king cake

We don’t celebrate Mardi Gras, Lent, or much of anything really, but I refuse to miss an opportunity to bake a themed dessert. Next Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and so King Cake!

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According a photo of an old Google search printout sent to me by my dear friend and New Orleans native, Kelly Pearsall, the king cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in the 1870s. It’s eaten to celebrate the carnival season, everyone’s last hoorah before Lent. King Cakes are decorated in royal colors; purple for justice, green for faith and yellow for power, and a tiny plastic baby is hidden inside. This hidden plastic baby (or dried bean, if you can’t get your hands on tiny babies) supposedly represents Jesus revealing himself to the three wise men. The cake is served at a party, and whoever gets the baby is named King for the day, and must provide the King Cake next year.

Seeing as I got the baby last year and Kelly has moved half way around the world, I’m making our King Cake this year. I’ve followed her recipe, stashed a tiny baby in some sweet brioche dough and gotten crazy with food coloring. Truth be told, Kelly prefers to sprinkle her King Cake with colored sugar and then bake it, but since she’s 6,700 miles away, I’m going off script.

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King Cake, from my baking spirit guide, Kelly Pearsall 
Sponge
1/2 cup (2.25 oz) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (0.22 oz, 1 packet) instant yeast
1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk, lukewarm (I used 2% without incident)

Dough
4 (8.25 oz) large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups (13.75 oz) unbleached bread flour
2 tablespoons (1 oz) granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons (0.35 oz) salt
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg, whisked until frothy for egg wash
1 small, plastic baby figurine

Icing
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk
green, yellow and purple food coloring

Make the sponge. Stir together flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the milk and stir until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes in a warm place.

Make the dough. Add the eggs to the sponge and whisk or beat with the paddle attachment until smooth.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, sugar and salt. Add the flour mixture to the sponge mixture. Stir until all the ingredients are combined. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Add the butter, one quarter at a time, stirring the dough well after each addition. This should take a few minutes. Continue mixing for another six minutes on medium speed. You’ll have to scrape down the bowl from time to time. The dough should be smooth and soft.

Refrigerate the dough. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Mist lightly with oil or coat lightly with oil using a brush or paper towel. Transfer the dough to the pan, spreading it into a rectangle about 6 inches by 8 inches. Coat the dough lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least four hours.

Shape the dough. Line a baking sheet with parchment and coat lightly with oil. Remove the dough from the fridge and immediately shape into an oval ring. The dough will double in size so you’ll want to keep that in mind. Most importantly, hide your baby Jesus in the dough! Coat the top lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap.

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Proof the dough. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. It will just about double in size. After about two hours, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Coat the dough balls throughly with the egg wash. This is what gives them their beautiful shine. Let them proof for another 15 – 20 minutes.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes or longer, depending on how large your cake is. It should be golden brown and 180 degrees F internal temperature. Baking brioche will make your house smell like heaven. You’ll probably want to have the scent of baking brioche as a perfume and you’ll likely text that exact thing to several friends. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes before icing.

Ice your cake. Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Add a 3 tablespoons of milk. Whisk to combine. Add a bit more milk if the icing is still chunky. Divide the icing into three different bowls and color with green, yellow and purple food coloring. Ice your cooled king cake in the style of your favorite modernist artist.

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Share with friends (and share virtually with friends who’ve moved too far away for your liking). Whoever gets the baby is king for the day, and is bound by tradition to provide the King Cake next year!

buttermilk biscuits

Biscuits are tasty.
No need for a lame boxed brand.
Butter, flour, salt.

Oh flaky layers,
with your comforting embrace.
Pastry of my dreams.

So good with collards,
eggs, cheese, meat, jam, and honey.
So good all the time.

