Franco File Friday: Lauren Bate (Folies du Bonheur)

After an extended hiatus, the Franco File Friday series is back for the 4th year! And I'm so pleased to kick things off again with someone I've gotten to know better over the last year and someone I enjoy immensely. Lauren Bate, of the blog Folies du Bonheur, came to Paris for two days in 2009 via London where she had been visiting a friend. Almost instantly, she sensed that this brief experience in the city was merely the beginning of a much longer journey. Shortly after she returned to Australia, she was laid off from her job and used the handsome redundancy offer to settle in Paris (the lucky lady also has Italian citizenship, allowing her to stay without issue). As she puts it, it was the universe telling her to make the leap. Since, she's been documenting her life here alongside Daisy, her feline companion, and her travels through France. Meet Lauren!

1. Describe what you love about France in three words.
Food, Friends, Flowers

2. Your favorite neighborhood ?
Oh, it’d be a photo finish between Batignolles in the 17th where I live and the 3rd, where I hang. Who am I kidding, where the good coffee is. I love my quartier; it was a former village annexed to Paris in 1860 and it’s maintained its friendly neighbourhood feel. I can wave “Bonjour” to all the shopkeepers on my main street, there’s lovely parks and an organic market each Saturday morning. The 3rd is where I meet (or happily bump into!) my friends for the aforementioned coffee. It’s also full of cool shops, it’s close to the canal (where I also love) and it’s less busy than the Marais of the 4th.

3. Something you’ve discovered in France that you can’t imagine living without ?
That Champagne is cheap ! I’ll go home when I can afford exorbitantly priced French champagne in Australia. I also think it’s going to be hard living without the option of wandering down to the river on a Sunday afternoon when the weather is nice and walking through the Tuileries and glimpsing our iron lady while watching the sun set. I’ll miss this for sure.

4. Where you go to relax ?
The woodland of Vincennes and Boulogne are known as the “lungs of Paris”, and I completely understand why. I live not far from the Bois de Boulogne and I like to go there to walk the dog and wander and just slow down and breathe. 

5. Most frustrating or amusing interaction with the French? 
Amusing: all the rituals surrounding eating, and how religiously serious they are taken, really fascinates me.

Frustrating: this recent trend of completely bastardising the English language by using one or two words - absolutely incorrectly and incoherently - thinking that it makes anything cool, and in fact it’s really not. That one get’s me very mad!

Follow Lauren's adventures in Paris (and beyond): 
Instagram: @LaurenLouBate 

Lost In Cheeseland | Franco File Friday posts


Introducing: Jean Hwang Carrant Cookies in Paris

Jean Hwang Carrant Cookies

Few foods make you feel that everything is right with the world like cookies. Fresh from the oven, melting chocolate and sweet crunch, gobbled down with an oversized glass of milk. It's the ultimate comfort food (and certainly saw me through more than one hardship) and certainly the most versatile. Of American imports to France, this is the only one that I feel has longevity. Cupcakes and macarons waver in popularity but are especially in vogue when times are grim and people search for aesthetic pick-me-ups (the 'cute' effect, as I call it) but cookies are a cultural mainstay; as reliable a fixture of snack-time as any pastry case, bake sale or holiday gathering. And just like an éclair or a gleaning slice of tarte au citron for the French, a well-baked cookie has tremendous nostalgic currency for Americans. 

In Paris, the high-quality varieties haven't always been easy to source. In fact, up until recently, the only baker churning out batches that could rival those I grew up with was Eric Kayser and they're still among my favorite in town. That glaring absence in a city that has come to thrive on American staples was what motivated me and a friend to create a cookie business back in 2012. Lola's Cookies was our answer to a gap in the market, a solution to the overpriced garbage that chain fast food joints and restaurants were peddling. And it was truly a fun adventure - we managed to show hundreds of Parisians what an American cookie was meant to look, taste and feel like and nothing can substitute the immense joy we felt when. For a whole number of reasons, Lola's has taken a backseat to the rest of my life but my love for cookies remains unchanged. In fact, it has probably grown stronger since I'm no longer toiling in the kitchen preparing orders!

