Using French Skincare in California

A Californian in Paris: French Skincare on a California Beach

A Californian in Paris: Sunbathing in Orange County

beach-orange-county-2

beach-orange-county-3

Happy that I finally got my dose of sun (as well as a nice tan), I’d like to share with you the products I’ve been using to keep my skin nice as it transitions from ghastly Parisian pale to a nice Californian bronze. It’s very important to keep your skin protected from the sun, no matter how much you want to keep laying outside. It doesn’t mean you have to tame your desire for nicely golden skin. But you’ve got to be smart when it comes to shielding yourself from the damaging effects of sun burns, dry skin, and worst of all– potential skin cancer.

As a general rule, you want to put your sunscreen on at least 15 minutes before going into the sun. You may also need to put on several layers of sunscreen. It’s no question that you need to keep reapplying your sunscreen every hour or two, depending on your contact with water. Always double check your products’ directions and follow them exactly.

La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Comfort 50+ SPF For Sensitive and Sun Intolerant Skin (UVB + UVA protection)

Last summer, Petit Copain and I got madly burnt in San Diego. As a brown-skinned person, I rarely burn like a lobster. However, after spending 4 hours in the sun without properly putting on sunscreen, I became terribly sunburnt. I couldn’t sit down for a week or two without being in severe pain. Yeah. This dreadful sunburn happened because it was my first time using a spray-on sunscreen. I didn’t bother reapplying it throughout the day nor did I apply it properly the first time. If you are using spray-on sunscreens, you MUST put on many layers as well as rub the formula into your skin. Petit Copain and I unfortunately didn’t get understand this, and had nice little zig-zag patterns all over our bodies (lobster-zebras!)

Ever since that incident, I have stayed away from spray-ons and have gone back to classic sunscreen lotions. More moisturizing and soothing, I prefer the feel of creams. You also avoid breathing in the fumes of spray-on sunscreens. The problem with creams is that the texture can be extremely chalky or sticky, which is very unpleasant in the sand. La Roche Posay, a very notable brand for sunscreen care (and one of my favs), came to my rescue. Not only was the Anthelios XL successful in preventing sunburns, it was extremely moisturizing without leaving such a heavy residue. At first, the cream is very thick to put on but quickly absorbs into the skin. It also didn’t leave a white, chalky residue and I got my tan without looking like a painted ghost. In 100F/38C weather, I did not get burnt. A solid victory for me.

I think Target now sells some versions of Anthelios and you should definitely grab some if you can. Double check if these American versions contain the UVB + UVA protection formula; otherwise, I can’t guarantee the different versions will be as effective as the originals.

As I’ve said in the beginning of the post, keep reapplying the sunscreen and make sure to let your skin absorb the cream before stepping out into the sun again.

La Roche Posay Anthelios AC Facial Matte Fluid SPF 30

Perfect for the face, this matte sunscreen won’t make your visage super shiny or greasy. If 30 isn’t enough for you, the AC line does have higher SPFs available. I love this sunscreen as it’s way cheaper than the Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42 (also an amazing product). The La Roche Posay version comes out like a liquid and quickly dries onto your skin as you apply it. It’s great to put under or over makeup. I usually use this La Roche Posay cream for sunscreen reapplication throughout the day. The Shiseido sunscreen, which I also love, does make your face quite chalky looking. La Roche Posay does not, making it a very superior product. Nevertheless, most of Shiseido’s products are zinc oxide-based, which helps out people who are allergic to common sunscreen ingredients (hence, the chalkiness). If you’re looking for French mineral-based sunscreens, La Roche Posay does carry some in their Anthelios line.

Avène Hydrance Optimale UV Légère SPF 20

This is my daily facial sunscreen and moisturizer in one. As you have read from my previous post on French skincare, I usually use the Riche version during the winter. This légère version has a lighter cream of course, but it still keeps my face properly moisturized. When it’s extremely hot, I apply the La Roche Posay Anthelios Matte Fluid sunscreen over the course of the day. I find that reapplying the Avène (either type) is a little too greasy for me, as it is a 2-in-1 product after all. Still, it’s a nice base and I highly recommend this product for daily use.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré

I have a love and hate relationship with Embryolisse. As popular as it is, I find that it can lead to pesky pimples and greasy faces. At least for me, it’s not meant to be applied every day. However, Embryolisse has saved my dehydrated skin many times. It’s a great moisturizer (but does not contain sunscreen) and you should keep some in your purse for emergencies. I’d recommend using it once or twice a week, or when your skin is very ravaged from being dried up in the sun. Embryolisse is a very heavy cream, so make sure not to use more than a small squeeze or two. I use this cream during the night, after a day of successful sunbathing.

Merci Handy Chill Out Love & Refreshing Face Mist in Mint

At first, I hated this product. A sample from one of my French Birchboxes, I was very confused to receive a mint-smelling facial spray. Mint isn’t exactly a scent/flavor I like… unless it’s ground-up in a Mojito. My first application wasn’t so charming either… breathing in the product while you spray it leads to a nasty coughing fit, full of mint. But a hot day on Paris completely changed my mind. Closing my eyes and holding my breath, I found out how extremely refreshing and cooling the spray is. Mint does wonders to soothe a sweaty and uncomfortable face (it’s also nice on the neck and arms). While I still love my Avène and Evian thermal sprays, the Mercy Handy Face Mist is a great way to cool down in the summer heat.

L’Occitane Amande Mains à Croquer (Almond Delicious Hands) Hand Cream

Who doesn’t have a tube of L’Occitane hand cream in their purse? Don’t fret if you’re an exception. Quickly go out and buy some now. Compact, with a spill-proof, easy-to-open cap, I love this hand cream. Almond is one of my favorite flavors/scents; it is also extremely moisturizing. It was great having this in my purse while traveling around L.A. My hands became very dry in the sand as well as on biking excursions along the beach. A must-have.

