Those of you who follow LivingTastefully have often seen photos of my little man, Bisous. I won the jackpot for a French Bulldog with personality. I could not have gotten or imagined a puppy any sweeter, more playful, and loving than Bisous. He's pretty perfect. And naming him "kisses" in French was spot on. All you have to do is ask.
I fell in love with Jules on my first visit to Paris in 1997. He was the resident French Bulldog at the hotel we stayed at on Rue du Bac. The photo above was taken on my second visit to Paris in June 2000. My desire to return to Paris was all about Jules. I was able to visit him one more time in 2004 when he was eleven. Jules is the reason I have owned Frenchies for 16 years.
Last September, one month after I lost my 15-year-old Frenchie, Pipi, I went to Paris and met my on-line friend, Stacey Snacks. (see Stacey's website HERE). We had been corresponding for years and finally got to meet face à face at Stacey and Henry's apartment just off The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. She gave me this wonderful French make-up bag (which I cherish) with a pied Frenchie on the front, three months before I saw my first photo of Bisous at 2 or 3 weeks of age. Do you understand the eeriness to this gift? It's my Bisous. And by that I mean, in addition to both Frenchies being black and white, the similarities in their body structure. I have always said that Bisous looks more like an early European French Bulldog than most of the Frenchies I see these days on the street and in print. His legs and the length of his body are a little longer than what I'm used to. And, he's also BIG. The other day he weighed in at 27 pounds. He will be 11 months in a week and will continue to fill out until 18 months of age. I can't imagine where he'll end up on the scale! I've struggled with this, and have driven my family and friends crazy by always talking about his body... something that isn't important and I just need to get over!
Then yesterday, Bisous' friend, Charley the French Bulldog's dads, sent me these merged photos. The one on the left, of course, is Bisous, and the photo on the right is a 1907 magazine cover that hangs in our veterinarian's office. Yes... Bisous has that turn-of-the-century body. But it's o.k. And I often wonder... will he be healthier because of it?
TAKE a LOOK:
It's extremely rare for me to post onto LivingTastefully twice in one day, but I've had multiple requests for a photo of the newest addition to our family. He actually isn't even with us yet... a pied French Bulldog who we have named Bisous (Bee-zoo) and means "kisses" in French. We couldn't be happier and if all goes as planned, he should be with us by mid-January.
It's as though Bisous was meant to be, even before we found him. When we were in Paris this past September, I finally got to meet Stacey Snacks (you knew this was eventually coming, didn't you, Stacey?) And all of you are probably wondering where I'm going with this...
... as usual, I'll make this a long story... My husband and I were invited to Stacey and Henry's apartment on the Right Bank of Paris; just off the Champs-Elysées. The entire evening was a Slap My Face, Pinch Me moment that I would do anything to relive.
The balcony had a view of the Eiffel Tower and we stepped out onto it often...
And let me just say... the apartment was beyond French beautiful. Like I said, a Pinch Me moment to the max!
But finally, back to Bisous being "meant to be"... Stacey surprised me with the French bag below that has a pied French Bulldog woven onto the front. It has turned out to be (eerily) identical to the little pied male that will soon be ours. An omen, it seems.
(I now need to knit him a red scarf with black dots.) Our house has been far too quiet without Pipi. I'm looking forward to being totally preoccupied with this little guy.
But back to Paris. I have been known to make a complete idiot out of myself running after every French Bulldog I see while there. Here are a few of the photos I took of Frenchies on my recent trip. Above is a cast plaster French Bulldog with a collar that is for sale at a stationary shop on Rue du Bac.
Another "model" Frenchie sporting a hand-knit sweater and collar/leash at Le Bon Marché.
I absolutely love this old, paper maché French Bulldog in the window of an antique shop across the street from the French Sénat in the Jardin du Luxumbourg. I could find the perfect spot for him in my house...
A black-brindle Frenchie on a Saturday morning walk in the 7th Arrondissement.
And finally, a tiger brindle French Bulldog running off leash in the gardens of Versailles. That's the life! And yes, the French love their French Bulldogs.
