Thursday, February 28, 2013

Une question: Traveing to Paris in May

Bonjour Amy!
I'm writing to ask advice for traveling to Paris in May. This year May 8, Victoire Day, is a Wednesday, and Ascension Day is Thursday, May 9.  My friend and I were planning to go to Paris May 2 to May 10, but now I'm thinking we should change the dates.  We have not booked flights yet. Will we have to scrounge to find restaurants and patisseries and boulangeries that are open? If we switch to early June, will everything be so much more crowded?
Merci from a fellow chocoholic,
Dawn in Colorado

Salut, Dawn! 
You know, I hate to say it but I do think you'd be better off bumping your trip to June (or late May if that's preferable). May is riddled with holidays and, as you suspected, many boutiques, restaurants and, worst of all, boulangeries, shutter. Of course not the whole city is shut down, but if you have the flexibility, you'd be happier with seven full days to romp wherever your hearts and stomachs take you, rather than passing a whole day in the park because nothing is open.

And in terms of crowds in June, I don't think it will make a big difference. July and August, sure, get pretty touristy, but June is actually a wonderful time to visit. Good temps and long, long days of sunshine—which make it that much easier to squeeze in an extra chocolate “gouter” (or two).

Bon voyage!

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Vegan Mondays

Coffee with soy milk
Pretzels (I donated blood and this was the most appealing option in the canteen!)

"General Tso's Seitan"—a clever vegan wrap of brown rice, broccoli and seitan
A giant ball of stress

Homemade white bean and kale soup
Tea—not quite like Teuscher truffles, but I do need to lay off the sweets a bit

Another week, already?

May the force be with you, mes amis.

Friday, February 22, 2013

In a perfect world

I wouldn’t be waking up after a long week at work, to cold, grey New York skies. But to Paris, full of beauty and inspiration.
 I’d amble, stroll, explore—be a proper flaneur.
 Admiring the trees and sky as much as the architecture and street art.

The city would be full of people, out enjoying that elusive sun.
And in the evening, I’d wind down with the light.

And sit with un verre to reflect upon the beauty of it all.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Follow the chocolate

Back in 2006, while at the fantastic bookstore RJ Julia in Madison, CT, I stumbled upon a little pink paperback called The Chocolate Connoisseur. Within days, I ate up Chloé Doutre-Roussel’s story about her life in the chocolate world.

While at the Salon du Chocolat in 2010, I was giddynot only because I was on a sugar highbut because I got to meet my chocolate idol in person. 

And then right before I left Paris in early 2011, I sat and visited with Chloé at her short-lived salon in the Marais and heard her discuss the finer points of developing and appreciating this “food of the gods.”

Since then, Chloé shuttered her salon and has been circling the globe (or at least South America), visiting cacao plantations and chocolate manufactures (pesky little job obligations). She’s also offering tours via, and I recently had the opportunity to “talk” with her about chocolate in Paris.

An American is going to Paris for the first time. Who are some don’t-miss chocolatiers they should visit?

First on the list would be Patrick Roger because he’s an artist. He uses chocolate to express his creativity. His shops also reflect this creativity—hey are like small universes, decorated with elaborate chocolate sculptures. Entering one of his shops is like stepping into Alice in Wonderland. He produces his own marzipan, praline, and jams. The ingredients all come from his country farm.

Another chocolatier not to be missed is Pierre Hermé who goes by the nickname: “Picasso of Patisserie.”  His whole approach to chocolate making is unique. He approaches it like one does a cake—with each layer of the structure he adds a different aroma.  His combination of flavors is so original.

I know you’re a purist, but what are some of your personal favorite bonbons?

I like a plain ganache, but the chocolate needs to be top quality. I also like a plain praline bar made with top quality nuts.

What’s your guilty pleasure in Paris?

I love to go to the cheese shops. Goat’s cheese with pain Poilâne is my guilty pleasure.  

You offer tours in Paris. Tell us a little about them.

I start my tour with an informal class where I explain how chocolate is made: how it can vary in quality, how to identify good quality with your eye, and lastly the sort of things to look out for when you taste chocolate. What I bring to this is my expertise and most importantly my enthusiasm, which I would say is infectious!

When we visit the chocolate shops, you will be invited to try and spot the difference between a chocolate, praline, or hazelnut. Spotting the quality of a chocolate will also be a skill I am keen to teach; participants should be able to tell if the chocolate has been frozen for instance. My aim is to change the way people think about chocolate. Generally people don’t think about what they are buying; with me, they cross a line. After a tour they should pay attention to what they are buying,

What do you like most about The City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)?
I enjoy Paris when I approach the city like a tourist. I love a good quality dark chocolate. I think eating good food that makes you happy is so important!

Moving beyond the boundaries of Paris, what nation are you most excited about right now, in terms of cacao production and/or chocolate bar production?

Countries that are waking up to new methods of producing are most notably Peru, Brazil and Mexico. There has been a dramatic change in the quality of bean and fine chocolate coming from these countries.

The United States is at the forefront of bean to bar production. Small independent producers are making chocolate of outstanding quality: Rouge, Patrick, Dandelion, are just a few examples. 

