Monthly Archives

December 2013

The Highlight of 2013: Mom in Paris

30 December 2013

As I type this, my mother is settling back into her home in Philadelphia and likely vowing never to climb another flight of stairs. We have just spent eight, frankly magical, days carting her around Paris, feeding her our favorite dishes at our favorite tables, pointing conspicuously at landmarks as wide-eyed as first timers, muscling our way through tourists to score the best views, dutifully waiting in lines for treats she wouldn’t find at home and sharing fragments of our lives in one of the world’s most spectacular capitals. But this visit was significant beyond the mere fact that it coincided with the holidays. It was mom’s very first visit to Paris and her first trip to Europe since 1972. Basically, this was an epic, well overdue journey that needed to be perfect. Inconceivable though it may seem, I was worried that Paris wouldn’t charm her the way it charmed me. That she wouldn’t fully understand why I’ve chosen this to be my home – why this city is somehow superior to any other place (closer to my hometown) that could have provided the backdrop to my life’s story. My concerns were unfounded, of course, because the trip was more […]…

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In the Pastry Kitchens of Fauchon

19 December 2013

I didn’t think anything could rank higher than the opportunity I had last year to observe Sébastien Gaudard and his team prepare the Bûche de Noël for the year but last week’s visit to the kitchens of Fauchon, the épicerie fine that launched in 1886, trumped it by far. After several hours of observation and chatting with young pastry chef Patrick Pailler, I went into the tasting with a much greater sense of how the operation has functioned all these years. At the two week mark before Christmas, Fauchon was already working in overdrive to stock the Madeleine shop with their regular roster of pastries in addition to their limited edition holiday bûches, éclairs, and cakes. They do brisk business within the span of three weeks thanks to a more robust staff of 25, who set off to work long before the sun surfaces, and private orders that filter in daily (last year, Fauchon sold over 1,000 bûches and 2,200 santa hat cakes). I’ve never understood how people can dig into such beautiful pieces of food art and even less so now that I’ve seen firsthand the exacting technique and immense labor that goes into each glaze, cream puff, chocolate […]…

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Where to Drink Specialty Coffee in Paris

13 December 2013

Wine, cheese, coffee and pastry- the bedrock of most idyllic Parisian holidays. And while the city delivers on nearly each of these crucial comestibles, they’ve fallen terribly short for years when it comes to the swill masquerading as coffee. That’s right, le café has been much maligned (I’ve alluded to this HERE and in this interview) and with good reason – the beans (typically Robusta) tend to be substandard in quality and over-roasted; the machines are old and ill-managed and the baristas are either poorly trained or completely indifferent (or both). I can no longer count on two hands the number of times I’ve been served espresso that had been sitting at the bar, completely forgotten in the shuffle of other orders (or in many cases, conversation that distracted the waiters), only to have it arrive cold and undrinkable. If you’re used to drinking watered-down coffee in your hometown – and this is by no means a reproach; the average home-brewed coffee seems to naturally produce a weak, tasteless product -you may not find Paris coffee that offensive. I started drinking coffee upon moving to Paris but it was really only once I traveled to London and New York, homes to […]…

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Franco File Friday: Cindy Wang of Sugared & Spiced

6 December 2013

Full transparency: I may have been eavesdropping on Cindy Wang’s conversation with a friend when I met her. We were seated next to each other at HolyBelly, one of my favorite coffee shops, and I couldn’t help but overhear her ongoing discussion about the merits and shortcomings of some of the city’s pastry shops. That she spoke with such confidence and expertise is no surprise – she is specialized in pastry. Cindy, originally from Taiwan and an expat in Paris by way of Shanghai, left the corporate world to follow her passion. She trained at Ferrandi, interned at Un Dimanche à Paris and has been a full-time pâtissier at Fauchon for the last several months. Fully intrigued, I introduced myself and we spent an hour swapping pastry favorites and planning a date to go sweets-hunting together. Cindy documents her taste-testing adventures on the blog Sugared & Spiced, which features luscious photography and detailed reviews of the city’s renowned and lesser known pastry shops. While she may not stay in Paris permanently, her experiences in the last year and a half have already bolstered her ambition to open her own pastry shop and baking studio, perhaps back in Asia. Until then, […]…

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French Goods for the Home: Introducing Flotsam + Fork

3 December 2013

If you’re like me, you reserve precious space in your luggage when you travel to bring back local food specialties. If you’re like Adrianna Fie, the extra wiggle room is needed for larger items like culinary stoneware and baking dishes. During her travels, Adrianna seeks out unique home goods that are largely inaccessible online or at shops back home. Having amassed a sizable selection, she launched Flotsam + Fork, a one-stop online shop geared toward kindred Europhile shoppers. Below, she talks inspiration, unique finds and the future of her new venture. Who is behind Flotsam and Fork and what motivated the project? Juste moi! Flotsam + Fork is mostly a solo project, though I do get a lot of moral support, pro bono editing, and errand assistance from my boyfriend, Joe. I’m a seeker who borders on the obsessive, so I started Flotsam+ Fork as a way of sharing the products I have found during my travels and online perusals. I wanted to create a venue to promote well-made products that won’t end up in a landfill. For the longest time, it was impossible to find a natural bristle vegetable or dish brush in the United States. When I found […]…

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