Tag Archives: france

Paris is Just a Train Ride Away

Although I knew the 1 line could take me all over Manhattan, I had no idea that it could also transport me to Paris. That is, until I stepped into Maison Kayser. Nestled in Columbus Circle, this authentic French boulangerie uses traditional techniques to craft fresh pastries and desserts baked on site daily. French baker Eric Kayser opened his first New York boulangerie on the Upper East Side, and the high demand for his impeccable desserts resulted in more Maison Kayser locations opening across the city.

My first view of the boulangerie
My first view of the boulangerie

Walking into Maison Kayser – and out of the torrential downpour outside – felt like walking into heaven. Vibrant and delicate desserts were painstakingly arranged behind a glass case, and a variety of fresh baguettes and loaves covered an entire wall. The women working behind the register actually had to ask me if I was ready because I spent such a long time staring at the pastries in front of me.

The gorgeous display at Maison Kayser
The gorgeous display at Maison Kayser

Eventually, I decided upon the tarte au chocolat, brioche au sucre, and pain au chocolat aux amandes. The tarte was composed of a chocolate shell filled with a rich chocolate cream and topped with a truffle, also known as the chocolate lover’s ultimate dream.  Brioche is a light and airy French bread, and mine was covered with large bits of sugar.  My last purchase was a traditional French pastry, reinvented by combining chocolate with a thick almond paste inside a delicate pastry shell.  All three of my desserts melted in my mouth and transported me to a picnic along the River Seine in Paris.

A decadent tarte au chocolat
A decadent tarte au chocolat
Brioche au sucre and pain au chocolat aux amandes
Brioche au sucre and pain au chocolat aux amandes

Experiencing the quality of the pastries at Maison Kayser is an easy alternative to purchasing an expensive plane tickets to France, and I cannot wait to jump back on the 1 train and do it all over again.

The breads and pastries
The breads and pastries

The Croissant Renaissance

Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in the Croissant Renaissance. Beloved icons of not so medieval pastries are being reborn in the most astonishing forms across New York bakeries and it’s time they were examined to see whether they shall stand the test of viennoiserie time. This week Jeanne and I are back in full Francophone force to investigate just what America has brought back to life within the beloved flakes of le croissant: qu’est ce que c’est ce “CRONUT?”


Now when I arrived in New York this year, I may have been the only “young” person to not know what bubble tea was. My palate’s discovery of the combination was not revolutionary, although my shock was astounding. To put it frankly, the tea was delightful- all on it’s own. As for Jeanne, she did not even bother tasting it before judging it. And here, all readers have full permission to stop reading, as I know the cronut has gained a steady, long line of international followers with cute yellow boxes. However, my sentiments for this pastry remain similar to that of the phenomena of bubble tea.  Jeanne and I have to conclude that we may, after all, be passionate croissant purists.

DSC_0371Cherry Blossom Ganache & Sour Cherry Gelée

Dominique’s cronut, as many may know combines the beloved flaky layers of a croissant with the fried form of a cream filled donut. The special “laminated” dough likened to that of a traditional croissant dough is combined to give a new lightness and buttery chew to the traditional American donut. Each month a new flavor is featured and  this month the bakery is showcasing that of a cherry blossom ganache and sour cherry gelée with citrus sugar. The hybrid pastry has caused a sensation for years and is wholeheartedly accepted by the pastry chef community as Dominique’s masterpiece creation that bridged two cities. However, this morning while avidly anticipating this delicious hybrid, we found that bridge was broken and obstinately stuck on the donut side of the Atlantic. As croissant worshipers, the cronut just seemed so…donut! Those flaky croissant layers advertised, giving a light crunchy lift to the donut where just obsolete and overcome by a tidal wave of cream! So yes, it’s terrible, but we’re sending you back overseas to France for pure croissants (we can see how this option could be a bit expensive, so at least go to Kayser- sincerely Jeanne) and recommending stopping at 188 Spring street for a Kouign-Amann instead, where a traditional rendition of a much beloved pastry  lives up to its flaky, buttery, sugary legend.

