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dimanche 28 novembre 2010

Day 93: Holiday Gift Guides

In my five years of living in Paris, I've seen the Christmas season get extended to an almost American extreme. At first, the city seemed to abide by the seemingly forgotten tradition of waiting until after Thanksgiving or rather the arrival of Beaujolais Noveau on the shelves, to start gearing up for Christmas mania, but the Marchés de Noel and street decorations seem like they've already been up for weeks, and so I will follow suit and get into the holiday spirit.

This year I am challenging myself to find as many local and ethical gift options as possible for Christmas and I plan on sharing what I find on the blog over the coming weeks. I am excited to visit and share some bonnes Parisian addresses for French based readers, but I'v also found some sources that offer ideas for international, and mostly online, shoppers.

Homegrown.org, an amazing networking site that brings together homesteaders, homegrowers, and homemakers of all sorts, offers their holiday selections which include books on gardening and preserving, recipes for homemade gifts such as soap and candles, and other craft ideas.

If you have any trouble making or finding any of the gifts they suggest, or want to find out how to make something on your own, you can join their community for free and get in contact with groups with names like "Resurrect the barter!", "Urban Gardeners", and "Food Preservation". You can also join my group, "Paris Paysanne".

The Huffington Post also published a green gift guide for men this year, which includes 6 gift ideas for under $100. As dudes are often the trickiest people to buy for, this list may be of interest to anyone who doesn't want to cop out and just buy a bottle of booze for the man in their life. Not that there's anything wrong with giving booze as a Christmas gift.

In the same vein, Huff Post's gift guide suggests booze themed gifts, such as recycled wine bottles-turned cheese plates, which I saw last time I visited San Jose's Farmer's Market, and some pretty creative winestoppers made out of old trophies and other recycled objects.

Many of the gift ideas included in the Huff Post's gift guide can be found on Etsy which is a great source for gifts in general. As I wrote in an earlier blog post ( see Day 41) many people who are unemployed or struggling within this economic mess have turned to arts and crafts and an artisinal lifestyle in order to make ends meet. I'm sure that many Etsy vendors are hoping that this holiday season will increase their earnings as well as offer the opportunity for them to share their creations with others.

There are so many eco-friendly and generally awesome things to be found on Etsy, like
this huge organic reusable shopping bag ($12) made from organic cotton, or a 25 piece set of organic oak building blocks ($40) for some good old-fashioned fun. I really love these felt bird ornaments ($35 set of 10) made with felt from recycled plastic bottles.

And why not reward the creative genius that resulted in the reuse of Phil Collins album covers in order to produce this amazing coaster set ($35)? The perfect gift for the person that has everything!

Don't forget to check out sites like Foodzie and Foodoro, which offer homemade and homegrown food products from small producers all around the world. I mentioned a few interesting products I found on these sites in my Day 41 post, but I encourage you to have a look for yourself and I'm sure you'll find some creative options that could serve as a potluck offering or Secret Santa gift, for example.

If you're not into paying for the shipping or window shopping online, check out the preserved foods on sale at your local farmer's market. I really think that good food is the reason for any season, and that sharing quality crafted goods with others is the ultimate expression of how much you value their health and happiness, so with that I wish you all the best during this festive season and, of course, bon appetit.

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mercredi 24 novembre 2010

Day 89: Organic Bakeries in Paris

Over my 5 years in Paris I've had some amazing Parisian Thanksgivings in the past, with both fellow ex-pats and natives alike. However, this year I don't feel like scrambling to find substitutes or ersatz ingredients in order to pull together a traditional meal. While new spins on classic holiday traditions are always a welcome opportunity for culinary creativity, I've decided that this year, if I can't be with the ones I love in the U.S., I'll love what I've got and in Paris, we've got a lot of bakeries.

