Review: Royal Bar

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This little darling cafe feels like you’ve passed back through time when you walk through the doors. While feeling like I should have been writing the next great American novel about the war torn past I never had, I enjoyed a pot of the most delightful tea and nibbled on lemon squares that were out of this world.

The space is small and intimate, so I can imagine it could get crowded quite easily during rush hours, but when we went it was just simply us, one older gentleman and the server – absolute bliss.

Ordered: Black Tea, Lemon dessert

Where: 19 rue du Parc Royal 75003 Paris, France (Marais Nord, 3ème, Marais)

Went: Friday, March 6th, 2015 around 10am

Wifi: Nope. In fact there’s a sign that says to leave your computer

5star1

Review: Cafe De La Place Talloirres

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Location: Tailloires, France

On our way to the ski resort, last weekend, we stopped in this little restaurant which was just so incredible that I had to share. I’ll be honest – at first I was pretty skeptical. When we first pulled up, the building seemed small and not as overbearingly fancy as restaurants in Paris (when did I become such a snob, huh?).

But a good restaurant mainly needs good food and good service, and this was a great example of how you should never judge a book (or restaurant) by it’s cover. Details:

When we went: February 21st, 2015

Who I went with: My au pair mom and host brother

What I ordered: Traditional French Stew

Wifi: Yes. Just ask!

Like I said, this little restaurant is known for having amazing food, but what I loved even more was the ambiance of the place. It’s a mixture of the vibe of an indie coffee shop  with the food of an upscale restaurant.

My meal was a traditional French stew, which wasn’t really a stew (by American standards) at all. It was more of a pot roast, but the meat was cooked to absolute perfection, falling apart beautifully. My au pair mom ordered a rabbit dish, which meant that I got to taste rabbit for the first time! I honestly was terrified, but it turned out to pretty much taste like a tougher version of chicken. Not that exciting. My host brother ordered the classic steak tartare and fries, which was masterfully and beautifully mixed and presented in front of us. It was pretty incredible how fast our waiter mixed together eight different ingredients with exact (and very French) precision, while we were all sitting there, watching. I felt the need to clap when he was done, but apparently it’s more French so simply smile and nod at the waiter.

Overall great experience, buzzing vibe and our waiters and service was lovely. Definitely a recommendation if you’re in the area!

P.s. This place wins for coolest business cards! 5star1

Pintrest Is My Friend, And Food

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I have Bisquick in my fridge.
Probably not the most exciting sentence you’ve read today; but it gets better. You see, the adventure lies in how the Bisquick got there. Because it didn’t come from the store.

I’m a self professed stress cooker, so when I came to France and saw everything around me different in the grocery stores, my stressed out self became more stressed about my chosen de-stressing activity.

But never fear, I did figure out a way to get my favorite treats, still. And they’ve been a hit with the family, as I’ve shared recipes with them, too! Thank God for Pintrest. Here are some of my favorites, so you can enjoy them even if you’re not living 5,000 miles away from the US.

 

  1. Bisquick 
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I kept finding recipes that said something along the lines of, “Just throw in some Bisquick.” Which is great, except for when you don’t have Bisquick within a thousand miles of your house. Luckily, this blog has an excellent recipe for a homemade Bisquick which turned out great and worked brilliantly in my other recipes.

  1. Fajitas

 

6b4ecd1d19f414e487fe915ef9f1d09dEvery Friday we have fajitas. I’ve tried and tried to have different meals, thinking the boys can’t really want to eat the same thing every week…but they do. And they let me know. Like when I made stir-fry and one of them asked, “But can I just put the meat in a tortilla and make a fajita?” Unfortunately there isn’t just a pack of fajita seasoning that you can grab at the grocery store, here. Fortunately, this lovely blog had my back. (Also Taco Seasoning – WARNING: A bit spicy)

 

  1. Pizza Dough

how-to-make-pizza-dough-6-copyThere isn’t really an option in France to just order a pizza “without cheese.” And as someone with a dairy allergy, that makes it really hard for me to have pizza, now. But lucky me, I found this recipe that helped me make some goodness at home so I can have a treat when I’m in the mood for a little Italy, and less France.

