Passion fascinates me. Lead me to books or blogs written by people passionate about any subject from art to zebra-stalking and I'm interested. Of course, if the passion involves food, I'm very interested. And if the writing is first-rate, I'm a fan forever.
Dorie Greenspan's passion for baking has fueled an outstanding collection of award-winning cookbooks and her passion for the-life-well-lived (and well-fed) makes her blog one of my favorites. Somewhere between her homes in Manhattan, Connecticut and Paris, she took time to indulge my nosiness.
[photo by another passionate cookbook author, Paris resident and prolific blogger on all-things gastronomic: David Lebovitz.]
1. If you had a very generous – but not unlimited – remodeling budget, what would you change in each of your three kitchens?
My three kitchens are each different from one another, but they all lack one thing in common: enough storage! Actually, that’s not really true, because I have tons of storage in my New York kitchen, a fair amount in Connecticut and a surprising amount in my smallish Paris kitchen, but what I can’t seem to figure out in any of these places is where to put stuff like tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, oranges, apples, big, funny-shaped squash and bulky bunches of bananas, the stuff that doesn’t go into the fridge and needs some air. I’ve bought bins, baskets and bowls, but still this produce seems to take up more than its fair share of countertop real estate. Aarrrgh.
Once my storage issues are solved, I’d use some of my very generous budget to buy second ovens for each of my kitchens. I’ve got fine ovens in each place (although, if the budget is generous enough, maybe I could squeeze a La Cornue in somewhere), but a second oven … ahhh … that would be both practical and luxurious. Oh, and while I’m at it, maybe second refrigerators and freezers, too, especially in Paris, where I’d like to have the fun of doing what every French homemaker does, i.e., shopping in Picard, the frozen-food supermarket, and having a steady stash of their salted-butter caramel ice cream, shelled fava beans and red-fruit coulis.
It’s funny, but while each of my kitchens has its limitations, I’ve learned to work within them and never really think about changing them. The Connecticut kitchen is airy and spacious and part of a big room that includes my desk and the dining area (it’s the only one of my three kitchens that I was actually able to plan because we renovated the house a few years ago); New York is a classic galley kitchen – I can stand in the center of it, stretch out my arms and touch both walls – and in some ways, it’s the most efficient, in the way that I imagine a submarine is efficient; and Paris is a square with great light and a huge window, but not enough room for anything we Americans would consider full-size (my refrigerator, although new, has a kind of “vintage” look, ditto my brand new oven, the interior of which is just 24 inches) – okay, the truth is, my husband and I have talked about changing this kitchen, but every time we get ready to spiff it up and get it more organized, we think, “Gee, it’s kind of charming just the way it is,” and we don’t do a thing. Each of the kitchens has its own style and I love moving from one to the other and adapting to each.
2. What was one of the most memorable moments of working with Julia Child on her baking book?
Of course, it’s almost impossible to pick just one moment, but … I lived in Cambridge for two months while we shot the Baking with Julia television series (it was shot in Julia’s wonderful Victorian house in Cambridge) and I used to love when we’d wrap for the day and Julia would ask me to stay and have a glass of wine with her. We’d sit at the high counter, which had been built for the set, and just gab – naturally, we’d talk about work, but we’d also talk about food and friends and France, which Julia loved so profoundly – and we’d usually nibble on whatever was left from the day’s shoot. One Friday night, after the crew had left and my husband had just arrived from New York to spend the weekend with me, Julia invited us to stay and her friend John joined us. We were sitting at the counter eating the leftovers from Lauren Groveman’s shoot – matzo, rye bread and chopped liver – and Julia’s favorite nibble, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish! (She’d buy them in great big boxes.) Julia would spill some of the Goldfish out onto the counter and every once in a while she’d scoot a couple over to Michael, my husband, and give him a sly little complicitous smile. She could tell she had a fellow salty-snack lover in the house.
