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I learned about Bonnat chocolate on a trip to Voiron way-back-when, well over a decade ago, when I wanted to visit the Chartreuse distillery, to learn how the mysterious herbal elixir was made. It was an interesting trip, especially because one of the smells coming from the infusing vats filled with herbs reminded me of the smell of some of the herbs you’d smell on the streets of San Francisco, specifically in the Haight-Ashbury, near where I lived.

What stood out most from that trip wasn’t that smell, or learning that the liqueur had a secret recipe that only two monks knew, or that there was a gift shop filled with all-things Chartreusian (not Carthusian, like the monks were). It was the ovals of chocolate, wrapped in golden foil. When I unwrapped the foil and popped the whole thing in my mouth, a few seconds later there was an explosion of flavor like I’d never experienced before. I was hooked.

Continue Reading Bonnat Chocolate...

Continuing our edible (and drinkable) adventures in Edinburgh, I insisted after we hit the farmers’ market that we stop at Mary’s Milk Bar. A gazillion readers recommended it, and Charlotte and my friend Lani, were happy when we herded ourselves into Mary Hillard’s cozy shop.

I love meeting ice cream makers and Mary was one of the nicest I’ve ever met. She started as a chocolatier but ended up churning gelato. Her gelato is made mostly from milk with a little cream, and sugar. The first flavor I tried was simply labeled “Milk.”

Continue Reading Eating, Dining, and Drinking in Edinburgh (part 2)...

There’s a lot of discussion, and some dissension, about the origin of the Martinez cocktail. It’s made with gin and vermouth, and is served up (without ice), so there are certain similarities for sure. Plus the name, which has led people to speculate that the cocktail was invented in Martinez, California.

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One of the many places on my bucket list of places to visit has been Scotland. In each place on that ever-growing list, there’s usually a food or drink that is associated with the place, that makes it even more compelling for me want to visit it.

Okay, who am I kidding? There are usually a number of things (invariably, edible) that make me want to visit a place. In this case, the main one was Scotch whisky, something I wanted to learn more about. Sure, you can buy a few bottles and read up on it. But I’ve learned from visiting places, such as the Jura to see how Comté cheese is made, to Normandy, to watch copper cookware being hammered out, that the best want to understand something is to see, and taste it, where it’s made.

Last fall, I was staying with my friends Paul and Lani in Philadelphia, who are about to head on a multi-year voyage around the world with their three kids. They’d done the trip twice before (and yes, joining them for a month on the boat is also on my bucket list, too), and are packing up to hit the open seas again...

I’m not a huge beer drinker. I joke that I only drink beer if I’m on a sunny beach in Mexico, thinking that someone will take me up on that to prove it. So far, that hasn’t happened, so I may need to change my tactic. While I figure out another way, one thing I am sure of is that there’s no shortage of beer in France.

Young Parisians almost exclusively drink beer, at least from what I see on every café table in my decidedly hipster-heavy neighborhood. Most of what they drink is draft beer (bière pression), often in generously oversized glasses. But there are some very good French craft beers, and several bars, stores, and even microbreweries in Paris, specialize in beer. However, beer is rarely paired with food, like wine is.

Continue Reading Chocolate Pots de Creme...

This Wednesday, April 4th, I’ll be at The American Library in Paris as part of their Evenings with an Author, in conversation with Alec Lobrano. The event starts at 7:30 pm and will be followed by a book signing; books will be available for purchase, and you’re welcome to bring previously purchased copies. The talk is free and open to all. See you there!


When I wrote The Perfect Scoop, I was excited for the opportunity to be able to write a book on ice cream that included the basics of making ice cream at home, but made sure it had a special emphasis on all the mix-ins and sauces and toppings that go inside, outside, and on top of everyone’s favorite dessert. (Including mine.) I had the time of my life doing the book, and after it was released ten years ago, I was surprised – and delighted – at the groundswell of support the book had, year after year.

Initially, the publisher told me it was the fastest approval for a book he’d ever seen in one of their acquisition meetings, where they review proposed titles. I wanted the book to be a guidebook to making ice cream, one that included the basics, with all the accompaniments, from mix-ins to sauces, that go inside, on top, and under those perfect scoops, and they were happy to oblige.

Continue Reading The Perfect Scoop, new revised & updated edition!...

I found myself with several grapefruit rinds on my hands last week (or rather, on my kitchen counter) as a result of working on a recipe that called for their juice. I don’t like to toss things away, especially precious organic grapefruit peels. So I candied them.

Continue Reading Candied Grapefruit Peel...

I’m late in the game, but I have longevity. At least that’s what I like to think when I’m drinking turmeric tonic, which may (or may not) prolong that admirable longevity I’m boasting about. I don’t know how true those claims are, but I do know that I had my first taste of it in Los Angeles, at Sqirl, and I loved it.

The juice thing has come to Paris, but they’re not widely available freshly made. And I haven’t really seen fresh turmeric juice anywhere, although I haven’t really looked. Usually I don’t get farther than the wine aisle at the grocery store.

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I’d been meaning to stop into Edwart Chocolatier since it opened nearly three years ago. But I had my head buried in the books and I wasn’t let out until after dark. And once released, I’d make a sprint to the nearest bar or café for a drink or glass of wine, before retreating again.

When we finally connected, Edwin Yansané said I should come in for a chocolate tasting. And was happy to be greeted by him on an especially brisk day in Paris at his shop in the Marais, in his wide-brimmed hat. After discussing our favorite cocktail bars in Paris (we have more than chocolate in common!), we got down to business…

Continue Reading Edwart Chocolatier...

Some recipes I make over and over again, and some I don’t. I’m not sure why, but once a recipe becomes part of my repertoire, I tend to stick with it. However as a diversion from my usual Parisian hot chocolate recipe, I revisited this one, which I learned to make in Belgium. I’d forgotten how good it was!

