Archive | March, 2012

Welcome to Paris, hello New York! The French obsession with American food

29 Mar

paris j'adore
It all started with a cupcake.

Then, before long a queue of New Yorkers appeared- lining up on a Manhattan street for cutsie iced cakes in a myriad of colours and flavours. The trend spread across the globe faster than a pandemic superbug. Australia, UK, Japan and Paris jumped on the cupcake bandwagon. Cupcakes became the new macaron – even in the city of macarons itself.

And so, the French love affair with American food began. In 2003, Starbucks introduced the French to the concept of coffee with milk. Lots of milk, and whipped cream, to wash down a nice big slice of raspberry swirl yew york cheesecake, a donut or a giant white chocolate and caramel muffin.

cupcake camp paris

Homemade cupcakes by participants, and the entry queue to Cupcake Camp, Paris 2011

It’s all rather ironic. The French, well-known for their own celebrated food culture and openly expressed abhorrence to what they have long called “La malbouffe aux États-Unis” (bad food of America) have developed quite a taste for good old American comfort food and it appears that the feelings are mutual. New Yorkers have always had a thing for Paris, but now Paris is becoming equally as fascinated and with New York style dining and the realm of American food.

starbucks paris

Starbucks on rue Montorgeuil, Paris

If you’re visiting Paris, don’t expect to see locals queuing up at cute little crêpe stands – instead you’ll find them lining up by the hundreds for Starbucks, American cocktails, gravlax and cream cheese bagels, pancakes with bacon, and big, beefy, cheesy, American BURGERS.

Au revoir Macarons: Make way for Cookies and Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies Grand epicerie paris

Whoopie Pies on display at La Grande Epicerie Paris.
Labelled as "The unmissable replacement for cupcakes this summer" Image snapped courtesy of Carol from parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com

18 months ago in an interview I was asked what I thought the next big food trend was in Paris. I said, “It’s going to be cookies. American-style cookies.” The journalist laughed and left it out of the article. Now they are springing up all over the place.

Move aside ‘Little Miss Combawa Sesame Crème Macaron’, your Grande Epicerie vitrine real estate has been taken over by its sweeter American sister to keep our trend happy Parisian clientele happy with what they want now: WHOOPIE PIES. And it’s only just the beginning. Dare I say it… the American products being made on French turf are possibly even better than what I have eaten when in America.

In Paris’ touristic Saint Germain, I never thought it was possible to have such a moment with a caramel fudge milk chocolate cookie. The tiny It Mylk boutique is now selling a range of handmade cookies, supplied daily. These things are really something else. Their creator rests the dough for up to two days and has cleverly engineered the chocolate chunks to be in a permanently semi-melted state. I don’t even want to think about how many sets of Parisian stairs I should have climbed after eating that.

It Mylk Cookies Paris

Semi melted chocolate fudge American comfort at It Mylk, Saint Germain

American expats Lindsay Tramuta and her business partner Chloe last year launched their own brand American cookies baked in Paris- Lola’s cookies. Lola’s delicious range includes all the classics from brownies and peanut butter and chocolate, through to white chocolate chunk with lemon and cashew. It’s not hard to imagine why they’re fast building a cookie-addicted following amongst hipster Parisians.

lolas cookies paris

Lolas Cookies, Paris. Image supplied

Ze Buerregeurre:

PDG has become a burger institution in Paris since it opened in the same year as Starbucks, back in 2003. The American style eatery serves what is claimed to be one of the best burgers in Paris, using bread rolls from top Parisian baker Eric Kayser. Manager Pierre Lannadere has become used to French customers requesting bizarre combinations such as fried eggs with pancakes and hash browns – knowing it’s merely the norm in the US.

Camion qui fume

Burgers and menu at Paris' first food truck.
Image by William CHAN TAT CHUEN from Postive Eating Blog

More recently, Le Camion Qui Fume succeeded in overcoming French legislation and exhaustive red tape and paperwork, making them Paris’ first mobile food truck. Yes that’s right, American food trucks have made their way to the very city where spotting someone eating a meal, let alone a burger on the run is about as rare a sighting as a free seat on the line 1 metro at peak hour.

The food truck, run by a Californian native, moves about between locations, which are published via their twitter feed which on this day has close to 5,500 followers. Paris’ first food truck is drawing huge crowds of Parisians prepared to wait in extended queues to get their burger fix from a menu offering classics such as cheeseburgers with lettuce, pickles and ketchup, through to the more ‘Frenchiefied’ version of beef, Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese with caramelized onion and porto sauce.

The waiting line for burgers by The Camion Qui Fume. Personally, I don't have the patience. It's just a burger, right? Image by Donald Edwards. He has a cool Paris blog here

What else is cooking?

From the same group who revolutionised the Paris cocktail scene with establishments such as Prescription and Experimental Cocktails Clubs, having sister bars in London and New York, their next venture – the Beef Club Restaurant is about to open its doors (if they can fit you inside when they do). Yes, you guessed it- the concept is a full American-style beef BBQ menu with a basement level cocktail bar and club.

