La Passage du Grand Cerf

I’ve written about the flaneur before – a person who walks the city in order to experience it – and now am genuinely starting to feel like one. I’ve been in Paris for just about 2 months now and no day goes by that I don’t think for at least a few moments of how lucky I am to be able to walk along the streets of this amazing city. I think I can safely say that I’m past the honeymoon phase of my stay here in Paris. I still love it, but I’m feeling more comfortable, more at home, less touristy. I don’t feel the need rush to go out and do everything all at once, which is exactly how I felt when I first arrived. Of course, my to do list is still ten pages long, so if I plan on checking it all off before the end of May, I’d better keep the pace up.

A glass covered arcade in the midst of the busy 2nd arrondisment, La Passage du Grand Cerf transports you back in time to the 19th century, right to the heart of the time when Baudelaire was writing about his famous flaneur. I can only begin to imagine what it must have felt like to walk down this alleyway 200 years ago with the huge arching glass windows letting in so much beautiful light and the abundance of little shops and restaurants that line the way. 

Today, it’s home to some small boutiques, including this amazing one that sells all sorts of knobs. I kind of have this weird obsession with knobs. Last year I spent over 50 dollars at anthropologie buying new knobs for my dresser. It might have something to do with the fact that I want to own everything in the home section of that store. Either way, I spent a solid 15 minutes checking out these ceramic little balls until I realized it was going to be silly for me to buy them as I don’t even have a dresser here to put them on and I have 10 perfectly good knobs waiting for me back at home in New York. They’re still so pretty to look at!

After my stroll through the passage, I took a rest at a cafe right across the road and sat drinking my coffee and gazing at the people who happened to go down through the arcade. It somehow manages to vanish within the busy landscape of present day Paris. Many people didn’t even seem to notice it as they walked down the main drag, while a few happened to turn their head upon seeing the cherry red carpets and stopped to take a peak inside, much like I did.

Recently, I have been coming to grips with how much of a spectacle Paris is. Everything has such intense meaning and importance to the tourists who come to see it, but I often feel that the magic that made Paris so wonderful in the early 20th century has somehow been lost behind all the pomp and pageantry of 21st century Paris. It tries so hard to cater to the many millions of tourists who pass through its borders every year and sometimes the original significance of these places is forgotten. Le Passage du Grand Cerf, to me at least, is a reminder of what the splendor of Paris used to be like, before it became glossed over. Sure, the stores and boutiques are not hundreds of years old like the passage itself, but the archways and windows contain a secret history that only those who search for it will find. So many people come to Paris today and only hit up the big landmarks and sites. While that’s a valuable thing to do, one must go beyond the sheen and find places like Le Passage du Grand Cerf in order to be a true flaneur.

Advertisements

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Biscotti

I’ve learned that dried cranberries make just about anything better. Can you honestly think of one thing that dried cranberries wouldn’t go good in? Cookies – check! Granola – check! They can often be a wonderful addition to savory dishes as well, such as chicken and even omelets! I look forward to Thanksgiving every year with great ernest, knowing that it’s prime cranberry season. Last year at our Turkey Day meal, we had a cranberry port ice cream and a panna cotta pie with candied dried cranberries on top. I obviously hog the cranberry sauce as it’s passed around the table.

The gory process of cranberry port ice cream: 

I have always wanted to make biscotti and when I saw I had some cranberries in my cupboard, I figured why the heck not try throw them in. My precious bag of chocolate chips is slowly getting smaller and smaller but I’m hoping with an onslaught of American visitors coming next month, my stock will be replenished! When I was younger, I used to eat biscotti like no bodies business. I always remember cafes selling them in giant glass jars right at the check-out and I would always beg my mom or dad to buy one for me.

Having never made these before, I did some research behind these crunchy cookies. They originated in Italy, are usually almond based and are twice baked to receive that famous crunchy tecture. Originally they didn’t have any fats or yeast in them, but the recipe I used for called for a little bit of oil (I actually used butter) and some baking powder. I didn’t have any almond extract either, but added some almond flour I had, which was more understated than I imagine extract would have been, but still delicious.

These are really such an easy cookie to make, but always give off the appearnce of seeming quite complicated. I want to try making biscotti again, playing with different flours and fillings. I’m thinking a nutella biscotti is definitely in the works 😉

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Biscotti

(Adapted from Cooking Lite)

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (or 1 tbs almond flour)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS: 

1) Preheat oven to 350°.

2) Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour and the next 5 ingredients in a large bowl.

3) Combine butter, extracts, and eggs; add to flour mixture, stirring until well-blended (dough will be dry and crumbly). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 7 to 8 times.

4) Divide the dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8-inch-long roll. Place rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; flatten each roll to 1-inch thickness.

5) Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 15 (1/2-inch) slices.

6) Place the slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°, and bake for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool).

7) Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack. 

Nutella Speculoos Cookies

I’m going to make the assumption that you’re already well aware of my new found OBSESSION with speculoos. I think I went through a week when I couldn’t go one day without eating at least one spoonful of it! Now, I don’t think I have written about my mutual love for nutella, but let’s just say that if it was a question between speculoos or nutella, I would have a mighty hard time picking between the two. A few years ago, when I was on a ski trip, we were served little nutella packets each morning with breakfast that I would sneak into the pockets of my ski pants to eat as a snack on the slopes. I really hope the people behind speculoos are getting into the snack-size business, as carrying around a big glass bottle all the time seems quite impractical, then again, I would probably do it 😉 

Another thing I love – peanut butter. Basically I think that everything should be into a spread! Can you imagine a Momofuku compost cookie in spread form? Wow, even just thinking about it makes my stomach grumble! But back to peanut butter – no joke, I eat it out of the jar just like my speculoos. Now a funny thing about France is that they don’t really eat peanut butter here. What’s up with that? I guess they’re not that big into PB&J here. After almost leaving empty handed from Monoprix last week after my hunt for peanut butter, lo and behold, I found it tucked into a corner on the top of the Asian food section! Odd placement, as I highly doubt peanut butter is more popular in Asia than in France, but hey, at least I found it!

So where is this all leading? Oh right, I found a recipe for peanut butter nutella cookies a few weeks ago that sounded just like my kind of heaven. As I was about to start up the recipe, I had a spoonful of speculoos in my mouth when I realized “wait, what about swapping out the peanut butter with speculoos? They have the same consistency, this should work.” Well, let’s just say this was one of my better successes when deciding to alter recipe ingredients. Quite honestly, it was a sure fire thing from the start: nutella + speculoos + even a little more butter = massive hit! Of course, I added more nutella than needed and decided to do the same with speculoos. These babies sure are soft before baked, so extra refrigeration is definitely needed. Next mission – peanut butter, speculoos and nutella all wrapped up in one! Someone might need to send me some more peanut butter if I want to head down that road…

Speculoos Nutella Cookies

(Adapted from Pass The Sushi)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 teas baking soda
  • 1/4 teas salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup speculoos
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teas vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Nutella

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; Set aside.

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter, speculoos and sugars until combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scarp down the sides to insure everything is mixed well.

4) Add the egg and vanilla and combine. Slowly add in the flour mixture until just combined. It will be a slightly crumble dry ball of dough. Fold in your Nutella without mixing in too much.

5) On a clean work surface, turn the dough and and for into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

6) Scoop tablespoon sized balls out onto the baking sheet and press with a fork. Sprinkle each with a dash of the sea salt.

7) Bake for 10 minutes, or until edges are well browned. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

A Belgian Journey: Part II – Bruges

And we continue…

Saturday morning we hopped on another train headed northwest to Bruges. (English spelling – Bruges, Everyone else – Brugge). In the completely typic cliche, I have been wanting to go to Bruges ever since seeing In Bruges almost 4 years ago now with a friend back in Raleigh. Now, as much as the film might have inspired the trip, Bruges is an amazing town that is in fact listed in the UNESCO World Heritage registrar and because of its many canals is sometimes said to be the “Venice of the North.”

Now about those canals…Lets just say I’m going to have to go back to Bruges in the spring or summer one day as the canals this past weekend were frozen over. So frozen that people were actually walking on them. Although my friends wanted to go down and try to walk on it, I was not feeling that adventurous and preferred my watching others risk their lives from the sidelines.

Another thing that we missed out on was climbing the Belfry tower, which was closed for renovation. If you have seen In Bruges, you know what tower I’m talking about. Despite the frozen canals and the closed Belfry, Bruges was still amazing.