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Buttermilk Biscuits, adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 lb (two sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces and very cold
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, very cold

Preheat your oven to 425° F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, plus flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda together until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the butter has been chopping into pea-sized pieces. Turn into a large bowl.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Don’t over mix, you don’t want tough biscuits. Turn the dough onto a counter and pat into a 3/4″ thick rectangle. Cut into 12 or 16 pieces using a pizza cutter, and place immediately in a hot oven. (Do not wait to bake them!  You’ll cry later at the rocks surrounded by pools of burnt butter you pull from the oven. If you must wait, put them in the freezer). I chose square biscuits because I did not want to waste any of that delicious, buttery dough, but you could also use a round cookie cutter. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

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—Emily and Jordan

japan

Posted on January 6, 2016

Oh hi, I hope your holidays were lovely, restful and delicious. We spent ours in Sacramento with the families, managed catch up with a few old friends while in town, and tacked on two beautiful, snowy days at my grandparent’s cabin in the mountains to ring in the new year. We also said goodbye to sweet, old family dog and weathered scary stint in the ER with my mom. Life is an ever changing balance between lightness and darkness. A little Jedi wisdom for your Wednesday.

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It seems like ages ago now, but Japan! Japan! I am fortunate enough to work for a company for whom sending the team on a sightseeing trip half way around the world is fair reward for meeting our yearly goals. Not many are so lucky. (Ps. We’re hiring). Our co-founder Chaz arranged a jammed-packed itinerary, cramming two weeks of activities across Toyko, Hakone, Kyoto and Nara into just 5 days. Not unlike our last trip to Taipei, it was an amazing, fascinating blur.

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Japan is beautiful and perplexing. Tradition and modernity seem to coexist peacefully in remarkably close quarters—a tolerance foreign to us in the United States. Though it may be energetic, neon and fetishistic, Japan is also calm, orderly and rooted in history. The care and attention to detail across every facet of life is astounding and so, so pleasurable to experience first hand. And everything is adorably decorated, designed or packaged! I loved it.

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We began in Toyko. A massive fish market, breakfast sushi, 10+ story anime/gaming mega stores, exquisite tempura, adorable stationary, dinner sushi, tiny bars,1 am ramen, 53rd story views, contemporary art, more ramen. Why sleep when you’re in Tokyo for just two days.

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Then we were off to Hakone to stay at a traditional Ryokan inn and experience Japan at a very different pace. Upon arriving, you change out of your western clothes and into a special robe, which coincidentally is the perfect attire for a product roadmap meeting. Our rooms were simply furnished in tatami mats, low tables and adorable lamps. In the basement of the small inn, there were hot springs. Segregated by gender, you ditch your robe, shower and then lounge in the natural hot spring water for as long as you like. If there is anything more peaceful than relaxing in a hot spring under the stars or with the sunrise, I’d love to hear about it.

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After a amazingly intricate Japanese breakfast and short walk around an outdoor sculpture museum, we took the bullet train to Kyoto. A city of centuries old temples, Kyoto is home to the most stunning fall color you’ve ever seen in your life. We arrived at the perfect moment. The gardens around the temples in Japan are exquisitely maintained, but still flowing and organic. The plants are allowed to be themselves, not forced into geometric shapes, and it is glorious.

We visited the longest temple, the temple with the most buddhas (1001 and each hand-carved!), the largest temple, the goldest temple, the oldest temple (1000 years old!), the temple with the most red gates, the most powerful temple. The craftsmanship of every one is impeccable—it has to be to survive for so many years—and it was lovely to see the diversity and the continuity between temple designs. We received our love fortunes (mine was very good, thankfully, and has found a home in my wallet) and said prayers for success, health and happiness.

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In Kyoto, we ate several kaiseki, a traditional, seasonal multi-course meal. Kaiseki is where the Japanese attention to detail really shines. Each dish is served in a perfectly matched vessel and topped with adorable garnishes. Artistic is the best way to describe kaiseki.  The pork katsu we had for lunch one day at Chaz’s favorite spot from college was also pretty stellar. Better than mine, I must admit.

