The Best of London Food Markets

The Best of London Food Markets

Okay, world. Here’s my personal declaration: London is now a foodie town. In my humble opinion, you can find more creative and diverse food in London than you can in Paris or Chicago.

Yep. I wrote it.

Don’t believe me? Read on to learn all about London’s best food markets I discovered during my three weeks in the Smoke.

I ventured to all of these markets under the shrewd guidance of my friend and fellow travel blogger Amanda. Amanda knows all about where to find the best eats in London; she’s even writing her dissertation on London’s up-and-coming craft beer scene!

Netil Market L

What’s up: Netil Market is a tiny market located nearby larger and more frenetic Broadway Market. Its aesthetics are delightfully hipster-friendly with clapboard stalls, green pinstripe awnings and picnic benches. And despite its small size, Netil Market has lots of great eats.

What I loved: Um, this bao from Bao London. The only dish on the menu, this classic gua bao is filled with slow-braised pork belly, pickles and cilantro, and dusted with peanut powder.

It took everything in my power not to order a second one. IMG_6825

Also, the market offers lots of childhood classics like cupcakes and grilled cheese (which kind of goes with the hipster theme, no?). And I always thought grilled cheese was an American thing! IMG_6815 IMG_6827 Where to find it: Every Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at 23 Westgate Street, E8 3RL. Websitenetilmarket.tumblr.com

Broadway Market

What’s up: Craving London’s best ethnic food? Get ready to queue up at Broadway Market, the sprawling market located only a stone’s throw from London Fields.

The market offers up quintessentially British eats like Scotch egg and stilton cheese, as well as a kaleidoscope of ethnic cuisines, from Italian to Indian.

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What I loved: At Hanoi Kitchen I had some of the best Vietnamese I’ve had outside of Saigon; I was in heaven over my barbecued pork and my beloved Vietnamese coffee. I even went back for a second coffee… whoops.

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IMG_6866 Amanda seemed to enjoy her first taste of Ghanian food quite a bit too!

We finished off the meal with a bit of caramel New York cheesecake in London Fields. While it didn’t quite compare to the cheesecake I’ve had stateside, it was still a nice taste of home. IMG_6871

Where to find it: Every Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:oo p.m. at Broadway Market, E8 4PH

Websitebroadwaymarket.co.uk

Brixton Village v1

What’s up: Brixton Village is a covered arcade market boasting the kind of fresh-off-the-boat fare that foodies dream of, from jerk chicken to traditional Japanese. It’s located in Brixton, a rougher immigrant neighborhood that’s a bit out of the way; but this food is worth the hike, I promise.

What I loved: We beelined to Okan, a tiny Japanese eatery for my first taste of okonomiyaki. Um, yeah, how have I never had this AMAZING dish before?

Okonomiyaki is a savory pork and scallion pancake topped with fish flakes and spicy mayonnaise. Drool. And because it’s always beer o’clock in Ashley and Amanda world, we cracked open some icy Japanese brews to accompany. v

As we wandered around the market after lunch I cursed my stomach for not having more room; everything looked so good! I did find space for some frozen Greek yogurt that I tried in Greece a few years ago. It was as delicious as I remembered! IMG_1448

Brixton Market also seemed like a great place to buy inexpensive groceries; I saw tons of fishmongers and vegetable stalls in the area.

Where to find it: Brixton Village is open 8 a.m. – 11.30 p.m. every day except Monday, when it shuts at 6 p.m. The directions are complicated so check the website below.

 Websitebrixtonmarket.net/brixton-village/

Borough Market

What’s up: Borough Market is a food market located in Central London, right on the Thames. Although a bit pricey, it’s the perfect spot to stop while sightseeing. The baked good selection is particularly tempting!

And as I so eloquently wrote last year, spit roast pork sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and sangria all in one sitting? Yes please.

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What I loved: While in town I stopped by Borought Market on at least four occasions. But the best thing I discovered this year was La tua pasta, a pasta stall that sells some of the tastiest black truffle tortellini in existence. My mouth is literally watering just writing about it.

