Behold!

The most American thing to come out of a French marché:

It’s an enormous egg-n-cheese, composed with hand made english muffins and eggs from the Sunday Blvd. de Raspail market. Kraft cheddar compliments of the American Embassy. And yes, I’m eating it for dinner. Cue the heartburn.

Boulevard Raspail Market
Boulevard de Raspail
Paris, France 75006
Metro: Between Rennes and Sèvres-Babylone

Bio/organic market on Sundays, 9-3pm

Regular market on Tuesdays and Fridays, 7-2:30pm (I think. I’ve never been, and there’s conflicting info about the closing time on the web!)

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100 Funny Things.

This is officially my 100th post – Cue the fireworks and free bottles of champagne! Yaaaahoooooooweeeee!

(I’m totally ignoring the fact that this being only my 100th post in about a year means I really need to try harder to post more often. But who wants to rain on their own champagne infused parade? Let’s just consider it New Year’s Resolved.)

Looking back through all my anecdotes and diatribes has made me realize just how much we’ve all learned over the past year. You readers are so totally prepared for life in France now! You’ve got Paris covered, no sweat. Why? Because I’ve shared all there is to know about dog poo covered sidewalks and how to call someone a “nice beetch.” You know all about hoo-ha molds, danger bees, and of course, baby jesus in velvet pants. You have been well versed in the many merits of champagne and pain au raisins for breakfast. And the looming danger of butter brain.

And let’s not forget the informative pieces on pictogram ovens, boob vocabulary and most importantly, sharts.

There have been bike trips and toenail clippings, giant vats of chocolate mousse and master bites. There were lessons on pre-pubescent pickpockets and avoiding Sephora at all costs. I’ve given you the lowdown on castle dwelling in the Loire, excessive wine sipping in Bordeaux, and tan seeking on the Cote d’Azur. I’ve shared the critical details of proper Oktoberfest attire. And just for your sake, I’ve repeatedly tasted and reported on eating oysters, rabbit, rare steaks, pigs feet, kilos of pizza, duck fat fried anything, beignets, baguettes, croissants, pâté, fois gras, pork belly, and cheese. Lots and lots of runny, dead-body-smelling cheese.

After all that, I’d be shocked – SHOCKED! – if you felt you needed a real travel guide to France. Fodors and Lonely Planet? Pshaw. They’ll just recommend a bunch of touristy restaurants and point you straight toward hell on earth, otherwise known as the Louvre. Me? I’ll show you how to get nice and tipsy at the perfect picnic, then make an ass out of yourself trying to speak french to the locals.

So yes. You’re welcome.

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Update: I’m back, I’m no longer jet-lagged, and I’m ready to write. So we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming starting next week!

Hidden Kitchen

I am not the first Paris blogger to write about Hidden Kitchen. Heck, the NY Times, Food and Wine Magazine and about 8 million other blogs beat me to the punch years ago. But I still feel it’s my duty to report back on what was one of the most awesome dinners I’ve had so far in Paris. In life. Ever.

Ok, some of that effusive HK love could be the 6 or so wine pairings plus one spectacular vodka/champagne/pomegranate cocktail talking (3 days later). But there really were so many things that made the evening exceptionally special. Let’s start with the premise: HK is a private supper club, founded by two fairly recent (I’m talking 3 years ago) college grads  when they moved to Paris. They thought hosting 10-course tasting menu dinners for 16 strangers would be a fun way to meet people.

Flash forward to now: Laura and Braden (hi! remember me? I want to be your intern!) are hosting guests at their beautiful Parisian apartment twice a week, and are currently booked through FEBRUARY. Oh, and because they just couldn’t possibly be any cooler, they consult on the side for places like Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma (god I feel like a worthless old fart).

Not bad, huh? I would still be wallowing in jealousy and self hatred if it weren’t for the fact that I cannot get the tiny rabbit pot pies out of my head. Yes, a bite size, mustardy, shredded rabbit pot pie with a perfectly flaky crust. Or how about the crispy pork belly, dressed up with broccoli-cheddar potatoes inspired by Wendy’s? And please do not forget the fact that after an obscenely apt fall dessert of gingerbread and persimmon sherbet, we were presented with homemade Reeses peanut butter cups.