Labello Strawberry Shine Lip Balm

Before coming to France, I heard so much raving about this lip balm from a former, beloved roommate. Sadly, upon my arrival to Paris, I totally forgot the name. After trying numerous chapsticks, I finally found Labello. It was my destiny. An extremely moisturizing lip balm, I have completely abandoned Burt’s Bees for Labello. While the menthol cool of Burt’s Bees has always been a nice feel to my lips, I much prefer how beautifully plump and soft my lips are when using Labello. This pleasant scent and shine is a perfect summer companion. The color blends naturally with my lips and also features little scrubby, glittery beads which adds shine as well as exfoliation. Kinda like rubbing your lips on an actual strawberry. Buy it now!

La Roche Posay Posthelios After-Sun Face and Body Cream (not pictured)

Another reason why I didn’t get horribly sunburnt this summer is due to this special after-tanning cream. It’s so soothing, I want to use it every day as a body lotion. Petit Copain ended up being a lobster towards the end of our trip, as he kept forgetting to reapply sunscreen after his long dips in the ocean. It eased the pain of his sunburns and prevented major peeling on his back. While I wasn’t terribly sunburnt this time around, the cream seemed to reinvigorate and rehydrate my sun-baked skin. I highly recommend this product even if you don’t easily burn. It’s like adding a whole other layer of protection on your skin.

Well, that’s all for now. Enjoy the sun, readers, and keep yourself safe!

À bientôt 🙂

California Swag

A Californian in Paris: Welcome Home Burrito

Whenever I come back home, the first thing I crave is either a giant burrito or Panda Express. The former is more explainable, the latter… hey, I freakin’ love their orange chicken. For some reason, Chinese food isn’t really celebrated in Paris. You have a lot of French-Chinese running Japanese restaurants instead of serving their own delicious cuisine. Then again, Panda Express isn’t truly Chinese either.

Another tragedy in Paris is the lack of authentic and delicious Mexican food. Luckily, I have relieved my pain and suffering with the above photo.

My family lives in a small suburb close to Los Angeles. Whenever they pick me up from the airport, we always get to cruise along the famous 1 freeway on the way home. Many people think the 1 goes all the way up the California coast— but this isn’t exactly true (especially going toward San Francisco… you’ll eventually have to continue on the 101). But the 1 is very scenic where it starts along the coast in Los Angeles.

Once I got out of the terror that was LAX border control, I felt so free. Warm weather accompanied warm faces. I was so happy to be home, but being away for so long, it was hard to switch back into English. I kept saying pardon and excusez-moi, even bonjour to my mom. I don’t use contractions when teaching English to my French students (or use them at all in France), so I had to adjust to speaking casually again. My mom even told me I now have a slight French accent when speaking English 😛

Our ride home was crazy beautiful classic California. Passing through Malibu and all the state beaches… seeing the Pacific again…. Smelling ocean air. We picked up fresh picked strawberries by the fields. I am in love with L.A. all over again.

A Californian in Paris: California Strawberries

I’ve never been good with jet lag, so I’ve been cursed with waking up and sleeping during strange hours, but it’s been getting better. My family and I went to Santa Monica the other day to get our shopping on at Mitsuwa, a famous Japanese market chain in California.

A Californian in Paris: Calpico Ice Cream Cone Cookies

Calpico Ice Cream Cone shaped cookies

California is lucky to have such a melting pot of beautiful cultures AND amazing food. The best foods are always a fusion of different cultures.

A Californian in Paris: Santa Monica Mitsuwa Haul

The little pink circle candies also turn into whistles- my favorite treat as a child.

At Mitsuwa, I also discovered some delightful Japanese mushrooms that I’ll be playing with in the next post. Maybe adding them with some noodles and tofu? Or marinating the mushrooms alone with Japanese ponzu sauce, and adding green onions and toasted sesame seeds on top? Or I could add a little Mexican inspiration here with jalapenos?

A Californian in Paris: Japanese Mushrooms

For my French readers, I’ll have to create a must-do list for summer adventures in L.A., including what to bring from the U.S. to France. You can load up on Cheetos (trust me, mes amis, don’t distrust the fake bright cheese color… these chips are scandalously addictive). However, I advise you to also take advantage of the melting pot that is America. For my first recommendation (or second… if you first go toward Mexican food like I did), I’d look into our Japanese-American culture (like Mitsuwa Market or Little Tokyo in Downtown L.A.) and the products available in Southern California.

A Californian in Paris: Royce Chocolates

For example, these outrageously delicious Japanese chocolates! They are a must. These Royce chocolates are on par with… maybe better than… the chocolate I’ve had in Europe. My favorite French chocolatier is Jacques Genin (I also adore Jean-Paul Hévin), but you know what, they’ve got some fierce competition with Royce. Royce chocolates have an international reputation for impeccable sugary delights, customer service, and cute af packaging.

A Californian in Paris: Royce Chocolate Packing

The box even came with its own little ice pack.

The chocolate was melt-in-your-mouth divine. We also bought some mochi (Raspberry Mille-Feuille, Green Tea, Peach Yogurt), but alas… They didn’t last long because they were too delicious not to devour immediately. All of my readers must at least try the Royce mochi, if not the chocolate.

The chocolate is a bit pricey (one box was $18 + tax), but understandably so. Just the experience alone of seeing the chocolates get wrapped and then unwrapping them by yourself later is so worth the price, if not more for the chocolates themselves.

A Californian in Paris: Royce Chocolate Packing

And it comes with a tiny spatula.

A Californian in Paris: Eat Royce Chocolate

In-cred-i-ble…. or as we say in French, incroyable (enh-croy-a-bleh)!

There were many flavors to choose from, but I wanted to try the mild chocolate as a contrast to the dark chocolate I’d been gobbling up under the dark grey skies of Paris… bittersweet, just like the current state of the city! As the weather in Paris continues to be dreadful, I’ve been rejoicing in the sun. But I shouldn’t brag… I’m ghastly pale next to my own mother, who has always been the palest one in my family. Tomorrow, you’ll find me tanning on the beach. It’ll be a nice 82F/28C day.

Until next time!

