By Ann | September 3, 2013
Broccoli doesn’t sound like a very delicious dinner, but once you try this genius high-heat, scorching method to cook the stuff, you’ll never doubt broccoli again. I’m so delighted to share today’s ultra-simple, fast and delicious recipe from Luisa Weiss, author of the beautiful food memoir, My Berlin Kitchen, and blogger at The Wednesday Chef.
If you love food blogs, you probably know Luisa’s gorgeous website, which documents her life in Berlin through her heartfelt stories, recipes, and food photos. Luisa — who was born to an American father and Italian mother and grew up in Germany — knows a thing or two about the intersection of food and cultural identity. Her book My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story with Recipes (which came out in paperback last week!) tells the story of a Berlin childhood filled with sugar doughnuts and constant homesickness, her summers in Italy, post-college life in New York — and how she came back to Berlin to create a home with her husband, Max, and small son, Hugo. Needless to say, I loved it.
Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Luisa and share some of her weeknight cooking tips, and a recipe for the world’s best broccoli (cross my heart).
On cooking for one:
I’m usually on my own weeknights, so a pretty regular dinner is a big old salad (just lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers with lots of vinegar and olive oil) and a cheese sandwich. If I’m feeling cozy (or not too burnt out from the day with my son), I might make myself a plate of pasta instead. But lately, not turning on the stove has been my modus operandi.
On her favorite no-cook meals:
Salads, cheese sandwiches, peanut butter on rice cakes, yogurt with homemade jam stirred in. Do boiled eggs count? I feel like those hardly count as cooked items, so I’ll add those to the list, too.
Her fridge staples are meal building blocks:
I always have eggs, anchovies, parsley and sambal oelek in the fridge. Each of those is the building block for a really quick meal, like a frittata, a plate of pasta, a grain salad or stir-fried cabbage. And I always have a block of nice cheese on hand, too, in case I just can’t deal (see above).
On cooking in advance:
I’ll boil a batch of wheat berries at midday, then store them for a few meals. I’ll cook a few batches of roasted vegetables that I can then repurpose. But mostly, I’ve learned to juggle cooking on several hot burners at once. Over time, I’ve learned by doing how to bang out a pretty respectable meal, soup to nuts, in less than an hour.
Heston Blumenthal’s broccoli
Adapted by Luisa Weiss
*Note from Ann: The first time I made this broccoli, I tossed it with pasta. The second time, I ate it plain — as a snack — as addictive as potato chips. Warning: adding the damp broccoli to the hot oil causes a lot of spattering, so be brave, do it in a quick motion and get the lid on your pan before you make too much of a mess.
“I love this quick, yet still sophisticated broccoli recipe,” says Luisa. “This swift, high-heat method concentrates the flavor of the broccoli, but still cooks the broccoli through so it’s yielding and almost creamy. The seared spots are toasty and delicious.”
Here’s what you do:
“Wash a head broccoli lop off all the florets so that they’re approximately the same size,” says Luisa. “Peel the stalk of the broccoli, if you feel like it, (don’t if you don’t) and slice it into thinnish coins (1/4-inch thick? 1/2-inch is fine, too). Take a heavy-bottomed pan and pour a couple of spoons of olive oil in it. Set it over high heat until the oil starts to smoke and then dump the broccoli into the smoking pan all at once and cover it quickly with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes with no peeking. Take the lid off, season the broccoli with salt and pepper, put on oven mitts and grab the handles of the pot to shake the broccoli around a little bit, add a lump of butter (I used about a tablespoon) and then put the pot back over the flame, covered, for 2 more minutes. At this point, you can test the broccoli and see if it’s cooked enough for your liking. If it’s not, put the top back on and cook for a final 2 minutes. It should be scorched in spots and still quite green in others.”
Serve and devour.
(All non-broccoli photos from Luisa Weiss.)
By Ann | August 27, 2013
Last week the doorbell rang and I received a very exciting delivery: early copies of Mastering the Art of French Eating. It’s here, it’s here! It’s a book!
