Paris Grocery News 3/26 Friday, Mar 26 2010 

Bonne Pâques !

Whether you are celebrating Easter or simply welcoming spring, it’s always fun to do brunch. The ritual of a late morning feast is something we can all share. In case you need a little inspiration, here is a recipe featuring some of our favorite ingredients.

Nuts for chestnuts.

Chestnut Flour Crêpes with Chanterelles

For Crêpes
yields 18-24 crêpes

1 1/2 cups sifted chestnut flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Sift the chestnut flour into a bowl. Add the milk and beat to form a smooth paste. Whisk in the eggs and 1 tbsp butter until smooth. Pour 2 tbsp batter in the center of pan and swirl until the batter covers the entire surface. Cook until almost dry on top and bottom is golden, about 30 seconds. Flip and cook about 30 seconds more. Transfer to platter and repeat until batter is used.

For Chanterelle Filling

1 1/2 cups dry chanterelles
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/4 cup crême fraîche
3 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
white truffle honey, for drizzling

Rehydrate the mushrooms, soaking them in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain off the water.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions, sautéing until soft and beginning to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms, and sauté for 4 additional minutes. Add the crême fraîche, mix thoroughly, and take off heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fold into the crepes, and drizzle with the truffle honey.

Raindrops on roses, wiskers on kitten, these are a few of our favorite sweets!

If you’ll be too busy hiding eggs to watch over a hot stove, set out a continental spread: baguette and a bowl of yogurt with sweet and savory accompaniments. We love L’Epicurien 3 Citrus Jam, Confitures à l’Ancienne Mirabelle Plum Marmalade, Boat Street Kitchen Pickled Figs, and mild cow’s milk cheeses such as St. Nectaire and Le Somport. We’ll slice off some of Zoe’s Artisanal Ham and Rosette de Lyon to round out the spread. As a treat for the kids, we’ve made bundles of sweets. For the adults, we suggest Marquis de Perlade Brut Blanc de Blancs, great for mimosas and a steal at $9.99!

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The elixir of quietude Monday, Mar 22 2010 

Well, we might be a bit snobbish. Or perhaps, just kind of boring. But we like our martinis’ frill-free, no nonsense, and classic: gin and vermouth, maybe an olive if I’m drinking, a twist of lemon if the drink is Rachel’s. So we thoroughly enjoyed NPR’s story on shaked, stirred, and sweet martinis. Especially after tasting through the Dolin vermouth lineup last fall, it is hard to imagine why anyone thought it was necessary to mess with the fragrant combo of gin and a dry Vermouth de Chambery, so urbane and herbal. Don’t get us wrong, we’re ever curious about the cocktails that Seattle’s artisan bartenders concoct. But our first and fondest love will remain a martini, classic.

Paris Grocery News 3/19 Friday, Mar 19 2010 

Tomorrow is the first official day of spring, and we at Paris Grocery are ready to welcome it with open arms. And tastebuds. We’re thinking apéritifs, charming sweets in pastel palettes, frisée salad with lardons and poached egg, and a tangy goat cheese that evokes the fresh flavors of the season. Here are some of our Spring selections.

Rouge, Blanc, et Sec!

Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry: The only Vermouth with an AOC designation, Dolin has none of the cloying sweetness or overly bitter qualities found in bottom-shelf Vermouths. $13.99/each.
Fee Brothers Bitters: Try all three flavors in your artisan cocktails: Old-Fashioned, Orange, and Mint.
Calissons: A traditional treat from Aix-en-Provence. A chewy paste of almonds, sugar, and Cavaillon melon with a touch of orange rind and just the right amount of royal icing.
Marshmallow Ropes: Do like the cool enfants and eat these adorable ropes right out of the package! Lemon, Raspberry or Violet flavors, $1.99 each

Lardons: Simply cut into cubes and fry for a rich, salty, and crispy addition to frisée salad, quiche, soups, tarte flambée, even Brussels sprouts.
La Pointe Goat Cheese: A farmhouse goat cheese from the Loire Valley, this creamy, slightly crumbly cheese has initially herbaceous and milky aromas, which intensify into a tangy finish. A Sauvignon Blanc would perfectly accent its delicate fruitiness. $19.99/each

Giving some love to stinky cheese Tuesday, Mar 16 2010 

Epoisse, Soumaitrain, and Tomme du Berger are just a few of the washed rind cheeses housed at Paris Grocery. And yes, they are intimidatingly stinky, but we love them! It’s nice to see NPR appreciates them, too.