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We ended our trip in Nara. In Nara, the deer outside the temple demand you feed them perfectly packaged crackers by nipping at your pockets. There was also soba noodles, nato and matcha soft serve ice cream. The ramen at the Osaka airport is perfectly serviceable.

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And after all that,  I’m sure we just scratched the surface. I cannot wait to get back.

I took most of these photos on our trusty Canon AE-1, but lost a roll due to a tragic film-winding failure. A sadness rarely felt in this digital age. Luckily, my talented co-workers Adrian, Chaz and Steven, had my back. Several photos in this post were taken by them.

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Christmas Cookie Day 2015

Cookie Day is certainly up there as one of my favorite food days of the year. An epic day of baking, decorating and mimosa-drinking, hundreds of cookies are made and slightly fewer are consumed. The apartment gets covered in flour and we find sprinkles scattered on the floor for days afterward.

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This year featured some old favorites and a few new recipes too. Most are detailed or linked to below. I’m hoping to check back in here before the holidays with some photos from Japan, but just in case I don’t make it, Jordan and I wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday.

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Granny’s Sugar Cookies, from Nonnie
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and sugar and cream together for a few more minutes. Add the egg. In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder and flour. Add flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until combined. Divide into two balls, flatten into discs and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Roll out into 1/4″ thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 400° for 6 – 8 minutes. These babies cook fast so set a timer!

For the icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (trust me, it will save you time in the end)
a few tablespoons of milk
food coloring

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Start with 3 tablespoons of milk and whisk together. It will be a big sugary clump. Add a tablespoon of milk at a time, until you get a smooth icing. Careful though, you don’t want it to be so runny or it will run off the cookie.  Divide into as many small bowls or cups as colors you’d like to make and add the food coloring. This year’s innovation was using an ice cube tray so we could have lots of colors! I’d recommend getting a pack of cheap paint brushes so you can get real precise with your icing.

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Our friend Kelly, a true cookie artisan, and her husband Russ have relocated to New Zealand, but they joined in on the fun from afar, contributing these kiwi masterpieces! We miss them everyday, but especially on Cookie Day. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, things got a little crazy towards the end of the day and we decided to take a page from Jackson Pollock’s book.

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Biscotti with Fennel Seed and Orange, adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
3/4 cup almonds
4 tablespoons butter, cold
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large cold egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fine cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, chopped finely

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Roast the almonds on a baking sheet until light brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Finely chop 1/4 cup of the nuts, and coarsely chop the remainder. Pour into a medium bowl. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and fennel seeds and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, barely beat the butter and sugar together. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat to combine. Add the flour mixure to the butter mixture and mix until combined.

On two piece of plastic wrap, divide the dough in two and shape into a long, about 2 inches wide by 3/4 inch tall by 8 inches long. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven 325 degrees F. Place the logs a few inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the log is lightly browned and puffing up a bit. Remove from the oven and with a very sharp knife, slice the biscotti into thin slices, about 1/2 inch thick. Return to the baking sheet, turn them onto their sides and bake an additional 5 minutes more.

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Mexican Wedding Cookies, our friend Jessi’s family recipe
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup freshly ground almond flour
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. In a food processor, grind 1 cup of fresh, raw almonds until they are very finely chopped, a coarse flour-like consistency.

In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix a bit more. Add the flour and almond flour. Roll into 1 inch balls.

Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Roll in powdered sugar.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, our friend Robin’s family recipe
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or lightly spray with cooking spray. In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, apple sauce, sugars, egg, and vanilla until the butter breaks down into pea-sized pieces. Add flour mixture to apple sauce mixture. Mix well. Fold in oats and then raisins. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet two inches apart.

Bake for 10-12 min. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 5 min. Remove and place on cooling rack.

