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Lunch with Yamashita: Paris’ celebrity vegetable gardener

5 Jan
Degustation menu at Yamashita

The degustation menu: Clockwise from top left: Chicken hearts and liver in miso; Bonito Dashi with Kometsuna Japanese greens; Wasabi leaf, kabu and avocado, cherry tomato salad; Black carrot, Hokkaido Pumpkin and chicken dumplings in dashi broth; Steamed edamame and sweet corn; Fried Chicken and Okara tofu with Japanese leeks; Pickled cucumber, wakame and miso salad; Udon with fried carrot leaves and shrimp; Apricot Mochi with green tea

Asafumi Yamashita in his greenhouse

Asafumi Yamashita in his greenhouse

Asafumi Yamashita is not your average French vegetable grower. Firstly, he’s not French – he’s Japanese; and his clients are not your average grocers, retailers or restaurateurs. Yamashita can count his current clients on less than two hands – three-starred hands, in fact. Yamashita is the select vegetable supplier to top chefs such as Pierre Gagnaire, Sebastien Bras, Sylvain Sendra, Pascal Bardot (l’Astrance), Eric Briffard (George V) and Anne Sophie Pic (Maison Pic), but don’t quote me on the currency of which of these are on the list at this moment. What’s even more interesting, however, is Yamashita’s personal story behind how this came to be.

A regular day at the Yamashita family household

A regular day at the Yamashita family household – a Japanese haven on the outskirts of Paris

I first met Yamashita when I was on the panel at Haute Cuisine Paris. Yamashita gave a demonstration and tasting of his exotic Japanese vegetables along with chef Sylvain Sendra from Restaurant Itinéraires. It was that day when I first tasted the sweetest, juiciest raw corn that had ever passed my lips, and the intriguing texture and flavour of his trademark vegetable, the Kabu – something I describe as in-between a daikon, zucchini and a green apple. More importantly, chatting with Yamashita that day was when I discovered his personal story.

Yamashita first came to Paris 24 years ago. At the time he was a bonsai artist and made a modest living from selling his bonsai trees. One fateful day, all but one or two of his Bonsai trees were stolen from his property. Left without his valuable assets for the bonsai business, he turned to his other hobby, for which he had natural gift – growing vegetables. With all but a green thumb, a few packets of dried seeds brought from Japan, and a handful of existing plants, he slowly built up his vegetable garden and started supplying local Japanese restaurants in Paris and surrounds with hard-to-find Japanese varieties. Eventually, his niche supply of top quality, seasonal Japanese fruits and vegetables caught the attention of the country’s best chefs, and now, 17 years later Yamashita has gained somewhat celebrity vegetable grower status amongst the ranks of France’s greatest chefs.

Salad bowl at Yamashita's

Salad – as fresh as it gets. Wasabi leaves, kabu, avocado, red and yellow cherry tomato

So it was with great curiosity and anticipation when I finally went for “La table d’hôte de Naomi et Asafumi Yamashita” experience at his farm in Chapet after scoring the last reservation of the season thanks to a last minute cancellation (the waiting list can be up to 2 months in advance).

Yamashita and his wife offer a traditional Japanese degustation lunch or dinner nine months of the year on their homestead property in Chapet, 40 kms West of Paris. The food served is sourced almost exclusively from their own farm, so it’s as authentic, fresh and local as you can get. Yamashita’s farm is not certified organic, nor does he think all that highly of the concept. He makes all efforts to avoid pesticides and chemicals but is very upfront about the challenges and realities of growing quality small-scale produce to meet his client’s demands on consistent supply and quality.

Yamashita is a modest, simple, yet switched-on, charismatic and passionate character. He personally served the ten guests at our lunch table each course, explaining in detail the produce and ingredients used. Luckily for me, I had brought along my friend Phoebe, who just happened to live in Japan for 12 years, so with her fluent Japanese we got even more out of the experience, including a translation from Japanese to English of one of Yamashita’s recipes (below).

