Frenchie and Summer Memories

16 Jul

The light is brighter, the air feels lighter, this must be summer.

And a lazy summer spent slouched on a blue couch is ok by me!

Merci Mayà.

It’s the sweet appetizing smell of the ripe apricots waiting in a green bowl on the counter in my kitchen that reminded me how much I love apricot tarts.

And summer is a great time to reminisce and remember.

Like the apricot tart my grandpa used to lovingly prepare for me and my brother when we came to see him either for lunch or after school in his townhouse located three skips away from our school.

I still remember the noises inside this old house. And the smell in the kitchen.

And I know where he used to put away his spices and his sugar, or where his boxes of fragrant teas were lined up.

An apricot tart always waited for us in the summer.

La tarte aux abricots, c’est une tradition !

I suddenly realized the last time I posted a recipe for a summer tart was a very long time ago.

Une très bonne occasion.

A new crust recipe I worked on last month.

Who knew that adding baking powder to your crust could lift it and make it so much lighter? Thanks Fine Cooking for the tip.

And of course, pairing apricots with my favorite summer scent – lavender.

A bit of cuisine de Provence on a plate.

Enjoy! The result is truly unique and one that made trial tarts disappear within seconds into hungry guinea pig mouths.

Happy summer. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Apricot Lavender Tart

makes a 9-inch tart

 

for the gluten-free crust

½ cup (90 g) white rice flour

⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp (45 g) gluten-free oat flour

½ cup (60 g) tapioca flour

⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp (45 g) of powdered sugar

1½ teaspoon of xantham gum

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers

a pinch of sea salt

1 stick or 8 Tbsp (115 g) butter – chilled and cubed

4-5 Tbsp iced water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift the white rice, oat and tapioca flours with the powdered sugar, xantham gum and baking powder. Add the sea salt and dried lavender and mix well on medium speed with the paddle blade.

Drop the butter cubes in the bowl and work until it becomes crumbly and sandy.

Drop the iced water in the bowl one tablespoon at a time until the dough starts to come together and form a ball.

Flatten the ball, cover and wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

 

for the vanilla apricot compote

5 oz (140 g) ripe apricots – about 2

2 Tbsp natural cane sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

While the dough is chilling in the fridge, place all the ingredients for the compote together in a small saucepan and cook until thick – about 4-6 minutes. Set aside.

 

Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).

Roll out the dough to fill a 9-inch tart pan (22-23 cm). I use some of the tapioca flour to roll it. Line the dough with the pan, press in the corners, and trim it without any overhang.

This crust recipe does not leave much overhang. Leave the crust thick to absorb the apricot juices as much as possible.

Place the dough and tart pan back in the fridge for 30 min.

 

for the filling

¼ cup (50 g) natural cane sugar

1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers

1 Tbsp almond flour

1.25 lb (565 g) ripe apricots – about 7

Combine the sugar and dried lavender in a small bowl. Work with your fingers to mix it well and rub the lavender with the sugar to release its scent and flavor the sugar. Set aside.

Cut each apricot in half and each half lengthwise in half-moons.

Sprinkle the almond flour on the crust. Spread the vanilla apricot compote on the crust mixing it with the almond flour.

Drop the apricot half-moons on the compote. Arrange them neatly in a circle or drop them randomly. There is beauty in the disorganized random placement of the fruit.

Sprinkle the lavender sugar all over the tart.

Bake for 10 minutes then lower the oven temperature to 375 °F (190 °C) and bake for another 40 minutes.

Let the tart cool for 20 minutes before removing it from the pan.

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Frenchie and a BBQ à la Campagne

17 Jun

When you start experiencing the Relish Carolina shindigs and their roaming dinner parties, you just can’t stop.

Sensory overload in the best way possible, they say. And it’s true!

Do you remember this partie de campagne at the farm? I do!

Every year, new themes, new food, new locations and new concepts.

The excitement always builds up as their new seasonal dinner calendar is announced.

This time – a South Carolina BBQ retreat to escape and joyfully spend a Sunday night among old and new friends.

The usual 100-120-seat long table, the same outdoor fairy lights.

The familiar vibe, the regular smiles and warmth of the crowd.

Countless ducks, chickens, fish, hogs, pork.

Fire pits, smoke, ash and enticing smells surrounding guests already busy cocktailing and grazing on the local charcuterie.

And going away from the traditional BYOP (Bring Your Own Plate), this time Le Creuset displayed an elegant and grandiose array of colorful plates, pitchers and cookware.

A perfect summer night.

If you’ve never participated in a Relish event, here is what you need to know:

– buy your tickets ahead of time, they disappear fast

– fast all day and come hungry

– be prepared to socialize, meet new people, and share family style food platters

– as Relish points out – it’s ok to talk to strangers – and you never know who might be seating next to you… your next best friend, a new client, or future husband/wife.

