A bite of history: Clown Bar

Finding a restaurant whose atmosphere gives you an authentic historic experience, while offering you fresh contemporary fare on the plate, can be somewhat of an enigma in Paris. Sure, historical settings with charming turn-of-the-century décor abound, but so do the disappointments when the food arrives. But since Sven Chartier and Ewen Lemoigne of restaurant Saturne fame have taken over Clown Bar -- the historic monument that was once the watering hole for the adjacent Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus) – this is decidedly not one of those places. 

The charming Belle Epoque bistro setting with Sarreguemines ceramic tiles depicting parading clowns, a zinc bar and circus-style, exposed bulb lighting is a surprising but refreshing setting for chef Sota Atsumi’s modern French, produce-driven cuisine. Chef Atsumi, who has passed through the likes of 3 Michelin star Maison Troisgros in Roanne and Vivant Table and Toyo in Paris, assures a daily changing menu of carefully composed offerings, that are simple yet imaginative and satisfying. You might find entrees such as a sashimi coins of coquilles Saint Jacques (scallop) served with smoky shaved ricotta and delicately perfumed bergamot; or a raw beef tartare, brightened up with marinated anchovy fillets and a thick substantial burrata. For mains, we sampled a filet of cod, soft and pillowy (yet a touch overcooked) served with grilled Italian radicchio, spiked with miso and showered in a dramatic green seaweed powder (photo); and a perfectly cooked pigeon, served with fresh blueberries and a generous bowl of grilled whole gernika peppers from the Basque country.

We loved the light yet puckery tarte au citron (lemon tart), but being late in the season, the blueberry tart was a little lackluster, despite its pairing with a heavenly salted caramel ice-cream and we might have been better with the chocolate mousse with grilled tea ice-cream. Always good to have a reason to go back. Other bonuses include their six table terrace and they are open Sunday nights. All the elements are there for a great Parisian dining experience. 

CLOWN BAR   |   Modern French / Bistro   |   114 rue Amelot   |   Paris 11   |   +33 1 43 55 87 35   |  Métro: Filles du Calvaire or Oberkampf   |   Wednesday – Sunday for lunch and dinner, 7:30am-2am continued service for drinks only   |   50-60€ à la carte   |   Reservations recommended   |

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Juveniles: vibrant bright flavors and a wine list to love

Juveniles wine bar and wine shop is the sort of place you want in your neighborhood. When you don’t want to cook, you just slip in for a taste of solidly modern bistro fare, including sparkling fresh fish from Brittany, meaty duck breast from the southwest, and of course, enough wine choices to make your pleasure thermometer soar. And should you be cooking up a storm that day, test your wine-pairing skills and choose from owner Tim Johnston’s keen-eyed selection of wines from all over the world, take a bottle home and uncork it. 

Since Tim opened in March 1987, this tiny spot (you will surely slip past mountains of wine cartons on the way to your table) has been home to wine lovers from all over. In January 2014, he was joined by daughter Margaux and her partner Romain Roudeau, who reigns in the kitchen. The food here is vibrant, offering an avalanche of bright flavors and herbs galore. Who could not love a combination of soothing Italian buffalo-milk burratina set on a bed of crunchy fresh seasonal peas and fava beans, then showered in a pungent garden of mint, coriander and dill? Tender fillets of merlu (hake) are paired with beautifully seared chunks of zucchini, a mound of salad greens and crunchy toasted almonds. Like many menus today, the list of offerings reads like a welcome admonition to “eat your vegetables” and Romain does them proud with his ability to sear, char and turn sometimes mundane ingredients into real treasures. This is also a cheese-lover’s paradise, with everything from well-aged French Brie to the UK’s Neal’s Yard Dairy unpasteurized cheddar.

But of course wine is why we go, to ponder the compact yet extensive well-priced wine list, offering everything from Aubert de Villaine’s bright, citrusy white Bourgogne Côte Châlonnaise to Domaine de Marcoux’s always pleasurable white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In the red category, there is Tim’s own Vin de Table de France “Purple Fourteen” a wine crafted along with winemaker Marcel Richaud in the southern Rhone. They offer wines by the glass, the half-liter, the bottle, the magnum- from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Austria, Spain and Italy, so explore! 