La table chez Yamashita

The other guests at Yamashita’s table

Surprisingly, most of the other guests at our table had never before eaten food of this kind – real, home-style Japanese cooking, I mean. In reality, I shouldn’t be surprised about this. The majority of Japanese restaurants in Paris are actually under Chinese ownership, and they offer the standard sushi, sashimi teriyaki menu you see everywhere. Of course there is authentic Japanese to be found in Paris, but it’s rather hard to come by. The French sure do French cuisine well, but I have to admit, they have a long way to go on offerings of ethnic and Asian cuisine. So when a table of self-confessed French foodies– most of them from Paris and surrounds admitted to never eating wakame, dashi or tofu before, we can understand why.

Japanese Hokkaido Pumkin and Chicken Dumplings in Bonito Broth - chez Yamashita

2 soups

The food is not fancy, it is super fresh, modest and designed to make the produce itself the star – presented and served simply with a thoughtful progression of flavour and complexity throughout the courses. I personally was totally stuffed by the fifth course, and had not even eaten managed to get through those in entirety. The chicken liver and heart dish we started with was not something I could stomach, and by the time the udon arrived, I was ready to lie down and sleep in the greenhouse next to the kabu. Everyone else at our table had no problems polishing off the entire 10 courses however… I’m forever impressed by how much French people can eat.

Yamashita's Farm

Bresse Chickens raised on Yamashita's farmBresse Chickens raised on Yamashita's farm

Bresse Chickens raised on Yamashita’s farm

Sweet corn, tomato and black chillies from Yamashita's farm

Sweet corn, tomato and black chillies from Yamashita’s farm

Japanese vegetables at Yamashita's farm

The famed vegetable: Kabu – a Japanese turnip, growing at Yamashita's farm

The famed vegetable: Kabu – a Japanese turnip, growing at Yamashita’s farm

Gooseberry from Yamashita's Farm

Phoebe holds up a freshly picked Gooseberry

Edamame beans growing at Yamashita's farm

Edamame beans

Seedlings growing at Yamashita's farm

Gumboots at Yamashita's Farm

Phoebe and Asafumi

Phoebe and Asafumi

Rachel and Asafumi Yamashita at his farm outside of Paris

Wow… wasn’t expecting that one! Yamashita’s all affection. Must be something about those wasabi leaves…

My favourite dish was actually the simplest – a gorgeous, small side dish of cucumber wakame miso pickles. Thank you to Yamashita and his wife Naomi for generously sharing the recipe below.

How to have the Yamashita communal dining experience:

You can visit “le Kolo” communal table for lunch or dinner on weekends only, outside of the winter months.  The price per head is 40 Euros for lunch, 50 Euros for dinner, plus wine.

Come prepared with a big appetite, an open mind, expandable pants, and preferably in a car. For the more adventurous types, Yamashita offers the chance to try raw sashimi chicken at your meal… but you have to “pre-order” it two weeks in advance. Enough said.

Address: Chemin des Trois Poiriers, 78130 Chapet (Yvelines) FRANCE

Phone for bookings: +33 1 30 91 98 75

Nearest transport: By train: Gare des Clairières de Verneuil (from Gare Saint-Lazare, take 31 minute train MALA in the direction of GARE DE MANTES LA JOLIE, €6) then walk 15 minutes through the Bois de Verneuil to reach the farm.

Recipe: Yamashita’s Pickled Miso Cucumbers

Yamashita's Miso Pickled cucumber and wasabi salad

Ingredients:

1 egg yolk
2 tbsp  dried wakame
4 tbsp mild white miso
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp Japanese mustard
6 baby cucumbers
Coarse Sea salt

Directions:

Rehydrate dried wakame in a bowl of warm water and drain well.

