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Where to eat in the Languedoc

By Ann | October 24, 2013


The name Languedoc is a bit of ancient history, a remnant from the days when France was divided into provinces instead of administrative départements. After the French revolution, Toulouse became part of the Midi-Pyrénées and the rest of the territory formed the Languedoc-Roussillon. But even today, this area — Cassoulet Country, the cradle-shaped territory where the dish was invented — is still known as the Languedoc, a sun-warmed expanse of farmland with medieval hill towns that rise in the distance.

Cassoulet has achieved almost mythical status among French food lovers, a hearty stew of sausages, duck confit, pork sausages, and white beans cooked for hours in a traditional terra cotta vessel until lush and velvety. The culinary lexicographer, Prosper Montagné, proclaimed the dish “A god in three forms: God the father is the cassoulet of Castelnaudary, God the son, is that of Carcassonne; and the Holy Spirit is that of Toulouse.” In my research, however, I found the recipe hailed from one place and one place alone: Castelnaudary. Everything else seemed to be inspired by this version.


Where to eat cassoulet in the Languedoc?

Toulouse, Castelnaudary and Carcassonne are connected not only by cassoulet, but also the 17th-century manmade waterway, the Canal du Midi. Here are suggestions for all three places:


Le Colombier (14 rue Bayard, Toulouse, tel: 05 61 62 40 05) has been preparing the same cassoulet recipe on the premises for over a hundred years, with housemade sausage and goose confit. It’s a generous portion with lots of meat and silken beans, strongly scented with nutmeg.


Hostellerie Etienne (Route Nationale 113, Labastide d’Anjou; 04 68 60 10 08) is like a modern inn, with tile floors and generous windows. Locals and tourists alike stop here for the cassoulet, which arrives bubbling from the oven, salty, plush and meaty. Rumor has it, the Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary — a society formed in 1972 to defend and protect the dish — meets and eats here. This is cassoulet to swoon over.


Restaurant Robert Rodriguez (39 rue Coste Reboulh, Carcassonne, tel: 04 68 47 37 80) lies in the more modern section of town, at the foot of the ville haute, or old city. Full disclosure: I haven’t eaten here. But I visited the cozy, cramped dining room and interviewed the chef/owner, Robert Rodriguez, who waxed enthusiastic about his cassoulet, cooked for hours with housemade duck confit and pork sausage. If you try it, I’d love to hear your thoughts, d’accord?


Where to sleep and shop in the Languedoc?

Château Coquelicot (250 route de Castelnaudary, 11400 Souilhanels-Castelnaudary, tel: 06 42 74 55 90) was once the village school and then the town hall, but today the sprawling, gracious mansion has become a charming bed and breakfast run by a Belgian couple, Frédéric and Françoise Bernier. Each room is named after a different perfume — a nod to Madame Bernier’s former career in scent; I stayed in “Angel,” spacious and lovely, decorated in shades of blue and black. Along with breakfast, the Berniers offer a table d’hôte — that is, you can join them for the evening meal, usually three generous courses, prepared by Madame.

Poterie Not Frères (11400 Mas Saintes Puelles, tel: 04 69 23 17 01) is, perhaps, my favorite discovery from my entire year of research. It’s a family pottery business, started in 1830, the modest atelier housed on the banks of the Canal du Midi. Inside, the owners — two brothers and a son/nephew — spin earthenware bowls on foot-operated pottery wheels. They’re making cassoles, the traditional vessel used to cook cassoulet, forming each spout by hand. My only regret is that I couldn’t carry more pieces home.





Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Peter Mayle, the author of A Year in Provence, says is “very elegantly served. A really tasty book.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Barnes and Noble

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

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

Tuesday dinner with Patricia Wells

By Ann | October 22, 2013

French Kitchen Cookbook

soup in pot 1

As a new parent, dinners have become rather rough and ready in our house — most nights, even defrosting spaghetti sauce feels like a lot of effort. But soup is always soothing — especially as the days grow shorter — so when I discovered Patricia Wells‘s super fast zucchini and fresh basil velouté, I raced to the market to buy the last of the local summer squash.

