Tuesday, July 26

Notes from France

It's early morning here in Vancouver and I just came back from my long vacation in France and Italy. I've tried different strategies to beat jet lag, but nothing worked. It's 3 am here (noon over there) and both my brain and my stomach are still working on European time!
Something tells me that as time goes by, I will miss those Provencal and Ligurian brunch bites more and more ... As well as the lifestyle, culture, history, streets of Paris and crickets and smells of Provencal villages.
So before I start forgetting, let me sort my photos and notes and put some thoughts in writing about places I visited in France and Italy with a focus on, of course, cuisine.
I have collected interesting regional recipes, culinary ideas and stories.
My camera caught moments from Paris to Provence and French and Italian Riviera, and some 1000 km road trip photo journal Sanremo - St. Tropez - Lyon - Paris.
I will try to transfer some of my impressions from this trip, from time to time in my posts, so stay tuned!

So bienvenue to the first stop in my French journal:


Eiffel Tower

Summer in Paris is so packed with tourists, you have to be ready for long lineups or give it up for other "less touristy" but not less interesting things. 

Notre Dame cathedrale

Our hotel was in Montparnasse area, 30-min stroll from Eiffel Tower, but Parisian metro turned out as an excellent option to explore the city.

Champs Elisees trafic jam

Formula for good morning in Paris and other French cities is actually "the formula"- croissant, juice and coffee, advertised from almost every bulangerie and cafe shop. I also noticed popularity of Nespresso and Nescafe in France. For an espresso fan like me, I must admit, Nespresso makes great espresso, with no mess!

My hotel had very chic breakfast, so besides the usual choice of amazing French pastry, it had gourmet "bites", prepared in small fancy containers. Pieces of cheeses with dry fruits and nuts, mascarpone apple parfait, caramel crepes in salted butter etc. were served from early morning until lunch hours. I liked it a lot!

My first stop in exploring Paris was grocery store/market culture. My neighborhood epiceries offered more than I expected, including impresively good selection and prices!  For such great pastries and breads, here in Vancouver I would have to pay four to five times more and that only in selected gourmet food stores.

Continuing with grocery selection in Paris supermarkets, I can't forget varieties of French cheeses and milk products. There is one gourmet product I became a huge fan of: sheep milk yogurt with mashed chestnut. It's not hard to make it at home with the recipe I show later on at the end of this post. Sheep milk is a must to achieve the perfection!

Another highlight from French supermarkets was, of course, wine selection, again for a fraction that we have to pay in North America. Those evil North American liquor taxes!

I have also learned few interesting facts about the famous Poilâne bread: There is the Poilâne bread, and there is also the Max Poilâne bread. Max and Lionel Poilâne are brothers who, after their father original store opened in Paris, continued their work separately but basically with the same original father's recipes. I have tried both breads and they pretty much taste same for me. Parisians still argue, which one is better. There is one big difference between them, and that is their price. Max's bread is significantly cheaper, available in ordinary supermarkets and relatively unknown outside of France.

I was also impressed with plates of goat and sheep cheeses from local supermarkets including my favourite sheep milk cheese, Petit Basque. Combined with a bottle of great yet affordable Bordeaux, it was a perfect way to enjoy Parisian sunsets from my tiny balcony. And my kids loved the "Surprise"- huge paper cone with surprise items and treats for boys and girls. French way to make them happy!

Next time more about Paris' culture, food and life.
More photos on my Travel page.. 

Poilâne's Mint brioche



(Original Poilâne recipe)                                  
1.1 lbs wheat flour
0.11 lbs granulated sugar
0.42 oz. salt
0.53 oz. fresh yeast or 0.26 dry yeast
diluted in a cup of water
5 eggs
7 oz. room temperature butter
7-8 branches of fresh mint
3-4 small brioche pans (optional)

(modified recipe)
4 cups (0.5 kg) wheat flour
10 tsp (50 gr) granulated sugar
1 tbs (12 g) salt
1.5 tsp instant dry yeast diluted in a
1 cup of tepid water
5 eggs
200 gr room temperature butter
branches of fresh mint
small brioche pans (optional)

    Strip the mint leaves from their stems, rinse them and chop them in small pieces.
    In a large bowl or on a counter, combine the flour with the salt, the granulated sugar, and the yeast.
    Add the eggs – one by one – to the mix.
    Blend in the butter and the mint leave bits.
    Create a loaf and place in a floured bowl. Cover with the cotton cloth and let rest for an hour.
    Recreate a loaf and let it rest for 20 min.
    Cut the dough into 3 pieces. You can either create 3 small brioche loaves or 1 larger braid.
    Cover your creation with the cloth and let it rest until it doubles in volume. Poilane have on their web page fun and interesting baking instruction sheet. I added it here.

Sheep milk yogurt with mashed chestnuts


1 cup of plain cow milk yougurt   
1 l of whole sheep milk
8 tbsp of mashed cooked chestnut

Step 1
Pour the yogurt into a bowl and the milk gradually, stirring constantly with a whisk.

Step 2
Divide the mashed chestnuts in pots. Fill the pots with mix of plain yogurt and sheep milk and place them in a yogurt maker, or if you don't have a yogurt maker, just leave them on the counter for about two days to ferment the milk. Close the yogurt lids.

Step 3
After two days, check yogurt's fermentation and thickness and transfer it to the fridge for next few days before consuming.


Terrie said...

Oh, a fabulous trip. Beautiful captures. Food, drinks and everything remind me so much. I love France especially Provence. Looking forward to your postings of Provence.
Have a good sleep.

Zexxy's wife said...

Thanks Terrie,
Paris is great but Provence is my favourite too! There is so much too see and enjoy, and there is never enough time for everything.

Terrie said...

Hope you've adjusted jet lag. Believe you're still in the mood France. Thanks for your comment on my nuno doll. Making it is not that complicated for you as you've made some artistic figures. Here's my previous post of sneak peek. If I've more time I will post another detailed steps. http://terriekwong.blogspot.com/2011/06/play-with-my-magic-hands.html

Confessions of a Plate Addict said...

What a fun trip! Yes, the jet lag really gets me, too. I find I need a week to recover! I love seeing Paris from the point of view of cuisine! Our trip was concentrated on what would entertain a 10 year old boy, plus a lot of must-sees. Your daughter's blog is so cute..a fun read! Enjoy your weekend!...hugs...Debbie