 

  1. Cake

 

729ce9790aeb33a39a0a92b3604dfed6It was one of my boys’ birthdays a couple of weeks ago, and I was asked to make a couple of cakes for his birthday. The only problem? There aren’t really box mixes in this country (and the few that do exist aren’t worth even trying to make). Which meant heading to Pintrest for a recipe that would tell me how to make a cake from scratch. It wasn’t actually that hard, but following the instructions with two screaming boys running around made concentrating just a tad more difficult.

  1. Icing

 

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This was one of the funniest things I made, not because I haven’t made it before, but because icing is just incredibly NOT French. French people do not ice cakes. The kids could not even handle how much sugar there was, but they loved it. The looks on their faces as they ran and told their brothers about this new treat was absolutely priceless. (Recipe)

Non French Cooking In France: Episode 1

This is not my picture, but it is what it looked like. I was too busy eating mine to take glam pictures.
This is not my picture, but it is what it looked like. I was too busy eating mine to take glam pictures.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the part of the show when I cook things in France that are not French. It’s true that France is known for it’s cuisine and, as an American living here, I feel incredibly inspired by that. But, the facts are – living here is like living in a box with baguettes, some wine and an assortment of cheese. Yes, you can survive, but since 2/3 of those things are personal allergies, it’s not going to be very fun for me.

With today’s kitchen adventures, I went through quite the adventure to bring everything together, but here goes nothing.

First off, rules of the kitchen:

1. Make sure there are measuring cups/spoons BEFORE you start.

2. Check to see if the country you live in sells baking powder/baking soda.

3. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you an hour to find 6 ingredients in the store.

4. Suggested soundtrack cleanse: Taylor Swift (to make you happy), Sam Smith (to make you sad) and Frozen (so you can let it all go).

For this episode, I decided I would take advantage of the absolute OBSESSION with peaches in this part of France, and make a crumble (which also doesn’t require baking soda or powder) and voila!

Here’s the original recipe I was following, in case you get tired of my rambling: 

1. Spend an hour in the “Supermarché” trying to find ingredients. Shake the boxes and cross your fingers that they’re actually what you need – cause, let’s be real, you can’t read the packages.

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2. Grease your pan with butter, because there’s not enough of that in the recipe itself…just grab whatever looks like it will fit your stuff. Set the oven to something that’s not 250 degrees – because in France it’s CELSIUS, yo. Push some buttons, turn some nobs and eventually get it to somewhere around 180 degrees (which is something close to 350 degrees in Farenheight, don’t ask me, I’m just here for the food).

3. Use a knife, cave man style, to skin the peaches (because there isn’t a peeler, duh).

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4. Throw them in a bowl with some sugar that looks about 3 tbsp, some cinnamon (3/4 tsp(ish)) and a couple of squeezes of vanilla extract (1/2 teaspoon). It’s probably going to look your dog threw it up, but it will smell like autumn and happy thoughts.

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5. Dump everything in the pan you’ll be baking in. Wash the bowl in the cold water, since the hot water takes 3 hours to warm. Dry it thoroughly. Combine “dry ingredients” aka 1 cup of flour…as in an actual kids cup. Plastic rainbow, yes please. Same amount for oats, and 1 cup brown sugar. Mix.

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Maybe just a bit more, butter -- for a snack.
Maybe just a bit more, butter — for a snack.

6. After everything dry is mixed, add in 1 cup of butter. But, since the butter isn’t labeled with measurements, just go ahead and cut as much as you want. It’s France. There’s no such things as too much butter.

7. After everything gets crumblyumtious, sprinkle it like fairy dust over the top of the peach dog barf filling, you have in the pan.

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It should look like this.

8. Throw it in the oven for about 45 minutes. But, since you can’t figure out the heating system until half way through,  you might want to leave it in a little longer. Especially since the heat was set only for the bottom elements.

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9. Take out of oven gingerly, trying your very best not to burn yourself, break the ceramic pan or permanently burn a counter. Allow to cool for a couple of hours.

10. Feed to darling brats, who will exclaim, through malicious grins, that they can’t stand it because they don’t like sugar…Share with parents, instead, and have them find value in you for something miraculously good.

The End. 

