Paris at home or IRL: Cooking classes, pop-ups, a joie-ful book and more
Plus, a barely-a-recipe recipe for small-batch jam when the berries start to go soft
Once again, it’s time to play catch-up! I was away for a long time, did many things, saw great sights, ate so much good food and wrote very little. I meant to write. I meant to keep in touch. I meant to post. I meant to do a lot, but alas… And so, I’m behind again on everything from work to fun, and fun includes writing to you.
I can’t catch up, but I can jump in and tell you about things I hope you’ll like, stuff that might be helpful if you’re going to Paris and things that are fun even if you’re not traveling to Paris but love the city.
Great Classes at La Cuisine Paris (Online, Too)
Those of you who read this newsletter or follow me on Instagram or Facebook, know that if you ask me where you can take culinary classes in Paris, I tell you to go to La Cuisine Paris. (It’s what I just told Zoë François, everyone’s favorite baker.) You also know that as soon as I mention La Cuisine Paris, readers chime in with praise — it’s simply the best! And, for the record, I said this years before I was lucky enough to call Jane Bertch — its founder — my friend.
The school is on the quai, overlooking the Seine and next to the Hotel de Ville — it’s worth taking a class for the dreamy view alone — and all classes are taught in English by professional French chefs, the perfect combo for anglophones. While it’s often the croissant, baguette and macaron classes that get the lion’s share of the love on social, the market tours and cooking classes are their savory match (just ask my family — we’ve all taken classes at the school). I’m not sure what’s still open on the calendar — classes fill quickly — but take a look. And if you can’t find a class — or if Paris isn’t on your itinerary — consider a virtual class. No matter what you do, sign up for the newsletter; it comes out the first of the month and it’s a joy to read. I always save it for late in the afternoon, when, with a glass of wine in hand, I can read it and pretend that I’m back in Paris. Actually, their IG account is gorgeous too — and that one you can check daily!
Joie! The Book
I can’t decide whether it’s best to read Ajiri Aki’s book, Joie: A Parisian’s Guide to Celebrating the Good Life, before you go to Paris (she’s got some great shopping tips); when you come back and want to remember what made your time there so sweet; when you’ve got no plans to go, but want to brush up on your Parisian-ness; or when you’re just in the mood to give yourself over to beauty and joy — such a mood can strike no matter where you are. Ajiri, also known as Madame de la Maison, has a gift for beauty and for finding that particular kind of Parisian beauty and happiness in the everyday. I love that she’s got lessons on everything from seating guests at a dinner party, taking care of linen, hosting a French fête, shopping in a flea market, the value of saying non, flower arranging the easy way and why we should use coupes (I’m a member of the bring-back-the-Champagne-coupe movement). It’s a gorgeous book.
When we got to Paris, the markets were so full of strawberries that vendors were using scoops to bundle them into bags. Maybe it was because the scent made me dizzy, maybe it was because I’m such a sucker for ripe fruit, who knows, but I bought a full flat of berries and, of course, Michael and I couldn’t polish them off before they started to show signs of going soft. And so, I made jam. A micro batch. Without a recipe.
Here’s kind of what I did: I put the berries in a saucepan (I halved or quartered the large ones, of which there weren’t that many) — I think I had about 2 cups — added a splash of water (really just a couple of teaspoons) and put the pan over medium heat. When the water boiled, I turned down the heat, and as the fruit collapsed and the mix got juicy, I stood by and stirred, adjusting the heat to keep things simmering softly. I added a little sugar and cooked it in. When the mixture was still a pretty red and looked a little looser than I’d want jam to be (less than 10 minutes – sadly, I didn’t count), I tasted it for sugar and decided to cook in a bit more and to add a squirt of lemon juice. Then, I pulled it off the heat, scraped it into a clean jar and capped the jar. As soon as the jar was cool enough to handle comfortably, I popped it into the fridge — this wasn’t the kind of jam meant to be kept in a cupboard or for a long time. Of course, with so much good bread in the house, it was never going to last anyway. Now that I’m back in Connecticut, I’ve used the same technique (too fancy a word for what I did) for blueberry jam and for blueberry-peach jam. Try it and let me know what you do.
Paris has become a pop-up town - more and more restaurants are opening their kitchens to visiting chefs. I love it/I don’t love it: I love the excitement of getting the chance to have a new chef’s food; I don’t love the chance of missing them, of falling in love with what they do only to learn that they’ve moved on to the next kitchen — often to a kitchen in another country. I know that the ephemeralness is part of the joy — and the package — but the good-byes are hard.
I feel so lucky to have had Dan Pear’s pizzas a few times when he, Jessica Yang and Robert Campagnon, turned Le Rigmarole into Le Pizzamarole. Dan makes some of the best pizza I’ve ever had! That crust. That crust. That crust. And all his fabulous toppings. The last one I had was topped with fresh corn and it was sensational! Follow Dan and Le Rigmarole to see when he’s in town again.
You probably already know this, but I’m in love with what Moko and Omar, the incredibly talented couple from Mokonuts, do. And I love their sister spot, Mokoloco, too. While Mokonuts serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday (reserve! you must reserve!), Mokoloco, a short walk away, is a dinner spot that welcomes visiting chefs. We had such a good meal there last month when Esulee was making inspired dishes. He may not be there when you are, but I’ve been to about six pop-ups at Mokoloco and they’ve all be great, so you’re bound to be in for a delicious surprise.
Michael and I try to go to Bistrot Paul Bert early and often when we’re in Paris. And we’ll always head to sister restaurant Le Six to see who’s popping up — you should too. But in July, we were delighted to see that the Cave Paul Bert, the small wine bar next to the bistrot, was open and one of my favorite chefs, Hanz Gueco, was there cooking his completely original brand of what he called 85% Italian food. That he also renamed the bar Berto and brought along his beautiful handmade paper food sculptures were bonuses.
The place that’s a permanent pop-up is Early June near the Canal St Martin (always worth a visit). The tiny place was jumping when Michael and I went there with Abena Anim-Somah, the host of The Future of Food is You podcast and a woman who can find a pop-up anywhere on the planet. We lucked out because Susan Kim of Eat Doshi was cooking!
If you visit a great pop-up while you’re in Paris, keep us posted.
There’s more stuff, of course. Like this black sesame take on the Paris Brest from patisserie Mille et Un.
This Bundt cake that didn’t make it out of the pan in one piece — aarrgh!
This super-good jambon-beurre with fries from Les Philosophes.
And this deliciously goopy, droopy profiterole tower (we were outside and it was 93-degrees F) from the as-good-as-everyone-says-it-is Café des Ministères.
Oh, and Gemma reading, VV beaming her million-watt smile.
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