Kristin Jackson includes a yummy recipe for polenta with Epoisse and oil-cured olives, which you can also find at Paris Grocery!

Paris Grocery News, 3/11 Friday, Mar 12 2010 

Among French appellations scrambling to sell wine during the recession, Bordeaux is perhaps the region struggling the hardest. Prices of older wines are being slashed as newer vintages are released, providing a great opportunity to load up on delicious bottles that were previously unaffordable. We’ve brought in four new red wines from the left bank, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon blends, which we think are steals.

2006 Domaine Lapalu “La Patache” Médoc ($14.99) A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon harvested from different parcels of the Lapalu family’s vineyards, the fruit has been skillfully selected and blended. A lively, juicy Bordeaux that is approachable in its youth, it also has an ability to develop with age. It is deep ruby, aromatic with strong notes of cassis and plum supported by dusty tannins and softer notes of vanilla. Wonderful as an accompaniment to roasts, it is also delicious all on its own!

2006 Sorbey Haut-Médoc ($14.99) The second label of the prestigious Chateau Julien, Chateau Sorbey uses grapes from the same gravel vineyards to create outstandingly priced Médoc wine. This 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot shows great minerality and balance. It spends at least a year maturing in oak barrels. Concentrated, nicely structured, with chewy black fruit and hints of spice and cedar. Delicious with lamb crusted in herbs and lavender.

2007 Chateau Semonlon Haut-Médoc ($15.99) Olivier Dumora inherited this small estate, which sits very close to Margaux, from his great-grandfather. The gravel and mud soil of the area is known for its finesse, and Dumora respects the terroir and pays homage to the traditional winemaking style of Bordeaux. All the fruit is harvested by hand and fermented in stainless steel tanks, followed by a year of aging in both cement vats and in oak barrels. The 35-year-old vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot yield a supple wine with deep notes of black currant, plum, and earth. Medium-bodied with balanced acidity and tannins, it is very appealing now but can also be cellared for a couple of years.

2005 Château Bibian Listrac-Médoc ($24.99) Julien Meyre, winemaker at Chateau Bibian, stopped in at Paris Grocery last week with his wonderful wines. From clay and limestone vineyards with deep pockets of gravel, the 2005 vintage was the estate’s best bottling since 1990! 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot, it was kept 6 months in French oak. Full-bodied, it shows exceptional structure. The ripe black fruit is persistent, and balanced by notes of the terroir: graphite, pencil lead and chalk. Incredibly delicious and a great addition to your cellar. “Rich and layered, with blackberry, currant and toasty oak on the nose and palate. Full and silky-textured, with a long finish.” 90 points Wine Spectator

NEW CHEESES AND FOODS AT PARIS GROCERY

Soumaintrain – A cow’s milk cheese from Yonne in northern Burgundy, the wheels are washed with brine and marc de Bourgogne. Pungent, gooey, rich, mushroomy, and barnyardy- some even say it displays umami. Try it with a Chablis for a blissful experience. $25.99/wheel

Comté de Fruitière -A raw cow’s milk cheese from the Jura, aged 5-6 months. A delicious fruit nectar aroma and a more delicate nuttiness than more aged comté. Almost sweet and bursting with flavors of fresh milk and butter. Great in salads or with fruit! $16.99/lb

Tomme Haut Berry -From a remote and arid region of southwestern France, this sheep’s milk cheese has a firm yet creamy texture. An aroma of spring wildflowers and a bright flavor that is both sweet and acidic make this cheese a new favorite. $28.99/lb

Saint Nectaire Fermier -A fermier (farmstead) version of an ancient style of cheese. Made with the milk of Salers cows who graze on the volcanic pastures of Auvergne, this cheese has all the earthiness, nuttiness, and raw milk flavor a cheese can possess! Pair with a light, fruity Gamay.