I'm surprised that it has taken me so long to write about organic bakeries in Paris, but that's probably because I've never thought of myself as a huge painophile until I started writing a short story a few days ago and realized that my fictional American family was sitting down to dinner with a fresh baguette, I couldn't write it out and I have to admit that, after my lengthy séjour in this city, I don't think I can make it to my apartment at the end of the day without a trip to the bakery first.

Bread is an integral part of daily life in France, and there are a lot of amazing bakeries that are producing exceptional options. Recently, I visited a slew of bakeries for a friend in Nashville, TN who has a bakery called Dozen and is doing research for starting her own place in the future.

She was inspired by the bakeries she saw during her stay in France and I understand why- there are quite a lot to choose from and it is a pleasure to do a tasting tour of the city, discovering new neighborhoods and things to nibble on.

I decided, therefore, that I would do a tour of some of the city's organic boulangeries and build up a list of bonnes adresses for the blog.

My first stop was La Boulangerie par Veronique Mauclerc (83 rue de Crimée, 75019) this incredibly cranky women should probably be excused for her snarky sales approach, as she wakes in the early hours of the morning to begin the 15 hour process necessary for making her bread, which is baked in one of four remaining wood-fired ovens in Paris.

Mauclerc uses organic flour and employs a sourdough starter to initiate two risings of her bread. The final product is beautiful. I was on my way to a trico-thé afternoon of knitting and tea and picked up a brioche aux pistaches which was well appreciated. I can understand why Veronique is so picky over who takes home her labors of love, though I think a nap might improve her disposition.

Today I stopped by Au Pain Naturel (6 bd. de Denain, 75010) which appears to be a part of the Moisan collective of organic bakeries. Located in the less-than-charming Gare du Nord neighborood, this bakery is inviting with its loveley façade and wide array of breads and pastries.

The salespeople there kept it cool as I took pictures and a local crazy yelled at them for their unwillingness to barter with him over the price of a baguette.

I gladly payed my 1.90€ for an organic pain viennoise spotted with morcels of sweet orange peel. It made a nice side to the organic fallsa stuffed omelets that I enjoyed with a lady friend later that afternoon.

I'm excited to work on my to-do list of organic bakeries in Paris, and would love any suggestions or reviews you may have.

Until then, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and a Bon Beaujolais Nouveau- but most of all I wish you the best of what is local and a very Bon Appetit!

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dimanche 21 novembre 2010

Day 86: Fallsa!!

I went to the Marché Organique des Batignolles this Saturday, craving some fresh cilantro and roquette and hoping to find something to help me get my fermentation fix for the week.

Unfortunately, dill and little cucumbers are absent from the markets these days, and all the leaves have fallen off our grapevine- so pickles are out of the question. I was happily surprised, however, by the beautiful green tomatoes that we found once we entered the market.

The tomatoes offered a perfect opportunity to attempt making Fallsa, or autumnal salsa. I had a lot of fun making batches of salsa this summer, using ripe red tomatoes, but I thought those days ended with the warm weather, but nay! The market even had some end-of-the-season cherry tomatoes of bright yellows and oranges, which I eagerly scooped up by the handfull- eager to include them in my Fallsa.

So here it is, super easy to make and a delicious spicy dish to eat while you watch the leaves fall.


4-6 Green Tomatoes (try to grab a mixture of under/overipe tomaotes to add texture and juice)
Handful of any other color of seasonal tomatoes you can gather
Half bunch of fresh Cilantro
Chile pepper
2-3 cloves of Garlic
1-2 Onions
1 Lemon
1-2 Tablepoons of Salt
Hot sauce

Note: I usually just throw everything in a blender, but these tomatoes were too pretty to be sliced and diced beyond recognition, so I decided to hand chop everything. If you don't have the time or interest in doing that, you should totally use a blender. Just chop big chunks of everthing and let the blender break it down.

For non-blender preparation:

Step 1: Thinly slice onions, garlic, and some of your chile (you can add as you go, to make sure you don't start off too spicy) and throw them in a bowl. Sprinkle the juice of half a lemon on top and throw a few pinches of salt in the mix.

