I order Dorie Greenspans cookbook for myself and for my daughter after seeing her on a TV show being interviewed and making food. I just fell in love with her! Come to find out...many people love her as well. She has quite the following. Tuesdays with Dorie and French Friday with Dorie...are 2 blogs that you can join (Tuesdays you cant join as they are already more than 1/2 way through the baking book --you can join when Dorie writes a new baking book)> Which is fine with me...as I am on a diet as of today and I dont need an excuse to have to make fattening french desserts!
Here is an interview with Dorie: Not current...as her new book is the one above-- but still interesting.
A Conversation with Dorie Greenspan
Before you read any further be advised that I am an unashamed admirer of Brooklyn's gift to Paris. The adorable Dorie Greenspan brings an almost adolescent joy to her passion for Paris that makes me want to hop on a flight to Paris and follow her in pursuit of patisserial perfection.
The author of Baking with Julia and The Café Boulud Cookbook and I recently met over the phone to discuss Paris and her brand new book Paris Sweets. It took about 30 seconds to know that I would enjoy getting to know this woman and another 30 seconds to discover that we were in the same graduating class of Brooklyn's Andries Hudde Junior High School-Paris seems to bring everyone together.
As I sat at my computer facing Mill Valley's horse hill while Dorie relaxed at her Connecticut country home she began to tell me about her connection to the City of Light.
TG: When did you first go to Paris?
DG: 1971. My husband had cashed in a life insurance policy so there was this little, by today's standards, chunk of money that was burning a hole in my pocket and I thought: I'll surprise him. I'll buy tickets and we'll go to Paris. He was a very reluctant travel companion…until we got to Paris, which was 48 hours after we left. Student charter, ten hours late leaving, landed at Heathrow, flew from Gatwick to Paris, had to give up our seats to someone who started to cry-we're suckers for criers. It was 48 hours by the time we got to Paris. By that time it was dark and when we got our hotel our bed was lumpy and the wallpaper was dismal.
TG: Do you remember the name of this "grand" hotel?
DG: It' still there. It was the Hotel du Nesle on Rue du Nesle, right off Rue Dauphine, one block from the Pont Neuf. We paid $4 a night and 25¢ for a shower. In spite of that it was love at first sight.
TG: What was it about that first trip that connected you so firmly to Paris?
DG: I often say teasingly that it was a cosmic mistake that my mother had me in Brooklyn and not Paris. But there was something almost physical about that morning when I walked out on the street I felt like I knew this place, like I'd been there before-I was meant to be there. It was an immediate connection. I felt then that this was a place I wanted to live in.
TG: At what point did you make a decision to stay? After all you are back there every month.
DG: We started talking about it 8 years ago. At that point I was going back and forth about six times a year. We climbed up and down six flights of stairs to look at tiny apartments and finally found one five years ago.
TG: Why did you choose to live in the 6th arrondissement?
DG: That was the dream location for us dating from that very first trip. We also over the years made friends in the area.
TG: Do you have a favorite café?
DG: Yes, but I go to various cafés for different things. I go to Le Chai de L'Abbaye.
TG: Oh, I know it. It's where they send you to drink while you're waiting to sit down to oysters across the street at L'Arbuci. Do you know Colette, the bearded man with the dog and the antique shop next door?
DG: Of course. What an extraordinary man! I don't ever even want to talk to him because I've spun so many stories about him that I don't want to know what he's really like.
TG: He was siting at the Chai one night with his dog and they were wearing matching bibs. The dog would sit up on his hind legs and he would feed him with a fork. It was so charming that I had to buy him (the man) a glass of wine and he let me take a photograph.
DG: He is a true surrealist. What you see in his shop is remarkable and so surprising from day to day. One of the treats of being in the neighborhood is to walk by and see what he's got. I've never passed and seen him reading a newspaper; he just sits in the shop. And he is like one of the pieces of art.
When my husband is with me we'll have lunch there (Chai de L'abbaye). When you get your coffee they serve a little chocolate covered walnut that is so good! When I'm alone I go to the Bonaparte except in tourist season. They have one of the nicest views of St. Germain des Près. I edit my work at Deux Magots. I'll write in the morning and then late in the afternoon I'll print it out and go to Deux Magots to edit.