After so many years of research and writing, it feels weirdly wonderful to see those hours of toil distilled into a single object. One that has, you know, my name on it.
Perhaps I’m biased, but I think the book has a truly beautiful design, with an elegant typeface and charming flourishes that capture its French spirit.
The book will be officially released on September 26 and — shameless self-promotion alert! — there’s still time to pre-order (and take advantage of a hefty forty percent discount!). And if you do pre-order, my offer still stands — I would be thrilled to send you a signed book plate to turn personalize your edition. Just drop me a note [ann at ann mah dot net] with a copy of your receipt and I’ll pop one in the mail.
Over a decade ago, when I was an editorial assistant subsisting on grilled cheese sandwiches cooked on a waffle iron, I used to dream of one day seeing my initials stamped on a hardcover book case. I still can’t believe that dream has come true.
Two other bits of news:
–I’m delighted that the book has received rave pre-publication reviews from Library Journal (“honest, funny, and eloquent”), Booklist (“mouthwatering”), and Kirkus (“Mah’s prose brims with true love”).
–I had so much fun collecting my favorite French internet recipes and sharing them with a panel of French food experts on First We Feast! I can’t wait to check out the other suggestions, too.
Thanks, friends, as always, for reading.
By Ann | August 21, 2013
I learned a new phrase the other day: Cucumber time. According to this New York Times blog post, that’s what they call the “slow news season” in the Netherlands. Yes, the period we’re in right now — when headlines like “Kate Middleton’s Dress Sells Out After Royal Baby Photo Shoot” make the front page — it’s cucumber time, folks!
I wish I was spending my cucumber time in Vermont (see photo above), or Provence, or somewhere with a shady spot of lawn and a tree full of ripe peaches. Instead, I’m in steamy New York City, where road construction blossoms in August, where blasts of reverse air conditioning — that is, hot air — gusts onto the street, where icy drops of unidentifiable liquid drip on your head from the windows above.
Still, it’s cucumber time in the city, which means the midtown streets are blissfully quiet on weekend afternoons, you can always find a table at your favorite Italian restaurant and a pedicure chair at your neighborhood nail salon. Plus, our apartment has air conditioning and with air conditioning I can tolerate almost anything.
Of course, all this talk of cucumber time has only made want to eat cucumbers. Quick refrigerator pickles are a lovely, sharp counterpoint to a charcuterie plate. (Bonus: people will be impressed you made your own pickles — and it’s so easy!) Proper cucumber sandwiches add refreshing refinement to any afternoon gathering. If I were drinking, you can bet I’d be adding cucumber and mint to my gin and tonic. And then there’s this cool-as-a-cuke avocado buttermilk soup, which I’ve been making for years. Adapted from the Once Upon a Tart… Cookbook, it’s equally lovely as a lunch unto itself — in a big bowl with a hunk of bread — as it is a first course, served in little chilled demitasse cups. (Skip the shrimp — it’s better plain.)
P.S. A friend just told me that Hungarians also have cucumber time — uborka saison — I love it!
By Ann | August 15, 2013
I really love the work I do, but there are a few small drawbacks. Too much time alone means too many breaks spent googling phantom health symptoms. Working from home means lunch is often whatever’s in the fridge — ranging from the Russian roulette of last week’s Chinese take-out leftovers, to “just-one-more” scoop of cherry sorbet. The lack of a professional setting means I wear a variation of the same outfit every day: jeans, t-shirt, sweater, sneakers. Yes, I have the wardrobe of a college student.
Friends, today I’m delighted to tell you that I have finally attained my heart’s desire: my very own cubicle. New York City — home of the perfect bagel, the 24-hour deli, the they-deliver-everything, the world’s smallest apartments — is also the nexus of another phenomenon: the shared writer’s workspace. I’ve been lucky enough to find a spot downtown, a quiet office diffused with ample wifi and vibes of concentration, a place where I can read and do research, write, think, and google panda videos. (And maybe you’re thinking skeptically: “How much energy is she going to have with a newborn around?” But, guess what? Alongside the quiet, lamplit cubicles, there are spots dedicated to napping. Yes, this place is heaven.)
