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#timandrachgotoparis2013 Archive



February 2014



#TimAndRachGoToParis2013 – What We Loved

Written by , Posted in Thoughts, Travel

First-SD-Card_3354Have you ever been to a place where words flow with such ease, where beauty lies in more than art – in architecture, as well as Monet. Where sitting at a crowded café, the air filled with whisps of French can bring you to tears?

We came for the food, but found so much more. But it wasn’t just the art, the culture, the fashion… it was the people. The vieille femme who came into Au Bon Coin every time we were there, with her sweet dog Pom. She is now a friend of ours, even if we can’t pronounce her name. The man at the antique store who complimented us on our taste when we chose 5 tiny art nouveau cups, who said we recognized something good. We conversed in French, me translating uncertainly to Tim, the man, adding a few words of broken English. He is now a friend. The girl at Le Brio who explained the entire menu in English, because she wanted to be sure we understood. Another amie.

It was the jeune homme on the metro who gave up his seat to an older woman. The jeune who came on to our train to play a song for a few coins. They made an impression.

We came for the food, and were not disappointed. But, it was the people who captured our hearts.

How dare we leave?

* * * * *

I wrote that as we were packing to leave. Fighting the tears, as I had been the past few days, at the thought of leaving our Paris.

* * * * *

For the last Paris post, some of our favorite things.

We were in awe of the amazing architecture. Not an ugly building in sight.




We laughed a lot.


We walked for miles and miles along those cobblestone streets. They’re not the easiest streets to walk on, but they’re the prettiest I’ve ever seen.




Le metro. The best way to get around. We were old pros at it by the end of our three weeks. We even got asked for help by someone trying to buy tickets. Yeah, we looked Parisian (or so we like to pretend).



The Eiffel Tower. What a magnifique sight. It was hard to say goodbye.




The baguettes and the pain au chocolate. I suspect that if you searched the world over, there’d be none that could compare.


Learning how to make Parisian food. I had such a fun time taking cooking classes at Cook’n With Class.



Seeing movies set in Paris IN Paris.


Au Bon Coin. Our little corner of Paris. I will be forever missing the people, the food, and the atmosphere of this fabulous bistro.


The price of wine – cheaper than most other beverages on the menu (um, except for the time that we tried to eat at a restaurant that was selling a €6,000 bottle of champagne… we left soon after seeing that).


The sound of French being spoken all around us. In the third week of our trip I finally felt like I was able to understand more of what I was hearing.


Au revoir, notre chère Paris, ravis de vous avoir rencontre. Jusqu’à  la prochaine fois.

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January 2014



#TimAndRachGoToParis2013 – What I Cooked

Written by , Posted in Baking, Bread, Thoughts, Travel


While we were in Paris we ate out a lot. We had Boeuf Bourguignon, Roast Beef and Potatoes, and Chicken and Rice. We ate baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolate. It was pretty much the best ever. Ever ever ever.

Tim really wanted me to take some cooking classes while we were there. We found a little school about a 15 minute walk from our Montmartre flat called Cook’n With Class. Know what makes the best vacation even better? When you can (somewhat) duplicate the foods when you return home.

The first class that I took was a baking class with Chef Emmanuelle. She’s a great teacher. She made the class fun and comfortable, and made the recipes seem possible (I had had the impression that French baking was impossible – I now know that I was wrong).


She taught us how to make pain au chocolate (which I’ve decided was better than any that we bought at the patisseries or boulangeries in Paris). They were incredible and surprisingly easy to make (easy being relative though – we’re still baking).



We made a strudel avec des pommes (apple strudel). Oh so divine. I got to braid it. Yeah, I know. I felt pretty cool doing it.


And then… the croissants. Once again, not as difficult as I’d imagined they’d be. They’re next on my list of Paris foods to make. I have pounds and pounds of butter in the fridge just waiting. I’m not sure how many croissants I ate in Paris. Too many to count. I’ve had one since we returned. It was meh. I’m sure that even the ones I make won’t be quite the same.


