Gypsy Grub

A fine food enthusiast travels the world, and her own backyard in search of the best eats.

First Post in More Than a Year!

Yes, I disappeared for quite a while. During that time I lived in France a savored so many marvelous new eating experiences. I returned back to California and decided to settle on a permanent vegan diet (haha yes after a year of cheese and meats). I was just about to leave to go to University on the East Coast when the unthinkable happened. There was shocking news to my family that one of my closest family members had developed cancer.

Cancer changes everything. No one in their life expects such a drastic illness to seemingly come out of the sky, it changes peoples views on each other, on life, on food. I have grown up in a very health conscious home, and we were startled to hear that most cancers are diet related. So I realized drastic lifestyle changes must be made immediately. We found a anti-cancer regime called the Gerson Diet, and my family used that as a means to battle the illness.

It is one of the hardest times in someones life to deal with cancer- what it means- and I knew writing about bland soups, juices, boiled potatoes, and lettuce with apple cider vinegar would not fill my food writing needs. Needless to say I did not leave for University. I stayed and cared for my loved one.

After a few months we saw that things could turn out well. There was still underlying panic that at any moment something horrible, unthinkable may occur, but there was more peace. I realized I couldn’t keep living cooped up in the house constantly thinking about the darkness that could be. So I applied for my dream job as a chef at a vegan-raw foods restaurant and I got it! In a week I was promoted to Head Chef and Manager of the restaurant. It was an amazing experience. During that time my focus was on raw living foods, and I ate that way for a long while. Recently I quit, to continue my journey in life. I will leave for University in less than a month and am thoroughly thrilled.

This last year has been one of the hardest, and has revolutionized my ideas on God, live, relationships and food. I hope to share with you what I have learned and continue to carry you through my journey with me. Thank you for always being encouraging and taking the time in your very important life to read.

 

Flashback to San Francisco

I had read about it only a couple times, and heard about it once from an acquaintance. So no way could I have prepared myself for the near perfection I was indeed going to experience that day. The little bakery stood on an industrial street with no spectacular surroundings, and only stood out because of the line filing out the door that very morning. The bakery had a certain lived-in feel to it that you rarely feel in such a public and popular place. It still felt whole and earthy even though the majority of seated customers wore suits and typed nonchalantly on Mac computers. After inching slowly closer and closer to the counter I finally put in my order of Morning Buns, but then something caught my eye. Tres Leches Cake is my favorite when done right, but only one time has it been mastered, I decided to give Tartine Bakery a chance to prove themselves.
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I must admit Tres Leches is a complicated cake. Literally it is a Three Milks cake and is different from all other cakes in texture. When done correctly the cake is extremely flavorful, light, cold and satisfies every want in the world. It could be called the hispanic cousin of rum cake or italian tiramisu. At Tartine, it was made with coconut milk and layered with cajeta and crema. I thought their play on the traditional was clever and one can never go wrong adding cajeta to a recipe. However they added a flakey element to the crust and in every layer of the cake I found was not enjoyable. Although I admired their interpretation of Tres Leches it was not truly one. The cake did not tasted soaked, but quite dry and the layers of flakey crust between layers made it more French than hispanic.

The croissants at Tartine have a following that is well deserved for anyone who has never left the United States. It was a beautiful creation, but too crusty for my liking. The very outside layer is suppose to be a bit like cracking the top of a creme brûlée. The croissant at Tartine was just a bit overcooked, and not as moist as it could have been inside the delicate layers.

And next, to the bit of pure pleasure in your mouth. A pastry that Tartine has perfected beyond any abilities of the French is the Morning Bun. It is a cross between a croissant and a Kouign Aman the buttery Brenton pastry – with a modern twist. It has a hint of cinnamon and orange essence which counters the sweet butteriness perfectly.

