Posts Tagged ‘Food’

All semester, my friend Emma and I have been performing a very thorough research on Salons de Thé, Tea Rooms, in Paris. This basically means that we spend long hours drinking tea and munching scones all over Paris.  We then evaluate them on a very rigorous scale grading based on tea quality, scone quality, atmosphere, price, and “extra factors.”   We visited many tea rooms, ignoring the biggest ones like Ladurée and Angelina’s, and trying to find ones further off the beaten path.  Also, our criterion for serious consideration was the presence of scones, without which we found it hard to like an establishment. Only two are on our list that do not have scones, and they had other extraordinary factors.

The Top Three . . .

Les Nuits des Thés, 22 rue de Beaune, 75007: Tucked behind the Musée D’Orsay, Les Nuits des Thés is run by a mother daughter team and reflects this feminine control, from the floral decor to the soft lighting and china teacups.  We didn’t particularly like the teapots, but other than that, the scones were good, prices reasonable, and we loved the cute atmosphere and witty name.

Mamie Gâteaux, 66 rue Cherche-Midi, 75006: While the simple white walls, wood floors, and sparse decoration might seem to austere in winter, but in when we visited in spring we found it airy and refreshing.  The scones were delicious, the tea good, and we loved the colorful bowls that hang around the top of the room.

Bread and Roses, 7 rue de Fleurus, 75006: Even though we know we were paying too much for our tea and scones, even though we knew that we didn’t really belong with the casually chic moms of the 6th arrondissement out for a brunch break from their strenuous lives, we still loved this warm yet modern tea room just around the corner from the Luxembourg gardens.

Honorable Mention . . .

Mariage Frères, 32 rue de Bourg-Tibourg, 75004:  Despite being one of the bigger names in the Paris tea scene, we still decided that the plantation like atmosphere, extensive tea menu, huge scones, and perfect style of the tea room at the Mariage Frères Boutique deserved a visit.

A Priori Thé, 35-37 Galerie Vivienne, 75002: Delicious scones with a slight citrus taste, and a cozy inner room or you can have a cup of tea in the sun-roofed gallery.

The Tea Caddy, 14 rue Saint-Julien le Pauvre, 75005: Probably the coziest of all the tea rooms we visited, but we were a little bothered that the scones came already done up with cream and jam, thus denying us spreading rights. Probably the most British of all the ones on Paris.

And two that didn’t have scones but were still so delightful . . .

Verlet, 256 rue St-Honoré, 75001:  No scones, but delicious cakes, and a wonderful atmosphere with a calm sitting room upstairs. They specialize in coffee so you are surrounded by the delicious perfume of fragrant coffee beans.

Musée de La Vie Romantique, 16 rue Chaptal, 75009:  Only open during the warmer months,  the Musée de la Vie Romantique serves tea and cakes in the lovely garden surrounded by rosebushes and shady trees.

And if you decide you want to go all out . . .

The Ritz Hotel, 15 Place Vendôme, 75001:  True, this isn’t exactly were you (or at least where we) just stop in for a cup of tea and chat with a friend, but if you want to make an afternoon out of tea time, then high tea at the Ritz is truly stunning.  We split one high tea for two, and still had enough miniature sandwiches, perfect teacakes, and perfectly flavored Jasmine tea to go around.

In the children’s book The Wind in the Willows, a character issues the invitation to “Come inside . . .We’ll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.”  I doubt they actually change the course or state of the universe, but I have found these past months that taking a pause every other week  to enjoy a cup of tea and a scone with a dear friend have ameliorated my own little world indeed.


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What to do the day after

In the apartment where I babysit, there is something that has long puzzled me.  Hanging beside the butcher’s block is a cloth sack where the family tosses the ends of baguettes.  A baguette has approximately 24 hours in which to be consumed, and after this small window, its lack of preservatives turns it into something more resembling a brick.  I am being generous with this 24-hour window; the girls I watch complain if I try to give them that morning’s baguette at dinnertime.   Therefore, I understand why you would have to throw away a surprising amount of baguette, but I don’t get the bag.  It will be there for weeks, and then suddenly be empty. My first thought was that they maybe take it to their country home and feed ducks, but then I remembered that ducks have no teeth, and would have no mechanism of dissecting and digesting the rock-hard month-old bread.  Maybe they eventually just throw it away.  But then, why not just throw it away in the first place? Is this some remnant of French peasant life that has seeped its way into bourgeois French society?  I wouldn’t be that surprised, as I am often shocked by very primitive elements in this most chic culture.