Step 2: Slice your tomatoes, you want to be sure to use a mix of unripe ones so you have the crunch of their flesh, with really ripe ones so that the fallsa gets juicy. *If you don't get enough juice out of your tomatoes, you can add some tomato concentrate* Throw the tomatoes in the bowl and mix together.

Step 3: Chop up your cilantro, I let it be course and leafy and huge. Cilantro is so great right now, I think it should be allowed to co-star in this Fallsa, along with your tomatoes. Mix chopped cilantro up with the other sliced ingredients.

Step 4: Use the rest of your lemon juice, salt, chile if necessary, and your hot sauce for extra spice. Adjust everything to taste.
You can finish your fallsa there- it's great to eat right away and will save longer than it takes to finish it, as far as my household is concerned.

Optional Step 5: Since I'll ferment just about anything that is sitting in a salty liquid, I decided I'd boost the probiotics, flavor, and digestablilty of this spicy side by letting it ferment for a few days.

Just put a weight (like a cup or bottle filled with water) in your glass jar, so that the veggies are submerged in the brine. Cover your jar with a cloth to keep out dust. The natural fermentation really brings out the cilalantro taste, as far as I can tell. This fallsa was good before the fermentation, but it was the best one I've ever made after a 24 hour fermentation and then a night in the fridge. I strongly suggest opting for step 5 of this recipe.

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lundi 15 novembre 2010

Day 80: Marché of the month- Batignolles

Arguably a wise (and unintentional) financial choice, but undeniably a foolish one, I forgot that my wallet was in another bag at home when I visited the Marché Biologique des Batignolles this past weekend. I think it was a mixture of my cloudy nasal infection state of mind combined with the excitement I felt about visiting this market that had been so highly recommended by bio-friendly buddies such as Terresa from La Cucina di TerrESa that lead me to make such a rookie mistake, but no matter what, I had to practice extreme self-control in order to not try to barter my way into a potiron paradise.

Despite the fact that I was unable to take anything home from the market, I was still able to get a lay of the land and take in the sights and sounds of the market.

Like the Marché Raspail (see Day 55), Batignolles is 100% organic and largely local. While the two organic markets are similar (you can get the same veggie galettes at both and the seasonal veggies obviously aren't going to change) Batignolles seemed to have more selection

in the dairy department, with several fromageris lining the aisles and the cosy smell of French cheeses lingering in the air. There were also quite a few bakers selling beautiful artisinal breads and cakes present at the market. I must admit I was a bit gutted to not be able to buy a lovely Gateau au Noix to bring home to my chéri.

While wandering down the aisles I rememberd the fact that I used to frequent the outskirts of this market when it was on my running route a few summers back. I remember that the warm weather brought out an organic blueberry farmers and that I always lusted for fresh berries as I ran by on my way to Park Monceau. I may not run by the market anymore, but I decided that I will run to it as soon as blueberry season rolls around, and maybe even bust out my jam recipe in order to preserve their goodness.

Marché des Batignolles

Boulevard des Batignolles
Paris 17eme
M° Pl. de Clichy or Rome
Open Saturdays from 9h-14h

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dimanche 14 novembre 2010

Day 79: Biopastille

Every time I'm in the States I stop by Trader Joe's and stock up on their Green Tea mints, which are delicious and cute. So I was pretty stoked when I was at the Salon Marjolaine last weekend and I found Green Tea & Bergamote lozenges made by Biopastille.

Biopastille's lozenges are not cute- unlike the Trader Joe's version they are not a shiny green color that ressembles neither the green of tea or of any mint variety. They are also a little less delicious because they have no added sugar or flavors. However, they remain a pretty great alternative to Trader Joe's, as they promise the same benefits of antioxidents and function as a natural picker-upper.

The company was started by an organic farmer named Roland Chabanol who was looking for something to subdue his urges for cigarettes while he was trying to quit smoking. The result are these accacia based gems which are cold-pressed to retain the nutrients of the various plants that flavor each pastille.