A Moveable Feast… Away From the Seine

A Californian in Paris: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

In Paris, we had a wonderful week of hot sun and picnics and afterward, four weeks of complete misery. Rain and the grey skies dominate Paris these days. Worst of all is the climbing water of the Seine, which threatens homes and metro stations. The roads by the Seine are completely flooded, causing terrible traffic jams within the city. This comes along with the several transportation strikes in Paris that are affecting RER trains as well as other trains to the suburbs. Many say the waters will slowly lower and so far, it has. Sadly, other areas in France were devastated by flooding. We’re wishing for the sun to reappear soon and for these cities to recover. As for the transport strikes, I’m not sure what is going to happen. France has made major changes to labor laws and if you’re interested in following up on the subject, read on here. If you’re coming to France soon and plan to take the RER B train from the airport, double check the RATP website (the official Paris transportation operator). You can always take a taxi or an Uber. IMPORTANT: A law has passed requiring all taxis and private drivers to charge a fixed rate for airport travel. This does not include Beauvais or the other smaller airports.

30 euros – Orly airport to and from the left bank of the Seine

35 euros – Orly airport to and from the right bank

45 euros* CDG to and from the right bank

50 euros* CDG to and from left bank

*There may be a 5 euro increase for tourist season but you should not pay any higher than 5 euros more on top of these prices listed above. Also, you may tip your driver if you wish, but it’s not necessary. One or two euros will do it.. five for excellent service, but not more than that, my friendly fellow Americans!

A Californian in Paris: Blood Oranges

I always complain about the weather in my posts but I think with this horrible flooding and raining, I can justify it just a little bit. I finally borrowed a light therapy lamp from a fellow Anglophone friend. I was expecting warm looking sunlight or maybe an array of lights… like a moody disco ball. Instead, when I turned on the lamp, I nearly got blinded by a hot, bright UV white. At first I was disappointed, but while working at my home office my mood definitely brightened. I felt a bit more stimulated… reminiscent of California. Maybe it’s also the fact that I’ll be visiting my home in Los Angeles next week!

A Californian in Paris: Blood Oranges

blood-orange-cut

While I dream about sunshine, beaches, and tacos, I’m also stressed out about finding gifts for family and friends. I’ll be writing a post soon about some suggestions on finding great but affordable gifts from France. I’ve got to catch up on this blog… I have so many posts about France and Italy that have yet to appear. I’m running out of space on WordPress, mostly because I’m a selfish photographer and refuse to resize or reduce the resolution of my images… I know, I know… I must do it and I know that I can preserve the quality of the photos at a smaller size. What can I say? I’m a purist. What is most important though is that I’ll be moving to my own domain soon so that I’ll be able to host my own images (at the right resolution, yes yes yes…) and hopefully develop this little project of mine. The trouble is that I just can’t come up with a better name! My blog is already called “A Californian in Paris” but it’s not unique enough… or rather, it doesn’t fully encompass what I’m doing on this blog or who I am. If you have any ideas, please let me know!

blood-orange-zest

A Californian in Paris: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

This post was a long time coming. Before sharing this recipe with you, I had baked five of these babies already. But let me tell you, the first attempt was a ridiculous disaster. The cake rises a lot so make sure you have a lot of room in the cake pan (at least 2 or 3 inches) to let the batter rise. Otherwise, you’ll get a bunch of burnt batter on the bottom of your oven and a nasty smokey taste lingering over your cake.

A Californian in Paris: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

The cake is moist because of the olive oil, but not greasy. The candied blood orange slices alongside its syrup is a wonderful companion (and maybe a dollop of crème fraîche on the side for us gluttons). Since I’ve made it so many times, friends and family have fallen in love with my cake. Blood oranges are unfortunately going out of season in France now (I no longer see them at the markets). The last ones we found were imported from Sicily and had a divinely sweet but tart taste. However, you lucky Americans may still find these jewels at a specialty market. You can also substitute blood oranges with regular oranges and enjoy similar results: a moist, citrous-y cake, light on the tongue.

A Californian in Paris: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

For this cake, I don’t believe you need to use fancy olive oil. Though if you can find an affordable oil that would pair excellently with citrus, let me know!

Now, onto the cake…

Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

some unsalted butter to grease the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp of coarse salt

2 large eggs

2 cups of granulated sugar

2-3 tbsp blood orange zest (the more, the better)

3/4 cup of freshly squeezed blood orange juice

3/4 cup of olive oil

10-12 thin slices of blood orange

2 1/2 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 cup honey

1-2 cinnamon sticks

parchment or wax paper

1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In another bowl, combine the juice, zest, and olive oil. Stir well.

4. Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, lightly beat the eggs together for about 1 minute or less. Do not over-beat. Gradually add the sugar in.

5. Once the liquid is a nice pale yellow, slowly, in turns, add the flour and juice/zest/olive oil mixture. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrap the sides of the mixer and make sure there are no hidden chunks of flour. Mix again for another 30 seconds. Again, I must stress that you do not over-beat the batter.

6. In a greased cake pan, pour the mixture in. Make sure you have at least 2-3 inches of space on top as the cake will rise a lot in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes (or until your fork comes out clean after piercing the center) and then turn off the heat. Leave the cake in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until its top develops a nice, deep golden brown. Leaving it in the oven to gradually cool also helps the shrinkage that may happen because of how moist the olive oil cake is. Don’t leave it in too long or you’ll get an overbaked cake.

7. While you’re cooking the cake, you may begin preparing the blood orange slices. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, cut oranges into thin slices and discard the ends. It is important to make several pieces if a few of the slices don’t turn out so nice after the cooking progress. The leftovers also make a great snack 😉

8. In a small pot, bring to boil the water, sugar, honey, and cinnamon sticks. Add in the slices and let boil for one or two minutes. Afterward, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cook your blood orange slices for 30-40 minutes, until rinds are somewhat translucent.

9. Carefully place the slices with tongs on parchment or wax paper. Let cool. Continue letting the syrup cook for another 10 minutes, until reduced. Set aside syrup for serving.