I think that’s about when I offered to help out, ANY TIME THEY NEEDED ME. Braden graciously laughed, I chuckled, and then looked him dead in the eye and said, No really, I’ll be here first thing Monday. Thankfully Husband swooped in and pushed me out the door before anyone could see the crazy in my eyes.

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Hidden Kitchen

Reservations: The good news? All you have to do is email. The bad news? There’s a looooong wait. But they apparently often get cancellations, so checking in with them can’t hurt. All the info you need is here.

Location: At Braden and Laura’s apartment. They keep the address secret until about a week before the dinner. That’s the “hidden” part.

What you’re in for: A welcome cocktail; 10 tasting-menu size courses, made with market fresh, seasonal ingredients; Wine pairings that you’ll struggle to keep up with because the conversation and food is so good; A table full of 15 other guests from all over the world. Oh, and this lovable little guy:

Vocab Friday: Une Dinde

I know what you’re thinking: I’ve skipped ahead to Thanksgiving and totally missed the upcoming Halloween festivities! What the hell?!

Well, they don’t celebrate Halloween here in France, so I really don’t have anything to report on that front. In fact I’m going to Bordeaux for the holiday, and I plan on dressing up as an inebriated American who likes to speak bad french. Should be pretty easy!

But wait uh minute, the French don’t celebrate Thanksgiving either!

That is correct astute readers! Although you’d be really surprised at how many people ask about T-Day celebrations here. They’re the same people that ask me if my twin brother and I are identical (um, we’re not).

The point is, this here is my blog, and I want to take a minute to talk turkey. You see, I’ve been reading this book about factory farming practices and it’s totally rocking my world. In it, Jonathan Safran Foer makes an exceptionally rational, well researched case for the urgent need to totally change the way we think about, buy, slaughter and consume meat. Which believe me, is a tough thing to follow when you dream nightly about the best steak you ever had. But his words make sense. The factory farming business in America is mostly abhorrent and is in dire need of an overhaul.

Also I’m a tree hugging dirty hippie at heart, but shhhhhh, don’t tell.

Anyway, upon reading about the franken-turkeys that are pretty much the only birds available at the store (yep, even most of your organic, free range, slept in a bed of golden hay and received daily waddle massage turkeys are the same breed as a standard Butterball), I became inspired to find a heritage breed turkey.

And being the big nerd that I am, I proceeded to go into deep research mode, reading countless pages about historic breeds and wild turkey provenance. I spent an entire afternoon trolling through the Maryland Turkey Farmer’s listings and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy site. So when I finally settled on a small place raising Standard Bronzes, I dashed off my email order with the zeal of a woman who was smugly sure she was about to get her hands on the ultimate Thanksgiving Master Bite.

I was quite pleased with myself. I even challenged my sister to a turkey taste-off, to see if this heritage breed stuff was really worth it. But the next day, a troubling email from the farmer informed me that my search for real turkey had hit a brick wall. Literally:

I have no heritage birds this year. Fireworks from the Antietam Battlefield scared them so bad they flew into netting and sides of pen killing themselves.

Sorry!

Katherine

Oh my. How does one respond to something like that? Please give my regards to the families of the birds in question? I was at a loss for words. So I settled on:

I’m so sorry for your loss. Better luck next year!

And then I found a butcher selling Kentucky Bourbons in Fredricksburg. They seem like less hysterical birds anyway. Plus, I like anything to do with bourbon. So barring any unforeseen turkey tragedies, we’ll be having one helluva heritage Thanksgiving dinner. I hope to hell it tastes good!

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une dinde

Pronunciation: oon dahnde (but real nasaly)

Definition: Turkey. Turkey Lurkey. Gobbler. Hokie even. As in,

“Perhaps next year we’ll make sure our heritage dindes have ear plugs for the 4th of July festivities.”

Please forgive me.

