Happy Birthday Chocolate & Zucchini!

Happy Birthday Chocolate & Zucchini!

“- Bonjour madame la boulangère! I would like to buy a cake for my blog.
– What a lucky blog! Is this a special occasion?
– Why yes, it is my blog’s first birthday!
– My my my, how time flies! I remember your blog from when it was just a wee little baby blog, with just a handful of posts — and now it’s one year-old already?
– Yes, I am very proud, and I think it would very much like to celebrate with a cake. Something small something chocolate, something pretty something yummy! What can you suggest?
– Well, we have this chocolate and caramel cake, we have this chocolate and praline cake, we have this chocolate and green tea cake, and we have this chocolate and chocolate cake.
– Oh, they are all so very pretty and look so very yummy, it’s hard to choose… what is your favorite?
– I think I like the chocolate and chocolate best.
– That sounds like a good choice by all standards, we’ll have one of these!”

And so, we put the little cake on a plate. And lit a candle. And sang a birthday song. And blew the candle. And drank a little wine. And ate the little cake. Happy Birthday Chocolate & Zucchini!

And thank you all, dear readers, whether you’re a long-time visitor, newly on board, or just passing by — thanks for reading what I have to say, thanks for your comments and support. Chocolate & Zucchini is a fabulous adventure for me, but it would, of course, be nothing without you.

And since no birthday is quite complete without a birthday gift, I have decided to open forums on Chocolate & Zucchini! I receive the visit of so many interesting people (yes, that would be you) with so many interests in common, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a place to meet, chat and share all the wonderful things you have to say! So go ahead, take a little tour, make yourself comfortable, ask questions, give advice, discuss recipes, cookbooks, restaurants, tips, techniques, ideas, inspirations!

But wait, there’s more! No birthday is quite complete without a party either, so I am also throwing a Chocolate & Zucchini Birthday Party! Mark your calendars : the party will be on Monday, October the 18th, and it will be hosted by my chef-friend Nicolas Vagnon at his restaurant La Table de Lucullus. You are all warmly invited to come, and I will be positively delighted to meet you.

Here are the details : participation will be 30€ per guest (payable when you’re there), and that will get you dinner and wine, selected and prepared by Nicolas and yours truly. If you would like to come, let me start by doing a little happy dance, and then ask you to please email me before the 8th of October with your name, phone number, and the number of people who will be coming with you!

Paris Potluck Recipes

The Paris Potluck

When I went to the Salon Saveurs recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with a few Chocolate & Zucchini readers. A few hours of wandering up and down the aisles brought us closer, and as we all sat down, exhausted but exhilarated, the idea of creating a little supper club was brought up. The idea was to throw a dinner party where everyone would bring a dish, à la potluck. Isabelle and Ethan offered to host the first edition, which took place ten days ago.

We had a wonderful evening in Isabelle and Ethan’s cosy appartment in the 12th arrondissement, everyone engaged in lively — and often food-related — conversation, and I was delighted to see my salon companions again, and to meet new friends.

The whole team from the Salon Saveurs was in attendance : Isabelle and Ethan, Alisa, Amy (who came with her boyfriend Nicolas), Pascale (accompanied by her husband David), myself and Maxence. Meg from Too Many Chefs was there too, and we had the pleasure of meeting Christoph, whose comments you may have read on C&Z, and his wife Suzanne. Three foodie friends of Ethan and Isabelle rounded up the count to fifteen, Jonathan, Malory and Peter. Eight from America, four from France, two from Germany and one from Great Britain — quite the cosmopolitan bunch!

