Nail in Foot, Burger in Hand

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We are in the demolition stage of our new apartment.  This morning, as we walked into the place for our daily visit, our quirky 1950s flat to-be was transformed into the town of Bedrock.  Before I could even say “Wow, what a dump!”, “Ohmygawwwwputainmerde!”  My first step into the apartment, I got a nail in the foot.  The throbbing pain was the least of my worries.  Since I have the undisputed Generation Me dilemma of not having had health insurance since my shatterproof undergraduate days, I was sure I could feel my jaw locking in the matter of moments. Luckily, I had an unsuccessful semester in grad school that got me up to speed on that important tetanus shot.  Phew!

To help ease the pain, I was whisked off for lunch at the hyper-popular food truck Le Camion Qui Fume by mon mari qui fume.  Le Camion Qui Fume ends the search for an authentic American cheeseburger in Paris.  Although there are imposters on every cafe menu, 18 euros for a dry, uninspired hamburger on an industrial bun is not worth the ho-hum indulgence.  Food trucks have not  taken off in Paris yet, partially considering that the French cannot eat with their hands alone.  But fellow American expat Kristin Frederick has mastered the right fatty mix of ground beef, the soft, butter-brushed sesame seed buns, real cheddar and shoestring fries to cheer up any expat having a bad day.  Although the truck changes locations everyday, we dug into our burgers on the steps of the Église de la Madeleine overlooking the Place de la Concorde.  And at just 10 euros for a burger and fries, there is no better bargain or breathtaking view.

🍔

Gervita, mon amour.

If I have not lost you already, now it is going to get interesting. Walking down the double-sided yogurt isle, I am always perplexed by the plethora of options for seemingly plain yogurt. There is yaourt nature, fromage blanc, caillé, faisselle, séré, yaourt au bifidus, and drinkable yogurt, all made from different kinds of milk. Although technically not yogurt, one of the things I quickly learned to adore in France is fromage blanc, or white cheese. It varies in textures and tanginess, but the style I love has the same texture of a fatty Greek yogurt, but is surprisingly low in fat and calories. How can this be ? Fromage blanc is a simple cheese made by boiling fresh, unpasturized milk and cream with a bit of présure, a fermentation starter. Although its texture is often likened to cream cheese, playing starring role in French cheesecake, its consistancy is more comparable to a high-fat yogurt. Fromage blanc is often on restaurant menus as the sole light option. Served with a berry coulis or honey, it is a protein-packed, simple dessert. I often eat it for breakfast with oatmeal and fruit. Or I will layer fromage blanc, sliced fruit, and maple syrup for a quick parfait. A welcome nudge for Mr. Meat & Potatoes, my husband, to eat fruit.

Speaking of the varieties of fromage blanc, it is onto a reader favorite, Danone’s Gervita. In Gervita’s packaging, a spoonful of this whipped fromage blanc floats among the clouds in a blue sky. It’s a spoonful of pleasure coming in for landing. On the first bite, the mousse melts on the tongue with the smooth, fresh milk taste of cream cheese, then that characteristic yogurt tang kicks in. And then it’s back to the smooth taste of cream again. Although I was a bit surprised the mousse was just a layer on top of a bed of fromage blanc, it is a pleasing flip flop of changing textures and character. Here is a 4-pack that won’t last more than a day at chez moi.

I have seen Gervain Petit Suisse in the refrigerators of most families and all of my serious friends who have a properly stocked fridge. It’s an after-dinner kiddie treat. Although I’ve tried unsuccessfully using a spoon to just dig in, Petit Suisse can be a bit deceiving. The Petit Suisse must first be squeezed out of its container and carefully disrobed of its colorful paper sleeve and served standing tall on a plate. Kids love presentation, eh? With 9.2 % fat content, this fromage blanc is more comparable to cream cheese.  Although it lacks the fresh cream taste of Gervita, it has the decadently rich texture of strained Greek yogurt and the tangy punch of crème fraiche.   Hence, a perfect accompaniment to all chocolate and fruit desserts.

So there you have it. I love fromage blanc, I like Petit Suisse, and I would marry Gervita.  But I think it is all gone.

French yogurt and its culture

Yaourt.  Although my tongue still hasn’t wrapped around the right pronunciation yet (Is it yAo-oort?  YA-OOrt?  Ya-oURt?), I’ve never loved yogurt more.  Just take a look at the selection!