10. Once the blood orange slices have cooled, carefully peel them from the paper and lay them on top of the cake. When serving the cake, drizzle the remaining syrup on top.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful dessert 🙂 Bon app! Until next time. À bientôt!

10 Favorite Things for Spring in Paris

A Californian in Paris: Paris in the Spring

A Californian in Paris: Cool down at a brasserie

A Californian in Paris: Place des Vosges

Finally, the sun is out and Parisians are in a better mood (well, slightly better). Here are some things I’m enjoying during spring here that I hope you’ll find fun too.

1. Photography at Jeu de Paume

Jeu de Paume is a cute little museum in the back of the Tuileries garden (Métro Concorde). A museum dedicated solely to photography exhibitions, you’ll catch amazing work by artists such as Garry Winogrand or Robert Adams. Like many museums in Paris, it’s free on the first Sunday of every month. This quaint but enriching museum is a must-see that many tourists seem to pass over. Their current exhibition is on Helena Almeida Corpus and I highly suggest you get over there before it’s over on May 22nd.

2. Walks in the Jardin des Plantes

A Californian in Paris: A walk in the Jardin des Plantes

A Californian in Paris: Enjoy the spring blooms at Jardin des Plantes

Leaves on the trees on Paris are finally appearing and underneath them, beautiful, colorful blooming flowers. There are many museums on the grounds of Jardin des Plantes (most notably the Grande Galerie d’Évolution and the Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie). You may want to also check out the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie, which I haven’t personally visited yet but it’s on my to-do list ASAP.

3. Discovering new products with Birchbox France

A Californian in Paris: I love Birchbox France!

Ever since subscribing to Birchbox France, my life has become very exciting. Not only have I been practicing my French by writing reviews for products, I just absolutely love what Birchbox has sent me so far for the past 4 months. If you’re staying in France for a while, I highly suggest subscribing. There’s also My Little Box, another amazing monthly subscription box that many Parisian girls are obsessed with.

4. A romantic date at Aux Deux Cygnes

The intimate setting at Aux Deux Cygnes keeps me coming back for more. Their appetizers are delicious, service is great, and most importantly, the wine is to die for. Mostly bio (organic) wine and beer, Aux Deux Cygnes offers an amazing palate of drinks and small dishes. My personal favorite is their organic cider… not too sweet and strong enough.

5. Eating out at Le Camion Qui Fume food truck and then catching a movie at MK2 Bibliotèque

Mon Petit Copain and I love coming to the MK2 Bibliotèque for a date. Le Camion Qui Fume is a very well known food truck in Paris. With lots of different gourmet hamburgers (including a “California” themed chicken burger) and kick-ass fries, you can’t go wrong here. This is probably my second favorite burger place of all time (In-N-Out being number one, duh!). MK2 Bibliotèque is also my favorite movie theater to go to. Its spacious, roomy bright red seats make movie watching more comfortable than my own couch (ok… almost) and you can even lift up the arms of the chairs so you can snuggle with that special someone.

6. Bike riding and/or renting at boat at the Bois de Vincennes

A Californian in Paris: Go biking riding in the woods at Bois de Vincennes

Bois de Vincennes is a park friendly to sad people like me who can’t bike well. With many paths and no cars to threaten you, take that vélib and speed away. Many Parisians come here to picnic and spend all day on the grass if the sun decides to show itself. There is also a huge lake in the center of the park where you can rent a rowboat by the hour. Let your boyfriend row you in a boat while you hold a parasol. Oh wait… that’s my fantasy.

7. Lazy days ordering from Take Eat Easy

On days when I’m finally not working and I can’t get out of my PJ’s, I log onto Take Eat Easy (a French-made pun on the English word for “it”). In France, it’s not okay to go outside wearing anything less than your best (and that includes your pajamas, ladies). Take Eat Easy is a take out service for many of the hip restos (restaurant for short), delivered to your apartment by a skinny hipster Parisian on a bike. It’s pretty fast and reliable. I constantly order sandwiches from delicious Banh Mi (81 rue de Turbigo) on the site. Get the beef sandwich… it’s to die for!

8. A special magnolia and unique bag from the original Chanel store

My mom finally visited me for the first time in February. Because it was her first time in Paris (Europe in general), I had to make her dreams come true. We visited the original Chanel store (address) and it was amazing. The flagship store sells its full line of expensive Chanel products, but they also sell makeup… much more affordable than a Chanel purse! If you buy even just a lipstick, you’re awarded the rare white Chanel shopping bag (all other Chanel stores use black) along with a cute paper magnolia flower attached. While at the shop, I picked up an amazing eau de toilette perfect for spring: the Chanel Gardénia spray. It was a bit of a splurge (about 140 euro) but totally worth the smell and experience (excellent service). Get over there at 31 Rue Cambon, 75001 Paris.

9. Satisfying your homesickness (and sweet tooth) at Sugarplum Cake Shop

An American bakery in France? It’s so popular, French locals crowd the tables. If you’re lucky, you can nab a spot and work on your laptop while munching on delicious American pastries and cake (oh my god, American cake I love you) as well as fragrant teas or coffees. While you’re at it, go down Rue Mouffetard and explore the busy but famous street— a market by day and party central at night.

10. Have an affordable but traditional meal at Au Pied de Fouet

I love taking visitors to this restaurant. It is seriously divine… not just for your taste buds, but also for your wallet. Enjoy traditional French brasserie meals at very generous prices. The service isn’t American, so you must be prepared to cram next to complete strangers or signal down your evasive waitress for the check. Still, the food is excellent (most notably the confit de canard) and the wine of the month is usually 10-14 euros- extraordinary for the price. Come eat outside on the terrace and enjoy the warmer weather.

A Californian in Paris: A small park in the Marais

A Californian in Paris: Woman painting in the Marais

A Californian in Paris: Hidden details in the Marais

Well, that’s it for now. Until next time. À bientôt!

Our Last Meal of Winter

A Californian in Paris rejoices for spring.