Le “Hype” Explained: 


Checking in on the next new croissant movement, we continued our search over to City Bakery to give Maury Rubin’s savory ($4.00) hybrid creation of the Pretzel-Croissant a go. In this experiment we found of course the croissant’s more traditional form but the flaky puff pastry still seemed quite tough and the salty flakes failed to carry through with any “pzazz.” So all in all we’re not exactly all for the Avant-Garde Croissant movement and are going to remain hopeful traditionalists. Why ruin a good thing when the going has just been,well, always so good?



(After all we do hope to leave you with something other than a despondent critique.)

Croissant Connoisseurship 101: What’s in a Croissant? The Divine Ingridient

The secret to a good croissant is the butter. In a nutshell, croissant is leavened puff pastry, or patée levée feuilletée, carefully folded with layers of rich creamy butter over the course of approximately two days (aka those fresh Sunday morning babies had to be started Friday morning!). Butterfat is le “key” to making a croissant act out its literal linguistic translation in the oven:  derived from the verb “croire” which means to grow! So why travel overseas for a bite of these buttery babies?  You see over in good ole France with the lovely establishment of the AOC, all butter is legally required to be between 83-86% butterfat. In the United States, unfortunately companies like Land O’Lakes and most large supermarket brands only leave bakers with a meager 81% butterfat, leaving more water and thus a tougher dough.

   Tip #1. THE FORM: Croissant au Beurre vs. Croissant Nature

Don’t fall for the first butter rookie mistake: Crescent shaped croissants, known as croissant nature, use margarine over butter.  Keep away from these nasty buggers and stay with the traditional straight golden rich croissant au beurre’s  to remain a true croissant connoisseur.

 “Always, always go for the croissant au beurre. If you’re on a diet or whatever, no problem,  just don’t save the croissant for later!” -Jeanne


Tip #2. THE LINGO: Viennoiserie

Keep in mind that amongst the French pastry hierarchy of patisserie, boulangerie, and viennoiserie, le croissant belongs to that of the odd family of “viennoiserie.” Now don’t totally lose me here in technicality, but viennoiserie basically refers to all sweets made with pâte viennoise or pâté feuilletée- originally invented & brought to France by an Austrian military officer who brought his viennese sweet creations to France in the late 19th C. Here you’ll find sweet bread treats like brioche, palmiers, pain aux raisins, pain aux chocolat and chaussons aux pommes. Sadly, for all its hype, the croissant actually isn’t even technically French in its origins. The Austrians transported the dough, but the French turned it into magic! It’s a pastry without a specific origin, but yet undeniably tied to an ongoing legend of French deliciousness.


Tip #3. THE BITE: Flaky, perfect crunch, rich buttery flakes, golden crisp shell. Light with just enough of a chewy tear. Crumbs all over your clothes and table is a sure sign of deliciousness.

“Word of advice, you can literally hear a good croissant when you take a bite. Flaky on the inside, crunchy on the outside, that’s the only way a croissant should be.”  -J

But before we get too nostalgic about how good the “real croissant days” used to be, let’s check in with Jeanne and break down some stereotypes behind France’s arguably most beloved treat (behind the baguette of course).

Q: French People & Croissants- What’s the Real Deal?

Just as we don’t all have a moustache and we don’t all own a beret, well we don’t have a croissant every morning watching the Eiffel tower from our window. No, croissants are pretty much weekend treats, when you have time. For instance, in my macho family, my mum brings back the croissants (okay, and pains au chocolat as well) for the rest of the family when she comes back from the market (yes like a real good old-fashioned market) on Sundays. So I guess our croissant consumption is not that crazy after all.

But what really matters is that, unlike here, if we felt like having a croissant everyday, we COULD and this is a nice feeling! Indeed, you always have 1€20 ($1.30) to spare for a delicious croissant. Do you always have 4$ to spare? Mmmh not so sure.

Q: Does the “best croissant” of Paris/NYC even really exist? Should we bother looking?

“Croissants being really mainstream in France, you just don’t happen to do what we did this morning, Amelia and I, which is to say, take the subway for more than 30 minutes to go to a nice bakery downtown. In France, you pretty much just go to one of the five or six bakeries near you. To give you an example, my mum goes to our favorite bakery to get our Sunday croissants but we consider it as being really far from where we live. It is after all, a good three minute walk… (yes, just like you people when you tell me that Cathedral Gardens is so far away from campus).

