between wine and coffee: paris


In addition to catching my second cold this fall, I keep catching the travel bug. I blame it on Korea. My diagnosis at first might sound strange, but there was something about all of the adventures I had there that made me want to always be on the road. 

And to be more specific, being in Korea made me want to go Paris. Don't get me wrong. This lust for Paris had nothing to do with what I thought of Korea. You could never compare Seoul and Paris. As the Germans say, they are two different pairs of shoes; however, Korea loves Paris. It loves the city's skyline, its pastries, and its je ne sais quoi. Even small Korean cities have chain bakeries inspired by France, such as Paris Baguette, and a lot of Korean stationary pretends to be French.  

Because food is increasingly a field I work in (or at least work with occasionally) and not just one that I obsess over, it the now often the last thing I read about before going to bed. Okay, this is true for before as well. 

Currently Adam Gopnik's Table Comes First is my companion for my commute to work and the voice that tucks me in before calling it a night. The book researches exactly what I just described. What makes us so obsessed with food? Why do we care about it more now than ever before? Why do we want to read about it and not just eat it?

The first section is devoted to the two dominant forces when it comes to food, the two Rs - restaurants and recipes. Addressing the first, "who made the restaurant?" he asks. Well, simply put the answer is Paris. So on to the next question: How was the restaurant made? Well, the answer is one of the first laws that was made after the revolution by the National Assembly in 1789, which allowed for wine, spirits and coffee to be sold at the same place. Gopnik argues, in a nutshell, that the concept of the restaurant is simply the filling of a sandwich and that its bread is wine and coffee.

His wording is much more eloquent: "For modern restaurant cooking is first and foremost a boat that, as in a Saul Steinberg drawing, steams its way downriver from the thousand dreamy islands of alcohol to the wide beckoning current of caffeine, from the stress-busting drink to the reawakening demitasse . . . A modern meal is a drama unfolding between the Opening Drink and the Concluding Coffee, with the several acts passing between the libations.(33)"


All of this is to say that my weekend in Paris, already two weekends ago, certainly felt like a boat ride that gently rocked back and forth between wine and coffee. I ate well. I drank well. And I felt well. 

I ate white chocolate bread from 134 rtd. It was so good that I took off my gloves, let the cold air nibble at my fingers and ate it for breakfast while walking around the Marais. It was so good that I brought a small loaf back to Munich.

I drank Poilly Fumé and feasted on oysters in the afternoon. Another lunch was a salad of humble mixed greens that were made less humble with chicken liver and thin slices of mango.

For dinner I ate a buckwheat galette with pear and blue cheese and I washed it down with cidre. Another night I went to Le Mary Celeste, where I am lucky enough to a) know the chef and b) to have discovered that tamarind is the best thing that has ever happened to endives. Here I also learned that smoked salt makes a great cocktail even greater.


 Because it was Paris, I made sure to pay just as much attention to the sweet as to the savoury. A chocolate and pistachio escargot from Du Pain et Des Idées. A bacon and prune pastry. Chocolate and foie gras (!) macarons from Pierre Hermé. A matcha and chocolate chip cookie from Bob's Juice Bar. Pain au chocolate. Hot chocolate and apple strudel from a Jewish bakery. 

Back to that theory about wine and coffee and the origins of the restaurant - Gopnik writes that alcohol is a myopic drug. "A little glass of wine, and all there is in the world is the date and the table . . . the world and its stresses flee for a moment into a vague blur of the background. Caffeine, on the other hand, is the far-sighted drug. Several sips of cafe noir and the sipper feels charged up, the corners of the cafe gleam, and we look around the room, ready to take on the world again.(35)" Wine opens the curtain that reveals the meal and coffee is what draws it shut again.

Luckily days in Paris never have their curtains drawn completely. Paris always makes time for a good meal. It is a city where food never fails to perform well and that is what makes it always so hard to leave. 

