Le Sèvero: Steak Frites Perfection

Anyone who knows me even remotely knows this: I am just about the biggest red-meat lover you’ll meet.

Diets and doctors be damned — if it were possible to eat a big hunk of steak every day, you know I would.

So when I found myself in Paris recently with just one night to have steak frites, I knew it had to be the best I could possibly find. “I know the perfect place,” my Parisian friend Kevyn said, mentioning a restaurant called Le Sèvero and then quickly ticking off favorable reviews in the New York Times among others when I gave him my super-skeptical eye.

I figured if it’s good enough for Mark Bittman (and the venerable David Lebovitz) then it’s certainly good enough for me …

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Verjus: Two Americans in Paris

When two people have been cooking together online for almost three years, feeding a budding transcontinental friendship with tales of chili, liquid lunches and more, there’s a lot of pressure to make that first actual meal they have together truly special.

So when I started planning where I would meet Ellise (or, Cowgirl Chef, as you may know her, from the monthly Let’s Lunch posts on this blog) for the first time — in Paris, where she lives, no less — the hunt was on for a suitable place.

Where to meet? It turned out a little place we’d been curious about sounded just perfect: Verjus, a new-ish wine bar and restaurant near the Palais Royal by a young American couple who made waves in Paris a few years ago when they opened Hidden Kitchen, a private underground supper club in a tiny flat.

Now, I’d not been able to check out Hidden Kitchen in its heyday so when I heard that its owners — Seattlites Laura Adrian and Braden Perkins — opened a place last year that I could actually get into, I was all over it.

Almost as soon as I landed in Paris, off I headed …

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Candelaria: Eating Tacos in Paris

The gastronomic Paris in my mind is a swirl of glistening pastries, heady fromages and smoky bistros serving up heaping platters of seared steaks and frites.

It is most certainly not tacos. Not until recently, anyhow.

When a Parisian whose appetite you trust tells you that a certain taqueria is a must even if a visit there is going to take up a valuable dinner spot on a far-too-short trip, I figured it’s good to listen.

Which is how a little group of us hailing from Singapore, New York and a few points in between found ourselves tiptoeing along a dark and silent street in the Marais on a Sunday night, in search of good tacos …. Continue reading

Cheddar-Pecan Crisps: Bubbly-Friendly Bites

Summer always brings much to celebrate — delicious pies, sandy beach picnics, sunny farmstands plump with fresh produce.

This July, we have one more thing to toast: the second anniversary of Let’s Lunch, a monthly Twitter lunchdate that began two years ago when three women from Paris, San Diego and New York gathered online over a sudden — and monstrous — shared craving for BLTs.

Since that first lunch, the group has expanded — the Let’s Lunch bunch now includes folks from ParisSydney (yes, Australia), St. Louis, and more. To mark the many feasts we’ve had, we decided to devote July’s lunch to nibbly bits that that go well with champagne.

What to make? I decided to pull out an old favorite …

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Poilane Miche: Tackling A Legend


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As usual, I had bread on my mind the moment I returned to New York from my latest trip to Singapore.

After weeks away from my oven, I always touch down just itching to bake something. And this time, a quick check with my fellow Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge bakers revealed that they were mired in a difficult spot in the bread lineup.

“We are in Sourdough right now,” said Daniel in Berlin (a.k.a. @MisterRios of the Ährelich Gesagt blog). “Everyone is tRYEing their best.”

Ahh, bread humor. Gotta love it.

After the laughter subsided, however, I started to get worried. Sourdough in the hands of lesser bakers can be a massive pain in the tush. 

I should know.

Just last month, bolstered by a successful pane Siciliano and wondering what to do with a bowl of sourdough starter, I brazenly decided to take on a legend: Poilane miche — the Holy Grail of breads.

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Chilled Soup: Those Healing Green Beans


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The Chinese in Singapore are big believers in the healing properties of soups — specifically, “heaty” and “cooling” soups, which either add fire to your body or cool it down, getting just the right balance of Yin and Yang. 