Scwhartz Deli represents a little corner of the NYC in the heart of the historic Marais. A brunch table there on a Sunday is a coveted spot where you will be competing with a horde of others, hungry to fill up on salmon gravlax cream cheese bagels, pastrami sandwiches, turkey sausage salad and matzos meatball soup.

RICCI Italian has opened in an upcoming pocket of the 17th arrondissement as a New York diner-style restaurant serving Italian American fare such as Charolais, speck and Gorgonzola burgers, fresh burrata, meatball pasta and gourmet pizzas to go.

RICCI Italian Paris

Goumet Pizza at RICCI American-Italian Restaurant, Paris. Image supplied

Breakfast in America now has two locations on both Paris’ left and right banks. Their no reservations policy means that you will have to wait (that’s what we do in Paris) in line, at cholesterol corner with the rest of them for your Connecticut omelette or ham steak and eggs, followed by Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, pecan pie and Dr Pepper soda.

Every time I walk into a bookstore, I am spotting more and more New York patisserie cookbooks. Recipe books featuring American desserts and New York street food are fast gaining centre stage. Forget mastering Boeuf Bourguignon- the remaining Parisians who do actually cook at home are now keener to perfect the art of Cheeseburgers and Brownies.

American patisserie cookbooks at La Librairie Gourmande

American patisserie cookbooks on feature display at
La Librairie Gourmande, Paris

On an end note, being a patriotic Aussie at heart, I’m still waiting for vegemite and cheese scrolls to take off in Paris. Something tells me I may be waiting a while for that one…

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A heart between two homes

6 Mar

paris_sydney_cheese_je t'aime

Dear Australia,

I love you. You raised me, bathed me in sunlight and blessed me with beautiful beaches, an awesome lifestyle and my treasured family and friends, but I am sorry, I am leaving you. This little holiday at home has been magical, but the time has come, and I am going back to my adopted country, France.

Now, don’t be like that; please don’t be jealous, we absolutely cannot compare the two of you. And don’t be so presumptuous please- it’s not the wine I’m leaving you for. It’s also not the amazing markets and restaurants, nor is it for the fashion. You did everything right, my dear homeland, but you did one thing wrong. There is just one thing missing in this relationship…. Let me explain…

Chère France,

I love you, too. And I am coming back to you, if you will take me. How you have such a strong pull on me, honestly I don’t know. In reality, you treat me kinda mean. You’re painfully cold 6 months of the year. You make me drink too much wine, eat too much bread and not do enough exercise. You made me tolerant of passive smoking, and living in overpriced shoebox-sized flats. You make me spend too much money on pretty things I probably don’t need. Your metro is an efficient but dehumanising experience. Your lovely pebbled pavements ruin my stiletto heels and your thousands of poodles leave their sh*t everywhere. Too many of your shopkeepers are rude and obnoxious; your Michelin star waiters refuse to serve me real cappuccinos and most of your café coffee sux.

OK OK … maybe that was a little rough, after all, for a love letter, this didn’t start so well. No need to be insecure. I do love your amazing fashion, and strolling around the city at night is like living in a walking museum. Your effortless elegance, manicured gardens and romantic summer nights certainly wooed me, but that is not why I am taking you back. I’m coming back, my dear France because you offer me in abundance one thing Australia cannot – real cheese.

That’s right baby. Unpasteurised, unhomogenized, unadulterated, raw milk, artisanal, wonderful… CHEESE! Fresh ones, aged ones, soft ones, hard ones, stinky ones, mild ones… I’m only just getting started. You know you’ve got what I need my love, and over 400 of them….

So yes, you won me over.

Yours truly,
Rachel

Rachel Bajada with giant Mont d'Or cheese

At Rungis Markets, Paris with a 'Mega Mont d'Or'

And so there we have it. Going home after almost two years in the land of wine and cheese, I have returned as a changed woman. Arriving in Sydney was like walking into my hometown with a brain transplant. My country has not changed a lot, but I have evolved enormously. I’m the same person, with different eyes, and slightly evolved tastebuds. A new language, a million crazy stories, hundreds of new friends and bank accounts in multiple countries.

Out of habit, one of the first things I did was to check out the cheese selection at the local delis and department stores (like, isn’t that what we all do)? Wasn’t that just a depressing experience? Hate to say it but Australia really is the communist Cuba of fromage. We are living in the height of cheese communism. How can such a developed and progressive country still have strict bans on raw milk production? As long as Australia keeps a ban on raw milk cheese production, I’m going to have a hard time living there!

So I’ve decided to do something about it. Next month I’m launching a campaign in conjunction with Slowfood International and Australia’s top chefs to lobby against the ban on Raw Milk production and sale in Australia- the principle thing preventing artisan cheese makers cultivating a rich and diverse industry. Let’s support local producers and artisans and support the freedom of choice over what natural raw foods we have access to.

Watch this space and stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, check out some reading material on the issue here, and while you’re at it, join my Facebook Cheese Fanclub

See you at the Paris fromagerie!

Rachel
xox

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