As you probably know, Patricia is an American journalist, author and teacher (I’ve always wanted to take one of her cooking classes) who divides her time between Paris and Provence. Her cookbooks are among my favorites for simple, fresh and healthy French cuisine — and I was delighted to discover that her newest, The French Kitchen Cookbook (in stores today!), offers many fast recipes, perfect for weeknights. (It also has gorgeous photographs, recipes for cozy winter braised dishes, and an exciting chapter on sorbets — I’m dying to try the fig and the chocolate honey.) Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Patricia and share a few of her quick cooking secrets and a recipe from her beautiful new book.


On her all-time favorite fast dinner:    
We are huge pizza fans and that’s on the menu with great regularity. We always have tomato sauce and we make our own bulk sausage for pizza and freeze that in eight-ounce containers.

In an emergency: 
I freeze soups, daubes, etc in “just for two” containers so we always have something to eat when I don’t have time to cook. Especially when you are cooking for two, make enough for the freezer.

On “creative freezing”:
I have found that you can freeze mozzarella so you can have that on hand just in case the stores are closed. I also slice my homemade sourdough bread and freeze in Ziplock bags six slices at a time so we can always have fresh bread when we want it.

On her favorite fridge staples:
Eggs, mozzarella, Parmesan, lots of mustards, hot sauces, yuzu juice, cottage cheese.

And in her pantry:
Lots of dried, ground hot peppers (Espelette and Aleppo are my favorites), jars of marinated artichokes, canned cubed Italian tomatoes, a variety of crackers, individual squares of dark chocolate.

On her favorite quick recipes from The French Kitchen Cookbook: 
Zucchini and basil velouté
Yellow tomato soup
Cucumber soup with avocado
Winter pistou

Instant, thin-crust pizza with mozzarella, artichokes, capers, and olives

Penne with tomatoes, olives, artichokes, and capers — like a pizza in pasta form!

courgettes 1

soup 1

Zucchini and fresh basil velouté
Adapted from The French Kitchen Cookbook by Patricia Wells

*Note from Ann: I loved the velvety texture of this healthy, pureed vegetable soup. You can serve it cold or hot — I chose the latter, paired with the book’s tomato and mozzarella tartines (accidentally singed) (documented on Instagram).

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and cut into thin half moons
2 pounds zucchini, unpeeled and cut into a 2-inch dice
1 quart chicken stock
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper

In a stockpot over low heat, warm the oil and sweat the onions until softened and translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the zucchini and chicken stock, and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until the zucchini is soft and cooked through. Roughly chop the basil and add it to the soup. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth and velvety. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Topics: Tuesday dinner | 14 Comments »

Where to eat in Provence

By Ann | October 17, 2013

champ de lavande

With its abundant sunshine, fields of lavender, pin-cushion goat cheeses, and floods of rosé wine, Provence is the stuff dreams are made of. For six summers in a row, we vacationed in the Luberon region, renting a stone house at the edge of the village of Bonnieux. I spent my mornings buying bright-skinned produce at local markets, my afternoons by the pool reading Tintin books, and my evenings sipping rosé wine and cooking. It was heaven.

Alas, the house — which belongs to a friend — is now on the market, and for the past few summers, we’ve vacationed elsewhere. But I still dream of Provence, especially the food — the sun-warmed fruits and vegetables, fragrant soupe au pistou laced with olive oil, and — along the coast — the region’s famous bouillabaisse. I miss it so much, even sorting through my photos for this post made me tremble.

In case you’re lucky enough to visit Provence, here are some of my favorite food places:

soupe au pistou 1

Where to eat in Provence?

Provence is a huge region and I’ve been lucky enough to explore many corners of it. I’ve arranged this list of my favorite restaurants by location.

Bonnieux and environs:

La Gare de Bonnieux (Bonnieux, tel: 04 90 75 82 00) is housed in the village’s former train station. Now converted to a restaurant, it’s one of those institutions that everyone seemed to know about, except me (for a long time) because it’s a little hard to find. The lunch formule offers entrée-plat-dessert — start at the cold buffet, move on to the plat du jour (osso bucco, for example, or petits farcis — those adorable Provençal stuffed vegetables), and finish up with a wedge of goat cheese drizzled with olive oil, or a scoop of ice cream. Casual and fresh. Also, kid friendly.

