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Desperate to be a Housewife

By Ann | January 8, 2014

Desperate  2

Happy New Year! I’m back from my annual Christmas sojourn in sunny Southern California… which seems very, very far away today, as the polar vortex sweeps through New York. Two weeks ago, I was watching surfers from the Huntington Beach pier and lunching al fresco; my mother turned on the air conditioning on Christmas day and we cheered. Today, I forgot my gloves and my frozen fingers almost snapped off.

Along with baking a chocolate cake, basking in the sunshine (I now can’t believe there were days when I told my husband it was too bright), tucking into my dad’s Hatch green chile pork stew, and meeting so many new Francophile friends at my fantastic event at Laguna Beach Books, I spent some time re-reading my friend Meg Bortin’s rollicking new memoir, Desperate to be a Housewife. Set against the backdrop of the 1960s and 70s, this is the story of Mona Venture (Meg’s alter ego), a young woman struggling to reconcile her life as an independent journalist with her desire for a happy family life.

We first meet Mona as a student at the University of Wisconsin, and accompany her as she suffers the throes of suddenly requited love, joins student protests, and hides it all from her parents. We follow her to 1970s Paris and watch as she falls in love with an eccentric Frenchman and his funny, quirky band of lefty friends — and with France itself, with the beauty, joie de vivre, and exhilaration of being amidst the Left Bank intelligentsia. Meg’s journalism career takes off and she moves to Moscow, London, and beyond, a witness to some of the era’s most important news stories while continuing to look for love. Her tale, which juxtaposes unlucky romance against her feminist ideals, kept me turning the pages, hoping that Meg would find her happy ending.

veg

Among young Mona’s suitors is a Frenchman named Jacques, a dynamic, quirky intellectual who seems ripped from a Truffaut film (amusing for the reader, less so for poor Mona). Jacques woos Mona with sumptuous food — a pear tart, a plate of icy, briny oysters. But when they eventually move in together, Mona discovers Jacques has a rigid cooking routine: une semaine de soupe, une semaine de riz. One week of soup, one week of rice. Just like today’s harried working parents, Jacques does all his shopping and cooking on Sundays. On soup weeks, he prepares a potage of carrots, leeks and bacon (Meg offers a recipe on her wonderful food blog, here), which “he ate for the next five nights, accompanied by wine, bread and cheese.” Rice weeks feature similar ingredients, but in a less liquid form.

rice

Some might call Jacques’s weekly routine monotonous, but as a harried working parent myself (or — ironic side note — the housewife, Mona is so desperate to become?!), I found it appealing. Meg sent me the recipe for Rice Week and I made it on a rare, quiet afternoon home alone. I intended to save the food, as Jacques did, and eat it for dinner during the week. But the rice was so delicious, hearty with bacon and winter vegetables, I ended up sampling an overly large portion. (We polished off the rest for a quick lunch the next day, standing up scoffing it in the kitchen, before the baby woke up from her nap.) It reminded me of something familiar, and I realized later what it was: fried rice. Perfumed with herbes de Provence (I used thyme), this was fried rice French style. Next time, I’ll add more vegetables — shredded kale or Brussels sprouts? — and maybe scramble an egg at the finish. Et voilà, a one-pot meal enjoyed by housewives, singletons, French intellos, American feminists, and/or Chinese-American families everywhere. No spoilers here, but you might agree with Mona that the happy ending is the one you create for yourself.

Une semaine de riz

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 leek
3 large carrots
1/4 pound thick-cut bacon
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. herbes de Provence or dried basil

Rinse the rice and transfer it to a saucepan. Cover with the water and add the salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer until most of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, pare the leek and chop it crosswise into rounds about 1/2 inch thick. Peel the carrots and chop them crosswise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Chop the bacon into lardons about 1/2 inch wide.

Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a large frying pan. Add the leek and carrots, and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add the bacon and stir fry for 5 minutes more.

