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!

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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!

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!

 

 

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!

The Origin of Petit Copain

A Californian in Paris. Bastille passageway.

It’s hard for me to write during a time of crisis. But write I must. I write for the beauty of Paris and for the wonderful life the city has given me.

It hasn’t always been easy for me here. It still isn’t. Being in a big city like Paris can be lonely. The language is unfamiliar, as well as the culture and customs. Before Petit Copain, I struggled a lot with my terrible French and felt like I was diving into a very unknown future.

Learning another language as an adult is difficult. They say there are two prime ages for language acquisition: 4 and 8. After 8, it becomes more difficult to be bilingual.

I was never good at learning languages. In high school and at university, I tried to learn Spanish. In California, it made sense to learn Spanish as I was surrounded by the language and many of my friends and colleagues spoke it. Spanish is a beautiful language and California wouldn’t be California without it. However, I was a lazy student and didn’t have much motivation (nor support) in school to speak anything other than English. If language acquisition is best started at age 4 or 8, then why on earth is it only required in the US to start learning another language in high school? And later, depending on your major, it might not even be required for your program at university? This is a sad, sad attitude we Americans have about learning other languages. One day, I hope this changes.

A Californian in Paris. The Marais.

A Californian in Paris. The Marais.

When I started to make my dream of France a reality, I took some French classes at a LA community college, thinking it would be a breeze. It was not. Learning academic French in a safe, English-speaking environment proved to be fruitless during my first trip to Paris. However, I did dictate my Airbnb address to the taxi driver. That was a big accomplishment in itself.

Even though I never became fluent in Spanish, it is still familiar to me. I can say basic phrases and get around LA if needed. But French is a complicated, unfamiliar language full of silent endings and strange rules. Yes, Spanish and French are both romance languages. They have some related words and rules. But in Spanish, you always pronounce the endings of every word, just like in English. This rule doesn’t apply in French. Combine that with vowels your mouth has never made before… and you get a crazy mess. Don’t even talk to me about the r’s. French is not easy on my American tongue.

A Californian in Paris. The Marais.

A Californian in Paris. Flower shops.

After two years of living here, the hardest part for me now is constantly switching back and forth from tu (informal you) to vous. Usually, vous is used to formally address a single person, but it’s also used when addressing more than one person. So if you’re teaching a class of crazy little French students, and you want to switch back and forth from addressing one person to addressing the entire class, it can be a little exhausting remembering all the separate conjugations for each pronoun.

Another thing I have to work on is remembering the correct phrasing of things! Such as confit de canard and not confit de connard. Trust me, you don’t want to say the latter, unless you’re getting into a bar fight.

A Californian in Paris. A bike near Ledru Rollin.

To say the word “boyfriend”, you have a plethora of options in French. You’ve got petit ami or copain. You also have mec which just stands for “guy”, but it’s a little less elegant. Or you can break out pet names like mon cheri, mon lapin (my rabbit), or mon chou (my cabbage, I know… it’s weird). If you’ve been pacséd (PACS is the French version of a civil union), you would call each other conjoint (partner). For husband, you’d say mari.

Petit copain is a correct way of saying boyfriend. I’ve chosen copain instead of ami because ami sounds too old fashioned. I also like adding the cuteness of petit. Petit Copain isn’t actually little, but he is very cute, in that boyish way. We have other not so French pet names (they aren’t in any real language), but I won’t disclose those at this time!

A Californian in Paris. The Seine shops.

I was alone in Paris for a little more than 3 months before I had met Petit Copain. I tried Tinder, of all things, to find a new friend in the City of Light. It failed miserably and only scored me 1 date that left when I was 10 minutes late for a rendez-vous (I notified him 2 hours in advance!)! After that horrible incident, I let the universe take me wherever it wanted me to go.

An amazing thing happened to me in those first few months living in Paris. I let go of a lot of expectations and stress that was ingrained in my American life. In America, you’re always planning for the future. You need a life plan, a strategic way to climb the ladder. You need a career, a house, a new car. French people want and get these things too, but the way it happens is very organic. You just have to wait a little more to get the things you want, and if they don’t happen yet, oh well! Of course there’s stress, but somehow French people manage better than Americans. I think it’s because the French have deep values in enjoying life as much as possible. To meditate on the present. To take your time eating lunch or dinner. To have time off for real vacations and holidays. To eat the most delicious of foods!

A Californian in Paris. Bastille Passageway.