So dearest readers we applaud the creative spirit of this pastry hybrid age, but it seems as though we shall be staying within the classical confines of the Louvre with a trusty old croissant au beurre and espresso in hand. Go forth and choose well on your future croissant hunts, letting butter, a melodious crisp, and trail of unending crumbs lead your way.


Cool Links!:










De-Frosting French Pastry

As many of you may already know, the French were the first to characterize the art of “fancy food” by inventing and defining the term “Haute Cuisine.” Food became about so much more than just taste, but encapsulated its very own art form as presentation, wines, service, and this whole new level of complexity was added to the art of food. And these ideals are encapsulated in the art of French Pastry – La Patisserie.

Walking into a pastry shop in Paris is just as luxurious as entering Bergdorf Goodman’s shoe department – it’s a stunningly beautiful hub of irresistible creations. Call them “designer” bakeries if you like, but chic Patisseries are often hard to spot as food vendors amongst their minimalist decor and elegant glass case displays – no joke, it took me quite a while to figure out that Patrick Rogers was actually a chocolate shop because all the chocolate was actually hidden in oblique forms behind black sliding door display cabinets!

Often we forget that France is not soley white silk table cloths and black tie waiters – some of the best parts of French cuisine are the most simple. So for this week, we’re defrosting the dizzying glamour of the art of the French pastry. Turns out French people don’t end their meal every night with crème brulée, but often simply finish with a refreshing yoghurt or simple fruit. So this week, Jeanne is here to tell you about what French pastry means to her. So ladies and gentlemen we present you, the  “De-Crystallized French Pastry.”


Let me introduce you to one of my favorite pastries, known as the éclair. I am not even going to try to sell you this pastry because this baby sells itself really! Let’s just look at its definition, given in the “oh-so-neutral-and-impartial” Oxford English Dictionary: “A small finger-shaped cake made choux-pastry, and filled with any of various kind of cream.” I think we can all agree that even this definition makes you salivate over this dear éclair. And it does not even mention the fondant icing on top of it, which is yet, in my personal view, the best part (okay, guilty, when no one is around I usually lick the icing before eating the whole thing).

DSC_0983 - Version 1

Plus, don’t you get an exciting feeling of freedom when reading this definition that mentions “various kind of cream”? An éclair can basically be anything you want. If I’m quite a purist when it comes to food, and if I only want chocolate (or okay when I’m feeling crazy, strawberry) in my éclair, the French website Le Cercle des Gourmands, goes as far as to provide a recipe to say I may make a “Prosciutto Dolceéclair. Once again, no translation is needed here, and yes, you can find a wide range of éclairs, from the most classical recipes to the most creative ones. The éclair is one of the simplest French pastries, but talented pastry chefs continue to easily revisit it. In the past few years, a famous French chef, Christophe Adam opened several bakeries specialized in éclairs called Éclair de genie (http://leclairdegenie.com).




The Pastry of the People: Simple comfort food, and fancy as well – does it get better than that?

Whoever you are, you’ll find your “éclair soul-mate,” just go for it!



The éclair as we know it now, was allegedly invented by the chef Antonin Carême for French royalty at the beginning of the 19th century. Prior to that though, people ate a really similar pastry called Pain à la duchesse,” which is in fact, the éclair’s ancestor but modernized by Carême. Whether you want to talk about a pain à la duchesse or an éclair, this pastry goes way back. This long history probably explains the fact that in France, you’ll find it in any bakery. Indeed, it may be one of our most common pastries.

Why éclair? Éclair means “flash of lightening” in French. According to the French dictionary published by the oh-so-well-respected Académie française, rumor has it that this pastry got its name because people ate it so quickly (I told you, this baby sells itself). Others say that it’s called an éclair because the top icing is really bright, while others mention its oblong form.

Even before Globalization, the French éclair rapidly traveled overseas and the trendy magazine Vanity Fair first mentioned the pastry in their publication in 1861. As of 1884, one could find a recipe in America in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by D.A. Lincoln. Therefore, France and its éclairs go a long way, but so do America and the éclair.