Needless to say, we ate like kings :

– Isabelle made a Zucchini Carpaccio (I had never had anything like this and loved it) and a Spring Vegetable Risotto,

– Meg contributed her tasty Chickpea and Leek Soup, the recipe for which is posted on her blog,

– Amy brought a fantastic Pea and Roasted-Garlic Crostini with Olives and Pecorino Cheese,

– Great minds think alike : Christoph and I both brought terrines from the latest issue of the French magazine Saveurs : he made the Sundried Tomato and Fish Terrine, while I made the Fresh Cheese and Vegetable Terrine, the recipe for which I will post soon,

– Jonathan and Malory brought a colorful Instantaneous Carrot Salad and a lovely Asparagus Tart,

– Alisa made a scrumptious and goodie-filled endive salad,

– And we ended all this on a delightful sweet note thanks to Pascale‘s Hazelnut Financiers (recipe on her blog) and Pistachio Tuiles, as well as Isabelle’s perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (made from the famous Nieman-Marcus recipe).

Salon Saveurs : my Loot

Canelés Baillardran

Last Friday, I attended the Salon Saveurs, a food show held at the Espace Champerret in Paris twice a year. To make a happy event happier, I was blessed with the company of five other food enthusiasts and C&Z readers — Amy, Pascale, Alisa, Ethan and Isabelle.

We were all delighted to make each other’s acquaintance, and it was really great to explore the halls together, getting all excited about the same things, gesturing wildly to the rest of the bunch when we discovered something that absolutely had to be tasted, peeking into each other’s goodie bags, and sharing glasses of armagnac.

The show was set up in two huge halls, with myriads of small stands at which you could taste and buy a great variety of products : cheese, charcuterie, fresh and canned seafood, condiments, olive oil, honey, jam, chocolate, bread, cakes, pastries, candy, cooking equipment, wine, beer… Since it was a weekday, the halls weren’t too crowded, and the stand-keepers were very friendly and helpful, not to mention generous with their samples.

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IMBB4 : Around the World in a Bowl of Rice

IMBB4 : Around the World in a Bowl of Rice

The fourth edition of Is My Blog Burning?, the one and only distributed food blogging event, will be hosted by Pim. The theme this time around is “Around the world in a bowl of rice”, and the idea is — you guessed it — to cook a rice dish!

Entries should be posted on Sunday, May 23rd, two weeks from now. Check out the details on Pim’s blog, and take a look at the previous events’ entry list :
First edition : Soups
Second edition : Tartines
Third edition : Cakes

A Taste of Balsamic Vinegar

A Taste of Balsamic Vinegar

Wine tasting? That is so yesterday, haven’t you heard? Balsamic vinegar tasting is all the rage!

On Saturday afternoon, Maxence and I attended such a tasting, organized by the Bastille Slow Food convivium. It was held at Sur Les Quais, a spice and oil store in the covered area of the Marché d’Aligre. I’ve always been very fond of the taste of balsamic vinegar, but the wildly varying prices of what you find in stores are confusing, so I was delighted for the chance to learn more.

Paul Vautrin, the store owner, started out by telling us about balsamic vinegar and its characteristics. It is produced from the must of very mature Trebbiano grapes and aged in a series of barrels of different sizes and woods. He explained how the producer transfers a fraction of the vinegar from the younger barrels into the older barrels every year, which is why the age of a bottle of vinegar is only an average, being a mix of older and younger vinegars. The types of wood the barrels are made in, the quality of the grapes, the initial concentration, and the producer’s savoir-faire all come into play to make (or break) the quality of a balsamic vinegar.

Naturally, industrial companies started making balsamic vinegar too, aging it in steel tanks, cutting it with water and coloring it with brown sugar or caramel. In response, the original small producers have created a consortium and a D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, if you must know) to protect the century-old tradition : only vinegar produced in a small region around the town of Modena can claim to be the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, their products are made following strict rules and are bottled and boxed in a specific way.

The real thing is very pricy (50 euros for 10 cl), but the taste is so intense and concentrated that just a few drops are sufficient. Of course the scope is pretty wide between the real unique nectar and its crappy over-industrial version, so a good dealer should be able to recommend a producer who may not belong to the consortium but still follows the rules, hence producing a quality product at a somewhat lower price.

The actual tasting began with a small glass of saba, the must (unfermented juice) that is used to make balsamic vinegar. Incredibly sweet and sirupy, with a strong grape taste, saba can be diluted in water or wine to make an excellent drink, or poured on ice-cream or fruit for dessert.

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