There were so many great moments with Julia and all of them involve her warmth, intelligence and great good humor. Although, I did get a glimpse of her competitive side too. I won both James Beard and IACP awards for "Baking with Julia" and was thrilled, but the evening that the IACP awards were given out, I came down from the podium (having won both the judges’ and the people’s choice awards) and went to give Julia a hug only to find her agitated – she was outraged that I hadn’t gotten Cookbook of the Year as well!
3. If someone in love with food were visiting Paris for just three days, what should they do on day #2, after hitting the best known places the first day?
This is such a great question. Okay, having stocked up on pastries from Pierre Herme, having had lunch at Le Comptoir, tea at the George Cinq (with a little walk around the lobby to see the fabulous flowers), dinner at l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and late-night drinks at the bar at Le Plaza Athenee, you’ve got your base and you’re ready for day #2.
You should start with the soft boiled eggs at the Café de Flore, one of the great literary cafes in Saint-Germain-des-Pres (my neighborhood). The eggs come with strips of baguette and a little pot of Echire butter and dunking is a must. Then go to one of the outdoor markets – depending on the day you’re there, I’d say go to the Sunday organic market on the Boulevard Raspail, the Saturday market on the Avenue Saxe where you have to stop at Joel Thiebaut’s vegetable stand) right near the Galliera fashion museum, or the bustling Marche Aligre any day.
Whether or not you still have room in your shopping bag, you have to go on a pastry tour, stopping at Pain de Sucre in the Marais, Arnaud Lahrer in Montmartre and Des Gateaux et du Pain in the fifteenth arrondissement. And get chocolates from Patrick Roger (on the Blvd. Saint Germain) and Pierre Marcolini (on rue de Seine). Oh, and take a little side-trip to Giles Verot (in the seventh and the fifteenth) for charcuterie (his terrines are fabulous) and stop for wine at La Derniere Goutte (again in my ‘hood), where the owner, Juan Sanchez, has a remarkable selection of wines from small producers, all of whom he knows. Wait, while you’re there, you should walk around the corner to the rue Jacob and Huilerie Leblanc and buy some of their pistachio oil – it’s sooooooo good.
At this point, you’ll have earned lunch and I’d suggest you have it at a great little wine bar, maybe le Verre Vole, near the Canal St. Martin, a kind of trendy neighborhood, the new (even if it looks ancient) Les Racines in the second arrondissement, or the quite elegant Legrand et filles, in the beautiful Galerie Vivienne behind the Palais Royale.
If you haven’t whiled away the entire afternoon at your chosen wine bar, you might be able to take a cooking or baking class at Pavillon Elysee Lenotre (on the Champs Elysee) or, for a more casual option, L’Atelier des Chefs. And you might have time for another tea stop, this time I’d suggest Mariage Freres, serving the most extraordinary teas in the most charming salons. (I dare you to leave without buying something – if not tea, then some gorgeous tea-related something.)
Now would also be a good time to take a walk in the Luxembourg Gardens or along the Seine or through the Tuileries because you’ll need an appetite for dinner. I think the best way to end this terrific day would be a late dinner at one of the city’s neo- or gastro-bistros. These are places opened by chefs who’ve worked at great Michelin-starred restaurants, but opted out for their own very casual, very reasonably priced bistros. There are lots of them in the city (Le Comptoir is one, and probably the most famous because the chef, Yves Camdeborde, was the first “renegade” chef and, as such, he’s the papa of this revolution) and among my favorites are: L’Ami Jean (in the seventh), Chez Michel (in the tenth), Les Papilles, which serves just one three-course menu every night and is also a wine shop (in the fifth), L’Orcine (in the thirteenth) and Les Cocottes de Christian Constant (in the seventh), which is counter-service only, but lots of fun.
Because this day is so full and because you’ll finish dinner so late, maybe you should skip your nightcap and just go back to the hotel and have one of your wonderful chocolates.
4. Actress Stephanie March confessed to eating some Tex-Mex specialties of which her chef husband strongly disapproved. What is your secret shame fare?
M&Ms. I never leave home without them.