At that point of my life, all my plans had failed me. My original dream of Paris was broken and nothing was working. But I was still in Paris. With nothing else left to lose, I took the time to enjoy myself like the French do. I treated myself to every small gift of life I had ignored for many years, like reading a book in a park instead of being stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway in LA. Or have a little self-date at a posh restaurant where everyone else had company, but not feel sorry for myself like I would with a LA guy who was only waiting to meet the next girl. With the money I had left, I took myself on a giant shopping trip.

Then, a dear friend I had met on this wild adventure suggested I meet her roommate. A few weeks later, at a pirate-themed bar of all places, I was asked out by a very cute Frenchman obsessed with movies. That evening, I had asked him to send me a list of his favorite movies. With my request, he sent me an invitation to go to a photography exhibition. Two days and a kiss later, I was suddenly Petite Copine (girlfriend).

A Californian in Paris. Petit Copain peeling a delicious nectarine.

A Californian in Paris. Petit Copain peels a lovely nectarine for me.

Petit Copain is really good at peeling fruits and vegetables. He often peels pears and nectarines for me. He is my savior on bad days.

I’m indebted to Paris and all of France for being the place where I found happiness. I know life changes and maybe one day I’ll find myself back in L.A. or some other town, but for now, in the present, Paris is where I’m meant to be.

Until next time! À bientôt!

Giverny, Fall Feasts, and The End of Tomato Season

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny France

As I’m lamenting cold weather, there is something wonderful about fall in Paris. The best time to visit Paris is actually September because the weather is still a little warm and tourist season has come to an end. And it’s easier to go to beautiful sites like Giverny! Only 45 minutes away from Paris by train, this little town is a must for all coming to Île-de-France.

Giverny is a very small town that became famous when painter Claude Monet passed it on a train one day and decided he wanted to live there. Soon after, Monet moved his family into the house of Ernest Hoschedé. Monet then started an intense love affair with Alice, Hoschedé’s wife, and the land that would become the now famous Japanese water garden.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny France

Visiting Giverny in the summertime is extremely beautiful but also crowded with tourists. Friends who have gone during this time have told me long queues ruined their experience. Me, being the internet monster that I am, scoured many travel forums to discover that Monet’s gardens are still in bloom until early October. While the weather is still tolerable, there are frequent (but very light) rain showers in September. Taking my chances, I took Petit Copain on a surprise birthday trip to Giverny.

Going to Monet’s house is quite a journey. We wanted to take our time exploring the area, so I booked a hotel in the nearby town of Vernon. Then, instead of taking a tour bus, Petit Copain and I rented some bikes (terrible ones… make sure they have air in the tires!) at a café in front of the Vernon train station. Biking to Giverny from Vernon is very, very easy. You must cross two “busy” streets in Vernon until you get to the Seine. After that, it is all small streets and then a very long bike path. However, I’m terrible at riding bikes even though I love riding them. Poor Petit Copain had to take care of me and make sure I didn’t fall over. In LA, riding bikes on the busy streets is like a death sentence. It just isn’t a very bike friendly city. This is why I’m so afraid of cars. Petit Copain is working on this, slowly but surely.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny France, Old Mill

After our rough start, we crossed the Seine and took an immediate left to have lunch in front of the old watermill. The most interesting part about this area is not really the watermill, but the nearby remnants of the former Vernon bridge that spanned across the Seine River. Destroyed by the French Resistance during the end of WWII to deter German soldiers, you can spot the leftover debris and columns of the old bridge from this park.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny France

The amazing tarte normande we had from “Ma Brioche”.

For our picnic, Petit Copain and I had a special meal. Earlier that morning, we went to the Vernon farmer’s market that happens in the city’s main square. You can catch the market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. We bought bread from this wonderful boulangerie next door, called “Ma Brioche”, as well as cheese and dried meats from the market, to make sandwiches.

Vernon, market, Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

Vernon, market, Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

The market itself is amazing, as many vendors are actually farmers selling their own crops. You know from my second post how much I love produce from the region of Eure! The fresh fruits and vegetables are quite delicious and you won’t see too many out-of-season products here (like avocados… sigh….). Once lunch was over, we followed the signs toward Monet’s house. It rained a little on the way but it didn’t last long.

Water garden, gardens, Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

garden, gardens, Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

Monet’s house and gardens are worth the trip. Giverny, which is even smaller than Vernon, is very nostalgic of a different time in France. While you do have some tourist traps, Giverny still has the air of a small country town. Monet’s house is surprisingly big and his flower garden is a huge tangle of beautiful bright blossoms and aromatic herbs. You also have the stunning water garden, complete with a Japanese bridge.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

Monet’s living room, filled with his paintings as well as pieces from other artists of his time.