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Where to find it: Borough Market is open for lunch Monday and Tuesday (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and offers a full market Wednesday and Thursday (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.), Friday (10 a.m. – 6 p.m) and Saturday (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.). It’s located at 8 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TL, right outside the London Bridge tube station.

Website: http://boroughmarket.org.uk/

 

Here is a map I made to help you find all the markets!

View London Food Markets in a larger map

What’s your favorite London food market? And if you’ve never been, which one entices you most?

My Top Eats in Singapore

My Top Eats in Singapore

While my stint in Singapore was (sadly) short-lived, I still managed to cover a lot of gastronomic ground in four days. Which had no small part to do with my extensive preliminary research- besides grilling Edna, I also devoured as many Singapore food guides as possible.

Once I hit the ground I quickly learned that Singaporeans know how to eat; Singapore’s a nation positively obsessed with food. Which is no surprise- Singapore is a culinary wonderland, a delicious blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine. (more…)

One trick to finding the best grub in Singapore is to follow the lines- The longer the line (or the queue, as Singaporeans would say), the better.

Here are the best things I ate in Singapore.

 

Xiao Long Bao

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My first meal in Singapore was xiao long bao, one of my favorite Asian dishes of all time. Xiao long bao are Shanghainese soup dumplings, thin-skinned dumplings that release a rich, pork-flavored broth when poked.

Here’s how to eat them: mix soy sauce, chili sauce, sesame oil and garlic in a soup spoon, pick up the dumpling with chopsticks, place dumpling on soup spoon, poke dumpling with chopstick to release broth, sip the broth and gulp the hot dumpling down. Repeat.

Where to find it:

Ju Hao La Mian Xiao Long Bao #01-29, Lavender Food Square, 380 Jalan Besar Rd.

 

Laksa

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Laksa is a Peranakan noodle and cockle soup. It’s a spicy yet satisfying dish; I loved the creaminess of the coconut milk combined with the al dente bite of the noodles, all accented by a fiery dollop of sambal belacan.

I ordered my laksa spicy and paid extra for cockles, which were grilled the traditional way over a charcoal fire.

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And what is Peranakan cuisine? The Peranakans descend from Chinese and Indian merchants who settled in Malaysia in the 15th century. To read more about Peranakan culture in Singapore check out my article in the Culture-ist! (That reads like a shameless plug but to be honest I just don’t feel like explaining it again, ha.)

Where to find it:

Sungei Road Laksa (Top 33 Kopitiam Food Court, Stall 01-100, 27 Jalan Berseh 200027, 9am-6pm, closed on first Wed of the month) $2.50 for a bowl of laksa and 50 cents extra for noodles.

 

Bah Kut Teh

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Bah kut teh is a Chinese pork bone broth that literally means, “Pork bone tea” as the pork bones are simmered for hours in an herbal star anise and pepper broth.

To be honest, the meat was a little too fatty for me; I was all about that peppery, fragrant, porky broth. And to my delight the server kept bringing more and more broth around for free! For sides I ordered iced tea, greens, rice and fried tofu.

It’s a shame that Singapore has such a hot climate because bah kut teh would be the perfect soup for a cold day. (Can someone PLEASE bring bah kut teh to Detroit?)

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Popiah

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I think out of everything I tasted in Singapore, popiah was my favorite.

Popiah is a wheat crepe lined with hoisin sauce and stuffed with Chinese sausage, prawns, hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, caramelized onion and cooked carrot and turnip. During my time in Singapore I returned to the Lavender Food Square daily to get my sweet and savory popiah fix.

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Where to find it:

Miow Sin Popiah & Carrot Cake: 380 Jalan Besar #01-04, Lavender Food Square, Singapore 209000

 

Carrot Cake (Chai tao kway)

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The same stall that serves my beloved popiah also serves carrot cake which bears absolutely no resemblance to American carrot cake. The Singaporean version of carrot cake is made with daikon radish, not carrot, and is fried with eggs and preserved radish (chai poh), and topped with sambal and green onions.

