Showing posts with label Paris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paris. Show all posts

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Super-Naturelle Night

I knew it was going to be a good night just as soon as Jenny eased her Smart Car into the impossibly tight space (with one intent onlooker just waiting for bumpers to grind) almost directly in front of Super Naturelle's new headquarters. We were a little late getting to the opening party for this vegan culinary school on a steep Montmartre back street, but there's nothing like a little rock star parking to shift one's perspective and get you amped up for a night of fun.

Jenny from super vegan resto My Kitch'n, about to make her grand entrance.
The Super Naturelle HQ is tucked into a corner of a typical 19th century Parisian courtyard, in a space that was once an painter's atelier. Today, artistry of a different stripe is performed here, and it has to do with one of my favorite subjects: Vegan food. I had no idea what to expect, but knew that I'd be meeting Ona Maiocco, the gorgeous girl behind the Super Naturelle brand. I'd interviewed her by email for Vegetarian Paris, but we hadn't actually met in person, and I was excited at the prospect.

What I definitely hadn't expected was for the soiree to be a who's-who of the vegan Parisian gliteratti. Stepping across the threshold and into the open and airy space, I immediately spotted Amelie Pieron, who hosts amazing pop-up vegan events in Paris and Montreal. (I was lucky enough to attend one of her raw events a couple of years ago.)  Next, I spied Marie LaForet, a blogger and cookbook author who's work I've long admired. Could it get any better? Well, there was Ona herself, more beautiful in person than in her lovely photos--and behind her, Sebastian Kardinal, the dapper dude/creative talent behind the vegan lifestyle blog and VG-Zone. Woopwoop!

Sebastian, Elodie, Jenny, and Marie strike a pose.
Ona, in the vivid turquoise scarf, holds court in her palatial digs.
Everyone was friendly, the food was hyper bonne (of course it was!), and the wine was HELLO it was wine so it was obviously splendid. Paris's vegan community needs to come together like this more often. Let's open more plant-based businesses so we have more excuses to make merry!

Isa Chandra was there, too!

Vegan powerhouses/local celebs Amelie Pieron and Ona Maiocco.

This creamy, nutty, chocolately confection was the best thing I'd scarfed down in ages. 

Pretty awesome: Lovely Ona kindly gave me a copy of her nearly-sold-out cookbook. I can't wait to make the Apricot and Lavender Creme biscuits ((swoon)).

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chez le Dentiste

I went to the dentist today. Care to hazard a guess on what this uninsured girl paid for an office visit and a cavity filling?

81 euro.

I'm kind of OK with that price.

What does it cost where you are for a visit to the dentist?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cafe Pinson 2 Takes Flight

Press night at Cafe Pinson 2, from the outside looking in

Pinson means "finch" en francais, so when I say another organic, plant-based restaurant has gotten its wings, I almost mean it literally. Cafe Pinson 1 opened just about a year ago in the Northern Marais and was successful enough that the team behind the 99-percent vegan cafe invested in a second location.

The ardoise

The new spot--which oozes a more rustic and homey vibe that its predecessor--sits on rue du Faubourg Poissoniere in an area fast becoming a vegan vortex; within a five-block radius, there are roughly six veg(etari)an dining spots to choose from, offering everything from meatless burgers to organic raw food

On a dark and damp Wednesday night, I set out to meet up with good friend Terresa from La Cucina di Terresa for the cafe's inaugural press event. Terresa was already engaged in friendly banter with co-owner Damian when I arrived, but soon we were ensconsed on a comfy settee where we sipped, nibbled, and schmoozed our way to a better understanding of the Cafe Pinson experience.

The best chef in Paris, Terresa Murphy, lifts un verre of bio bubbly

The crudite tray, wtih curried dipping sauce

More crudite. When are those sweet potato dumplings coming around?!

Little verrines of creamy vegetable soup were also passed round.

I spotted--and resisted temptation to dig into--a jar of pickled asparagus on a shelf.

Natural wines are an exciting addition to the menu, which also includes such tempting delicacies as beet and parsnip veloute; potato and spinach cakes with kale pesto; pumpkin-mushroom risotto; and lemon tiramisu. Detox juices and retox swills (hello, coffee!) are also on tap.

Cafe Pinson co-founder Agathe giving Parisian "smile."

The DJ was almost upstaged by the vegetable platter.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cool Cuisine

The rumblings began months and months ago: A new raw-food restaurant was due to launch at any moment in a Rive Droite neighborhood fast becoming Paris's new vegan epicenter. There was even a website to support the titillating notion, and a Facebook page, too. So why, then, won't anyone confirm an opening date, or respond to multiple emails begging for an address?