But the real question that I have is, how do they have leftover baguette? I do not need a bag for my dried baguette, because very rarely does a baguette endure longer than 24 hours before it is lovingly, albeit voraciously, consumed.  During my first couple months in Paris, the baguette barely made it 4 hours, as half was usual consumed during my endless climb of stairs.  What remained after my meal was then slathered in Nutella and enjoyed as dessert.   I excused this baguette frenzy under the disclaimer that my favorite boulangerie (as seen in the pictures)  was closed on weekends so I needed to profit from its days open.

I have calmed a little in my carb love, and as one person can’t (ok, shouldn’t – it is totally possible) eat a baguette in one meal, I am often faced with the question of what to do with my dried out baguette the day after.  Throwing it out is only an option that I reserve for inferior baguettes, or ones I forgot about until the fossilized.  To avoid the fate of the bread Nutella binge, I have found several ways for resurrecting dried baguette.  I originally tried to microwave it, which revives the interior for approximately 30 seconds before it collapses into a concrete state from which there is no recovery.  I learned my lesson.  Without a toaster or oven (wherein I could make bread pudding – yum) I resort to the following options:

For slightly dry:  Mixing olive oil, fresh Parmesan, and diced herbs atones for any dryness, as the bread becomes a vehicle for sauce.  This same theory applies to sopping up soup or fresh marinara.

For rather dry: Cut in chunks and sauté in olive oil to make homemade croutons. Then toss with spinach, smashed fresh cherries, balsamic vinegar, and feta.  Moral of story: when all else fails, just add more cheese

For very dry (we are talking 36 hours or so here):  Day after baguette toast, one of my favorites, made in a skillet with sizzling butter and then spread with lavender honey.

While I am babysitting, I submit to the unfathomable ways of the French and toss the rejected baguette ends into the cloth bag.  But not chez moi. A bag of dried baguettes hanging in the kitchen is a testament to a self-control that I have not yet developed, nor do I care to.

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In the family where I babysit, Tuesday night is crêpe night, without exception. On other nights, the girls have to eat one thing “that has grown” but on Tuesdays, Nutella replaces vegetables.  My first day nannying happened to be a Tuesday, so I was very quickly thrust into the world of crêpe making,  which resulting in one crêpe being launched behind the stove.  But after 8 months and approximately 700 crêpes, I now feel pretty confident in my crêpe making abilities. I think that French women are born with the crêpe recipe memorized, or perhaps they learn it in preschool, but whatever the case, there seems to be a fairy generic recipe, or more aptly, a serious of ratios, that they all know.   I present the recipe a I have been learned it, reading it each week from the fridge where one of the girls wrote it in loopy French cursive with a drawing of me surrounded by piles of crêpes, one of which is flying through the air towards the stove.  This is the recipe broken down to the simplest ratio as decided by the egg. To give you an idea,  when I make it for myself and the girls I multiply it by 4, thus 500 grams flour, which is enough to feed me and three kids for dinner, dessert, and then them again for breakfast the next day.

Mix (which for me means supervise the total war that breaks out among 3 sisters who all feel that life will end if they don’t get to add the eggs):

125 grams flour ~ 1 egg~ dash salt~ 1/4 TBS oil (not olive — vegetable or sunflower)

Add slowly: 1/4 liter milk,  stirring till there are no clumps (For extra light and tasty crêpes, substitute beer for part of the milk.)

Heat a crêpe skillet over medium/ medium high heat. Wipe with an oiled paper towel and use a ladle to pour batter in pan, turning it so the whole pan is evenly coated with a thin layer of batter. Let cook until sides pull away slightly then loosen edges with a knife.  Use a spatula, or be brave and toss the crêpe to cook the other side.  Wipe again with a little oil in between each, unless your crêpe skillet is really good and nonstick.

I usually make  a pile to spread dessert stuff on then at the end make the savory crêpes, which you want to actually assemble over the heat to melt the cheese.  Here are some of my favorite crêpe combos:

-The classic: ham and emmenthal (or swiss) cheese

-Soft goat cheese and sundried tomato

-Soft goat cheese with honey and walnuts

-Nutella with bananas and almonds

-Cane sugar with lemon juice

Bon appétit!

NOTE:  When I made these at home over Christmas, I found that due to the different gluten content in American flour, I needed more milk to make the batter thin enough.

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