Even though there is a boulangerie or patisserie on practically every corner in Paris, some pastries require extra effort to find. Kouglof, notably the bes
t kouglof in Paris at Boulangerie Vandermeersch, is one of them. Barely within the city limits, getting one’s hands on one of Vandermeersch’s fantastic kouglofs is a bit of a production. For me, it entailed an hour-and-a-half-long ride in the metro, but it was more than worth the trip.
To explain, kouglof is a buttery, yeasted cake studded with dried fruits and hazelnuts. Then the cake is then soaked in sugar-syrup and rolled in granulated sugar. Notwithstanding all the sugar-talk, this cake is not overly sweet, making it perfect for breakfast. The yeasty richness of the cake paired with the crunchy hazlenuts, chewy dried fruits and crispy sugary coating — absolutley sublime!
Unfortunately, kouglof is impossible to find in New York, but a comparable substitute is a really good (artisanal if possible) Italian pannetone, a similar yeasted cake sans sugar glaze. Eataly has some good ones. But honestly, even a stellar pannetone falls short of Vandermeersch’s kouglof.
So you’ll just have to come here and get one. It’s totally worth the $1,000 plus in airfare.
Transitioning from NYC, where one has access to pretty much anything at any hour of the day, to Paris, where nothing ever seems to be open when you need it, has been a bit of a challenge. While there may some logic to the fact that most restaurants take Mondays off instead of a profitable Saturday or Sunday, I have yet to find ANY sense in the fact that French banks are closed for three hours during the middle of each day when you actually have time to run to the bank during a lunch break. Not to mention that the bank is also closed ALL DAY on Mondays — I mean, seriously? And Sundays, pretty much EVERYTHING shuts down in this town. You fell sick with the flu on a Sunday? Get ready to suffer since any and all pharamcies are closed.
Thankfully, about half of the bakeries and patisseries in Paris are open on Sundays. So instead of my usual ritual of Sunday brunch that I have in NYC, I go out for sweets. Chocolat chaud à l’ancienne, Paris-Brest, Mille-Feuille…n’importe quoi! Sundays are about sugar, baby! Continue reading Postcards from Paris: La Péché d’Adam→
Kelcey sends this week’s Postcard from Paris-a review and description of a simple, almond sweet that’s sure to fulfill your snack needs.
When I think about French pastries, most of the time my mind goes to the most complex, intricate and outrageous cakes and sweets possible. At about three in the afternoon, when my brain has maxed out on the amount of French it can produce in one day, my mind drifts to towers of chocolate, praline, meringue and chantilly cream. But one day, when I passed by Blé Sucré, a bakery known for its classic financier, I decided to go for simplicity for my sugar fix.
Blé Sucré’s financier are absolutely delicious. Made with a good amount of almond flour and LOTS of butter, these little tea cakes are super moist and rich. However, thanks to the almond flour, a pleasant nuttiness and comes through as well. But Blé Sucré goes even further by giving their financiers a light, sugar glaze, sealing in even more moisture and creating a slightly crunchy, sweet shell that contrasts ever-so-nicely with the soft interior. Continue reading Postcards from Paris : Financier→
Kelcey achieves a gold star worthy achievement in the Culinary world: making her own macarons. Notoriously complicated and time-consuming, Kelcey’s story and pictures and recipe lead the way.
I’m a pretty lucky girl. For one, I’m in Paris. Two, I’m not working, interning, or bombarded with extra-curriculars. Third, I am surrounded at all times by amazing food. And finally, my study-abroad program organizes things like macaron-making classes for us, which is exactly where I found myself last Tuesday morning at 10 AM – in a professional kitchen learning to make macaron from an expert French baker. Does life get any sweeter?
Considering I don’t think of myself as a baker in ANY respect – my baking comfort zone doesn’t go much further than banana bread and brownies – the fact that I not only made macaron but made REALLY FREAKING GOOD macaron was awesome. And my macaron even had feet. “Feet ,” in macaron language, refers to the little bubbly looking portion of the shell immediately below the smooth top that indicates you achieved the perfect whipped consistency in your batter to make the cookie rise ever so delicately, as opposed to puffing up like a soufflé or spilling out all over the cookie-sheet. Never in my life have I been so excited about “feet” in my whole life. Except maybe after a really good pedicure. Continue reading Postcards from Paris : Macaron à la main→
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→
Last week the city of Paris sponsored a food festival throughout the city called “Heures Heureuses” — which literally translates to “Happy Hours.” The premise was simple: get 100+ restaurants in Paris to offer small amuses-bouches at 2 Euros a piece and organize suggested tours in different neighborhoods in order to explore the maximum amount of tasty morsels possible. What a great idea, yes. In theory, absolutely.
