Sunday, June 29, 2008


Last Saturday, we got married at the mairie in Le Marais and celebrated in Jardin de Luxembourg with a box of Herme macarons, plenty of champagne, and some of Trotte's best cheeses lined up on a park chair.

This Saturday, I am walking home from the Subway to my NYU dorm room and there's an organic ice cream truck on the corner where I debate between mint chip with hot fudge and ginger and decide I'll just have to go back the next day too.

And so, here in New York where I arrived just 36 hours after my marriage to learn all I can about leading a new school, I have a belly full of a bagel a day (pumpernickel toasted with butter and cream cheese), a plethora of Whole Foods snacks that never cease to amaze those around me (black sesame with molasses! almond and coconut! what are those whole wheat honey pretzel sticks and why are they so good? where did you get a peach?!), and twice a day Weinstein Hall Dining Hall food - a vegan stir fry with fake chicken (the worst seitan I ever had, but I appreciated the effort), a veggie burger grilled and on a white bun with American cheese, a salad bar with black beans, and a cheese omelet in the morning.

One week of sticky New York summer and I see the streets in blocks of food. I suggest a team meet at Dean and Deluca. I walk by Moaz and dream about the hummus Lindsey and I had in Israel. I pass Crumb and hold out for Magnolia. I even smell the kebabs and hot dogs on the street and start to get a little hungry. At my new bank, Chase, where I have the best banker I have ever had who is certainly a new friend and also potentially a parent of a child who will come to my school in a few years, they have a stand outside with fresh fruit.

I do (heart) NY.

But I even miss Paris too. (And, it goes without saying, the new husband I had to leave for now)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Book Recommendation

Jasmine introduced me to many a great food tip - the top two being cheese biscuits and Clotilde's blog. Long before I imagined I'd be in Paris for nine months, Jasmine and I would drool over chocolatier recommendations, bread and mie commentary, and absorption pasta recipes.

So it is with mixed emotions that Clotilde's book (pictured to the right) arrived as I prepare to depart. So many great places I had yet to visit, and so little time.

I started with the places that I'm always seeking out in Paris with little luck - 'ethnic restaurants.' In a city where Italian is listed as 'world cuisine', finding decent Indian or dim sum can be quite difficult. Yet, Clotilde recommended one of the best Indian places I have been to here - Muniyandi Vilas.

Liam and I ate there for less than 10 euros and my mini-plat of two vegetables, a moong dal, fresh hot paratha and chai was the most perfect meal I've had in Paris.

Total: 2.90.

Liam had the vegetarian thali and was similarly impressed as his tab crept up past 5 euros. Each dish is accompanied by amazingly dry and delicious coconut chutneys - my first visit had coriander and another more spicy. My second visit kept a similar spice and also included a caramelized onion dish.

We had less success at Tricotin, recommended for dim sum - but after many an analytic conversation with other Americans here, we think it's simply impossible to get the kind of dim sum you can get in the U.S. (and we've tried many a place in the 13th which is the quartier chinois and location of Liam's work).

More success was had with Japanese 6th - Azabu - a nearly perfect formule that Johanna and I enjoyed at the bar (the pickles! the radish! the sauce on our calamari! the tea AND glace included!) and at Cafe Panique in the 10th where Dana and I celebrated her birthday last week.

Liam and I had Saturday dinner at Urbane and were partially impressed - tempura sardines kept these fish on my mind for days contemplating ways to replicate at home sans fryer or panko. Liam's veal looked great perched on melon and his dessert of roasted rhubarb cheese cake was lovely. My vegetarian dish was later explained by the hostess as 'the least interesting' of the dishes. As much as I love an option, I would also prefer for the restaurant to maintain their level of dish integrity across the carte - even Momofuku Noodle Bar does that and they have a disclaimer that vegetarians shouldn't visit. But perhaps my expectations in this world are too high ...

Alas, I adore this book. I love that she recommends Le Loire dans le Theiere - a place that saved me this winter with their fresh made desserts and tea gouter after 3pm. I love that there are chocolate shops and confisseries and that because of this book I trekked out to the 17th to visit Le Petite Rose and gorge myself on the much photographed mendiant chocolat. I appreciate that there are sections on etiquette and customer service and the ways of the French.

I also can't resist saying that you can get it in Paris - I got mine at my most favorite petite English book shop down the street, The Red Wheelbarrow.

Marriage Countdown

High predicted for Saturday: 21. Low: 16.