(Basically you could put sambal and green onions on top of anything and I would like it. But still, this is a tasty vegetarian option.)

Where to find it:

Miow Sin Popiah & Carrot Cake: 380 Jalan Besar #01-04, Lavender Food Square, Singapore 209000

 

Roti Prata

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Roti prata is a crispy fried pancake of Indian origin. It’s pleasantly greasy and is filled with egg, and is served with the red curry sauce seen below. I loved the textural contrast of dipping the crunchy roti prata into the thick, flavorful sauce- it was vaguely reminiscent of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Alhough I had roti prata at three in the afternoon I can imagine it being the ideal late-night option.

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Next we had murtabak which I can’t say I enjoyed. Sorry!

Where to find it:

Sin Ming Roti Prata #01-51, Jin Fa Kopitiam, 24 Sin Ming Road

 

Wanton Mee

Wanton Mee are wanton noodles dressed in a light, sweet sauce and topped with pork char siu (barbecued pork), greens and wanton dumplings.

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I loved this dish because when is barbacued pork ever a bad idea? And order your wanton mee spicy like I did- it was extra delicious with a kick of spice.

Where to find it:

Kok Kee Wanton Mee: 380 Jalan Besar, Lavender Food Square, #01-06, Singapore 209000

Chili Crab

On my last night in Singapore I tried Singapore’s signature dish- chili crab.

Though ordering black pepper crab appealed to me more (I adore black pepper), the friend I met for dinner was dead-set on having the famous chili crab.

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Which I can’t say was a problem- the enormous crabs came out drenched in delicious chili sauce and I swilled them down with icy beer- delicious. The best part was mopping up the sweet, spicy sauce with the pillow-soft mantou buns.

And although I wasn’t even hungry when I ate it (fair, considering how much I had eaten by that point in Singapore), I was still smitten with the sauce-drenched crabs.

Where to find it:

Mattar Road Seafood Barbecue, #01-63 Old Airport Rd, Singapore 390051, closed Tuesday and Wednesday. We paid $35 ($17.50 each) and the crab was $45 a kilo. But it was worth splurging for! 

 

And not on the list of my favorite dishes in Singapore?

Chicken rice.

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I may be virtually crucified for this, but chicken rice was quite literally lukewarm chicken with steamed rice- it reminded me of a meal I might prepare when I’m too tired to cook. Maybe I should give it another try?

 

One great resource in Singapore is HungryGoWhere, which is like the Singaporean Yelp.

And the dishes I wanted to try but didn’t have the time (or stomach room) for include kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs, curry fish head, fish head bee hoon, rojak and BBQ sambal sting ray. Next time!

What’s your favorite thing to eat in Singapore?

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Authentic Thai: Learning How to Cook Thai Food in Bangkok

Authentic Thai: Learning How to Cook Thai Food in Bangkok

In stride with my goal to take a cooking class in every Asian country I visit, I knew I would have to find a cooking class in Bangkok. And after spotting their rave reviews on Trip Advisor as well as an enthusiastic review from a close friend, I settled on Silom Thai Cooking School for my introduction to cooking Thai food.

Wet Market Tour

The morning begun by meeting our adorable instructor, Mai, outside the local wet market. I loved how she took the time to explain the difference between ingredients- by 10 am I had already learned about everything from identifying mushrooms to levels of curry spiciness by color. Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

Thai Cooking Class Bangkok                          Mai showing us finger ginger and the difference between a regular and kaffir lime.

Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

Yellow curry paste, red curry paste, green curry paste. Mai taught us that red is the spiciest but personally green is my favorite!

Learning How to Cook Thai Food

Next we walked to the cooking school which I have to commend for its cute design as well as being clean, well-organized and spacious.

Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

We began the class by washing all of the produce we had just purchased. Among the familiar (tomatoes, plantains, limes) were some new ingredients like yellowgrass and Thai eggplant.