We stayed in a the most wonderful three story house that was a 5 minute walk from the main plaza. Saturday we really just spent walking around. Although freezing, it was beautifully sunny and we were able to take in all the sights with some amazing light. After realizing that the Belfry was closed, our next stop was the choclate shop Chocolate Line that prides themselves on having chocolate paint. Yes, chocolate paint. I didn’t purchase any paint but I was almost tempted to buy some chocolate lipstick. 

One interesting fact about Bruges is that they have there very own Michaleangle sculpture, called Madonna and Child, at the Church of our Lady. We paid a paltry 1 euro to see it. How awesome is that? One thing I loved about Bruges was being able to tell where we were just by looking up. From almost any point in town, you could see the Beflry, the Church of our Lady, or Saint Salvatores Cathedral. I of course loved this as I am a bit obsessive compulsive when it comes to knowing directions and orientation. The cobblestone streets and little alleyways lend themselves to perfect walking channels and more often than not, one had to be on the lookout for horse-drawn carriages (all tourists now) rather than cars themselves.

Of course, the afternoon continued with a stop for waffles and frites. Could one have a more perfect meal? I think not. After lunch, the cold constantly being a our preferred topic of conversation we popped into another cafe for some hot chocolate to warm out hands. I don’t know how they do it, but between the waffles and the chocolate, Belgium certainly knows their sweets. Instead of premixed hot chocolate, we were given warm milk and a chocolate square on a stick to mix in. This is how hot chocolate is served at Aroma in Israel and I’m sure at some other cafes, but I have never seen such a huge chunk of chocolate on a stick like this. It was the perfect internal heater for our bodies and our cold fingers. 

As a birthday present from my uncle, we got to experience some fine dining Saturday night at the Park Restaurant. Now I don’t know if the manager was expecting us or was just outside taking a smoke break, but as we walked up to the door he said “you must be Maya,” and welcomed us inside. Door service in the middle of Bruges? Pretty cool. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I can say it was definitely up there in my top ten list of meals I have had in my life 🙂 First course: Foie gras with fresh fig Second course: vegetable soup Main Course: beef tenderloin with potatoes à gratinBirthday tarte tatine! 

Our following and last day in Bruges was rather overcast and snowy. We ventured to the other side of town to a quaint little crepe restaurant and then went to a chocolate museum. The museum itself was a little haphazardly put together and some of the English translations were questionable, but being the baker that I am, it was very fun to see the whole process of how chocolate is made and why chocolate has become so popular in France. At the end, they had a nifty little demonstration showing how to make chocolate pralines. New mission in life – learn how to make chocolate truffles! 

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty spectacular weekend. I would have wished for warmer weather, but then again, one can’t always travel when it’s warm! The idea of not knowing the language or my way around it still a new concept that I’ve been taking in stride as I do more travel in France but it has also reminded me that in the technology souped up world we live in, travel is in fact, so easy. In away, I almost wished I had left my iPhone at home to cut me off from the world completely, although not knowing that Whitney Houston died until 24 hours after the fact was certainly disturbing 😉 I think now my nerves have been calmed at the prospect of doing future travels in even more foreign lands and I am now ready to conquer Europe! Croatia anybody??

A Belgian Journey: Part I – Brussels

Only three days away from Paris and it feel like I was completely displaced from reality. For my first trip out of France of the semester, I went off to Brussels for the weekend with some friends and somehow it seemed so much longer. It was an absolutely amazing trip that I wish never had to end, but in a way, it’s nice to be able to call Paris home now and walking into my apartment last night after three nights in foreign beds was quite the lovely (albeit cold) feeling.

We started off on Thursday night to Brussels. I found an apartment on airBnB, which was seriously amazing. Anyone who wants to travel should really look into it – it’s cheap, easy, and instead of hostel or hotel, you have a real apartment to go back to with amenities and such. Awesome find! Anyway…

Our first evening in Brussels was spent walking around looking for a bar, but after realizing Brussels in not quite the happening on Thursday night, we ventured back to our place with some beers and cookies in hand. The beer selection here is really out of control. Even in the tiny corner bodega, they had at least 45 varieties of beer and interesting ones too. I should preface this all by saying I have been on antibiotics this week fighting a bronchitis type infection, so unfortunately, my alcohol consumption was greatly impeded this weekend, although that doesn’t mean I could look at all the pretty bottles!

