Holiday Gift Guide: Bringing France to You and Others

Hello, Emily here, from day 29 of the 2nd confinement (lockdown) in France. I never thought you could miss the city you live in, but I miss Paris. Physically she remains present and although stores are allowed to reopen tomorrow, restaurants will remain closed, the streets are quiet and the soul of the city is sleeping. The old Latin motto of Paris is ‘Fluctuat nec mergitur’…

Hello, Emily here, from day 29 of the 2nd confinement (lockdown) in France.

I never thought you could miss the city you live in, but I miss Paris. Physically she remains present and although stores are allowed to reopen tomorrow, restaurants will remain closed, the streets are quiet and the soul of the city is sleeping. The old Latin motto of Paris is ‘Fluctuat nec mergitur’ which roughly translates to ‘tossed by the waves but never sunk’ and wow, has 2020 done some tossing. 

During the second lockdown we have been restricted to a 1km (about half a mile) radius from our homes with a permission slip needed (that you fill out yourself) to go out for essentials (food, medical appointments, etc.) or to exercise. While my little radius included some of my favorite places, most of the city has been decidedly off-limits. 

Over the past 4 weeks we made the most of our allocated hour of ‘exercise’ each day in the nearby Jardin Du Luxembourg, letting the dog do her daily investigating, and letting our kids play in the fresh air. When possible, I also enjoyed a solo walk along the banks of the Seine, whose calm current reminded me that the history of France is filled with challenges that have been overcome. 

I never realized how much of the city I took for granted – perhaps a fitting metaphor for 2020? A quick stop at my local terrace for a coffee or chilled glass of wine, and a quiet exchange with the impeccably dressed waiter. The cultural institutions, who remain shuttered, their beauty and history waiting patiently to be frequented once again (although you can visit many online like the Louvre, Versailles, Centre Pompidou or the Musée d’Orsay). And the small boutiques and independent bookstores that I visit as much for the conversation with the owners as the books. But most of all, I am excited to return to the specialty food shops spread all over town, which were beyond my 1km ‘border.’  Continue Reading Holiday Gift Guide: Bringing France to You and Others...

L’Instant Cacao: Bean-to-bar Chocolate Shop

If you’re old enough to remember, the Grateful Dead had a song that went, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” (There are other reasons you might not remember things back then, especially if you were the type that listened to the Grateful Dead.) But that could be the tagline for a number of things, some as recent as 2020, the Covid crisis, and others…

If you’re old enough to remember, the Grateful Dead had a song that went, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” (There are other reasons you might not remember things back then, especially if you were the type that listened to the Grateful Dead.) But that could be the tagline for a number of things, some as recent as 2020, the Covid crisis, and others that stretch back longer, such as the bean-to-bar chocolate movement.

I was there at the beginning of it in the United States, and I clearly remember when Robert Steinberg handed me a melting wad of freshly-made chocolate he pulled out of his pocket at a baking event, that was folded up in a little foil packet, as if it was a part of a drug deal. That eventually bloomed into Scharffen Berger chocolate.

They were the pioneers of bean-to-bar chocolate making in America, back in 1996, and now there are close to two hundred artisan chocolate makers in the States. That’s amazing, considering when Robert and his business partner John Scharffenberger, told me they were going to make chocolate from scratch, I thought it was a crazy idea and would never get off the ground. Thirteen years later, they sold the company for a reported $50 million. So if you want to ask someone for business advice, you might want to ask someone other than me.

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Sain Boulangerie

I was expecting something a little different when I took a stroll over the Sain boulangerie, a bakery I’d heard about, which was on my list of bakeries in Paris to visit. My friend Romina of Les Madeleines bakery was is in town, and she’s always up to visit new places, or places new to us, so I arranged to meet her there. I figured…

I was expecting something a little different when I took a stroll over the Sain boulangerie, a bakery I’d heard about, which was on my list of bakeries in Paris to visit. My friend Romina of Les Madeleines bakery was is in town, and she’s always up to visit new places, or places new to us, so I arranged to meet her there. I figured we’d walk into a place with polished glass showcases, brass-tipped racks of breads, and a line-up of attractive pastries. Instead, we found an unassuming neighborhood spot, not a shop where the pastries were displayed like jewels, whose pastry counter was right on the sidewalk.

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The French Bastards

When the bakery sign went up, I thought, “Well, that’s rather audacious. I wonder what it’s going to be?” A bakery had been in that space, which had once been a pretty good, but had slid in quality, until one day, the doors closed for good. It’s a bummer to see a place decline but exciting when something better opens in its place, which happened….

When the bakery sign went up, I thought, “Well, that’s rather audacious. I wonder what it’s going to be?” A bakery had been in that space, which had once been a pretty good, but had slid in quality, until one day, the doors closed for good. It’s a bummer to see a place decline but exciting when something better opens in its place, which happened.

There’s been a renaissance in Paris over the last few years of young bakers, who understand techniques and traditions, but use them as springboards to go beyond them. And three of them have set up shop, calling themselves The French Bastards.

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