Today, on this dreadfully dreary day in Paris, jessiekanelos.wordpress.com delivers its first taste of hard journalism.   I will test the limits of my curiosity and my lactose tolerance for the hard facts on my neighborhood grocery’s yogurt isle.

I never really like yogurt in the States because there really is not much variety.  It is often overly sweet with cloying artificial flavors.  Wouldn’t you think yogurt cultures would be canceled out by a cotton candy flavor?  It gets more and more difficult to find a plain version.  However, according to Wikiyogurt, the French eat around 21 kilos of yogurt a year.  French fridges are continuously well-stocked.  It is a go-to breakfast, snack, and dessert.  But the word yaourt can be deceiving.  It often refers to the cream desserts, pudding cups, and often single-serving desserts that share the yogurt isle.

How clever!  Yogurt with the granola already mixed in!

Licorice and mint?  Some flavors are better admired than tried.

Porfiteroles, clafoutis, creme brulee, chocolate mouse.  Just take a look at the Greatest Hits of French desserts carefully disguised among the yogurt.  Everywhere I look in Paris these days, there is a new USA burger, bagel & cookie diner.  The yogurt isle is just as trendy with its “le cheese cake” and “les cookies”.

Oh hello, cottage cheese.  Fancy seeing you here!

Speaking of plain yogurt, there is just as much variety to be found.  I am one spoon away from exposing it tomorrow. Stay tuned!

EuroDisney. A gobsmacker’s moveable feast.

Paris is begrudgingly hailed by some Parisiens as a Disneyland for Americans.  Frankly, it is a moveable feast for all the world’s wealthy gobsmackers. But did you know that EuroDisney is the most-frequented attraction in France?  Hands down, it beats both the Eiffel Tower and the new Abercrombie & Fitch on the Champs Élysées.  (But don’t worry, I still have seen Parisien women wearing neither sweatpants nor the A&F bedazzled bottom variety.)

Considering my childhood dreams were A.) to convince my parents to take me Disneyworld and b.) become a Snow White impersonator by trade, it was not difficult to enjoy EuroDisney.  Regardless of its European sensibilities like Perrier on tap, like any Disney institution, the pizza at Euro Disney is still bad.  But how about those Mickey Mouse meringues?

What are your thoughts on Euro Disney?

Trim a branch, strike a pose.

One of the major differences between New York and Paris is the pockets of greenery scattered about Paris.  Once getting past heavy, Haussmanian doors with ubiquitous door codes (the right of passage to reach any French person, place or thing), the majority of apartment buildings hide a small garden, most likely amidst parked bicycles and garbage cans.

When I met my husband, I was instantly taken by his own private petit jardin. (“He’s got a car, an accent and a garden!  Instant upgrade!”, exclaimed my 2009 self).  Living on the ground floor, it fills our apartment with clean air and a terrific breeze from the nearby forest, the Bois de Vincennes.  And it allows me to indulge in an urban impossibility, compost.  As of late, it is a bit unkempt.  Case in point, winter rolled around before we had the chance to cut the grass.  Ideally, I would love to plant sweet pea seedlings.  However, as any photographer/stylist duo, we utilize gardening simply for impromptu photo shoots.  In my one-track mind, dress-up always trumps gardening.  Trim a branch, strike a pose.

What’s your gardening philosophy?

A Blurb on Butter

France is known for many delicious things.  There’s charcuterie with all its nuance and varying levels of porkiness.  Then there is the abundance of cheese.  Charles de Gaulle himself so famously exclaimed, “how can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?”  Additionally, there is butter.  It is the undisputed backbone of traditional French cuisine.  It is butter that gives a croissant its flaky altitude of layers.  And then there is the butter of the unknown, that special ingredient that creates sensuous sauces and envelopes vegetables on a restaurant plate. 

However, there is a new realm of butter that I have never known before.  One recent morning, I whipped up a tartine for my husband comme d’habitude.  I sliced a day-old baguette lengthwise, threw it in the toaster oven, threw a little butter on top, and let the oven do the work.  I spread on a thin layer of plum jam and awaited my ‘merci’.   “I don’t like it when the butter is melted”, he said.  My jaw dropped. It’s toasted bread!  The butter is supposed to be melted by the heat of the toast!  That’s magic of breakfast right there.  I shrugged it off; so particular, this husband of mine.  Then over our Alpine vacation, over one of the many chats about food over coffee with my mother-in-law, she exclaimed the same disfavor for the taste of melted butter, like in pound cake.  But butter is as butter does, non?  I’m an intelligent person.  I saw The Tree of Life.  And I liked it.  But somehow, I never thought about the difference between butter in its many mediums.  Alas, at the end of the day, I have lot of work to do.  And I am still as American aI Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® – Spray.  

