Valentine's Day Special: Couples of the Paris Food Scene

Photo courtest of Boneshaker Doughnuts

Photo courtest of Boneshaker Doughnuts

While I prefer Galentine's Day over the more traditional Valentine's Day, I think celebrating love is a pretty great idea in general- especially given the horrors perpetrated by the very un-loving Trump administration these past few weeks. 

Relationships are full of challenges, whether with your bestie, your partner, or yourself, and they are also full of rewards -all of which deserve a glass of bubbly and more than one day a year of recognition (okay, more than one glass of bubbly, too while we're at it)! 

As Valentine's Day approached it occurred to me that the Paris food scene is full of happy couples that not only live together, but work together, too. Doubling their commitment to extend beyond each other but into their careers as well is an impressive act of love and collaboration.

Some of my favorite places to eat and drink in Paris exist thanks to the dedication and creativity behind these love-fueled collaborations. So in honor of one of Valentine's Day, here are a few of my favorite couples in the Paris food scene

Amanda & Louis: Boneshaker Doughnuts

It hasn't yet been a year since Boneshaker Doughnuts has existed as a brick and mortar doughnut shop in the 2nd arrondissement, but the story behind how the little bakery came to be goes back much further. "Louis and I met in Paris in 2002" co-founder Amanda Scott explained to me. "He and my then-boyfriend bartended together at the same Irish pub in St. Germain des Près. Back then, he sported a shoulder-length ponytail (!!), a billy goat beard, and enormous lamb chop sideburns. I remember watching him once, around 3 am, balancing on top of kegs and racing them across the pub. It's funny to look back and think that we'd end up married - neither of us had any idea at the time! "

Their paths crossed again seven years later, when they were both single and developed a mutual crush. "it look him a year to kiss me...and another year after that for us to decide to make it official." After that, things moved quickly,  "Lou and I got married in 2013, our son, Loïc, was born in 2014, and we started making doughnuts in 2015. We opened to doors to our shop, Boneshaker, in 2016."

Both veterans of the service industry, the couple dreamed of having a place of their own. "Louis and I knew that we wanted our business to combine high-quality ingredients and craftsmanship with a casual, happy vibe that suited our lifestyle... we realized a doughnut shop would encompass all of those things, as well as coffee (unlimited access to delicious coffee is definitely a perk!)" American born, Amanda had lots of examples to inspire her from her homeland, "we modeled Boneshaker on the mom and pop doughnut shops that you find in American beach towns, with a Parisian touch."

The key to working with the one you love? "We’re often asked how we manage to live and work together," Amanda says. "I guess the simplest (and most eyeroll-worthy) answer is that we genuinely enjoy each other's company. We laugh a lot. Also, the fact that I'm upstairs in the kitchen and he's downstairs in the shop probably helps a bit - we each have our own roles within the business, and a bit of distance on bad days. And doughnuts."

Jaclyn & Pierre: Biérocratie

Jaclyn and Pierre, co-owners of the Biérocratie in the 13th arrondissement, hadn't always planned on making a living out of bringing great craft beer to the people of Paris. Originally from the U.S., Jaclyn came to Paris to study to be a pastry chef at Le Cordon Bleu while Pierre was building a career in computer programming.  

A housewarming party held by mutual friends would bring the two together one fateful night, but the idea to go into business together didn't come until later. "After a couple of years together, both of us experienced a sort of overall dissatisfaction with our respective careers - I loved working as a pastry chef, but never had enough hours, and Pierre was getting pushed into management positions at his IT development job." explains Jaclyn Gidel. "We got to talking about it, and realized that it was a really great opportunity to quit our jobs and create something together. Our common love of beer, paired with the growing craft beer movement, inspired us to open up Biérocratie."

Jaclyn and Pierre continue to stock quality craft beer in their shop as well collaborate on beer events with local bars like Les Trois 8. The paris has even embarked on another collaboration together: brewing their own beer! We'll keep an eye on what they have in store for us next! 

