A socially distanced Christmas in France

Hello, Emily here – ready to celebrate the holidays! We were supposed to be spending this Christmas on the beach in Australia (where I am originally from) but with travel not possible, we’ll be spending it at home in Paris. Holiday traditions in France are so different from Australia (the weather for a start – it was 39ºC/102ºF in Brisbane the last time we spent the holidays…

Hello, Emily here – ready to celebrate the holidays! We were supposed to be spending this Christmas on the beach in Australia (where I am originally from) but with travel not possible, we’ll be spending it at home in Paris. Holiday traditions in France are so different from Australia (the weather for a start – it was 39ºC/102ºF in Brisbane the last time we spent the holidays there) and I’ve had a wonderful time discovering French holiday customs over the past few years. The food, the wine, the decorations, the language. Oh, and did I mention the food?!

This year we’re in semi-lockdown and with most of the activities on my Things to do in Paris at Christmas list off-limits it’s the perfect time to finally try all those creative projects that I never get around to. The Christmas carols are on repeat, we are staying home en famille (with our family), counting our blessings, and beginning to get festive.

Last weekend I simmered some spiced vin-chaud (mulled wine) while we decorated our Sapin de Noël (Christmas tree). The smell of cardamom, cloves and oranges wafted through the apartment as we unpacked our decorations, each one holding sentimental memories. I added some new ones to represent our 2020; a paintbrush and wrench, to remind us that we did a full renovation, during a pandemic, while I was heavily pregnant, and a personalized ornament for our baby girl who we welcomed in July (mid-renovation – it was a lot!). My daughter and I picked the biggest tree we could find and now it sits, quietly dropping its needles on the floor, by our window so the neighbors can enjoy it as well. We are taking bets on who will attack it first – the toddler or Noisette, our dog.

We’ve cracked open the chocolate advent calendars and light an advent candle in the evenings. Each year I also print out a selection of photos of especially funny and memorable moments from the year, my daughter decorates some envelopes they go into and at breakfast my husband opens them day-by-day. They hang along a strand of tinsel until at least the end of January and then we bundle them all up and they go into a memory box, along with the ones from previous years. 

Continue Reading A socially distanced Christmas in France...

Paris Booksigning This Friday

I’ll be doing a book signing for Drinking French at Café Méricourt in Paris this Friday, December 11, from 3 to 4 pm (map). Many have asked me about getting personalized copies and this is your chance to get one signed for yourself or for gift-giving! Copies of Drinking French will be available to purchase from the café. (If you’d like a copy of L’Appart…

Drinking French

I’ll be doing a book signing for Drinking French at Café Méricourt in Paris this Friday, December 11, from 3 to 4 pm (map). Many have asked me about getting personalized copies and this is your chance to get one signed for yourself or for gift-giving!

Copies of Drinking French will be available to purchase from the café. (If you’d like a copy of L’Appart or The Perfect Scoop, click here to pre-purchase a copy for pick-up at the event.) If you would like to bring a book that you already have for signing, you are welcome to.

As a special treat, the café will be offering in-house gift bags of holiday confections, including chocolate mendiants and bittersweet chocolate truffles, as well as tahini granola, chocolate-praline spread, and gift certificates, too.

[Note that health guidelines will be strictly respected. The book signing will be held at the take-out window, not indoors, with masks. You’re welcome to bring your own bag for your book purchase.]

If you live elsewhere and you’d like a signed copy of Drinking French, Book Larder in Seattle has a limited number of copies available. Please indicate when you order online or by telephone if you’d like a bookplate signed copy. In addition, the Drinking French Bar Box at Slope Cellars also now includes a bookplate signed book, along with a special selection of spirits to make some of my favorite drinks in the book, just in time for the holidays for gift-giving or yourself.

December Events: Live and Online

Even though travel is interrupted, for the time being, I’ve planned several online events this month, and one in-person event in Paris: December 11: I’ll be signing copies of Drinking French at Café Méricourt in Paris from 3 to 4 pm. Copies of Drinking French will be available to purchase from the café for signing. (If you’d like a copy of L’Appart or The Perfect…

Even though travel is interrupted, for the time being, I’ve planned several online events this month, and one in-person event in Paris:

December 11: I’ll be signing copies of Drinking French at Café Méricourt in Paris from 3 to 4 pm. Copies of Drinking French will be available to purchase from the café for signing. (If you’d like a copy of L’Appart or The Perfect Scoop, click here to pre-purchase a copy for pick-up at the event.)

December 12: Join me for an interview and chat with pastry chef Melissa Weller, author of A Good Bake with Now Serving in Los Angeles. I’ll post the exact time and sign-up info on this page and on my Schedule page when they get it up on their site. Hang tight!

December 13: I’ll be offering a seminar on French Apéritifs: History, Cocktails, and Culture as a live online presentation with Context Conversations. I’ll cover the history and culture of the iconic apéritifs of France and demonstrate various drinks you can make with them, along with the recipes. Register here. (Note: Through Dec 6th you can use the promo code THANKFUL15 for a 15% discount on all Context seminars, including mine.)

December 20: ‘Tis the season for drinks and desserts! Join me baker Edd Kimber for this special holiday get-together live online with La Cuisine Paris. We’ll be doing some baking, making holiday drinks, and answering your questions. More info and register here.

Also, I’ve got several terrific guests this month scheduled on my Instagram Live Apéro Hour videos, including Michelle Polzine, Joanne Weir, Brad Thomas Parsons, Lesley Chesterman, Jean-Louis Charbonnier from Comté cheese, and Aurélie Panhelleux. Follow me on Instagram to get notifications when they’ll be happening!

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...

