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Negroni cocktail

The big news of the summer is that my lengthy search has finally ended for a small barrel. I know, I know. It doesn’t seem like much. (And people say I'm hard to please?) But after spending way too many hours searching for one far-and-wide, offline and on, I am now in proud possession of a French-made barrel made of American cedar, which I’m using to age cocktails.

Thankfully the kids at Candelaria bar in Paris lent me theirs, which was sitting on a shelf doing not much. (I think they sell too many cocktails to use such a puny barrel.) But I am thrilled that they lent it to me and immediately put in a batch of Negronis, and am waiting to see the result. Actually, after a few weeks, I’ve been tasting them now-and-then, and let me tell you – I don’t know if I recommend having cocktails on tap in your kitchen, but they're pretty darned good.

(Although I definitely don't recommend drinking two before you go to bed, right after you've shared 1 1/2 carafes of rosé last night at La Briciola...because you'll feel it the next morning - ouch!)

I’m hope to be working with one of their bartenders on a cocktail and I’ll write about it on my site. Well, just as soon as I polish off those 3 quarts (3l) of Negronis.

barrel-aged cocktail

Most people in Paris wind down in August, when les vacances kick in. And although I don’t get a lengthy vacation, I am going to be dialing back a bit in fraternité with them. August in Paris is great – there’s a lot less people, (paradoxically, as Parisians say, “It’s Paris…but without the Parisians!” And I'm gonna enjoy it, while it lasts.

The markets are mostly bare, save for a few hardy souls who remain behind to feed us. And most restaurants take a breather as well – some to refresh their interiors, others for the changement de propriétaire, or “changing of owners.” Sometimes that results in good, but it can go either way.

Your favorite bakery might reopen in September, and your beloved crusty baguette may have turned into a pale version of the one that came before it. (Which always seems to happen to me.) And if I see one more beautiful old café transformed into a bad copy of a Philippe Starck interior, where the rip out the zinc bar and put in lucite chairs and chandeliers, well..I don’t know what I’m going to do. But at least I have some cocktails on hand, to soften the blow.

- David

negroni
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August in Paris

Belleville

The messages usually start coming in around mid-spring, from folks preparing their visits to Paris, wondering what will be open in August. Although a number of places do remain open, a majority of places shut as folks go on vacation. And restaurants and bakeries don't usually announce in advance when exactly they are closing, which confounds visitors. However here are two lists of places that will be open in August:

Paris by Mouth has a great round-up of what restaurants are open in August.
Into coffee? Here's a list of Specialty Coffee Places that are open and closed.
Raids Pâtisseries made a list of what pastry shops are open, and who will be closed. For non-French speakers, the first list is places that are open and keeping their usual hours, and the second is places that are closed, and bien mérités (well-deserved!)

Note that although a lot of "big name" places, or those at the top of everyone's "Best of" lists, are closed, there are plenty of open-air cafés and other places open in Paris if you just wander around. The farther you get from the center of town, the more interesting the places will be that you'll come across - if you're interested in venturing out a little. Bon appétit!

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What's Up With the Vegetarian Restaurants in Paris?

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Last night, I’d made plans to eat at a new-ish vegetarian restaurant in Paris. While it was previously a long-running joke about trying to get food without meat in Paris, times have changed, and a number of vegetarian places have popped up in the past year. Unfortunately there is little creativity in the vegetarian places and instead of celebrating the wonderful produce of France, they seem to have no idea that A) It’s summer, and B) There is summer produce.

The café we went to, as we scanned the selections on offer, there were three fried balls of buckwheat groats (€12), which was the lone main course. Not to be insulting, but they looked like something you would have gotten from a hippie-dippy health food store in the 1970s. In my mind, I started thinking back to Greens in San Francisco, which celebrated glorious vegetables and vegetarian cooking, and the Grain Store, which I recently visited in London, an old factory converted to a light-filled restaurant with a menu that "..gives vegetables equal billing, if not the starring role" with an amazing bar and run by, yes, a French chef. So what's taking so long for Paris to catch on?

I won’t rehash the tired jokes about vegetarian cuisine in Paris, but times have changed and most cafés nowadays offer a salad or something vegetable-oriented. But rarely, if ever, are vegetables celebrated or served with creativity. (Some of the new, chef-driven places do make use of vegetables, but they’re often thinly sliced, and served decoratively on a plate as part of a meal. But not something you could make a dinner out of.)

But why not focus on vegetables? Make a quiche or tarte salée with lovely Brie de Meaux, chervil, and tomatoes from Provence. Swirl some pistou into a soup made of chickpea flour fritters and delicate zucchini blossoms. Or fill a buckwheat-salted butter crust with summer tomatoes and goat cheese, melting on top. Why is vegetarian cuisine being given short-shift in Paris?

There were recently a couple of documentaries on television shown in France the other night (one you can watch here, in French and German). One focused on how industrial meat and poultry are raised, and another on how more people in Europe are trying to eat less meat, and a more vegetable-based diet. As for myself, I’ve dialed down how much meat I eat, and am trying to include more vegetables in my diet.

One difficulty is that to many, imagining a meal without meat in France was, well, unimaginable. But it’s 2013, and places serving cuisine végétarienne are springing up here and there. Yet most are offering up plastic boxes of a mound of plain quinoa salad heaped inside, with two leaves of arugula garnishing it, or a trio of buckwheat patties that the 70s would like back, or a sorry-looking tray of, well, whatever.

I think there’s a great opportunity in Paris for an amazing restaurant, in a wide-open space, that serves vegetable-focused food. And when it happens, I’ll be the first to go. Heck, I’ll bring the Negronis!

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Favorite Posts from July

La vacance: Even though I don’t get a vacation this year, I still took a day (and a night) off!
Eating Around London: I had a couple of days while I was speaking at a conference to poke around London and found some delicious things.
Sour Milk Bread: A lovely, spiced bread from Lux restaurant in Stockholm.
Pith Helmet: The perfect summer cocktail, with Pimm’s and a shot of gin, infused with bitters and fresh basil syrup.
Le Mary Celeste: My favorite cocktail bar in Paris, with great food.
Éclairs in Paris: A couple of new places that I added to my Paris Pastry Guide, two mavericks creating some pretty wild pastries.

And stay tuned to my blog in August, for my favorite sandwich of all-time....which does have meat in it, but it's balanced with fried bread and cheese...

; )

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