Shave cucumbers with skin on, into long thin strips, preferably using a mandolin. Sprinkle sea salt generously over the cucumbers and allow to “sweat” for approximately 10 mins. Rinse the cucumbers to remove excess salt, squeeze out excess water and then pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix the miso, egg yolk, vinegar, sugar and mustard until dissolved and well combined. Combine wakame and cucumber, then pour over sauce and mix in the dressing.

Mamma Mia Ciasa Mia! Could this be the best pasta in Paris?

20 May best pasta 2jpgciasa mia

I know I know, it’s a big call, but trust me — I take these statements very seriously. After my first meal at Ciasa Mia, I got home, and in an unprecedented event, I could not sleep. And not because I ate too much either. I simply could not stop thinking about the incredible meal I had just experienced, and found myself lying awake dreaming about that amazing PASTA like some intoxicating whirlwind holiday romance.

ciasa mia best pasta in paris

The stuff dreams are made of. Ciasa Mia’s Kamut Spaghetti with Mussels, Girolles and Smoked White Pepper with Pecorino.

Ciasa Mia potato and rosemary ravioli with speck

Potato, speck and rosemary ravioli filled with cèpes and mageret de canard fumé

The discovery wasn’t all mine, so I do admit I was tipped off. When you hear your Italian friend’s voice rise two decibels excitedly describing food with dangerous hand motions and enough passion to scare the French diners at the table next to us, I knew I had to check this place out. And yes I’ve been back multiple times since, just to make sure I wasn’t kidding myself the first time, but the food at this place never ceases to amaze and delight me.

For someone with a terrible memory, I can still remember and describe in intricate detail, every course I have eaten there: Truffle-filled egg yolk amuse bouche, pine infused ice cream, cèpe and white truffle carpaccio with parmesan soufflé, scallops in hay-steamed smoke, pastas that are delicious enough to overcome the strongest of carb-nazi willpower, deconstructed tiramisu, melt in your mouth house-made focaccia, and not to forget the famous “colours d’automne”- a dessert experience you absolutely must save space for. The flavours, the products, the seasons, the passion for quality, innovation and creativity with respect for tradition and romance, the flamboyant service with flair and precision… the passion the food is made with here paired with the warm friendly ambience of a family–run Italian alps ski chalet is so cosy you could just crawl up by the fire with your limoncello, satisfied belly and just dream away.

Who would have thought this little gem on a tiny street just next to the pantheon was hiding there? If you didn’t know to look past the cutesy quasi-kitsch restaurant signage and lace curtains on the facade, you could easily miss it. And if you can’t get there in person, don’t worry. In my usual form, I shamelessly went back and asked the chef for the recipe so we can all enjoy the pleasure of THAT PASTA (scroll down for recipe).

Where was the best pasta you have ever eaten? My runners-up for Paris are Procopio Angelo and Bocca. Drop a comment below to share your favorite addresses in Paris and beyond.

Ciasa Mia Restaurant is located near the Pantheon in Paris’ Latin Quarter at
19 Rue Laplace 75005
Ph: +33(0)1 43 29 19 77
www.ciasamia.com

See a video review by Francois Simon here

La lotte en croute Ciasa Mia Paris

La lotte en croute de peau de poulet (monkfish in chicken skin crust) with balsamic lentils, rosemary potato and vanilla eschalotte

ciasa mia italian wines

Wine selection at Ciasa Mia

Lemon brulee with almond praline

Lemon brûlée with almond praline- amazing!

ciasa mia paris truffle injected egg

Six minute scallops- steamed in hay smoke with sea salt. Black truffle jus-injected egg yolk. explosions of flavor- literally.

Deconstructed Tiramisu Ciasa Mia Paris

The delightful deconstructed tiramisu

Pine infused Icecream ciasa mia paris

Pine infused ice cream – unforgettable.

Chef Samuel Mocci with Italian white truffles

Chef Samuel Mocci with Italian white truffles

Organic kamut spaghetti with mussels, girolles, pecorino, and smoked white pepper

Recipe by Samuel Mocci from Ciasa Mia Restaurant, Paris

Serves 4 people

This recipe cooks the pasta using the absorption method, like you would a risotto. It soaks up all the flavor from the stock and self-sauces once you add the cheese and remaining ingredients.

