Tag Archives: paris

Love letters, part 3 : France – Lyon, Colmar, Paris

8 Jul

As I mentioned at the end of the last post. I’m getting tired of writing in this voice but I’ll write a brief note to Paris here and then get on with the food.

Dear Paris,

I will be back soon. After visiting, I find myself obsessed with you. All the talk about rude Parisians is completely untrue. Everyone was nice beyond belief – to us and each other. You are in my top 2 of favourite cities. I won’t tell you who the other one is. I recently saw the documentary Midnight in Paris and loved it.

Ok, that’s enough of that. Here’s the chow.

cheese tray

cheese tray

Last things first. Here’s a shot of the cheese tray we had on our last night in Paris. It arrives at your table for an unknown length of time. You eat what you want and then someone comes and whisks it away. We had 20 minutes of cheese.

macaron

macaron

You know I love these things. I didn’t try this particular one. It seemed a bit heavy and as you know, I’m all about the light eating (ahem).

chips

roasted chicken and thyme

chips

jamon chips

Lay’s and Ruffles chips. The first pack is from France, the second from Spain. I love the idea of local flavours. The chips, however, meh.

tarte flambée

tarte flambée

Tarte flambée is an Alsatian specialty. It’s got a very thin crust, some fresh cheese, onions, and bacon on it. It’s shockingly large. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s an appetizer for 2 or do and eat the whole thing.

ma po tofu

ma po tofu

Yeah, we had some very spicy Szechuan food in Paris. Easily some of the best I’ve had anywhere.

raw root veggies and butter

raw root veggies and butter

This dish was so simple but all of the ingredients were wonderful – the vegetables, butter, oil, & salt. It doesn’t get much easier and better than this.

Ok, I’m getting hungry. Check out the Flickr account mentioned in the Spain post for more pics.

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Love letter to the brioche

21 Aug

Dear brioche*,

I have always loved you. Since we first met, I knew you were vastly superior to the common croissant and its infinite variations (almond, chocolate, apple, and so on).

I love your substantial nature: since you contain eggs, you can be considered a meal in a pinch, to be consumed (head first) while walking down the street (preferably in Paris, but Montreal will do). Unlike  other viennoiseries, you are also low-maintenance: you leave no sticky residue on fingers or flaky shavings on clothing.

I love your size: you are just right, compact, a perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee. Bakers, take note: this is how big a muffin should be (well, unless they are adorable mini muffins). My poor brioche! You are dwarfed these days by cookies and muffins (and sometimes – gasp! – even croissants) seemingly made for giants!

I love your shape: your beauty is unique. You are instantly recognisable in a crowd, with your jaunty head perched on your crimped bottom. I think it’s sweet that you need your own fluted tin to be baked in. This may be your only high-maintenance moment, but you save it to have in the secrecy of your own oven. I thrill in your shiny egg wash.

Others may dress you up with a sugar dusting, or dried fruit, but I love you au naturel – your simple, rich taste should not be undermined or distracted from by empty baubles.

Even if the French Baker only makes a few of you each day, (apparently “people here don’t know what to do with a brioche”), and you haven’t yet found your way into every ubiquitous Starbucks or Second Cup, you are still my favourite.

Yours,

Alex.

xoxo

*Or brioche à tête, to be specific.

The perfect scone

12 Jul

I have to begin this inaugural post with a disclaimer. I don’t even really like scones. Prior to being bewitched, I had only eaten one scone worth blogging about, at the garden restaurant of the Ritz Paris. It was divine, but so was the cream, and the jam, and the garden, and the whole sensory experience is, in retrospect, hard to properly untangle.

Then I moved to Ottawa from Montreal a few years ago. The thing about Ottawa is, it’s much nicer than it used to be, and much more cool than people think it is. Ottawa is that slightly stand-offish girl at a party, who looks deadly bored and is dressed in an ill-fitting suit, but who opens up and tells you about her t-shirt design business and her weekend job as a DJ when you take the time to talk to her.

What? Scones, you say? OK, ok.

So one of the first places I discovered in Ottawa was the Scone Witch. At the time, she had two locations, one in a lovely old home at Albert and Lyon (in the heart of Ottawa’s “business” area downtown) and one on Crichton in New Edinburgh (essentially a doorway and a counter-top).

Heather Matthews is indeed a witch; there is simply no other moniker for a woman who can do such marvelous things to a scone. Not to mention the play-on-words of the name of the establishment: Heather may be the witch, but among the other white magic she performs, she also makes her scones into sandwiches (or, of course, sconewitches).

The scones in question are both light and crunchy, with the perfect mix of flavours (she makes sweet ones: vanilla cream, lemon-poppyseed, orange-cranberry; and savoury ones: cheddar, herb and onion). They are never, ever dry. You can eat them on their own, and they are an adventure, or you can opt for the more traditional accompaniment of Devon cream and/or jam.

Behold my favourite, a cheddar sconewitch with tuna and black olive paste.

In addition to your regular scones (individually priced, or by the half-dozen or dozen; also available frozen or day-old) and your sconewitches, you can also get a lovely breakfast (eggs and veggies with a scone, and a tiny salad and fruit garnish), or a mealwitch. Oh, and of course you can get infinite varities of tea, strong coffee, and cool drinks (I love her even more for stocking Bottle Green drinks – why is Elderflower so hard to find in North America?)

The Scone Witch has made some changes in the (few) years since I have been in Ottawa, also: she closed down the Crichton St. closet, and opened a much larger (thank God!) location in the heart of Beechwood Village here in Ottawa, a location with lovely big windows looking right out to Beechwood (and in the same building as Books on Beechwood), featuring the same simple pale wood furnishings as the Kent and Lyon location. She also sells lovely cards, tea cosies, and assorted other crafty items, especially in the larger Beechwood Village location.

For many years, my place of employment (and some of the librarians I consort with) have used Scone Witch’s catering services for events. Nothing takes the edge off another professional meeting like a Scone Witch scone. In fact, recently, a colleague tried to entice me to an event with the promise of lunch-time catering from Scone Witch. It almost worked (perhaps thankfully, it does take more than a scone to buy me).

We almost had a Witch – Librarian schism looming, as the site for our new Central Library was intended to be the city block on which Scone Witch’s original location (Albert and Lyon) now sits. Alas, plans for this site fell through, thereby meaning librarians had to both breathe a sigh of relief and feel disappointed at the same time.

So I suppose you are wondering, did I have any scones when I was recently in England? No! Why would I bother? The perfect scone is just a hop, skip and a jump away for me! Hooray!

Scone Witch publicity:

“Scone Witch: Ensorcelant” par Christine Moisan (sur Voir.ca)

“Sweet and savoury sorcery” by Shawna Wagman (from Ottawa XPress)