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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Buttered One

QUIBERON - A Provencal friend of mine who claims to be ‘allergic to butter’ would perish in this town. Good thing she’s not here – more for me! Last night I had wonderful crèpes at La Duchesse Anne where melted butter is brushed on the hot galette (a crèpe made with buckwheat flour) before the ingredients are added and often brushed again before the finished dish goes out to the floor.

This morning, I stopped at the Boulangerie Bihan “Trois Marches” and picked up a pair of kouign amann – Breton for “cake” and “butter,” though they should have also added Breton for “lots of extra sugar,” which caramelizes around the whole thing and makes life good. Though they’re not particularly large, I learned that eating two is a bit like trying to get through an entrecôte pour deux personnes alone.

Luckily, my arteries and I were up for it. There’s a moment of crunchy, sugary goodness where your teeth stick together, then all at once, the butter gives up the ghost and becomes a liquid, full of so much flavor, I giggle.

Later, on the train back to Paris, I tasted another kouign amann that I brought from Quiberon’s famous Maison Riguidel - touted to be the city’s best. These were excellent – flatter and more cake-like in form, but Boulangerie Bihan’s got them beat, hands down.

SPECIAL NOTE: People of Quiberon, unite! Go to the Boulangerie Bihan (where I found my favorite kouign amann) and encourage the good woman running it not to close the bakery doors for good following the death of her brother the baker – she’s kept on running the bakery, but is talking of shutting it down within a month, taking one of the city’s tiny treasures with her.

Boulangerie Bihan “Trois Marches” 34, rue de Verdun QUIBERON – - MAP

Creperie Duchesse Anne - 10, Place Duchesse Anne QUIBERON - 02 97 30 49 33 - MAP

Maison Riguidel – 38, Rue de Port Maria, QUIBERION - - MAP

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Lied

I’ve been asked by French food writer Francois Simon to contribute to the English-language version of his blog, Simon Says. Simon is the food critic at Le Figaro and kind of like the character Anton Ego from the movie “Ratatouille” dandy form. Want to freak out a French chef? Tell them Simon will be coming for dinner.

In parallel, The Boston Globe asked me to contribute to their travel blog, Globe-trotting, where my entries will show up next to award-winning journalists, Tom Haines, Lylah Alphonse and Ethan Gilsdorf.

To quote myself quoting “The Godfather” to help explain why a guy named Guido would use an umbrella to harvest mulberries from a tree in Sicily, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

So I’m blogging again. Here, on Globe-trotting and with Simon Says. Not just Sicily anymore, but France, Barcelona, across Europe and around the world. The Motherland is officially spreading its wings. But it’ll always be about food. Only the good stuff.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rites of Return

Signs that summer is officially over in France are everywhere: Parisians, a curiously thin-blooded breed, are even justifiably wearing sweaters and jackets (though they pulled the scarves out a couple weeks ago, bien sûr), the leaves in the Palais Royal garden are a depressing mix of green and brown, and yesterday on the Champs-Elysées, it was cold enough that all of the tables on the terrace outside of Fouquet’s – a.k.a. people watching heaven - were ornamental.

La rentrée – the post-summer return to school, work and life - is in full swing. After a month of gathering dust, keyboards in France are now clicking a gogo; the projects nobody was thinking about a month ago are underway. Suddenly, life moves fast again.

After a month on vacation, I fall into the same jarring trap.

In the middle of it all, a group of good friends I haven’t seen for months asks me to join them for lunch.

“No time!” screams a little voice in my head.

“No money!” says another.

“I’ll meet you there,” I say, ignoring them both.

Twenty minutes later, we are encased in a little bubble Chez Janou. Vincent’s wife is pregnant again, Seb is laughing and Calou, having just worked a week in Lourdes, is cracking jokes about the Pope. Four prix-fixe menus, a bottle of wine and everything is OK again.

Later, I swing by to pick up a fax that Rose, who runs the show at Chez Lucette in the 17th, is holding for me. She’s got a vendor in and I see her for all of 30 seconds, but she sends me off with a kiss on each cheek that cracks so loud my ears pop.

Stars officially realigned, I leave and walk down the street with a smile glued to my face.

Chez Janou : 2, Rue Roger Verlhomme 75003 PARIS 03. Tel: 01 42 72 28 41 Map
Chez Lucette, 43, rue de la Jonquière 75017 Paris Tel : 01 46 27 72 54 Map

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sardine is not a four-letter word

QUIBERON – After three and a half hours on an early train from Paris and another hour on the bus, the idea of sitting around tourists and retirees in a restaurant didn’t really float my boat. Returning from a meeting to set up an outing with a gooseneck barnacle fisherman, I walked right in front of the solution: La Belle-Iloise cannery.

Five minutes and a six-can variety pack of sardines later – everything from the little silver fish marinated in muscadet to two peppers, olive oil and lemon – I was in business. Sitting on the seawall, I ate a tin of sardine à la tomate served on pain Poilâne that I smuggled from Paris. Though there’s a fierce debate as to whether La Belle-Iloise or La Quiberonnaise makes the better sardine it didn’t seem to matter; in the space of five minutes, three people walked by jealously eyeing my picnic and smiling. One guy even offered up a “Bon Appetit!”

On the bus, I had listened to an interview with Alice Waters who extolled the virtues of both cooking and eating with friends, yet here I was, straddling the seawall by myself, getting a sense of place from a can.

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