Pinna (Route de Buoux, Chemin de St-Massian 84400 Apt; tel: 04 90 74 39 60) is an Italian take-away shop and the best place to stock your vacation rental’s kitchen. Almost everything is homemade, from the canned sauces, fresh pastas, lasagnes, breadsticks, raw-cured ham and handmade ravioli — many of the ingredients are even raised on-site. I love their truffle lasagne and their homegrown melons are like sweet perfume.

Bonnieux’s annual soupe au pistou fête (for specific information, check the Comité des fêtes de Bonnieux Facebook page) takes place every year, around the August 15 assumption holiday. If, like me, you’ve always longed to taste this gorgeous, seasonal soup — traditionally prepared by granny’s loving, patient hands — this is the perfect opportunity. Everyone gathers at picnic tables in the village square for a lazy afternoon of food, rosé, and a game of boules.

Scaramouche (Cours Aristide Briand, Céreste, tel: 04 92 79 8 82) is an artisanal ice cream shop in the tiny village of Céreste. The flavors are inspired by and drawn from Provence itself, and the ice creams and sorbets use local products — fresh spring strawberries, late-summer apricots, sheep’s milk yogurt, etc. Full disclosure: Scaramouche is owned by a friend, the writer Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris, and her husband.

V Comme Vin (Place du Septier/Place Carnot, Apt, tel: 04 90 04 77 38) is a terrific wine shop in Apt, specializing in local bottles. The sales staff is friendly and knowledgeable — and has wonderful recommendations for the area’s rosés and reds.

Marseille and the coast (bouillabaisse country): 

Chez Gilbert in Cassis (Quai des Baux, Cassis; 04 42 01 71 36) serves up a bouillabaisse that will make you swoon — a deep, layered, thick soup adorned with chunks of sparkling fresh fish that melt in the mouth. Pricey but worth the splurge.

Chez Fonfon (140 rue du Vallon des Auffres, Marseille; 04 91 52 14 38) is a classic Marseille address with classic bouillabaisse — faultless, if a little formal.


Oliviera (8 bis rue du Collet, Nice, tel: 04 93 13 06 45) is both an olive oil boutique and a restaurant serving simple but wonderful food: plates of sliced sweet tomatoes, vegetable-stuffed courgette blossoms, lasagne layered with baby zucchini, tiny ravioli stuffed with slow-cooked beef daube. Like an accomplished sommelier, the owner selects regional olive oils to match and enhance different foods.






Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Peter Mayle, the author of A Year in Provence, says is “very elegantly served. A really tasty book.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Barnes and Noble

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 Lyon

By Ann | October 10, 2013


Lyon takes eating very seriously, as befits a town that proclaims itself the capital of French gastronomy. Here, traditional restaurants are called bouchons, casual places that have existed for centuries, decorated with bric-a-brac and lace curtains, where the tables are covered in paper and strangers sit elb0w-to-elbow.

The typical bouchon menu usually features a few classic dishes: salade Lyonnaise (frisée lettuce strewn with bacon and topped with a poached egg), pickled herrings, or clapotons (sheep’s trotters) to start; andouillette, tablier de sapeur (a sort-of chicken-fried tripe), tête de veau (poached calf’s head), or quenelles de brochet (a fluffy fish dumpling) to follow. The cheese course is often Saint-Marcellin — aged until fragrant and runny — or cervelle de canut, literally “silk-workers’ brains,” a farmer’s cheese blended with herbs.

chez hugon

Where to eat in Lyon?

Chez Hugon (12 rue Pizay, Lyon, tel: 04 78 28 10 94) is my favorite bouchon, a mother-son enterprise with nonchalant ambiance (fluorescent lights, paper napkins) and classic food prepared faultlessly. Try the poulet au vinaigre — chicken in a creamy sauce heightened with a splash of vinegar — or the divine quenelle de brochet, as light as a cloud, served in a puddle of langoustine sauce.

