France

In praise of the humble French classics

In praise of the humble French classics

We didn't eat at any creative new restaurants on our recent trip to Paris. But we weren't disappointed. This wasn't that kind of trip. We went for the Paris sales and decided to save our euros for our purchases. We limited meals to somewhat casual establishments, grabbed breakfast on the go at a pâtisserie, indulged once a day in a modest bistro meal, and made lunch or dinner a hot-to-go option. The humble classics of French casual cuisine never let us down and never left us hungry. One of our standbys is the kind of croque monsieur shown at the top of the post. Is there anything more honest? It's little more than a slice each of ham and cheese—either Emmenthal or Comté—between thin slices...Read More
From the market’s parish church to the tastiest street in Paris

From the market’s parish church to the tastiest street in Paris

In Paris this winter, we visited Saint-Eustache as consolation for the closure of Notre-Dame cathedral. With its soaring spaces and grandest pipe organ in Paris, Saint-Eustache (saint-eustache.org/) provided a real spiritual uplift. Although the church's present structure dates mainly from the 16th century, part of the plan was loosely modeled on the 12th-13th century French Gothic cathedral—a hint of glory by association. Saint-Eustache was originally the parish church of the market district, known as Les Halles since medieval times. When Paris moved the central fresh market to the suburbs in 1971, many people viewed the destruction of the old market buildings as a crime against the spirit of the city. One of the side altars in Saint-Eustache memorialized the loss in a mass of statuary...Read More
Shopping for cookware in the shadow of Escoffier

Shopping for cookware in the shadow of Escoffier

When it comes to making food, the right tools make all the difference. A dull knife, a thin pot with hot spots, and trying to make do with a microwave when you really need a conventional oven are the kind of inconveniences that keep Grubhub and DoorDash in business. To cook with enthusiasm and joy is much easier with the proper batterie de cuisine, as the French call the arsenal of kitchen utensils, pots, and pans. And, let's face it, dinner tastes better when eaten on something other than paper plates and plastic cups. So save some extra room in your checked bag the next time you visit Paris. Two shops within steps of each other in the former Les Halles district of Paris sell...Read More
SOLDES! Chasing Parisian style at the winter sales

SOLDES! Chasing Parisian style at the winter sales

Of all the mellifluous words in the French language, none has a better ring than ‶Soldes.″ Usually written in all capital letters, it's the term for the twice-annual sales in Paris. We don't really know why the government regulates markdown seasons. But whatever the reason, the winter and summer sales are a real boon for travelers who want to score a bargain and bring home a little memento of Paris style. This year, winter sales took place January 8 to February 4. (Summer sales will be June 24 to July 21.) When we arrived in the City of Light during the third week of January, SOLDES signs were everywhere. We had admittedly missed out on the frenzy of the opening days when the sales racks...Read More
Chicken Pastis: Liquor cabinet cookery

Chicken Pastis: Liquor cabinet cookery

As most of our readers have already surmised, we are first and foremost wine drinkers. But we are also travelers, and sometimes the taste of place comes from a headier libation. Over the years, we have accumulated a liquor cabinet of spirits, apertifs, cordials, and what David's father used to call “snorts.” (When the last of the sipping whiskey was gone on a Sunday afternoon and the stores were all closed, he'd invariably go to the mixer cabinet and announce, “Let's have a snort!” Sometimes that meant an evening of Drambuie or anisette, but too sweet was better than dry.) Some of the bottles shown above are more than mere snorts. They make excellent sippers by themselves. It's just that we don't sit around sipping...Read More
Lavender and chevre speak French on the North Fork

Lavender and chevre speak French on the North Fork

Lavender by the Bay could not be better located. It was one of the first farms we encountered as we drove from the Orient Point ferry docks into the agricultural stretch of Long Island's North Fork. In mid-June, the English lavender was just beginning to bloom. This pretty, fragrant spot made a welcoming introduction to the region. The farm boasts 80,000 plants on 17 acres. When the French lavender bursts into bloom around the beginning of July, you could think that you are in the south of France. That's where the French-born patriarch of this family-run operation spent his summers. Fortunately for us, lavender also seems to thrive in the salty, sea air of Long Island. The fields may be the big draw, but it's...Read More
Finding a sprightly pairing for Boizel Brut Réserve

Finding a sprightly pairing for Boizel Brut Réserve

Champagne is the acknowledged queen of sparkling wines, but every regal house has its signature. Boizel champagnes from Épernay show an elegance and finesse that stems from using hand-harvested grapes from the top crus and blending the still wines of each year with wines reserved from the previous two harvests. This produces a year-to-year consistency that makes the non-vintage bottles best representative of the house style. Three years of bottle aging on the lees adds additional complexity. So when we acquired a Brut Réserve that had been disgorged at the end of 2016, we weren't quite sure what to pair with it. This particular champagne gains its floral bouquet from 30 percent Chardonnay, its lean structure from 55 percent Pinot Noir, and a delicious fruitiness...Read More
The lavender lady of Aix champions the scent of Provence

The lavender lady of Aix champions the scent of Provence

“This is the 'gold of Provence.'” a lovely older woman exclaimed us as she handed us each a sachet so that we could inhale the minty-floral aroma of lavender. To us, the purple blossoms are the signature scent of Provence. But, according to Béatrice, not all lavender is the same. She insisted that the best is grown in the fields surrounding the ancient fortified village of Sault in the High Vaucluse. She is dedicated to spreading the word. “I want to keep the tradition alive,” the former French teacher told us. “The family has been growing lavender for 400 years. The soil and sun around Sault impart unique flavor.” Béatrice's table at the Tuesday produce market in Aix almost overflowed with sachets stitched from traditional...Read More
Sun-splashed markets make Aix a shopper’s dream

Sun-splashed markets make Aix a shopper’s dream

Just 45 minutes north from Marseille by train, Aix-en-Provence is incredibly cute and utterly Provençal. It almost seems fabricated by a clever group of artisans to send tourists home with suitcases full of the accoutrements of French country design and the ingredients for the celebrated cuisine of the sun. Since it was our first opportunity to visit one of the great market towns of Provence, we scheduled our trip for a Tuesday for the broadest range of open-air markets. Also available on Thursdays, the produce market, flea market, flower market, and textiles and crafts markets are less crowded during the week than on Saturdays. Or so we were told. It's hard to imagine if any more people could have crowded into the mostly pedestrian streets...Read More
Seeking supreme couscous in North African Marseille

Seeking supreme couscous in North African Marseille

The North African caste of central Marseille had us jonesing for a great couscous before we left town. We investigated a number of casual and posh spots before we simply took the suggestion of our landlady and of the server at La Marsa. Everyone seemed to agree that we should go to La Fémina (1 rue du Musée, 04 91 54 03 56). Founded in 1921, it is one of the most established North African restaurants in Marseille. North African doesn't mean Arab, though, explained Mustapha Kachetel, the fourth generation to operate the restaurant. His family are Berbers from the mountainous Kabyle region of northern Algeria. There's no question that the food is authentic—the recipes come from his great-grandmother. The family orientation continues—a fifth generation...Read More