When the rice is ready, add it with its liquid to the frying pan. Add the herbs. Cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Serves two generously, and it’s delicious as is, or with a dash of soy sauce.

Topics: Cooking the Books | 15 Comments »

Tuesday dinner with Jill Colonna

By Ann | December 10, 2013

tart 2

I think of puff pastry as a festive food. But puff pastry with caramelized onions and goat cheese, flipped upside à la tarte tatin? Hello, Christmas! I’m excited the holidays are here again so I can revel in this luxurious savory tart, a recipe from Jill Colonna, author of the cookbook, Mad About Macarons: Make Macarons like the French.

Jill Colonna

Jill is an expert at creating simple luxury — her genius cookbook offers practical step-by-step instructions for producing the notoriously finicky macaron in the home kitchen, recipes perfected over her twenty years as a macaron aficionado. Born in Scotland, Jill now lives in the Paris suburb of St-Germain-en-Laye (“next to the river Seine; the land of the Impressionists,” she calls it), where she juggles life with her husband, two teenage daughters, and a job leading chocolate and macaron tours for Context Travel. (Yes, clever Jill has found a way to actually get paid to eat sweets.) Today I’m delighted to share her quick weeknight cooking tips and a recipe for onion and chèvre tarte tatin!

On what she cooks when she doesn’t feel like cooking:
–A ‘pizza tarte’ using ready-made puff pastry circles and top with tomato paste, ham, grated cheese and whatever kind of leftovers I can throw on top.

–We’re huge pasta fans, so a tub of crème fraîche, lemon, yolks and roasted chicken leftovers (or conveniently from Picard, our French frozen store) or a mushroomy sauce, for example, gets tossed about and all served with a roquette salad.

And when she really, REALLY doesn’t feel like cooking:
On days when I feel like mumbling, ‘Mum is on strike!’, I serve fresh store-bought ravioli, toss it in butter, sprinkle with fresh herbs from the garden, liberally snow on the parmesan and serve hubby and I a glass of chilled Chardonnay and before I know it, I’m discussing tomorrow’s dinner again.

On buying vegetables that last:
I normally pack the fridge once a week with fresh fruit and veg. If I buy them from my favourite help-yourself farmers’ market nearby in Mesnil-le-Roi, they last easily a week — which is no comparison to a quick shop at the supermarket: their offerings always wilt miserably after a couple of days so I rely on frozen spinach for quiches or frozen peas for a quick pea and basil soup.

How she adds a quick crunch:
In our pantry you’ll find walnuts, hazelnuts and pinenuts — I love to toast them in advance and store them in jam jars, so that I can sprinkle them on salads and gratins at the last minute for some extra flavor.

Why you want to live at Jill’s house:
It goes without saying I always have ground almonds, icing/confectioner’s and caster sugar and a handy stock of homemade macarons in the freezer…

Onion and chèvre tarte tatin
by Jill Colonna

“I’ve chosen my favorite quick dish,” says Jill. “It takes ten minutes to prepare, twenty minutes to leave on the stove, then I can set the timer on the oven for twenty minutes and dinner is ready when we get back. This is perfect served with a Sauvignon Blanc. Cheers and bon appétit.”

*Note from Ann: Jill’s tart tastes complex and luxurious, but is one of the simplest things I’ve ever made. I found four onions overcrowded the pan (maybe American onions are bigger than French onions?), so use your best judgement. I used two disks of fresh goat cheese and broke them across the top of the onions. Jill cooks her tart at 360°F/ 180°C, but I found the temperature far too cool — instead, I recommend using the baking instructions on your box of puff pastry. Finally, I wasn’t sure when to add the walnuts, so I toasted them and scattered a handful across the top of the flipped tart.