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The first lesson of the day was how to make coconut milk which was surprisingly laborious. You take shredded coconut, soak it in water and then squeeze it into a sieve. After you repeat the process a few times you have coconut milk! IMG_8735

                                                 Our adorable instructor, Mai. Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

Making coconut milk from shredded coconut.

I loved having a local teacher because she taught us so many little cultural quirks about Thailand. “We put sugar in everything,” admitted Mai with a smile. Which may explain my slight aversion to Thai food, ahem…

As we squeezed the water out of the shredded coconut, she told us. “Good food take time, no?”

And when asked to explain how Thai people eat such rich food and stay slim, she replied, “Thai people no fat because chili and tamarind paste make you digest quickly.”

Other fun fact of the day- apparently kaffir lime keeps your hair from greying and can be used as a toilet deodorizer. Who knew?

Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

Learning how to grind chili paste which apparently is how you tell if you will be a good wife or not in Thailand!

Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

Something I noticed about Thai food was that the preparation for each dish is long, but the actual cooking time is quite short. Each of the dishes we made was on the flame for no more than one of two minutes. As I learned in Hong Kong, using a wok speeds things up considerably!

Here were the five courses we made. Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

                                    First course: Chicken in coconut milk (tom kah gai) Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

Chicken with cashew nut (gai pad med mamuang). Personal thoughts? Meh. Thai Cooking Class Bangkok                                      Fried fish cake (thod mun pla) with homemade sweet chili sauce. My favorite dish of the day! Thai Cooking Class Bangkok                                         Red curry with chicken (kaeng ped gai). By the time we had this I was so full I could barely touch it! Thai Cooking Class Bangkok

The dessert. Which I can’t remember the name of but it had banana and was delicious.

Overall I loved Silom. Aside from the wonderful instructor, I loved how the class included so many personal touches like giving us a recipe book at the end of all the recipes we had made. One word of advice- do not eat breakfast the day of the cooking class as you’ll be absolutely stuffed by the end!

Even though I’m far from a Thai food convert, I still enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how to make Thai food at home.

Have you ever taken a Thai cooking class?

Many thanks to Silom for the complimentary cooking class. I have truly never had such a warm and helpful instructor so thanks especially to Mai for her patience with us!

. . . . . . . . . . .

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A Fall Farmer’s Market in France

A Fall Farmer’s Market in France

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There are few things I love in France more than the open-air markets. There’s just something about the beautiful produce, friendly vendors and shameless people-watching that I adore.

I have been to the markets many times but never with a camera in tow. To my surprise and delight the vendors were more than happy to be photographed, and even made jokes like, “What, am I not pretty enough for your pictures?”

In the photos below you will see lots of my all-time favorite food items: blocks of salted butter, buckets of crème fraîche, large pots of rilletes and pâté and sausages like boudin noir and andouillette coiled up like garden hoses.

The produce at markets in France is different from markets in the U.S. : Vegetables come in covered in dirt, the cheeses are often made with raw milk and the wild game birds are displayed with their heads on, which I found out is so that you “know which animal you are buying.” There is also lots of offal, some of which is great, like the tripe-based andouillete sausage, and some of which is truly awful, like kidneys.

I hope you enjoy the photos, and Bon appétit!

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Have you ever visited a fall farmers market in France?

The Ultimate French Bread Guide

The Ultimate French Bread Guide

In France, bread is a daily staple. Everyday mothers send the kids to the local boulangerie to pick up a baguette. (Sometimes one for breakfast, one for snack/dinner!)

But let’s start this French bread guide off with a pop quiz.

Which baguette is better? (more…)

Baguette

If you guessed the one on the right, you were correct. If you guessed the other one, it’s okay, we still love you.

How do you know if it’s good bread or not?

Good bread is never uniform. See how the bread on the left is perfectly tapered, and has no awkward lumps? That’s a bad sign.

Now flip the bread over. Does the bread have little dots on the bottom? Bad sign. That means it was mass-produced in an industrial oven.

Start eating the bread. Can you gut the bread easily and pull out the white fluff, leaving only the crust? Bad sign. Good bread should be densely packed.