I made this hot chocolate recipe when I did an internship at Wittamer, one of the best chocolate shops in Brussels. And let me tell you, there’s plenty of competition in that town.

Continue Reading Belgian Hot Chocolate Recipe...

I’m always happy to hear of a new pastry shop opening in Paris, especially when it offers something a bit different than the others. Sometimes I go and they’re interesting. Other times, I’m less enthusiastic. I was especially excited when I heard about Maison Aleph, which offers bite-size tastes of the Middle East, referencing French techniques, but creating something completely original.

Continue Reading Maison Aleph...

I tend to forget about gremolata, the simple three-ingredient condiment that has a particular affinity for lamb, but is also good on grilled fish, vegetables, and other meats. It’s one of those things that you can make with stuff you keep on hand, that is, if you have lemon, parsley, and garlic on hand, like I always do.

I was out shopping for ingredients for a day of recipe testing last week and since we’re in the midst of winter at the moment, I thought it’d be nice to have lamb shanks for dinner. They’re easy to prepare; you just stick them in the oven for a few hours with some aromatics and wine or stock (or water, or whatever you have on hand), and then you can almost forget about them. They’re hard to screw up, and the bonus is that the oven warms up your kitchen nicely.

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One of the things that affect everybody, whether you’re a local, or a visitor, is that ya gotta go. Or as the French say, “Faire pipi.” Although people readily discuss bodily functions in France, going to the can is something where a little more discretion is called for. It’s not something everyone wants to talk about, but let’s face it, everyone’s gotta do it – except for the French. Or at least it feels that way to me.

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A few weeks ago, I was talking to someone about chocolate chip cookies, which is one of my favorite subjects. The French like them, too. They just call them les cookies, as if they didn’t need further clarification. But every time I make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, I have zero trouble handing them off to people. Who can resist a chocolate chip cookie, especially when it’s warm, with oozing chunks of melted chocolate surrounded by chewy oatmeal, and soft, butter-rich dough?

I’ve got a number of chocolate chip cookie recipes on my site; salted butter chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip-tahini cookies, buckwheat chocolate chip cookies, and (of course) chocolate-chocolate chip cookies, with a double…I mean, triple dose of chocolate. But one I just revisited was this one made with mesquite flour. And let me tell you, you’ll want to revisit it, too, once you make them.

Continue Reading Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies...

I don’t get out for lunch as much as I used to, or want to, but a dizzying amount of cafés, restaurants, and pastry shops have opened while I was holed up writing books. One that was getting an inordinate amount of good word-of-mouth, from friends and other restaurant owners, was Echo Café.

Entering the restaurant late morning, I was startled by the amount of sunshine that was flooding the place due to its location just across from an open place. I got there at 11 am and there wasn’t much going on. But by the time I left, the place was packed with sun-starved Parisians flocking to the café during their lunch break to get some Vitamin D, as was evident on a busy weekday afternoon.

But the other very good, and better, reason for the crush of Parisians is Chef Mailea Weger who worked at Gjusta and Gjelina in Los Angeles, places I’ve wanted to go on every single trip to L.A. that I’ve been on, but I’m usually on the other side of the city. And as anyone familiar with L.A. traffic knows, it’s a long haul from one side of Los Angeles to the other.

This dish came together rather serendipitously on a Sunday afternoon. I was up to my elbows testing recipes and was looking for something savory for dinner that didn’t require too much prep, or dishes afterward. I’d brought home some colorful radicchio from the market, I had some bacon (don’t I always?), and there was a packet dried mushrooms in a kitchen drawer. So I gathered everything up and searched through my grains, to see what was in there.

I eat a ton of pasta, specifically whole grain pasta, which I can’t resist, especially if there’s garlic or radicchio involved. (And bacon, of course.) But in between a few bags of pasta was a small sack of petit épeautre (wheat berries) and a similar-sized bag of something unlabeled, which I was sure was farro. Whatever it was, the two bags came out to about 1 cup, which was just the right amount to make a wheat berry risotto, or farrotto.

Continue Reading Farro Risotto (Farrotto) with Radicchio and Bacon...

There’s an exciting wave of pastry places opening in Paris. The last time that happened to such an extent was when Pierre Hermé kicked off a new wave of excitement about la pâtisserie nearly two decades ago. What new is that many of the pastry shops are outside of traditional areas. Visitors often say they want to go to places “off the beaten path,” and the combination of a compact city along with a prompt métro system means you can get anywhere in minutes, not hours. So getting to other parts of Paris is simply a matter of getting on the métro, or hopping in a taxi or car.

The new places aren’t just for out-of-towners, though, their main focus is to be a pastry shop for le quartier – for the neighborhood, because most Parisians don’t want to go halfway across town to pick up a loaf of bread or a pastry. They want it now. And I can’t say I blame them.

Continue Reading Benoit Castel Pastry Shop...

Before a recent visit to Los Angeles, I’d heard a lot about Sqirl, a quirky restaurant with a funny name. People were imploring me to go. So much so, that if I didn’t, I’d be racked with guilt for the next five to seven years. (Which I think was the intended effect.) Whatever it was, it worked, and when planning to meet up with a friend, I suggested we go there.

Since he lived in Silverlake, he was familiar with Sqirl, and said we should go mid-morning to avoid the lines. I’m of the age where I don’t want to wait in line anymore to eat. At least I thought I was.

Continue Reading Malva Pudding Cakes...

I’ll be at WHSmith booksellers in Paris for a talk and book signing at 6 pm Thursday night (Feb 8). The event is open to all, although you’re welcome to RSVP on the Facebook Event page. See you there!