In practice, a fail.
My roomate Kelly and I thought the “Heures Heureuses” would be a great way to explore a plethora of culinary offerings, pas cher (not expensive). Furthermore, it would be a great celebration of our 1 month “anniversary” since touching down in Paris. So off we set, to the 15th arrondissement.
We had 5-6 places on our list to try, the first being a small brasserie offering seared foie-gras over a speculous scented toast. Problem: there was not even one open seat in the restaurant. Strike 1. Next restaurant, closed, even though there was a poster hanging in the windown stating how excited they were to be participating with “Heures Heureuses.” Strike 2. At this point, we had walked almost 2 km, it was approaching 9 PM and I was hungry enough to chew my arm off. But the perseverent Kelly convinced me to give it a 3rd try — 3 strikes and you’re out kind of thing. So we picked a random restaurant on the list, calle d Le Brasier, and set off.
Yael continues from Kelcey’s postcard last week and takes us on an adventure of the expensive but delicious delight of duck confit. The beautiful photo is courtesy of the bloggers at Gastronomy Blog.
Full disclosure: I was this close to writing about Jacques Genin. I mean, Kelcey’s post last week didn’t touch on the best tarte au citron I’ve ever eaten (and it’s a favorite of mine; I’ve eaten a lot of them) or the walnut tart filled with gooey, buttery caramel, or any of Genin’s transcendental candy confections. But I figured you probably didn’t want to hear about the same patisserie again, so I’ll move on. Topic of the day: Duck Confit.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the culinary miracle known as confit de canard, I’m going to warn you that you might gain a couple pounds just by reading about it. Essentially, the leg of the duck is salt-cured for a day or so and then placed in a low-temp oven to slowly (4-10 hours slowly, according to Wikipedia) poach in it’s own fat. And whoever has been served a sliced duck breast knows that these birds have no shortage of natural padding. The entire, half-inch-thick layer of fat just melts away, soaking into the meat and making it taste like nothing you have ever eaten before.
Kelcey and I had both read about Joséphine “Chez Dumonet,” a bistro located, as luck would have it, not far from our program base at Reid Hall in the 6th arrondissement. Sometimes an inspiring meal can turn an ordinary Friday into an extraordinary one, and that’s what happened when we decided to walk over there after class.
Kelcey begins our first Study Abroad correspondence series with POSTCARDS FROM PARIS. This series will be on Wednesdays, alternating between Kelcey and fellow Culinarian Yael, exploring French culture and food.
No one does pastry like the French. Maybe it’s the quality of the ingredients: pastry chefs here are exetrmely fastidious about sourcing only the most pristine, unblemished fruits, and the purest chocolate. Even the fat-percentage of French butter is higher than others (and, oh, is the butter here good). But in my opinion, perhaps the most important reason French pastry is in a whole other stratosphere is because pastry chefs really do live and breathe pastry. Their shops are more than a source of livelihood: they are direct reflections of their art. So it was no surprise that when Yael (a fellow Culinarian in Paris) and I went to Jacques Genin yesterday to try his famed Paris-Brest, Monsieur Genin himself was running around his beautiful, perfectly decorated and organized shop, speaking with customers and making sure that everything was in order.
M. Genin first gained fame as a master confectioner, making chocolates, fruit candies and caramels for the best restaurants in Paris. Now, with his own fame superceding his confectionary skills, he has opened his own store, complete with seating if you wish to linger over a miraculously perfect pastry for an hour or two. But M. Genin’s store is definitley a place to sit and linger quietly. There was no music playing in the store, most people sat reading at their tables, and if people were speaking, it was very hushed. So Yael and I did feel a little out of place, but soon found our way to a table and placed our order, almost in a whsiper. It felt almost formal, like the fine-dining expereince of pastry (think Lady M on the Upper West Side but about 100 times more formal). So although I usually have no qualms about photographing pastry especially, I didn’t have the guts to do it. So many thanks to the fabulous Mr. David Leibovitz for providing this picture (after the break) of the Paris-Brest (who at least is a personal friend of M. Genin and gets permission to photograph).