I was given Paris in Winter for Christmas by our friend Heather. It has been at the top of my list for a read this week out at WestWard. We arrived yesterday and I headed straight for it and have been completely charmed. David Coggins is an artist who lives in Minneapolis. For the past 30 years, he and his family have been going to Paris at exactly this time of year, and are there to ring in the new year. What an amazing tradition! The book includes his drawings over the years he has done while on those stays, as well as random thoughts on life and the time spent wandering the streets, shops, museums and restaurants. Art & food play a huge part of the book, so you know it is right up my alley. You feel like you are right there with them. We will be ordering this for the shops this week and I will be speaking with David about getting signed book plates to add to each copy. As I said, it is just utterly charming and an ode to a city near to my heart. His drawings capture the essence of Parisian life, adding so much to the book to make you feel like you are part of Paris at this magical time of year.
Just arrived at the shops, IN MONTMARTRE Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art by Sue Roe, which I can hardly wait to begin reading. Paris in 1900, oh my. How I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during that incredible time in history to hear the innovative conversations and witness the creation of such groundbreaking artwork. This book puts you there, smack dab in the thick of it all. An account of the social network of artists at a time in Paris that will long be remembered for its significance in the art world. Actually, not just the art world, but the world.
Yes, that title says ‘eating’ not ‘cooking’ which puts a whole different spin on this book. Mastering the Art of French Eating is an homage to the French and their love of the meal. Written by Ann Mah, who writes about her experience living in Paris and traveling around the country, after her diplomat husband is called away from their new post in Paris for a yearlong assignment in Iraq. The experience of the meal, the ritual, the love of the ingredients–all are beautifully captured. Each chapter ends with a recipe best known from the region. Part cookbook, part memoir of her time in France. Just a delightful read.
My memory bank is filled with amazingly vivid memories of trips to Paris. So many of those memories include flowers. The Parisians do flowers beautifully. I think in some way that is where my deep love for them began. They live with flowers each day. Often times, quite simply. One of our favorite hotels always has a big bunch on the desk right as you enter. A sure sign of stylish welcome. Most times in the Spring, they are hyacinth. Rarely do I see a hyacinth and not think of Paris. The city and its people have so deeply been on my mind–all week long I have looked at the hyacinth on the tray on the ottoman and thought of Paris. They are a kind and resilient people. They value beauty. They will come back stronger than ever.
I have held off writing about the horrific events of the last week in Paris. The news coverage was so constant with the attacks being so brutal it all just saddened me beyond words. I know Paris holds a very special place in many of our hearts. For me, Paris holds a certain magic over me. My memory bank filled with just the best, sweetest memories. We heard news yesterday morning that one of the gentleman killed in the grocery store was a work friend of mine. He was the head of the French linen company, Le Jacquard Francais for a period. It has brought all of this even closer to home. Events like these sadly seem to come and go and then slip away from memory. My request is that we keep Paris in our thoughts, in our prayers, in our hearts. They are needed to keep the memory of those lost alive in some way. To honor them. To honor a city, a culture and a people who have been wounded. To give back in some small way to the grand city that has given us so much.
By now you have probably clued into the fact that if I really like something, I REALLY like/love something quite a bit. Which also goes hand in hand with sharing that love with you. I have written much about how much I like/love/admire Buvette in New York. The eatery where I have had near out of body experiences not only from the food but also the environment. It is one of my happy places in the city that I frequent on nearly every visit. So you can imagine my glee when I found out awhile back that the chef and owner, Jody Williams, was working on a book. Buvette: the pleasure of good food, arrived yesterday at Watson Kennedy and I did a little jump for joy. Now I get to feel that Buvette ‘feel’ in our own home cooking up some of their signature dishes. Rarely do I sit with a glass of wine and just read a cookbook, but that is what I did last evening. Beautifully shot, the images transport you right to the very place, as well as make you incredibly hungry. As Jody writes, “Assembling this book has been an opportunity to reflect on the inspirations I’ve had in so many different kitchens around the world with so many people. Turning this all into food that can easily be made and served at home was a refreshingly easy translation as all of my cooking is simple, handmade, and straightforward. Buvette is more than a place; it’s also a feeling and an idea. It’s a way to cook, entertain, and live. It’s a recipe for living more meaningfully.”