Monet, Monet’s kitchen, kitchen, Monet's House, Giverny, France

Monet’s kitchen!

One of the things I loved most about my trip was Monet’s kitchen. Just look at those copper pots… and those tiles! Perfect for roasting a chicken and preparing some vegetables.

Monet, Monet’s kitchen, kitchen, Monet's House, Giverny, France

The bike path to Giverny and Monet’s gardens.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

I also fell in love with the blackberries we encountered on the bike path. Wild blackberries are a little more tart than commercial ones. And there’s something very satisfying about searching for and picking your own berries. Blackberries are abundant on this bike path from late August to early October, so if you encounter them, please taste some! Blackberries turn black when they are ripe and the ones that are still white or red colored won’t be very tasty. Make sure to pick the berries with many drupelets (the round bumpy things). There are other types of berry bushes nearby but these berries are not edible.

After my trip to Giverny, I felt very rustic… wanting to cook roasts and snuggle up next to a Monet-style fire place while it rained. In honor of Monet and his kitchen, I bought the last of the in-season tomatoes and some chicken from my favorite Paris market vendor.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, tomatoes

These tomatoes were quite spectacular in color as they were in taste. Cutting into one, you can see that the inside of this tomato is a deep, purplish red/orange.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, tomatoes

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, salad, salade

We also bought our favorite salad to go along with our roast chicken, which is a mix of wild roquette (arugula), dandelion greens, and some collard greens. And I couldn’t help myself… I had to add avocado. With winter approaching, I’ll have to abstain.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, chicken, poulet

Our free-range chicken was quite fabulous. We asked for half a chicken because it was such a huge bird. And… it was…. too fresh! Yes! You read that right! This is a serious problem. Chicken can’t be tender if it has been killed recently. When you cook really fresh chicken, it is too tough to eat because the flesh is still stiff from rigor mortis. You need to let the chicken decompose or break down a little bit before cooking. 2 days after slaughter is best.

Now here comes the fun part! Roasting the chicken! Mimi Thorrison has a great chicken recipe here, and I’ve incorporated some of her suggestions into my own recipe. You can use any of your favorite herbs. Traditionally, French chicken roasts include thyme, rosemary, and sage— which I definitely use with my chicken. I also use hyssop or sarriette (savory) when it’s available. For a truly infused flavor, I use fresh chopped herbs and lemon zest. If you want a more simple roast, try using just thyme, lemon zest, and paprika. The boucherie we usually go to adds parsley at the end of the roasting process. All of these combinations are very tasty.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, herbs

From the left: Sage, hyssop, thyme, lemon zest, and garlic.

Petit Copain loves to roast our chicken with carrots, onions, and potatoes. This is entirely optional though. If you do what Petit Copain does, you will need to bast these vegetables with the juices of the chicken while cooking to make sure they don’t dry out. Pre-cooking is highly recommended for the potatoes.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, roast, vegetables

The recipe is down below:

Roasted Chicken with Herbs

2-3 tablespoons of room temperature unsalted butter or olive oil

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1-2 sprigs of fresh sage

1-2 roughly chopped garlic cloves

1 crushed garlic clove

1 lemon, zested and quartered

2 cups of sliced carrots, onions, and potatoes (optional)

1 teaspoon paprika (optional)

coarse salt and pepper to taste

Meat of any type is best cooked when its flesh is at room temperature. This ensures thorough and consistent cooking. While you wait for the chicken to come to room temperature, pat the chicken dry and place it in a roasting pan. You can then add the seasoning in the following order…

Rub the 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil all over the outside of the chicken. If using a whole chicken, add the last tablespoon inside the cavity as well as one of the lemon quarters, the crushed garlic clove, and some salt. Next, rub lemon zest, chopped garlic, coarse salt, and pepper into the skin. Strip off some of the thyme and rosemary and crush/chop into little pieces. This will release the flavor of the herbs better. Sprinkle the loose leaves over the chicken. Crush and chop up a little of the sage and also sprinkle over the chicken. Top off with paprika if desired. Stuff the rest of the herbs into the chicken cavity and place the rest of the lemon quarters around the chicken. Cover chicken loosely with foil and let sit for two hours or so until the chicken has come to room temperature.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, chicken, poulet, roast, roti, rôti

If adding carrots, onions and potatoes, now is the time to pre-cook the vegetables on the stove. On medium heat, cook potatoes first for 8 to 10 minutes and then add the carrots. After 4 minutes, put in the onions. Sauté until vegetables are slightly soft and the onions have begun to turn translucent. Add the vegetables into the pan, surrounding the chicken.