The two-course lunch special sets you back 14 euros
My reason for making repeated contact were more than personal; my next book, Vegetarian Paris, is about to go to press, and I really wanted to include this newcomer, especially considering that raw is a rarity in this city. (Pousse Pousse, a delightful little spot just a few blocks away, has been the only restaurant cru up until now.) I was stoked to hear it opened on December 21, while I was away in San Francisco. I couldn't wait to get back and see what it was all about.

We arrived 1ish on Friday, and were excited to see that we weren't the only folks hungry for something fresh. Settling into our table, I looked to my right and there sat Amelie Pieron, whom I'd met at a pop-up raw-food brunch she hosted in the 17e last year. (She has one last spot available at a pop-up dinner she's hosting on January 8. Get in touch if you want to try her amazing raw cuisine.) I was beginning to like this place already!

The menu at 42 Degres is eclectic, featuring pizzas, maki, soups, burgers, and desserts. Cashews are an integral component of many dishes, but they also make use of novel ingredients, such as parsnips, to replicate the look and texture of rice in their sushi rolls. The a la carte menu ranges from 7-9 euros for entrees and desserts and 11-14 euros for plats. The two-course daily lunch formule costs 14 euro; at night, you get three courses for 27 euro. The drinks menu features bottled organic juices, natural wines, kombucha, and not-very-raw coffee.

The beet "millefeuille" with cashew cream.

One waitperson serviced a busy lunch crowd and did it well.

Our waitperson was efficient but didn't exude a particularly welcoming vibe, but that was OK. The ambiance and our own anticipation made up for it.

The food, when it arrived, was devoured in approximately 5 minutes, and not because we're gluttons; the portions were small. (With the exception of the rather grand-looking bowl of vegetable "noodles" delivered to several other tables, which made us wish we'd ordered that instead.)  My dining partner found his a la carte portobello burger trop salee, though he managed to consume it in its diminutive entirety without further complaint.

I went for the two-course special, which promised a betterave millefeuille avec creme de cajou, and that's exactly what arrived, together with a tasty salad dusted with nut crumbs. I just wish it had been several sizes larger. When we joked about heading around the corner to VG Burger for lunch #2, neither of us was completely sure if the other was serious or not.

Dessert--a lemon tart with a nutty crust--was tasty and different from other raw desserts I've enjoyed, and not just because it was served warm. The filling had the consistency of a pudding, and seemed very "un-raw"--so much so that I asked if it was made, by chance, with soy. I was assured it was made with cashews, and that no soy is used in the restaurant. (I should have known better.)

The portobello "burger" with kale "chips."

The tarte au citron, which arrived at the table in a very un-raw warm state.

My verdict? Good but not great. Like many raw restaurants, it suffers from the less-is-more-money syndrome, and there are still a few kinks (like over-salted dishes) that need to be worked out in the kitchen. But generally, the food is tasty and I'm excited they're here to give visiting vegans and locals alike more varied dining possibilities.

Friday, October 25, 2013


The cheery sign at VG's front door

Paris is experiencing an interesting culinary trend: Burgers. What's so special about burgers, you ask? Well, I'm talking about veggie burgers. They're EVERYWHERE! First, there was MOB, then East Side Burgers. And next month, HANK opens in the Marais. October 2013, however, belongs to VG.

I met Celine, VG's gorgeous, super-friendly owner, at Paris Vegan Day. She had just opened VG a few days earlier and expressed a bit of worry that no one would show up to eat her delicious food. "I'll come!" I said. I don't think my words offered much comfort, but today, I held true to my promise anyway.

VG's owner, Celine, and her husband Suri

If you arrive by bicycle, you can pedal along the La Fayette velo piste right to VG's front door. (Otherwise, Metro Poissonniere is two minutes away.) Outside, a few bistro tables and a sandwich board let you know you've come to the right place. Inside, it's a family affair: Celine, her husband, and her belle-mere share the culinary stage, slinging burgers, chatting with customers, and otherwise making vegetarianism friendly and accessible.

Vegan carrot cake!

The menu fuses traditional burgers with imaginative items inspired by Celine's Spanish heritage and her husband's Laotian background.

Diners choose from the a la carte menu or one of several daily formules. On this day, the menu options spanned a handful of continents: American burgers with Mexican condiments (guacamole); Southeast Asian Pad Thai; and even Spanish-style potatoes and roasted peppers. I went for the edible equivalent of the missionary position: A burger and fries. Not necessarily the sexiest choice, but then I've never been able to resist the words "frites maison."

