Twelve Hours in Paris

Note: For more Paris recommendations, see this follow-up edition.

My friend Adam has just had what I think is a brilliant idea of a meme, named Twelve Hours in Dot Dot Dot: if you had only twelve hours left to spend in your home city/town/village/oasis, what would you do with them?

Because I lived abroad for a while, I have, on several occasions, spent twelve semi-final hours in Paris, and I admit they usually involved a combination of the following activities: 1) buying several months’ worth of my then-favorite face cream, 2) trying to locate my passport, 3) spending time with people I knew I was going to miss, simply enjoying the normalcy of being in the same time zone.

But I posit cosmetics, traveling documents, and companionable silences weren’t what Adam had in mind for this meme, so I came up with a more suitable — and food-oriented — timetable for my hypothetical last twelve hours in Paris.

It goes without saying that difficult choices were made, and that for every item I included, there were about ten more looking at me with a crestfallen expression. Most of these places are included in my Paris book, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, in which you’ll find many more options to fill however many hours you get to spend in Paris (more info here).

I should also note that I chose to assume these weren’t the last twelve hours before I die, first of all because that would be a little depressing, and also because I worked in a few opportunities to buy things I would want to take with me wherever I was supposed to travel next, and who knows what customs policy they have in the afterlife.

Without further ado, I give you my Twelve Hours in Paris, which I’ve decided would take place on a Thursday, from 12:30pm to 12:30am. And of course, if you want to chime in with your own Twelve Hours in Dot Dot Dot, in the comments section or as a post on your blog, I’ll be curious to read your take!

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Chocolat & Zucchini @ La Cocotte


On Thursday, April 10, starting from 6pm, we shall celebrate the release of Chocolat & Zucchini, the French version of my cookbook, beautifully published by Marabout.

This booksigning event will be held at the adorable cookbook store La Cocotte in Paris; drinks and nibbles will be provided. (See larger-sized invitation.)

La Cocotte / map it!
5 rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris
M° Faidherbe-Chaligny
Phone: +33 (0)9 54 73 17 77

[For information about future book events, including my upcoming US book tour, view the complete list.]

Exceptions Gourmandes by Philippe Conticini

Update: The pastry shop mentioned in this post is now closed, but it has been replaced by Conticini’s new pastry shops, called La Pâtisserie des Rêves.

I’m sure there are people out there who step inside a new pastry shop, glance at the display, order what they want, and walk out. I have no idea how they do it.

Take, for instance, Philippe Conticini‘s recently opened boutique, which I visited last month, before I left for Australia. It is a tiny thing, just a small room with stone walls, a wooden door, and a window that looks out onto Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine, one of the prettiest squares in Paris (for best effect, visit on a weekday afternoon in early February, when you have the whole place to yourself).

For those of you who went “huh?” when I mentioned Conticini’s name in the previous paragraph, let’s just say he is a prominent French pastry chef who used to work at La Table d’Anvers, at Pétrossian, and at the legendary but sadly defunct Pâtisserie Peltier. He has published a number of books(including one that’s so large it could be used as a tent for hobbits) and has created his own consulting/catering company.


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Notes from the Molecular Gastronomy Conference

Hervé This

Earlier this week, I attended a two-day conference on molecular gastronomy — sometimes refered to as the “science of deliciousness” — and the relationship between technique, technology, and science.

It was a free and public session, organized by the INRA, the French institute for agricultural research, and the engineering school AgroParisTech. Our lecturer was none other than Hervé This*, co-creator of this scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical phenomenons that take place in cooking. In passing, 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of molecular gastronomy, and I hear this will be suitably celebrated in Paris around March 20.

I am no longer used to sitting for hours in a cramped classroom, and my right knee made a point of telling me that, but someone like Hervé This makes you want to unearth that satchel and do it all over again: his passion, his enthusiasm, his talent for teaching, and his facetious ways make fourteen hours of lecture go by in a blink.

You should note that Hervé This hosts monthly seminars in Paris — also free and open to the public (by email registration). These are a fantastic opportunity to witness debates and experiments during which you’ll finally get to the bottom of such vital questions as: does adding a potato to an oversalted soup have any sort of effect? Should one beat meat to tenderize it? Do hand-cut fries actually taste better than machine-cut fries? (The reports are then made available on the French society for chemistry’s website.)

I’ve learned a lot during these two days, and the contents of the lecture will soon be published in book form by the INRA, but here are a few bullet points handpicked from my notes.

* The “h” is mute here, and This’ last name is pronounced “tiss”.

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Hidden Kitchen

Corn soup with black bean salsa

Late last summer, a young chef from Seattle wrote to tell me about his underground restaurant project: Hidden Kitchen was to be set in an apartment somewhere in Paris, where he and his girlfriend would serve a tasting menu with matching wines to twelve diners each week. The price would be reasonable and chef friends visiting from out of town would be invited to cook there on occasion, too.

He had the vision, the name, the funding, the location, and the nifty cut-out cards, but he wanted to reach out and ask for a local’s thoughts.

And this local’s predominant thought was: yay! (I may have offered a bit more insight — I forget.)

The concept of an underground restaurant is common enough in some countries to be documented on Wikipedia and to have been written up in the press, but I have heard or read very little about similar initiatives in Paris — of course, they may be so underground as to fly below my radar –, so I was excited to learn about this one, and to be in the front row as it made its debut.

It took the team a few months to pull things together, renovate the apartment, set up the kitchen, and decorate the dining room, but the chef wrote again in the spring to announce that things were just about ready: the first official dinner would be held on June 24, but would Maxence and I like to come and lend our taste buds for a proof of concept dinner a couple of weeks before that?

My reply was: see above.

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