Friday morning we started the day by walking towards the Mannekin Piss and a place that I heard about which great waffles. (New thought in life – only in Belgium does one find true authentic waffles). Lets just say the walk was worth it for the waffles, but not the Mannekin Piss. Seriously, I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s a little boy, perhaps a little more than 2 feet tall, peeing. No great shakes, although there were certainly enough tourists around to make you think other wise. 

More exciting than Mannekin Piss himself are all the chocolate statues made out of him…

Now to say it was cold during our stay in Brussels was an understatement. It was freezing! And there was snow and ice on the ground, making walking treacherous at times. So after our early morning waffles, after which our fingers almost fell off trying to eat them, we went into a cute little cafe to grab some coffee and warm up. 

Perhaps one of the biggest tourist draws is the Grand Place, which unlike Mannekin Piss, is actually a beautiful grand piazza with old buildings gilded in gold. We spent a few minutes ogling the buildings and trying to get some good pictures, but once again, the cold forced us to move on somewhat quickly as standing anywhere for too long was not comfortable. 

Our next stop was the Magritte Museum, dedicated to the works of the surrealist artist Rene Magritte. I really had no knowledge about who or what he did before we got there, but I left feeling a whole lot smarter about surrealist art. I don’t mangle up what he believed in completely, so I highly recommend you take a look at his wiki page and ponder this thought…

This is not a pipe:

Now once again, the lovely thing about having a nice apartment to go back to and not a dingy hostel was that at 4 in the afternoon, feeling exhausted and cold, we decided to head back to the apartment and take some well deserved naps. Of course, we didn’t make it all the way back without a stop at a chocolate shop first though!

After some lovely naps in a gloriously heated apartment, we made our way to dinner at Fin de la Siecle, near Grand Place. Now, I don’t know who here has been to Brussels before, but somehow the streets do not make sense! We were walking down towards the middle of town and then I see on the map that the restaurant is off to the right a bit, so I say, “hey, why don’t we try a new direction and walk right?” 15 minutes later, after stopping to ask for directions, I discovered we had somehow gone in the complete wrong direction even though the map seemed to say otherwise. Being a big fan of maps and having a generally pretty good sense of direction, I was incredibly distressed. All was well though when we finally got to the restaurant and had a delicious and cheap meal. 

We rounded out at the evening at a tourist trap of a bar called Delirium Cafe. They are famous for having over 2000 types of beer. All I honestly took from the place was that it was loud and crowded. Apparently I was the only one who was unimpressed though, as it was  packed with hundreds of people! 

Even in our one day in Brussels, I felt like we accomplished a lot. Although we were in a foreign country from our host home of France, and especially from home home in New York, it was nice to still be able to speak the language. I’m realizing more and more that I have not really done a lot of traveling in countries where I don’t know the language at all. Through my travels in France and Swizerland, French has always gotten me by and in Israel, I can understand and speak enough Hebrew that I don’t feel like a total stranger. As I do more traveling in Europe I guess I’m going to quickly have to accept that it’s going to probably happen more often than not that I’ll stick out like a sore thumb not knowing the language or knowing my bearings. I guess this is just another excuse to learn more languages, although French, Hebrew and Arabic are hard enough as it is now!

In order to not make this the longest post in history and as I’m far to lazy to edit all my photos at once, I shall post about our two days in Bruges later this week.

I leave you with the quote and the realization that I must have been born on a farm because I loved Bruges!

“Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.” -Colin Farrel in In Bruges

Canistrelli (Coriscan shortbread cookies)

I was gifted this lovely little guide book of Paris recently. It’s not your typical guide book of monuments and activities, but a guide book strictly of food places and shops that any avid foodie, like myself, must see while they are in Paris. As you probably know, I’ve been working my way through the many food options that Paris has to offer and I always like to bring this book along with me so I can find a good place to eat no matter what arrondissement I’m in. Clotilde, the author of the book, also has an excellent blog called Chocolate & Zucchini, that I highly recommend taking a look at. 

In addition to the restaurant and bakery reviews, there’s a sampling a different recipes, all within the French cooking tradition. I decided to take a stab at some canistrelli the other day (otherwise known as corsican shortbread cookies).

I was pleased with how simple the recipe look at first – no butter, no eggs – and anything with wine always sounds good to me. I couldn’t find chestnut flour – the flour situation here in France is still taking some getting used to – but I did find almond flour, which I used a substitute. 

