We’re back in Paris in the familiar Left Bank neighborhood where we’ve welcomed the beginning of many a new year. The quartier where we stay is festooned with lights and bright window displays, and the food shops remind us how important entertaining friends is at this time of year. The French call December 31 le révillon, or St. Sylvestre, and food and Champagne are at the center of every get-together. Here’s a glimpse of a few of our neighborhood stores where we’ve spent the better part of today selecting delectables for ringing in 2015 with friends.
No matter the meal, the day, or the season, the French have a passion for the table and food that is almost a commonplace, but come the holidays, they become “foodies on steroids!” Abandoning budgets and diets, they indulge in an astounding array of seasonal options. Their markets are filled with displays of crustaceans—varieties of oysters, scallops still in their ribbed shells, mounds of shrimp from the petit gris from the North Atlantic to imperial-sized prawns caught off the coasts of Madagascar. Butchers showcase capons stuffed with chestnuts and carefully cut stately roasts, while patissiers outdo themselves with their glorious bûches de Noël and golden galettes des rois, sumptuously prepared with puff pastry.
My husband and I have been coming to Paris during this season for more than a decade now, so I’ve become an enthusiastic and experienced shopper, filling my cart with favorites and new discoveries. Nothing is better than a food foray during December and January in this magical city!
1. Chanterelles – Although also available other times of the year, I love to sauté these golden, trumpet-shaped mushrooms with garlic, then add them to a sauce to nap a holiday roast beef or fowl. They also look glorious served in a small casserole with a sprinkle of parsley.
2. Foie Gras – At the farmers’ markets or in fancy food shops you’ll find fresh foie gras ready to be taken home to be served with warm brioche or baguette slices along with a sip of sauterne. Every mouthful is such bliss that I don’t even think about the calories!
A couple of years ago while my husband and I were in Paris, two of my spouse’s former Amherst students, who live and work in the City of Light, invited us for drinks and appetizers. They set out a luscious block of foie gras with a basket of crispy baguette slices along with bowls of olives and cornichons, but the attraction of the evening was the champagne drink they served.
Ardent foodies, they offered us coupes de champagne avec St. Germain. They were certain that I would be familiar with the fragrant elderflower liqueur known as St. Germain. Mais non! This was my first experience, I confessed, and after one sip of champagne paired with St. Germain, I was in heaven.
This clear, aromatic liqueur adds an amazingly fresh, floral note to a glass of bubbly. St Germain (that’s the brand name) comes in tall, sleek bottles, and is available on this side of the Atlantic in wine and spirits stores. I had no trouble finding it in my small New England town in both large bottles and nip-sized ones.
With Christmas and New Year’s Eve almost here, I thought that my readers might like to add a little extra sparkle to their flutes of champagne. Here are two recipes to get you started. Also check out www.stgermain.fr for more recipes.
Cheers and happy holidays to everyone!