Juveniles   |   47 rue de Richelieu   |   Paris 1   |   +33 1 42 97 46 49   |   Métro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, Bourse or Pyramides   |   Open Tuesday – Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday   |   www.juvenileswinebar.com    |   À la carte, 36-50€   |   Reservations suggested

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Papillon: An exciting new modern bistro from Christophe Saintonge

What a pleasure to find a restaurant where everything satisfies from the minute you walk in the door to signing the check at the end of the meal. No question about it, Papillon to my mind is one of the most exciting new modern bistros to hit the Paris food scene in many years. Chef-owner Christophe Saintonge, who was last seen as head chef at Alain Ducasse’s three Michelin star Paris restaurant Le Meurice, is now out on his own and continues to show us his talent, intelligence and maturity as a chef, but in a more low-key, accessible setting.

Located in the beautifully appointed Parc Monceau neighborhood in the 17th arrondissement, the restaurant looks onto the picturesque Hausmannien building opposite through its all-glass facade. The pristine 45-seat dining room is modern and understated, but not without character with it’s gold-rimmed grey oak veneer tables, orb-like suspended lamps, comfortable blonde wooden chairs and camel-colored leather banquettes. The alert attentive staff (the number of which seemed enormous for the size of the restaurant) are charmingly outfitted in crisp white shirts, black suit pants, black bow ties and black suspenders. While there is a ‘closed kitchen’ you can catch glimpses of the action into the slick, clean, stainless steel kitchen workshop.

But best and most important of all, the menu and wine list is something to embrace wholeheartedly. It’s a happy conundrum to be faced with a menu where your first reaction is “I want to try everything!” And I loved almost everything I tasted there, including the marinated daurade (porgy)  carpaccio (photo), bathed in lemon juice, olive oil, and tender leaves of mizuna, or Japanese mustard green. Paper-thin slices of radish added a winning touch of color and crunch. I will definitely be ordering that again.

The roasted asparagus was a marvel: Perfectly cooked so that its earthy flavor had a chance to star, topped with a tiny layer of melted Comté cheese and served with a tarragon cream alongside, to extend the pleasure. At least 35 years ago in the south of France I sampled a whole roasted leg of lamb that had been cooked in a bread oven and smothered in hay and I have never forgotten that smoky marriage of smoldering hay and tender meat. Saintonge’s version of lamb chops smoked in hay did not disappoint, paired with a side dish of my favored fregola, those crunchy, toasted pellets of pasta from Sardinia.

Equally fabulous was the roasted veal – full-flavored and tender – served with a brilliant creation of sliced, roasted artichoke hearts. A giant fillet of roasted barbue (brill) just barely cooked, was served with a spring-fresh salad of mixed herbs.

As we sat savoring our main course, we watched the waiters parade around the room, scooping warm chocolate cake direct from the pan into dessert bowls already adorned with fresh mint and chocolate nibs. No need to consult the dessert menu, we were sold. Pure chocolate heaven, one heady spoonful at a time.

My only serious disappointment was the madeleines offered with coffee, cleverly served directly out of their metal baking tins. But alas, they were undercooked with a distinct acidic tinge of baking soda.

The wine list was equal to the impressive menu however. Don’t miss one of my favorite whites, Domaine Ostertag’s pinot blanc from Alsace and the always dependable red Côtes–du-Rhône from Michel Richard. Prices are totally reasonable considering the all-around quality with 28€ and 36€ lunch menus (2 or 3 courses respectively), or 50-60€ à la carte.

PAPILLON   |   8 rue Meissonier   |   Paris 17   |   +33 1 56 79 81 88   |   Métro: Wagram   |   Open Monday to Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday   |   www.papillonparis.fr    |   amis@papillonparis.fr   |   Lunch: 28€ and 36€ menus   |   50-60€ à la carte   |   Reservations recommended.

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Wide-eyed Wonder at Restaurant David Toutain

Pigeon and Asparagus at Restaurant David Toutain

One of my wine-loving friends says of a new wine discovery, “I’d like to have a bottle of this once a month for the rest of my life.” I could apply the same sentiment to dining at David Toutain’s outstanding Paris restaurant in the 7th arrondissement. Toutain stunned us several years ago as head chef at Agapé Substance before opening his own modern dining room in 2014.