Biopastille products include tea and coffee based options, as well as fruit and other plant infusions. I picked up their Green Tea and Vanilla varieties for 2.20 euro each. You can find biopastille at certain Bio Generation stores in Paris (you can find a dull list of locations on their site), you can also check out all their flavors and eventually order your biopastille online.

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vendredi 12 novembre 2010

Day 77: Salon Marjolaine

This weekend will be the last opportunity to go visit the Salon Marjolaine , Paris organic and sustainable living exposition located in the Bois de Vincenne's Parc Floral. I made my way through the crowds and took in some sights at the Salon yesterday, and I think the event has something to offer everyone, except maybe claustro/agoraphobes, who may find the small aisles and massive crowds a bit off-putting.

As a HUGE fan of Paris' annual Agricultural Exposition, I looked forward to visiting a new agricultural event with fellow organic appreciators. While the Salon Marjolaine is sorely lacking in the animal part of the get drunk+hang out with farm animals equation that makes the Salon de l'Agriculture such an awesome event, Marjolaine has its own particular charm.

It was great to see associations like the Confédération Paysanne, the Faucheurs Volontaires, and Greenpeace, and I learned about a new association called the Sea Shepard conservation society which takes on the threats to sea wildlife and their natural habitat.

The members of Sea Shepard showcased an interesting and inventive product called the Moulibox (35-40 euro), a mini composter that can be kept inside and used to recycle food and other organic waste. The box comes complete with 150 worms to get you started. This 100% made in France wonder product was invented with the intention of getting people involved not only in composting but, as their site says, "an act of citizenship....that could become a way of life".

I would be remiss in writing anymore without bringing up organic booze. The Salon Marjolaine has plenty of it, from organic and several sulfar free wines to an extensive collection of microbrews that I have never seen on the shelves of biocoop. We particularly enjoyed Natural Mystick, which is made from hemp and sold by a dude who looks like he knows what to do with hemp. The beer is brwed in Brittany, with home-grown hemp replacing the standard hops.

With the exception of the beer and probably some other home products that I didn't get to because I had to break from the crowds at some point, I'm not sure that you can find a ton of things at the Salon Marjolaine that you couldn't just find at your local biocoop, but it was nice to see the masses come out and celebrate organic living. If I were to urge someone to go visit the Salon, it would be because of the food vendors. You should definately go on an empty stomach and most certainly taste freely of all that is offered.

I love it when vegetarian food is the norm and not the exception and that is certainly the case at the Parc Floral for the next two days. I noshed on vegetarian spring rolls (with tofu) and salivated when I saw seitan pot roast on the menu. There were also lovely looking pumpkin fries and soups and all kinds of veg-friendly sandwiches with veggie paté and tofu spreads. Yum!

I'm still looking forward to getting tipsy and hanging out with some huge bunnies when the Salon de l'Agriculture rolls around, but I found the Salon Marjolaine to be satisfying in that it validates a lifestyle choice and brings it's followers together to eat, drink, and all the rest...
Salon Marjolaine
'Til the 14th of November
10h30-19h30 (open late -until 21h-on Friday 12
Parc Floral Paris 12th
metro: Chateau de Vincennes

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jeudi 11 novembre 2010

Day 76: Ode to Basil

I think one of the first things we planted in our new apartment, before our tomatoes and maybe a little after our grapevine, was this basil plant. I bought it for 3.50 euro at the greengrocer downstairs, which I've done several times while living in Paris, but this basil plant exceeded every expectation I've ever had for raised-in-a-pot herbs. A truly noble Paris Paysanne bio-product.

Last night, for our special celebration of my five year anniversary with Paris Pizza Party, I harvested what might be the last leaves of our little basil buddy. Although he's still putting up a fight and sprouting little green shoots, I don't think it will be long before the cold gets to him and his days are numbered.