Fortunately, I know where to source a batch when the craving hits. For over seven years, American-Taiwanese expat Jean Hwang Carrant was baking gourmet cookies for restaurants in her neighborhood, for parties and large-scale events. Each cookie, she has said, are like little jewels that must be perfect throughout the entire process and that means using top-shelf ingredients and rolling the dough into perfectly measured balls. This is Jean's form of 'zen' and after years of baking in the kitchen, my feelings echo her own. I had a chance to try her cookies last year, long before the boutique project had taken shape, and knew she was poised to take those babies beyond the confines of her little kitchen. Each cookie has the perfect balance of crunchy:chewy and flavors that instantly transport me to childhood. I can't say that of many of the other cookies (impostors) I've tried here.

As of last week, Jean took a big, ambitious step to give her seriously sumptuous cookies even greater reach by opening her first brick and mortar shop! And with a location just around the corner from rue du Nil, also known as Frenchie street*, she can be confident that epicureans are never far away. I'm so proud of Jean and cannot wait to see how she grows from here.

Jean Hwang Carrant: Simply Extraordinary Cookies 
84 rue d'Aboukir, 75002
Metro: Sentier or Bonne Nouvelle
Follow Jean and her cookies on Instagram HERE.

*Gregory Marchand has already gotten a taste of Jean's cookies. See the proof!
*Other sweet reading: I was on a tasting panel to name the top 5 Paris-Brest in Paris for Paris By Mouth. Click this link to see the results!


Livres du Moment: What I'm Reading

April 7 wasn't merely a Tuesday, it was the much-anticipated publication date for spring book releases and an exciting milestone for many authors' writing careers. So in the spirit of new book season, I thought I would take stock of the newer-to-me books in my collection and compile a few of my favorites. May you devour these as I have!

If there is any tradition that authors Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall have carried with them throughout their travels- Brones, (a Swedish American) from Portland to Gothenburg to Paris, Kindvall (Swedish) from Stockholm to Brooklyn - it's their abiding love of Fika, a word that literally means “to drink coffee” but that symbolizes an entire set of cultural values. It's also the focus of their new book "Fika, the Art of the Swedish Coffee Break"

As a concept that goes far beyond a love for coffee, Fika is about slowing down – alone or with friends, family or coworkers – to take a break each day; a committed moment to relax. With over forty illustrated recipes, the book provides the launchpad for integrating the practice of Fika into your own life. Translation: coffee break bedfellows like cookies, cakes and breads (including savory variants) that will have you baking and living like a Swede in no time.

You can get a sneak peek of one of the recipes in my article for T Magazine HERE
Throughout history, French cuisine has been the object of fascination for many an epicurean. And for much of their careers, that was also true for venerated culinary heroes M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child and James Beard, whose work and vision for American cooking was heavily influenced by their experiences in France. Pulling from M.F.K. Fisher's journals and letters, author Luke Barr (Fisher's grandnephew) documents a seminal moment in their lives, when they all found themselves in Provence on the cusp of a major shift in both countries food cultures. On the insularity of this group, Barr writes: 
"The food world was indeed a small one, both in Europe and America. Everyone knew everyone else - all of them drawn together by a shared reverence for 'the good life,' and there was indeed a sense of 'closed-circle' exclusivity about it"
This experience was to mark the beginning of a new American approach to cooking and Barr does a tremendous job of almost reenacting the exchanges, frustrations, discoveries and successes between the country's leading culinary voices. This book appealed to my Francophile leanings, to be sure, but spoke even more to my curiosity about taste and how that has evolved over time.

Paris Street Style: A Guide to Effortless Chic
There are countless books, magazine articles and blog posts that attempt to parse and decode Parisian style but as legion as this topic has proven worldwide, few come direct from a French source. Fashion journalists Isabelle Thomas (also a personal stylist and blogger for L'Express Styles) and Frédérique Veysset tackle the question of ineffable, Parisian chic with their book 'Paris Street Style'. And as the name suggests, it truly is a guide. It begins with their interpretation of French style (hint: it's not about perfection or an overly-manicured look), moves on to offer tips for defining your own style, tackles hardwired clichés à la 'black makes you look slimmer' and then dives into each area of effortless French fashion that can, in fact, be learned. The little black book of go-to Parisian hot spots at the end is a useful feature but I particularly enjoyed the interviews with twenty-five different Parisian insiders that the authors incorporated to enrich each styling tip.