As I said, these were super easy to make, but they seemed to be lacking a little something. They were crunchy and and flakey, which I’m sure would go great with an afternoon tea, but I guess I was searching for something above and beyond the basic shortbread that I was used to, and this simply wasn’t it. Needless to say, I served them at dinner the other night and there was not a single one left! I would love to play with these again – maybe adding some different spices and more lemon and definitely will eat them next time with some hot tea! 

CANISTRELLI

(Adapted from Clotilde’s Adventures in Paris)

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups chestnut flour (substitute almond flour)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2) In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest.

3) Form a well in the center and pour in the olive oil and wine. Stir the liquids into the solids, working gently with a fork, until the dough comes together.

4) Turn out onto a clean work surface, and knead gently until the dough comes together into a smooth ball, without overworking it. Add a little more flour or water as necessary to adjust the consistency.

5) Lightly flour the work surface underneath the dough, and use the palm of your hands to pat it into a disk, about 1/2 inch in thickness.

6) Slice the dough into 2.5-cm (1-inch) squares or diamonds with a dough cutter or sharp knife.

7) Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 160°C (325°F) and bake for another 15 minutes, until the canistrelli are golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving.

8) Enjoy! 

Glacial Paris

It snowed here yesterday. Now to say it “snowed” is a bit of an over statement. It appeared to flurry outside my window for about 20 minutes and then it was over. When I walked outside a few hours later (which was a big mistake given how cold it was) I saw barely any snow on the ground. 

Now, even if the snow didn’t stick, it is still FREEEEEZZINGGG here. I don’t think it has really gotten above 30 degrees since last Wednesday. I even heard on the radio this morning they were worried about power outages because of such a strain on the electrical grid. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that that doesn’t happen! It has reached point, where doing just about anything outside is unbearable and I have taken to rushing home after classes to sit next to my unfortunately placed heater. When I walked into the courtyard at school last week, they had heavily salted the ground in preparation for the ice. 

I know, I know, I really shouldn’t complain. Last year in New York was a perpetual winter wonderland, but something about the cold here, and the heating in apartments makes it seem much worse. I have this heater connected to the wall that gets very hot, but somehow doesn’t manage to heat up the whole apartment unless I keep it on for hours. I’ve taken to sleeping with a sweatshirt and a sweater, many pairs of socks, as my tile floor is the worst when it’s cold, and three blankets. It also doesn’t help to hear that it’s been a balmy 60 degrees in New York and North Carolina while I sit here looking at a -10 degree weather forecast (that’s celsius, which always makes it seem that much worse). 

On Friday, we took a school trip to L’Abbaye de Rouyamount, which was a lovely abbey, but given the cold, and general sickness I have been fighting these past few days, I was unable to thoroughly enjoy the tour. All I could think about the entire time was the fact that I could no longer feel my feet in the slightest. It felt liking walking on glass every time I took a step. I think I have some circulation problems in my toes, because that does not seem normal. *One little nifty tid-bit I did learn while I was there – Pink Floyd performed at the abbey in 1971! Probably a pretty epic concert! 

Even though the tour was not very fun, NYU certainly upped their game by way of the meal we were served. As we approached the tables, it was clear this was going to be a fancy meal – there were three different forks to choose from! As I said, I was still feeling pretty sick, so I wasn’t able to eat everything on my plate, a first for me, but it was still a very enjoyable meal! Obviously, the dessert was the only course I was able to eat in its entirety 😉 Whipped goat cheese with a beat mousse and salad: Fleur de sel veal with baby onion mashed potatoes: Sable cookie with a caramel butter tart topping and salted caramel ice cream: 

A walk with the dead (at Père Lechaise Cemetary)

Recently I realized I was born in the completely wrong century. The more I’ve wandered the street of Paris and read about its history, the more I wish I could have been an “American in Paris” in the early 20th century. Can you image the streets of Montparnasse, filled with the likes of Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald? Paris not yet the tourist spectacle that it had become today? Obviously Midnight in Paris has forever changed Paris for me, but still, I think it would have been pretty awesome.