I know it’s sacrilege to say this — and I can already hear the clucking of my Mum and aunts who might actually read this — but I don’t give two hoots about heaty or cooling.

The most important question for me always is, “Does it taste good?”

And with green bean soup, the answer is: Yes, oh yes.

Despite my love for this sweet soup, I’ve never known how to make it. So, when my Let’s Lunch friends, a group of intrepid cooks spread across two continents who’ve been staging virtual lunchdates, suggested that we make a chilled soup for our next meal, I jumped at the excuse to learn my mother’s recipe.

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Burgers: A Marriage of Shrimp & Tofu


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I now appear to have a regular lunch date with a gregarious bunch of new friends.

We love to cook and we love talking about cooking — so this little thing about never having met hasn’t exactly stood in the way of our growing friendships.

It all began with a lazy Sunday morning conversation on Twitter when three women, one in Paris, one in San Diego, and one in New York, started craving BLT sandwiches. That blossomed into our first intercontinental BLT lunchdate, which nudged us to new levels of creativity.

Ellise in Paris made a beautiful BLT with chipotle mayonnaise and Poilane bread and Karen in Atlanta created a mouthwatering grilled fontina cheese BLT. Nicole in San Diego actually baked a truly unusual Basque sheepherder’s bread for her BLT. (You’ve got to check out Nicole’s sheepherder’s bread pictures — it was a yeasty architectural wonder if I ever saw one.)

Our virtual lunch left us (temporarily) sated — but hungry for more.

So, for our next lunch, we decided to tackle another standard: Burgers.

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New York, Paris, San Diego, Bacon


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It began with three women — one in New York, one in Paris, one in San Diego.

Although they lived far, far apart and had never met, they had one thing in common: a deep love for bacon.

“I was just thinking how nice a BLT would be. I only have the L & T, however,” lamented Ellise in Paris.

“And I have the B but not the L and T. Come on over-we’ll combine them … ” I, the New Yorker, said.

“You know, I already bought bacon and tomatoes and was planning on a BLT soon for lunch!” said Nicole in San Diego.

And that, folks, was how our intercontinental BLT lunchdate was hatched. 

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Cinnamon Buns: Faith, Restored


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What you are witnessing here, folks, would be what they call “getting back on the horse.”

After the smoke, the blackened loaves, the almost-blazing defeat that was my attempt to make ciabatta last week, I’d begun doubting my quest to bake my way through Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice along with 200 plus amateur bakers around the world.

Could I really pull this off? (Without burning down my apartment, preferably.)

Should I even try?

But love can be a powerful motivator. In this case, that would be Mike’s profound love for cinnamon buns.

Since I joined the bread bakers’ challenge in May, Mike had been waiting impatiently for cinnamon bun week. And by the time cinnamon buns came up, I had begun to see a greater purpose to baking them — I thought they might help assuage my lingering guilt over a not-so-little visit I made to Stella McCartney in Paris recently. (Hey, 50%-off is pretty good, even in Euros.)

So I grabbed my saddle and called for my horse.

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What Ciabatta Taught Me


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This moment, I had known it would come.

The one where I’m sitting on the floor of my smoke-filled apartment, staring at three rock-hard, blackened loaves and thinking, “I am a failure.”

Having never baked bread before, I’d known it was a little insane to sign up for the weekly Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, where a group of more than 200 amateur bakers around the world bake a bread every week from a recipe in Peter Reinhart’s bread-making bible.

But then my first attempt — bagels — had gone well. And in the ensuing weeks, decent versions of brioche and challah followed.

I started to get cocky — I even promised chef Simpson that I would bring my first stab at ciabatta to his July 4 party. There would be two Italians there — who better to judge the quality of my first Italian bread?

Of course, this was all before the alarming amounts of smoke, the smell of burnt cornmeal seeping into every cranny of my apartment and, eventually, the surfacing of three dark lumps of what could pass for coal but were actually my “ciabatta.”

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