Category: Paris

Importance of Bakeries

Bakeries are not all created equal.  When we vacationed in Paris, it made me realize that bakeries ought to be an important part of our lives.  I’ve made several pleas in my entries that we ought to create time to cook.  To turn away from the sugar and sodium laden artificially flavored frozen foods this country has grown to subsist on.  The boulangerie in Paris should be a way to tell us here in the States that we rely too much on pre-packaged breads.  White, wheat, sourdough, multi-grain, are just a few that you can find in your local grocery store.  We all buy them and we all eat them without really thinking about what goes into these loaves.  I’m not suggesting Orowheat is lacing their wheat breads with toxic chemicals, but a recent trip to the grocery store has again reminded me that a simple thing like bread can also contain things like sucrose and other artificial flavors that also keeps the bread in your refrigerator a lot longer than freshly baked breads.

If you take the recipe of a classic French baguette, it contains yeast, flour, baking soda, salt, and water.  That’s it.  To transform these ingredients into a beautiful 18″ loaf takes time, patience, proper temperature and proper steam in the oven.  And this is where I tend to give all of us a culinary break.  It’s not feasible, in this day and age, to carve out a whole day a week to make fresh breads.  The baking time maybe 40-50 minutes, but with proper proofing, making bread can take up to 18 hours.  And really, we just don’t have that kind of time anymore.  That’s why it’s so important that we all find really good bakeries where we live.  The breads that you get at a bakery is so much better and fresher than your local grocery stores.  And more importantly, it will be better for you.

I realize that not all of us live near a really good bakery.  And that in itself is tragic.  I know, because we do not live close to a good bakery either.  We cannot walk or even drive a short distance to have a really good croissant and a cup of coffee that is remotely close to a boulangerie in Paris.  Below is a non-typical Parisian breakfast we had while we were there.  The croissants were fantastic and the coffee was also out of this world.  It tastes so much better than the croissants you can buy at Costco.  There’s just nothing like freshly baked breads.

I still buy bread from my local grocery store, but if there were an Eric Kayser [the boulangerie in Paris where these pictures are taken] where we live, I would buy my breads here every week.  The fact that the city we live in doesn’t help create a community where these bakeries can thrive is also a shame.  But there’s nothing we can do about that.  At the Eric Kayser boulangerie, while we were eating our breakfast, we noticed customer after customer coming in to buy 1, 2, even 3 loaves of baguettes at a time.  I wish we had that kind of bakery near our house.  I wish that was part of our culture here.  But I realize it is not.  We’re in it for the quick and satisfying while many of cultures are in it for the quality of the foods they eat.  That’s something we can re-learn to follow their lead in.  I’m not imploring we all bake our own breads, but let’s at least drive around to find a really good bakery where we can rely on to get our daily breads from.  That would a huge start to living better and living healthier.


Creating Memories

London. Paris. Rome. They’re such iconic cities. Names, when uttered, evoke emotions. Memories. They are totally different, yet they are very similar.

We had the fortune to have visited all three cities now. Rome in 2008. London and Paris in 2010. Whereas Rome is known as the Eternal City, London and Paris has its own eternal aura about them. The English, for so long, have been derided for their lack of imagination in its cuisines. Even fish and chips, as iconic as that dish is, has its day in the shadows to the Italians and French in its culinary circles. And yet, over the last decade, England has created and forged many of the best restaurants in the world. Gordon Ramsay, a Scot, has the most Michelin stars of any English chef in the world. In fact, he is only behind the “Chef of the Century”, Joel Robuchon in the number of Michelin stars. “Fat Duck” has been perennially been competing with Spain’s “El Bulli” as the best restaurant in the world.

So, it’s not hard to believe that once you get past the obvious, the sights and sounds of London and Paris, that what rests in the soul, or at least the gastronomical souls, of traveling through these two magnificent cities is the food. I could write for days on end about the Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Buckinghamd Palace, the Louvre, Versailles Palace, etc. And yet, I can also write for days about the foods we had on this trip.

Haute cuisine did not greet us every day on our 12 days splash to London and Paris this summer, but that’s not the only way memories are created. A cup of “cafe”, the smell of a boulangerie, the grand luxury of afternoon tea – these are not “haute cuisines”, and yet, they brand our hearts and minds with association to cities we’ve visited. On this trip, we certainly had our fair share of haute cuisines, although we did not visit the royal-ness of a Joel Robuchon or a Gordon Ramsay, we nonetheless ate well in both cities.

Now, whenever I drink a “cafe”, I will always remember Paris. More specifically, I will always remember La Regalade, that wonderful restaurant on Rue de Honore by the Louvre. The next time I have a scone, I will always be transported to the Grosvenor House by Hyde Park. These are memories that God willing, will stay in my heart and mind until I am no longer here, only to be greeted by it again when I get to heaven.

Traveling isn’t just about seeing the sights and understanding how they are incorporated into the history of that city. It’s not rushing into the Louvre and snap some pictures of the Mona Lisa and it’s on to another piece of artwork without understanding the importance that painting and artist has had over the ages. Traveling is also about the tastes and smells of the foods that bring us comfort and that open the door for us to see and experience new things. The comfort of English tea will always remind me of England, but eating and experiencing something new, like a tuna tartare at Le Regalade will always remind me that food is ever changing and evolving. One doesn’t always have to eat fish and chips where the fish is always cod. Hammock and chips is just as good, if not better.

Part of life is about creating new memories that will fill our lives with richness and depth. We ought to appreciate the importance of why the Magna Carte is so important to the history of democracy. And, we also ought to appreciate the tastes and smells of a city as defined by its foods. There’s nothing wrong with eating at McDonalds when you’re in Paris, but why transport a memory you already own to a place you have never visited, or have not re-visited in a long time? Isn’t it time to create some new memories? It was for us. It was for me.