Ingredients:

300 grams kamut spaghetti (or substitute with a similar fresh pasta of your choice)
1 litre of unsalted chicken stock
30 grams sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 knob butter
50g pecorino finely grated
50g parmesan finely grated
Freshly ground smoked white pepper (if you can’t find smoked pepper you can use smoked sea salt to add the smoky flavour)
200 g mussels (weight without shells)
200 g girolle mushrooms (you could substitute for cepes or chanterelles also)
2 cloves garlic- finely diced
2 tbsp finely diced flat leaf parsley

Recipe Ciasa Mia Pasta

Preparing the Ciasa Mia Kamut Spaghetti Recipe

Directions:

Bring the chicken stock to boil in a large pot with olive oil, butter and sea salt.

To cook the mussels: In a separate pot, place mussels in their shells with white wine, olive oil and finely diced garlic and parsley. Once the mussels open, remove the mussels from their shells (leave a few in the shell for presentation purposes). Leave in pot and set aside. Thoroughly rinse and then pat dry the girolles with paper towel. Dice the mushrooms finely and set aside.

Once the water is boiling add the spaghetti to the pot and gently stir the pasta and water until all the water has been absorbed by the pasta, being careful not to let the pasta stick together or to the pot. Check that the pasta is cooked just to al dente. If it is still too firm, add more stock and cook further until it’s absorbed (as you would a risotto)

Once the spaghetti is cooked, remove from the flame and add the parmesan, pecorino and a generous portion of freshly ground pepper. Mix through well- you will see that the remaining moisture in the pasta mixes with the cheeses to ‘self-sauce’

Sprinkle the diced girolle mushrooms on the base of the serving plate and then season with quality virgin olive oil. Serve the pasta into portions over the mushrooms and then add the mussels, with a few still in the shell over the pasta. Serve with extra grated pecorino and diced parsley to garnish if desired.

My top 10: The best addresses for cheese shopping and finding a good coffee in Paris

30 Apr coffee

It’s about time I shared the love. Two of my great loves are of course: coffee… and the other you already know — cheese. Not necessarily together or in that order! I’m often asked for tips and addresses on both of these subjects so I have compiled my top 10 and made interactive maps for both the lists. After all, what trip to Paris is complete without eating too much cheese? Then after all the fun of running around buying and tasting it, you will be needing a good coffee to pick you back up again if you want to make it on your last legs to that pastry shop…

Coffee and latte in Paris

COFFEE:

Let’s start with coffee, since it’s rather problematic in this city. A good friend of mine recently moved for a six-week stay in Paris and called me in a panic: “All the coffee is so aaaaawful here… what am I going to dooooo?? Why can’t I just go into a café and drink a decent latte?”

And she’s absolutely right. Unlike cheese, the good stuff is simply not common and easily available in this city, in fact, getting a real coffee is more like a treasure hunt — you almost need to plan your day/meeting around it to make sure you get your fix in one of the very few places that know how to make it. There has been a lot of press on the issue recently, and the scene is quickly changing for the better thanks to French-Australian partnerships who are raising the bar, such as Café Lomi who supply most of the places on my list.

So here is the list I gave my latte-longing friend. There is hope, I promise.