We also made pain aux raisins, which is like a raisin bread with a custardy filling and an apricot glaze.

I’ll take two, please.


At Cook’n With Class they were happy to have Tim come by to taste the food we’d made. And they even let our German friends (who came to visit us) try some. Since Tim didn’t take the classes with me, it was special to be able to share what I’d made with him.

We got to take home the leftovers too.

I really want one many pain au chocolate right now.


The second class that I took was the Evening Market Class with Chef Patrick. He is a world class chef. Wow. So talented. We put vanilla beans in mashed potatoes (mind blown), we crushed coriander by hand, and we stuffed cherry tomatoes with spices and torn basil leaves.

This class was really cool. We met at a nearby metro stop and then walked over to some of the market streets. We bought most of the ingredients for our four course dinner. The first course was (I’m totally sighing as I write this because I can’t stand that I’m not eating this right NOW!) Duck Magret with Sweet Wine “Jus” with Sautéed and Caramelized Pears with a salad that had a delicious vinaigrette.


The second course was Fish Fillets with Dijon Mustard Sauce with Herbs, Sweet Red Chili and Basil Slow-Baked Tomatoes, Vanilla Mashed Potatoes, and Peas.

Chef Patrick asked if anyone wanted to learn how to skin the fish. Fish that he’d just chosen from the fishmonger an hour earlier. I tried. You guys, it’s way harder than it looked!

Since people in the class knew that I had some experience with cooking, I got volunteered to help a few times. I didn’t mind. I pretended that I knew what I was doing. My jobs were to plate the tomatoes (that we all seasoned and stuffed), to watch the potatoes, and when they were done, to add the cream and butter. (Um, I added a lot – I was kinda expecting him to tell me when to stop. He didn’t. Cool. I like butter and cream. I think I added just the right amount.)


And then there was dessert. I’m so not a sweets person. This Lava Cake was insane. There’s some serious gooey goodness going on there. Another on my ever lengthening list of things I must make from Paris.


In Paris you get to eat cheese after dessert. No matter that we were incredibly full after the first three courses (I didn’t just try things, I ate everything). It was time for cheese and more wine. (We drank a lot of wine in Paris. It was often the cheapest beverage on the menu.)

I can’t remember the names of the cheeses. I do know that one was a brie, there was a goat cheese, a super aged something or other, a roquefort (I think), and a something else. They were arranged in order of stinkiness.


The class lasted for about 6 hours. Tim had bought a dinner ticket, so he joined us right before we started eating. We walked home late that night, hoping that we’d be hungry in the morning, since I had my French Bread Making Class coming up.


Chef Alex taught this, my last class. It was just a few days before we were to leave. I’d had probably a baguette a day, maybe more. I was ready to make my own.

They were much more difficult than I’d imagined they’d be. I figured that I’d made bread before and I’d be pretty good at it.


No expert here.

I mean, they turned out great. But, that was because Alex would come over and ask what I was doing and then tell me what I was actually supposed to be doing. I got it, eventually, and we successfully made real French baguettes. Best food ever.


Tim was once again invited to taste the treats we’d prepared. In addition to the baguettes, we made two kinds of brioche (rolls and a braided loaf)‚ fougasse (focaccia), and these rolls that were made with a Beaujolais wine (the worst wine to drink, but it made for a yummy bread), sausage, and nuts. And of course there was wine and cheese to go with it. Even though we’d eaten a huge meal the night before we had room for plenty of bread.


One of the things that I miss the most about Paris: the baguettes. Big surprise. For Christmas Tim gave me a kitchen scale (it was suggested that I have one before trying to bake on my own). A few weeks ago I was finally able to make real French baguettes at home. Ok, kinda real. They weren’t the same, but they were pretty good.


So, friends, if you’re ever in Paris (and I really hope you are), I’d definitely recommend taking a cooking class from my friends at Cook’n With Class. What a fun and delicious experience it was.