Serves 4 as a light dinner

Special equipment: a frying pan that can transfer to the oven

2 large onions
2 red onions
large knob of butter (30g)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp herbes de Provence
3 crottins de chavignol (fresh goat’s cheese)
1 ready-rolled puff pastry round (all butter is best)
Handful of walnuts

Peel and cut the onions into thin slices. Meanwhile, over a medium-low flame, melt the butter with a dash of olive oil in a sauté pan that can be transferred to the oven. Add the onions to the pan and leave to soften and cook for 20 minutes, turning only once or twice to coat the onions in the butter and oil.

Preheat the oven to temperature suggested on box of puff pastry.

Stir the balsamic vinegar, herbes de Provence and salt and pepper into the onions. Slice the crottins of goat cheese in half horizontally and distribute them on top of the onions. Top with the large disk of puff pastry, tucking it in around the sides of the pan. Prick the pastry with the fork then transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden (consult back of puff pastry box for suggested cooking time).

Remove from the oven. Place a plate larger than the pan over the top. Turn the tatin upside down quickly on to the plate. Serve with a salad tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and extra toasted walnuts (which you have in stock in your pantry!). Jill normally also adds bits of charcuterie or fried bacon bits to the salad, so that it resembles a salade de chèvre chaud.

tart 1

(All non-tart photos from Jill Colonna.)

Topics: Tuesday dinner | 17 Comments »

Downton Abbey tea truck

By Ann | December 9, 2013

truck

maids

The new season of everyone’s favorite upper crust English soap opera starts airing in the States on January 5. But this week, the Downton Abbey tea truck is cruising the streets of New York,  helping Americans swallow their impatience with free cups of tea and biscuits. This morning, I visited the truck at Union Square, and chatted with waylaid PBS representative, Amy Tam:

On the tea being served:
“It’s an English Rose tea, rose-flavored with raspberry notes – the official tea of Downton Abbey. Made by the Republic of Tea, and available for sale at PBS.org. I would picture Lady Grantham having a sip with her pinky out. Or all the ladies. They have so much tea all the time.”

On the fifty-minute wait for tea:
“There’s been a group of [about 15] people standing here to get free tea since we pulled up at 11am. The tea is brewing — the water is boiling right now. It’s taking longer than we anticipated.”

On the credentials needed to serve tea at the tea truck:
“The maid’s outfits are Downton-inspired, but you don’t have to be a Brit. You just have to be a Downton Abbey lover.”

On the missing photo-op backdrop of Highclere Castle:
“We’re encouraging people to just take photos with the maids and tea truck. Or pose with these signs.”

signs

cup 2  cup 1

Read more about the “Downton Abbey on Masterpiece on PBS tea truck” (as Tam asked me to refer to it) at Variety.

Would you like to sip your own cup of pink, fruity (Lady Violet would be horrified) tea? Find the tea truck this week in New York:

12/10, Tuesday, 11am-7pm, Sixth Ave between 40th & 41st Streets

12/11, Wednesday, 11am-7pm, 50th Street between Sixth & Seventh Avenues

12/12, Thursday, 12pm-8pm, The New York Times TimesCenter, 41st Street between Seventh & Eighth Avenues

12/13, Friday,  11am-7pm, Broadway between 66th & 67th Streets

Topics: New York City | 9 Comments »

Bits and pieces

By Ann | December 4, 2013

twins

You guys, it’s DECEMBER already. What happened? Actually, I think I know what happened: time got swallowed up in the SDZ (sleep deprivation zone). But now the twins (pictured above) are three months old (!). And the human baby and I have settled into a routine rich with literary supplement (favorite subjects: apiary and the science of the common cold), and fine dairy products. Life is starting to feel normal again. A new normal, where the week’s meals are cooked in one fell swoop on Sunday afternoons, and sleeping until 5.30 am feels luxurious. Also, after ten years, I’ve started to drink coffee again. It’s like a magic headache-relieving elixir of the gods, people, why didn’t you tell me?

