My citified husband loves Paris but prefers Lyon. Why? "Paris is too big", he says. "Lyon is walkable." True, Paris as a whole seems unconquerable, but it is also a city of neighborhoods, small and manageable. The one we think of as 'ours' is in the 16th, near the Trocadèro at the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a quiet residential place where some close and generous friends share their Paris flat with us. It's not on the well-worn tourist track, which suits us just fine. At nightfall, when the Tower twinkles madly on the hour, we position ourselves on a café terrace at the Trocadèro for the show, with a glass of champagne, and la vie est belle.
So what’s hot and happening in this sunny, dry summer in Paris? I love to scoop out the trends, which are much slower to arrive in the Burgundy countryside (if they ever do). Well, let’s see: in the style department, every Parisian woman seemed to be sporting an old-fashioned pony tail this trip, and the candy-colored locks or contrasty blond highlights from a while back have faded to natural hues. Grecian sandals are de rigueur (Ron also noticed a lot of really high heels. But then he would). In the cuisine department, Paris is mad for les cocktails and for les hamburgers, which are showing up on bistro menus.
Top Paris chefs opening casual bistros is a trend we love. Chef-du-jour Christian Constant has his main and fancy restaurant near the Tower on rue St. Dominique, and a couple of doors down is his fun bistro Les Cocottes where he serves up pure fun. Cocotte is the French word for a small casserole dish, (and, attention, also a slang word for prostitute) and most everything there is served up in these individual pots, hot from the oven, which you devour while seated on high stools. Further down on the corner is his Café Constant, also casual but more traditional, where I ordered a starter that sounded sort of boring but was anything but. “Mushrooms and artichoke hearts in a simple vinaigrette” said la carte. The ingredients were as fresh as could be, the dressing light enough for the flavors to shine through, and I’d be quite happy to be served a bowl of this every day in July. Back in our own tower at the château, I’ve tried to recreate it for you. Like so many good chef’s dishes, the secret here is fresh, quality ingredients.
One more tip: if you find yourself in the neighborhood of the Tower, don’t miss our favorite chic but good value restaurant, Au Bon Accueil. As the name says, it’s very welcoming, plus small and intimate.
If you like, cook your artichoke early and dip those tasty leaves in butter for your first course. Save the heart for the salad
2 generous servings
- 270 grams (½ pound) very fresh white mushrooms (champignons de Paris)
- 1 large artichoke, or 2 medium
- ⅓ cup best quality olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice or champagne vinegar
- good quality sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- 3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- tiny croutons, for garnish (optional)
Steam artichoke, remove leaves and choke. Cut out heart and slice thinly, then cut into small pieces. Put slices into a bowl. If using croutons, cut bread into small cubes and sauté in butter with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Wash mushrooms (yes, you can submerge them in water) and slice very thin. Add to artichokes. Whisk oil and lemon juice together with sea salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad and toss, with parsley. Taste to correct seasonings. Garnish with croutons. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Favorite Reads: The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City Missing the late great Gourmet Magazine? Remembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet will take you back. And our very favorite tour guide for Paris is Cadogan Guide Paris.
In the Comments this week: Dale, I'm with you, there's something about that tower....Mark, as far as I know those bungee jumpers survived, but one of the parachutists did not. Don't miss book recommendations from Sue--and Suzanne's idea for green tomato ketchup! And back to kitchen tools, Mindy is right, the best one is the internet! My ipad is always in the kitchen with me now. (To read the comments, click on the Comments link at the very end of the post). A tip for readers looking for back recipes: see the Recipes and Post Titles link on the sidebar. Or, if you know the name of a recipe or post, just google it along with 'Southern Fried French.'
Our reader's blogs: Regular readers know I'm a great fan of The Daily Basics, an e-zine by a fellow BH&G editor, with every thing you need to know about the lastest on lifestyle and more. Subscribe for a daily quick update on topics you'll love.
Photo: Most people have their picture taken by the Eiffel Tower, but we all have our priorities.