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You must must must visit if you need a bit of perfection.
600 Guerrero St San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 487-2600

Pain au Chocolat pour mon Anniversaire

I was planning my petit dej even the night before my birthday. But I was at a loss for what to treat myself to. On one hand there was the deliciously decadant croissant which was a buttery bready heaven, on the other hand there was its cousin the equally marvelous pain au chocolat. They are essentially the same thing if you think about it sauf que one has a bar of chocolate stuck in the middle of it. Nonetheless it drove me insane. Would it be better to opt for the simpler wholesome pleasure, or the one with chocolate. I chose the pain au chocolat after much consideration, and here’s why.
I have a bit of a disorder if you wish with the way I eat. It is so strange in fact that I do not enjoy eating with strangers in fear of them feeling awkward and embaressed because of my eating habits. However although they are embaressing, they are (everyone must admit) very officient. Now I will attempt to describe what said “disorder/gift/ritual” is.
I will use a dish I was served in the Dordogne as an example. I was at a beautiful little restaurant in the heart of the foie gras region excited for my entree. I was served a generous slab of foie gras with a crustada, a red berry coulis, Monbazillac jelly and dried Sumac to garnish. Now normally a gourmand would eat the bread with the foie gras with trading off between the toppings. I however must try every combination on the plate no matter how tedious; foie gras and coulis, foie gras coulis and bread, Monbazillac jelly and coulis, foie gras and bread, Monbazillac jelly on bread…etc. This makes for a very long but very efficient and enjoyable meal which ends in me knowing how all the combinations are and which is the perfect combination. And yes, I do this with every single meal that I eat. For most people this is exhausting.
So although the croissant is amazing and allows for much experimentation with different toppings, I chose a combination that was already put together for me and destined to be wonderful.
gypsy

Luckily I have the best bakery in all of the Paris region right next to my house. It does not have a famous name, or a well known baker but I have tested other bread from all the well known bakeries in Paris and this one beats them all. To treat myself I decided to pop my pastry into the oven so the chocolat inside would be perfectly gooey and warm. I admittedly forgot about it for a bit, so the result was a bit bruleed. But there is nothing better than burnt butter.
gyps
And nothing goes with a warm sweet pastry better than an expresso.

Wake Up America, Your Meat Once Had a Soul

When I first came to France I was shocked and horrified by the butcher stalls lining the streets and markets. How (I thought) could they subject their children to such horrible frightening visuals such as those. I feel guilt every time I put a piece of meat in my mouth. A dead fish body preserved on ice. When you look you see it – how it really is. It isn’t clean or pretty looking like the filet cut you buy at the store. It was living and it had eyes. Your dollar supported the killing of it and your eating its dead body. It’s the truth and America refuses to see it.

However, the French see how meat really is, a naked lamb skull with eyes still in tact, lamb brain in the farmers market, skinned bloody bodies of rabbits ready for stew, whole chickens in tact except dead and missing all of their plumage. They see what they are eating, and they eat it anyways. In America, everything is masked. If no one ever told you the patty on your burger once looked like a huge living cow there would be no way you would know. We are not subjected to such images because they are “TOO GRAPHIC” for us and especially our children. But then aren’t we choosing to be naive and not take responsibility for what we are eating? Is it even a choice if we can’t see the whole truth?

I hugely respect the French for many lessons they have taught me, but I feel that most of all they have opened my eyes. They eat raw beef and they know it is the same as the cows they pet at the petting zoo. The children know, the adults know no one is hiding it from them. In a way its sadistic, they are desensitized to a bit of gore, but most importantly they are taking responsibility for the choices they are making. Once I had the realization of what I was actually eating I realized when I ate a piece of meat I could not mentally associate the animal I was eating with the animal that I loved. Therefore I decided morally it was completely unacceptable for me to be eating meat if I couldn’t handle the truth.

And so I beg of you America. You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan, because I know “all vegans are hippies and they know nothing about nutrition, and their all so fat and unhealthy” (haha) but I just ask that you TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Realize what you are eating, make a conscious effort to truly realize what it is you are putting into your mouth. If you can stand the thought that you are eating an animal, you are much stronger than I, I suppose. Just realize that we are being purposely blinded and you are taking initiative to see truth.

And So… The Age Old Birthday Question

In such a glorious country as France, does a birthday food critic have a croissant or pain au chocolat for breakfast?