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a little spicy, a little sweet, and very nuts


It is that time of year when photographing food becomes difficult at best and impossible at worst. I am not sure when the last time was I saw the sun, but that should tell you enough why things have been quiet around here, recipe wise. Even at midday the light in my apartment just isn't enough. Daylight doesn't exist independent of electricity around here and nothing kills the potential of a good food photograph more than artifical light (not even to mention the serial killer that is flash). 

Do you know where your sunshine is? I'm employing substitution and am using fresh flowers to light up my apartment. They also do a good job at lighting up a photograph, but a food photograph is another story.  

Excuses, excuses - I know. But do trust my word that despite the lack of sunlight and the general busyness that has been my day-to-day as of late, there is a list of recipes I would like to share. It is short, I admit, but this blog is just as much about making food as it is about traveling and eating food.


So in celebration of craziness (both in terms of crazy schedules and crazy-making greyness), let's talk about nuts. Spicy and sweet nuts. The type of nuts that you can roast and dress up anyway you please. Rosemary? Honey? Maple syrup? Olive oil? Chipotle? Sea salt? Smoked Salt? Cayenne Pepper? Cumin? Like I said, anyway you please. And beyond how they taste and look, they are the perfect snack. Serve them to friends for aperitivo. Eat them when you are on the metro and find yourself looking desiringly at the sad sandwiches fast-food-bakeries sell. Snack on them when you are craving something sweet. Snack on them when you are craving something salty. Throw them into a salad to make it a little sexier. Put them in a jar, tie a ribbon around it and give them as a gift.

I've been making different versions of spiced toasted nuts for years and this version is the one I like best. I never turn down an opportunity to use maple syrup, so my Canadian pride and joy is what makes these nuts sweet. Same goes with rosemary. 

Also, this recipe easily doubles and triples if you find yourself in need of lots and lots of spiced nuts. 


Rosemary and Maple Nuts

makes 3 cups

ingredients

3 cups mixed nuts (I usually go with cashews, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts)
3 tbsp maple syrup
1.5 tbsp olive oil
large pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary, plus more if desired

 Preheat oven to 350F / 180C / gas mark 4.

In a bowl combine all of the ingredients and toss well, making sure to coat the nuts evenly. Line a baking sheet with baking paper, and spread the nuts on the sheet in a single layer.

Roast for 20 minutes, or until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Stir once or twice in between to make sure that the nuts are evenly browned. Remove from the oven. Let cool slightly and then taste. If desired, add more salt and more fresh rosemary. Toss well.

Serve the nuts while they are still warm, or wait for them to cool. Once the nuts are cool, transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature.

 Guten!

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Gather


As more and more independent food magazines pop up, there are certainly a few that stick out from the bunch. Gather Journal is one of them. It is nerdy and charming. It is also nice to look at and to cook from. Each recipes comes with a story - anything from historical remedies for hang-overs to the invention of punch, and from awkward romances to classic summer films. 

Their 2014 Fall/Winter issue is out today. "Cocoon" it is called and it is an ode to all that is cozy and warm, as well as silky and transformative.
I'm thrilled and then some (and then even some more) to be a part of this issue. Pick up a copy here and read my article about food and texture.
May your autumn be silky and warm.

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the good life


I ate cucumber sandwiches three days in a row this week - in other words, I've been busy and it hasn't been in the kitchen. 

Last weekend I was drinking prosecco with lunch and cicchetti bar hopping in Venice. I went back to my favourite fish market - Rialto - and feasted my eyes on the selection and then my tummy on a fish cooked in a parcel of parchment paper. The weekend before that I was in Berlin. I was there just long enough to get out of the city to snack on pickles and kayak through Spreewald. Two short but sweet trips. Sweet food and sweet friends.


And next weekend I'm off to the city of macarons and raw, salted butter. I'm off to eat my way through Paris - a city that is hard not to love and one that I haven't seen in far too long.

I'll be back soon with a recipe, but for now I'll just say that life is good. And I hope that your weekend is too. 
 

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