As the baby’s arrival approaches — and baby gear colonizes our apartment — it’s important to me to maintain some sense of my own identity, to keep a workplace of my own. Just knowing it exists makes me feel less anxious. I’m also happy to have a reason to travel outside my neighborhood, to feel more a part of New York City. My new office is just a few blocks from the Union Square Green Market, which means I now spend my breaks squeezing peaches and sniffing tomatoes (did you know a ripe tomato smells like fresh mint?).
Peaches and tomatoes. I love combining the two, which is an idea I got from this Mark Bittman column on 101 summer salads. There’s no recipe, really — just cube up equal amounts of peaches and tomatoes, add some slivers of raw red onion, a healthy handful of chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of red chili flakes. Dash everything with lemon juice and the best olive oil. The combination is astonishing.
Is it frivolous to combine lofty thoughts of writing with something so mundane as food? Virginia Woolf didn’t think so. As she wrote in A Room of One’s Own, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
By Ann | August 6, 2013
It’s officially the hottest time of the year. The good news is, the markets are bursting with produce, which means you scarcely have to turn on the stove. Yes, raw tomatoes are a meal (at least in my book), especially when they’re mixed with basil and garlic, heaped onto country bread, and drizzled with lashings of olive oil. Today’s no-cook Tuesday dinner — summer bruschetta — comes from John Baxter, author of The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France.
John grew up in Australia and moved to Paris over twenty years ago. An acclaimed film critic and biographer — and enthusiastic bon vivant — his most recent book, The Perfect Meal, follows his quest to taste the great French culinary classics before they disappear forever. It’s a charming pastiche of essays, filled with humor and warmth. Today I’m delighted to share John’s quick cooking secrets — and his recipe for tomato bruschetta.
On eating in hot weather:
My wife and I both love cheese, so we’ll make do with a green salad, some cheeses and a little fruit. My wife prefers a runny St Marcellin or St Felicien; I like a cream-rich Brillat-Savarin. We are both fans of British cheese also, particularly Stilton, or — a real treat — Fortnum and Mason’s potted Shropshire with malt whisky.
How he relaxes:
Almost invariably, the evening begins with our preferred decompressant – a Tanqueray Rangpur gin and Fevertree tonic with a slice of orange and plenty of ice.
On reinventing leftovers:
My leftovers often find their way into stir-fries or curries. Fry up some onions, garlic and ginger, throw in cumin and other dry spices, then add whatever’s left from the previous meal. Fresh herbs are a nice addition, but if I don’t have them, I mix in shredded lettuce and sliced green onions to add a crunch.
On raising a miniature gourmand:
When our daughter Louise was eight, a school friend invited her to lunch. “I’m afraid we might have disappointed Louise a little,” the mother said as she returned her. “When I asked what she’d like to eat, she said ‘a crab soufflé.’”
So I wasn’t entirely certain, when I asked Louise to suggest some dish from my repetoire that took only thirty minutes to prepare, that she wouldn’t propose a starter involving sweetbreads, courgette flowers and essence of mangosteen. Her response, however, was instant and exactly right: “How about bruschetta?”
Summer tomato bruschetta
By John Baxter
I make this most often in August at our summer place near La Rochelle, on the estuary of the Charente, where the vendors grown their own tomatoes and basil. It provides the perfect starter for a meal of grilled whole St Pierre or a bowl of freshly boiled langoustines with mayonnaise. However it’s just as feasible in a Paris apartment, providing there are ripe and tasty tomatoes to be found. Bruschetta doesn’t work with baguette, nor with American-style sandwich bread or a sourdough loaf. The best is a white batarde or pain campagne, ideally a day or two old.
*Note from Ann: I enjoyed John’s bruschetta twice: once for dinner, accompanied by grilled chicken and corn on the cob, the second time for lunch with a scoop of ricotta drizzled with olive oil.