A Realization and a Boy Band

Overall the stereotype could be made that the French look at life like its some twisted joke. Of course it’s not entirely true but they have a more depressed sarcastic but deeply honest view on life. It did not hit me on how much the culture had effected me until just this morning. I was laying in the bath tub after a good hike running through my best guilty pleasure I-miss-home teen vogue magazine when I came across a spread on an all boy band that went to Africa to help the children there. If I I saw this spread seven months ago I would have seen it, read it and proceeded to feel warm and fuzzy inside like all was a little bit more right in the world. However without my knowledge it seems my brain had changed me into a completely different person. My first reaction when I saw the spread was absolute disgust. I literally laughed out in disgust. Not because I disliked the faces of said boy band, but because the whole idea of what the article was trying to convey had worked. I had been brain washed by my prior American culture and through France I have learned how stupid Americans really are. But we can’t help it! We have been fed certain norms, and been allowed to stay in the comfortable darkness without stepping out of our comfort zone and seeing the truth that surrounds us. This article would make a person reassured that the world was a better place, leave them feeling content and satisfied while they lay on their half a million dollar couch and did nothing to help the world. The feel good culture leaves citizens feeling as if there is no real need to do anything because they are reassured and fulfilled by the doings of celebrities who then profit from the publicity.

Culture clash; Italians vs. the French

Some people may say I am too biased to write this article to which I would accept but may not understand. I will start by saying I am a very critical person; not of everything, but of cultures. I stupidly assume that there must be at least one culture who are intelligent enough to filter out old stupid customs and accept new better ones. I have American- Mexican roots and therefore can criticize these cultures more harshly (more on that later).
Yes I’ve been living in France quite some time and at first I believed anything would be better than America. Next I went through a phase at the beginning of integration here (when I did not speak a word of French) that I felt completely excluded and that the French were cold and unwilling to welcome anyone but those already born French. As I learned the language, and thoroughly began to embrace the culture, the way French society treated me changed drastically. The simple truth is; they hate someone who comes into their country and has not enough respect to accommodate. Many Americans travel here assuming everyone will adapt to their needs, and thus everyone will speak English. Most of the French know English but why would they cater to an outsiders needs when you have come into their country?
And so as I began to blend into the crowd (gladly) the people saw that I respected their way of life, and they began to respect me. At shops I act and say all of the customary French things to say; greet when entering, small talk, formal language, shy eye contact, thank and wish them a good day, say goodbye. In America we don’t do this, in France it is an unspoken knowledge. Things work differently in different countries and it takes some time to adapt, but little time to notice.
Once I learned French, I could clearly tell what social happenings were appropriate or not. Wet hair in public- absolutely not, shorts or skirts higher than the knee- slutty (contrary to popular American belief the French are very conservative), saying hello and goodbye whenever entering another persons establishment or home- a must, greeting every person in a room individually when entering and saying goodbye to everyone individually when leaving- also a must (yes this is always a must no matter if there are 20 people or 2), smiling and waving gratitude at someone in the car behind you or next to you- no (this one is a bit confusing, you can smile OR wave but doing both simultaneously is seen as flirtation), greeting a person on the street- absolutely not. At first I didn’t like many of these, most of all I found not smiling and greeting people on the street to be cold and horrible. But I understand now, in America it is a habit to do but do you ever think… Why? Why are you smiling? Why are we saying hello? Do we know the person? Do we really care? Are we actually happy to see this passerby? No. They will mean nothing to us in a few minutes, and we will never think about them for the rest of our lives. Now, on to the whole reason I am writing this article; the Italians and the French compared.
For my spring holidays I traveled to Spain for a week, and then to Italy, Florence exactly, where I stayed also for roughly a week. No, I do not speak Italian but yes I have adopted the European vision on life. Here is where the bias comes in. You may think because I live in France, am surrounded by French and have decided to stay here for as long as I have that I have embraced the culture and think they can do no wrong. Incorrect. There are many French customs I hate; anorexia is a trend, they are old fashioned and stubborn, they are judgmental, they don’t think but KNOW that they are always right, they are stuck on their old ways and many times unwilling to change things just because “they’ve always been this way why change them now”. The list goes on. So no I am not bias towards the French, just like I dislike parts of American culture, the French are equally flawed (though they might never admit it).
Despite this there is a distinct difference in the attitude and acceptable actions in what the Italians and French say and do. I have found French men to be very egotistical, sexual, respectful, and at times when there ego is bruised very silly and stupidly insulting. In my experience a French man will not assault you on the street (by grabbing your ass), rape you with his eyes, or attempt to take you home to sleep with you without asking. All of these things are normal in Italy. And so while enjoying the beautiful rich art and culture in Italia, at the same time I could not help but constantly compare. In many basic fundamentals the French and Italians are the same. For starters they both use the euro- and are both rooted in their old ways and unwilling to change. In Italy some time way long ago there was a tax on salt, so they stopped using it when making bread. Well guess what? Hundreds of years later EVERYONE can afford salt (I mean there are even free salt packets at every fast food restaurant) and still they decide they will hold on to their roots and make tasteless and utterly disgusting bread. While in France the baguette is the pride and basis of every French family’s life, but they know white flour is not the best for them and whole wheat is. I was once confronted on why I mainly eat brown rice by a French man (he thought it was odd) and when I said its because its healthier he knew. The French know things about the world; they know they should eat less cheese, less creme fraiche, less white flour but they don’t change it. Why? Because its always been that way.
But while on the overnight bus from Italy back to Paris I experienced the most perfect example of French culture exactly paralleled to Italian. The exact same incident happened twice within an hour of each other, but with the two different cultures in each one. And here’s how it went…
We had been driving for nine hours straight and it was one in the morning. The buses seats were tiny and none of them reclined so sleeping was a task, not to mention the fact that the bus creaked and shook like the sides were going to fall off. But everyone was exhausted and so we tried to sleep. We get to the boarder and they chose our bus for a random customs check. On walks a fat, red faced angry Italian officer who could have just caught his wife sleeping with his best friend for all I know, but he exudes hatred and self importance. He walks on the bus pushes aside the funny bus driver and proceeds to take a long look at every one of our passports, treating us all like criminals as he goes through the bus. His beer belly brushes my face as he passes by and he looks at me in disgust. How dare my ugly face touch his god blessed stomach. After a thorough and long check of everyone’s passport he decides he will arrest no one tonight and leaves in a huff. Thanks for waking us all up, making us feel like shit, making us wait for half an hour while you decide if you will let us pass through the boarder, and leaving like we waisted your time.
So we were on our way and crossed the Italian boarder into France. Just our luck we were also stopped by the French customs for a random passport check. The officer got on, greeted the bus driver. He was not happy to be there, it was close to three in the morning, but it was his job. As he checked each passport he said hello to every person individually and handed them their passports back without violent feelings. Towards the end he got confused about all the passports and a couple fell on the floor. All of the French people on the bus who were tired and upset about being stopped a second time proceeded to ridicule and mock the officer for his “clumsy” ways. No it was not his fault that they decided to check our bus, but the people decided they were angry and he was a police officer to take it out on. They were rude, but he continued to thank everyone individually as he passed back our passports. When he left he said goodnight and nodded to the bus driver. This is the French way.
And that concludes my border experience. Two cultures, two men, both with the same title and the same scenario, two very different outcomes.
Voila.