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Mom’s Chocolate Chip Meringues, from Smitten Kitchen
Using just two egg whites, some sugar and some chocolate, these cookies are pretty amazing! Crunchy on the outside, super chewy on the inside with just a hint of chocolate,  they look like cookies and cream ice cream and are nearly as good.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Sandwiches, from Spoon Fork Bacon
We swapped the milk chocolate for dark. Make sure to pop these babies back in the freezer after dunking in chocolate, especially if you’ve got a tiny kitchen and hot oven on for hours.

-Emily

choripan

When we lived in Argentina, we lived in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood. Not far from my host mom’s house is a huge park, sort of like Buenos Aires’ version of Central Park. They call it El Bosque. Lining the streets leading up to El Bosque, there are a few food vendors. Street food was not a big part of the food culture in Buenos Aires, at least when we lived there, with one exception: the choripan. Men would work these large grills, metal grates probably 2 feet wide by 5 feet long set over charcoal, lined with sausages. Choripan, moricpan, hot dogs. Alongside their grill would be a small table with condiments, ketchup, salsa golf, chimichurri and these tiny french fried potato bits designed to add a little crunch to your hot dog.

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You could, of course, get a choripan at most restaurants and cafés as well, and chorizo plays a supporting role in the great Argentine tradition of the parrillada. Argentine chorizo is mild and juicy, with a few mysterious gristly bits in there for good measure. It’s served on a yeasty white roll when ordered as a choripan. A hardworking jar of chimichurri is already on the table waiting for you to douse your sausage with it.

When our friend Adrian mentioned he was craving a choripan and asked if I knew where he might get a good one in San Francisco, we decided instead to make our own. Argentine chorizo is very different from Spanish or Mexican chorizo, neither are a good substitute, and Jordan does not refuse an opportunity to make sausage. We set to work.

Though we couldn’t quite capture full Argentine experience, lacking a parilla in our San Francisco apartment, I do think we did the choripan justice. A juicy, fatty sausage, seasoned with garlic, paprika and red wine, served on a soft, crusty bread, covered in a sauce made from parsley, cilantro, garlic and red wine vinegar. We each ate two, observing another great Argentine tradition of overeating on Sundays.

Argentine Chorizo, adapted from the basic garlic sausage recipe in Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
2 lbs beef chuck
2.5 lbs pork shoulder
1/2 lb bacon
1.5 oz (40 g) kosher salt
1 tablespoon (10 g) pepper
1/2 tablespoon (5 g) paprika
3 tablespoons (54 g) minced garlic
1 cup (250 ml) good red wine, chilled
10 feet hog sausage casings, rinsed two times and then soaked for at least 30 minutes in tepid water

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Cut the meat into 1″ cubes, discarding the sinew-y bits. Toss with the salt, pepper, paprika and garlic in a large bowl. Put in the freezer until the meat is very cold, almost frozen, about 30 minutes. Also freeze an extra bowl and your meat grinder attachment.

Grind the meat through the small die of a meat grinder into a cold bowl. We use the meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid mixer. Once the meat is ground, put it back in the freezer for another 10 minutes to chill it again. It’s very important to keep the meat cold so the fat doesn’t melt and your sausage has the best texture.

Using the paddle attachment or a good spoon, mix the meat on low speed for one minute. Then slowly add the wine.  Increase the speed to medium and mix for another minute, or until the meat looks sticky. Take a small piece of the meat, and cook it up. Test for seasoning and adjust as needed. Then put it back in the freezer.

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Stuff your sausages! We use the sausage stuffer attachment on the kitchen aid mixture. Here’s a video that shows how to do this step. Don’t rush your sausage stuffing. Twist into 6″ links. Grill your sausages until the internal temperature is 150° F. Store the remaining sausages in the freezer.

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Chimichurri Sauce, from Cook’s Illustrated
1/4 cup hot water
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/3 cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
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Combine hot water, oregano, and salt in small bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften oregano. Pulse parsley, cilantro, garlic, and red pepper flakes in food processor until coarsely chopped, about ten 1-second pulses. Add water mixture and vinegar and pulse briefly to combine. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and slowly whisk in oil until incorporated and mixture is emulsified. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour. If preparing sauce in advance, refrigerate and bring to room temperature before using.