They were kind enough to allow me to share their baguette recipe with you. Some of the instructions make more sense after you’ve taken a class. If that’s the case, um, they’re located at 6 rue Baudelique 75018 Paris, France. 😉

The final installment of our Paris adventures will continue next week.

Au revoir!

Recipe Type: Bread, Baking
Cuisine: French
Author: Cook’n With Class
  • 2 1/4 pounds / 1 kg all purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 1/2 pounds /650 to 700 g of water, cold from tap (distilled is better)
  • 1/2 oz /16 g of dry yeast OR 1oz/ 32 grams of fresh yeast
  • 2/3 oz or 22 g fine sea salt
  1. In a stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add flour, then water. Mix 30 seconds just to combine the ingredients. (You can also by hand use the dough hook to stir the flour and water together until all of the flour is wet). Cover and let rest for 30 minutes (autolysis). In these 30 minutes the flour will slowly absorb the water.
  2. Now using the dough hook. Start on medium speed and add slowly the yeast, then the salt. Keep mixing for about 5 minutes on medium low speed, let rest 10 minutes and then mix again on high for 5 minutes to develop the gluten. The dough is done when a small piece can be stretched so thin you can see your fingers through it. (This is called the windowpane test). The dough should be very smooth and should not be any warmer than 27C /80F.
  3. Let the dough rest, covered, for about 1 hour at room temperature. If the room is too hot place the dough in the fridge, always covered.
  4. Optional but well worth the effort: Turn the dough over onto itself every 15 minutes during the hour that it rests or just until it becomes to elastic to stretch, this technique will help develop fantastic air pockets in the dough. Slap the dough onto the table a few times, then place in large plastic container 30cm x 40cm lightly greased with vegetable oil. Cover with lightly oiled film, place in the fridge for 14 to 16 hours.
  5. Take the dough out of the fridge and gently place it on a floured table. Divide into 6 rectangular pieces. Keep the sticky side facing up and gently fold the dough a third of the way down your rectangle, do this by pulling the dough over your thumb as to not push all the air out of the dough. Then by using the piano fingers technique spread the dough laterally while also pushing forward you are trying to form a tighter skin around the dough to trap the air. Repeat this a couple of times, then using your thumbs, seal the dough to itself, forming a seam. Place these pre-formed baguettes on a tray covered by a tea towel until they are about 50% larger, This will take roughly 1/2 hour for this rising.) During this next phase you will try to save as much air pockets as possible. If you’re too rough the dough will deflate and the crumb will be more dense and even. Shape each piece into a baguette by placing each pre-formed baguette onto a lightly floured surface the sticky side up and repeating the folding steps noted above create the seal by pinching the seal onto the bench with your thumbs. Gently roll the baguette with your hands to achieve the final baguette shape. Place each baguette on a baking sheet lined with parchment and then lightly floured. Gently roll the formed baguettes onto the baguette baking trays seam side down, then cover again until about 50% larger than they were… maybe doubled.
  6. Place a shallow pan in the bottom of the oven and preheat to 475F (250C) degrees.
  7. Using a razor or sharp knife make 1/4 inch deep, diagonal slashes, 3 to 4 times down the length of the loaf. (for a half baguette) 6 to 7 for a full baguette) do this by holding the end of the baguette with one hand, and with the other hand, make quick slashes along the length of the baguette. Pour about 1/4 of a cup of water in the pan in the bottom of the oven, and place baguettes in the oven, working quickly vaporize the oven and generously vaporize the baguettes with a spray bottle. Quickly close the as not to lose too much heat. Keep making steam for the first 10 minutes to help developing a nice thick crust. Bake the bread for about 20 minutes until browned.
  8. You can use an instant read thermometer to test for doneness. The bread should have an internal temperature of 200F/93C degrees when done. When the bread is cooked it sounds hollow when you tap it.