La Hugonnière (13 rue Neuve, Lyon, tel: 04 78 28 58 79) is a new offshoot of Chez Hugon, featuring more flexible hours (they’re open on Saturday) and a similarly delicious menu. For dessert, I loved the housemade moelleux au chocolat, a pudding-like chocolate cake encrusted with hot pink, crushed pralines, served warm from the oven.

La Voûte Chez Léa (11 place Antonin Gourju, Lyon, tel: 04 78 42 01 33) is more of a restaurant than a bouchon, and I found their quenelle a bit stodgy. But the salade Lyonnaise here is exceptional, a pile of frisée leaves tossed with lardons, garlic-rubbed croutons, and a coddled egg gently broken so that the soft yolk trickles into the crags of lettuce and bread.

Café des Fédérations (10 rue du Major Martin, Lyon, tel: 04 78 28 26 00) is a classic bouchon that has existed, as its sign proclaims, “depuis bien longtemps.” At €19.50, the set lunch menu is perhaps the greatest bargain left in France, its three courses offering a generous array of appetizers (local charcuterie, thinly sliced head cheese in vinaigrette, smoked mackerel pâté, lentil salad), a main course (the usual suspects: tablier de sapeur, steak, quenelle), cheese or dessert. Some criticize La Fédé for being too touristy, but when the atmosphere is this charming and the food this tasty, who really cares?

Plum Lyon (49 rue des Tables Claudiennes, Lyon) is a cooking school (not a restaurant) run by an American, the charming and knowledgeable Lucy Vanel. She’ll take you shopping in the city’s famous markets, bring you back to her home/teaching kitchen, show you how to prepare classic Lyonnais dishes, and lunch with you in her cozy dining room. The cheese board is especially exciting, laden with rare and delicious discoveries.


Where to sleep and shop in Lyon?

La Chambre d’Hugo (23 rue Victor Hugo, Lyon, tel: 06 18 38 27 68) is an eccentric chambre d’hôte housed in a classic Lyonnais apartment. There is just one guest room, elegant and serene, decorated in shades of pale grey, with linen curtains and beautiful parquet floors.

Mama Shelter Lyon (13 rue Domer, Lyon, tel: 04 78 02 58 00) is the latest outpost of the Philippe Starck-designed chain. The throbbing bar downstairs thumps late into the night, but the guest rooms are like cocoons, quiet with crisp white sheets and down comforters. Though the location is a bit far from the city center and space is cramped, prices are fairly moderate.

Marché Saint-Antoine (Quai St-Antoine, Sunday-Friday), which sprawls along the Saône River, is a gorgeous melange of fruits, vegetables, cheese, flowers, roasted chickens, and other produce that will make you want to rent a vacation apartment and cook and cook and cook.

Au Petit Vatel (1 rue Pierre Cornaille, Lyon, tel: 04 78 52 11 45), a traîteur owned by two brothers, Frank and Michel Vaivrand, is famous for their quenelles, dumplings made of soft, eggy, choux pastry that’s been beaten with pureed fish, traditionally pike. Cooked in advance, quenelles are considered a form of charcuterie — buy them prepared and puff them in the oven at home for a fast and decadent supper. (Lucy Vanel’s blog has a gorgeous photo essay on the quenelle-making process.)

st marcellin

tartes aux pralinés


Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Peter Mayle, the author of A Year in Provence, says is “very elegantly served. A really tasty book.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Barnes and Noble

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

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Where to eat in France | 9 Comments »

Where to eat in Brittany

By Ann | October 3, 2013

bretagne 2


Brittany is a region of fresh breezes, rocky coastline and green pastures, a contrast of lush farmland and wild sea. It’s also extremely vast, too big to visit in its entirety over a weekend, or even during a two-week vacation. But if, like me, your focus is on food — specifically, Brittany’s signature butter-crisped crêpes  – then you should head west, to Finistère, a département famous for its fine, lacy pancakes.