TAKE a LOOK:
What I love most about visiting France is the inspiration I find in just about everything == it's endless. I believe it is impossible to be there and not be influenced in some small way, visually or gastronomically. Most likely, it will be both of those. In the weeks before I travel to Paris, or anywhere else in France, I note historical and cultural centers I should see in addition to pâtisseries I've been longing to visit and restaurants where I want to eat. But I'm also a big believer in just heading out in a different direction each morning to see where the streets take me. I am never disappointed. I'm always guaranteed unique discoveries that will inspire the way I approach something once I return home to St. Paul.
This recent trip was no exception. In addition to the 1200 plus photos I returned with, which remind me daily of the beauty that abounds, I ate foods that I knew I would attempt to recreate once at home. For me, that is the most meaningful thing I can do to remember a trip. There's nothing like being around the table on our patio with friends and family and eating a meal filled with delicious memories (A French Inspired Meal, French Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil).
One of the culinary highlights during my time in Paris was dinner at Restaurant Verjus. I had read about it in food magazines and was reminded by friend and food blogger Stacey that the American owners, Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian (a St. Paul native ?!), started their French culinary career by running the highly successful underground restaurant, Hidden Kitchen, out of their Paris apartment. While googling info on Verjus, I came upon a restaurant review by Alexander Lobrano for Saveur magazine. He summed up beautifully my experience there. (If interested, read the 2012 article HERE.) There is no ordering à la carte at Verjus. The meal is a tasting menu of approximately 8 courses. The only thing we were asked before the service began, was if either my husband or I had any food allergies and if we wanted the staff to pair each course with the recommended wine. We ended up talking with diners on both sides of our table throughout our meal, and if I had to describe the atmosphere, it could only be "festive". Everyone dining at Verjus that night was very happy to be there.
My little home kitchen project became the dessert I ate at Verjus that night. There are several components to this dish, but the ice cream, candied pine nuts and fresh ricotta can all be made ahead. I suggest making the cake the day of, only because I like how it slices; the cake's texture becomes more crumbly over time but the flavor is definitely as good.
PINE NUT ICE CREAM
+ found on Chowhound
MAKE ICE CREAM THE DAY BEFORE
• 3/4 cup pine nuts
• 3/4 cup sugar, divided
•2. 1/2 cups whole milk
• 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 5 egg yolks
1. Put 3/4 cup of pine nuts in a pie pan and roast them at 350 until fragrant.
Put roasted pine nuts and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor. Process until you get a peanut butter-like consistency, Combine this with 2 1/2 cups whole milk in a saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon almond extract. Bring to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat.
2. While the milk is heating. whisk together the 5 egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Once milk mixture boils, slowly pour it into the egg mixture.
Pour back into saucepan and heat over low heat - DO NOT BOIL - stir constantly. Remove from heat once custard is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. Cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.
3. Put into your ice cream maker and churn as directed. Freeze overnight.
CANDIED PINE NUTS
+ found on about.com
* 1/2 cup pine nuts
• 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
• 1 1/2 teaspoons water
• 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 1/8 cup Demerara sugar
1. PREHEAT oven to 350˚F. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, water, salt, and granulated sugar until smooth. Toss the pine nuts and Demerara sugar in the honey mixture stirring well to coat.
2. Spread the nut mixture onto a parchment lined baking pan in a single layer and bake until the nuts are golden brown. Watch closely so nuts do not burn. Allow the nuts to cool to room temperature; chop coarsely. Keep candied pine nuts in an air-tight container.
+ Use either purchased Fresh Ricotta or make your own. Recipe HERE.
OLIVE OIL CAKE with RED GRAPES
+ recipe, adapted, found at marthastewart.com
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
• 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
• 1/2 cup almond meal
• 1/4 cup coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 large eggs
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
• 1/3 cup whole milk
• 2 cups red seedless grapes
1. PREHEAT oven to 350˚F. Brush a 9-inch square pan with oil; dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, almond meal, cornmeal, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Beat eggs, sugar, and zest with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; slowly add the oil. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk, and beginning and ending with flour.
2. Spoon the batter into pan. Scatter 1 cup of grapes over the top. Bake for 15 minutes. Scatter the remaining 1 cup grapes over cake. Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; another 25 to 27 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, then turn out and slice into thin rectangles.
