Coming Home — Cheese, Chips and WCs

I felt a bit guilty when I lied to the very kind customs man who welcomed us back into the United States.

“You’re not bringing in any food?” he said.

“No,” I replied.

My local fromagerie in Paris

My local fromagerie in Paris

In fact, my bag was 50% clothes, 50% food. I had several very alive raw milk cheeses, a few packages of salted Italian bottarga mullet roe, a large box of vialone nano risotto rice, five or six cans and jars of foie gras, four boxes of dried pasta and miscellaneous containers of salts. It is probably only the first two that would’ve raised border control eyebrows.

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Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Paris — A Tale of Two Cities

It took me a little while to get my bearings in Paris. It’s a city I know well — I’ve spent a lot of time here — but after the easy, laid-back intimacy of Italy and the French Rhone-Alpes, Paris was a jarring awakening.

Arc de Triomphe, Bastille Day

Arc de Triomphe, Bastille Day

The entre, after two weeks of meandering country roads, was driving the rental car into the heart of the Marais to drop the family and luggage off at the Airbnb, and then trying to navigate my way along the frenetic Rue du Rivoli to the subterranean Hertz offices at the swirling mayhem of the Louvre Carousel. More

Au Pied de Cochon — Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Montreal

A few years back, my pal Donnie brought a “duck in a can” over to our house. It was a dish he had experienced at a restaurant in Montreal that had changed his life, and convinced them to let him take one home. He and his wife Monica had texted me photos from the restaurant of whole pig heads passing by their table on large platters.

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The restaurant was called Au Pied de Cochon — “The Foot of the Pig” — and the “duck in a can” was duck meat, gravy and foie gras cooked in a can and then opened and poured over mashed potatoes and bread at table. A perfect example of Quebecois cuisine. More

In Praise of the Unpasteurized

My biggest regret about not living in France is cheese.

A few weeks ago, my friend Brian (he of 90/60 blood pressure and 48 bmp heart rate) arrived to a small birthday celebration I’d hastily thrown together for myself with several raw-milk cheeses he’d just brought back from France. I can’t even remember what I cooked — the cheeses were the stars of the night.

Contraband French cheeses

Contraband French cheeses

You are not allowed to bring soft unpasteurized cheese into the United States. Which technically makes Brian a smuggler. But these are cheeses worth any risk — rich, deep and complex in a way you just can’t find in the imported stuff. More

The Oldest Spice

A few weeks ago, I was making choucroute, a German-influenced French specialty of the Alsace region, when I realized I didn’t have any juniper berries. (After all, who has juniper berries?) I emailed pal Ernie, who would be joining us for dinner that night to see if he might have some, in addition to caraway seeds and whole clove.

“I have caraway seeds,” he replied, “But I have no idea how old they are. They’ve been in here a long time.”

Old spices from my spice drawer (l to r): Chinese powdered ginger, herbes de Provence (who ever uses herbes de Provence!??), something so old I don't even know what it is, some Jamaican curry a friend brought me back from Jamaica when we were in our 20s, and ancient saffron from my dad's friend Pierre

Old spices from my spice drawer (l to r): Chinese powdered ginger, herbes de Provence, something so old I don’t even know what it is, some Jamaican curry a friend brought me back from Jamaica when we were in our 20s, and ancient saffron from my dad’s friend Pierre

I then queried neighbors Chris and Glennis to see if they had any juniper berries, and was pleased when Chris responded that they did. More