So I salute you, loyal basil plant, and thank you for what will most likely be our last fresh basil pesto pizza of this party season. You will be replaced, but not forgotten!!

Recipe for Bye-Bye Basil Pesto:

Step 1: Throw the last lingering leaves of your made-it-to-november basil plant into a blender

Step 2: Mix in 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil and some pine nuts (or peanuts or walnuts if the pine variety is too pricey)

Step 3: Add parmasean (or not, for a vegan or poor man's pesto), some salt and a pinch of nutritional yeast, if you've got it. Don't forget a head of garlic- a little goes a long way.

Step 4: Blend it up and throw it on your pizza or pasta

Step 5: Wait until next summer when you can have a new basil buddy to bring joy into your life.

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mercredi 10 novembre 2010

Day 75: Creative Gardening Containers

While this is not the most action-packed season for gardening, the Paris Paysanne shouldn't prevent themselves from letting their imagination go wild as Winter approaches. As I've been watering my black radishes and sowing seeds for lettuce, my mind has turned towards creative ways to contain and nurture my balcony garden.

Even though the pretty standard planter box that we found at Castorama (25 euro, pictured at right) proved to be a great home to our summer tomatoes and is holding up as a humble abode for my radishes this season, I was inspired by the creative solutions for gardening in tight spaces that I saw during my tour of the shared gardens of the 18th arrondisement . Most notably, I appreciated these gardens' use of straw baskets to grow everything from leafy greens to viney wall crawlers.

The baskets are salvaged in various states of wear and tear from the African open air market, Marché Dejean, which takes place in the mornings and early afternoons in the 18th's Chateau Rouge neighborhood. The baskets provide mobile and adaptable growing space as well as charming décor for many of the shared gardens located in this part of Paris.

Thus, I was inspired to mount my own salvation army and see what kind of trash I could turn into a garden treasure. Turns out, I didn't have to look too far. On the street where I live, many of the greengrocers and other markets have their goods delivered in wooden crates that fit snugly on my balcony. They are light, and therefore easy to abscond with once one is spotted, and come in a variety of sizes, so you can try to find one that seems tailor-made for your space.

I am currently growing lettuce in one such crate, to which my cat was kind enough to contribute a litter-box liner, so that I could keep in the soil. After the first set of heavy rains arrived, I realized I need to both irrigate the soil (I did this by poking holes into the liner so that the water could leak out) as well as raise the crate off the ground so that the water wouldn't just puddle underneath the lined crate. So far, so good- but I think I might have to cover the crate because the rain doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

This is admittedly a pretty rookie approach to DIY garden solutions, but if your interested in more sophisticated home-made projects, I highly recommend you check out the Urban Organic Gardener site. This (more often than not) shirtless dude is dedicated to gardening in similarly restrictive spaces, such as New York fire escapes, and has come up with some awesome solutions to cheap, creative, and size-wise growing containers, including building a shipping palette herb garden, soda bottle hanging planters, and self-watering containers.

I'd love to hear if any readers have their own DIY or slavaged solutions to balcony gardening in the urban environment. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the next best planter box!

I'd also like to make a call for stories of Paris Paysannes who want to share their gardening projects on the blog. I am looking forward to building a community of urban farmers that I hope to showcase as part of a project that will be unveiled soon. Pictures, stories, advice and experiences are all welcome contributions!

Send to: notatcarrefour@gmail .com

And don't forget you can follow me on Twitter at @notatcarrefour

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samedi 6 novembre 2010

Day 71: Ginger Lemonade!!

When winter weather kicks in, I love busting out this lovely lemonade, sweetened with unrefined sugar and with an added kick of ginger. Lemons and ginger are both high in Vitamin C and Magnesium which means that they both aid in the absorbtion of the great-for-your-immune-system Vitamin C. For the nutrition-minded drinker, this quaff is an ideal winter sipper and immunity booster. For those of a more taste-oriented persuasion, I can assure that this a real pallet pleaser, and it goes great with whiskey, as well!