Curious about taking a tour with Chloé? Learn a little more at

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's

To all the loves in my life.
My dear family and friends, naturally
Paris, San Francisco, New York (does Brooklyn get a shout-out all its own??)
Chocolate and homemade cookies
Yoga and spinning
Being goofy with AJ
Staying home on a Friday night with Netflix and Milo 
Traveling to new places
Returning to one of my "homes"
Falling into a book by Ruth Reichl, Simon Van Booy, Ha Jin, Edith Wharton or Richard Yates
The cyrprus and ecualyptus trees of San Francisco
The skyline of New York driving down Central Park West
Velibing through Place de la Concorde
Walking through the city until I'm bleary-eyed
Cuddles from my niece and nephew 
My pen pals
My soul sisters
Sentimental jewelry
What's imprinted in my memory banks 
My BF, Andrew
Where I've been and what lies ahead

Et toi... what loves are you celebrating today??

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The week in a few words

So here we are, seven weeks into the New Year. What's up with that??

It's been one of those so-busy-doing-nothing phases. I was sick for a couple weeks, visited my mom for a weekend, and have otherwise just been going through the motions, though fun motions: saw a play on Broadway, had my dad visiting for a weekend, a friend from Paris, have had some great meals (Balthazar, Super Linda, The Library at the Public Theater, The NoMad, Joseph Leonard, Frankies 457, Commerce and, this weekend, I went back to The Butcher's Daughter—just can't get enough)...
 ... but otherwise, I don't know what I do with my time. Sleep, work, and work out.  

Though that's not entirely true. I'm also looking to move to Brooklyn. With my BF. We've been looking at open houses every weekend, in fact. But apparently the entire world wants to move to Brooklyn. And there aren't a lot of apartments so it's stressful. Last week we put offers on two places and were out-bid. This week, we'll bid on a couple more and keep our fingers crossed (you too, please!).

In the meantime, me and Milo are enjoying being cozy at home.
Away from the snow.
Eating cookies and reading.

The BF and I are also planning a trip to Buenos Aires for the first week in March. Can't wait to go. It's called the Paris of South America, so needless to say it should be a very special place (and the current temperature check: in the 86-93° range, hallelujah!). 

2013 is shaping up quite beautifully. What's going on in your world??

Friday, February 8, 2013

Une question: Eating in Paris with kids

Hi Amy,

We are planning a trip to Europe this summer including London, Paris and Budapest. My kids have never been across the pond. I've been a few times and my husband has been once. kids, and let's face it, my husband too, have incredibly bland, boring, white bread palates and the thought of trying to keep them all fed on our European adventure is cringe-worthy. I really want to avoid resorting to the dreaded golden arches (or at least no more than once per city :) or feeding them nothing but baguettes and chips. My kids are now 7 and 10 years old, and won't touch anything remotely spicy or with sauce! 

So what's a Canadian family in Paris to do? Do you have any (edible) advice for me?


Dear Kathy,

When I lived in Paris, my niece and nephew visited on several occasions and, while they were born abroad and were maybe exposed to more foreign flavors than plain pizza and fried potatoes, they were still kids. And we still ate up the city.

After a visit to the Natural History Museum (fabulous!), we went to La Mosquée. There is enough on the menu—from couscous to kebabs, steaks to frites—to satisfy everyone. And you must order pastries and mint tea. I know it might seem counterintuitive to go even more exotic, but never underestimate good entertainment. There are little birdies flying through the dining room, and the waiters dramatically pour tea from three feet above the cup, and it’ll probably be one of their favorite experiences.

On that note, the old-timey waiters at Le Chartier just might shame them (in the most pleasingly French way, bien sur) into ordering and eating something as palatable as roasted chicken and fries.

Do they like cheese? Like, hot, melty cheese? It could be really fun to go for fondue—especially at a fun place like Le Refuge des Fondus (just down the hill from Sacre Coeur, a great destination and charming neighborhood).

You could also walk around a market and let them choose. Le Marché des Enfant Rouge, the oldest market in the city, is chockablock with French, Moroccan, Japanese, Italian—certainly they’ll find something that whets their appetite. (You, my friend, will have to stop by Alain’s counter for “the best sandwich in the universe.”)

Since they love pizza at home, no doubt they’ll become hopelessly addicted to street crepes. And pourquoi pas? Cheap, delicious, simple. Done.

I hope you're getting excited for your trip - it sounds like it's going to be wonderful!

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Vegan Mondays

Coffee with soy milk
Green juice

Broccoli and tempeh wrap

Indian food with Erica! If the food was thoroughly foreign by way of Sixth Street in Manhattan, the company happily transported me back to Paris.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The week in food

Duck at The NoMad. Perfection.
Parisian breakfast at LA Burdick.

A trifecta of nut butters—almond, peanut and cashew—and sliced fruit on toast at my new favorite cafe, The Butcher's Daughter.
Cookies, made by yours truly! The best part about them? There's Nutella stuffed in the center of every one of them.
Breakfast at Milk Bar. Truffled egg toast.
Bircher museli.
Wash it all down, and enjoy every last bite.