Archive | February, 2011


25 Feb

Our 20 district bakery tour has hit intermission, before we even arrived at the halfway point.  Why must the curtains be drawn so early?  Well, our young pup’s knees seem unable to withstand the power and sheer strength of his torso, therefore rupturing another knee ligament, tragically only four months after the same injury on the opposing leg.  How fun!?  We live in a 6 floor walk-up at the moment, due to elevator repairs (perfect timing!), so rehab at this current address is quite impossible.  Therefore, we have decided to temporarily take ‘Roscoe in Paris’ to Cannes, the south of France, where my grandmother’s apartment awaits with a working elevator.  Luckily, the beach is across the street and the sun shines most days.  We hope the warm Mediterranean Sea breeze helps Roscoe along with a quick recovery.  We’ll update the blog with stories from down south!

This past week included trips to the veterinarian on Paris’ RER, express train lines connecting the Paris city center to surrounding suburbs.  We weren’t quite sure how Roscoe would react, but we happily observed an extremely excited dog upon boarding the train.  In the future, we hope he doesn’t associate trains with painful vet visits.


24 Feb

The bakery tour hit a snag today, as the boulangerie we picked out in the 19th district was closed, unbeknownst to us.  Many bakeries, restaurants, and shops have closed these past two weeks due to school’s Winter Break, but there’s little chance finding out in advance which ones are closed.  Luckily, the bakery sits right next to Parc des Buttes Chaumont, one of the largest and definitely the steepest park in Paris.  We took a walk through the park and made our way to the Temple of Sybil which sits at the top of an island in the middle of a lake.

Instead of stuffing our faces with sugar and carbs, we actually got a bit of a workout today.  It’s probably for the best.  We’ll be back shortly though to visit the bakery, as it’s home to one of the few wood-burning bread ovens that remain in operation in France.


20 Feb

Yesterday it rained buckets all day long. It was cold and dreary, but it didn’t keep us from venturing out to the 18th arrondissement, also known as the neighborhood Montmartre. The cobblestone streets of Montmartre snake around steep curves, leading up and around a big hill, and at the apex is the famous Basilica of the Sacre Coeur. In my opinion this is the cutest neighborhood in Paris. Every street you wander down you find quaint little storefronts and picturesque squares where you want to sit on a bench with some wine or a coffee and watch the young, artsy Paris crowd pass you by.  However, every bench in Montmartre was soaking wet! We opted for a dry seat inside Coquelicot, our second bakery on our bakery tour this week.  We warmed up with some coffee, baguette, brioche and homemade jams inside the bakery. We also bought a few delicious items on our way out to enjoy throughout the rest of the day, including fougasse (focaccia) stuffed with blue cheese and a chocolate chip cravate (a tie shaped puffed pastry). All the items were amazing! There were so many selections to choose from at Coquelicot, both sweet and savory, and we will definitely be going back to sample some others.

After our snacks, we climbed up to Sacre Coeur, took some shelter from the rain, and enjoyed a quiet seat in the beautiful church. I’m sure we’ll visit Montmartre with friends at a later date…hopefully the next time around the sun will be shining!

Layers and layers of butter

17 Feb

Croissants are the quintessential French breakfast pastry, no?  I would say so.  However, the French are not the inventors of this multi-layered pastry.  Per Julia Child, “the croissant, or crescent, was invented to celebrate the Austrian’s turning back of a Turkish siege in 1686 – the shape of the multi-layered roll mirrors the crescent on the Ottoman flag.”  Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, an Austrian opened a bakery in Paris and served Viennese specialties which became wildly popular and spawned French imitations; therefore, the birth of the french croissants.  It also explains why the term “viennoiserie” is used all across Paris to describe croissants and all other variations sold in bakeries.

My brother and I grew up dunking buttery croissants in bowls of hot chocolate, only to find ourselves seriously disappointed in Au Bon Pain’s version of a croissant upon arrival in the United States.  Therefore, one of my goals this year is to learn how to make a proper croissant.  Trial #1 was a failure, although Amy and I still managed to eat a few of them.  Trial #2 turned out much better and I hope, with perhaps some help of professionals, to perfect these by the end of the year.

Trial #2 - Croissant and Pain au Chocolat


Behind the 8 ball

16 Feb

As many of you have reminded us, we skipped a bakery on our weekly bakery tour last week. Don’t misinterpret that to mean we didn’t eat any items like bread, tarts, cookies, cakes all week long…that would be pure nonsense! However, in staying true to our original plan of selectively choosing one bakery per week in each of the Paris districts, we decided we should just double up this week.  It’s the only obvious solution, and it is Valentine’s Day week afterall! Since Valentine’s Day so often involves chocolate, we chose a bakery in the 8th arrondissement that specializes in chocolate, fittingly named “La Petite Rose” as our first of two bakeries to visit this week. Man, writing that down makes me feel like a complete glutton. I digress, back to uninhibited disregard for healthy eating…

La Petite Rose displays its perfect, artfully-created pastries in the front window allowing all to see. They are so pretty, you get this feeling before taking your first bite, that you just don’t want to ruin it. Chris opted for the “tout chocolat” which, as it’s name suggests, is all chocolate (chocolate biscuit, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache). I tried the hot chocolate and a chocolate hazelnut pastry. The hot chocolate at La Petite Rose comes in two options…do you want 70% melted chocolate and 30% steamed whole milk in your mug, or are you having the kind of day where 70% just doesn’t fit the bill and you need 85% chocolate and 15% milk. I told Chris, and I don’t say this often, my pastry AND the 70% hot chocolate might have been a bit over-indulgent, even for me!