Elle magazine

To all of you who have read Mastering the Art of French Eating over the past few months — thank you. I am truly grateful for your support. I’ve loved hearing from so many of you about your own dodgy adventures with andouillette, your favorite French dishes, the trips to Paris that you dream about, and the visits there that changed your life. I’m thrilled the book was chosen as an Amazon best book of the year, and a winner of the Elle Readers’ Prize. Also, though a few months have passed, I still cannot believe it received this review in the Wall Street Journal.

Ann Mah credit Katia Grimmer-Laversanne

December Book Events

I’m excited about two book events this month. I would love to meet you! Also — signed books make a lovely holiday gift (hint hint)!

Washington, DC
Where: Smithsonian Museum of American History
When: Saturday, December 7, 3-5pm (that’s this Saturday)
What: Informal book-signing at Julia Child’s kitchen — stop by any time to say hello!

Laguna Beach, CA
Where: Laguna Beach Books
When: Thursday, December 19, 6pm
What: Reading, book signing, and cheese tasting

bookplate 1-1

bookplate 2-1

Finally, if you own Mastering the Art of French Eating, or would like to offer the book (or several!) as a holiday gift, I’d be happy to send you a signed book plate to personalize your copy. Just drop me a note via the contact form at the top of the website. The book plates were designed by my talented friend Anna Tunick; they feature 19th-century engravings of garden vegetables and were printed on acid-free paper by Bookplate Ink.

I’ll be back soon with a new post (and more Tuesday Dinner)! In the meantime, thanks for reading. Leave me a comment and let me know what you’re reading and cooking, won’t you? I’ve missed you guys.

Bisous,

Ann

Topics: Appearances, Book, Mastering the Art of French Eating | 21 Comments »

Happy Thanksgiving (croissant)!

By Ann | November 25, 2013

interior

description

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey. But in New York’s East Village, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Momofuku Milk Bar’s Thanksgiving croissant. I first spotted this hot-pocket-esque beauty a few weeks ago when I stopped in the hipster (for lack of a better term) bakery to buy cookies. “It’s one of our most popular items,” the cashier told me. “We sell out every day by late afternoon.” A few weeks later, I was back in the morning, early enough to catch a new shipment of the popular meal-in-a-hand.

croissant

sign

What is a Thanksgiving croissant? As the name — and sign — suggest, it combines stuffing-flavored bread, shredded turkey, gravy, a dab of cranberry sauce, and lots and lots  and lots of butter. Purists have criticized the pastry, saying it is nothing like a real croissant. That is true. The pastry is like stuffing (er, obvy?), savory with celery salt and thyme, greasy (but in a good way), a contrast of textures — crackly on the outside, soft and steamy within — reminiscent of a crusty pan of baked dressing.

For a place as self-consciously ironic as Momofuku Milk Bar is, I’m always surprised by the genuine friendliness of the staff. The guy behind the counter cheerfully heated up my Thanksgiving croissant (and this after I hemmed and hawed over compost cookies vs. birthday cake truffles) and I ferried the warm, foil-wrapped package to my office a few blocks away. That’s where I’ve been spending a chunk of my day lately, writing email and, well, mainly writing email. In the aftermath of book and baby, I’m still thinking about the next big project and I’m beginning to suspect that contemplation may go on for a while. Anyway, as I ate in the office’s communal kitchen, it occurred to me that the Thanksgiving croissant is misnamed. With its doughy crust, shredded meat, and savory heft, it’s more like a Cornish pasty. (Which is a term I don’t like to use because I don’t know how to pronounce it. Is it “pasty” like “paste”? Isn’t that something worn by burlesque dancers? Or is it pasty, with a short “a” like “pat”?) I thought about the Cornish pasties I used to eat after country walks in Scotland. We’d come in from the rain, and my trousers would be soaked from wading through wet heather, and my friend Andrea’s mum would pour us cups of tea and heat pasties in the Aga. You had to be careful biting into them for fear of burning your mouth on the scalding beef stew within. We’d eat and drink tea, page through the Guardian and relax against the warmth of the kitchen because it’s always cold in Scotland, even in the summer. Eventually the tea would become glasses of wine, and we’d drift toward the stove and start cooking dinner. Those are some of my happiest memories.