In Brittany, a savory crêpe is actually called a “galette,” and it’s made of blé noir –buckwheat flour — which has a pleasantly rough, nutty, graininess. Fillings vary wildly, from ham, cheese, and egg (the famous “complète”), to andouille (another tripe sausage), to tender leeks cooked in cream. Traditionally, however, Bretons eat their galettes plain, brushed with salted butter, accompanied by a bowl of lait ribot, or buttermilk — and that’s my favorite way to eat them, too. The word “crêpe” refers to dessert — a sweet, thin pancake made of white flour, drizzled with chocolate sauce, or honey, or salted butter caramel, or — well, the possibilities are endless.

place au beurre 3

place au beurre 2

crêpe making 1 crêpe making 2

Where to eat crêpes and galettes in Brittany?

There are crêperies scattered throughout Brittany and it’s hard to find a bad one. My suggestions focus in and around Quimper, the capital of Finistère.

Au Vieux Quimper (20 rue Verdelet, Quimper, tel: 20 98 95 31 35) is located just off Quimper’s renowned Place au Beurre (butter square) once the town’s dairy-fat marketplace, now transformed into Crêpe Central. The dining room has lace-covered windows, tables and chairs in honey-colored wood, and ceramic bowls filled with hard cider, while the menu features delicate buckwheat galettes stuffed with gut-busting combinations like bacon, cheese, and mushrooms cooked in cream.

Chez Mimi (Rond Point du Moulin du Pont, Route de Bénodet, Pleuven, tel: 02 98 54 62 02) is in a small village near Quimper, a cheerful spot with a thatched roof and casual dining room where locals gather to tuck into a weeknight “galette complète” (ham, egg, and cheese), and schoolchildren clap their hands and exclaim over a “bonne beurre sucre” — a simple dessert crêpe brushed with salted butter and sprinkled with sugar. Try the housemade gros lait, a thick, tangy, yogurt.

Crêperie l’Epi d’Or (19 route de Quimper, Pleuven, tel: 02 98 54 88 32) dishes up buckwheat galettes, paper thin with edges like fine lace. The menu offers an array of fillings, but I loved my plain galette, at once crispy and chewy, savored with a bowl of buttermilk.

Ferme de Kerheü (Kerheu, Briec, tel: 02 98 57 92 67) is not a crêperie, but a local organic farm that produces beurre de baratte, butter made from soured cream and seasoned with coarse, gray sel de Guérande. This soft, salty, tangy butter has a flavor reminiscent of toasted hazelnuts and is the secret to a truly delicious crêpe. If you’re lucky enough to find the farm (I got horribly lost), stop in and buy a few sticks to bring home.


Where to sleep and shop in Brittany?

Manoir de Lanroz (282 chemin de Lanroz, Quimper, tel: 06 86 43 45 93) is one of my favorite bed and breakfasts in France, housed in an gracious family manor that resembles a castle. The rooms are decorated with antiques, windows offer views of a sparkling lake, breakfasts are generous, and the owners, Monsieur and Madame de Brommer, are exceedingly kind.

The Armor Lux factory store (21-23 rue Louison Bobet, Quimper) offers an array of Breton mariniers (striped shirts) in more variations than you could possibly imagine. Prices are a little more expensive than you’d expect from an outlet shop, but the classic blue-and-white with three-quarter sleeves is irresistible (they even make them for babies). The perfect place to indulge your inner seafarer.


lace edges


Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Peter Mayle, the author of A Year in Provence, says is “very elegantly served. A really tasty book.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Barnes and Noble

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

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Where to eat in France | 9 Comments »

Julia Child’s kitchen and a giveaway

By Ann | October 1, 2013

JC kitchen

This Thursday, I was supposed to travel to Washington, DC to talk about Mastering the Art of French Eating at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The book discusses my admiration of Julia Child — as a home cook, student of French cuisine, and fellow diplomat’s wife — and I was excited and incredibly honored to give a talk at her kitchen (which is a permanent installation at the museum). Alas, due to the government shutdown — and subsequent closure of the Smithsonian — the event has been postponed.

Of course, I’m disappointed. Still, considering the thousands of Federal workers currently without a paycheck, I’m not complaining.

And then I thought — instead of presenting the book in DC, perhaps I could present DC to the book?

Thanks to my publisher — and in shutdown solidarity — I’m delighted to be giving away three copies of Mastering the Art of French Eating to currently furloughed Federal government workers!