And for those of you who would like the ACTUAL Recipe, here it is: 

Fresh Peach Crisp

Prep Time: 15mn
Cook Time: 45mn
Total Time: 1hr

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced – about 6-7 peaches
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, cold, cut into cubes

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish.
  3. In a large bowl, toss peaches with cinnamon, vanilla, 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons flour. Pour the peaches into the greased casserole dish.
  4. In a separate large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with old fashioned oats, and brown sugar. Cut in butter until you have a crumbly consistency.
  5.  Pour the crumbly topping on top of the peaches.
  6. Bake in the oven, uncovered for 45-50 minutes.
  7. *Notes: Some of you have suggested that this calls for too much butter. If a cup seems like too much for you, feel free to reduce the amount to 1/2 cup. If you want your Fresh Peach Crisp to be extra crisp, bake for 5-10 minutes longer, making sure to keep a close eye on it. I personally love the end result using a full cup of butter.

Let’s Play A Game Called:

Whats in my kitchen

French food is great, but there have been a few times when I’ve seen things pop up and I wondered what the hell they were. This is the first installment of (probably) many questionable items. Ready, set – here we go. 

1. Warm milk: I don’t really understand this, as an American. I don’t think I’ve ever seen milk kept warm, sealed and packaged like this before. Of course, I’ve seen it done with Rice and Soy milk, and the such, but never cow milk…this really surprised me – but who am I to judge? 

2. Mayo in a toothpaste tube: Can’t get much better than that, huh? It’s a little bit odd to see this in the fridge, or even being used at the dinner table, but I guess we do have squeezable mayo in the US…it’s just not normally in a tube like this where you literally use it exactly like toothpaste (rolling the end and all). 

3. I’m not really sure what’s in the top of this bad boy (maybe honey??) but the bottom is vinegar. There are several bottles like this one in the kitchen, and although you can’t see it – they come apart when you use them individually, and then fit perfectly back together to create (what looks like) a solid bottle. 

4. I was a bit concerned with this one when I first saw it squirted into a cup. I’m still not sure what it is entirely, but it’s an add water kind of solution that you then drink. The kids love it! 

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Somehow I don’t think this would fly in the US…

5. Every morning the kids eat bread, cereal, warm milk and this. Basically it’s like Nestle chocolate milk, but what was the most shocking (obviously I’ve seen chocolate milk powder, before) was the artwork on it…Behold: ———->

6. Little crackers from heaven: Ok, so these little biscuits are the best thing to ever happen on earth. The first time I tried one I almost grabbed the whole package and ate the entire thing. In fact, when I FINALLY go grocery shopping on Saturday I’m going to be grabbing a couple of packets, for sure. Basically they’re like graham crackers/a square of animal cracker like taste with chocolate in between. Because let’s be real – if there’s one thing the French love, it’s their chocolate. 

The First Of Many Days

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Ok, let’s talk food. Because I live in France now – what else would we be talking about. Since I have arrived there are several things I’ve eaten that I had no idea what they were. In fact, I would say I don’t know what most of my diet is right now. What I do know, is that everything is so good, and smells so good. I can’t even believe how fast the mom for the family whips out these amazing dishes for just a random Wednesday afternoon. But, it’s France – maybe that’s normal. 

A lot has happened since I arrived here yesterday, and I’m sure a lot more will be happening, but since I want to make sure I cover everything I’m going to talk about things individually in separate posts throughout the week. 

So, let’s talk French food: 

Things I’ve eaten since getting here: 

1. Tomates Farcies

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Sweet Jesus take the wheel, this picture does nothing justice, but last night I ate a variation of Tomates Farcies which is basically tomatoes (and also onions) stuffed with ground hamburger/pork and spices and baked. It was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d never eaten it before! Here’s a link to a French recipe (feel free to translate the website by copy and pasting the URL into google translate) more similar to the one I ate, and heres the link to an American variation. Try it out for dinner – you won’t regret it!! 

2. Pork Pate

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Oh, yes oh yes, the ground up canned rumors are true. Today I ate Pork Pate and it was so good. If you’re looking for an indicator for what it’s like, think canned tuna meets canned cat foot. Delicious, and completely disgusting looking, it’s a must have item for this French family and I love it. 

3. Fish Cake

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Looks like a banana or zucchini bread, tastes like a grilled tuna sandwich and all around amazing. This is what is known as a Fish Cake (ou Un gâteau au poisson et petits legumes) and yes, it has actual fish in it. Not going to lie, at first I was more than a little unsure about whether or not eating this would be a good life decision. It SO was. 