I don’t know if it was the light filtering in from the skylight above, or the long table, or the newspapers scattered about, or the Thanksgiving croissant pasty, but sitting in the kitchen of the communal writers workspace, I was back in Scotland again, transported by food and nostalgia. And then, in a second, I was back in New York with greasy fingers and an eye on the clock, ready to dash home to relieve the nanny once the long hand on the clock hit the hour.

bag

Like most of the best things in life, the Thanksgiving croissant is a fleeting pleasure, available only November. Find out more details here.

Topics: New York City | 17 Comments »

Where to eat in Aveyron

By Ann | November 21, 2013

vines

vache

Aveyron is known as la France profonde — deep France, in-the-sticks France — and, indeed, I’ve met many French people who have barely heard of it, let alone been there. Located about 350 miles south of Paris, the lack of high-speed TGV or direct train service means the region has remained relatively inaccessible.

Aveyron is a landscape of mountains that plunge to river valleys, twisty roads, and cows — the famous Aubrac race — grazing in high pastures. I’ve heard Parisians describe the local cuisine as “costaud,” or heavy (but you know how critical Parisians are), and indeed it’s hearty fare, famous for dishes like truffade (mashed potatoes mixed with bacon and cheese, fried into a golden pancake), farçous (herb-enhanced fritters), raw-cured sausages and ham, and aligot, a fine potato purée beaten with fresh cheese until it resembles molten lava. The rough and ready region is also home to the celebrated three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Michel et Sébastien Bras.

michel bras

aligot bras

Where to eat in Aveyron?

My suggestions focus in and around Laguiole, in the central part of the region.

Restaurant de l’Aubrac (17 allée de l’Amicale, Laguiole, tel: 05065 44 32 13) draws crowds of locals and tourists for its magnificent aligot, so gooey and cheesy that our waitress actually climbed on a chair to tame the molten lava-like strands so she could serve it to us. Choose from an array of Aubrac beef in various forms (steak, pot au feu) to accompany the potatoes.

Michel et Sébastien Bras (Route de l’Aubrac, Laguiole, tel: 05 65 51 18 20) continues to earn all of its three Michelin stars, with its beautiful, thoughtful, heartfelt, poetic food — food that tells a story. Of all the Michelin-starred restaurants I’ve eaten at (granted, there haven’t been many), this was my absolute favorite. (Check out this post for a detailed report of my meal.)

chez delbouis

farçous de cathy

mon assiette

Delbouis Les Bessades (Les Bessades Montpeyroux, tel: 05 65 44 40 11) is, to me, on par with Chez Bras. It’s a local farmhouse kitchen where Cathy Delbouis serves up recipes that have been passed down for generations. Most of the ingredients are produced on the farm and the food is honest and simple and true. There is usually charcuterie from a pig slaughtered and cured by Cathy’s own hands, and parsley-flecked fritters eaten with her homemade red current jam (see photos above), and some sort of roast — chicken, perhaps — local cheese and fruit. I’ve eaten some of my favorite meals in France here — then again, I’m biased: if you’ve read my book, you know Cathy is a friend. Make sure to call ahead for a reservation.

fromage de laguiole

cheese library

Coopérative Fromagère Jeune Montagne (Laguiole, tel: 05 65 44 35 54) is a factory producing fromage de Laguiole (a hard, sharp cheese like cheddar), and tome fraîche (squeaky and clean, used to make aligot), as well as frozen aligot, and other products, all sold in the adjacent store. (That’s me in the photo above, taking notes on the factory floor.)