Where to get a good Latte / drink real coffee in Paris:

Café Lomi Paris 18eme
Black Market – Paris 18eme
Le Bal Café – Paris 18eme Clichy
KB Café Shop (formerly Kooka Boora) – Paris 9eme
Coutume Café – Paris 7eme
Sugarplum Cakeshop and Café – Paris 5eme
L’inconnu Bar/Café – Paris 10eme
Ten Belles – Paris 10eme
Télescope (great coffee in a central part of town) – Paris 1eme
Vélo Café (mobile coffee cart at Place de la Bourse) – Paris 2eme
Alto Café (mobile coffee cart at Galeries Lafayette and Passage du Havre) – Paris 9eme.

cafe lomi latte

L’art du Cafe at Lomi, Paris. Image © Rachel Bajada

CHEESE:

First things first, I need to lay down the rules of engagement here: no cheating and buying cheese at the supermarket! Sure, you may be able to find a decent fresh chèvre or biodynamic faisselle in the dairy isle, maybe even the occasional genuine AOC Camembert, but the vast majority of cheeses sold in big chains like Monoprix, Carrefour and Franprix are industrially processed, inferior, pasteurized milk cheeses which are actually slowly killing the real artisanal cheese industry in this country. Sadly, a growing number of French cheeses become extinct every year due to the industrialisation of the French dairy industry so please be a conscious cheese shopper and support artisanal cheese makers and small businesses by favouring quality over convenience and bargain basement price tags.

There is only one time and one reason only when you have an excuse to buy in the supermarket, and that’s if it’s your last stop in Paris and you’re buying cheese to take on the flight home. This leads me to my next important piece of advice and a common question:

Can I take raw milk French cheese back through Australian customs?

The answer is YES, you sure can! There is just one catch. Firstly, you must of course declare it on your arrival card, but as long as the cheese you bring in is “commercially prepared and packaged and originate from countries free from foot and mouth disease” you are allowed to bring it in. And don’t worry, as long as you wrap it in lots of layers of plastic and foil to avoid your entire luggage smelling of cheese, it will certainly last and wont spoil during the long journey home.

Because of this, you can’t just go to the farmers markets and buy a fresh unpackaged cheese to take overseas; so this is when the supermarket may be your only option. I have done this numerous times without problems but usually I stop at Galleries Lafayette Gourmand or la Grande Epicerie where they stock a good range of quality raw milk cheeses with sufficient labelling and packaging to keep you off Border Control at prime time. If you do however find yourself in a sticky situation with customs, here is how to successfully talk your way out of it.

The full details on Australian quarantine regulations can be found at the daff.gov.au site here. I regret that I don’t know enough about current regulations in the US, UK and Canada etc. to provide them but if you know please drop a comment below.

My favourite places to buy and taste cheese in Paris:

Fromagerie SecrétanParis 19eme (owners are extremely friendly and helpful and they stock a range of beautiful seasonal and special cheeses)

Galerie Fayette Gourmande – For the pre-flight stock-up to take home

Market bio 17eme and Marche bio Raspail. Excellent organic/biodynamic producers of goats cheeses and nearly every French cheese you could dream of. More expensive but worth it, make sure you get there before midday. The markets are my weekend sport.Hah.

La Ferme Saint Hubert FromagerieParis 9eme. You will smell it before you find it. This is a good thing. Very traditional with a great range.
A memorable shopping experience.

Quatre Hommes CrèmerieParis 7eme. A top quality cheese shop which also produces and sells exciting new cheese varieties such as Pistachio Brie.

CantinParis 7eme. Run by cheese queen Marie-Anne Cantin fromager de tradition and Affineur with 7 impressive caves, the shop has been open since her father set it up in 1950.

Marche BastilleParis 11eme. Here you will find a few great stands with excellent cheeses. My favourite is the best Burrata I have found in Paris from the Spanish and Italian food stall. You can also find more exotic cheeses such as Guinness Cheddar and Goats Milk blue. Photos here

Alléosse Paris 17eme. Stocks an impressive array of artisanal AOC cheeses such as camemberts, Saint Marcellins, a large choice of chèvres and the best part- a selection of rare, hard to find cheeses such as Persillé de Tignes made by the last remaining producers of their kind in the country.

Mmmozza – Italian Mozarella and cheeses – Paris 3eme. A great spot to buy giant buffalo burrata, fresh burrata from Puglia, smoked and classic Mozzarella and Treccia, other Italian cheeses and excellent Prosciutto and Parma hams, in the heart of the Marais and a stroll from Marche des Enfants Rouge.