TG: Do you write very day?
DG: I write every day-more when I'm on deadline. I also like to go to the Flore at quiet hours-before the gouter, very early in the morning and then after that first morning rush between 10 and 10:30. I miss the joys of café sitting when I'm back in New York. Starbucks just doesn't do it. If I'm meeting friends I meet them at the Flore. So-4 cafés.
TG: Do you have a favorite garden?
DG: The Luxembourg Gardens where I walk in the mornings.
TG: What's your favorite time of year in Paris?
DG: It's kind of all of them. My favorite time of year anywhere in the world is autumn. I love the fall. And I think fall in Paris is really beautiful and exciting and you feel it. It gives me the same feeling I had as a little kid setting off for the first day of school. There's a real excitement about a season beginning.
TG: Is that autumn or is it the rentré (the return to Paris from August vacations) or both?
DG: Both. It's the rentré but it's also that you can really see the season changing there. You can see it in the river. You see it in the trees. I think you feel the change in seasons there. In part it's because of the way the light changes. I adore spring there and I love when the cafés put out their tables and chairs and you have that first coffee or apèritif outside. It's a combination of ritual, of the rhythm of the city and the actual physical change. I find winter difficult because the days are so short but it's never the weather that affects me it's the light and I miss the light in winter. Then there is something different about life in winter. I'm apt to cook more, entertain more. So it's every season. Spring is just beautiful. I love to be in the park when the gardeners start to make the entire garden look like spring. It's spring in the gardens of Paris a month before it's spring anywhere else in the world. Summer can be difficult. The weather is temperamental, it's crowded but it's also a wonderful time to be out when you can walk at ten o'clock at night and it's light. The days get divided into more delicious sections when it's that long.
TG: Do you have a favorite bistro coin?
DG: I love going to Fish for lots of reasons. For sure it's Juan (Sanchez) and Drew (Harre). I don't know anyone who's ever been to fish who's not had a great time because Juan and Drew make everyone feel so at home. I love the wine list, to be able to try so many different wines by the glass. Two out of three times I travel to Paris alone and my husband comes the third time. So there are lots of times when I'm working and don't make plans and I turn around and it's 9 o'clock and I'm hungry and I haven't thought about food, so I'm always looking for places where I can go by myself without having to plan a month and a day in advance and be comfortable as a single diner… and Fish is certainly one of those places.
TG: When you celebrate where do you go?
DG: I love celebration meals but my heart is really in bistros. I think Alain Ducasse is a genius and I have had perfect meals at his Paris restaurant. I've had fascinating meals at Pierre Gagnaire.
TG: What separates the two?
DG: Gagnaire's food and presentation is more cerebral. What he does with food is almost a deconstruction and is always intriguing. He'll serve a dish in three parts. So you might have ordered pork and you'll have the ear in a little salad to the side. The loin will be cooked differently than another part. I feel as though he considers food in a very personal way.
Ducasse has many sides to his cooking. He's just amazingly talented. He's a fanatic about ingredients. There's always something that's just the most perfect of its kind that you've ever tasted. Whether it's the salmon he gets -r asparagus that were grown just for him. All through his career he's searched out extraordinary suppliers. Just seeing his ingredients is a pleasure and a treat.
TG: Do you have a favorite bistro meal?-Either in a restaurant or home.
DG: I love short ribs. That's something I'll often make for friends. I do a ton of cooking in Paris. There's is a pot au feu au cochon at L'Avant Gout on Rue Bobillot in the 13th that that I adore. It's lightly spiced and has sweet potatoes and it's served in a cast iron cocotte and it's just wonderful. I love any of the slow-cooked foods where at home you can bring the whole pot to the table. In the same way that I'm always in black and a turtleneck is my favorite thing, I like that hearty, homey, rustic kind of food. I like doing a boeuf a la fisselle? You make a broth and dump the beef in for just twelve minutes and then you get to slice the beef, eat the stew and put a little horseradish on the vegetables-the kind of food that you can linger over.
TG: And when you're having that meal what wine are you drinking. What is your vin ordinaire du maison?