Of course, éclairs are less popular here in the States – but wait, hold on, is that really so? Well an Éclair de genie bakery is opening next spring in SoHo…. Can you guess where I’ll be next semester?






I am probably going to disappoint you a bit with my second pastry. Indeed, it may be the least fancy pastry ever. Since I’m here, I have often been told that French cuisine is thought to be “Oh my God, so fancy!” Of course this is partly true. But only partly, and the most simple and rustic food is also a major part of French food.

Therefore, let me introduce my faithful Sunday companion: le gâteau au yahourt (Yoghurt cake).

Awesome lemon yogurt cake recipe

For those of you who have never tasted it, it may sound gross, but I swear it’s not (and please, how do you think I felt when I first heard of a carrot cake?). The gâteau au yahourt is the simplest cake to bake, and my definition of comfort food!

Just gather the simplest ingredients you could think of: yoghurt – obviously, flour, sugar, oil and baking powder and stir. Voila, 20 minutes later it’s done! There you go, you got yourself a gâteau au yahourt. I have been making it since I was ten years old and I am telling you, there is no way you can mess it up (except maybe when you forget to put the baking powder… it was during finals I was under a lot of pressure okay?).

Apparently, it became popular in France during the 1950’s. Since then, I think it’s fair to say that every French person has been saved at some point in their life by a good old gâteau au yahourt after having forgotten that they were supposed to bring dessert.

Of course, you don’t have to be as boring as I am. There are a lot of variants and you can think of everything really: apple, vanilla, lemon, chocolate chips, strawberry and so on.

Just take my word for it, bake it on a rainy Sunday afternoon, eat half of it and then eat the other half for breakfast on Monday and Tuesday (tip: you’ll want to heat it up in the microwave for just 20 seconds and it’ll taste like heaven).

That’s how (non fancy) French people do it!


Eclairs :



Gâteau au yahourt :





Images Used:

Le Ventre de la France

Paris versus New York von Vahram Muratyan

      Le Ventre de la France

La Rencontre: « One must eat to live, and not live to eat » Molière, L’avare, Act III, Scene 1. Apologies Molière, but that might have been one of the times when you were wrong…


“Oh my god that was good, I love my people”


Sometimes things can get lost in translation, but when it comes to expressing that pure ummyummyohMYGODgoodness of sensory ecstasy, c’est facile! These were the words of Jeanne Bernard, a visiting student at Barnard this year from the one, the only, Paris, and also one of your future guides to Le Ventre de la France. So introducing my Francophone “Watson,” the expert du goût and accomplice of all things French food : Jeanne, a twenty-year-old Parisian, baguette obsessed, and now re-impassioned French food enthusiast. Bienvenue et bon appétit!


This is a column about eating, learning, and finding out all about French food, culture, and the best places to discover the closest thing to its authentically delicious flavors in New York. Feeling your palette beginning to dawn a shade of blandness ? Check in with us every other week to spark your curiosity in the delectable ! That being said,  Vous aimez vos croissants bien croustillants et vos époisses forts en goût? You’re just absolutely deprived after that glorious semester abroad in this sushi and yoghurt-on the go culture? You’ve never even heard of coq au vin, but Hell, doesn’t that just sound good? Point in case, all food enthusiasts’ welcome !


Now that brings us to the term you’ve been dreading to hear, dare you call yourself a “food-ie”? While right off the bat, I’ve just got to be frank with you– je déteste ce terme de “foodie.” “Foodie” implies an elite club that turns the simple recognition of a daily sensory MIRACLE into a dreaded image of pompous eaters that like the connotations that surround the wine and cheese clan today, are too “high class” for me and full of jerk-like snobbery (both the genre hipster and old-men included). So dear World, please do not do to America’s wonderful young generation growing more and more food-conscientious what you have done to the poor people of the vines, and soon to be cows too. Let’s keep food real and call ourselves “enthusiasts” because as Americans, we’re a little late to this whole art de vivre scene when it comes to loving good food, and it’s about time we just became hungry over food’s amazing quality to inspire our quotidian!