15 Feb

60 and sunny in February?  We’ll take it.  And by the looks of things, most Parisiens enjoyed the day.  A stroll through Les Halles and the Pompidou center revealed quite the scene.  Packed terrace cafes, occupied benches, and lunch outdoors were the prominent themes.  We tried to follow suit.  After a quick stop at our favorite store for Financier baking molds, we enjoyed the sunshine while lazily making our way through Les Halles.  Lunch was a takeout sandwich and a ledge at Saint-Eustache Church.

We certainly were not the only ones with that idea.  When the weather permits, the French obviously flock outdoors.  Although the weather isn’t supposed to hold, the sunshine put a smile on our faces.

Familiar Faces

11 Feb

We had a friend visiting for a couple days this week, hence the lack of blog updates.  Hadrien, one of the twins from France whom I’ve known since kindergarten, traveled from his home in Marseille to Paris for a wedding, which gave us a quick two days to catch up.  Many of you have met Hadrien either back in Falls Church, VA or at our wedding last summer.  Remember this?

We enjoyed some walks in Paris, long lunches near the Eiffel Tower, and a few glasses of wine.  I think it did both Amy and I some good to have someone with us who knows his way around the city and I’m sure Roscoe enjoyed having another playmate!  Last night, we brought Hadrien along to meet some family friends for dinner at a neighborhood bistrot in the 1st district.  The menu was chock full of traditional french dishes such as warm goat cheese salad, roast chicken, and steak tartare.  The place was completely full at 1030 at night, which I remarked is quite different from dinnertime in the United States.  It’s definitely a change, but we’re getting the hang of it.  My father is now in town for 48 hours.  We’re excited to see another familiar face in Paris and we hope to see a few more in the upcoming months!

Roscoe update

7 Feb

Technically, this blog is called ‘Roscoe in Paris’. Although, the furry guy has only appeared in two blog posts so far. Here is what you’ve missed in Roscoe’s world in the past month. French children still think he looks like a wolf. French dog owners typically fear for their own dogs safety when they see Roscoe…not because of his size or wolf-like appearance, but because 90% of the time he is on a leash which must be an unspoken sign for “mean dog” in France. I try to explain that he is on a leash because of a recent knee surgery, but Chris does a better job at this than I do.

In general, he still holds true to the American dog rule of doing your business on a grassy area only. However, on two occasions we’ve witnessed Roscoe assimilating to the French dog way. And on both occasions, I was mortified and thankful it was early enough in the morning for no one to witness the locations he chose to pee! Let’s just hope the shop owner washed off the door mat in front of his store that day, and also that no one decided to sit on that particular park bench that day!

He has developed an odd sleep-talking behavior that neither Chris or I ever remember him having in the States. And by sleep-talking, I mean whining, woofing or most recently, actually howling in his sleep (we have confirmed that his eyes are rolled back in his head while making these noises). It’s strange, yet very funny.

Other than that, he makes Paris feel like home. I know I’m biased, but honestly he is the cutest dog in Paris! I feel a little home-sick from time to time, and I can always count on him for a good hug.

If only this bakery tour gig paid!

4 Feb

I think my sister was on to something when she suggested perhaps Chris and I have futures as food critics.  I would like to be a world-wide bakery critic…does someone have that job? I think I’d be really good at it.  It is my favorite day of the week when Chris and I choose a district in Paris and set out on our way to sample the items on display that catch our eyes (and stomachs). This week we chose the 7th arrondissement, which allowed us to walk past the Eiffel Tower and Champ de Mars, passing numerous bridges along the Seine, to Secco Patisserie-Boulangerie.  Although it was pretty gray out, which seems to be the color of Paris winters, it was a warm day allowing us to enjoy the walk to the bakery. We could see this bakery blocks away, since it is painted hot pink and has bright blue awnings outside. It is split into two shops…one selling bread and daily cookies like madeleines and financiers, and the other shop sells lunch items and their fancier desserts like tarts and cakes. We of course visited both sides! I was a big fan of the financiers (a french tea cake made with brown butter and toasted almond flour) and will likely be trying these in the kitchen soon. The mini lemon tart was pretty delicious too! See some pictures from our walk and the bakery below.

La Tradition

3 Feb

The French passed a “bread law” in 1993 requiring traditional french baguettes to be made from only wheat flour (additive-free), yeast, salt, and water.  Bread quality had suffered immensely between the 1950s and 1990s due to WWII and the modernization of the industry, hence the law.  While you certainly can buy a baguette in every bakery in Paris, you may find yourself with a mediocre loaf, one that has been par-baked and frozen.  Artisan bakers, thankfully, have brought back the older traditions and produce quality breads that have been mixed, kneaded, leavened and baked on premises, without ever being frozen.  You cannot sell “baguettes de tradition” or call yourself an artisan baker without following these simple rules.  We hope an American clientele would be interested in these traditional baguettes.  My second attempt is pictured below.  It was very good and compared very favorably to those in the French bakeries.  Thankfully, flour, yeast, water, and salt is hard to mess up, unlike another french tradition, croissants….