January 2014



#TimAndRachGoToParis2013 – What We Saw

Written by , Posted in Thoughts, Travel

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I’m listening to Edith Piaf as I type this post. It makes me both extremely happy and incredibly sad.

I miss Paris.

To make me feel a little better I’m going to think about some of the fun touristy things we did while we were there.

Since we had three weeks, we had plenty of time to do (almost) everything we wanted to do, some things more than once. We saw the Tour Eiffel quite a few times. We would just “happen” to be in the area and figure we might as well see it again. Or, we’d be at the top of some amazing structure, like the Arc de Triomphe, and be so fortunate to see the tower sparkle for 5 minutes at the top of the hour.





Yeah, let’s talk about the Eiffel Tower some more. It was my favorite thing to see in Paris. I don’t know why. I just had an emotional sort of attachment to it. I think because it’s something that I feel like I’ve always known about. A representation of a place I’ve always wanted to go. I don’t know. I might just be weird. Whatever the reason, I took a bazillion pictures of it. Daytime, night time, cloudy, sunshine… I could not get enough.


I shouldn’t have been surprised by the beauty of places like Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, and Sacré Coeur. But, I was. I just don’t see that kind of detail and care put into many of the buildings around here. At Sainte-Chapelle, which is smaller than Notre Dame, but much more intricate, they were restoring the stained glass. As in, taking each panel out, removing every piece of glass, re-painting some‚ cleaning them… each piece of glass. What?! It was made for Louis IX. Can you imagine, a church made for a king?!


While we were looking around the inside of these cathedrals, there were church services going on. That felt a little weird, like we were intruding. It made me wonder, does anyone go there go there? Or were they all tourists?

We climbed the 400 steps to the belfry of Notre Dame. The view was phenomenal, but it was cold cold cold!!! Take a freezing day, some under dressed Californians, and then climb up 400 steps to the frigid, windy belfry. Cool. Literally. We stood up there for a long time because we were waiting for the bells to ring on the hour. They didn’t. Our hands and feet went numb, so we left.


We found a Rick Steves walking tour of Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle in the Paris guidebook that our friend, Christy, had given us before we left. In addition to tours and info about the places we were visiting, we consulted it constantly for tips on where to eat, where the bathrooms were, hours of operation etc. It was invaluable to us.

Sacré Coeur was part of the view out the window of our flat. So it was extra special to us. We had friends from Germany come to spend a few days with us and they stayed in that area, so we saw it often. But, let me tell you, this was one of the worst places for the bracelet scams and young girls trying to get us to sign petitions. I don’t know what the deal is with the petitions. I watched a few people sign something and never saw a second person pick their pockets. When coming out of the metro in that area once I was met at the top of the stairs by three young women, all shoving clipboards in my face, trying not to let me pass. I had to put on my mean face and push through them. The bracelet scam was a little scarier. There were clusters of guys waiting for tourists. They’d come up to you and start tying string onto your wrist and if you didn’t stop them, they’d make a friendship bracelet for you while you stood and waited. The catch is that they expect you to pay them. One started to grab Tim’s wrist and got upset when Tim told the guy not to touch him.



I loved the Louvre. What I loved the most was the building itself. It was beautiful. We wandered around Napoleon’s apartment. We might have set off an alarm by leaning too far into his dining room. We were like, “Oooh, some tourist is setting off the alarm!” “Oh, it’s us.” Also, um, hello living room. Just a tad fancier than ours (which is also in an apartment, but is just a little bit smaller, and without a single chandelier).

I liked the Louvre better than Versailles. I know, I might be crazy.

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While Versailles was insanely, seriously, obnoxiously beautiful, I was a bit underwhelmed by it. Not by the grandeur. Gosh, we walked about 5 miles that day, just on the property. It was stunning, breathtaking, gorgeous. I guess I just preferred the Louvre. It felt like so much at Versailles was something that “could have been similar to what Marie Antoinette” used/slept on/ate off of/wore.

