13 August 2007

A Place Tucked Away

There is nothing quite as intriguing as a place tucked away behind something else or deep within a neighborhood. Perhaps it is an unexpected find, like the glass studio my husband and I recently found in an old industrial district along the water, or the jazz club hidden behind a warehouse in a nearby town known for its belching smoke stacks and tough neighborhoods.

Whenever possible, we eschew main streets for alleys and twisting passages, at least when we have the good luck to be walking in Paris, or some other French city. It is an urban form of shunpiking and usually leads to charming surprises.

The tiny bistro above is just north of Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Citie, just yards from the spot where Heloise met Abelard. We were on our way to meet Richard Nahem of Eye Prefer Paris that early evening in May and did not have time to stop.

"We'll come back," we promised ourselves, but we never did. We will - I hope - in 2008.

Another place tucked away is St. Paul Village, sandwiched between Rue St. Antoine and the Seine in the Marais. Passages and alleyways and courtyards are filled with shops, many of them purveyors of antiques of one sort or another, or objets d'art. High tourist season was not yet upon us, and many of the shops were still closed or just opening for the season. It reminded me of Door County in November, quiet but still alluring.

Since my husband and I are both film buffs, as well as Francophiles, we just had to search out "Le Grand Colbert," a restaurant tucked behind the Palais Royale and made famous in the movie "Something's Got to Give," with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

What is your favorite tucked-away find anywhere?

06 July 2007

Tomatoes Stuffed with Italian Sausage


Ah Paris! Already more than a month in the past, it now seems like a dream.

On our last day, we noticed sausage-stuffed tomatoes at the Mediterranean deli across the street. We had plenty of food left, and although they looked delicious, my frugality once again maintained the upper hand.

I passed, thinking I could make them back in Wisconsin.

Tonight, the end of a sunny and breezy high summer day, I did just that. The result was July’s equivalent of a September favorite, stuffed green peppers.

Sausage-Stuffed Tomatoes


  • 5-6 large tomatoes
  • ½ pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • dash herbes de Provence
  • Pinch fleur de sel
  • Dash pepper


Preheat oven to 350. Slice off the tops of the tomatoes. Gently remove the pulp, juice and seeds.

Brown sausage in olive oil, breaking into small pieces with wooden spatula. When sausage is brown, remove it and set aside. Add garlic, onion and pepper and cook until tender. Add sausage, thyme and herbs and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. You may want to add a bit of tomato sauce or leftover spaghetti sauce for color.

Place tomatoes in lightly greased backing dish. Fill with sausage mixture. If there is some left over, place this in the dish, too.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. After about 15 minutes, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

I served this with French bread and an off-brand white shiraz that was peppery and berrylike on the tongue and oakey at the finish.

29 June 2007

Copper Bowls from E. Dehillerin

The day we visited E. Dehillerin was sunny and mild with a barely perceptible mist in the air. I was a bit apprehensive, having heard how snooty the sales staff could be. Would they turn their noses up at my Wisconsin-accented French?

Founded in 1820, E. Dehillerin wears the patina of its age well. It is everything it is reputed to be: Cluttered and cramped and a bit dusty.

No matter. Here is where the serious cook finds serious tools for the kitchen.

Dehillerin is best known for its copper and our mission was to buy a copper bowl for whipping egg whites.

Egg whites whipped in a copper bowl are more stable than those beaten in a glass bowl, thanks to copper ions, which migrate from the bowl to the egg whites. It will take longer, but the result is high-quality foam.

As we entered Dehillerin, we were met by Kim, a charming man of about 45 who knows his stuff and sells it. Our conversation was half in French and half in English, as it often is in France. We talked of Julia Child and chefs and the properties of copper. My husband, whose vocabulary grows with each trip, joined in.

We explored the basement, at Kim’s suggestion, and found all manner of kettles and pans and boilers and pots that would not fit in our suitcases. But, oh, how lovely they would be in my kitchen!

The basement is a place of mystery, with a blocked off set of stairs in one corner and a dark sub-basement crawl space filled with boxes. Descending the stairs, I felt as if I were moving down through time. Imagine the hundreds of chefs, long forgotten, who had done the same!

We followed our trip to Dehillerin with a visit to the park atop the former site of Les Halles., a hop on the westbound No. 69 bus, and a shopping spree on Rue Cler.

It was the perfect Paris day.

The trick to navigating E. Dehillerin, I believe, is to know what you want and to know something about the store and its specialties.

As we left, Kim predicted we would return. Of course we will. Always.

16 June 2007

Paris: The Bakery Under the Eiffel Tower

Grandma Annie was fond of bakeries and - as family legend goes - spent her first paycheck as a young dressmaker on sweets.

In her later years, she shopped at different bakeries - our town had nearly a dozen at one time - for different specialties, this one for its white bread, that one for its cakes, another for its pastries.