Maily & Jocelyn: Le Triangle

Maily and Jocelyn, two-thirds of the team behind microbrewery and restaurant Le Triangle, may have opened a business in Paris, but their story started abroad. 

"I was working in Montreal for a French company and Jocelyn came to work for us as a freelance graphic designer," explains Maily Malfreyt. "He was already an amateur brewer and working at Vices et Versa in Montreal. The funny thing is I wasn't at all interested in beer at the time- I thought we would have nothing to talk about. Seven years later we work together every day and I find myself serving and selling beer!"

The formula works, with Jocelyn making the beer, Maily greeting and taking care of guests with her signature smiles and warmth, and Laurent, Maily's brother in the kitchen, representing the third side of the triangle. 

Finding balance while working with loved ones is key, Maily says. "If I had one thing to say about working with my partner it's this: if we're still together today it's because we're very complimentary and different when it comes to working and our personalities. We're not in each other's way and we each have our job. There's also a mutual admiration," Maily adds, "I've always had a passion for passionate people!"

Happy Valentine's Day to these happy couples and to all of you out there making it work together! I'd love to hear more about couples in the industry- feel free to leave your favorite Paris partnerships in the comments! 

In Season: Homebrew Beef Cheek Pie

I'm not going to lie to you, this is a start-in-the-afternoon dish that you can count on dedicating some time to. If you're short on time, save this recipe for another day, but If you're on winter holiday, sick of running around shopping or engaging in other seasonal stresses, or just want to have an excuse to turn the oven on for a few hours and benefit from an additional source of heat- this Beef Cheek Pie has you covered. 

This recipe is partially inspired by Sam Sifton's Guinness Pie recipe with added inspiration from Holybelly's Beef Cheek Stew with Fried Polenta and Salad recipe (page 100, My Paris Market Cookbook). I switched out Sifton's brisket for a hearty cut of beef cheek and substituted Guinness for one of my very own homebrews in order to make this hearty one dish meal that is perfect for a winter dinner

You can use any dark or amber beer in this recipe, which will bring a nice bitterness to balance with the sweetness of stewed winter vegetables. Slow cooking renders the beef cheek melt-in-your-mouth delicious, making the hours of waiting worth it! 

Ingredients

800 grams (about 1 1/2 pounds) beef cheek

2 tbsps butter

1 large red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 carrots, thickly sliced

2 celery stalks, thickly sliced

250 grams (about a dozen) button mushrooms, thickly sliced

2 tbsps canola oil

3 tbsps all purpose flour

1 75 cl bottle of dark or amber beer 

125 grams (1 cup) grated hard cheese like cheddar, comté, cantal, or tome

Pâte Brisé (page 48, My Paris Market Cookbook)

1 egg yolk 

For the marinade :

1-2 cups red wine

1 sprig rosemary

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

Salt & Pepper

Preparation

Marinade the beef cheek in red wine, the beef cheek should be at least halfway submerged in the wine (and flipped once or twice to be evenly covered throughout the marinade period). Add rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper and let sit, covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator overnight- or at least a few hours before making the tart. Cut the beef cheek into uniform 1 inch x 1 inch pieces once taken out of the marinade. 

Preheat the oven to 200°C (375°F)

In a large, oven safe pot, melt butter then add onions and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.

Add carrots, celery, and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms give, and then reabsorb, their juices. 

In a medium sized pan, heat canola oil and brown beef cheek by letting cook about a minute on each side. 

Add beef cheek, flour, and any remaining rosemary and thyme, to the large pot and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. 

Add enough beer to cover the pot's contents. Cover pot and put in the oven to cook for 1 1/2 hour. 

After 1 1/2 hour in the oven, check to see if the stew has thickened. If not, cook on medium high heat on the stove top to reduce, otherwise, remove from oven and set aside. 

Roll out pâte brisé to about 1/4 inch thick and large enough to cover a 1 1/2 - 2 inch deep pyrex baking dish. 

Fill dish with stew, sprinkle with grated cheese, and cover with the pâte brisé, pinching along the sides to seal the pie top. Use a sharp knife to slice a few air holes into the crust, then brush with egg yolk. 

