May 27, 2011

simple clean satisfying

Hi friends, we're in Paris! After leaving San Francisco 2 weeks ago, we enjoyed a wonderful week in Houston with family and friends (Mark graduated, along with our great friend Mona, while clad in most excellent outfits) and we arrived in Paris last Thursday. Since then, we have been working, settling in our apartment, exploring our neighborhood, taking long walks, and seeking out our customary welcome-back-to-Paris falafel in the Marais. Oh, and somehow we fit in a a 4-day trip to lovely, lovely Prague in there too.

Our apartment is decent and comfortable. The not-so-great parts: a big tree blocks almost all the natural light in the living room. (Need I even say how much I hate artificial/fluorescent lighting? I'm talking both in general and for photography.) I have already caught myself grumbling at the lack of air conditioning, decent knives, and a clothes dryer. And I forgot all about the Parisian preference for a hand-held shower head and no shower curtain, which has led to a few lake-type situations in the bathroom.  

However, the neighborhood is super -- lots of trees, wide boulevards, sidewalk cafes, the Promenade Plantee, and general liveliness. One of the great things about being in Paris during the warmer months is that everyone treats the city like their backyard: people are outside enjoying the warm evenings, strolling through the parks, reading on a blanket in the grass, or drinking wine on a park bench.

love all the green in the middle of the city

Another thing we love about our neighborhood is all the good food options within a few minutes walk. The boulangerie across the street makes the most delicious croissants (which we eat almost every day) and, best of all, the vendors at the local markets (so far, we've hit Bastille and the Cours de Vincennes markets) sell fantastic everything. Heaps of peonies, seafood/meats/poultry/pork, tempting prepared foods (fat legs of duck confit, roasted chickens and crispy potatoes, etc.), local dairy products, cheeses from all over France, and produce galore. It has been so much fun to shop for our meals here.

[Gariguettes at the Cour de Vincennes market]

Our cooking philosophy here has been to keep things very simple. Take last Saturday, for instance. At the market, I picked up a bunch of baby radishes, a container of gariguettes (especially flavorful strawberries), a tangle of arugula, some utterly normal white mushrooms aka champignons de Paris, 6 large eggs, and a fat, crisp-crusted pain de campagne. It was an especially warm evening, so we threw open all the windows while we assembled our dinner. As we cooked, we snacked on salted, buttered radishes. Meanwhile, I dabbed at the mushrooms with a damp towel and sauteed them with a knob of butter and minced garlic, until the whole mess of mushrooms became brown and deeply flavorful. And as Mark put together an arugula salad, I slowly scrambled the eggs with butter, until they were a little thicker than custard but still runny enough that they slid slowly across our plates. 10 minutes later, we were marveling at how flavorful the eggs were, forking up bites of bitter arugula, and swiping bread across our plates to soak up all of the mushroom juices. Over a dessert of sliced strawberries, we agreed that this was one of our nicest meals. Simple and clean and satisfying. That's what I want to strive for this summer. 

More simple food eventually, but up next will be a quick Prague recap.