Biscuits from Bretagne.

Tarbais Beans— the traditional bean for cassoulet! These unique beans are hand picked around the tiny village of Tarbais. Slim and thin skinned, they have a subtle flavor. Creamy without being paste-like, they are ideal for slow-baked dishes. $17.99/lb.

We now have the full line of Clément Faugier chestnut products— chestnut cream with vanilla, chestnut puree, and whole chestnuts in water. Traou Mad de Pont Aven cookies from Brittany– made with salted butter, these thick biscuits are supremely dunk-worthy!
And, Salted Black Licorice is now in stock!

Come see us soon!

piece of. Tuesday, Mar 9 2010 

I was going to be hardcore this week. I had a kickass recipe lined up, involving chicken and orange-harissa glaze and maybe even dandelion greens. It looked delicious. It was delicious. But when I sat down to write, I couldn’t stop thinking about my almond cake.

baking in the reluctant morning light

This happened for many reasons. I think I‘ve made how I feel about baking pretty clear. A love affair, life long, etc? Also, there were also no less than three birthdays to be celebrated this week. And, as usual, I was craving things from our expanding bakery section at Paris Grocery. Among our recent acquisition were almond meal, a second brand of rose water, and a cookbook called Warm Bread and Honey Cake. (Doesn’t that title make you want to get up and bake, right now?)

Though not from that collection, this almond-rose cake embodies the same distilled warmth. Simple and tender, it’s the recipe I wanted to share with you this week.

I usually make this cake with fruit on top, pear or apricot. But I once had a recipe for baklava that I loved. Hardcore. I was so nuts about it that I twice chopped and pounded a Ziploc full of almonds with a rolling pin until they were cracked enough to resemble coarsely ground almonds. (And if you’ve never tried to chop whole almonds, let me tell you, it is rough.) It was a baklava unlike the ones I’d eaten at Greek restaurants, puffy and honey-drenched. This one had a thin, crisp crust and was sweetened with simple syrup, rose water, and a touch of cardamom. I learned this was a more Middle Eastern style; it certainly resembled the baklava that Sam and I would buy at the marché biologique Sunday mornings in Toulouse. The table, manned by eager gentlemen who called out cousine, cousine as I walked toward it, dipped under the weight of oblong trays stacked with an array of baklava: almond, walnut, pistachio.

I lost the recipe in a pile of moving boxes a few weeks after I made it for the second time, and never found it again. Clearly, I haven’t been able to move on. I wanted to recreate the flavors in soft, spongy cake version that wouldn’t require meticulous assembly and chopping. I needed two cakes, so I topped one with sliced almonds and threw pine nuts on the other at the last minute. Pine nuts are just too cute to pass up sometimes. I skipped the cardamom and flavored it only with rose water, feeling that with the spice it would taste more like a fall cake, putting you in the mood to hibernate, than a nymph-like birthday cake for spring.

crisp on top

I may never go back to the fruit version again. The cakes were heavenly with just nuts and rose water. I was surprised at how much I liked the one with pine nuts; I thought they would be distracting. The almond meal flavor did get a bit lost in there, but the pine nuts were plump and crisp with the sugar on top of the cake, buttery and bringing out the rose flavor at the end. I would probably use pine nuts again if I left out the almond meal and made it with just wheat flour. Both were rich and fluffy, not at all like baklava but just as alluring, with the rose aroma weaving through the background. Floral, soft, and something you should get up and bake, right now.


Almond Rose Torte

Inspired by Molly Wizenberg’s Almond Torte with Sugared Apricots

1/3 cup almond meal
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature*
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¼ tsp rose water
1/3 cup sliced almonds (or whole pine nuts)
1 tbsp granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of an 8½“ (ideally) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do no grease the pan, as the batter is quite thick and needs traction to rise.

Sift together dry ingredients, minus the sugar. In a separate bowl beat the butter until fluffy and creamy, at least three minutes (count ‘em!), then add the sugar, eggs and rose water.