Coopérative du vin d’Estaing (l’Escaillou, tel: 05 65 44 04 42) is where our friends, Didier and Alain (of Le Mistral fame), produce their wine.

cobwebs

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Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Library Journal says “is sure to delight lovers of France, food, or travel.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Amazon
*Barnes and Noble
*Books-A-Million
*Indiebound
*iTunes

And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Where to eat in France | 8 Comments »

Where to eat in Burgundy

By Ann | November 14, 2013

vines

leftover grapes

autumn vines

The very word Burgundy makes me drool a little, evocative as it is of silky, fruity, ruby red vintages. But as I discovered on my visits here, the region is large — and the Côte d’Or wine country comprises only a very small portion of it.

Cattle dominates the southern part of the territory, specifically herds of snow-white Charolais, known for their meaty flanks. When I saw these animals grazing on flat pastures, the origins of Burgundy’s signature dish — boeuf bourguignon, or beef cooked in red wine — became patently clear. Beef and wine. Wine and beef. They’re the region’s dominant products. Of course, there are many wonderful things to taste in Burgundy…

cow

epoisses

Where to eat in Burgundy?

My suggestions focus mainly on Beaune, the prosperous capital of the Côte d’Or wine region.

La Cuisine de Pépita (22 Faubourg Madeleine, Beaune, tel: 03 80 24 19 64) is a bright, cheerful restaurant with an accommodating staff. I enjoyed the “menu Bourguignon,” which offered Burgundy classics with a twist, including boeuf bourguignon sparked up with ginger and orange zest.

Ma Cuisine (Passage Saint-Hélène, Beaune, tel: 03 80 22 30 22) is a bustling bistro with a reasonable lunch formule. Though I missed the boeuf bourguignon — which seems to be offered only in the evenings — the salade aux gésiers was delightful, the earthy seared chicken livers contrasting with bitter mesclun greens. Don’t miss the ripe Epoisses cheese at the end of the meal; it practically ran off my plate. Reservations essential

Fromagerie Hess (Place Carnot, Beaune, tel: 03 80 24 73 51) is a gleaming cheese shop in the center of town. A wonderful place to stock up on Epoisses, fromage de Cîteaux, and other local cheeses for a picnic.

What to see in Burgundy?

Château du Clos de Vougeot was once the headquarters of the Cistercian order of monks who tended the sea of vines that surround the immense and haughty stone structure. Today the building is a museum and conference center, where you can catch a glimpse of the monks’ immense industry, evident in enormous 15th-century grape presses and cavernous fermentation vats. Warning: don’t come thirsty — not a drop of wine is sold here.

Maison du Charolais (43 route de Mâcon, Charolles, tel: 03 85 88 04 00) is a quirky museum dedicated to the history of Charolais cattle.

Where to sleep in Burgundy?

Villa Louise (9 rue Franche, Aloxe-Corton, tel: 03 80 26 46 70) is a charming hotel in Aloxe-Corton with quiet, wood-beamed rooms and beds made up with hand-stitched quilts. The breakfast is a little pricey (€15 at my visit) but delicious, with croissants, homemade jam and baked fruit.

Where to drink in Burgundy?

You could follow in Thomas Jefferson’s august footsteps, via my New York Times article.

TJ

Vougeot

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Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Library Journal says “is sure to delight lovers of France, food, or travel.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Amazon
*Barnes and Noble
*Books-A-Million
*Indiebound
*iTunes

And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Where to eat in France | 4 Comments »

Where to eat in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie

By Ann | November 7, 2013

les alpes 2

lac annecy

At first, the idea of driving around narrow, twisty Alpine roads terrified me — especially in a Smart car (slave that I am to automatic vehicles) — but once I got there I found the highway surprisingly manageable — and the scenery utterly breathtaking. Out of all the places I visited in France, none was more stunning than the Savoie and the Haute-Savoie.

Even in the height of summer, the atmosphere feels slightly wintry here, with cooler temperatures, flash storms, and ski lifts rising above grass-covered slopes. In the warmer months, herds of wandering cows graze in these high pastures, climbing higher and higher to cheese-making chalets. Their attendant alpagistes produce giant wheels of Beaufort cheese from their herb-sweetened milk — the principal ingredient in fondue Savoyarde.