– try everything once, food or drinks, and go back for seconds

– bring bug spray if it’s an outside summer event

– enjoy local ingredients, food, chefs, mixologists and anything crafty Relish might have up its sleeve – and they have a lot of ideas!

– play the game, if there’s a theme, go with it!

– and of course, relax and have fun

Frenchie and la Rive Droite

12 Jun

I need to admit I’ve never given much thought about the right bank of Paris when I used to live there.

Too far.

Left bank is of course so much better.

What to do there?

Why even bother to go after all?

This thought process definitely did not help the rive gauche vs. rive droite bitter battle.

But since I lived in the 15th, went to school in the 14th, college in the 5th and hanging out in the 6th, with the occasional Châtelet-Le Marais trip which part of me always deliberately accused of being on the wrong side of the Seine, I never had any reason to cross the river and go north.

Until all my friends moved to the right bank. Well, most of them.

The perfect opportunity to explore new areas I did not know enough.

All joking aside, I did make my way there once in a while when I still lived in the city and have continued to explore the northern arrondissements during vacation time.

However, my home has always been rive gauche.

Surprising myself this time around, I mostly roamed and scouted the right bank during my last Parisian trip.

Offbeat. And unusual for me!

I had already explored a bit in a previous colorful post with plenty of places and addresses to share.

But there was more to discover.

With one exception noted below, the following list is exclusively rive droite.

– From the Big Mamma Group, East Mamma (11th) opened a couple of weeks before I arrived in the space La Main d’Or used to serve delicious Corsican food. I will miss La Main but am delighted East Mamma renovated, remodeled and revitalized the dinning and kitchen areas to make it an inviting open space filled with colorful plates and fresh Italian produce. The vibe is, well, very Italian as the wait staff takes your order with a slight accent and the bright yellow menu holds hidden tasty treasures. Go early! There is a line outside the door.

– Keeping up with the Italian theme, le Comptoir Gourmet (4th) is small, narrow, loud, cheerful, lively and that wall paper – a real Instagram magnet!! If you manage to grab a seat at the counter-height tables you’re in for a treat. Don’t fill up too much on the bresaola carpaccio with fennel, Italian desserts are eyeing you on the counter.

– Cheating on the right bank a bit, this gem of an ice cream place is on the other side of the Seine. Il Gelato del Marchese (6th) will show you how real pistachio ice cream looks like and how it’s supposed to taste.

Le 975 motto in the 17th is bien manger, bien boire, bien vivre. And in this yellow “fish bowl” as they call it, the food is the perfect marriage between French dishes with a sprinkle of Japanese flavors. Taiki Tamao, one of the two chefs, explained to me that Japanese chefs are now flooding the Paris food scene because they bring something distinctive and special that traditional French chefs do not think about. Book now before there is a line outside the door.

– Impasse Poule, Impasse de la Confiance, exploring the area around rue des Vignobles in the 20th. And how could you not fall in love with Le Vingtième Art and its newly painted façade displaying green, red, yellow, pink, and blue color blends?

– A quick stop at the Libre Ère bookstore 111 boulevard de Ménilmontant will make you green with envy when you see the storefront and some of the treasures inside. Cité Durmar and Cité du Figuier nearby – the memory keepers of a Paris long forgotten. Les cités d’artistes du 11e.

– Surfing on the Nouvelle Vague Paris renewal by expats, Le Mary Celeste (3rd) provided just the right cocktail I was looking for in a Haut-Marais quaint setting.

– An inside courtyard, a food truck, plush couches with round mirrors above and colorful pillows, an old school map of the various mountains and rivers of France, a reading nook, and pistolets aka small bread rolls from Belgium, all of this can be found and enjoyed at L’Improbable (4th). Unpretentious and seriously cute.

– Rarely have I seen a space like the one at Les Chouettes (3rd) in Paris. While I did not try their menu and food, I thoroughly enjoyed a cocktail on the third floor, all the way to the top, in a somehow industrial aesthetic Eiffel Art Nouveau style with arcs, geometric shapes, old books, imposing nuts and bolts, giving an Industrial Revolution/WWI vibe with modernist elements to the space. A must see. Oh and did I mention the 66-feet high ceiling under a glass roof?

– Thanks to Lindsey, I was able to enjoy a delicious lunch at laid-back yet chic Tannat (11th). Fresh seasonal food and menu with a modern twist makes for my big coup de cœur of this trip. The wall and ceiling mirrors definitely brighten up the space and make the intricately plated meals even prettier.

– The beautiful small villas off of rue de Mouzaïa in the 19th, walking on rue de la Liberté, rue de l’Égalité and rue de la Fraternité. Si français. And I always say that tourists should have the Buttes Chaumont parc on their radar because it is worth a visit.

So little time yet so many unknown areas still to discover.

Cheating on the rive gauche was clearly much-needed as far as I’m concerned.

Till next time.

PS: last special kudos to Merci and La Maison Plisson (3rd) for fun shopping and eating.

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