I usually have no problem putting my own foot in my mouth, but my phone has been helping me out a lot lately.  Bless its heart though, the poor thing isn’t completely bilingual yet either.  It has not adapted its predictive text to French yet.  Consequently, I have sent a few doozies lately.

When a friend texted proposing to get a coffee, intending to reply “oui, avec plaisir” (aka “I’d love to!”), my phone responded with “oui, avec plaudit”.  No, we did not plan a rendezvous, but rather a rigoletto.  Comment-allez vous?  Comment-allez voucher.  Fortunately, my phone has a thing for the opera; he will do just fine here.

$hit Americans $ay in Paris

Two months ago on Youtube, every subculture, city resident, ethnic group, and household item had a lot of shit to say.  “Shit New Yorkers Say” “Shit My Nigerian Dad Says” “Shit My Towel Says”.  And there were a lot of unfortunate wigs and accents along the way.   As soon as “Shit Shit Says” came out, the trend was a bit tired for my brilliant “SHIT AMERICANS SAY IN PARIS!”  Reviewing my shelf of Eiffel Tower bedazzled diaries from the past, I had enough material to whip up a script, a storyboard, and all both of my friends to make this thing viral.  But alas, I saw today that someone by the name of Ludovig beat me to it. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rriaeKyRVis)  Luckily none of our one-liners overlap.  And don’t worry, this American here has a lot of Shit to Say, too.  So here is my own material for your viewing pleasure, minus some unfortunate time of me on camera.

"Yes, I speak French. I took it sophomore year."
"That is SO Fah-RENCH!"

 

Continue reading “$hit Americans $ay in Paris”

An Ode to my Apron

 

 

So, what did this newlywed domestic diva ask her husband for her birthday?  A sophisticated apron, of course. I have recently launched into a new career as a food stylist.  But I cannot get just any apron dirty.  Nonetheless, to prevent any such birthday surprises, we went shopping for it together several weeks ago.  I have always adored those fluffy, froufrou aprons from Anthropologie.  You know the ones with a pocket for a Diptyque candle and another for a green drink?  However, I needed an apron to communicate that I am serious, capable, and have good knife skills.  Needless to say, if you are looking for the best array of quality home goods in Paris, specifically the best selection of aprons, Lafayette Home Opera is the place.  There are several walls of aprons and matching accessories of every color, pattern, and persuasion.  And I found a real beaute.  What kind of chicery is this, you might ask?  It’s purple ombre canvas with a discrete and slimming kangaroo pocket, perfect for an I-phone or a snack. And I couldn’t resist adding on a matching oven mit and kitchen towels.  I’m a real housewiii, I mean, food stylist now!

HAPPY JOUR DE MACARON! HAPPY SPRING! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Flowers from our petit jardin. Spring has sprung!

Today is my birthday!  And the first day of Spring!  And it also happens to be the ‘jour de macaron’!  I was born on a good day.  Free macarons!  Thanks http://parisbymouth.com/ for sharing this.  If you’ve never tried a macaron before, they are the semi-precious confectionary jewel of certain French patisseries.  Crisp on the outside, unctuously intense on the inside.  Although the macaron trend is going strong in the States, I’ve never wasted my time finding an American equivalent.   (Have you found any good macarons in the USA yet?)  So shortly after I started planning my trick-or-treat-style macaron conquest, I realized that France doesn’t follow the same ‘demand and supply’ criteria as Halloween or that happy, happy day when Ben & Jerry’s gives out a free scoop in the States.  Eloquence is key to getting anything done in France.  Everything needs to be stated precisely and efficiently.  So I strutted into Dalloyau, a local participant.  I inquired ever-so politely in my most proper French, “Good day, dear sir.  Do you happen to be participating in this joyous day of macaron?”  Pause.  “Yes, in fact we are.  If you happen to participate in a tasting, you are certainly welcome.”  “Uhhh, yeeaah!…I mean, if you please.  I will take a vanilla, kind sir”  A little coercing for a small treat.  I should have mentioned my birthday first thing.

Take advantage of the beautiful day.  And a macaron too, if you please.