For those with more of a penchant for accessories, you'll want to pick up this duo's second book, exclusively devoted to shoes (shall we call that mastering the art of shoe style?). Click to see more about Paris Street Style: Shoes

Di Bruno Bros: House of Cheese
There are four things I think my readers have gleaned about me: I love France, Philadelphia, pastries and cheese. Strangely, though, I don't often talk about cheese. My friend Susan of Fleurishing must have sensed I was in need of some new cheesey inspiration because she gave me this divine book which encompasses two of my four passions. Di Bruno Bros is a gourmet grocer in Philadelphia founded by two immigrants brothers from Abruzzo, Italy in 1939 who came in pursuit of the American dream (sound like a familiar tale?). They set up shop in the heart of the Italian Market district and found tremendous success, as much for their admirable work ethic as their treat-everyone-like-family business ethos. When faced with competition from larger supermarkets (and inspired by a 200 pound wheel of cave-aged Emmentaler they tasted in Switzerland), they shifted their focus to specialize in cheese. The brothers' nephews took over the business years later and continue to drive the vision forward. Today, Di Bruno Bros is a Philadelphia institution, a culinary destination for visitors and the go-to shop for an array of goods - fresh produce, charcuterie, fresh-made sandwiches, artisanal spreads - and still boasts the most knowledgeable cheesemongers in the city.

Author Tenaya Darlington, a Wisconsinite professor and journalist whose blog is called Madame Fromage in case her passion for cheese was ever in question, moved to Philadelphia in 2005 and found herself overwhelmed both by the selection of cheeses as by the cheesemongers behind the counter. After spending time getting to know them, chronicling her cheese adventures after each visit and dutifully reading up on the subject, she was naturally ushered into the welcoming community of cheese fanatics. Soon, she was the resident blogger for Di Bruno Bros and that collaboration led to this book. In simple terms, this self-described cheese courtesan calls the book a 'tasty guide to cheese'. But it's so much more. For me, it's the most comprehensive guide to understanding the different types of cheeses available, to mastering the vernacular and, most importantly, to consuming them. It's a must-have tome for anyone who has entertained fantasies of hosting the perfect cheese gathering or preparing the perfect cheese board. Start with 'how to pick a hunk' and 'how to talk to a cheesemonger' then explore 170 artisan cheeses and test 30 recipes. As a cheese-loving Philadelphian, this book was the best gift I could have ever received. Add it to your collection! 

A La Mère de Famille: Recipes from the Beloved Parisian Confectioner
Yet another book I received for the holidays and am just digging into now. Fully aware (though not always understanding) of my intense love for sweets, my sister happened to pick up the recipe book from one of my favorite confectionery shops in Paris. The 300 year old shop began as a little grocery store in the 18th century but became mythique, a Pandora's Box of chocolates, caramels, candies, nougats and marrons glacés (candied chestnuts). All of those French classics you've been dying to bake to perfection - financiers, lemon cake, pain d'épice, marshmallows, calissons or tuiles - can be found in this beautiful book. The pages are sprinkled with the confectioner's long history and features gorgeous photography and portraits of regular clients. A delight!

What are you reading right now or looking forward to reading? Share in the comments section below!


My Six Favorite French Instagram Accounts

Paris in Autumn: Tuileries Gardens

It has been heartening to be featured on several Best Instagram Account in France lists in recent months - Food RepublicThrillist 1 and Thrillist 2 and a local French blogger named Carnets d'une Flâneuse Parisienne who has seen my food coverage - as I've worked hard to turn Instagram into an extension of this site. I'm well aware that fingering through a visual feed demands far less of a time investment than reading the many lines of a blog post so I've carved out another fun section of the internet for my view of Paris, the rest of France and my travels through Europe and beyond (which you can see HERE). 

And as I've spent more time there, I've discovered so many wonderful creative types, cooks, authors, dreamers and travelers whose visions of the world have enchanted and inspired me. In Paris in particular, the eye-catching feeds are legion. Below, I share six of my go-to French accounts to pay the inspiration forward. 

