Mora: Everything a Pastry Chef Could Desire

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Paris is a top destination for cooks of all stripes, from amateurs looking to improve the dishes they serve to family and friends right up to professional chefs seeking top-notch instruction and unparalleled kitchen experience. There’s a Parisian destination that’s a favorite among bakers and pastry chefs—Mora, a culinary supply store founded in 1814. This large shop in the Les Halles district is crammed top to bottom with more than 5,000 items (all of which also can be purchased online) to meet just about every culinary need. And many Parisians and tourists do, indeed, head to Mora for all of their cooking needs. But Mora is absolute heaven on earth for pastry chefs and bread makers, offering more specialty items for these cooks than any other shop in the City of Light—and quite possibly in the entire world. Continue Reading →

Tracing the History of the Croque Monsieur Sandwich

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As anyone who has visited Paris knows, a very popular lunchtime meal at cafes and smaller eateries in the City of Light—and indeed throughout all of France—is the croque monsieur, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich that is one of the true staples of simple French cuisine. But how did it become such a famous French dish and land on the menus of countless casual restaurants? No one knows for sure, but a commonly accepted story involves a brasserie on Paris’s Boulevard des Capucines, a shortage of baguettes for that day’s lunchtime crowd, and the presence of the neighborhood butcher in the eatery when a patron asked about the newly created sandwich. Continue Reading →

Rue Cler: A Perfect Parisian Shopping Street

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Americans love one-stop shopping—a large grocery emporium where one can stock up on all of the foodstuffs needed for several days. And while supermarkets are becoming more popular in Paris, the City of Light’s residents tend to prefer “one-street shopping”—essentially visiting a street or small section of their neighborhood where they can find a variety of different food shops, including boulangerie for bread, a patisserie for desserts, a fromagerie for eggs and cheese, a boucherie for meat and so on. One of the best is Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondissement. Continue Reading →

Try a Classic French Dish at La Poule au Pot

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History books often claim that the pledge to provide working-class families with a “chicken in every pot” was first uttered by U.S. president Herbert Hoover during the beginning of the Great Depression. But actually, the honors go to France’s King Henri IV, who in the 17th century pledged to create policy so that the nation’s peasants would have a “chicken in his pot every Sunday.” And from that pledge—completely unfulfilled, but the way—was born the classic dish poule au pot (chicken in the pot), a “peasant dish” that has evolved to become a staple of French cuisine. And one of the best places to get it in Paris is at the aptly named restaurant La Poule au Pot. Continue Reading →

Tracing the History of the Famous Tarte Tatin

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A quintessentially French dessert is the tarte Tatin, what many Americans believe to be an upside-down apple pie. But it’s actually a bit more than that. And its origin, although never definitively proven, is akin to how a classic American dish—chocolate chip cookies—came about: by accident. Continue Reading →

How Did Boeuf Bourguignon Become a Classic?

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If you’re like me, you like to sample classic French dishes while visiting the City of Light: coq au vin, pot au feu, blanquette de veau, steak tartare … the list goes on and on. But one of my favorites—and a French classic that also I enjoy making at home—is boeuf bourguignon (beef Burgundy). But how did this dish become a French standard? Like many traditional French recipes, its roots lie in “peasant foods”–dishes that were staples over the centuries for the poor and the working class. Continue Reading →

How Did the Croissant Become a French Staple?

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Croissants are ubiquitous in Paris. Every pastry shop and boulangerie makes them. Every café sells them. A typical Parisian breakfast? Croissants and coffee. And for travelers to the City of Light, indulging in a buttery, flaky croissant (or several) is every bit as important as a trip to the Eiffel Tower or a bateau ride on the Seine. But how did this simple pastry become so ingrained in French culture? No one is absolutely certain, but theories abound. (And here’s a guide to where you can find the 10 best croissants in Paris!) Continue Reading →

It’s Chilly. Time for Fondue at Pain, Vin, Fromages

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The weather’s getting colder, and that means it’s time for heartier French cuisine. I’m a big fan of French winter classics, like boeuf bourguignon, cassoulet, soupe a l’oignon and other tummy-warming dishes. And you can find these tasty concoctions at many restaurants throughout Paris. Oddly, though, one cold-weather dish is rather difficult to find in the City of Light—fondue. OK, fondue is not French per se, but given that France is world-famous for its cheese, it’s not really a stretch for visitors to Paris to hope to find hot, gooey, melted cheese on at least a few restaurant menus. Fortunately, there’s a fantastic cheese-centric restaurant in the heart of the Marais that offers up some of Europe’s very best fondue throughout the year—Pain, Vin, Fromages (which translates as Bread, Wine, Cheese). Continue Reading →

Quintessentially French Dining On the Ile Saint-Louis

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Parisians and tourists alike have a love affair with the Ile Saint-Louis, the tiny sister island and next-door neighbor to the larger Ile de la Cite that marks the geographic center of Paris. To add to your quintessentially Parisian experience while strolling the island, be sure to stop in for lunch or dinner at the charming bistro L’Auberge de la Reine Blanche. This quaint eatery looks every bit as a Parisian bistro should—timeworn tables packed tightly together, oil paintings and copper cookware hanging on the walls, romantic lighting overhead and a gorgeous antique oak bar overlooking the entire scene. Best of all, the food is superb. Continue Reading →

Where Can You Find the Best Duck Confit in Paris?

Confit de canard at Chez Dumonet

A dish you’re likely to find on the menu of nearly every eatery in Paris is confit de canard, a leg of duck cured and preserved in salt and other spices, often garlic and thyme, and then cooked in its own fat. Although confit de canard is served throughout Paris, it is often badly prepared. So, when you find a Parisian cafe, bistro, brasserie or restaurant that does serve a perfect confit de canard, you not only make a mental note of it, but you also tell your family, friends and just about everyone else who will listen of your discovery. Here are two of my favorites: Tropic Cafe and Chez Dumonet. Continue Reading →