So some guidelines to becoming a good ‘ole “enthusiast”: the simplicity of good food lies in three things: Seasoning, Seasonality, and Simplicity- that is in regards to the crucial aspect of quality ingredients! And personally, being synesthesia-obsessed, I’m going to throw in Aesthetic Artistry of Craft in there, because however much I’ll acknowledge a good boudin (yea seriously google it if you haven’t dared tread the waters of « blood sausage ») does taste strangely good, you’ve got to dash some fleur de sel and speckle some REALLY bright greens on there to disguise that black blob of subconsciously hidden, but oh so really disgusting looking deliciousness before me. As however dubious it may be it’s actually a proven fact that color does influence our perception of taste! (http://www.eufic.org/page/en/page/FAQ/faqid/food-colour-structure-influence-taste/)



But here is where we arrive at our next fundamental issue; who am I to assert all these claims about food? Still working through some late philosophy homework here now, I’ll answer Hume’s jargon-filled Standard of Taste stipulations: What makes you a good critic and can taste be educated? Well, my name is Amelia and I’m also a new transfer student this year at Barnard. Long story short, I took a year off after high-school and went to culinary school in England for a while, did some pastry training in France, and came back and somehow started running my own little odd catering “company” (although let’s just say “lucrative operation” for now in case any Board of Health & Sanitation devotees are lurking in the background). Fortunately, the following year, I was lucky enough to spend my first semester abroad in Dijon, France, la maison de l’escargot, la moutarde, le cassis, et le MEILLEUR vin du monde (my apologies to all Californians reading). Anyways, my time in France, mostly thanks to my formidable host family, changed my whole conception about food and life, and most of all, how passionate I had become about food just through a culture (oh yes, did I mention my motivation in first learning to speak French the year before was mostly so that I could spend a semester EATING in France? Hey, don’t judge ok, food is puissante!). Fast-forward to my phase of one day aspiring to become a cheese-monger, all the way to last Spring when I found myself literally writing my transfer essay about the metaphorical education of “liberal arts through artisanal cheese” et me voila la bienvenue dans la ville de mes rêves, la capitale américaine de la gastronomie! So here’s a quick “taste profile” speed-dating: My last supper would consist of copious amounts of Mont d’or, a good bottle of Nuits Saints George Red année 2009, Belon Oysters, the deepest darkest chocolate hazelnut espresso dacquoise on earth, crispy duck with a huge pot of moutarde à l’ancienne on the side, Serrano ham, King Trumpet mushrooms, and spankin’ pink raw tuna- omg wait I forgot Humbolt Fog Goats Cheese on Polâine bread with lavender honey OF COURSE ! I know, the collected combination probably makes you wants to barf slight, and even in saying it aloud myself am slightly disconcerted- well, welcome to the world’s funkiest palette.


Alright, now before I lose you, here’s my quick “philosophy” on Hume’s second stipulation; educating taste (in the realm of food). Here’s the thing, of course “good food” (well-prepared with quality ingredients) is going to taste good, that’s an innate sensory reaction that we all posses. But, like walking into MOMA and staring at a painting that makes you feel something inside- some sort of emotion, but you just don’t know what or why. Donc, being a cook will help you be able to identify and appreciate ingredients and original stimulating combinations. Secondly, being exposed to a lot of different flavors and good dishes in your life, will ultimately help you get from just Pepperidge Farm, to asking for that brioche bun actually, s’il vous plaît. Thirdly, growing up in an environment that appreciates or places importance on food might make you more prone to love this artistry we forget to classify as an art form often (Fact: The shaping of taste preferences begins in the womb and continues through the rest of our lives. Even Though our ancestors have gathered taste experiences, our own food behavior is rarely mere intake, but rather coupled with emotions, social aspects, and digestive processes that may influence the mere exposure effect (http://www.eufic.org/article/en/health-and-lifestyle/food-choice/artid/how-taste-preferences-develop/). That being said, I am no child of diverse Brooklyn-hipster parents, and sure my mom threw a Greek yoghurt in my lunchbox, but I didn’t grow up particularly obsessed or interested with good food (but to my wonderful mother’s defense, thank-god she never let me buy Fruit Roll-Ups). I’m a cook (leaning more towards aspiring pastry chef/cheesemonger one day!) but I’m no “pro,” and I still haven’t crossed Ethiopian or Kimchi off my list. All I am, is a girl who loves to cook, eat, encourage others to recognize the daily delicious art form we can experience every day, and someone who fell in love with a particular cuisine through a culture where food is life. So here’s the prerequisites guys for French “food-ist” appreciation initiation: To appreciate food- French or not- just please get hungry, in both the literal and figurative sense, to be more conscious of the miraculous in the seemingly mundane, and just maybe why it is so. To be a true enthusiast, is to just be hungry.