The ultimate cheese selection at Edouard Loubet, Bonnieux France. Photo courtesy of Arturo Zavala Haag www.arturozavala.com

Ready for the suitcase: Black Truffle Brie at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris

The art of Easter. Chocolate egg design reaches new heights in Paris

8 Apr

Paris at Easter kind of reminds me of the characters in desperate housewives. Just as Gabrielle and Marcia would secretly aim to outdo each other with their good-willed neighbourly ‘bake-offs’, the designer chocolate boutiques in Paris launch full-scale campaigns to boast the most impressive designer Easter egg display in town. There is no mucking around in this city– ‘Haute chocolat’ at Easter in Paris is rather serious, not to mention – lucrative business.

This year’s designs are particularly extravagant and the window displays in every chocolate shop are filled with outrageously gigantic, painstakingly sculpted designer chocolate eggs and fantastical themed window displays as the stores are packed to the rafters with excited Parisian chocoholics purchasing designer eggs and gifts aimed to impress. So impressive in fact, I doubt many of these eggs ever actually get eaten. Here’s a selection of some of my favourite designs from this year, and some scenes from the streets of Paris this Easter.

2012 paris designer chocolate easter eggs

The Designer Dozen. Paris' most impressive designer chocolate eggs on display for Easter 2012. Clockwise from top left: Painting Pots by Jadis et Gourmande, Patrick Roger, Jean-Paul Hevin, Dalloyau, L’Avocat Surprise Des Gâteaux & Du Pain, La Duree Anniversary Limited Edition, Pollock framed by Jadis et Gourmande, Mazet flower egg, Marcolini "Chef d'Oeuf", L’Œuf de Tortue de Jean-Paul Hévin, Pollock egg by Monoprix, Hédiard Œuf Zèbre

chef-oeuf-marcolini-2012

One of my personal favorites. The Marcolini "Chef d'Oeuf" is made of dark chocolate with a pralinated puffed rice base. At 89€ a piece, it seems I have expensive taste...
Image © Pierre Marcolini

Patrickrogereaster-2

Simple elegance. Less is more with the class and style of Master chocolatier Patrick Roger. 
Image © Patrick Roger

jean paul hevin easter egg

Sculpture meets chocolate. The "Œuf de Tortue" (Turtle Rgg) by Jean-Paul Hévin.
Image © Jean-Paul Hévin

laduree oeuf petale

More than just macarons. Ladurée's anniversary limited edition celebrates 150 years. The stunning Oeuf Petale design is adorned with pralinated flower petals.
Image © Ladurée

oeuf_pollock_20_cm_avec_cadre_2012

Chocolate art. Literally. The Pollock framed collection by Jadis et Gourmande comes in small, medium and HUGE. Image © Jadis et Gourmande

Dalloyau easter egg

The intricate design by Dalloyau is complete with a tiny singing nightingale etched into pearly chocolate. It's very pretty, and very pricey. Starting at 70€.
Image © Dalloyau

Maison Mazet is first a confectionery that Leon Mazet bought 107 years ago. In their Easter window display are 3 giant "Prasline de Montargis" caramelised almond eggs. Image © Rachel Bajada

kids in paris shop window

The giant praline eggs at Mazet confectioners literally stop curious passers-by in their tracks. Image © Rachel Bajada

window display at maison la mère de famille

The 2012 Easter window display at la Maison la mère de famille - Paris' oldest chocolate shop.    Image © Rachel Bajada

Chocolate filled hens eggs

          The real deal. Chocolate praline filled hens eggs at Jadis et Gourmande, Paris.                                 Image © Rachel Bajada

Paris dog in chocolate shop

A parisien dog waits patiently at the door of the Mazet boutique as his owner buys him a fancy   Easter treat. Image © Rachel Bajada

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…

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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