Spring has officially started, but it’s still a moody grey here. However, we’ve noticed the ambience in Paris is a little more cheery, the sun shines brightly on some days, and we’re all getting ready for warmer weather. I’m starting to believe my mood is really affected by the very grey Parisian days. One day, Petit Copain and I would like to move south to where it’s warmer and brighter. But for now, I will have to embrace the cloudy days and probably buy a light therapy lamp. Well, not probably. That darn lamp is on my official to-do list. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

As for our first apartment, it’s still in the works. Our kitchen is great, but since we still have grey days, I don’t have much natural light for my photos. I’m working on creating makeshift studio light… but getting all the materials is an adventure in itself. If you’ve ever been to one of the bricolage stores in Paris, you’ll know it’s definitely a vocabulary lesson, even for those who have mastered French.

Everything takes a long time in France. From ordering your washing machine (5 weeks) to waiting for your doctor’s secretary to call you back (1 month and going). While it’s crazy frustrating, you learn to live with it here. The key to living in France is having a lot of patience. Despite the lackadaisical customer service, I love my life here and I especially love it with Petit Copain. For Christmas, he gave me a beautiful diamond promise ring. It is a simple ring (just like I wanted) that I put on my middle finger. Things are going very well in our cute Parisian apartment. Many have asked me if my ring is an engagement ring… well, not yet! But this is a surprise I will happily wait for.

We’ve been eating well now that we’re in a private space together. And now I present to you, Petit Copain’s newest favorite, Osso Bucco.

A Californian in Paris cooks Osso Bucco.

I usually don’t care for recipes that take longer than 1 hour to cook. However, I wanted to test my limits after staring longingly at this cut of meat at the farmer’s market. Osso Bucco is a traditional Italian dish made with veal shanks. It takes about 4.5-5 hours to cook. Before you get scared, preparation is about 45 minutes to 1 hr. So technically the hardest part is just waiting for this delicious dish to be finished.

A Californian in Paris is obsessed with her Le Creuset.

Another gift that Petit Copain bestowed to me is my beloved Le Creuset pot. I was so torn between Le Creuset and Staub, but ultimately picked Le Creuset. My mom loves this brand as well. It’s durable, long lasting, and gorgeously made. My Le Creuset was on sale during the soldes and we got it at a very good price (at least 120 euros off). I will have to write a post about how to shop the soldes. You must know I love a good deal.

vegetables-osso-bucco

A Californian in Paris cooks Osso Bucco.

My recipe is not so traditional. I’ve mostly based it off this recipe from the lovely blog, Taste of Divine. Please visit the blog and look at other great recipes you may want to try 🙂

A Californian in Paris makes Osso Bucco.

There are three things you must pay attention to when cooking this recipe. For the veal shanks, you’ll want to get ones with the most marrow. This will give your sauce great flavor. The trick is stuffing all the meat into your pot because you are a greedy glutton (or Petit Copain will eat it all). Secondly, you must watch how much salt goes into the recipe. Since it’s simmering into a thick sauce for 4 hours, you don’t want your salt to be overly concentrated. Also, you must decide what kind of texture you’d like with the vegetables. I tried completely dicing everything, but hated the texture. Instead, I’ve made the carrots and onions more chunky. Also, I discovered that I didn’t like the celery… but I’ve added it here for you to decide if you want to add it or not.

veggies-pot-osso-bucco

Spring calls for lighter foods, but who cares? One last big pot of simmering sauce and chunky meat just for you.

sautee-osso-bucco

The recipe makes the whole entire apartment smell like heaven. Petit Copain will repeatedly ask when it will be ready. I ask the same question but only I get the pleasure of tasting the dish as it slowly cooks down, checking the flavors.

pot-osso-bucco

Just look at this. Don’t you want to press forward a few hours and eat this RIGHT NOW?

osso-bucco-final

And here is the final product, 4+ hours later… SO GOOD.

Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco usually calls for covering the meat in flour or using white wine. I didn’t like any of those options, but you may want to try those out. I found dry red wine to be the tastiest.

Ingredients

  • 3 veal shanks (pick the ones with the most marrow)
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 bouquet garni (fresh thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf)
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cups of dry red wine (try something from Bordeaux or Bourgogne)
  • 3 large tbsps of tomato paste
  • 4 cups of low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup canned plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Pat the meat dry and bring to room temperature. Lightly season the meat with salt and pepper. Make sure to especially rub the bone and marrow. Do not oversalt.
  2. Place fresh herbs into a cheesecloth and tie with twine. As you can tell in my pictures, I did not do this. I highly recommend this step, as boiled thyme stalks aren’t tasty.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large dutch oven. Get that pot very hot. Sear the meat, 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from pot. Lower temperature to medium heat.
  4. Using the same pot, add an extra tbsp of olive and put in the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sautée until softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add in the wine. Cook until wine reduces, half-way. This evaporates very quickly, so be sure control your heat. At this stage, you can always add in more wine as needed.
  6. Put in your tomato paste and stir.
  7. Return the meat to the dutch oven. Add in the bouquet garni. Then pour in your beef stock, making sure to almost cover the meat with liquid.
  8. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover your pot, leaving a slight crack for some steam to escape.
  9. Simmer for 4-5 hours, until the meat falls off the bone. Once ready, uncover the pot and let simmer for another 15 minutes. The sauce should thicken more. Season as necessary.
  10. Serve with gremolata or some chopped up fresh parsley.

 

I hope you enjoyed the post. À bientôt!

 

 

Nice During the Off-Season

A Californian in Paris: Nice During the Off Season

Things have been quite busy for us. Petit Copain and I moved into our first apartment together. We have been slowly getting everything together (including setting up a dream kitchen!), hence the lack of posts! Luckily, we had some time to head over to Nice during the holidays and it was a wonderful trip. Nice was a bit chilly but still warm during the afternoons. We enjoyed some much deserved sun!

Some restaurants in Nice were closed for Christmas vacation during December 26-28, but there were still many places that were open for business. The highlights of our trip were the bike rides on the Promenade des Anglais (next to the sea!), spotting the beautiful southern architecture, and eating socca! Socca is a delicious chickpea pancake that is unique to the region. When made right, it’s crispy outside and soft inside, with the right amount of salt and olive oil.