Number of minutes of wedding ceremony at the mairie: 15

Percentage of French spoken at the ceremony: 100

Percentage of French-speaking participants: 50%

Number of translators that we elected to refuse: 1

Number of bus line that will bring us from the mairie to Jardin de Luxembourg: 96

Number of incredibly large, all-city music festivals happening on this pagan day in every corner, metro station and place: 1

Anticipated number of friends, visiting relatives and neighbors, and relatives participating in the pique-nique: 21

Total cheeses being served: 5

Total Pierre Herme macarons in a box: 35

Total Michelin stars for the Wedding Night Dinner For Two restaurant: 1

L'Arrondisement of Wedding Night Hotel: 4eme

Time of sunset on Saturday, June 21: 9:58 pm

Number of days after the wedding that I depart for New York: 2

Number of days until I get to see my husband again: 29

Hours per day I will be in school leadership training: 9-12

Days per week I will be in training: 6

Days we will have to 'honeymoon' in New York together: 6

Years we'll have together: Forever!


Friday, June 13, 2008

Strawberry Rhubard Mint Compote

I tried, this week, to get more red rhubarb, but the farmer was intent on giving me green, in fact, he rolled his eyes at Liam twice: once when he asked for more rouge rhubarb, and once when he ordered les petites courgettes without specifying how petite (and what we got were more moyen than not).

I like this stand, even though this guy gives me a hard time about my French and then my lack thereof, my choice of potatoes and then second-guesses me, but he has a stand with piles of eggs and now rhubarb and herbs and the Swiss chard that a girl who moved here from California aches for.

A handful of eye rolls later, we were off with a bag full of greens and sticks, and I wondered what exactly I was going to do with it all.

We had a dinner of Swiss Chard pie from a Bittman recipe that I didn't really like (was it because I didn't add mayonnaise and hard cooked egg to the filling? Why was my 'biscuit-like' crush so like an uncooked then overcooked pancake?) and closed with the most brilliant idea I've had recently: compote.

I wanted a recipe for the rhubarb that paired it with its soul sister strawberry, but the berries that we had (it said fraise des bois and while they didn't look the part, I couldn't pass up the mis-labeling) were small and sour and soft. I thought about roasting it, like the rhubarb cheesecake Liam had at Urbane over the weekend, but that didn't seem sweet enough. Then I found this recipe.

Dipping my spoon into the still hot mixture, I was surprised at how easily the sweetness and sourness fit - like the pie filling you've always had but freshened with the mint - and soaked up by the almond cakes that Kate had baked to celebrate our last Cheese Club.

Yes, I'm ready to dive into piles of peas at the Union Square Greenmarket and go to Queens to the Indian groceries but this kind of serendipity of dinner made me happy to be right here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hot Mango Chutney

In Paris there's a passage like Bangladesh - cardboard boxes weighed down with manioc and bitter melon beneath graying light and lunch specials. It was here that I first found knobs of turmeric huddling between splashes of coriander and white-striped aubergine.

We all have our alternate-life fantasies, our wish lists where we romanticize the lives of those who have less than us. When I was young, it was the horhound candies of Laura Ingalls Wilder or the soda crackers of this series of books of a handful of Jewish children on the Lower East Side at the turn of the century.

As an American in Paris trying her best to cook up the food she adores from the Bay Area, my fantasy is that of an Indian mom taken out of her homeland and trying to survive in a foreign place - popping mustard seeds in oil to fry up shitakes from the local market. A mother with piles of dough softening on the counter each night when her husband comes home - sometimes 1/2 atta other times, when that's run out, all-purpose flour, sometimes speckled with black pepper and oil added to resemble the flaky parathas she cooked at home.

It maintains, this alter-ego, as I prepare a dal with potatoes for a Friday night picnic on the tip of Ile St-Louis - dishes filled with warm lentils, topped with homemade tamarind chutney, yogurt and the most expensive hot mango chutney I'd ever seen. I didn't find it in the passages that I imagine are necessarily rank with an authenticity that I know nothing about, but rather in the chic aisles of Le Grande Epicerie (Au Bon Marche) - each jar wrapped in a plastic bag, stacked carefully above packets of Thai curry pastes and sheets of forest-colored nori in the Asie aisle.

There I was one day, trying to use up end-of-the-month cheques de restaurant, wondering if the price is high because of the trip from India or the ingredients (and hoping it's for the latter). Alas, we mothers of the diaspora, as I imagine us, in our world known only to white American women from fiction, we find 'home' wherever we can get it, claiming what might be ours, or not, as we make up our lives each day.