If it’s good bread, it will smell yeasty and soul-warming. If it’s bad bread, there won’t be much aroma and the bread will get stuck to the top of your mouth like Wonderbread.

How much does a baguette cost?

Buying bread twice a day helped me learn the bizarre French numeral system. In my old neighborhood we paid “quatre-vingt quince”, which means 4 times 20 plus 15, also known as the craziest way to say 95 cents ever created.

An inexpensive baguette is about 80 or 90 cents, and a pricey one is 1.30 plus.

How long does a baguette last?

Fresh bread lasts through the day, but that’s about it. We usually bought one baguette for breakfast, one for the kids’ after-school snack and one to accompany dinner. French bread is required by law to avoid preservatives, and as a result most breads go stale in under 24 hours. Neighboring bakeries coordinate their days off so that the neighborhood will never be without bread.

How do you order bread?

There are basically two ways to order your baguette:

“Je voudrais un baguette…”

a. Cuite (well-done)

b. Pas trop cuite (not as cooked)

It seems these days that softer, “pas trop cuite ” baguettes are more in style, and that mostly the older generation orders the bread “cuite”.

What is the quignon?

The quignon is the end piece of the baguette. It’s practically a tradition to tear off the quignon right after leaving the bakery, when the fresh from the oven baguette smells so heavenly and feels so warm against your body that you can’t resist taking a bite (are we still talking about bread?)

Other breads at the bakery

Pain au levain

There’s a lot more to the boulangerie than baguettes (or so I’ve been told).

Boule – A round-loaf of bread that can be made with any flour.

Brioche – A rich, yellow bread that is always eaten for breakfast (we usually toast and butter it). The addition of butter and eggs account for its yellow color and crumbly texture, it’s a lot like hallah.

Pain au levain - a bread similar to sourdough.

Pain de mie - a rectangular-shaped that is a little sweet, and is usually for toasting or making sandwiches (Croque monsieur being the most notable).

Baguette de tradition – a more traditional baguette that is crunchier and lasts longer due to the added levain, a natural sourdough starter.

Pain aux céréalesa small, earthy piece of bread made with whole wheat flour and lots of seeds.

What do you like to order at the bakeries in France? Croissaints, sweets, breads?

The 10 Most Crazy Delicious Foods You Must Eat in Paris

The 10 Most Crazy Delicious Foods You Must Eat in Paris

So, what’s good to eat in Paris? Um, if memory recalls, everything.

As I sit and wait for the French ministry of labor to send back my visa documents, I’ve been musing over some of the most delicious meals I’ve enjoyed in France over the past three summers. Hopefully the ministry sends the documents soon because this list is starting to make me hungry.

Note: This list does not include cheese or bread as both of these things are so spectacular in Paris that they require their own lists.

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1. Macarons

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Ah, macarons. These tiny Parisian cookies come in a hundred flavors, melt in your mouth and are neat enough not to crumb up your outfit. Perhaps the girliest desserts known to mankind, they can be found at the famous, adorably prissy pastry shop, Ladurée. My favorite flavor at Ladurée is orange blossom.

There are multiple Ladurée locations so check the website link above to find one near you.

2. Mussels Mussels- Au Pied du Couchon

Tiny, gorgeous mussels bathed in bacon and cream. Need I say more?

Find these and more pork-flavored goodness at Au Pied de Cochon, also known as the Foot of the Pig. This restaurant is one of the last-standing haunts from Les Halles, the working-class market that fed Paris for nearly 1,000 years. Sadly Les Halles was demolished in 1971, but Au Pied du Couchon carries the flame for simple, honest and fattening food.

Au Pied de Cochon
6, Rue Coquillière
01 40 13 77 00

Metro: Etienne Marcel and Châtelet Les Halles
Open for lunch and dinner

 

3. Chèvre chaud

Chevre Chaud Salad

This salad is one of my favorite bistro dishes ever. It’s a winning combination of shallot vinaigrette, tomatoes, and hot little rounds of melted goat cheese on bread.