Not many chefs today can offer total satisfaction in a single bite, but Toutain achieves it right off the bat with a brilliant red bundle of beef carpaccio, silken, glistening, set on a bed of pristine ground hazelnuts and topped with sharply flavored oxalis leaves.

The wide-eyed wonder continues throughout the meal as Toutain distinguishes himself as a chef who follows no one but himself, always experimenting, searching for the surprise and joy that a single bite can deliver.

Toutain has worked with the best – Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard, Bernard Pacaud – and has certainly been an exemplary student. But what I love most about his approach and his daring is the way he translates nature’s treasures to the plate. We marvel at some of his combinations – kiwi and oysters or salsify and white chocolate – and applaud when something as down to earth as a tender, juicy pigeon breast is paired with perfectly cooked first-of-season asparagus (photo). And who could resist a pair of brilliant green parsley tortellini floating in a sublime pork consommé?

His multicourse menu is restrained and you don’t leave this understated restaurant feeling as though you never want to eat again. Portions are small but not skimpy. The food is picture-perfect and always eye-opening, but not precious. Some dishes are more exciting than others: I could have lived without the abrasive smoked eel with black sesame. And I find that some of the chunky contemporary pottery – especially jet black plates and bowls – do little to flatter the visual appeal of the food.

Toutain’s attentive staff are not at all aggressive and I am always happy to put myself in the hands of sommelier Guillaume Lescoliere. We have similar tastes and I applaud many of his selections, including the vibrantly refreshing 2014 Vouvray Sec from Domaine du Clos Naudin, the lively Saint Romain pinot noir by Alain Gras, and the syrah-infused Saint Joseph from Domaine Gripa.

For a restaurant of this caliber prices are a veritable bargain with a 55€ lunch menu and 80€ and 110€ lunch and dinner menus (130€ and 180€) with wine. 

RESTAURANT DAVID TOUTAIN   |   29 rue Surcouf   |   Paris 7   |   Tel: +33 1 45 50 11 10   |   Métro: Invalides or La Tour Maubourg   |   Open Monday-Friday 12-2.30pm & 8-10pm   |   davidtoutain.com   |     reservations@davidtoutain.com    |   Lunch: 55€ menu (not available during school and public holidays), 80 and 110€ (130 and 180€ with wine) menus at lunch and dinner   |   Reservation: essential

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L'Ambassade d'Auvergne: Still as good as ever

L'Ambassade d'Auvergne is a restaurant that I have been visiting for over 30 years. It was included in the original Food Lover's Guide to Paris  in 1984, and a recent meal there confirmed that it is still as good as ever. I was happy to find a whole host of new dishes on the menu since my last visit – all as homey, comforting and rewarding as I have come to expect from this welcoming family restaurant. Of course the traditional aligot (cheesy, garlicky potato purée typical of the region) is a long-standing staple of their menu, as is their near-on addictive chocolate mousse, both of which, in my opinion, should be considered some of France's greatest gifts to gastronomy. Not a bad way to brighten up a gray Parisian winter's day!


L'Ambassade d'Auvergne

Returning to the folkoric, always dependable L’Ambassade d’Auvergne is like going to visit a favorite aunt and uncle. You are welcomed with open arms, enjoying a few sips of meaty Domaine Mont-Olivet Châteauneuf-du-Pape as you examine the totally regional menu based on the fierce tradition of the center of France, the Auvergne. Meat is king here, in the name of a delicious duo d’agneau, a warming winter pair of slow and long-cooked braised lamb shoulder and leg, rich, tender, rewarding. There are of course thick, seared slices of rich and fragrant foie gras,  served with a welcome sprinkling of sea salt and a smear of intense red fruit jam. We sampled just about everything on the menu, including a favored giant pork sausage, served with a giant crock of cornichons; an excellent assortment of cured pork products (cochonailles), including a “best ever” serving of perfectly seasoned headcheese (fromage de tête), a moist and tender roast partridge (perdreaux) paired with an avalanche of seasoned, chopped and simmered cabbage; In abudance, forever, is the region’s piece de resistance, the thick and creamy aligot, a potato puree laced with the fresh curds used in making Cantal cheese, and garlic (and minced truffles, in season!), a dish no one can possibly turn away. Save room for the smooth and addictive chocolate mousse, served out of giant bowls, and you are forcefully urged to go for seconds, even thirds. 