• Fresh Ricotta
• Good quality, runny Honey
• Olive Oil Cake with Red Grapes
• Pine Nut Ice Cream
• Candied Pine Nuts
1. On a small plate, smear a large spoonful of Fresh Ricotta; drizzle ricotta with honey.
Place a slice of the Olive Oil Cake on top of ricotta. Add a scoop of the Pine Nut Ice Cream to the plate and sprinkle with the Candied Pine Nuts. Serve and Enjoy!
TAKE a LOOK:
I don't consume a lot of hot chocolate. I'm an espresso addict and that's my go-to drink of choice. A cappuccino always in the a.m. and sometimes, in the afternoon, an espresso con panna; espresso topped with a dollop of thickened, heavy cream. I usually don't think about making hot chocolate until it's cold outside and I have some homemade marshmallows on hand. But my feelings about drinking hot chocolate regularly have just changed dramatically.
When I returned from Paris this fall, I started watching, I'll Have What Phil's Having, on PBS. I became hooked on the series where Phil Rosenthal showcases (humorously) the food scene of various locations around the world. Not long after I returned from Paris, Phil was in Paris. The episode began with Phil stopping at Angelina on Rue de Rivoli for a Chocolat Chaud. Angelina was closed however for renovation. He continued onto Les Deux Magots on the Boulevard Saint Germain where he finally drank, what seemed to be, a remarkable Parisian hot chocolate. Several times on this recent visit I walked right past Les Deux Magots and never considered stopping to down a memorable Chocolat des Deux Magots à l'ancienne. I think I need to go back... soon...
So now. I've been thinking of nothing else but Parisian hot chocolate, and this past week I set about making what I think is the best chocolat chaud that you can mix up in your own kitchen. I ran across this recipe that was copied onto a scrap of paper (as I often do) a year or two ago. I wish I could remember who developed this amazing hot chocolate, but unfortunately I don't have a clue. Whoever it is should know that it's the best I've had. This recipe makes a good amount of drinking chocolate. Good thing is, it keeps nicely in the refrigerator for several days and can be easily reheated when you desire a treat. And I don't feel it needs any embellishments, It is absolutely perfect just the way it is.
• Chop 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and bring 3 1/2 cups whole milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream to a low simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Add chocolate, 4 teaspoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt (kosher or fleur de sel). Whisk until chocolate melts, then cook while whisking for 4 minutes until smooth, creamy, and thick.
TAKE a LOOK:
I'm a stickler on presentation. I'm certain that all has to do with my aunt who lived next door while I was growing up. She was a baker and would often call me on the phone announcing she had something to show me right away. I'd immediately run over to her house, where I would find a cake... or a pie... or sweet rolls. The dessert was always beautiful, and we would talk about how lovely it was and how good it will taste. Then... I walked back home. The pastry was for another time; after dinner, or for guests that would be visiting. Never for that immediate moment.
That's probably why I am so critical of myself and whatever I make in my kitchen. My family could care less. They just want to eat it, no matter what it looks like. I often describe my desserts as rustic; just never quite achieving that polished French pâtisserie perfection.
On my recent trip to Paris, I visited my favorite culinary supply store, E. Dehillerin, and took my very patient husband along. (He now knows "my Paris" more than he had ever wanted.) There I picked up some steel rings for making small, individual tart shells. I'm now working at releasing the perfect pastry, finding that a pâte sucrèe pressed into the ring has a better outcome than a tart pastry that is rolled. But pressing fingers too hard against the ring when filling with the pàte sucrèe can also be problematic. I see many long days ahead working on technique.
Don't you absolutely love this tower of molds that was in the Dehillerin window? Can you imagine the stunning dessert that would make?
My little raspberry tarts with pastry cream were inspired by the raspberry tarts above, that we ate at Le Petit Lux, along with our afternoon espresso. The pâtisserie is on Rue de Vaugirard, the longest road in Paris which extends from the Jardin du Luxembourg to the Porte de Versailles... Wow, that is long!
Ivy garlands at the Jardin du Luxembourg. If I tried to grow something like this in my yard, it would probably end up infested with red spider mites...
Sprinkle tarts with confectioners' sugar before eating... then, enjoy!