Two thick slices of bread per person
About one large ripe tomato per person
One or two fat cloves of garlic
Five or six leaves of fresh basil per person
Plentiful olive oil
Salt, fresh pepper and sugar
Light the grill (the broiler). Toast the bread on one side only. Spread oil liberally on a metal baking sheet. Place bread slices toasted side down on the baking sheet. Brush or drizzle untoasted sides well with oil, and reserve.
Chop the tomatoes into medium dice. (Skin and seed them if you wish, though I feel this offends against the peasant spirit of the dish.) Chop the basil fine, crush the garlic, and mix the tomatoes, basil and garlic with generous quantities of olive oil. Add salt, pepper and a little sugar to taste. Heap the mixture on the slices of bread and place under the grill (the broiler). Grill (broil) until the tomatoes begin to soften –- about one minute. Serve immediately.
In the spirit of scientific enquiry, I experimented with different combinations of ingredients; a red beefsteak tomato and a large yellow variety which the vendor called “Pineapple,” and two kinds of basil: the small-leaf variety sold as a growing plant in most markets, and the large-leafed, more pungent Vietnamese kind. Everyone preferred the yellow tomato with the classic basil. But nobody left any of either kind.
(Photo of John Baxter courtesy of John Baxter.)
By Ann | August 1, 2013
I landed in New York two weeks ago, plopping down into a heat wave so fierce not even our new apartment’s central air conditioning could combat it. But it felt so great to be back in the city, I didn’t really mind the extra sweat. I kept wandering the streets in awe, not quite believing that I’m lucky enough to live here again.
After the heat wave broke, I started settling in earnest. I discovered a farmer’s market at Dag Hammarskjold plaza and fell in love with the sweet corn, tomatoes and giant bunches of fresh basil. We made a trip to Ikea in Brooklyn (by water taxi!) and bought more shelves to house the books that seem to breed and multiply in transit. We put together a stroller, paid someone to assemble a crib, and have thought about going to Buy Buy Baby a hundred times (the name alone prevents me from making the trip).
Yes, the baby’s early September arrival is approaching! And I know I should be cooking and freezing meals as fast as my dutch oven can simmer. Unfortunately, all that freezer-friendly food — chili, soup, spaghetti sauce, stew — seems so out of place in the dead heat of summer. Instead — and in full defiance — I’ve purchased an ice cream machine. Yes, instead of preparing meals to defrost when I’m bleary-eyed and greasy-haired I have been making… ice cream. David Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop, has the best recipes: mint chocolate chip, the fragrant leaves infused into the cream, a drizzle of semi-sweet chocolate shattered throughout. Cherry sorbet from hand-pitted, pureed Washington State bings, a bit of sugar, water and lemon juice. I know, I’m being shortsighted. I’ve heard all about how wrecked I’ll be in a few months and I’m sure this post will incite a few more warnings — the only thing people love more than regaling a pregnant woman with tales of horror is asking her wildly inappropriate questions (that’s another post for another day, though). But I can’t stop wondering: what should the next flavor be?
Win a copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating!
I’m giving away bound galleys of my new food memoir and a gift basket of French gourmet goodies. Contest ends today, August 1, 2013. Click here for details.
–And – new giveaway – my publisher, Viking Books, is giving away five additional bound galleys of the book via Goodreads! Contest ends August 4, 2013. Enter here.
By Ann | July 29, 2013
Every summer, I visit my parents in London for a long weekend. This year, I had a yen for a spot of afternoon tea — scones! clotted cream! strawberry jam! — but when I rang Brown’s Hotel (voted Top London Afternoon Tea by the Tea Guild — whoever they are) I discovered they require a booking of at least two weeks in advance. What ranks next in the British pantheon of cuisine? Fish and chips. And so, I found myself at Masters Super Fish.