L’AMBASSADE D’AUVERGNE   |   22 rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare   |   Paris 3    |   Tel: +33 1 42 72 31 22   |   Métro: Rambuteau or Etienne-Marcel   |   Open daily |   20€ lunch menu, à la carte 45€ at lunch and dinner   |   www.ambassade-auvergne.com 


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Fulgurances: A bold, brave concept

A fulgurance is like a lightening bolt – a moment that is intense in emotion, unique, exceptional, mystical, and cannot be reproduced. These are the words of the Parisian restaurateur Rebecca Asthalter, who, along with partners Hugo Hivernat and Sophie Coribert opened Fulgurances l’Adresse on October 14th of this year. The concept is a new one: The restaurant will change chefs every six months, working with sous-chefs from well-known restaurants who are eager to go it on their own.

Their first featured chef, Chloé Charles, worked most recently as a sous-chef at the nearby Septime, under the tutelage of Bertrand Grébaut, and earlier she passed through the kitchens of l’Astrance with Pascal Barbot and David Toutain during his days at L’Agapé Substance. The restaurant – a casual, modern, clean little 36-seat spot in the city’s 11th arrondissement – is not far from the scene of the city’s horrors of November 13th. On that Friday evening police came to the restaurant, directing the owners to lock the doors, turn off the lights, and wait. By 1 am the police returned, allowing guests and the owners to vacate. Obviously, a rather challenging beginning to an already brave adventure. Parisians have shown themselves in the wake of these events to be extremely resilient, and restaurant was close to full on the two occasions that we visited the restaurant in the last two weeks.

Locals, as well as diners who had already experienced the trio's pop-up restaurants at various venues around Paris since 2010, have become loyal supporters, and on a recent evening the small, elegantly casual restaurant was overflowing with tables full of 30-somethings sharing Chloé Charles's inventive cuisine. Her food is modern, vibrant and forward flavored, ranging from a sumptuous starter of giant artichokes bathed in a touch of red wine, bone marrow and a hit of Roquefort, to an unusual and soothing salad of smoked eel, paired with a broccoli puree seasoned with a bright touch of mint and orange. 

A main-course of plump, moist farm guinea hen was stuffed with herbs beneath the skin, seasoned with a yogurt sauce that included pepper, pear, and bit of grilled bread, a very modern bistro dish if there ever was one. 

She boldly pairs squid and sweetbreads with a mixture of winter vegetables, meat juices and a bit of lemon, and offers a super-fresh portion of rouget barbet (red mullet), served with generous portions of pleurotte and chanterelle mushrooms as well as crisp chestnut chips. 

One of the best tastes of the evening was her very bright flavored appetizer of mulet rillettes, served with the crusty sourdough bread from baker Olivier Haustraete of Boulangerie Bio near the marché d’Aligre. When baking the bread, the floor of the oven is spread with ground olive pits, which smoke as the bread bakes, giving each loaf a unique, smokey flavor. 

The brief wine list offers some appealing selections, including Domaine Valette’s satiny, mineral-rich Maçon Chaintré. 

Desserts were far less convincing, with a very dry poached pear with touches of quince mousseline, and a rather unimpressive chocolate cream dotted with bits of chocolate sablé. 

The lunchtime menu is more low key, offering two choices for starters and mains, a cheese course and one dessert. The thick textured mushroom soup was adorned with the flavors of autumn: paper thin slices of pair, crumbled tangy Roquefort, onions and chestnuts. The pork braised in white wine was impossibly tender, served with simple garlic potatoes, shitake mushrooms and topped with a handful of arugula and fresh herbs that were a welcome refreshing touch. The 19€ 2-course / 22€ 3-course lunchtime menu is a fantastic bargain, even if the dessert did not inspire.

I’m eager to go back again, to watch the bustle of the open kitchen, see the restaurant progress, and share in the creation of this unique, brave, bold idea. Chloe Charles will be resident chef until May 2016.