 

shortbread, two ways

Remember when there was a month called October? No? Me neither.

Somehow we’re already half way through November, Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon. Also on the immediate horizon, for me anyway, JAPAN. I’m lucky enough to be traveling to Tokyo and Kyoto with my company for a week in early December. I am beyond excited for the food and for the cute. I expect nothing less than a jet-lagged haze of sensory overload.

Inspired by my upcoming trip, I decided to experiment. One half of the sablé butter cookies would be studded with cacao nibs, the other half, flavored with matcha green tea powder. I had some tea-flavored cookies while in Taipei last year, and according to my sources, the Japanese excel at French pastry and most treats in Japan have a matcha variation.

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The results are as follows: Though the green tea flavor was pleasing, earthy and delicate, it’s hard to beat chocolate. Especially when that chocolate has the crunchy texture of cacao nibs, jumping out at you as the rest of the buttery cookie melts away.

Whole Wheat Sablés with Cacao Nibs – or – Matcha Green Tea, adapted from Orangette via Alice Midrich
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 scant cup whole wheat flour
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup cacao nibs
OR – 2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder

In a medium bowl, mix together the flours. If you’ve decided to go the matcha route, mix in the green tea power with the flours.

In a mixer, cream the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until the butter is smooth, but not fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the nibs, if using. Add the flour, and mix until just incorporated. Knead the dough with your hands a bit, to make sure the flour is fully incorporated. Form the dough into a 12″ by 2″ log and and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.

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Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Slice the cookies into 1/4″ slices and space evenly on the cookie sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container, for up to 1 month. They won’t last that long.

-Emily

paris, je t’aime

It seems wrong to write about cookies in light of Friday’s events. My heart is breaking for Paris.

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My heart is filled with sadness for all of the people who’ve been affected by this terrible tragedy, for everyone whose life will not ‘get back to normal’ anytime soon. How one person can decide it is their right to take the life of another, another who is just going about their life, eating dinner, spending time with friends, walking down the street. Such brutal, unchecked violence against innocent people is impossible to comprehend.

The strength of the people of France in the wake of terror is inspiring. Instead of fear, they hold love and pride in the their hearts, filling parks and streets, communing together, sharing their pain and spreading hope. It’s remarkable.

Hug your people close, tell them you love them more than you already do. Life is short. Fear must never win.

In love and hope,
Emily

paris

Posted on October 7, 2015

It’s been over three months since we’ve returned from our honeymoon, and here I am, dutifully plugging away at these ‘travel guides’. I hope you don’t mind.

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Paris. I love Paris. I love Paris for all of the reasons every artist loves Paris. It is exquisite. No matter where you point your camera or your brush, you can capture something objectively beautiful without even the faintest of struggles. It’s nearly impossible to not feel inspired walking around Paris. Your artist soul feels lucky to be alive. It’s an aesthetic wonderland.

I also love Paris for all of the reasons Julia Child and anyone else who loves to eat loves Paris. You can eat absolutely wonderful food without trying. There is a bakery on every corner with window displays that will make your heart flutter. Baguettes and croissants for one euro that are so good they deserve a line down the block. There is so much care put into the food, regardless of price point. It’s thrilling. A delicious and inevitable feast.

Like anyone who appreciates a good thing, I’d go back to Paris in a minute. Six days in Paris simply isn’t enough. And I’d bring a few extra rolls of black and white film. Is there anything more romantic than Paris in black and white? Hardly.

There’s truth at the root of every cliché.

To Do

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Louis Vuitton Foundation. A newly-opened modern and contemporary art museum housed in an incredible building designed by Frank Gehry. The collection is tightly curated and super interesting, and the architecture is unexpected and a pleasure to explore. If you only go to one museum in Paris, make it this one. Their approach is quite different from most other Parisian museums, it’s a refreshing experience.