1//  @Arthur_Gosse, student 
You'd never know that Arthur spend most of his time in the classroom or studying for exams given how active he is on Instagram. He has an eye for capturing scenes of life in motion - people out and about or the tranquil calm you might find under the arcades of Place des Vosges. It's colorful and always beautiful.

2// @Callicles, photographer 
Sam is not very loquacious but words are hardly needed with images that display such a mastery of perspective, angles and light. Even la grisaille parisienne is elevated to a more ethereal register.

3// @Discret, toy fanatic 
Imagine stunning snaps of Paris with new and vintage toys incorporated into each scene. I always smile when I land on one of his photos in my feed and often find myself wondering how he transports the toys for his photo outings. Backpack? Tote bag? Coat pocket? How many does he have in his collection? I'm hoping one day he'll publish a 'behind-the-shoot' photo to peel back the layers on his process.

4// @GoutdFood, PR for Ladurée + Serial Food Spotter
Delphine is truly a girl after my own heart. She's fascinated and inspired by the work of France's top chefs and pâtissiers and captures their creations beautifully on her vibrant feed. No surprise I'd be a fan of her aesthetic; we both share a love for éclairs! Expect beautiful dishes, chefs at work and a handful of lifestyle shots to bring you into her world. For more of Goût'd Food, check out her blog.

5// @HugoKatsumi, Art Director 
Bright, minimalist, geometric lines: Hugo Katsumi lends a delicate treatment to his snapshots of Paris, so much so you'd think the skies were blanketed in blue every day. A dreamy account to add to your list.

6// @O_Reilly_S, legal counsel & travel blogger 
Aurélie doesn't just cover in Paris. In fact, as her feed suggests, she can often be seen traveling across Europe. But her coverage is consistent no matter where she's shooting from. That means, a fantastic guide to shops, great eats, colorful landscapes and intimate corners. She even makes a cameo from time to time. For full articles associated with her photos, be sure to follow her blog Les Flâneries d'Aurélie. 

Have a favorite French instagrammer? Share in the comments below!

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Paris Snapshots: Favorites du Moment

Rouge Baiser & Cassis Eclairs

If you have followed this site or my quick stories on Instagram since January, you may have seen that the year didn't start off especially smoothly. France took a physical and emotional hit, I was knocked down by the flu and my cat became quite ill, leaving us in a fog of vet visits and parental panic. I'm sure those of with you animals can certainly understand the wrenching feeling.

Through it all, I've begun the process to make some big professional changes and done my best to fill my days with little pick-me-ups. Fortunately, a handful of projects and discoveries, most revolving around food, offered just the distraction I needed. Here are a few highlights:

1/ New éclair collection for spring from L'Eclair de Génie
Rouge Baiser, seen above, was launched for Valentine's Day and should be sticking around for some time. But the exciting developments are in Christophe Adam's new fruit flavors - blood orange, crispy raspberry, vanilla/green apple, wild strawberry, pineapple or blackcurrant (see above, right) - and the Barlette, his new creation that blends a bar and a tartelette into one fruity, crunchy treat. All new flavors available as of April.

Visit La Fabrique where the éclairs are made (they can be purchased here as well):
32 rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 75002

Spring at Palais Royal
2/ An early taste of spring
As snow and glacial temperatures pummeled the east coast, we've been spoiled in Paris with an exceptionally mild winter with sporadic moments of incredible warmth and sunshine, best on display at my favorite spot in Paris, Palais Royal. 

Le Gabriel // La Réserve Hotel
3/ Lunch at Le Gabriel
There are food experiences that remain fresh in our minds long after we've had them; each dish almost as potent as the first bite. My lunch at Le Gabriel, the restaurant from chef Jérôme Banctel in the equally as new La Réserve Hotel was one of the experiences. The chef marries impeccable Gallic skill with a smattering of Japanese flavors for an elegant but not overly precious cooking style. His dishes are anchored in traditional technique but lightened to match the kind of cooking diners are coming to expect more and more. Each ingredient needed to breathe, he told me at the end of the meal, in part since the dining room is so grand. His modernist approach doesn't just allow each ingredient breathe, he makes them sing. If I could have any one of his dishes again at this moment it would be the refreshing mushroom ravioli you see below, drizzled with a lemon-ginger sauce and crisp, rolled cucumber strips.