Fondue is considered a plat du pauvre, a way of using up bits of hard, cracked, or unattractive cheese. In fact, most of the region’s dishes involve some form of melted cheese, whether it’s tartiflette (sliced boiled potatoes layered with cream, bacon and Reblochon), or raclette (grilled cheese on sliced boiled potatoes). Are you sensing a trend here?

fondue

Pierre Gay

Where to eat fondue in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie?

Though I drove all around the region, I used the gorgeous town of Annecy as my base.

Annecy:

Le Freti (12 rue Sainte-Claire, Annecy, tel: 04 50 51 29 52) is a restaurant specializing in cheese, especially fondue. In the summer (which is when I visited), they move the tables outside to a charming village square, bringing out extension cords for raclette and sterno burners for fondue. The fondue, by the way, is delicious (even in a heat wave), creamy and rich with a boozy winey finish.

Fromagerie Pierre Gay (47 rue Carnot, Annecy, tel: 04 50 45 07 29) is a beautiful cheese shop run by a Meilleur Ouvrier de France where you can buy all the ingredients for your own fondue. As the owner, Pierre Gay, says: “People ask me where to eat the best fondue. I always tell them it’s at home. Chez vous.” He also carries a small selection of local Apremont wine.

Courchevel:

Le Bistro du Praz (Le Praz, Courchevel, tel: 04 79 08 41 33) has a pretty wooden terrasse covered in flowers where I enjoyed a diet Coke and a very correct tartiflette. A nice to place to take a break.

Where to sleep near Annecy?

Le Clos du Lac (50 route de la Corniche, Veyrier du Lac, tel: 06 20 60 04 58) is a lovely, modern bed and breakfast located in the small suburb of Veyrier du Lac, about 15 minutes by car or boat (!) from Annecy. The spotlessly clean rooms, which are in an annex off the main house, feature stunning views of  Lac d’Annecy and — surprisingly — air conditioning. I loved this place.

Annecy

alps

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Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table, calls “a delicious adventure.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Amazon
*Barnes and Noble
*Books-A-Million
*Indiebound
*iTunes

And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Where to eat in France | 5 Comments »

Where to eat in Alsace

By Ann | October 31, 2013

village

The far eastern border of France is home to Alsace, a region that combines two cultures — French and German — into one of its own. During my travels there, I kept hearing shopkeepers switch between French and the local dialect, Alsatian — which is linguistically close to Swiss German — snapping from one to the other without batting an umlaut.

Indeed, this Germanic influence had spread throughout the local culture, from the long-necked bottles of Riesling and Gewürztraminer to the soft salt-studded pretzels hanging from hooks in the bakery, the yeasty sweets like Kougelhopf, the thin-crusted flammeküeches, aka tartes flambées (pizzas garnished with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon), and the cozy local taverns known as winstubs. And, of course, there’s the region’s signature dish, choucroute garnie, a mound of sauerkraut heaped with generous cuts of cured pork and sausage, a carnivore’s delight.

choux 3

krautergersheim

tarte flambée

bottles

Where to eat choucroute garnie (and, more importantly, tarte flambée) in Alsace?

Alsace is a big region. My suggestions focus on Strasbourg and environs, as well as the town of Krautergersheim, aka the Capital of Choucroute.

Strasbourg and environs:

Au Pont du Corbeau (21 Quai Nicolas, Strasbourg; 03 88 35 60 68) is a winstub so adorably cozy and dim that dining here feels like going back in time. Unlike many restaurants, which serve factory-prepared sauerkraut, the choucroute here is house-simmered, cooked for hours with wine and subtle spices, served with modest cuts of smoked pork belly and a peppery sausage. Lovely and traditional.

Porcus (6 Place du Temple Neuf, Strasbourg, tel: 03 88 23 19 38) is a combination charcuterie and bright and modern lunch spot. Though their choucroute is factory-cooked, the real stars of the show are the sausages, prepared on-site — especially the award-winning knack, or hot dog, fresh and snappy.