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Le Marche d’Aligre Beauvau Market Tour. We got a tour of this outdoor/indoor market from a local woman, which we booked through AirBnB experiences. She was wonderful, and we learned a lot more about the history of the neighborhood than we would have otherwise, but it would be fun to visit even without a guide. The produce is beautiful and so affordable; the indoor market has a great selection of cheese, meat, and charcuterie.

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E. Dehillerin Cooking Store. Another Julia Child moment. My time in France was full of Julia Child moments, which couldn’t make me happier. E. Dehillerin is perfect if you want to pick up a duck press, fancy copper cookware or a whisk the size of a toddler.

Cooking Classes at Le Foodist. We took a croissant class. I got to hold pounds of french butter in my hands. It was delightful! I hope to put the skills I learned to use one of these days. They offer lots of other classes as well, from macron cookies to French wine pairings.

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Pompidou and d’Orsay. So much art! For modern art, go to the Pompidou. There are rooms for each major movement, and it’s chock full of the greatest hits. Art nerd paradise. For romanticism, art nouveau and classical sculpture, hit up the d’Orsay. They also have pretty stunning spread of Monet and Renoir. It’s almost ridiculous how much incredible artwork is crammed into these two buildings. Book your tickets in advance if you can, the lines are quite long.

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Notre Dame and Sacre Cour. Despite the fact that the Sagrada Familia has ruined me for all other churches, Notre Dame and the Sacre Cour are both beautiful and absolutely worth a peak inside.

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First, I highly recommend you download the Paris Pastry app by cookbook author and blogger David Lebovitz. It details all of his favorite bakeries, pasty shops, chocolate shops and ice cream spots in Paris. We’d navigate to a neighborhood to visit something else, then open the app and find ourselves the perfect breakfast, lunch or snack.

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Eric Kayser Boulangerie. A small chain that has stores scattered throughout the city, Eric Kayser was our go-to for breakfast and picnic lunches. Their croissants are delicious, and their baguettes might be even better. Don’t neglect the tarts either—the passionfruit one was my favorite, but you knew that already.

La Patisserie Cyril Lignac. Each pastry is a work of art. I chose a lemon tart, which was up there in terms of the cutest things I’ve ever eaten. And delicious too! It’s heaven to wait in line in these places admiring the artistry of their pastry.

Blé Sucre. Home of the best croissant in Paris, at least by Jordan’s assessment. How they were able to make a single pastry with that many layers is beyond my comprehension.

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Berthillon Ice Cream. Famous for a reason. Small scoops of perfect ice cream. I got the wild strawberry, which had tiny wild strawberries studded throughout. I was tickled.

Lenotre. Insanely good chocolate and another beautiful store. Every food display is stunning, I loved this about France. Their dark chocolate truffle assortment is great for bringing back as souvenirs—earl grey, caramel, orange, passionfruit, and all so subtlety flavored.

Le Mary Celeste. Started by Californians in Paris, Le Mary Celeste is undeniably an ex-pat hang, but that doesn’t make their cocktails and food any less delicious. Fresh, fun and relaxed, Le Mary Celeste is a good time, and a nice foil to the boeuf bourguignon and steak au poivre we had the night before. Thanks to our friends Josh and Erin for the recommendation.

Bistro du Henri. More traditional french cuisine, and the perfect stop after a stroll in Luxembourg gardens. We ate lunch here, which almost put us out of commission for the rest of the day. The braised lamb is heaven, the sea bass with sorrel is beautiful, and of course, there’s the chicken liver pate appetizer which could easily be a meal on its own. Add a pot of wine and you’ll wonder why you’d ever leave Paris. Thanks to Matt and Alexa for the recommendation.
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L’Ebauchoir. The perfect mix of modern and traditional french cuisine. The quality of the produce and the meat was exquisite. We had a choux pastry with whipped goat cheese and herbs to start, then pork with rhubarb, potatoes and snap peas, and duck breast with strawberries, mashed potatoes, turnips and zucchini. I have no idea what they did to those turnips, but my mind was blown. We asked for two glasses of rosé, but they brought the bottle saying, “drink as much as you want, and we’ll charge you for whatever you drink”. Oh, Paris.