Here’s how to enter: Leave a comment below telling me:
1) Where you work as a Federal employee

2) A one-word reason why you’re interested in France. (For example: “wine,” or “existentialism,” or “Louis Vuitton” (that’s two words, but still).

3) For a bonus entry, tweet: “Food! France! Love! I entered to win Mastering the Art of French Eating by @AnnMahNet″

Contest ends Tuesday, October 8. Winners will be selected at random. Please spread the word!

UPDATE: The winners — Donna, Deanna, and Robert Kasper — have been contacted by email. Thanks for playing!


Here’s a roundup of book news from around the web:

A new breed of wine bars in Paris (NYT Travel)

Leaning out à la Francaise (Newsweek)

What I really think about andouillette (and an excerpt) (Bon Appétit)

The most underrated French dish (and my recipe for salade Lyonnaise) (Food 52)

Lovely post on A Cup of Jo

My book’s gorgeous Golden Retriever spokespeople (Lost in Arles)

My Ode to Provence (French Word-a-Day)

Wonderful reviews from Chez LoulouEat Live Travel Write, and Food Nouveau

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating | 22 Comments »

Mastering the Art of French Eating, in stores today!

By Ann | September 26, 2013


Today, Mastering the Art of French Eating finds its way to bookstores everywhere! I’d be so grateful if you picked up a copy at your local bookstore or favorite online retailer this week. I’m so excited (and nervous) to share this story with you!

In the meantime, if you’d like an appetizer, here’s an excerpt, thanks to my publisher, Penguin Books.

And here’s an ad they created for the book. Isn’t it beautiful?


Thank you so much for your support. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Ann xxx

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating | 14 Comments »

Ricardo strikes again

By Ann | September 24, 2013

Remember Ricardo? (In case you’ve forgotten, check out this post.) Well, this morning I received this text:


Made me laugh :)


Topics: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Where to eat in Troyes

By Ann | September 19, 2013

les andouillettes

Troyes is a charming town in the Champagne region — about 100 miles southeast of Paris — with curving cobblestone streets, rows of medieval timber-frame houses, and a magnificent flamboyant Gothic cathedral. It’s also the capital of andouillette.

Andouillette has a dubious reputation and that’s because it smells, well, like shit. It’s a sausage made of tripe, highly-seasoned, and boiled for hours. The flavor is reminiscent of bologna (salty and highly seasoned) the texture of rubber bands (slippery and ropy).

Do you know what tripe is? I didn’t before I investigated andouillette. It’s stomach lining, pale, wrinkly and part of the digestive process (hence the smell). Most of the world eats it, but perhaps no other town values it as much as Troyes, where tripe sausages have their very own fan club — the Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentique — which protects standards of production. If you see AAAAA on a restaurant menu, you know the andouillette has won the association’s seal of approval.



Where to eat andouillette in Troyes?

Patrick Maury (photo above) (28 rue Général de Gaulle, Troyes, tel: 03 25 73 06 84) is an award-winning charcutier in the heart of town. Since he took over the shop from his father in 1995, he and his sausages have won over seventy awards. They are well-deserved: my friend Sylvain — a Frenchman with a penchant for andouillette — proclaimed Maury’s the best he had ever tasted. Note: Maury does not participate in the AAAAA, because the association focuses mainly on industrial andouillette, while his are proudly artisanal (that is, handmade).

Lemelle (products found at Monoprix, LeClerc, and other supermarkets) is a family-owned factory producing excellent, AAAAA-winning andouillette since 1973.

Au Jardin Gourmand (31 rue Paillot de Montabert, Troyes, tel: 03 25 73 36 13) is a cozy restaurant with a book-lined dining room that resembles a library. The menu offers eleven preparations of andouillette, ranging from the simple — grilled or pan-fried — to the complex — adorned with cream and cheese sauces, or crowned with foie gras. Non-andouillette enthusiasts will find a small selection of tripe-free dishes like steak or fish — I have to admit, when I ate here, I had the grilled salmon.