4. Bread: 

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Have you ever had bread that was fresh baked from the French bakery three doors down from your house? If yes, then you know that even thinking about it is enough to make your mouth water. Something I love about the family I’m living with is that they eat bread, bread and more bread. They eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And even when the main course is bread, there’s still bread on the side. It’s incredible. And an absolutely necessary staple to every meal. 

5. Cured Ham: 

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I don’t actually eat pork, normally. But, since others are cooking, and I’m in France, I’ve decided to make an exception. It was the right decision. This morning we went to the shop across the street and bought some fresh cut ham from a shop that was absolutely darling (like every shop here). One thing that’s nice about this town (but will probably, at some point, also become frustrating) is that there’s not really any such thing as a chain store. This city is a Seattleite’s dream because everything is run by a small business owner. C’est parfait. 

6. Croque-monsieur

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My first question when this was put on a plate in front of me was: Do I eat it with my hands, or with a fork? The answer, of course, was: Only Americans eat this with their hands. Okay. I’m very lucky I ask more than the average amount of questions, because I feel like there are so many problems that could have already happened without them. But, back to food. This sandwich was out of this world and even though I had it without cheese (because I’m allergic) it was amazing.

Fun Story: When I told my host family that I couldn’t eat cheese, they were stunned. It was as though I told them I was actually missing the right half of my body. All they could say was: Well…we eat a lot of cheese. 

C’est la vie.

Stay tuned for more yummy updates!

*All food photos are gratefully borrowed from the Google gods – all rights belong to their original owners. 

Five Ways Traveling Has Changed Me

My favorite thing about traveling is how much it challenges me to grow as a person. It’s nearly impossible for me to leave a place and not be changed by it in some way – a characteristic, which convinces me that, in order to fully discover myself, I need to continue to travel and see the world. There are several ways that I’ve already seen my outlook on the world change from traveling! Here are my top 5!

 1.     THE FOOD I EAT

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One of the first things people discover about me is that I have a dictionary/list of allergies. Most of them have to do with food, so growing up I never experimented with different kinds of food (in case I accidently killed myself). It was such a huge surprise to me when I traveled to India and found out I can eat 98% of the food there! Before then, I figured if it wasn’t “All American” AKA steak and potatoes, I probably couldn’t eat it.  Now Indian food is my absolute favorite, and I’m so much more open to trying new types of food (Haggis, anyone!?), no matter how weird they sound!

2.     HOW I DRESS 

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When I bought my first tartan skirt in Scotland, it was a proud moment in my life. I love traditional anything, and being of Scottish decent, I love connecting with my roots. A little Tartan power isn’t something I usually rock, but now that I’ve worn it, I love it so much.

In India I also picked up another FAVORITE trend: henna. I’d seen it before, being from the hippie town of Seattle, but there was something so much more appealing about getting henna done in the country where it was born. Henna is one of my favorite adornments and something I “put on” every chance I get.

3.     HOW I VIEW HOLIDAYS

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When I was traveling through the UK, Veterans Day occurred. As an American, there are certain rituals I’m used to in recognition of the holiday, but being in the UK really made, what is a mediocre holiday here, into something so much more impactful for me.

4.     HOW I VIEW MYSELF AS AN ARTIST 

 November 11th 2013 (Journaling on a train from Glasgow to London)

 “Today I saw 3 Van Gogh paintings, which was absolutely breathtaking. How can paint and canvas cause you to feel so many emotions and experience so many stories? I guess it’s true that a picture is, “worth a thousand words.” I think yesterday was the first time I ever felt like, seeing something done, my heart said, “ That’s what I want to do!” I want people to experience the narrative of their own lives through the paintings I create. I want to write a story about social justice, war and conflict without ever having to type a word…. Photography is great, but there’s something uniquely beautiful about paint and canvas speaking of the greater issues of our world.”

5.     HOW I INTERACT WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

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There’s something eye opening, heart breaking and completely revitalizing about being in a place where you can’t understand a word anyone is saying. It’s confusing and frustrating and you have to realize, perhaps for the first time, that you (AMERICA) are not the center of the universe.

Being vulnerable and uncomfortable is so incredibly humbling, and so entirely necessary to gaining compassion for those around you in your every day life.

Before I left for India I felt like God really kept pushing the verse 2 Samuel 6:22. In it, David, being ridiculed for obediently praising God, says, “Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!”

Be a little uncomfortable. It’s amazing how empowering the experience will make you, and those you encounter in similar situations, from there out.