Once the chicken has reached room temperature, set your oven as high as it will go (about 250C or 450F). Once the oven has reached the correct temperature, put the chicken inside. Let the skin start to turn a nice shade of golden brown (5 minutes). Reduce heat to 200C (290F) and continue cooking the chicken for another 40 minutes.

This isn’t my best picture, but you can see how delicious this chicken was! Does it evoke warm fireplaces and rustic living? Can you see Monet eating this roasted chicken?

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, chicken, poulet, roast, roti, rôti

I hope you enjoyed my adventure. Until next time!

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From the Market to the Kitchen

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In America, I never acquired a real taste for fruits and vegetables. Rather, I didn’t know that they could taste good. I knew you had to eat vegetables to be healthier, but that was it. Most supermarket vegetables are terrible, tasteless mysteries probably manufactured in a lab. Worst of all, fresh fruits and vegetables in America are very expensive. It is much cheaper to buy a Big Mac than a bunch of carrots. Going to the farmer’s markets was even more depressing for me. It was impossible to get farm fresh vegetables at an affordable price every week. And forget Whole Foods! I wasn’t motivated to cook and I had given up trying to eat healthier.

Things are much different for me now. In France, fresh fruits and vegetables are so much cheaper than they are in the US… best of all, they are quite accessible. Meaning, you don’t only have to go to the supermarket to get them (and the produce at supermarkets is almost as bad as in America!). Every day, except for Monday, there’s a market happening somewhere in Paris.

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(one of my many food hauls… summer cucumbers and purple basil)

Sunday has become my favorite day of the week. It’s the day of my favorite market. I wake up as early as petit copain will get up (usually around 9:30am) and we head out to the main boulevard with our old lady cart (a caddy). My main goal when I go to the market is to get the freshest in-season produce at prices I can afford.

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(peppers from the region of Eure)

France does have organic produce (called bio or bee-oh), but I often find I don’t have to seek it out. There are many laws protecting the quality of food (no GMOs, not as much pesticides as in the US, no growth hormones, etc.) that I’m not so concerned about non-bio products. Most importantly, France is very transparent about where food comes from. At any store or market, there are big signs displaying the origin of every vegetable or fruit. When going to the market, you will either see different countries of origin or different French counties (also called régions or départements). I try to avoid vendors that sell products outside of France in order to support locally grown and sustainable food. However, I’m not perfect and sometimes I’ve gotta get that avocado or two…. being from California and all.

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(look at these tomatoes!)

When I go to the market, I find farmers who sell their own produce instead of middle men vendors who buy a variety of products from the very big Rungis market (a kind of center for food imports). I also like to find vendors who are middle men but only deal with farmers from their specific region. You can find a lot of specialty stalls, from people selling Provençal products to products from Brittany or even more closer to Île-de-France, such as the provinces of Picardie and Normandie. Every region grows unique products.

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(Bastille Market, my favorite)

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One of the most important things I’ve learned from France is how to enjoy food. I especially love eating things I know came from nature (well… farms at least!) and not from some kind of lab operation. Things are changing a lot in America and people are becoming more concerned about food, but it’s not enough. Our food is being grown to feed big corporations and bad eating habits. This really needs to stop. I mean, look at these amazing vegetables!!! We need them!!!

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(Petit Copain just politely reminded me we also eat lots of Haribo and Cheetos)

When you go to the market, you should seek out food that’s in season (check out this website to see what’s good this month). The best time to go is very early in the morning, around 8:30-9am, to avoid big crowds. French is not necessary at the big markets, but you should at least know some basic French politesse. Greet vendors with “Bonjour” and always say “Merci! Au revoir (or avoir for short)! Bonne journée!” at the end of your transaction. Be patient if vendors do not speak any English and if they refuse to be patient with you, don’t take it personally… it’s the French way!

Since it’s almost winter time, squash and tubular vegetables are in season. Pears and apples are also in season and are quite excellent. If you’re just visiting Paris and don’t have a kitchen to prepare any food, there are vendors who sell prepared/take-out food. I’d probably get some apples, cider, and a crepe and sit down in a park somewhere, but that’s just me.

Until next time! À bientôt!