Confinement and Lockdown Strategies

As of last week, France has gone back into lockdown, which prompted a 454 mile (730km) traffic jam as people tried to get in and out of the city. The lockdown is expected to last a month and while it’s not ideal, it’s not nearly as restrictive as the lockdown we had last spring and everything from taking a walk to going to the grocery…

As of last week, France has gone back into lockdown, which prompted a 454 mile (730km) traffic jam as people tried to get in and out of the city. The lockdown is expected to last a month and while it’s not ideal, it’s not nearly as restrictive as the lockdown we had last spring and everything from taking a walk to going to the grocery store was tense and fraught as there was less information as the Covid-19 virus is spread, and masks were in short supply.

On the second day of the current lockdown, I went to get a few groceries and there were people on the streets, people eating food in front of restaurants, people in offices, and even the local vodka shop was open. (Bookstores, however, are closed as they’re not considered essential businesses. Interestingly, large supermarkets can remain open, but aren’t allowed to sell books either.)

The situation is evolving and my hunch is there will be more stringent measures put into place, a feeling shared by everyone I’ve spoken to here. But unlike last spring, I have enough baking chocolate, flour, and sugar, to last for a couple of months. (Almost everyone I’ve spoken to has also agreed that this lockdown is likely to continue through Christmas.) For the record, I’m not a hoarder. Because of what I do, I always have a few month’s worth of baking ingredients on hand because, well…you never know, do you? Last time I was caught without any chocolate, which in my line of work is considered “essential.”

Continue Reading Confinement and Lockdown Strategies...

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.

Continue Reading L’Instant Cacao: Bean-to-bar Chocolate Shop...

La Buvette Terrine

It amuses me when people talk about snooty people sitting around, leisurely eating pâté, because pâté is rustic, country fare, not considered fancy in France. While pâté can have a pastry-type crust (pâté en croûte) and some are a little fancier than others, the cousins of pâté, terrines, are truly down-to-earth. They can be baked in a special mold (you can come across them at…

It amuses me when people talk about snooty people sitting around, leisurely eating pâté, because pâté is rustic, country fare, not considered fancy in France. While pâté can have a pastry-type crust (pâté en croûte) and some are a little fancier than others, the cousins of pâté, terrines, are truly down-to-earth. They can be baked in a special mold (you can come across them at French flea markets for around 5 bucks, like the one I used here), they can also be baked in any ovenproof bowl, which I did with this terrine. So there’s no excuse not to sit around and eat pâté, or terrine, all day. And not only is this one incredibly easy, it’s also one of the best terrines I’ve ever had.

Continue Reading La Buvette Terrine...

Coup de Roulis cocktail

This rosy coup holds a drink from Cocktails de Paris, a book of cocktail recipes from Paris, published in 1929. (It’s available to download* for free here.) I was attracted to it because it called for Cherry Rocher, a French liqueur produced by a distillery that was founded in 1704 and is still making it today. Coup de roulis translates to “strong blow,” referring to…

This rosy coup holds a drink from Cocktails de Paris, a book of cocktail recipes from Paris, published in 1929. (It’s available to download* for free here.) I was attracted to it because it called for Cherry Rocher, a French liqueur produced by a distillery that was founded in 1704 and is still making it today. Coup de roulis translates to “strong blow,” referring to the strong sway or roll of a boat. My guess is that maybe it got its name because it has four different spirits in it? No matter, I needed a strong drink last week when my apartment sprung a fuite d’eau, causing a flood.

The Paris cocktail book is an excursion back in time, as was the leak, harkening back to other, um…issues I’ve had with my apartment. In the pages, there are words used, such as Angustura (with an alternative spelling that may be from days of yore) and ‘focking,’ a term I’d never heard of either, and when I searched Google for “cocktail focking,” let’s just say most of the search results were adult-only…and I don’t mean in the cocktail department.

Continue Reading Coup de Roulis cocktail...

La fuite d’eau

Anyone who has kids, or a puppy, can relate. I don’t have either, but after all we’ve been through together, I now have a similarly intimate relationship with my apartment. One afternoon at the end of last week, I came home from lunch and …

Anyone who has kids, or a puppy, can relate. I don’t have either, but after all we’ve been through together, I now have a similarly intimate relationship with my apartment. One afternoon at the end of last week, I came home from lunch and the moment I stepped inside my place, I felt something was wrong.

Continue Reading La fuite d’eau...

Top Ten Favorite French Cheeses

France is, of course, knowns for its spectacular cheeses. As we moved into lockdown in early spring, I asked my friend Jennifer Greco, who is an expert on French cheeses as well as being a culinary tour guide in Paris, if she’d share her ten favorite French fromages. While waiting for the country to open back up again for visitors from everywhere, I was holding…

Camembert de Normandie

France is, of course, knowns for its spectacular cheeses. As we moved into lockdown in early spring, I asked my friend Jennifer Greco, who is an expert on French cheeses as well as being a culinary tour guide in Paris, if she’d share her ten favorite French fromages. While waiting for the country to open back up again for visitors from everywhere, I was holding on to this terrific post, where she presents her favorites top ten favorite cheeses. I know many are disappointed they can’t make it back to France at this time, but when things return to normal, you might want to bookmark this post for your next visit! – David

10 Favorite French Cheeses

by Jennifer Greco

Cheese is recognized throughout the world as one of France’s most prized contributions to gastronomy, and tasting exceptional French cheeses is usually high on the list for visitors. France produces somewhere between 1400 to 1600 cheeses (according to the French dairy farmers), so shopping at a fromagerie or a market means being faced with shelves and cases of all shapes and sizes of cheese. You will likely spot a few familiar names such as Swiss Gruyère, Brie de Meaux, and Roquefort, but it can be an intimidating experience.

Continue Reading Top Ten Favorite French Cheeses...