How she would have loved the choices in Paris. I imagine her, a small-town woman of French Canadian heritage, wild eyed and enthusiastic about Parisian offerings. I wish she could have seen Paris. I wonder if she ever dreamed about it. . .

We have sampled the goods at about 8 Parisian patisseries, and have always been satisfied.

But the croissants from F. Fegueux, the bakery less than a block north of the Eiffel Tower, have us craving more. They were soft and moist and flaky with a touch of sweetness on the top crust, equally good with ham and cheese, egg salad, or jams and jellies.

We scarfed them down too quickly to take photos. But we also loved the baguettes, and often split the three-Euro sandwhiche jambom for lunch.

The desserts were equally good, and I will share photos in future posts.

This place may be one of the best-kept secrets in Paris. Can you add another? Or share information about a good bakery in your town?

09 June 2007

Paris: Rue du Cherche Midi

I did not want to visit Rue du Cherche Midi in the rain.

Any street with a name that implies a yearning for the sunny south requires a visit when the sun is shining. Alas, it was rarely shining when we visited Paris.

So it was a cloudless day (and one of our last in Paris) when we strolled down this narrow street, which is quieter than I imagined. It was mid-afternoon and the market on nearby Boulevard Raspail had just closed.

I wanted to buy a loaf of the famous Poilane bread, but since it was nearly our last day in Paris, my French frugality gene got the better of me and I decided to wait until our next visit. We already had a fresh baguette waiting in our tiny kitchen and more shopping to do, so it seemed prudent.

But I did take a few photographs. I was enchanted with the boutiques along Cherche Midi; the clothing in the windows really spoke to me (and now I understand why the French use the term “faire du leche vitrine,” which means to lick the windows, for the process we call window shopping).

“I have to go lick the windows,” I told my husband when he sauntered on and I wanted to linger.

Pretty things in windows (which always include food in Paris) are the stuff of dreams. We cannot always afford them. But they give us something to yearn for.

Sometimes a taste (or a lick) offers more long-term satisfaction than a whole meal.

Note: I've heard several explanations for the charming name of this equally charming street. The one I like best is "seeking the mid-day sun." It is my understanding the street got its name from a sundial on a building there.

07 June 2007

Paris: Rue Buffon

This post has nothing to do with food but everything to do with feelings.

In Paris, you walk a lot. That does relate to food, because we found that you can eat almost anything you want and not gain weight if you walk. Paris, it turns out, is the most perfect kind of diet there is.

One of the streets we walked down a week or so ago was unpretentious Rue Buffon, which runs along the east side of the lovely Jardin des Plantes.

The sky was leaden that day and the light was that pale gray color that makes you think of a delicate watercolor painting of spring. It seemed to bounce off the gray and tan buildings of this humble little street.

Somehow I sensed a sadness on Rue Buffon. We began at the southern end and made our way north to the spot near Place Valhubert where you can catch the westbound No. 63 bus.

I took photos because the light intrigued me. So did the buildings, which seemed almost abandoned. When we came to a plaque on a school building, I stopped to read it.

And then I understood. The plaque honored the memories of Jewish school children who were sent to death camps. I need not say much here: You can certainly visualize the images that conjured up for me. I said a silent prayer for the children of Rue Buffon.

I will not forget them, those long-gone children. They have become for me an inextricable part of a layered and beautiful city where sunny days are like a carnival and where rainy days are melancholy.

Such richness Paris offers. I feel so lucky to have tasted those riches, both the happy and the sad.

04 June 2007

Rainy Day Rhubarb Pie

It's been a rainy spring.

“Do you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?” Grandma Annie always asked on rainy days this time of year.

Saturday my husband wasn’t taking any chances. He picked, cleaned and chopped several pounds of rhubarb from our two ancient rhubarb patches.

Sunday he made rhubarb pie, one of his favorites. Using a store-bought crust, he managed to make the best rhubarb pie I’ve ever tasted.

“Not too tart, not too sweet,” we agreed as we eagerly dug into the pie about two hours after he removed it from the oven.

My husband does not follow a recipe.

“And I don’t measure,” he says. Ah, true cooking from the heart.

Rhubarb Pie


  • 5 cups rhubarb, chopped into cubes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • two eggs
  • pie crust, your own or pre-made


Place rhubarb in large bowl and pour sugar over it. Mix with spoon, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Prepare pie crust and place in greased pan. Mix one whole egg and the yoke from a second with the rhubarb and pour into bottom crust. Top with second crust, venting it so stream can escape.

Place in pre-heated 400-degree oven, baking for about 40 minutes. After about 25 minutes, brush top with egg white and sprinkle with sugar, returning to oven. Allow pie to cool for 1-2 hours. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.