Events

Salon Saveurs : my Loot

Canelés Baillardran

Last Friday, I attended the Salon Saveurs, a food show held at the Espace Champerret in Paris twice a year. To make a happy event happier, I was blessed with the company of five other food enthusiasts and C&Z readers — Amy, Pascale, Alisa, Ethan and Isabelle.

We were all delighted to make each other’s acquaintance, and it was really great to explore the halls together, getting all excited about the same things, gesturing wildly to the rest of the bunch when we discovered something that absolutely had to be tasted, peeking into each other’s goodie bags, and sharing glasses of armagnac.

The show was set up in two huge halls, with myriads of small stands at which you could taste and buy a great variety of products : cheese, charcuterie, fresh and canned seafood, condiments, olive oil, honey, jam, chocolate, bread, cakes, pastries, candy, cooking equipment, wine, beer… Since it was a weekday, the halls weren’t too crowded, and the stand-keepers were very friendly and helpful, not to mention generous with their samples.

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IMBB4 : Around the World in a Bowl of Rice

IMBB4 : Around the World in a Bowl of Rice

The fourth edition of Is My Blog Burning?, the one and only distributed food blogging event, will be hosted by Pim. The theme this time around is “Around the world in a bowl of rice”, and the idea is — you guessed it — to cook a rice dish!

Entries should be posted on Sunday, May 23rd, two weeks from now. Check out the details on Pim’s blog, and take a look at the previous events’ entry list :
First edition : Soups
Second edition : Tartines
Third edition : Cakes

A Taste of Balsamic Vinegar

A Taste of Balsamic Vinegar

Wine tasting? That is so yesterday, haven’t you heard? Balsamic vinegar tasting is all the rage!

On Saturday afternoon, Maxence and I attended such a tasting, organized by the Bastille Slow Food convivium. It was held at Sur Les Quais, a spice and oil store in the covered area of the Marché d’Aligre. I’ve always been very fond of the taste of balsamic vinegar, but the wildly varying prices of what you find in stores are confusing, so I was delighted for the chance to learn more.

Paul Vautrin, the store owner, started out by telling us about balsamic vinegar and its characteristics. It is produced from the must of very mature Trebbiano grapes and aged in a series of barrels of different sizes and woods. He explained how the producer transfers a fraction of the vinegar from the younger barrels into the older barrels every year, which is why the age of a bottle of vinegar is only an average, being a mix of older and younger vinegars. The types of wood the barrels are made in, the quality of the grapes, the initial concentration, and the producer’s savoir-faire all come into play to make (or break) the quality of a balsamic vinegar.

Naturally, industrial companies started making balsamic vinegar too, aging it in steel tanks, cutting it with water and coloring it with brown sugar or caramel. In response, the original small producers have created a consortium and a D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, if you must know) to protect the century-old tradition : only vinegar produced in a small region around the town of Modena can claim to be the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, their products are made following strict rules and are bottled and boxed in a specific way.

The real thing is very pricy (50 euros for 10 cl), but the taste is so intense and concentrated that just a few drops are sufficient. Of course the scope is pretty wide between the real unique nectar and its crappy over-industrial version, so a good dealer should be able to recommend a producer who may not belong to the consortium but still follows the rules, hence producing a quality product at a somewhat lower price.

The actual tasting began with a small glass of saba, the must (unfermented juice) that is used to make balsamic vinegar. Incredibly sweet and sirupy, with a strong grape taste, saba can be diluted in water or wine to make an excellent drink, or poured on ice-cream or fruit for dessert.

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Chocolate, Apricot, and Ginger Loaf Cake

Cake au Chocolat, Abricots et Gingembre

On Sunday afternoon, we had a few friends over for the goûter. In attendance were : Marie-Laure and Ludo, with whom we had had brunch earlier in the day ; my friend Sophie, who used to work at my company ; Stéphane and Caro, who are friends from college ; and our neighbors Stéphan and Patricia. To feed this crowd, I wanted to make something chocolate. I know, I know, I surprise myself too, sometimes.

When Pierre Hermé‘s Chocolate Desserts cookbook came out, one of the magazines I read had an article that published four of them : they don’t quote the book word for word, they just give the recipe essentials, which still makes the book worth buying, as Pierre Hermé always gives very detailed instructions. All those recipes looked great, but you have to make choices in life, as hard as they may be. So I set out to make the apricot and ginger chocolate cake.

Language note : in French, the word “cake” (which is pronounced more or less like “kek“) means not just any cake – that would be “gâteau” – but a cake that’s baked in a loaf pan.

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Le Salon Du Chocolat

Le Salon Du Chocolat

A Chocolate Trade Show – has anybody ever heard of a better concept? The Paris one takes place every year in late October, when the weather gets a little chilly and Christmas is getting near and people need to warm their hearts and stock up on chocolate goodness. Passionate as we are about our chocolate, Marie-Laure and I just had to attend, and we decided to go to the late opening on Friday.

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