Fulgurances l'Adresse   |   10 rue Alexandre Dumas   |   Paris   |   +33 9 81 09 33 32   |   Metro: Rue des Boulets   |   Open Wednesday through Saturday   |  19 / 22€ lunch menus, 44€ dinner menu   |  


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Giving thanks to olives

The events of Friday November 13th in Paris left us stunned and horrified. It is the city that I have come to call home and not uncommonly for a Friday night, I was out dining with friends at a small bistro on the left bank when the news of the attacks broke. We decided that the most positive action we could take was to continue with our plans to harvest our olive grove in Provence, both to celebrate the longevity, strength, beauty, and bounty associated with the revered olive and to soothe our saddened souls.
I had anticipated this day all year, not only because in 2014 there had been no harvest due to an infestation of the olive fly that had affected olives groves almost worldwide, but also because I had never seen our 30 or so olive trees thrive as they did this year.

Somehow, I have always been in the U.S. during harvest time – usually taking place between November and January – but this year I was determined to pick those olives myself! So on Sunday morning together with three of my French neighbors Colette, Jeannette, and Jean-Claude, I initiated the harvest. We decided to pick each olive by hand rather than, as is common practice in the region, raking them from the branches and letting them fall onto nets set beneath the tree. We began plucking them one by one from low-hanging branches, then later trapping upper branches with an antique wooden olive rake, pulling the supple branches down to within reach of our eager grasp, all the while collecting our bounty in wicker baskets hung in the trees from metal hooks.

I used to think that all olives were perfectly calibrated like the ones in the pots in an olive bar or in jars on market shelves. I could not have been more wrong! Olives are fruit, and at least on our trees, they can range from little green specimens the size of a pea, to plump, moist, black ones the size of a walnut.

Skies were clear and pristine blue, temperatures were in the 70s – not rare for mid-November in Provence – and local birds sang to us as we labored. The trauma of Paris slipped out of our minds as we chatted about the bounty of the harvest, how fortunate we were to be here at this moment, and how much oil we might see as the result of our efforts. It turns out that it takes about 9 lbs / 4 kg (enough to fill a very, very large champagne bucket!) of olives to press a quart or litre of oil. Except for one exceptional tree that yielded a record (for us) 132 pounds/60 kg of olives, most of the trees gave about 6 1/2 pounds / 3 kgs.  We figured that between the four of us we put in some 70 hours for a total of521 lb / 237 kg, giving us 60 quarts or liters of oil.

I set aside the plumpest and most beautiful olives from a single tree that grows near our dining area on the sunset terrace and immersed them in an inky black salt brine I have used for decades, to cure them for eating out of hand at aperitif time or for making our favorite tapenade. The rest were destined for the oil press. I had to return to Paris before the last olive was harvested, so my neighbor delivered our harvest to the local mill in nearby Puyméras. The mill workers immediately noticed they had been picked my hand, announcing loudly that these perfect specimens had clearly been picked “à l’ancienne!”. In fact, our olives were so beautiful that a local television crew there to film the seasonal event chose to focus on our very crop!
Olive harvesting, at least by hand, is slow going and hard work (our shoulder and arms muscles sure were sore the next day!) but it’s rewarding, restorative and certainly this year, for me, a sort of welcome, zen undertaking at a time when France has been shaken to it's core.

So I give thanks for the olives and all they bring. I can’t wait to open the first bottle, drizzle the oil onto some homemade sourdough toast, inhale, bite down, and appreciate the goodness in simple things.

Wishing you all a happy, safe and delicious Thanksgiving.

Freddy's: A name you're not likely to forget

Not content with their already sizeable portion of the Rue de Seine restaurant real estate – Cosi, Fish, Semilla and their wine shop La Dernière Goutte around the corner – American Juan Sanchez and New Zealander Drew Harré have now added a quick-stop wine bar, Freddy’s, to their lineup. The wine bar is named for Drew’s wine-loving grandfather, who called everyone whose name he could not remember, Freddy. Grandpa’s photo, in his last years at a bar with a glass of wine, graces the menu.