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Picnic below the Eiffel Tower or on the Seine. We had two dinner picnics, one on the bank of the Seine and one below the Eiffel Tower. I loved them both. A bottle of wine, good cheese and charcuterie, a baguette, some peaches and strawberries from the market, just snacking and taking it all in. Paris is known for it’s Michelin-starred restaurants, but I must say, picnics in Paris is my idea of heaven.

To Drink
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Sherry Butt. Weird and fun cocktails. The perfect break after walking around in the heat all day. It was nearly empty when we were there around 7 pm.

Brewberry. A craft beer bar with 20 or so taps, plus a bottle selection. Sit outside and watch the city go by while sipping on your Cantillon.

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Beers on Jardin des Tuileries. If you happen to find yourself on an epic walk from the Arc du Triumph to the Louvre, you might want to grab a to-go beer from one of the snack kiosks and kick back in the garden.

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Le Baron Rouge. An old school wine bar near Marche d’Aligre. They have barrels of wine stacked along one wall of the bar, which they sell by the liter to-go. A mixture of old neighborhood folks and tourists from the market.

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waterfall beef salad

I feel like I should write something, but I’m not really sure what I want to write about. Ann Lamott says that the only way forward in this situation is to write a shitty first draft that embarrasses me so much that I pray I don’t get hit by a bus (and die a second death of embarrassment) before I can edit it. So I’m writing.

She says it might help to think of writing about a short scene, a scene that can be viewed through a one-inch picture frame. Hummm.

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I’m not sure it’s helping. I’m staring at a water pitcher on my kitchen table, thinking it looks a bit like a penguin and wondering if I can turn that into something interesting. I’m thinking about how my brain is tired from answering customer support tickets and that perhaps I’ve used up all of my daily allotment of words there. Or maybe I’ve got nothin’ because this dish was Jordan’s idea, he cooked it and I’m really just the messenger.

So, waterfall beef salad. I don’t know much about it other than they serve it at a few of the Thai places in our neighborhood and it is tasty. Lime juice + fish sauce + toasted rice = winning combination. I also know that it’s nice on these hot summer-turning-into-fall days that global warming has been sending our way lately. 85°+ F is hot. And San Francisco has turned us into wimps.

Now I’m going to spare you the rest of this shitty first draft and just give you the recipe. It really is good though, honestly.

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Waterfall Beef Salad
8 oz of rib eye steak or for a more economical option, 8 oz of 80/20 ground beef (I go easy on meat portions, 3-4oz per person. Smaller portions means we can buy better quality)
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
several green onions, sliced
a handful of cilantro, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced (optional)
a few tablespoons toasted rice powder (instructions below)
cooked white rice for serving

For the dressing
2-3 limes, juiced
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 shallot, diced
1/2 – 1 hot pepper sliced very thinly (we used dried thai chili, but any hot chili will do. Use caution it will get spicy)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Cook about a cup of white rice in your life-saving rice cooker or in a pot on the stove. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. The longer the dressing can sit, the better. If you’re using steak, season your beef on both sides.

Put two tablespoons of uncooked white rice in a dry pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the rice is toasted. Let the rice cool slightly and then grind into a powder using a blender or food processor. You want a very fine powder. Toasted rice power adds a really wonderful nutty flavor to the dish, and even though it adds a bit of extra work, I would not skip it.

