Interlude

Pandolce and Holiday Wishes

Pandolce

Reason number two hundred and forty-seven to be friends with your next-door neighbors: they cook, and they share.

When Stéphan (one door to the right) prepares scampi in coconut milk, he will prepare a plate for you and hand it over through your respective kitchen windows, a.k.a. the service hatch. In return you will send two flutes of rosé champagne their way, because you just happened to be celebrating something.

And when Peter (one door to the left) takes a trip back to his native Italy to celebrate Christmas with his family, he will ring your doorbell just before leaving, to return the ice-pack his girlfriend Ligiana had borrowed for her sprained ankle, and to give you a freshly baked loaf of pandolce, still a little warm, golden and crusty.

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C&Z turns 2!

Tartelette Figue et Thym Citron

Two years ago today, I hit “publish” on my very first post for Chocolate & Zucchini. I had been toying with the idea for a few weeks, debating with myself whether or not to start my own blog. Of course I didn’t have the faintest notion what this would all lead to, what adventures, discoveries, encounters and life changes awaited me.

Life changes? Yes, indeed: today seems like the perfect day to announce that I have just signed a book deal with a NYC publisher, that I have quit my dayjob and that I now live the happy life of a full-time writer, working on the book and a miscellany of other projects. Excited, thrilled, gleeful and proud is how I feel — but most delightful of all, free. There is no price tag on that.

I have said before what a gratifying journey this has been, and would like to thank you all for reading me and supporting me. Creating C&Z is the best thing I have ever done, it has brought me so many unexpected gifts, and it would be nothing without you.

Just like last year I’m thinking of throwing a little party for those of us who live (or happen to be) in Paris. I’m still working out the details but they will be posted very soon.

[And before you ask, that little jewel pictured above is a celebratory tartlet (fig and lemon thyme on an almond pastry — outstanding) that I purchased at Pain de Sucre, a new and very promising pastry shop that was recommended to me by a reader (merci Stéphane!). They have a striking selection of creative tartlets and pastries and desserts in glasses, I have heard great things about their brioche, and they have the most tempting stuffed bread rolls that look like pains au chocolat, only savory. The shop is located at 14 rue de Rambuteau in the 3rd, and is open everyday from 8am to 8:30pm, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.]

1er Mai, Fête du Muguet

Muguet

The first day of May in France is La Fête du Travail (Labor Day). It is a holiday, which is nice, except when it’s a Sunday and then you feel slighted. Anyway.

May 1 is also La Fête du Muguet, and the tradition is to give the ones you love a little bouquet of lily-of-the-valley, for good luck and to celebrate the arrival of spring. Originally the idea was to take the kids into the forest and lose them pick your own muguet together. Of course, in the city you will more likely buy it from the florist’s, or better yet, from one of the countless stands that sprout up overnight on every street corner and every road in France, most of them doing this as a fundraiser for one cause or another. Some years you really feel sorry for them, sitting in the cold and rain and hardly selling anything, but this year they are in luck, as the last couple of days have been a fabulous sneak preview of summer, all bright skies and super-warm temps.

On another note, the new issue of the New York Times “T” magazine comes out today, and includes a piece I have written for them about cook-dating, a new cooking-class-cum-dating-service that has been invented here in Paris. The article is called Love at first bite and it is available online (second piece from the top).

Happy Birthday Chocolate & Zucchini!

Happy Birthday Chocolate & Zucchini!

“- Bonjour madame la boulangère! I would like to buy a cake for my blog.
– What a lucky blog! Is this a special occasion?
– Why yes, it is my blog’s first birthday!
– My my my, how time flies! I remember your blog from when it was just a wee little baby blog, with just a handful of posts — and now it’s one year-old already?
– Yes, I am very proud, and I think it would very much like to celebrate with a cake. Something small something chocolate, something pretty something yummy! What can you suggest?
– Well, we have this chocolate and caramel cake, we have this chocolate and praline cake, we have this chocolate and green tea cake, and we have this chocolate and chocolate cake.
– Oh, they are all so very pretty and look so very yummy, it’s hard to choose… what is your favorite?
– I think I like the chocolate and chocolate best.
– That sounds like a good choice by all standards, we’ll have one of these!”

And so, we put the little cake on a plate. And lit a candle. And sang a birthday song. And blew the candle. And drank a little wine. And ate the little cake. Happy Birthday Chocolate & Zucchini!

And thank you all, dear readers, whether you’re a long-time visitor, newly on board, or just passing by — thanks for reading what I have to say, thanks for your comments and support. Chocolate & Zucchini is a fabulous adventure for me, but it would, of course, be nothing without you.

And since no birthday is quite complete without a birthday gift, I have decided to open forums on Chocolate & Zucchini! I receive the visit of so many interesting people (yes, that would be you) with so many interests in common, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a place to meet, chat and share all the wonderful things you have to say! So go ahead, take a little tour, make yourself comfortable, ask questions, give advice, discuss recipes, cookbooks, restaurants, tips, techniques, ideas, inspirations!

But wait, there’s more! No birthday is quite complete without a party either, so I am also throwing a Chocolate & Zucchini Birthday Party! Mark your calendars : the party will be on Monday, October the 18th, and it will be hosted by my chef-friend Nicolas Vagnon at his restaurant La Table de Lucullus. You are all warmly invited to come, and I will be positively delighted to meet you.

Here are the details : participation will be 30€ per guest (payable when you’re there), and that will get you dinner and wine, selected and prepared by Nicolas and yours truly. If you would like to come, let me start by doing a little happy dance, and then ask you to please email me before the 8th of October with your name, phone number, and the number of people who will be coming with you!

Le 14 juillet

Le 14 juillet

What is referred to as Bastille Day in the US is simply called le 14 juillet in France. What our national holiday celebrates, in case you don’t know, is the day in 1789 when the French revolutionaries seized the Bastille prison, which was seen as a symbol of the royal oppression (it turned out to hold but a disappointing handful of half-forgotten and anonymous prisoners, but that’s not what history chose to remember).

Le 14 juillet is a celebration with military parades, fireworks and bals des pompiers, those dances traditionally organized on village squares by the local fire brigade, and where many a happy couple was formed in the olden days, when the occasions to waltz were otherwise scarce.

When I was little, my family was usually on vacation in the mountains in mid-July, and the fireworks were a huge thing to look forward to and a unique opportunity to stay up late. There was also the exciting responsibility of holding a lampion, one of those colorful paper lanterns hooked to the end of a long stick, during the retraite aux flambeaux, a candle-lit walk around the town center to the fanfare music of drums and trumpets. And always, the heart-clenching fear that it would, quite literally, rain on our parade, and that the fireworks would have to be canceled.

But, to my knowledge, there is no special food tradition associated with the 14 juillet. This is not so surprising, considering that the original events of 1789 were initiated in great part because the French people was suffering a terrible famine, while the aristocracy held fantastic feasts in the privacy of their castles.

It isn’t really customary either to wish anyone a happy 14th of July, like one might at Christmas (Joyeux Noël) or Easter (Joyeuses Pâques), but I like well wishes and would like to extend that one to you: Joyeux 14 Juillet!

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