I love good bread, and the difference between an incredible loaf and a mediocre loaf can be huge in enjoyment and not always so big in the dollar department. Toast is a big thing in our household. We have started to bring loaves of bread home from our time at Hawthorne. It is a way to stay connected to a place that is growing so fond in our hearts. Sliced bread works well in the freezer, keeping for quite some time. It is amazing how making a slice of this bread for toast brings back thoughts & fond memories of our visit. Food can have such strong connections to a place. When we are in Paris, I always like to bring back bread from Poilâne as a reminder of our trip. Sitting and having a salad with croutons made from it just takes me right back to images of meandering around Paris and that incredibly intoxicating aroma inside Poilâne while you are waiting in line to order. Cheers to good bread & good memories!
For a shopkeeper the month of October is the time quite a bit of unpacking of goods occurs. Actually, it feels like we are unpacking boxes from the moment we open until the second we lock the door at 6. A spin around the floor yesterday had me grinning from ear to ear as it is so fun to see the pieces of the puzzle come together. Here are a dozen things to excite & delight.
Bone picks/skewers, where do I even begin on this one they are so good. Come presented in a little bone cup. Amazingly beautiful and functional. Any martini would be lucky to hold one of these puppies.
I spent the better part of yesterday at the showrooms ordering books for Watson Kennedy. Heaven, pure heaven. I love having quite a mix of books for our offerings in that category, so it is fun to weed through stack after stack and shelf after shelf looking for titles that catch my eye. At dinner last night, I explained to TPS that ordering books is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack–as you are in a space filled with exactly the same things, books, and you have to sort through both visually, intellectually & emotionally within seconds of seeing a title. It is stimulating and exhausting all at the same time. Up side, I think I chose some real gems. Cooking, design, art, inspirational, are but a few of the categories that I found titles. The above book, Parisians, was one of my choices. Graham Robb has distilled a series of astonishing true narratives, all stranger than fiction, of the lives of the great, the near-great, and the forgotten. The result is a resonant, intimate history with the power of a great novel. This is going to be great WestWard reading this week-end. All the new titles will start arriving at the shops in the coming weeks.
Thank you Paul and Judy for a fabulous book filled day!
With the fab variety of apples out right now, this is an easy dessert to whip up when you want to incorporate a little apple goodness into your meal. First off, I am not a baker. I am more of a composed dessert type of fellow, so know that this must be a truly easy recipe. I promise. I am, however, a big fan of the puff pastry sheets that you find in the freezer section at the grocery store. Pepperidge Farm is the one I see and use most often, but any maker will do. This is a spin on an Ina dessert I saw her make on her show. You know we love Ina at WK, so if she makes a version of this, you know it is pretty tasty. These are also some of my favorite sweets when we are in Paris, so I really wanted to try and recreate them. Here we go.
This makes 4 individual tarts. Defrost one sheet of the puff pastry according to the instructions on the box. My biggest advice is just make sure it stays cold and does not warm up to much as it then becomes hard to work with. Cut the sheet into 4 equal parts and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet. A word about parchment paper. I love the stuff. Pick up a roll the next time you are grocery shopping and are strolling down the baking goods aisle. A roll lasts forever, and you will be surprised how often you end up using it. In a pinch, it also makes a simple wrapping paper. Back to the recipe. Peel 2 of your favorite apples, then cut into fairly thick slices. Overlap the slices a bit on each piece of puff pastry, filling the space but leaving a bit of a border. Sprinkle apples with sugar and dot with tiny cold cubes of butter. These 2 ingredients will do magic once baked. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden.
While the tarts are baking, in a small pan add peach or apricot jelly with a bit of Cognac or Calvados and mix together. This will create the glaze. Remove any fruit chunks that might be in the jam or jelly. You want the glaze to be fairly smooth. Heat mixture on the stove top to warm. Brush the entire tart with the glaze once the tarts are out of the oven. Done. Super simple. You will feel like a French baker when you are done with these.