L’Epicerie (6 rue du Vieux-Seigle, Strasbourg, tel: 03 88 32 52 41) is the perfect place to stop if you’ve had your fill of choucroute. The menu offers a variety of inventive tartines, topped with all sorts of different cheeses and/or charcuterie. I loved the tarte flambée tartine, spread with crème fraîche, onions, and lardons. There’s also a nice selection of local wines by the glass.

Le Marronier (18 Route de Saverne, Stutzheim, tel: 03 88 69 84 30) is an old farmhouse converted into a jolly, sprawling restaurant, located in a village/suburb about 25 minutes from the heart of old Strasbourg. Locals come here in big groups to share generous mounds choucroute garnie, as well as endless streams of delicious, thin-crusted flammeküechens. Kid friendly.

L’Aigle (22 rue Principale, Pfulgriesheim, tel: 03 88 20 17 80) is where I ate my very favorite tarte flambée (out of many, many tartes flambées). The pie, baked in a wood-burning oven, was a contrast of snappy, slightly singed crust against tangy cream, and luxuriant salty-sweet smoked bacon. You’ll need a car (or lots of taxi fare) to get here from Strasbourg, but the sprawling, family-friendly tavern is worth a visit.

Krautergersheim environs:

Le Freiberg (46 rue du Général Gouraud, Obernai, tel: 03 88 95 53 77) is a sweet, wood-beamed winstub in the adorable village of Obernai where the wooden chairs have hearts cut out of the back, and wine is served in green-stemmed glasses. I enjoyed the (admittedly, somewhat odd) tarte flambée with choucroute — a pizza spread with crème fraîche, onions, bacon, and sauerkraut.

Charcuterie Muller (130 rue du Général de Gaulle, Rosheim, tel: 03 88 50 22 55) is mecca for choucroute home cooks, with its lavish selection of housemade sausages and smoked meats (and, even, seasoned ground liver for making poached dumplings). The staff is exceptionally patient and informative.

Marc Kreydenweiss (12 rue Deharbe, Andlau, tel: 03 88 08 95 83) offered me a lovely, impromptu wine-tasting session, after I got horribly lost and confused one winery for another. I loved their whites, beautiful and flowery with a brisk mineral finish, poured from elegant, long-necked bottles.

choux 2

I ate many choucroutes garnies in Alsace, but none compared to the meal I enjoyed with the Truchtersheim cooking club, a group of six, lovely women. They welcomed me with broad smiles and delicious, home-cooked food — Granny’s choucroute is always the best, of course — and regaled me with tales of growing up in Alsace. Here are a few photos from an unforgettable evening:

kougelhopf

We began with home-baked kougelhopf, a slightly sweet yeast cake.

pork belly

choucroute

In the kitchen, behind-the-scenes choucroute preparation (cooked on a wood-burning stove!).

choucroute garnie

my heaped plate

À table! La choucroute and my heaping plate.

tarte aux pommes

One of many desserts.

the cooking club

The Truchtersheim cooking club.

*

Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Library Journal says “is sure to delight lovers of France, food, or travel.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Amazon
*Barnes and Noble
*Books-A-Million
*Indiebound
*iTunes

And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Where to eat in France | 8 Comments »

Mastering the Art of French Eating — NYC book signing tomorrow!

By Ann | October 25, 2013

cheese

I’m so excited to present Mastering the Art of French Eating in New York City tomorrow, Saturday, 10/26! If you’re in the area, please join me for a book signing and cheese tasting. Here are the details:

When: Saturday, October 26, 2013, 4.30-5.30pm

Where: Ideal Cheese Shop — 942 1st Avenue (at 52nd Street), New York, 10022

What: Book signing, dégustation de fromage, and talk about  French food. Books will be for sale, thanks to the wonderful Posman Books.

As they say in French, venez nombreux! I would love to meet you — and there will be free cheese!

Bisous,
Ann

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating | 11 Comments »

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