Le parc floral

We have been having a very nice and mild spring. In fact, this March was the warmest on record since 1900, equaled only by 1957. We have have made use of the nice weather (and the fact that we no longer have to sit on a train for half an hour to get anywhere) to explore a bit more of Paris. For the last few weeks we visited a different food market every weekend. They are all great, with excellent selections of cheeses.


Mimolette cheese. The holes in the crust are made by tiny cheese mites living in it.

Another thing to explore are the two big parks on either end of Paris that look like two green ears on the map. The one that’s closer to us is the bois de Vincennes, and we decided to go there first. We have only visited it before to go to the zoo, but there is a lot more to see. Since Sunday’s weather forecast predicted 26 degrees and sunshine, we decided to check out the parc floral located inside the bois the Vincennes. I had read about it before; it’s a public park that also doubles as a botanical garden. There is also a big stage where concerts are sometimes held in the summer.

We packed sandwiches and beers for a picnic. The city of Paris has a detailed web sites about the rules and amenities for picnics in public parks; you are only supposed to walk or sit on lawns between April 15 and October 15 to leave the grass time to regenerate, but there are exactly 38 picnic benches available in the parc floral. When we got there it turned out that we had been the only ones to study the rules and/or to care about them. Some of the lawns were halfheartedly cordoned off, but the Parisans are a rebellious people and not that easily discouraged.

We walked around, munched on our sandwiches and beers, hunted Pokémon and were impressed by the large variety of tulips on display.

At the park’s entry we had noticed signs announcing something called “Resto Expérience”, of which we had never heard before. While we were wondering if it was the sort of food festival that seems to exist in every European city except Paris, two people came up to us to confirm that indeed it is one, and they gave us a leaflet with some information and, because we expressed interest, free tickets. It turned out afterwards that the organizers had combined an almost complete absence of marketing with the ridiculous idea of charging 13 to 17 Euro in admission to a remote location just to be allowed to spend money on food. Accordingly, there were not too many visitors at the expérience when we got there. We had some good food anyway, and we will be back next year, hoping the organizers learn from the mistakes they made on this first attempt.

After eating and drinking we were ready to head home for coffee and dessert. On the way back we passed a Quidditch match and found that yes, it really is as silly as it sounds.


La cuisine hongroise

Earlier this summer we went for dinner at the Hungarian restaurant in Paris with Gergö’s friend M. I was sceptical if he’d like it, because he has very strong opinions on what is acceptable pizza and pasta, for example. And not a lot of pizza and pasta seems to pass the test. Apparently he enjoyed the Hungarian food a lot, though, because on their way home from the office he’d ask what was on the menu for Palaiseau’s Hungarian restaurant from time to time. This weekend we finally managed to have M and his partner over for lunch at the “Hungarian restaurant”.

Gergö made the dish that has sparked at least one mariage proposal by a stranger before: töltött káposzta. It’s minced meat and rice wrapped in cabbage leaves (ideally from an entire fermented cabbage) with sauerkraut and smoked ribs and spicy sausage all stacked in a pot and cooked. It’s one of those dishes that become better with every time you reheat them.

The difficulty of course is finding all the right ingredients in France. Sauerkraut is comparatively easy: it’s called choucroute, usually cooked with wine and often contains pieces of ham. We didn’t find it fresh, but there are cans and jars.


You can tell from the fingerprints in the dust that it’s not part of daily Palaiseau cuisine. Gergö complained that it wasn’t sour enough, but I liked it. The kolbasz sausage we replaced with Merguez and for smoked ribs we had to take regular unsmoked ones. Gergö has come to terms with the fact there is no tejföl / sour cream in France. Crème fraîche really is an excellent substitute.

In Austria you can buy entire fermented cabbages. You can probably buy them in France as well, but not in any of the stores in Palaiseau. And we didn’t plan ahead to search for Turkish delis in Paris.

(Last time we tried to find Hungarian ingredients it was for the traditional Christmas beigli, a poppy seed cake. We didn’t have anything to grind the seeds, so we went looking for ground poppy seeds in Polish and Hungarian supermarkets in Paris. The Hungarian ones had all closed down and the Polish ones didn’t have ground poppy seeds, just the ready made poppy filling. But that contains raisins and is therefore unacceptable.)