After the jump: Find out how the sausage is really made! (Not for the faint of heart.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Where to eat in France | 12 Comments »

Where to eat in Paris

By Ann | September 12, 2013

la seine

When you close your eyes and think of the quintessential Paris meal, what comes to mind? For me, it’s always been steak frites, a juicy hunk of meat accompanied by a pile of fries so hot they sting your fingers.

Steak is simple to prepare — season it, slap it in a hot pan, don’t overcook — and most cafés and bistros offer a version that doesn’t gild the lily. But, as I learned when I set out to investigate the dish for my new book, not all steak is created equal.

The secret is aged meat, well-marbled cuts that have been hung in a dry, chilled space for weeks or months. The process concentrates the meat’s flavor and breaks down its connective tissues so that it becomes buttery and tender.

steak frites

Where to eat steak frites in Paris?

Le Severo (8 rue des Plantes, 14e, tel: 01 45 40 40 91) is a cozy bistro with dark wooden tables, chalkboard menus along the walls, and a classic zinc bar. The owner — William Bernet, a former butcher — ages his own beef and serves it rare, with a heap of house-cut fries. On the menu: meat, potatoes, red wine. Vegetarians beware.

Au Boeuf Couronné (188 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 19e, tel: 01 42 39 44 44), which opened in 1865, is a relic of the days when the neighborhood housed the city’s abattoir, La Villette, aka the Cité du Sang. Today, white tablecloths cover the tables, Art Deco lamps cast a golden glow, and the old-fashioned bistro menu features marrow bones with grey salt, steak frites, or the occasional piece of salmon. Old fashioned and nostalgic — if slaughterhouses make you nostalgic.

Le Mistral (401 rue des Pyrénées, 20e, tel: 01 46 36 98 20) is an institution in the 20e arrondissement, perched right above the métro Pyrénées. My husband has been eating here since he was a college student and the two brothers who own the café, Didier and Alain, are like our French family. (You can read the backstory here.) They hail from Aveyron, so while you can certainly order frites with your steak, I instead recommend accompanying it with aligot, a deliciously oozy dish of pureed potatoes beaten with molten cheese.

Other favorite Paris cafés — and a boucher:

Le Tourne Bouchon (71 bd Raspail, 6e, tel: 01 45 44 15 50) is down the street from our old apartment, a neighborhood café that does a brisk lunch business. Of course you can get a steak here — the French bureaucrat’s “fast lunch” — but the owner, Amar, is Tunisian and I love his buttery, fine-grained couscous, accompanied by delicious vegetable bouillon and fiery harissa, served piping hot Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Le Procope (13 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, 6e, tel: 01 40 46 79 00) is the self-proclaimed “oldest café in the world,” opened by an Italian, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, in 1686. Alas, in recent centuries, it has become a tourist trap and I would not recommend eating here. But for a taste of French history, visit the scarlet-walled dining room in the hush of late afternoon. Sip a coffee, and you can almost imagine former patrons like Voltaire, Rousseau, or Napoléon launching into debate. In fact, Napoléan’s three-cornered hat hangs in the entry.

Le Select (99 boulevard du Montparnasse, 6e, tel: 01 45 48 38 24) is a former Hemingway watering hole (though, admittedly, he drank everywhere) that still boasts a light-filled glass-enclosed terrasse and grumpy waiters. This is one of my favorite places to sip hot chocolate after the movies, or tuck into a gooey, crusty, lunchtime croque monsieur. As they say in French, “c’est correct.” (See my blog post here.)

Hugo Desnoyer (25 rue Mouton-Duvernet, 14e, tel: 01 45 40 76 67) is not a restaurant, but an artisanal butcher, famous for fine cuts of meat raised by farmers he knows personally. William Bernet of Le Severo buys his meat here (and ages it himself). So do the chefs of several Michelin-starred restaurants. If you shop here, be prepared to pay top Euro — and to wait in a line that stretches around the block.

le severo

le procope

steak 2


Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Kirkus calls “A bighearted multi-sensory tour of France.”

Curious? Order your copy here:
*Barnes and Noble

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

Topics: Mastering the Art of French Eating, Paris, Where to eat in France | 22 Comments »

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