Summer is coming to a quiet close this weekend as the kids get ready for that perennially dreaded first day of school, but life has been anything but quiet during the last month. In fact, things have bordered on chaotic and I have neglected you all lately. Here’s the lowdown: We sold our house (or so we thought), my hubbie resigned from his job (a temporary break?), we took a planned-at-the-very-last-minute, see-if-we-could-live-on-a-boat-together family sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands, a trip that included our friend, Mike the sailor (we were our own crew), and sent our firstborn off to college (now I’m left with a house full of males, minus the cat). And no living on a boat anytime in our near future. The house is back on the market and the high school football season has begun with 6am practice all this week. I am sooo ready for school to start. Maybe then I can get back in the kitchen and actually cook. In the meantime, meals will most likely continue to consist of the deli’s finest pre-made salads and roti chicken, which are tasty, but nothing like the amazing grab-and-go food at Gérard Mulot in Paris.
I stopped in on a whim at lunchtime last March following a walk through the Luxembourg gardens (a must), drawn in by the delicious aromas wafting across the street. The variety of sandwiches, quiches, and gourmet delights was amazing, while the selection of pastries, macarons, and chocolates was almost too much to take in. I finally settled on this quiche of chicken curry and petit vegetables, and a gorgeous hazelnut and chocolate feuilltine (the rice crispies sold me). The folks at Gérard Mulot make sure you are serious about wanting your food by making you stand in three different lines before you are rewarded with your pink box full of treats: one line to order, another to pay, and then a third to pick up. But judging by the crowd, no one seemed to mind this unique, very French system of queuing up for delicious food.
Proof that choosing just one is impossible. Instead, take two or three home to share. Share, you say? Yeah, right.
Gérard Mulot, 76 Rue de Seine 75006 Paris. Other locations in the 3rd and 14th arron.
(Top photo courtesy of Pati Traiteur; bottom photo courtesy of blogdaum.net)
Cherries are one of my favorite fruits, such sweet intensely colored orbs of summer yumminess. Baked into a pie, made into a glaze for meat, or simply the perfect crown for an ice cream sundae, cherries add a tangy sweetness and beautiful color to a dish. And the markets in Paris are overflowing with them. Inspired by a recent Parisian cherry dessert adventure by the very talented Carol Gillott over at Paris Breakfasts, I saved my pound of about-to-shrivel-at-any-moment cherries from a certain fate by making a clafouti (clah-FOO-tee). This custard-style dessert, think flan, is a breeze to bring together and satisfies the sweetest sweet-tooth without being too heavy.
Pitting fresh cherries makes a red, juicy mess, probably because I used the stem of a small meat thermometer to pop out the pits by hand since that’s all I had in the kitchen (inspiration should not be deterred by the lack of “proper” tools); fortunately for us, clever time-saving, nearly mess-free cherry pitters are available.
1 lb. dark cherries, fresh or canned, pitted
2 oz. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 oz. all-purpose flour (roughly 4 well-rounded tablespoons)
Drain cherries and pat completely dry. (I found freshly pitted cherries impossible to get totally dry so don’t worry if yours aren’t.) Arrange them evenly in the bottom of a buttered 10-inch dish. Do not use a springform or removable-bottom tartlet pan because you’ll end up with custard batter all over the counter.
Make the custard by whisking together the eggs and milk. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and flour and continue whisking until all the lumps are gone.
Pour the custard over the cherries and bake at 325˚F (160˚C) for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The custard should be lightly browned and firm to the touch when done.
Recipe from On Cooking; A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals.
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Known as the City of Princes, Orange is home to what is considered to be the best-preserved Roman theater in all of Europe. Built between AD 10 and 25, the theater played host to musical and theatrical productions designed to spread the Roman culture throughout the colonies, but to also distract the public–particularly from the political goings-on of the time. The impressive 130-meter/426-foot long façade still provides excellent acoustics. No shouting required.
But creating such amazing acoustics required following strict guidelines such as: the slope of the hill had to be constant, the heights of the portico and the stage wall had to match, and clay vases had to be positioned onstage with their open mouths facing the audience to project the actors’ voices across the vast theater.
These walls have seen so much history as not only as a theater, but a defensive post (Middle Ages), a refuge for the locals (16th century), and a prison during the French Revolution, all this after being closed in the 4th c. by official edict from the Church, then looted and sacked in the 5th. I highly recommend renting the informative headset to guide you through the fascinating story of the theater. The kids found the history lesson interesting enough that not a single whine of boredom was heard from any of them. Definitely worth the price of admission.
The modern city of Orange surrounds the remains. Situated about half an hour’s drive north of Avignon, the city and theater play host to an annual music festival dating back to the 19c. called Chorégies, a reference to the culture tax imposed on the wealthy residents of Roman times when admission to stage productions was “free”.
I’m sure a visit to an ancient Roman theater is old hat to these kids, but the field trips I remember going on as a kid were never to such historic settings. A bologna factory maybe.
However, even they giggled at the sight of this actor in costume just finishing rehearsals. I guess a grown man running around in a diaper is universally funny.
Within the grounds of the theater, a small café offers a light lunch with a lovely view of the past.
We opted for a delightful Provençal lunch at this restaurant across the street. Chef Cedric Bremond creates delicious little marvels, especially for the price and the service is very friendly. Traditional 3-course menus are priced from 21 to 27 euros plus wine.
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Have a great week!