Gypsy Grub Turns One

I had a passion for food when I started this blog that I thought may eventually die out. I am proud to say that after food writing my heart out, Gypsy Grub has turned one years old, and my passion is still as strong as ever! I would like to thank my readers for giving us over 1000 views, I appreciate every pair of eyes that has ever even just skimmed through the pictures… *cough* Dad *cough*

Thank you ever so much for reading, and I promise some good material soon. I am currently exploring the likes of Florence, Italy a city full of good food!

Happy Birthday to me,

And with love to you,

Gypsy Grub

Museu de la Xocolata

 

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When I read about the Chocolate Museum of Barcelona in a book I really had no idea what to expect. A museum of chocolate could be anything really; chocolate taste testing, how to make chocolate, demonstrations of chocolate artists, chocolate taste testing or what I was really hoping for – chocolate taste testing.

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I was enchanted by the ticket to get into the expo, it was a sweet little treat to nibble on while you walked through the museum.

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The museum is a mix of wonderful chocolate art, and the history of chocolate throughout the years. Here is a representation from the adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha which I found to be expressive, but also very playful because of the use of chocolate. It seemed to fit the story well seeing as Don Quixote himself may have enjoyed the chocolate scene.

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This was my favorite sculpture of the museum. Unlike many of the others it was truly a great piece of art, so much so that you forgot it was chocolate. You can feel what the characters are feeling in the work, and then you remember it is a piece in chocolate and it allows you to appreciate it even more.

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If you have a little extra cash, and want a break from museums that make you think too hard pop by this museum for a bit of childish amusement.