I believe Masters Super Fish is what’s known as a “chippie” and a slightly grim air hung over the place — linoleum floors, fluorescent lighting, an efficient (but not exactly friendly) bustle from the Asian-British owner. The menu offers a small array of fried food, but I went straight for the lunch special: cod, chips and a good old fashioned cuppa for the bargain basement price of 6.95 pounds. There’s also plaice, or huss (otherwise known as rock salmon) and a side of mushy peas for a supplement.
But before the fish came the complimentary starter, a few rosy boiled shrimp, a bit of bread and butter. The prawns were sweet and firm, the bread mushy and forgettable. But who wants to fill up on bread, anyway?
Not when you have this to look forward to: sparkling fresh, flaky cod (which hails from London’s famous fish market, Billingsgate), encased in a crisp shell that billows steam when you slice through it. Chips hot from the fryer, a little soggy (just the way I like them), dashed with malt vinegar. Mushy peas, properly lurid green and stodgy. Heaping piles of pickled cucumbers and onions to provide a counterpoint of crunch and acid. A cup of milky tea to wash it all down. The food was so fresh (and freshly fried) — without even a hint of rancid oil — that it almost turned the greasy spoon environs charming. And the meal is certainly filling enough to keep you satisfied for the rest of the day. The only thing missing was the newspaper wrapper (though surely that’s available in the takeaway version?).
Masters Super Fish
191 Waterloo Road
London SE1 8UX
tel: 0207 928 6924
Win a copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating!
–I’m giving away bound galleys of my new food memoir. Click here for details!
–And — new giveaway — my publisher, Viking Books, is giving away five additional bound galleys of the book via Goodreads! Enter here.
By Ann | July 21, 2013
Did you know I’m expecting TWINS this fall?
Last week, I was honored that the book received a blurb from Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce (one of the first books that sparked my Francophilia):
“Ann Mah is such an endearing writer about food and places — I’m a big fan of her novel about Chinese food, and here she is writing inspiringly about basic French dishes we thought we knew all about, with recipes. She joins Elizabeth David in being a joy and an instruction to read.” –Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce
Elizabeth David? Somebody pinch me.
Because I really can’t wait to share this book with you, I’m giving away three advance copies and a few foodie treats from my travels this summer!
Grand prize (1 winner):
–Bound galley of Mastering the Art of French Eating
–Gift basket of French food treats (pictured above), including fleur de sel from the Camargue, pralines and marzipan sweets from Lyon, and wild garrigue honey from Provence.
2nd prize (1 winner):
–Bound galley of Mastering the Art of French Eating
–Signed copy of my novel, Kitchen Chinese
3rd prize (1 winner):
–Bound galley of Mastering the Art of French Eating
The grand prize winner must have a US or Canadian address. Winners will be selected at random. Contest ends August 1, 2013. Bonne chance!
UPDATE: The contest is now over and the winners have been selected at random and notified. Stay tuned for more giveaways in the months to come!
By Ann | July 16, 2013
In the dog days of summer (and we’re officially in the dog days, right?) all I want is to escape my stuffy apartment and picnic outside (even if sitting on the ground makes my butt hurt). I’m so happy I’ve discovered this piquant, vegetable-filled Provençal tart from Heather of the beautiful blog, Lost in Arles. It whips together in minutes, involves only a modicum of baking (which you can do in the morning, while the temps are cooler), transports easily to your picnic spot, and is shared beautifully.
Heather is an American travel writer who lives in Arles with her partner, Rémi, and two adorable Golden Retrievers, Ben and Kipling. After visiting her blog — with its gorgeous photographs of Roman ruins, bright market produce, golden French countryside, and two frolicking pups — I always feel like I’ve taken a mini vacation to Provence. And in May, I was lucky enough to actually stop in Arles, meet Heather and glimpse a bit of the beautiful town she calls home. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome her and share a few of her photos and a gorgeous summery recipe!
by Heather Robinson of Lost in Arles
“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful?” Um, nope. Don’t hate me because I have time? Ahh, maybe. It is precious goods for all of us but in Provence it is the unforgettable melody — along with light’s lyrics — that makes this region sing. We stretch it out with upturned faces towards a swash-buckle of blue above even as the winter Mistral winds roar around us, just as we clink and reclink for l’apéro that can last until the light begins to fade at summer’s ten p.m. I may be the only non-wealthy American in the region (or so I like to joke) but the bonus of these days makes me feel rich.