As seen below, it pairs well with a glass of cold rosé and a bustling café atmosphere. This café, L’Arsenal, is located on the busy rue Saint-Antoine in the 4th arrondissement.

L’Arsenal
36, rue Saint-Antoine
06.32.60.33.87

Metro: Saint-Paul (Line 1)

 

4. The potatoes underneath the rôtisserie chicken

French potatoes

When you walk past the rôtisserie shops in Paris you will see rows of chickens turning on spits. If you peek below them, you will observe potatoes eagerly waiting to catch the chicken juices. You can buy these delicious, chicken-flavored potatoes and take them home for dinner.

And while we’re on the subject of chicken, the best chicken in France is poulet de Bresse. It’s really expensive but worth it.

5. Boudin noir

Boudin noir sounds a lot sexier than black pudding or blood sausage, but it’s the same thing. Don’t be scared of what it’s made of- it’s actually rich, delicious and full of iron. I especially love boudin noir antillais, which is a spicier version from the French Caribbean.

You can find boudin noir at any charcuterie and at also at many restaurants and bistros.

6. Galettes and Crêpes

Buckwheat crepe

While you often see street vendors whipping up freshly made crêpes with Nutella, banana or strawberry, they’ve always been a bit too sweet for me.

I never liked crêpes until I had Brittany crêpes at Cat’Man Crêperie. Once I tasted an authentic Breton buckwheat galette, with its nutty, earthy flavor, I was hooked. I highly recommend a galette complete, which is filled with Emmantal cheese, jambon de pays and a fried egg.

Also fantastic- sweet crêpes slathered in salted butter caramel.  Cat’Man’s version of a crêpe au caramel au beurre salé is the perfect combination of salty and sweet.

Sweet crepe

Cat’Man Crêperie
12, rue du Temple
01 42 74 43 32

Metro: Hôtel de Ville (1, 11)
Open for lunch and dinner

7. Financier (Almond Cake)

Financier

Whenever the lady I work for in France needs to bring a cake to a party, we make a financier together. The ingredients are simple: almond flour, butter, sugar and eggs.

This simple almond cake is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is called a financier because it is an expensive cake, with almond flour being one of the pricier flours. It is also traditionally baked in a rectangular pan and resembles a brick of gold.

You can find this cake in mini form at almost any bakery.

8. Pâté

Pate

Wikipedia defines pâté as “a mixture of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste.” While the definition is accurate, it’s actually much more appetizing than that.

Pâté is generally eaten before dinner with a generous slice of bread. You can buy it at any charcuterie. My personal favorite is rabbit pâté (pâté de lapin).

9. Salted Butter

Baguette and butter

This pat of butter while costing a measly 1.50 euro, was freshly churned and covered in crunch little flecks of salt. I brought it home to the kids I baby-sit for, and they raved, “It tastes like milk!”

It was truly the best butter I’ve ever had in my life.

If you would too would like to squeal in delight, head over to Pascal Beillevaire, a chain of cheese shops across France.

Pascal Beillevaire

77, rue St. Antoine

Tél: 01 42 78 48 78

Metro: St. Paul (1)

10. Chocolates

Admittedly I’ve been known to wander around Paris from chocolate shop to chocolate shop.

A favorite? Patrick Roger. This self-proclaimed chocolate artist not only creates perfect chocolates with flavors like Ethiopian coffee and jasmine flower, Roger also sculpts chocolate artwork. When I was there last summer his store was displaying an enormous sculpture of several hippos swimming together. It was quite beautiful, actually.

His store has two different locations in Paris so check his website.

For more great ideas on what to eat in Paris, Check out David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan‘s lists.

 What are your favorite foods to eat in France?

The Art of French Cheese Eating

The Art of French Cheese Eating

As we all know, the French love their cheese. I love their cheese. I love them for loving their cheese. And frankly, sampling oozing, raw-milk French cheese is one of the best parts of visiting the country, at least for this fromage-o-phile.

I have worked as an au pair for a French family for past three summers so hopefully I have learned a bit about cheese by now. Here are some tips for buying, storing and serving this delicacy properly.