The fries are thin and tasty, and served with a biodegradable bamboo fork. The burger was equally delicious, and slathered in a cumin-spiced guacamole. Warning to non-French folk who come expecting burgers of McMansion proportions: That's not what you'll get here. Instead, count on perfect, we're-not-getting-fat, but-we-are-getting-full size. My meal left me sated, so much so that I couldn't squeeze in even one bite of the very tempting vegan carrot cake. ((Vegan Carrot Cake!))

So excited to discover this green Tabasco sauce on a neighboring table. I recommend splashing it over everything you order (except the carrot cake).

Miam! My burger with guacamole and vegan cheese on a sesame-seed bun.

Celine plans to expand the VG menu over time to include more items with Spanish, Asian, and world-cuisine influences, and she'll soon begin offering artisan buns made by a local boulanger. Just yesterday, she launched a fancy new vegan burger, and to kick off the fun-in-a-bun, there'll be a guess-the-name-of-the-burger contest on their Facebook page in a few days.

Also: Hurray! VG is a late-breaking addition to my next book, Vegetarian Paris, published by Vegetarian Guides. (Advance copies for sale soon!)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pie Love You

Three of my favorite things: Bread, fresh produce, and vegan cookbooks!
I first met Dynise Balcavage (aka The Urban Vegan) years ago--maybe 2006?--when I worked at VegNews and she pitched an article on Buenos Aires. I accepted her proposal straight away. Why? Because it was everything an editor wants: An enticing snapshot of the article to come (Tango! Outdoor markets! Vintage hotels!) accompanied by great clips and a way-better-than-average cover letter.

Throughout that first collaborative experience, Dynise proved herself to be the consummate professional, not only submitting her story and gorgeous photos on time (a rarity--believe me!), but more importantly, delivering a quality story interwoven with interesting facts, fun anecdotes, and information that the reader could actually benefit from.

Perpetually pretty and loaded with talent, too!

In the years that followed, I interviewed Dynise for various stories I'd written for other publications, and called on her culinary expertise when the situation called for it. Two years ago, we finally met in the flesh at Paris Vegan Day, and I wasn't the least bit surprised to learn that Dynise is as delightful in person as she is with the written word. Her blog is something I always look forward to, and I've always loved the diversity of her recipes and the straightforward, relate-able tone that permeates everything she produces.

In a stroke of luck, I received a copy of Dynise's latest book, Pies and Tarts with Heart, and an invitation to join the Pies and Tarts with Heart blog tour. Hells yes! The only thing I like more than pies and tarts is slavering over delicious visual representations of them. This book is loaded with gorgeous photos taken by a photographer Dynise knows well: Her talented bf, Paul Runyon. Nice work, Paul! But it's the recipes that are the real stars of this book. Not only are they simple enough for baking amateurs like me, but they're creative, intriguing, and (yay!) vegan.

Urban (Parisian) Vegan
Seeing Dynise at this year's Paris Vegan Day gave me the opportunity to thank her in person for producing this I'm-about-to-lick-the-page tome, but also to catch up with her in a relaxed, non-professional way. Yesterday, over a leisurely lunch at Cafe Pinson, we yakked and yammered over colorful bowls of grilled vegetables and fluffy falafel cakes (I forgot to take a photo!), and discovered we had more than a few things in common, including a love of foods that marry salty and sweet.

"I'm freaking out over that recipe with peaches and sea-salt," I professed.

I would definitely win any pie-eating contest that required diving face-first into this salty-sweet masterpiece

"You mean the Peach Pie with Salted Agave Drizzle?" she asked.

"Yes--that one!," I said, swooning--and possibly drooling a little bit. "And the Chocolate Peanut-Butter Pie, AND the Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie!"

The conversation quickly shifted to the salted-chocolate tartine spread her comrade-in-cuisine Fran Costigan made at PVD, then veered off into directions of love, fashion, health, hobbies, heartbreak, previous careers, and other juicy, real and relevant topics.

Dynise and her culinary comrade Fran prep for their presentation at PVD '13 
Like me, Dynise is at a crossroads, plotting her next act. Will she continue her reign as a revered blogger and cookbook goddess, or will she surprise us all by reinventing herself into something entirely new? I can't wait to find out. And in the meanwhile, I'll be baking pies.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Love with the Loire

The wonderful, amazing, lovely Terresa.
Still life with mirabelle.

I can't sing my friend Terresa's praises loudly enough. She's really a remarkable woman: Kind, funny, full of life, honest, and a wonderful teacher and chef. Ever since we met two years ago, I've learned so much from her, both life lessons, and kitchen lessons. Because of her, I've expanded my culinary repertoire to include all kinds of things I once knew absolutely nothing about, including chick-pea flour cakes, olive oil pie crusts, and natural wines.

