over moderate heat until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to several layers of paper towel to absorb the fat. Blot the top of the pancetta with several layers of paper towel to absorb any additional fat.

Fill the pasta pot with 8 quarts (8 l) of water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the coarse salt and the pasta, stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook until tender. Drain.

Transfer  a square of pasta to each warmed shallow soup bowl. Arrange several pieces of meat, the carrots, mushrooms and bacon on top of the pasta. Garnish with parsley. Serve.

8 servings

Note: Use two to three different cuts of beef here, choosing from the top or bottom round, heel of round, shoulder arm or shoulder blade, neck, or short ribs of beef.

Wine suggestion: I love an elegant Syrah here, such as  Domaine Vincent Paris’s ruby Cornas.