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!

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!

 

 

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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