A Californian in Paris: Eating Socca in Nice, France

Following David Lebovitz’s advice, we went to the Flower Market at the Cours Saleya and got a taste of our first socca at Chez Theresa’s. Her stand is towards the end of the market and there’s usually a long line, even at this time of the year. The socca is made in a kitchen around the corner and is delivered to her stand by scooter!

A Californian in Paris: Eating at Chez Theresa's in Nice, France

The socca delivery bike for Chez Theresa!

We loved going to the Flower Market that we visited it every day we were there (3 times!). It is also a food market and on Mondays, turns into a brochante (note: no socca on that day).

A Californian in Paris: The Cours Saleya

A Californian in Paris: The Cours Saleya

New Years Eve themed plants.

A Californian in Paris: The Cours Saleya

I bought a lot of provençal herbs and olive oil at the market. The herbs are extremely fragrant.

A Californian in Paris: The Cours Saleya

The best socca we had was at Chez Pipo (13 Rue Bavastro, 06000 Nice). I’m sad I don’t have any good pictures, but I was too busy eating– it was that good. The restaurant is always busy and it can be very hard to get tables, especially for large groups. My advice is to go as early as you can. Eating at Chez Pipo is not just special because of the socca, but also because of the huge wood burning stove in the center of the restaurant. You can watch the cooks make your socca right there. The prices are more than affordable and my advice is to order some of the house rosé as well as try some of the other dishes (like the tapenade) on the menu. For two people, we did not spend more than 20 euros.

A Californian in Paris: Nice During the Off Season

We also had a romantic Italian dinner at Luna Rossa (3 rue Chauvain, 06000 Nice) which was a nice discovery. Since many popular restaurants were closed, Petit Copain and I took a gamble on Yelp. What we found was excellent service and out of this world food. The pasta was extraordinary and what you would find if you were in Italy. If you head over there, please order the seafood linguini. I’m sad to say I don’t have any pictures of this meal either… I was too much in heaven to take photos.

What’s also great about Nice is the little day trips you can take outside of the city. Just 40 minutes away is Eze, a small medieval city on a hill. Nearby is the Fragonard factory, where you can take tours to see how their products are made.

A Californian in Paris: Fragonard Factory in Eze, France

A Californian in Paris: Fragonard factory in Eze

A Californian in Paris: Fragonard factory in Eze, France

Our tour was disappointing as our guide just breezed past the factory without any pauses… literally. We could hardly understand her, as she spoke so fast. The only fact we got out of her was how much a company can pay a perfume scent maker… up to a million dollars for a creation of a scent! They’re not allowed to drink coffee, smoke, or eat certain foods because it can “desensitize” their noses. These scent makers also only work 2-4 hours a day, and only a few times a month. I need this job.

Of course, the whole point of the tour is to get visitors to buy Fragonard products at the end. The prices are somewhat discounted than what you would get at a regular store. I did buy a nice parfum (more concentrated than an eau de toilette) that used local flowers of the region.

A Californian in Paris: Eze, France

After the factory, we climbed up the steep steps to visit the village of Eze. It is beautiful but touristy. I suggest bringing sandwiches along as each restaurant is an overpriced tourist trap. Service is terrible as well.

A Californian in Paris: Eze, France

A Californian in Paris: Eze, France

A Californian in Paris: Eze, France

The view and the architecture are worth the visit though. If you like hiking, there are some amazing trails that lead to the sea.

After Eze, we had the pleasure of visiting Monaco… another 20 minutes away.

A Californian in Paris: Monaco!

A Californian in Paris: Monaco!

Monaco was spectacular in all its grandeur and wealth. Unfortunately, we went on a Sunday and mostly everything was closed. Still, the tiny nation was overwhelming. Petit Copain and I held contests, trying to pick out the most decked out yacht. Many were “yacht-inceptions”… yachts within yachts within boats within jet skis. Pretty fancy.

The streets are lined with orange trees, but the fruit isn’t very good to eat (nor is it easy to reach). We didn’t go to the casino but walked around the city instead. It’s filled with luxury shopping and high rise apartment buildings. Sadly, much of the historical architecture has been torn down. Monaco didn’t really interest me as much as the other places I’ve been to, but I still think it’s worthy of the experience.

A Californian in Paris: Monaco!

Our last day trip was to the small village of Biot to visit its famous glass making factory. Watching the glass production was pretty amazing. However, I advise not to buy any of the glass they sell: it is severely overpriced, if not a straight up rip-off.

A Californian in Paris: Biot, France

A Californian in Paris: Biot, France

glass-worker-biot

Another nearby place to note: The Musée National Fernand Léger is in the same village and is a must-visit. The museum is dedicated to surrealist artist Fernand Léger and it is a very impressive place. A visit wouldn’t take you more than an hour.

Well, that’s all I have for today. Until next time!

Christmas in the South of France

Christmas choux. A Californian in Paris.

Choux (cabbagage) decorated with glitter for that Christmas feeling!

Petit Copain’s parents were very kind to invite me again to celebrate Christmas at their home. Nestled in the hills of Cassis, going to Petit Copain’s home is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Paris. Plus, the air is much more fresh here! Petite Copain and I have gone on a couple adventures between Marseille and Cassis, so I might switch back and forth in this post!

Cheese in Cassis, France. A Californian in Paris.

The weekly farmer’s market in Cassis was open yesterday and I got to swing by. It’s a small market but during spring and summer, it is loaded with amazing stalls that sell soaps, lavender, baskets, herbs, towels, and fresh fruits and vegetables from Provence. If you’re ever here in the South of France, you should also try the Aix-en-Provence markets.

Cassis market. A Californian in Paris.

Panettone in Cassis, France. A Californian in Paris.

Fouta towels at the Cassis market. A Californian in Paris.