Whenever I write about vegetarianism as it relates to Paris, I have to write about Terresa. Her artisan cooking school, La Cucina di Terresa, is an undiscovered (relatively) gem that I wish more people knew about. She teaches small classes in her home to students from around the world, plus, she caters special events, does table d'hote dinners, and even hosts natural wine tours in the Loire Valley.

Those are the actual house keys to the old abode we stayed in.
The sweet little garden.

Terresa knows I'm writing this Vegetarian Paris guidebook for UK publishers Vegetarian Guides, and because she's a kind and generous person, she invited me to join her for a weekend in the beautiful Loire Valley, to see what her tours are about and therefore be able to write about them with some authority.

My train left Gare Austerlitz at 7:30 am and arrived in the little village of Onzain, near Blois, just after 9 am. Terresa had already done the day's shopping, so instead of heading to the market, we fortified ourselves on coffee, took a walk to the local boulangerie, then climbed in her little car and drove the 10 or so kilometers over windy, narrow back roads to her winemaker friend Christophe's home. Together, we would prepare lunch, drink wine, and enjoy the fruits of our labors.

So simple, yet so delicious: Terresa's eggplant tarte before entering the oven.
The vigneron had a rough year last year; a mildew killed nearly all his grapes. This year is looking much better.

These chickens, according to Christophe, get to live out their natural lives and are never, never turned into soup or something equally atrocious.
Christophe's daughter and I share the same birthday--and a fondness for food preparation.
Wandering the vineyard builds an appetite quite unlike anything else. 

The gorgeous, sweet little plums that would later become a sticky, scrumptious tarte.

Christophe's vines stretch on for about seven acres.

The day was splendid, in spite of spitting rain that kept us indoors most of the day. We prepared a wonderful meal of sweet and savory tarts and salads, and relished every bite with sips of Christophe's truly dazzling liquid elixirs. You haven't really tasted wine until you've tried natural wines; the vignerons allow their grapes to "express their individuality" and what you get is something almost magically delicious and not at all like the stuff you buy at supermarkets or even mainstream French caviste's. The wines are rustic and earthy and tingly and tasty, and they work particularly well with plant-based foods.

Our day ended at about 9pm, and the number of empty bottles we left behind was rather startling (though they weren't all full to begin with). The next day, however, I felt great and ready to head off on our next natural wine excursion.

I loved the beamed ceilings in Terresa's Loire Valley abode.
Terresa prepared a beautiful meal and whipped up a roaring fire to warm us from the outside in while the meal warmed us from the inside out. 
A late-night supper of butternut-and-homemade-almond-milk soup after a long day of wine tasting.

For my second and final day in the Loire, Terresa would take me to meet her dear friend Joel, whose winery sits on a verdant plot of rolling terrain ripe with walnut, peach, and plum trees. Terresa credits Joel--who has been tending vines here longer than most--with turning her on to natural wines, so it was with a bit of reverence that I exchanged bises with this maestro and sat down to the important task of tasting his wares.

Joel's wines have a much different flavor than his wine-making comrade Christophe's; Joel's are more fruity, intentionally more oxidized, and utterly more-ish in their own wonderful way. We tasted a white, rose, then a red--which I fell in love with and bought a bottle of on the spot. (I'd have purchased a case, but didn't want to lug the treasures home.)

Coffee time!

We shelled these beans and turned them into a delectable tomoto-bean-herb salad.

Hamming it up in the town of Pontlevoy.
A simple, wholesome and delicious lunch.
We thought we'd wandered into a park, and so began collecting and eating our "found" apples. Then we realized we were actually standing in someone's front yard. Oopla!
Terresa snapping photos of the local abbey.

After our tasting, we set off to visit the vines, stomping our feet as we marched through the tall grass to scare off any vipers that might be slithering about. We reached the vines, oohed and ahhed over their preciousness (and the fact that they were doing well, as opposed to last year, when grapes throughout the region were affected by a mildewy blight). The harvest would be later than usual this year, but at least there would be a harvest.

We passed a neighbor along the way who told us to look out for vipers. Not the thing a sandle-sporting city girl wants to hear on a day traipsing through the countryside!
Joel measures the alcohol content of one of his sparkling wines. Afterward, we drank the test material. Miam!!

The day at Joel's ended as it began at Terresa's: With liquid good cheer--only this time, it was sparkling wine instead of coffee. The fizzy, apricot-colored wine tasted of jasmine and minerals and luscious sunshine, and reignited that old Green Acres fantasy that's always there, just beneath the thin layer of common sense in my mind. "Ooh! What if I moved to the Loire, bought a little plot of land, and started growing grapes and plums and peaches?" I thought to myself. And then the thought was gone again, and we were off.