Assemble your salad fixins. Slice your romaine, green onions, cilantro and bell pepper. Toss together in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When your pan is quite hot, put in your steak. Cook for a few minutes on the first side, and flip and cook for a few more minutes. How long you cook your steak depends on how thick your steak is—such genius tips on this blog! Ours was about 1/2 inch thick and cooked in about 3 minutes per side. If you’re not sure, use a thermometer. It should read 140° F.

If you’re using ground beef instead, cook it in a pan over medium heat, but use a spatula to move your meat around, making sure it cooks evenly throughout. As it’s cooking, season it with a little salt.

Let your steak rest.  Meanwhile toss your salad with the dressing. Top with the steak (or the cooked ground beef) and toasted rice powder. Serve the salad over rice, making sure to pour a little extra dressing from the bowl over the steak, salad and rice. That sour-spicy rice, it’s the best part.

lyon

They say that Lyon has the best food in France and has produced some of the greatest chefs of all time, and we wouldn’t dare disagree. Almost unavoidably, our short stay in Lyon was decidedly food-focused.

Lyon is beautiful, each street more charming than the one before it. Two rivers run through the city, which provide the star-struck tourist plenty of photographic opportunities. There are cathedrals, parks, gardens, museums, and so many food shops. We mostly walked and ate, which really is a wonderful way to pass a few days I f you can arrange it.

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And now to the notes. What to do/eat if you find yourself in Lyon!

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Les Halles de Paul Bocuse. Where Barcelona’s Boquería was loud and wild,  Les Halles de Paul Bocuse is calm and refined. All of the food is exquisitely displayed, impeccably crafted and absolutely delicious. After wandering around for an hour or two admiring everything on display, we chose some bread, an assortment of cheeses, foie gras paté, fruit and a passionfruit tartlet for dessert. The phrase “Je ne parle pas français, mais j’aime le fromage” will get you quite far in these circumstances, I found. We took everything to Parc de la Tete d’Or, a large park about a 20 minute walk away, and had the most perfect picnic.

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Le Bouchon des Filles. A bouchon is a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant.  Historically, the bouchon was run by the women of the family—a big departure from the male-dominated haute cuisine—and typically served the secondary or offal cuts of meat. The dishes are hearty, the atmosphere homey, and you leave positively stuffed.  The typical bouchon dishes we tried at Le Bouchon des Filles were lentil salad, herring with pickled vegetables, beef tongue, blood sausage and crawfish canelle. It’s a marathon. The waitress offered to let us take a walk before we had our dessert course. It’s probably advisable.

Le Bistrot du Potager. The busy, drop-in bistrot next to Potager’s much more high-end, 16 seat restaurant. If it’s summer, you’ll probably sit outside, sharing a bench with some lovely french women who the waitress will have insisted stand up so you could scoot into the last two available outdoor seats. Like many menus in France, the menu was handwritten on a chalkboard. We could barely read it, and so we guessed. Good news: It’s hard to go wrong even if you guess. We ended up with a charcuterie plate including mortadella, speck, chorizo and at least two other types of cured sausage, a salad of haricot vert, peaches and herbs, baked salmon with creme fraiche, piment and arrgula, and probably a few other things I cannot quite remember. Fresh, seasonal and a lovely contrast to dinner the night before at the bouchon.

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C. Reynon Charcuterie. The master of charcuterie, at least according to Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud. Have you noticed the theme of Lyon? Charcuterie. If you’re a tourist and it’s tragically not practical to buy an entire hunk of cured meat, you can ask them to cut you a few slices to take to go. Have it with some rosé back at your rented apartment and feel very great about your life.

Terre Adélice Glace. More ice cream! Jordan chose salted caramel, I chose fresh mint. I enjoyed this place because they have a wide variety of both classic and modern flavors and it wasn’t too sweet. What’s more enjoyable than walking along the river eating an ice cream in France on a warm summer night? Probably nothing.

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So Lyon. Go there! Such wonderful food, not many tourists, great weather, beautiful streets—everything any reasonable, food-loving human wants out of France. And we barely scratched the surface.

 

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