It can be tricky business, this Provence Time. Shops can close for four hours for lunch plus la sieste and a repairman dawdled for five weeks — five weeks! — to repair a broken spring on my dryer door. What a difference from the beat, beat, beat on the tom-tom or the passive-aggressive waltz of New York City and Paris, my former homes. But it is solidly present, right down to the two thousand year old stones of the Roman Arena. I brush the back of my hand against them as I stroll with my two Golden Retrievers each evening. Hello, friend.
As I am not working much right now, just building away at my blog Lost in Arles, time I have and it doesn’t have me. After loving meeting Ann and her friend Katia (I think that quite a few of you that also leave comments here have met Ann as well but for those of you wondering, yes, she is just as fabulous as you could hope and the type of person that leaves you immediately whining, “Why, oh why doesn’t she live closer?”), Ann did me the kindness of asking me to share a Tuesday Dinner. Les heures or lack of them is the first thing that popped into my head but truth be told, my recipe is fueled by more than a dash of laziness. Beh, oui. Perhaps living in Provence has had a greater effect on me than I know?
On a typical weeknight:
My dogs, Ben and Kipling, get me up from my computer by barking at me to feed and walk them by six at the latest. The scenery in this old town is gorgeous and I never take it for granted. When I come back, I will pour myself a glass of wine and finish up whatever writing or photo editing I have left before tackling dinner.
On her favorite kitchen staples:
I am really lucky to have two excellent markets in Arles— and as this is the Rhone Valley, there is always fresh-from-the-grower veggies on offer. With the great violet garlic, real butter and spices collected from our travels…well, you can always make something tasty out of that.
If only Arles had…
France is wonderful but oh what I wouldn’t give for Chinese or burrito delivery! Mais, hélas, no dice in this non-chic corner of Provence. And we cook both lunch and dinner, so I truly do run out of inspiration. That is when we indulge in a casse-croute, the little picnicy bits of this and that—saucisson, cornichons, baguette et fromage!
Note from Ann: Heather’s recipe is delightfully au pif (off the cuff), so I took a few liberties and used the contents of my kitchen. I added chopped mint instead of thyme, grilled the courgettes, and roasted the red pepper instead of sauteeing it. The tart came together so quickly, I made a second one, just like that, with the extra ingredients!
Savory Provençal tart
by Heather Robinson
I sliced a red pepper into strips along with a coarsely chopped onion, put it into a sauté on medium heat in olive oil…let le robot do the work on the zucchini…added that in along with copious amounts of garlic (I can eat them like bon-bons like old Sicilian men, so for me it was five cloves) plus the fresh thyme we gather regularly in the Alpilles. Meanwhile I had been pre-baking a pâte feuilletée, yep, store bought puff pastry dough at 200°C for five minutes (I butter the dish instead of using oil to get the bottom of the pastry dough nice and crunchy). Then I spread a generous amount of caviar des tomates or sun-dried tomato spread (this is the kicker) plus a jar of my favorite spicy Arrabiata tomato sauce on top…added the lightly sautéed veggies plus a few fresh tomatoes for bite, more thyme…all was generously covered with a mixture of shredded emmenthal and parmesan, baked until melted et voila!
Even the foodies at the luncheon were happy. I was too. This tart is fast, crazy easy, very inexpensive to make and authentic enough to please even the Provençaux in Provence. You can easily adapt this for the seasons too. This cheesy version was baked for a chilly rainy day, but for these warmer climes, I also leave out the cheese entirely, replacing it with strips of anchovies and dots of black olives. As you wish, either way, tasty. Plus, as an added bonus, nearly all of the steps can be done with a glass of wine in hand. That plus if you put on a little old-timey jazz in the background, well, it is practically a mini-vacay to the South of France. Promise.