Bake tart for 45 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Enjoy! 

In Season: Acacia Two Ways: Beignets & Crêpes

I was de-budding the grapevines in Noëlla's plot Chez Charles, when my neighbor Pierre-Philippe popped over to say hi. Pierre-Philippe and his wife Marie-Claude are a charming couple that moved from Paris to the countryside 20 years ago. They have been extremely generous and welcoming as we settle in to our new home, and some of our first new friends in the village. 

Here's an example of how giving these two are: a few months ago my friend Juliette and I went to Pierre-Philippe and Marie-Claude's house to have a coffee and chat about working for them to prune their small plot of Cabernet vines. An hour later we left their house, not only with a pruning gig, but with a tiny plot of Sauvignon that Pierre-Philippe claimed he "didn't want to deal with anymore." So now you know what kind of people we're dealing with- not only the super-sweet kind, but also the winning-at-life kind. 

So when Pierre-Philippe came up to me in Noëlla's vines (which border his property) and told me he was planning on picking some Acacia bunches from his tree to make Acacia Beignets I knew it was a good idea- before even knowing what they were or how to make them. 

"Pierre-Philippe is going to make Acacia Beignets today," I told my fellow vine worker- with a tone that let on that this was a totally new concept to me. "Oh cool!" she said, clearly aware that this was a thing. Later that night I told Ben about this new-to-me recipe. He knew what these were, too. I felt like that time I listened to a Sparklehorse album for the first time- at least five years later than I should have- and wondered, "Why didn't anyone tell me about this earlier?" 

I wasn't left out of the loop that much longer as Pouillé's most popular beignet started turning up on every table we spent a spell at that weekend. Why, I asked myself, were Acacia Beignets everywhere all of the sudden?

Because, like most things you find in the wild I'm learning, there is a very specific time when Acacia flowers taste just right. It was Acacia time. The lilacs had started to fade and brown at the edges, leaving the stage for the bright white bunches of Acacia flowers, that attracted bees and beignets lovers with their sweet, floral, come-fry-me smell. 

By the time I got back to the Acacia tree, the 120 milliliters of rain we had endured over a period of three days had taken their toll on these fragile flowers- leaving them a little lackluster and less fragrant. Determined to get a second chance at this local specialty, I adapted to the Acacia once I got in the kitchen, making a batch of beignets that fell a little flat, followed by a stack of crêpes that hit the spot. 

You can adapt to the state of your Acacia bunches using either recipe- fresh, sturdy bunches are perfect for beignets*, while late season Acacia harvests seem better suited for crêpes. Below is the crêpe recipe, which I think is advisable for a French late May/early June.

*If you want to make beignets, make the same batter, cover your bunches with the batter (after it's settled) and fry them in about 3-4 cm of neutral oil (canola, vegetable, etc.) Arrange them on paper towels or newspaper to soak up the grease and serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Any flowers that fall into the batter or off the bunch can be used in crêpes made with left over batter once you've finished the beignets. 

Acacia Crêpes

Makes about a dozen

Ingredients

2 cups (500 mL) milk

2 medium sized eggs

1 cup (135 grams) all-purpose flour

2 tbsps melted butter

1 tbsp orange blossom or rose extract (optional)

3-4 tablespoons butter

About a dozen Acacia bunches

Powdered sugar

Preparation:

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the milk and eggs. Stir in flour until smooth. Add melted butter and orange blossom or rose extract (if using) stir until combined. Let the crêpe batter sit, covered with a dish towel, for at least 20 minutes. 

Melt butter in a pan on medium it, make sure the bottom of the pan is coated (use a paper towel to distribute the butter evenly). While waiting for the pan to heat up, remove the Acacia flowers from their stems and stir them into the crêpe batter. 

Pour batter into heated pan, just enough for a very thin layer- try to only have about 4-6 flowers in each crêpe or else it will be too heavy. Cook for 3-4 minutes on one side then flip and cook until golden on the other side. Continue until all batter is used. 

Serve crêpes warm and sprinkled with powdered sugar.