With the electric beater, mix in the flour mixture until just combined. Transfer to cake pan and smooth out the batter. Scatter the nuts evenly over the surface of the cake. Then sprinkle the sugar over everything. (I like a little under one tablespoon. You may like a little more. It’s all ok.)

Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and edges are a crispy golden brown. If you don’t have a spring form pan, the cake will be virtually impossible to remove whole from the pan, you’ll have to serve it from the pan. Cover it in plastic wrap, and it will keep for at least a week.

*A quick word on butter: “room temperature” is a deceptive term. 65F is the ideal temperature for creaming butter for baked goods. Most kitchens are warmer than that, and the notation “butter at room temperature” can make it sound as if the whole stick is supposed to get soft right to the core. It doesn’t take long for butter to reach 65F. The best way to handle it is by cutting each stick into three cubes, and when the butter is still cold, but can be imprinted when you press your finger against it, start beating. Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to see what would happen if I let the butter get soft to “normal” room temperature. Though it shaved a few minutes off of the mixing time, the cake lacked in structure, sinking a bit in the middle and being more crumbly than usual. When butter becomes too soft, it can’t hold the pockets of air that the beating is supposed to work in, and the result is flat, if not sagging, pastries that brown too quickly.

unforgettable

Paris Grocery News 3/4 Thursday, Mar 4 2010 

We’ll happily sneeze our way through this early touch of spring, as long as we have some yummy new items to snack on and cook with. Here are some of our much-anticipated new and returning items:

French lavender and tarragon. Packed out here at Paris Grocery into 8 ounce containers. Tarragon plays a starring role in a classic Béarnaise sauce. Try the lavender on a leg of roasted spring lamb, or sprinkled on a log of fresh chèvre.

Pamplie Salted Butter.From Poitou-Charentes, a region famous for its dairy products. Pamplie is preferred by chefs for its firm consistency, pale color, and rich flavor with hints of hazelnuts. Made with fleur de sel from Île de Ré, this butter just gets better.

Tome d’Acquitaine is back! This is one of our absolute favorite cheeses. The beautiful snow-white interior of this washed-rind goat’s milk cheese will catch your eye. Washed in Sauternes by the respected affineur Jean d’Alos, it displays delicately balanced fruit and floral notes.

Abbaye de Tamié cheese makes a stunning debut. We asked Olivier to bring us a fantastic example of a monastery cheese, and he did not disappoint. The monks of Tamié have been producing this cow’s milk cheese since the year 1135. We think they are getting the hang of it- this cheese is marvelously creamy, almost spreadable, with a pungent fruitiness and undertones of sweet hay and fresh cream.

WINES

2008 André Neveu Sancerre “Le Grand Fricambault” ($24.99) André Neveu’s vineyards are located in Chavignol, on the silex soil of Sancerre’s hillsides. Highly aromatic, his exquisite Sauvignon Blanc reflects this flinty terrain. Bone-dry and chalky, it exudes aromas of citrus, grapefruit, and limestone. Tart, concentrated, and marvelous with Crottin de Chavignol, the local goat’s milk cheese.

2008 Terres Dorées Beaujolais “L’Ancien” ($16.99) Traditional Beaujolais wines have amazing fruit and depth, and this wine really overdelivered at a recent tasting. Winemaker Jean-Paul Brun is a relentless advocate for winemaking à l’ancienne and seeks to make old-style Gamay wines. He does not add sugars to his wine and uses only indigenous yeasts for his fermentation, instead of the lab-developed strain popular in the region for its banana and candy aromas. This Beaujolais is 100% old-vine Gamay, delicate and pure, showing excellent balance, freshness and acidity. Mineral-driven, with bright cherry, cranberry and sweet spices melding into a lengthy finesse. A remarkable value! 90 points Wine Advocate

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has sprung. Wednesday, Mar 3 2010 