(All non-tart photos courtesy of Heather Robinson.)
By Ann | July 14, 2013
After my passport was stolen a few weeks ago, I went to the U.S. Embassy in Paris to replace it. (Though my husband is a Foreign Service Officer, his assignment in Paris ended last year, and I visited as an ordinary American citizen.) A lot of people are intimidated by the American Embassy — and it is a bit of a fortress — so I thought I’d share a few tips to smooth your path in case you need to urgently replace your passport in Paris. Learn from my mistakes, friends!
After you discover the loss of your passport:
Report it to the French police. This will probably take hours, but it helps guard against passport fraud and/or identity theft. Also, I found the gendarmes extremely kind, sympathetic (and one of them was pretty cute).
Visit the U.S. Embassy in Paris website, specifically the page U.S. passport services and read the information carefully. I don’t recommend phoning the Embassy switchboard as the website is extremely helpful and offers all the information you need. Bottom line: if your passport was lost or stolen, you can apply for an emergency replacement in person, without an appointment, by showing up at the Consular Section of the US Embassy, Monday-Friday, 8.30 am sharp. (Note: The embassy is open during regular business hours, but closed on French and American holidays.)
What to bring to the embassy:
Bring your forms, completed in advance. Go to the U.S. passport services page. (Really, I cannot emphasize this enough.) It will tell you which documents you need and give links to the forms, which you can print and complete in advance. You can also fill out and print the forms on computers at the embassy, but the system there is not reliable (I had trouble printing, for example) and I got yelled at when I asked for help.
Bring your wallet. You will be charged for your new passport. They take Euros, US dollars, and credit cards, including American Express.
Bring lots of loose change — specifically one- or two-Euro coins. If you are applying for an emergency passport, you can take the photos at the embassy, but the photo booth only accepts change and on the day of my visit the change machine was out of service. Loose change is also handy in case you want to buy a snack or coffee from the vending machine.
Bring something to read to pass the time — a book or magazine. There will be a lot of waiting.
Note: If you are applying for a regular (not an emergency) replacement passport:
You cannot take your passport photos at the embassy. Instead, take them before your visit — I recommend the day before. Photo Madeleine — a five-minute walk from the embassy (41 rue Boissy d’Anglas, 8e) — shoots photos that meet the required regulations. Also, bring a pre-paid Colissimo envelope. The embassy will ask you for this so they can send your new passport back to you. You can buy the envelopes at the Concorde métro station. The embassy also sells them via vending machine, but they cost €25, the vending machine only takes change, and the change machine was out of service the day of my visit.
Your visit to U.S. Embassy Paris
Make sure to arrive at 8.30 am, or slightly earlier. You’ll wait in line to go through security. You cannot bring your cell phone, i-Pad, laptop, or any electronic equipment into the building, but you can check them at the guard hut. I also had to check my Kindle, which made me very sad as it was my only form of entertainment. Don’t bring a Kindle.
Be prepared to spend several hours at the embassy. I arrived at 8.30 am and didn’t leave until after 12 noon. The lines are long, especially on a Monday, when everyone who has lost their passport over the weekend applies for a new one. The good news is, I found my fellow passport theft victims to be extremely friendly and chatty and their stories of being robbed on trains and in markets were fascinating cautionary tales. I also thought the Embassy personnel was also very professional and polite (except for the woman who got testy with me about the printer).
Don’t expect to receive your passport immediately. If your flight is scheduled for the same day, change it to the next. I saw a woman in tears because she hadn’t changed her flight –even though she’d read the website, (which clearly states “we cannot guarantee that we can issue a passport in time for same-day travel”) she didn’t believe it. Believe it.
There is a clean bathroom.
If you have a question, ask a security guard. There are a few of them wandering around the waiting area. I found them all very friendly and helpful.
With any luck, your emergency passport will be ready the same (or next) day and you’ll be able to go home, a smarter traveler with a good story under your belt.