So, here's what you need:

6-8 lemons (if they're hard to find/expensive/out of season, I think you could probably just replace these with limes)
Lemon zest, from two or three of your lemons
14 cups of water
4 inches of fresh gingeroot, cut into dimes
2-3 cups of unrefined sugar, depending on how sweet your tooth is

And here's what you do:

Step 1: Throw sugar, water and sliced ginger root into a big pot, bring to a boil (stir occasionally)

Step 2: While the water/sugar/ginger mix is coming to a boil, squeeze the juice from your lemons into another bowl. Zest two or three of your lemons and throw that in there as well.

Step 3: Once your water mix has come to a boil, remove it from heat and let it cool for 10-15 mins.

Step 4: Remove the slices of ginger, using a straining spoon

Step 5: Once the sugar ginger water is good and cool, add your lemon juice/zest. Stir well so it all mixes to gather. Have a taste and adjust accordingly, adding more water to offset sweetness, etc.

Step 6: Figure out a way to get the juice into bottles that will seal well and conserve your elixir for the matter of days it takes you to drink it all!

I hope you this drink brings you health and happiness in the coming Winter months!!

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mardi 2 novembre 2010

Day 67: Brussels Bio

Me and my monsieur spent last weekend in Brussels and, while I'll admit to being a bit of a lazy blogger and not doing much research, we managed to stumble upon some great organic addresses that I'd like to share.

Despite it's reputation as a moules frites paradise, Brussels seems to be trying to distance itself from its fried food reputation and embrace the slow food movement. Many restaurant fronts sported slow food stickers and organic, local ingredients. This was particularly obvious in the Ste. Catherine neighborhood of Brussels where we saw a vegetable market brussel's-sprouting up as we toured the quarter scouting out a restaurant for the evening.

Ste. Catherine is also the home of Boulangerie Charli (34 rue Ste. Catherine) which is owned by a former student of legendary French chef Paul Bucose and serves up a wide variety of organic bread, which is to be appreciated in Brussels, a city that seems to conclude that nothing is the greatest thing since sliced bread, other than sliced bread itself- which is the only thing you will be served at any other eating extablishment.

Charli also makes amazing seasonal pastries. Our favorite was the Gozette aux Pommes a lovely apple turnover tucked in a flakey golden pastry that was sprinkled with sparkly raw sugar patisserie dust.

The bakery was a popular morning spot, with families, couples, and friends crowding in to grab a seat and enjoy a jus d'orange with their croissant.

In a much less touristy area across town the Brasserie Cantillon (56 rue Gheude, Anderlecht) boasts beer-making that refuses to pandor to pasteurization or non-organic forms of production. If Brussels is warming up to the idea of slow food, Cantillon takes the idea to the extreme, espousing a motto that states "Time respects nothing that is made without it".

Cantillon's beer is both exceptional and unique due to the fact that it is produced through spontaneous fermentation, which involves a cooling process in a copper tank during which time micro-organisms are allowed to work their magic and set off the fermentation process. The beer is then stored in wooden barrels for anywhere from 1-3 years.

The brewers are proud of their beer-making tradition as well as respectful of the role that nature plays in the process. The guide that we were given while taking the self-guided tour explained the presence of several spider webs in the brewery, stating that the spiders are integral in the natural termination process, feeding on the other insects that are attracted to the fermenting beer and fresh fruit that is brought in to be mixed with their Kreik, or cherry flavored beer. Dame Nature is revered in this traditional beer haven where destroying a spider web is just as mal vu as pandoring to industrial means of beer production.

I highly recommend visiting the brewery if you happen to be in Brussels, and I have to give a shout out to Antonio for insisting that we stop in. The visit was an informative and eye-opening experience.

Tours are self-guided and cost 5 euro, which includes a tasting of two different beers at the end of your visit. The bar is also open to the public, with their most popular beers priced at 2-3 euro a glass.

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