DG: Our house wines come from La Dernière Goutte (PTEE's official wine merchant/tasting provider) so they are apt to be Languedoc-Roussillon. Since I love syrah it's likely that will be the wine we'll open.
TG: What is your favorite market?
DG: I shop Sunday mornings at the Biologique (Organic) on Boulevard Raspail. I love that market?
DG: In part because it's biologique. And since I come to it from the rue des Sèvres entrance in front of the Lutetia the smells of the leek and potato pancakes being cooked on the grill just as you walk in mean that the first thing you have to do is buy one. They are a little oily and likely to drip down your arm. So just the smell of that! And right across from the latke (potato pancake) man is the most fabulous greengrocer. Just looking at his selection, even if it's just onions and potatoes makes you want to buy everything and rush home and cook.
I also shop at La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marché. It's a huge market and I love shopping there to see the little products like the lavender syrup from Grasse and jams from Alsasce. It's great place to shop if you want to bring gifts home for people. But I try to shop for the most part with local merchants. I get fabulous saucisson from the adorable woman on Rue Buci. She has produit d'Auvergne. There is a new store on rue du Seine called da rosa with amazing hams and tuna in great olive oil. Cheese from Barthélemy on Rue Grenelle which is one step off Raspail. I love shopping for things at small markets where this is really their specialty. It would take you a trillion lifetimes to learn what any of the cheese mongers there know. The sausage lady will say: "Oh I want you to try this. You'll like it." You develop a relationship and you get something wonderful
TG: How has Paris affected your work?
DG: It was a dream to live in Paris. It completely changed the direction of my work. I may have been moving in that direction in what I was studying. Starting with working with Pierre Hermé (Desserts by Pierre Hermé) Paris became the focus of my work and since 1995 that's been my work, writing about Paris in way or another.
TG: How has Paris affected your sensibility in terms of how you write? Has there been a significant change in how you write. This conversation has been a very sensual one: we are conjuring up images and tastes and smells-was that always present in you or has Paris made you this way?
DG: I think it was always there but given how immediate my connection was to Paris when I first arrived-there is a picture of me spinning around at Invalides. There was an exuberance, an excitement, about being someplace I dreamed about. I think that whatever it is; whether it's the sensuality, whether it's the romance, the fantasy, it's heightened by living there. I don't know if it's changed my work but there is a change in the way I live my life.
TG: And finally, how has Paris affected your life?
DG: Paris has changed my life completely. It has changed the way I live my life day to day. I feel that when I'm in Paris I do live differently. There is a slower rhythm of life. I feel that I'm more conscious of what's around me. I've always thought it interesting that the expression joie de vivre is rarely translated. We always say it in French even if we don't speak French. There is a certain joy about living in Paris. I find that I don't get as much work done as I do in New York but I feel as though I work better. There's a different feeling of what life is supposed to be. You meet people and the first question is not: " What do you do". People are interested in you for what you are interested in. So I always try to bring back some of Paris with me when I return to New York.
TG: What was the inspiration for your latest book, Paris Sweets?
DG: I grew up in a house where my mother didn't cook but I was married as a young student so I learned to cook because I had to and found that I really loved it. I quickly learned that I loved baking even more. You got applause for desert. So I would come home at night and bake my way through cookbooks. After Joshua was born I decided that I didn't want to go back to a real job that I really wanted to bake, so I took a job as a baker but discovered that I was too slow. A friend suggested that I combine my love for baking and my writing. I wrote freelance for a while and then published my first book Sweet Time in 1991. Paris Sweets was the most natural extension of the work I had done. I had worked with Pierre Hermé in Paris on two books. I was in Paris eating fabulous pastries everyday. I had been writing about pastry in The Times and Bon Appétit. It was the perfect project for me, a chance to meet some of my heroes, interview people whose work had given me such pleasure for so many years and to bring these recipes to home bakers in America. Some of the recipes had never even been given to anybody.
The book features 17 of my favorite bakeries and pastry shops but one of the things that makes Paris so surprising and wonderful is that I could have chosen 70. Anybody who spends a half-day walking around Paris will find half-dozen favorites. For anyone with a sweet tooth it's the center of the universe.