Following the meal, I got to talk to the chef about his background, his ambitions for Le Gabriel and some of his favorite places in Paris to eat, drink and shop for culinary equipment. See a part of our chat on T Magazine!

Le Gabriel
42 avenue Gabriel, 75008 
  Crème de Champignons at Le Gabriel Pigeon at Le Gabriel Dessert at Le Gabriel

4// Sablés at Bontemps 

Sablé from Bontemps Pâtisserie
I never turn down an opportunity to discover a new bakery and was overjoyed when an outing with my friend Frank found us popping filled sablés at Bontemps, a new pâtisserie across from the Square du Temple garden. The mini sablé told me everything I needed to know about these ever-so-sweet confections and instantly ordered a box to take home. Two sisters and a pastry chef who previously worked with Pierre Hermé bring the sweet shop to life and are already having a ball introducing new seasonal flavors after only a few weeks since opening. If I can make any recommendations, it would be to head straight to the fruit flavors - passion-fruit and blood orange tasted of summer insouciance that I can only insist you try for yourselves.

Sablé teardrop tartes from Bontemps PatisserieBontemps
57 rue de Bretagne, 75003

5// Cake and coffee at Fondation Café
As much as change feels good and does us some good, I love the cake-and-coffee ritual I have established with a couple of close friends. This time, it was my friend Frank (yes, the same Frank who encouraged my sablé binge above) who brought the cake, a cupcake to be precise, that he made himself. He knows the way straight to my heart.

And in a rare moment of style-blogger-behavior, I'd like to draw your attention to that pretty little watch I sported to our coffee date. I discovered Daniel Wellington through my pal Will of Bright Bazaar who loves their collection with striped bands and bought one for C. for the holidays (I should note that he has since become the bastion of style at his office). Then the envy settled in and I wanted one for myself - the Classic St. Mawes Lady arrived soon after. Now it's your turn: the fine folks at DW have offered my readers 15% off any timepiece (free shipping guaranteed) until March 31! Just use the code LOSTINCHEESELAND at checkout! Take a look at their watches here: www.danielwellington.com 

Fondation Café
16 rue DuPetit-Thouars, 75003

Philippe Excoffier

6// Bistro lunch chez Philippe Excoffier
Fun fact about Philippe Excoffier: he was the head chef for the American ambassador in Paris for eleven years, regularly organizing banquets for two-hundred guests. For nearly four months, he has managed a much more intimate space- his namesake bistro in the 7th arrondissement - but with just as much finesse. His cooking skews traditional, sauce and all, with a slightly more modern twist. Seasonal, market-fresh ingredients are the focus of his straight-forward, generous cooking and never deviates too far from the tried and true classics, at least in spirit. He's made lobster one of his specialties, seen above in the form of a mini burger starter, mixed with avocado and a bite of crispy bacon. His celery remoulade with smoked haddock was an equally pleasant way to begin the meal. If you're still hungry by the end, which he hopes you will be, you should splurge on one of three soufflés, all sinfully comforting. This is the perfect address for those looking for no-nonsense, unequivocally French cuisine. Content belly guaranteed.

Philippe Excoffier
18 rue de l'Exposition
75007, Paris

Until next time...
*See more Paris photos on Flickr HERE

Lost In Cheeseland Food and Restaurant posts


Paris Photos: Levitation and Dance by Mickael Jou

What happens when you merge a dancer with a love for photography? A series of photos that challenges, perplexes and impresses on many levels. 

Franco-American Mickael Jou, who I had the pleasure of getting to know when he lived in Paris (he is now based in Berlin), is a trained dancer and had developed a habit of dancing ballet and modern dance throughout Paris. As you can imagine, this attracted the curious eyes of tourists and locals who regularly stopped to photograph and film his mini street spectacles. It was upon seeing the photos taken of his freewheeling ways that he considered staging the photos himself. He bought a camera, studied the instruction manual and released what appears to be an innate gift for the art of photography, creating a poetic series of self-portraits that he has collated into a 365 Project he predicts will take the next three years to complete. 

A sampling of these Paris images are shown below. As much as I love them all, I'm particularly drawn to the mystery of the very last shot. And you? 

To see more of Mickael's exceptional series in France and beyond, explore his website, follow him on Instagram and connect to his page on  Facebook 

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