I am obsessed with these beautiful fouta towels. You can usually buy them in Paris during the summer, but you’ll find better deals if you head down south. They are for sitting on the beach or wrapping yourself when a summer evening gets a little chilly.

A colorful house in Cassis, France. A Californian in Paris.

What’s great about the South of France is that you’ll find lots of colorful houses with contrasting shutters. A big break from the forever blues and greys of Paris.

 

Saints around Cassis, France. A Californian in Paris.

You’ll also find many hidden altars or alcoves where old patron saints protect homes and inhabitants.

Christmas in Marseille. A Californian in Paris.

We also got to go to the Santons market, a little groups of stalls selling figurines for La Crèche de Noel, which is a nativity scene that includes provençal characters. It’s a huge tradition in the South of France and families really take their crèche seriously.

Santons Market in Marseille. A Californian in Paris.

Santons Market in Marseille. A Californian in Paris.

marseille-santons

The figurines are so detailed, you’ll have every part of classic provençal life, including free range chickens and other ones caged and waiting to be sold at market. On the other hand, you’ll also have the classic biblical figurines, including elephants and camels.

marseille-santons-3

La Crèche in Cassis, France. A Californian in Paris.

Here is an example of a crèche at the home of Petit Copain’s parents. They have a very beautiful one, complete with a river. Petit Copain bought them the boat figurine at the Marseille Santons Market. It fits right in!

Sleeping boy in a crèche. A Californian in Paris.

Another figurine we got them from Italy, the sleeping boy.

The happy man in a crèche. A Californian in Paris.

Here is the happy man, a very important provençal figurine in the crèche.

La Crèche in Cassis, France. A Californian in Paris.

Jesus is not born yet. A Californian in Paris.

In the traditional crèche, you don’t place baby Jesus until he’s “born”, that is, the day of Christmas.

Clementines for Christmas. A Californian in Paris.

Petit Copain and I picked many clementines for tonight!

As you can tell, I’m writing this post very fast as we are about to celebrate the big Christmas Eve meal. Before I go, I’ll show some of the preparations we’ve done for the big night! For my family in the U.S., we only make a big celebration on the day of Christmas and not so much on Christmas Eve. It’s nice to celebrate both ways.

Prepping decorations. A Californian in Paris.

Glasses for Christmas. A Californian in Paris.

Potimarron Soup. A Californian in Paris.

Potimarron Soup. A Californian in Paris.

This version of potimarron soup is very different from mine! The squash is boiled with onions and chestnuts, then puréed with crème fraiche.

A gingerbread house in France. A Californian in Paris.

 

 

The only other American thing I brought besides myself! I needed to share a little bit of my home with everyone. You can’t go wrong with a Gingerbread house 🙂

Well that’s all I have for tonight. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas from all of us in France!

 

 

A Winter Feast for Two

Stuffed quails to keep you warm. A Californian in Paris.

We enjoyed an unusually warm autumn. There was even one or two days in early November where you didn’t even have to put a coat on. Suddenly, it got very cold during the last few weeks, and I’m back in heavy coats and hats. C’est dommage!

Bastille Market. A Californian in Paris.

Christmas slowly appeared this year. One by one, we saw Christmas markets, decorations, events, musicals, ice skating rinks, shopping specials… Everyone seems to be in better spirits these days.

My favorite market has become more empty, with less tourists and touristy stalls. What you get instead is the real deal as Paris is left only to the Parisians. You’ll see lots of winter fruits and vegetables here… squashes, apples, pears, potatoes, turnips, and other tubular goodies.

Meat at Bastille Market. A Californian in Paris.

During a French winter, we eat roasts and cheese dishes (hello, raclette!). The French have winter foods down to a t. There are so many dishes meant to warm you up… and fatten you a little. And you know what, I’m totally okay with that last part.

Things are slowing down and I have more time to reflect on the things I love. I’m really obsessed with the cute packaging from the markets. Look at how this cheese is wrapped up! I simply adore the little French foods printed on it.

Mushrooms from the market. A Californian in Paris.

And I always welcome these cute paper veggie bags. All the vendors use these bags at the market. I try to reuse them when I go to the market. Avoid plastic bags… any bags if you can.

Quails from the market. A Californian in Paris.

Quails from the market. A Californian in Paris.

Lastly, this is what brings us here today— beautifully wrapped quails! I love the rococo-inspired pink pattern.

Before cooking the quails, let’s get to the side dish first… a colorful array of baked veggies!

Red carrots from the market. A Californian in Paris.

My favorite vendor sells these intensely colored carrots. After peeling, they reveal an interesting interior— a bright maroon-red and orange center! Luckily, unlike my purple haricots, these carrots retain their color after cooking. A warning though… the carrots bleed red everywhere, kinda like the stains a beet would leave behind.

Red carrots from the market. A Californian in Paris.

Leeks. A Californian in Paris.

I like to roast these carrots with leeks. I find leeks to be extra delicious when baked… I even like them a little crunchy. Simply cut all the veggies length-wise, sprinkle with coarse salt, and bake at 200C/400F.

Roasted leeks and carrots. A Californian in Paris.

Roasted Carrots and Leeks

3-4 carrots, cut length-wise

2-3 leeks, cut length-wise

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

coarse salt

pepper

1. Heat the oven to 200C (F).

2. Clean and peel carrots. Cut length-wise, being careful not to make them too thick. I usually get 3 long slices out of one medium sized carrot. With the leeks, wash them thoroughly. Make sure there is no dirt hiding between the leaves. Lop off the dark green tops and roots. Then cut the leeks in half.

3. Lay the vegetables on a baking sheet, alternating as you go. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also add in your favorite herbs like thyme or rosemary. Loosely cover the vegetables with foil and pop them in the oven.

4. When the vegetables soften, about 6-8 minutes in, quickly take them out and add the chopped garlic. Recover with foil and continue to bake.

5. The vegetables will be ready to take out in 5 minutes. You should be able to pierce through the carrots easily. If you like your veggies to have a little crunch, remove the foil and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Roasted leeks and carrots. A Californian in Paris.