The small plates menu and excellent wine list makes this an ideal place to pop in alone, in search of a glass of wine and a quick snack, lunch, or dinner or with a quartet of friends who plan to let loose with good conversation and pleasant sips.

I’ve lunched here several times since they opened late in the summer of 2015, and there is no question that, once again, Juan and Drew know what they are doing. But never taking themselves too seriously, the staff in the wine bar wear t-shirts that read “Work in Progress” and in their typical style, these boys are always fine-tuning day by day, along with talented, modern, inventive Semilla chef Eric Trochon.  Start, with platters of Corsican ham and chorizo, sliced paper thin, with sips of whatever wine appeals. I like to go for the 100% Marsanne Cairrane, from the Domaine l‘Oratoire St Martin Reserve des Seigneur, or the always table-pleasing Burgundy Chardonnay Viré Clessé from Comte Lafon.

When it’s on the menu, try the meaty, hearty, coeur de canard, duck hearts that appear so seldom on menus. One of my favorite versions was sampled at the restaurant Bones, then run by chef James Henry. Henry and his duck hearts have since moved on, so I am happy to find a pleasing replacement here where these morsels are moist, tender, a revelation. Freddy’s falafel  – crispy chickpea balls – are light, spicy and well-seasoned, and could serve as a meal all on their own. These are small plates, with prices ranging from 6 to 9€, so you can order and re-order as hunger dictates. There are no tables, just stools, in a warm setting of exposed stone walls and wooden floors. Remember, no phone, no reservations, but open noon to midnight daily!


FREDDY’S   |   54 rue de Seine   |   Paris 6   |   No telephone, no reservations   |   Métro: Saint-Germain des Prés or Mabillon   |   Open daily noon to midnight   |   Small plates from 6 to 9 €


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La Bourse et La Vie: Daniel Rose gets it right again

American Daniel Rose, of Spring fame, has opened a nostalgic, classic French bistro in a landmark-worthy café near the Paris Bourse, with such traditional fare as pot-au-feu, calf’s head in ravigote, mackerel in white wine, and, of course, steak-frites. He is clearly moving against the current grain of bistronomy sites run by non-French chefs. And bravo!

He has a good head on his shoulders and a will to please, as well as a talent for knowing what people want to eat today. And he’s realistic. I so totally agree with a recent quote from him: “Food is 20% about cooking, 50% about buying, and the rest is cleaning up and organizing.”

I am a pushover for oysters of any kind, and his rendition of warm oysters broiled with a touch of spinach and a healthy dose of thick Normandy crème fraîche totally made my day. The serving was of three oysters, I could have easily had six!

The first-course salad of beets and smoked eel, bathed in a horseradish-rich cream made me feel very energetic, but I found the eel rather tough and out of place in this creation.

The pot-au-feu was totally satisfying, more of a modern and light version, blasted with fresh herbs and lime, offering a voluminous amount of fresh vegetables, including thick rounds of leeks and plenty of cabbage. Less convincing was his rendition of steak-frites, perfectly cooked but the beef was rather tasteless and without character. The frites however were crisp, delicious, welcome.

Desserts included a perfectly moist and successful autumn fig tart and a thyme sorbet that was, unfortunately, far too aggressively infused to be appealing.

Service is direct, friendly and quick. Giant rounds of gougère welcome you at the table, and the wine list offers many treasures, including my favorite Grenache-rich Domaine Saint Prèfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape from talented winemaker Isabelle Ferrando; Léon Barral’s always reliable red Faugères; and Lucien Crochet’s white Sancerre.

Although the décor and the space are classic bistro, with a long, narrow dining room and space so elbow-to-elbow you almost injure your neighbor, I would have preferred a lighter look than the olive-grey tones of the dining room. But I’ll be back, maybe even for breakfast, when they are open Monday through Friday from 9am.

La Bourse et La Vie   |   12 rue Vivienne   |   Paris 2   |   Tel: +33 1 42 60 08 83   |   Métro: Bourse, Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre or Quatre Septembre   |   Open Monday through Friday 9am-2pm & 7-10pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday   |   36-50€ at lunch and dinner   |   www.labourselavie.com


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Taste of the Week: Unsung star of the kitchen

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   |   Burgers 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 with broccoli rabe (cime di rapa), buffalo 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.