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French Cheese Plate

From left to right: fresh goat, rocamadour and Saint-Nectaire.

 Buying the cheese:

Buy cheese at the fromagerie.

You’re never going to find fantastic cheese at Carrefour, so head over to the fromagerie. Most cheesemongers are knowledgeable, friendly and more than happy to recommend you some great choices.

Industrially made cheeses are never as good as artisanal cheeses.

Okay, except for maybe Merkts cheese spread. But seriously, mass-produced cheese will just never have the same flavor or integrity as cheese produced in small capacity. For example, many industrially produced blue cheeses are injected with penicillium (a bacteria related to penicillin) to speed up production and produce the characteristic blue or green veins. That’s just depressing.

Buy cheeses that make sense together. 

An ideal cheese platter has between three and five cheeses which possess a variety of flavors and textures. The cheese platter pictured below is a good example of that. The soft, creamy brie de meaux matches up nicely with the nutty slab of comté, which both work well with the dryer, more intensely flavored aged goat cheese.

French Cheese

 From left to right: aged goat, brie de meaux and comté.

Storing the cheese:

Serve it room-temperature.

Cheese will have its best flavor, aroma and texture when it has reached room temperature. Make sure to take the cheese out of the fridge a few hours before the party.

Don’t wrap it in plastic.

Wrap the cheese in the wax paper they give you at the fromagerie, not in plastic wrap. Plastic wrap doesn’t allows the cheese to sweat.

 

Serving the cheese:

Serve the cheese after the main course.

The order of the meal in France is as follows: main course, cheese course and then fruit or dessert to finish. Bring the cheese out on a platter with a fresh knife for each guest, and some bread, wine or jams to accompany if you wish.

Work from the blandest cheese to most flavorful.

If you first eat the cheese with the most powerful flavor (roquefort, for example), you will blow out your palate and be unable to taste the subtle flavors of the blander cheeses.

Don’t spread the cheese too much.

If you are eating Laughing Cow, do whatever you want. But if you are eating a nice cheese and want to have it with bread, be gentle.

 

How many times can you say cheese in one blog post? Anyway, my favorite French cheese is Coeur Neufchâtel. What is yours?

The Spice House in Chicago

The Spice House in Chicago

This is my love letter/free advertisement to the best spot to buy spices in the U.S., The Spice House.

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This place holds a special place in my cabinets because the spices are not only high-quality, they are also really, really inexpensive.

A few months back when I was still a Chicago resident I lived in an apartment about a mile away from The Spice House. The shop was around the corner from my gym, so I often rewarded myself post-workout by buying a new exotic spice or replenishing one of my staples.

The Spice House

If I wanted to experiment with a new cuisine, I would buy several one-ounce bags of the cuisine’s essential spices. One day when attempting to make an Indian eggplant dish I bought small portions of cumin, garam masala, turmeric and coriander all for about $7. Because the spices are so inexpensive and can be sold in quantities as small as one ounce, I found myself experimenting and having more fun in the kitchen during the time I lived nearby.

The Spice House

I  also love their spice blends. My little brother, Andrew, and I use to have “jerk chicken parties” and invite friends over to grill in the backyard at my old place in Chicago. He agrees the Spice House’s jerk chicken spice is perfection, and he has even been to Jamaica. Another one of my favorite spice blends is the Pilsen Latino Seasoning which I use on fish tacos.

And if you don’t believe a small fry like me, believe the head chef of the Palmer Place, the People’s Choice winner of the Hamburger Hop last year. I was working as a caiter-waiter attending the event with a group of friends and remember him dedicating his winner’s speech to the incredible spice selection at the Spice House.

Now that I no longer live in Chicago, I order the spices I need online. And whenever I’m in Chicago I use the Spice House as an excuse to wander around Old Town, the adorable neighborhood pictured below.

Oh Spice House. Couldn’t you set up shop in Detroit, too?

Old Town

Are you a spice addict, too? Have you visited The Spice House in Chicago or Milwaukee?