Find them online at;

http://www.museuxocolata.cat/

Or visit at;

Carrer Comerç, 36, 08003 Barcelona, Espagne

Téléphone :+34 932 68 78 78

Visiting Bakeries with the Best Reputations

I once had a dream, a wish, a goal of finding the absolute most perfect bread in all of France. If you are a loyal reader you will know that bread of all things is the only carbohydrate, only “guilty” food item in the world that to me is heaven. There is nothing better than a perfectly crafted warm loaf. After living here for almost three months I have finally realized that that task is an impossible one. Not only is it absolutely impossible to visit all the bakeries in Paris in all of your life, but there are endless different varieties du pain, et aussi one would forget how the bread tasted from the bakery you ate a week ago and could therefore not compare all of them accurately.

So after hours of research and a lot of wandering around the streets of Paris completely lost, I have compiled a list of the supposed “best” most well respected bakeries in Paris. In a sense researching in this way is completely going against my philosophies of food. From experience I know the best foods are found not in well known and rated Michelin restaurants, but in small restaurants that no one knows about, not even the locals. This idea follows the philosophy that the greatest eateries can not be talked about, but only wandered upon coincidentally.

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Never whilst living here have I ever felt in danger or even a little uncomfortable in a place. However for the first time while searching for this bakery it was necessary to wander a neighborhood I would not be in at night. Thankfully I had my companions at my side and a strong drive to find 34 Rue Yves Toudic, also known as Du Pain et des Idées.

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After waiting in a line out the door, I selected a collection of Mini Paves (recommended by Anthony Bourdain).My favorite was the olive, but the others included chunks of ham, bacon and cheese. The bread was very good, and they make a perfect “on the go” meal.

The “on the go” meal however is very un-French. Snacking, or eating in a hurried fashion is something that is frowned upon in France, and slowly I have become accustomed to only eat when I have a minimum of half an hour to enjoy the food.

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I also selected the Mouna; a sweeter bread perfumed with orange flower water. It was my favorite of the day and reminded me of the perfect cheese Danish in bread form. Orange flower is a a very popular flavor in French cuisine and fragrance at the moment.

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Du Pain et des Idees does not offer a variety of tables to enjoy your selections at, so my recommendation would be to pick lunch up here and then go have a picnic in the park or along the Seine. However if you do wish to stay close to the boulangerie there is a small table that seats about six people right outside the door.

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The bakery’s specialty bread is one qui s’appelle ‘Pain des Amis’ translated as the bread of friends. At first I found the bread to be tasteless. But as I really started to search and examine the flavor I found it to be a complex yet subtle flavor combination with hints of chestnut and barley. The exterior is very hard and almost burnt tasting, this is due to its very long and tedious (but precise!) cooking process which has been mastered after many years.

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There was a time when I questioned whether it was even possible to make a bad pain au chocolat. Now, I know that if you go to a chain boulangerie or the super market and buy one from the cheapest brand you can find such a pastry that is not worth eating. But if you walk into almost any artisan boulangerie they have to be idiots to get it wrong. Honestly its layers of butter dough wrapped around a piece of chocolate. This specific pain au chocolat avec banane has a very good reputation, and is made with Valrhona chocolate. It was a good sweet treat but I was not blown away; if something is easy to make well, I don’t give it much praise.

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Next stop the famous Poilâne. Everyone in Paris is familiar with the name and dreams of the wonders this old bakery holds. Most known for their Punitions cookies and original Poilâne sourdough adorned with a cursive ‘P’ I went in quivering with excitement.

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Each time I visit (which is every time I happen to be in the 6th arrondissement) there is a line out the door and smells waft down the street like vendors alluring the passerby’s.

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Poilâne bread has the distinct rustic flavor of a good sourdough. The bakery has been passed down the generations since it was opened in 1932 by Pierre Poilâne. Like every loved bread in France it has a thick hard crust that counters the fluffy soft interior. 

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Poilâne Bakery also offers a tour of their kitchens and history which I recommend. I had a chance to try some Punitions which have a huge following around the world. They are small sugar cookies that are barely sweet and have a hint of cinnamon. “The story goes that Pierre’s grandmother in Normandy would call the children, seemingly to punish them, but instead pull from her apron a handful of butter cookies” (from Markets of Paris by Dixon Long and Marjorie R. Williams). The tale made me rêve of a different time, and brought a cozy feeling to my mouth. When I tried a Punitions I was unfortunately unimpressed, but the memories of such tales are good enough for me.

For more information visit their websites, or go to the boulangerie’s themselves!

Du Pain et des Idees

http://dupainetdesidees.com/

34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris

01 42 40 44 52

Poilâne

http://www.poilane.com/index.php?

8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris

01 45 48 42 59

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