By Ann | October 1, 2013
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 http://annmah.net/?p=4860″
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)
My book’s gorgeous Golden Retriever spokespeople (Lost in Arles)
My Ode to Provence (French Word-a-Day)
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!
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 :)
By Ann | September 19, 2013
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.)
By Ann | September 12, 2013
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.
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.
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.”
And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.
By Ann | September 12, 2013
I’m spending the next few weeks with Baby Lucy, but I’m also celebrating her (book) twin — my new food memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating! I’ve prepared a few posts in advance, including a new weekly series that I’m excited to introduce: Where to Eat in France.
Because I often get asked for restaurant suggestions — from people visiting places that I love — I thought it might be helpful to share some of my favorite bonnes adresses from my travels and book research. Every Thursday, I’ll feature a different city or region of France, its signature dish, and some of the best places to eat it. If you’ve ever wondered where to find boeuf bourguignon in Burgundy, the best buckwheat galettes in Brittany, or steak frites in Paris (today’s post!), this series is for you.
These posts also feature the snapshots I took while on my research travels — photographs I’ve been saving for years (in some cases) to share with you. They’re sort of a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my book.
I’m so excited to share my culinary discoveries — and would love to learn about your favorite spots to eat in France, too. Leave your suggestions in the comments!
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.” The book will be published September 26, but you can pre-order your copy here:
By Ann | September 8, 2013
We are thrilled to welcome a daughter, born last Monday in New York. Her name is Lutetia Rose and we call her Lucy.
Lutetia is the ancient Roman name for Paris and we hope she’ll love her namesake city as much as we do.
We got home from the hospital on Wednesday and the days have been a blur of excitement, love, fatigue, insomnia (hormones!), and gas. I never thought infant gas would consume so many of my thoughts. But Lucy is very, very sweet and she and I are learning more about each other ever day.
Thank you so much for your kind wishes. Here’s to new adventures!
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!