Bon, finally this is a blog about French Food, but why so? Because it’s what I love and I know (and am still learning myself!), not because French food ranks high on some stupid “hierarchy” of worldly cuisines. French food has got a Hell of a lot of history, a lot that makes it no better than, but definitely special, among the world’s cuisines, and is more so a living part of culture that so fiercely defines its patriotic roots in the distinctness of its wonderful people, who in turn identified themselves originally by hundreds of years of strongly regional culinary traditions- of which these days will literally they will do anything to protect (heard of the AOC? Google away!). So here we go, a gourmet parisienne et une américaine obsédée par le monde francophone, are here to guide you through the best places to find “authentic” French food in New York (and Paris!), the ins and whimsical details of its food and cultural education, and of course, offer some mouthwatering tips and tricks to recipes, shopping, and finding l’esprit du ventre français in your everyday life. So don’t be afraid- yea, you’re twenty-something and you’re hungry to be enthusiastic about French food.

Bon Appétit à tous !


Check Back in a few days for our first OFFICIAL post on demystifying le “Bistro” and get to know our newly arrived frenchy – you know that one who’s in such a tiff over all the yoghurt she has been eating while walking. 



A.A et J.B


Lost in Translation – France

This summer, I picked up a copy of Julia Child’s “My Life in France.” Engrossed by her tales of fearless cooking, I tried to imagine what it must have been like learning to cook in a foreign country, in a language not your own.  Later, as I was browsing through my cookbook collection this summer, I happened upon the baking book I had picked up in France.  I flipped through, realizing how rusty my French had become, and then my twisted mind thought, what if I tried to use this cookbook without a translation?  Thus, an idea was born: I would try to cook from a foreign language recipe without translating it and just working off my best hunches.  Italian food in Italian, Spanish tapas en español… what have I gotten myself into?

I’ll admit, I went easy on myself for this first foray into cooking sans subtitles.  I decided to try a French recipe, since I’ve taken French in the past.  And what could be more classic than French bread?  It started with a trip to Fairway in the rain – hardly an auspicious kickoff to my adventure.  I looked over the copy of the recipe I brought: numbers one and two on the list of ingredients were farine de seigle and farine blanche.  I knew farine blanche – white flour.  But seigle?  I resisted the urge to google translate, and grabbed a bag of “all-purpose” flour, figuring that all-purpose should cover both blanche and seigleSucre roux I figured was brown sugar, and levure de boulanger déshydratée just had to be yeast.  Overall, aside from the little flour speed bump which I’m sure destroys any credibility I may have among serious bakers, gathering supplies was relatively simple.

I can practically hear the francophones reading this and hollering “RYE!”  Yes, as I later found out, seigle means rye, so the bread I made was more “pillsbury’s finest” than anything French.  Oh well.  To that, I reply with one of the few phrases I can remember: C’est la vie.

Armed with my kitchen scale, since the measurements were all by weight, I set about making a vastly-underprepared mess of myself in my Hartley kitchen.  I squinted at my recipe and ran into the second roadblock in translation: cuil. à café.  I was pretty sure cuil. Was an abbreviation for spoon, but what sort?  Teaspoon?  Tablespoon?  I went with the assumption that teaspoon got translated across the Atlantic into coffee spoon, and hoped for the best.  Next step: “Mélanger de façon à bien amalgamer le tout plus pétrir jusqu’a obtention d’une pâte qui se détache des parois de la casserole…” Ok, so I was lost after mélanger de façon à bien amalgamer, but, undaunted, I kneaded away and then let the ball of dough rest while I went to a lecture.

