Profil d'un Producteur: Valérie Debiais of O'Regal Muffins

Well before the food truck trend came to Paris a New Jersey native named Michael Healey founded O'Regal Muffins and set up shop in a two-and eventually four-wheeled Muffin mobile at the Marché Bio de Raspail.  

O'Regal English Muffins at Marché Raspail

In the beginning, Michael brought freshly baked english muffins from his left bank atelier to the "boulevard bio"-boulevard Raspail- in the 6th arrondissement. The muffin man found a receptive audience at this organic market, popular amongst ex-pats and well-travelled Parisians who literally ate Michael's muffins up.

Once he had earned enough money, Michael invested in an equipped camion complete with a brick oven that allowed for muffins to be baked on site.

The inventive American and his moveable feast attracted an adoring audience at the weekly market, including the ardent admirer Valerié Debiais, who would later marry Michael and join him in the O'Regal Muffin enterprise.

English Muffins ready to be baked

While Michael's showmanship and flair can be credited with making O'Regal Muffins a market legend, it is Valérie that keeps that legend living.

Taking over the laborious task of spending Saturdays baking hundreds of each variety of muffin (not to mention brownies and French canelé), Valérie prepares the baked goods that she will bring to the market early the following morning.

The camion, whose technical maintenance has become too complicated to keep on the road, sits stationary at the family's home in the Loire Valley about 150 miles outside of Paris. However, the brick oven and the muffin mobile still serve as O'Regal's bakery and it is here that Valérie uses locally sourced ingredients to make her delicious organic muffin varieties.

Muffins and scones- photo courtesy of Valérie Debiais

The star ingredient of O'Regal Muffins is without a doubt the locally milled flour which comes from a farmer less than 5 miles away from the family's home. Working with heirloom varieties of wheat, this farmer grows his crop organically in a rich and diversified environment, resulting in a high quality product that renders the muffins not only enjoyable but also apperently easier to digest- Valérie told me that even gluten, or glutton, sensitive customers have told her that they are relieved to find they can enjoy O'Regal Muffins!

Along with english muffins, you can also find other favorites such as apricot and coconut, lemon poppyseed, carrot, and banana muffins at the O'Regal stand on Sundays. For a warming winter treat, stop by to see Valérie and grab a cup of chocolat chaud or an organic coffee to start your day at the market!

O'Regal stand at Marché Raspail, where you'll find muffins, chocolat chaud, and organic coffee

Thanks so much to Valérie for sharing the story of O'Regal Muffins and thanks to both Valérie and Michael for bringing muffins to the market!

Vegan Folie's: Organic! Vegan! Local! Cupcakes!

I can't think of a cheerier way to commemorate an otherwise rough rentrée than with adorably named (Choc Norris? Sid Delicious?) and organically baked vegan cupcakes!

Vegan Folie's , which has been serving Paris' Mouffetard neighborhood since December, uses local flour and organic ingredients to create a variety of baked goods, including cheesecake, brownies, cookies, and of course cupcakes.

All ingredients are 100% vegan- even the cleaning products used in the kitchen are non-animal tested and vegan certified- which makes this place a must for vegans and animal activists of all sorts.

But Vegan Folie's isn't only for the veggie-minded- the bakery serves a wide range of clients from the  lactose intolerant to the veggie curious, from neighborhood kids to dessert seeking tourists. Their creative cupcake varieties, include blends of apricot & lavender,  ginger & lemon, vanilla & almonds and, obviously, chocolate & more chocolate (an organic version of Nutella, actually). Every day the bakery is host to a "Cupcake du Jour"- follow their blog for updates on the daily special.

The bakery also puts a new spin on cupcakes (as if being the only vegan cupcake shop in Paris didn't already distinguish them) introducing savory cakes such as "L'Italien" a basil cake with sun-dried tomato frosting and "Le Libanais" which is a falafel cake with hummus frosting.

Cupcakes are priced at 4€/each, with the 6th cupcake free if you're ready to buy bulk. The bakery can also do personalized cupcakes or larger orders if you contact them in advance- all the information is on their website.

Vegan Folie's 

53 rue Mouffetard 75005 Paris m° Monge Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11h-20h

Farinez-Vous: Move That Bakery!

It is a testament to the French's ability to keep you on your toes that this normally cerebral and rather reserved country does, at times, embrace the sappy and sentimental. When this occurs, maudlin Americans like me are happy to reap the benefits. An opprotunity to do so arises with the cheesy makeover and rennovation shows that are all the rage on France's less sophisticated television channels. I'll be the first to admit that I cry while watching Ty Pennington's Extreme Home Makeover. There is certain humanizing and reassuring affect this reaction has on a person who regularly growls at noisy babies on the metro (I'm sorry Mommy friends, but it's true, the Line 13 makes me mean!). It's nice to be reminded that my capacity for sympathy and loving thy neighbor is still in tact, albeit a bit too buried under urban soul decay.

However, the true tragedy present in Ty's show is not the families and their stories of sickness, death, and disaster. The true tragedy is that this show exists at all. If you take a moment to wipe your bleary eyes and see the show for what it is, it is sorrowfully obvious that the real tragedy is the fact that Ty Pennington and his team are doing the job of the American government.

While donated goods from Sears and other giant corporations may seem like an appropriate way to solve a problem in a world where The U.S. and France offer monetary aid to Haiti (which finds ways of not getting there in its entireity) instead of arranging for reparations to make up for the colonialism and subsequent debt that has burdened the country for years. I argue that instead of a bus of interior designers from Los Angeles salvaging the remains of the only free clinic that existed in a hurricane-ravaged town, perhaps the American government should simply provide health care and hospitals that are accesible to the locals and kept up by their tax dollars.

The reason I'm ranting about the US government and Ty Peninnington on my "Life in Paris" blog is because France is not immune to the poor governing and politics that leave citizens to pick up the slack and help out their fellow man. That's where Farinez-Vous comes in. Parisian bakery, located in the 12th arrondisment, not only espouses an artisinal and locavore approach to the trade (their flour is milled in the nearby Normandy region and all their ingredients are seasonal) Farinez-Vous is also engaged in the type of social action that picks up where the French government pathetically drops off.

Farinez-Vous's goal is not only to make equitable and delicious baked goods, but also to "be a place conducive to solidarity and sustainable development." One way the bqkery engenders development is by hiring employees who are in a state of "conversion", or in other words people who lost there jobs and have found themselves in a country with an overwhelming unemployment rate and an unquenchable thrist for diplomas corresponding to every imaginable career choice.

At Farinez-Vous, professional or academic background is irrelevant, employees working here get to start from scratch and nurture, as their website explains, "two primary strengths: training in a rewarding job and real opportunities in terms of employment."

It is rare to find an employer who sees beyond age and background and offers the opportunity to grow and learn in a new trade and that's why Farinez-Vous gets my, "I-wish-our-country's-politics-didn't-make-your-existence-necessary-but-I'm-glad you-exist-all-the-same" medal of honor. If any of you know Ty Pennington, could you see if he'll come over and award it? I'll translate through my tears.

Farinez-Vous 9 bis rue Villiot

75012 Paris

Metro: Gare de Lyon (Lines 1 & 14)

Open: Monday-Friday; 8h-18h30