At the Louvre we got to see some of the crowns they wore. I’m so fascinated by things like this because I can’t fathom that this type of thing is/was actually real. People wore crowns, really?!




Of all the museums, our very favorite was the one we spent the least amount of time at. The Musée de l’Orangerie is where Monet’s Water Lilies are. We admired his beautiful murals until we were forced to leave because the museum was closing. We read about an 80 year old man, in the later years of life, painting “Darkness Descends on the Pond”. I thought it was a dark, sad picture, until I noticed the three bright lilies in the center of the canvas, brightening the twilight.


Many of the touristy things that we did were covered by the four day museum pass that we purchased. We definitely got our money’s worth out of it, visiting 8 museums in 4 days. And another plus, at most places we got to go to the front of the line (weeeeeeee-hoooooo!). A bonus when it’s just day 3 and your feet are done. Like seriously done. In case you care, we went to these museums/monuments with our museum pass: Louvre, Rodin, l’Orangerie, Notre Dame belfry, Sainte-Chapelle, l’Arc du Triomphe, Versailles, and Orsay.


Aside from museums and the Eiffel Tower, we had plenty of other touristy business to attend to.

Tim loves to find the place where a favorite movie was filmed. Paris has plenty. Of the many, we saw just three. Inception bridge (twice), Inception café, Charade pillars, and maybe the best of the movie places: we did an Amélie walking tour. Amélie (one of our favorite movies) was filmed in Montmartre, where we stayed. Our main metro stop is the stop in the movie. We were just a 20 minute walk from Café des 2 Moulins (the restaurant she works at), and Mr. Collignon’s market. We also found a few other places that we recognized from the film.







Another favorite of Tim’s was Shakespeare and Company. An English bookstore across the way from Notre Dame. It was opened by George Whitman in ’51. (Not the original Shakespeare and Company, which was Sylvia Beach’s store and the one frequented by the likes of Hemmingway and Joyce.) It has always been a place hospitable to writers and readers alike. We spent hours there and had to check a third bag because we just had to have so many books stamped with the Shakespeare and Company logo.


We ventured just outside of Paris to a marché aux puces (flea market). Within minutes I’d found a large copper skillet with a lid for €30. I was happy. Although not thrilled that I had to carry it around for the rest of the outing. Ok, I didn’t really care. I was so pleased with the purchase.

It was probably the main reason we needed to check a third bag (because in France they weigh the carry ons… a copper pot is heh-veee). Whatev.

We wandered, bought treasures, got yelled at for touching a €300 1800’s tea cup and saucer (um, if you don’t lock your display case, I’m pretty sure that means I can take things out…). It was a really fun day.



Our weeks were full full full of amazing sights. This is just a glimpse.

Part three of our Paris adventure will continue next week.




November 2013



#TimAndRachGoToParis2013 – Bon Voyage

Written by , Posted in Thoughts, Travel


There is a city that Tim and I have been wanting to visit together for as long as we’ve been married. There are actually a few, but one in particular that has held a special place in our hearts: Belle Paris.

I remember dreaming about it when we were first married, living in our tiny bungalow (ahem, which was definitely larger than our current home…). We had an old blue jar with a label that read “Paris”. We would put a few dollars in every once in a while, intending to store away enough to take this trip.

Seven years later, it’s time.

We are celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary (a few weeks late). Celebrating life together. Celebrating our love of food.

How we have waited and waited…

We’re excited for croissants, for the markets, and the Fromagerie where they will help us choose a cheese to go with our bread and wine. I’m anxious to try out my rusty French… I had 12 years of French classes. I hope I remember something more than bonjour and je veux une baguette s’il vous plaît (although I just checked my grammar in a translate app and it said that I wrote, “I want a wand please”… um…)! I haven’t taken a French class in 14 years. This could be interesting!

With that, we will give the keys to the house sitter and bid the dog adieu…

On y va… Au revoir!

(Now that we’re back, parts one, twothree, and four of our #TimAndRachGoToParis2013 adventures.)