The thing about spring in Seattle is that it isn’t really its own season. It’s a transition, a two-step shuffle between varying shades of gray. It is kind of warm, kind of sticky, kind of windy, sometimes sunny and mostly damp. Being a little bit of everything is ok, though. It grants a certain leeway: in a loosey-goosey season you can shake off the cobwebs of winter with caprice. Last Friday, I made soup, and I was quite content slurping something warm. A couple days later, I walked past a magnolia tree blooming fuchsia, which made me want to drink rosé and make a tarte provençal. So, voilà, quoi.

harbingers of sunshine

Provençal cooking would be a summer, solidly, if cuisines were seasons. Bowing at the altar of freshness, its recipes seek not to blend flavors but distill them. Each ingredient becomes more pure in the sum, each part more of itself in the whole. Winter still falls on the people of Provence; their genius is in creating this purity of flavors regardless of the season. The tarte provençal (which is not egg based – think of it as a beautiful, rectangular pizza rather than a quiche) lends itself well to this ethos. In the summer it is delicate and sweet, made with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. In the winter, preserved vegetable and dried herbs make an intense, ripe version that burns with the promise of summer.

The tarte is a study in contrasts, founded on the balance between saltiness, sweetness and acidity. Much as the impressionist painters relied on a few, well-placed primary colors to craft depth and light and shape, the handful of ingredients create their impact through dissimilarity. The sardines and olives are scattered over red and yellow peppers that have been roasted to enhance their sweetness. This combo rests on a bed of dense tomato sauce, tangy and bright against the sweet-salty toppings. The soft medley is supported by yet another counter point: a crisp and buttery pastry crust.

salty, silky goodness

Best of all, the recipe is as loosey-goosey as a Seattle spring—it thrives on whim. You can use a jar of roasted peppers, or broil them yourself. You can toss in a few more olives when you’re craving an extra-salty kick, or even use Dufour Puff Pastry for a flaky, airy crust instead of a crisp one. The important thing to remember is that with few ingredients, quality counts. The oil-cured black olives we pack out are meaty and briney and balanced. The ones with garlic would be delicious on the tarte, if less traditional than the ones with herbes de provence. I wouldn’t dream of using any sardines other than the Connétable brand. Lightly salted, with delicate flesh, the fillets are long and hold together, essential for making the crisscross pattern on the tarte. I used the regular ones, packed in olive oil, but I’m dying to try it with the lemon ones. Good herbes de provence are key, ones that have been stored in a cool dark place. And don’t forget that glass of rosé (Commanderie de la Bargemone, perhaps?); it won’t feel like Provence without it.

Tarte Provençal
adapted from Le meilleur de la France

For the crust:
2 cups flour
11 tbsp salted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg yolk
about 3 tbsp cold water

With your fingers or a pastry cutter, blend the butter into the flour until it is evenly dispersed, with lumps smaller than a pea. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and drop in the egg yolk. With a fork, start mixing the yolk with the flour, adding a tablespoon of water at a time, until the mixture comes together but remains fairly dry. Shape it into a ball; the dough should not be very sticky. Wrap it in plastic film and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to for a rectangle and place it on a baking sheet. With a fork, pierce the crust throughout. Cover in plastic and return to refrigerator for another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425F

Remove the plastic, lay a sheet of parchment paper over the crust. Cover it with pie weights, rice, or beans and bake for 10 minutes. Remove weights and paper and bake for an additional 4 minutes. Remove from oven.

For the topping:
1 large onion, minced
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes or ten fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp herbes de provence
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 tin Connétable sardine fillets
6 oil-cured olives with herbes de provence, cut in half, pits removed

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil over med-low heat and add the onions. Cover, and let them cook slowly until quite tender but not browned, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and herbes de provence, cook for another five minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Let the mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it becomes a thick puree, let it cool.

Broil the peppers over a burner and cut into thin strips. Alternatively, you can slice the peppers, toss them with oil and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Set the oven on Hi and broil the peppers for about 12 minutes, until limp and charred on the bottom.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the tomato sauce on the crust. Scatter the peppers evenly over the sauce. Make a crisscross pattern with the sardines, making three diagonal lines in one direction, then three in the opposite direction. You should have 12 “squares” in the pattern. Place one olive half in the center of each square.

Bake for 25 minutes.