Two hours later, I returned to a big ball of dough that had “doublé de volume,” so I guess everything worked out all right with the whole mélanger bit.  The recipe called for an oven preheated to 190 degrees Celsius.  I figured that burning down my dorm in a cooking translation experiment wouldn’t exactly endear me to the university; anyways, converting measurements isn’t exactly translation, is it?  So I set the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and popped the whole big boule in the oven to bake.  An hour later my bread emerged from the oven piping hot, apparently solid as a rock, and sporting a large crack along the edge that made it look like an eyeless whale.

After a bit of cooling, my suite-mates and I dug on.  The loaf was actually quite chewy on the inside, reminiscent of an enormous soft pretzel, with just a hint of the sea salt I borrowed from my neighbor.  The crust, however, was extremely thick and crunchy.  I couldn’t decide if this was particularly good bread, but most of it was eaten by the next day, so I’ll mark this attempt as a success.  Nothing was burned, nobody was poisoned, and I never even touched Google translate.  Voila!

Pain de Seigle 

450g de farine de seigle

225 g de farine blanche

un peu plus pour soupoudrer

2 cuil a café de sel

2 cuil a café de sucre roux

1 ½ cuil a café de levure de boulanger déshydratée

425 ml d’eau tiède

2 cuil. a café d’huile, un peu plus pour graisser


  1. Taniser les farines, et le sel danse une jaffe, ajouter le sucre et le levure et mélanger.  Creuser un puits au centre et verser l’huile et l’eau.
  2. Mélanger de façon à bien, amalgamer le tout plus pétrir jusqu’a obtention d’une pâte qui se détache des parois de la casserole.  Pétrir la pate 10 minutes sur un plan de travail farine, jusqu’a ce qu’elle soit homogène et élastique
  3. Enduire d’huile les parois d’une jatte.  Façonner la pate en boule, la mettre et dans la jatte et couvrir.  Laisser lever 2 heures près d’une source de chaleur, jusqu’a ce que la pate ait double de volume.
  4. Huiler une plaque de four.  Pétrir de nouveau la pate 10 minutes sure un plan légèrement farine.
  5. Façonner la pâte en boule, la mettre sur la plaque et couvrir.  Laisser lever encore 40 minutes près dune source de chaleur jusqu’a ce qu’elle ait double de volume.
  6. Pendant ce temps préchauffer le four a 190 degrés C.
  7. Cuire le pain 40 minutes au four préchauffé.
  8. Cuire encore 20 a 30 minutes jusqu’a ce que la croute sait bien dorée.  Transférer sure un grille et laisser refroidir complètement.
  9. Servir

From North to South: A Culinary Exploration of Southern France

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel on an organized trip to Southern France as part of a three-day culinary exploration of the region that included trips to the small Provençal town of Fayence, the city of Nice, and Cannes. Over the course of the long weekend, we sampled no less than twenty bottles of wine, four bottles of olive oil, dozens of fresh baguettes, five cheeses, six types of sausages, and rounded this off with a daily three-course (and three hour long) meal. But perhaps the most incredible part was that all of this food came from the same fifty-mile radius.

The trip was a whirlwind experience, though one that was nevertheless immensely peaceful and valuable. It would be undoubtedly boring, however, to relate the trip to you as an exhaustive list of the activities and experiences. Rather, I want to begin a discussion on the food culture of France, especially in comparison with that of Northern Europe and the United States, two cultures with which I am more familiar. This comparison, I think, will help to illuminate some of the broad differences in food culture between Europe and the United States.


French Food Culture

Like in Danish culture, food plays an important role in French culture. This is, in fact, a theme that seems to pervade Europe, certainly more so than in the United States. Meals are to be a communal experience, and they are not to be hurried. The food is incredibly rich (I had a soup made of what I believe to be pure melted butter, with a slice of melted cheese and a drizzle of olive oil on top), though portions are small and enjoyed very consciously and slowly. It was not uncommon for our meals to last three hours, with ample time between courses to chat, digest, and enjoy the dining experience.