Now, onto the quails. One of my first cooking adventures was with my first ever French friend. I am very proud to have this friend as she is the only French friend I’ve made outside of Petit Copain’s circle. She is also amazing. Let’s call her G.G.

Concerned about my poor American diet, G.G. invited me one day to cook French specialities. I believe it was winter time when we first made this meal. I will never forget gathering all of the ingredients and… stuffing the birds. It was a little intimate. You really gotta stick that stuffing in there. I’ll show you.

Farce. A Californian in Paris.

Stuffing is called farce here. It’s usually sausage meat mixed with herbs, onions, and bread crumbs. G.G. liked to mix hers with mushrooms. It’s best to cook the mushrooms first and then add them to the farce.

Mushrooms. A Californian in Paris.

This doesn’t look so appetizing, but I promise you, farce is delicious.

G.G. also gave me some amazing herbs to mix in with the farce— thyme and sariette (savory) from the countryside. I’m sad to say I used the last of these herbs in this batch of quails or caille as they are called in French.

After stuffing the quails, you’ll want to sew them up. Don’t pack too much farce in there or else it won’t cook in time, leaving you with a dried out bird, raw farce, or both. Another suggestion for this recipe is to bone out the birds, which allows the farce to cook faster.

Roasting quails. A Californian in Paris.

Roast them with some cut up onions or whatever other veggies you like with your roasts.

Stuffed Roast Quails

3 small to medium quails, cleaned

100 g farce (sausage meat)

6-8 mushrooms, cubed

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 yellow onion, 1/2 cubed and 1/2 sliced

1 tablespoon oil

2-3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon savory

coarse salt

pepper

needle and thread

1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F or as high as your oven will go.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in sauté pan on medium heat. Put in the cubed mushrooms and onions and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Remove pan from heat and let the vegetables cool off.

3. In a bowl, mix together the farce, cooled down mushrooms and onions, herbs, salt, and pepper.

4. Stuff the quail cavities with the farce, being careful not to overstuff them. You will want to leave enough space to sew the cavities.

5. Once the quails are stuffed, take the needle and thread and carefully sew the quails shut.

6. In a oven-safe dish, place the sliced onions and any remaining herbs in the bottom. Rub the quails with the butter and a little salt, then put them on top of the onions. Pop them into the oven for about 5 minutes and then turn down the heat to 172C/345F. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the temperature of the farce reaches 76C/170F.

7. Take out of the oven and let the quails rest for 5-8 mins. Serve with vegetables and whatever grains you like!

Roasting quails. A Californian in Paris.

That’s all I have for today. As for next time, Petit Copain and I just moved into our first apartment together! I have so many stories about trying to buy a dishwasher in France, it’s not even funny. À bientôt!

Give Thanks for Storytellers

A Californian in Paris. Give Thanks For Storytellers.

My third Thanksgiving in Paris was hectic. I cooked all day by myself for the first time ever. After 8 hours of shopping, prepping, cooking, cleaning, and setting up the party, I was completely pooped. I could barely enjoy the party with my friends. Nevertheless, we had a great time. We bought a 7kg turkey (15lbs!) and it fed everyone (14 guests). If I am grateful for anything, it is that the turkey turned out so well (and I’m grateful for my friends and family too of course!). For my turkey, I used the NYT recipe here. It is a very excellent recipe.

Today, I wanted to share with you some amazing storytellers. Most are French-based, so you’ll get a lot of the insight into French life that I inspire to write here. Some are friends, some are idols. I hope you visit them and love them just like I do.

1. Lisa Villaume – A blogger friend and former Parisian, Lisa gives savvy tips for the working women. Her posts range from making unforgettable LinkedIn profiles to finding proper but fashionable work attire. Lisa’s advice also touches on the daily changes and difficulties we go through in our lives. A good, warm-hearted read.

2. Rue Rude – One of my recent discoveries in the past few weeks. A fellow American dishes out what life is like among Parisians. A funny, insightful, and very informative take on French culture. Good if you wanna learn about French life and are planning to stay in France a while.

3. Tongue in Cheek – Another Californian living in France, Corey is married to a Frenchman and has two lovely children. She frequents brochants (flea markets) and is always sharing the treasures she finds of a long ago France. Must read.

4. Elena’s Travelgram – A travel blogger from Ukraine who now lives in France. Elena has great insight into French daily life and how to enter French society as an expat. She also has amazing travel guides for other places in Europe. A good blog for fellow travelers and potential expats in France.

5. David Lebovitz – My absolute favorite blog! I am always telling Petit Copain about David Lebovitz this and David Lebovitz that. His recipes are amazing and his writing is always enjoyable. I’m a huge fan. David also frequents the Bastille market that I go to. You. Must. Read. Now.

6. Pret-a-Voyager – Anne is also an American expat in Paris. She used to work for Design Sponge and now has her own design blog. A very amazing blogger with lots of advice about living in France as well as how to do freelance design abroad. She doesn’t update as much as she used to, but I still love her. Totally recommended!

7. Manger – The one and only Mimi Thorisson. My friends often joke about how her life is so perfect, she must not be real. I believe in you, Mimi. Her life is a food fairytale and her family is absolutely beautiful. Mimi lives in the amazing region of Médoc, in the west of France. If you don’t know her now, you must visit her blog immediately!

8. Tous Les Jours Dimanche – This amazing French Blogger will make you want to move to the French countryside and raise a big family. The pictures are incredible, painting a very intimate portrait of French family life. The blog is in French but even if you can’t read French, the pictures are more than enough to enjoy this blog. Amazing!

9. De Quelle Planete Es-Tu? – Meg is an American photographer who captures life between Paris and her home in Denver. Every post contains beautiful photographs from her travels. You can spend hours imagining life through her eyes. A highly recommended read.

10. Lost in Cheeseland – A highly informative blog, Lost in Cheeseland gives you what’s up to date in Cheeseland aka Paris. Lindsey will tell you where you need to go for the latest and greatest meal or cocktail. She also has much needed advice for those daring to move to France. A great resource.

Until next time! À bientôt!