I have a deep, dark, dirty secret to share with you. Well, it’s not really very secret, since approximately half of my readership was involved. But that makes me no less ashamed to type what I am about to type:

I fed my family Pizza Hut. In Paris. ON PURPOSE. And it was good.

Go ahead, commence with the collective gasps. Here you thought I had come so far in my hostessing abilities. That I was someone who was truly committed to exceptional eating. But it turns out that deep down I am just a chain pizza serving, deep dish loving, red blooded American with a weakness for processed cheese.

I am not proud of this. But in my defense, we were all fresh from one hellish, strike-induced train ride from Normandy, where people were forced to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the isles for 3 hours and old ladies were fighting over seats like rabid dogs.

It was also a cold, damp Sunday night, which means just about NOTHING was open for dinner and no one felt like traveling far to find sustenance. This limited our choices to pseudo-Chinese food delivery, a 4 day old camembert in the fridge that smelled like rotting feet, or the aforementioned pie.

The troops voted unanimously for pizza. And though every bone in my body wanted desperately to feed them something, anything else, I didn’t have the heart to tell them no. But I did make sure everyone drank a glass of champagne while we waited.

And you know what? When the boxes arrived, and we all tucked into one gooey slice after another (scraping past the goat cheese of course, which is standard issue even on “plain” pizzas) – I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. It was good. Delicious even. A glorious taste of home! Husband and I looked at each other like why have we not been ordering this once a week?! Even though I haven’t eaten Pizza Hut back home in, oh, 10 years.

It’s amazing what nostalgia can do to your taste buds. But promise me this: If I ever write here praising the merits of Easy-Mac or chicken nuggets, stage an intervention.

 

Master bite.

Yesterday I think Husband and I had what could be considered the best lunch of all time at Le Comptoir du Relais. For starters, it was a Monday. Thank you Mr. Columbus for getting yourself a national holiday celebrated by U.S. government workers around the world!

On top of that, it was the most gorgeous fall day here, one with that electric blue sky and special sunlight that gives everything a golden glow. Which, let me tell you, is all the more enjoyable when viewed from a cozy café table set with a meal that looks like this:

Yes, that was my lunch. Well, part of it, anyway – because before I engaged in a love affair with that belle pièce de boeuf, I dallied with a warm bowl of bisque de homard and a nice glass of rosé. It was lobster soup like I’ve never experienced before, velvety smooth yet somehow still light; intensely lobster-flavored without one single chunk of lobster meat. And at the bottom? Something that I can only describe as lobster tapioca balls, which you wouldn’t even know were there unless you really dug down to the bottom. Like a reward for scraping your bowl clean!

But back to the boeuf – a supremely cooked piece of steak, bathed in an earthy mushroom sauce. Perfect on its own, but raised to a level of ungodly pleasure when dabbed with a bit of tangy-sweet champagne mustard. And it was this combination, my friends, that I deemed the Master Bite.

You heard me. The Master Bite. The most perfect combination of ingredients, balanced in harmonious wonder at the end of your fork. And it doesn’t just happen, people. One must take great care to ensure that every bite reaches its fullest taste potential. That means a forkful here and there of just mushrooms or just beef is fine, but only if it’s part of a larger inquiry into the best taste ratios when eaten together.

The Master Bite doesn’t just apply to fancy french food, either. I use it regularly when hunting and pecking for the fully fluffed piece of popcorn, enrobed in salty butter but not drenched. Or searching for the ever-elusive crispy-but-not crunchy french fry. And let’s not forget the daunting task of balancing the icing-to-cake ratio in an oversize cupcake (which should have rich, creamy, not-too-sweet icing and dense, moist cake).

Obsessive? Sure. But why waste valuable stomach space on a less than worthy morsel of food?

I am such a firm believer in optimized food enjoyment that I’ve been known to spy a Master Bite across the table on Husband’s plate, and, unable to resist its siren call, go in for the kill. That’s usually about when I get stabbed in the hand with his fork. Which brings up a very important tenet in the religion of extraordinary eating: Thou shalt not steal thy partner’s Master Bite.

Unless he’s not looking.