Of course the mother of this whole “Lost Generation” was Gertrude Stein, who helped foster the career of many young and struggling artists and writers in Paris during this time. I really don’t claim to know enough about this amazing woman, but I’m trying to learn more and really, I think we had a little heart to heart the other day at her grave 😉

Gertrude Stein is buried at Père Lechaise Cemetary, something I didn’t know until I walked into this rolling green cemetery that is a really wonderful place to visit in Paris. No, one doesn’t usually think of a cemetery as being a really wonderful place to visit, but with the likes of Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and the famed Kurdish singer Yilmaz Guney (don’t ask my why, but there are surprisingly a lot of Kurdish and Iranian people buried there), Père Lechaise is an wonderful place to take a stroll on a sunny day. 

My friend Allison and I started out jaunt at Père Lechaise at the southern entrance, wandering throughout the many different districts of the cemetery. There are simple tombs and basic headstones to elaborate chapels and towering monuments. Some of them are so old that it’s hard to read the writing of who is buried there. Sadly, many of the older tombs are not well taken care of, often covered in cobwebs and leaves and some even have fallen apart, leaving a pile of rubble in their wake.

Towards the north, the graves seemed to be much better taken care of than those further south. Allison and I pondered why this was – many of them still seemed very old, yet looked so much nicer and shinier. Any ideas? 

During our walk, we saw the burial sites of Baron Hausmann, Oscar Wilde, and yes, the great Gertrude Stein. Of course, there were lots of tombstones we could have seen, but after a few hours of walking through such an immense graveyard; there are only so many more dead people you can take. 

It’s still possible to get buried in Père Lechaise today, as there were some recent headstones from just last year, but I was reading online that space is so tight, some people are buried in the same tomb as previously deceased family members – not the most pleasant idea. 

I would love to go back to see the graves of Edith Piaf, Moliere and Balzac to name a few. There was something quite serene about walking through it all on such a lovely sunny day. I could only imagine the ghosts that come at night though!

I don’t think it’s the same George Harrison you’re thinking of 😉 

Even in death, dogs are still mans best friend: 
Looked it up, no relation to Dr. Kevorkian: 

How speculoos changed my life (and other birthday treats)

Yesterday was my 22nd birthday. I know, I’m so old! I’m constantly given a look of shock when I say I’m turning 22 (and now can simply say am 22) as opposed to the classic 21 that most of my friends are turning this year. I like to think it makes me wiser this new age of 22. Seriously, 18 is great, 21 is obviously great, but then 22….well, 22 you’re just old now. Obviously I shouldn’t be complaining – I’m not really that old, I live in Paris and after an awful 21st year filled with chemotherapy, PET scans, and the loss of sushi in my life for over 6 months, I think I can pretty safely say 22 will have to be a better year. One of the reasons I know it’s going to be better is because of this little gem of a discovery….

Yes, speculoos spread has changed my life. The way I like to describe it to people is think of those little biscoff cookies on Delta flights. You know? The ones I can never get enough of. Well, speculoos is pretty much biscoff cookies in spread form. Seriously, if it doesn’t surpass nutella and peanut butter on the amazing spread scale, it’s right up with it. It goes on any bread or cracker, or my personal favorite – right on a spoon out of the jar. I have found a lot of pretty spectacular food items here in France, but speculoos tops them all, so far at least. (I have been told that you can find biscoff spread in a jar back in the states, but I have never seen it – have you?)

Knowing my new found obsession, my lovely friend Audrey not only bought me a fresh bottle of speculoos (I’ve gone through one and half in the past 10 days alone) but she also got me the next best thing to speculoos itself – A SPECULOOS COOKBOOK!

It’s so awesome. Not only does it have recipes for sweets, like speculoos cheesecake and speculoos twills, but it has savory dishes as well, like chicken! I’m most looking forward to making baked apples stuffed with mascarpone cheese swirled with speculoos and topped with some speculoos crumble. I promise to update once I delve into some speculoos baking adventures. Got to hand it to Audrey, it was a pretty perfect gift. As you can tell, my other gifts didn’t fall far behind in the food category. Finally, blessed baking soda!!!! 

In the end, I’m now a year a older, but have more baking supplies than I did yesterday, so I can’t really complain. In going with the whole food theme, my best friend Charlotte, who was sadly was over 3000 miles away from me this year, still knew how to pull off all the stops on her gift. She got me a gift certificate to go out to brunch here in Paris!! I think I’m going to hold out on going for just a bit until it gets a bit warmer and I can sit outside, but after dessert, brunch is definitely my favorite meal in the entire world! Thank you so much to everyone who didn’t make me feel so old this year 🙂 Lots more baking to come this year!