Access to high quality food is also placed at a premium in France. In the United States, we often think of two areas as being particularly deprived of high quality, local food: inner-cities (what some in public health term ‘food deserts’) and very rural areas, which ironically export much of our produce but are left with few fresh products of their own. Having visited both an inner-city area and a rural town in France, however, I was struck by the availability of such food options. Towns both large (like Nice) and small (like Fayence) have daily markets with local venders offering fresh produce, sausage, and cheese (in addition to non-food items like soap or flowers). No neighborhood is without its boulangerie (or three!) where residents can buy inexpensive and high-quality fresh bread and pastries, usually baked only hours before and often still warm from the oven.

A Case Study: Baguettes

It seems to me that baguettes represent a lot of the important characteristics of French food culture. The historical development of baguettes is actually somewhat interesting and enlightening. One of the enlightenment reforms made in France during the late 1700s was to implement labor laws governing the number of hours an employer could ask employees to work, and hours during which this was acceptable. These new restrictions made it difficult for bakers to continue selling their sourdough products, which were very time intensive and involved unlawfully early mornings. French bakers needed a type of bread that they could make somewhat quickly, in order to have products ready for the breakfast rush, but that would still have a distinct and delicious taste. Hence the simple baguette, with its distinctive crunchy outside and soft inside, was born.

Baguettes, though, are fascinating because of their ubiquity in France. It is a common occurrence to see people walking around on the streets with a fresh baguette or two that they have picked up at a local boulangerie. A majority of French people, I have heard, buy baguettes on a daily basis. And so they should–not only are they delicious, but they are inexpensive (around 1 USD each) and go stale quickly, meaning that they must be replaced often.

Baguettes really serve to draw an important distinction between American and French food culture. Baguettes are made fresh with the intention of being consumed in the immediate future. They are inexpensive and available to the masses, and people from all walks of life will gladly wait in line daily for their fresh baguette. They are made from simple ingredients, usually just flour, water, salt, and yeast. The availability of fresh baguettes reflects the larger French cultural value that good food is to be fresh and consumed quickly after preparation, that good food takes time, and that food should be made from simple and high quality ingredients.

In the United States, on the other hand, we have found a different solution to bread. We manufacture vast numbers of bread-shaped sponges, loaded with strange ingredients you can’t pronounce and that will last for weeks on end without becoming noticeably different. We buy these sponges at the supermarket for consumption over a long amount of time. Convenience, then, has taken control of our bread-eating habits, as it has in many other facets of American life.

Baguettes are not nearly as ubiquitous in Denmark; however, there is also a strong reverence for bread in the frigid north. A friend described to me what his host-mom called the ‘Danish Mom Syndrome,’ which is that there must be fresh-baked bread in the house at all times. This reflects, I think, the more general European reverence for fresh food compared to much of the United States.

My trip to Southern France was a wonderful experience, from both a culinary and a life perspective. It has allowed me to better frame the eating traditions to which I have been exposed, and I have come away with a better understanding not only of European food culture, but also of American food culture.

Have you had any similar eye-opening inter-cultural experiences? Tell me about them in the comments!


Postcards from Paris

This week’s Postcard from Paris comes from Yael, who touches on many a subject that crosses the mind of study-abroad students: culture shock, homesickness, a very strong desire for bagels…

In general, my lunch these days consists of a boulangerie sandwich, and there are only three or so options to choose from (I do have quite a thing for those curry chicken sandwiches that are somehow so weirdly Parisian, but that’s another post). Trust me, you can put pretty much anything on a good crusty demi-baguette and I’m a happy girl… but sometimes I just need something different.

In the weeks leading up to our departure, we were warned about the imminent prospect of culture shock. We were told that we would be unable to understand the customs of the French at first, and that we should go eat American food or watch a movie in English if we were feeling too country-sick. Well, I have yet to experience this sudden desire to go back to the world of hamburgers and greasy, inauthentic Chinese food… but I’ll fake some culture shock any day if it means I have an excuse to eat at Bagels & Brownies.

Yes, you read that right. There are two categories of students in the Columbia-Penn Program in Paris at Reid Hall—the first group, when I say I got lunch at Bagels & Brownies, responds with “Huh? What’s that?” and the second group responds with something along the lines of “OMG THAT PLACE IS SO GOOD.” Continue reading Postcards from Paris