Even with regular cabbage leaves the dish turned out great.

töltött káposzta

If you, like me, are wondering how you stir a pot that full: you don’t. It’s not supposed to be stirred, just gently shaken from time to time as it cooks away (Bond reference not intended).

töltött káposzta day 2

The huge pot of course meant that we’d be eating it for the entire weekend. I had the last bit, mostly cabbage soup by now, for Monday’s lunch. Afterwards I texted Gergö to tell him it was delicious but eating it for three days seems long enough. Now that I’m describing it in such detail, I’m getting hungry again though.

For dessert we had Topfenknödel / turosgomboc / cream cheese dumplings. Unlike the Austrian version, the Hungarian one is not usually filled with anything, and served with sour cream (no paprika on turosgomboc though).

Considering how fast baguette goes stale, it’s surprisingly difficult to find breadcrumbs and dry bread cubes here. We had experimented with ground zwieback instead of breadcrumbs before when my brother was here for a visit. We also couldn’t find any wheat semolina that wasn’t durum/hard wheat, so barley semolina was used instead. Gergö used fromage blanc for the batter because we couldn’t find the fromage fraîs, which we figured would be the best substitute. They turned out great. And Gergö too much of them as well, so we had some for breakfast the next day.

Everyone here is complaining about the cold, except for me. Maybe Saturday’s lunch is part of the reason why I prefer colder temperatures now?



Quoi de neuf?

So, what’s up here in lovely Palaiseau?

On Wednesday, I got a bit carried away with the food shopping. Our local giant retailer is already in Christmas mode, I think. It has spread out to the parking space, where it’s selling coke in bulk and advent calendars. I actually checked the internet if there was any other kind of festivity coming up, because I didn’t believe it. I can be naïve like that.

Because of the upcoming Star Wars film, there’s also a whole lot of Star Wars themed merchandise. I managed to resist the Star Wars cookie cutters, and bought lollipos instead, in case there are any trick and treaters coming our way. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. In order to reward myself for resisting the cookie cutters, I bought a Star Wars canvas bag. I’m not sure my system is working very well.

Gergö said "Aw, look, with a foreword by Anthony Daniels!"

Gergö said “Aw, look, with a foreword by Anthony Daniels!”

I also spotted a pintade and bought it. My friend Stephen had shared an article with me about French opening hours which prominently featured the birds. They are called guinea fowl in English and Perlhühner in German and I had never heard about eating them before but apparently they are a thing in France. For a couple of minutes in Auchan, I forgot that I don’t really know how to handle an entire bird and that I hate cutting them up. So while it looked appetizing when it came out of the oven, eating it was a real mess.

Just like a chicken, but smaller and with darker skin.

Just like a chicken, but smaller and with darker skin.

On Thursday, I was planning to buy a pair of jeans. In an ongoing silly Thomas Bernhard joke, Gergö then suggested we should go have dinner afterwards. That turned into dinner and a movie with Gergö’s work friends at the large Mall at les Halles. We watched the Martian (Seul sur Mars) in VOSTF (version originale sous-titres français). It was fun and there are plans to watch Star Wars together as well, but Gergö insists on watching the Force Awakens in English without subtitles. I haven’t figured out if that’s even a thing here.

Of course I didn’t buy any jeans – I only found high waisted skinny jeans all afternoon and that’s not going to happen. I finally dared to go into Forever 21, though. I worried for a second of being kicked out for being so obiviously out of the age range, but I think they rely on the music to scare off old people like me ;-)

I also saw a lot of Star Wars merch at the mall.

Not your father.

Not your father.

And for the first time, I saw a deaf checkout clerk. He was signing with his customers. There was a sign next to his checkout stating that he is malentendant and to please look at him while talking. I didn’t want to take a picture because rude. I just think the visibility of it is great – I never see physically impaired people working in service in Austria. I wonder if Austria is just generally much worse with regards to integration (whatever that might mean)?

This week, I also had my annual moment of “I can’t believe it gets dark this early” when coming out of the shop.

chemin de l'yvette

As nice as the path along the Yvette is, the lighting is often bad and that can get creepy.

Oh, and I read a book. In French! Okay, so it was a comic book and only had 48 pages, but still. I learned many new words, like the word for boar, and magic potion.


And there were some piracy jokes in there, that I almost but not quite understood on my first attempt. Somebody posted on twitter (I think) that there was also a Twitter joke in the new Asterix, but that went completely over my head. Oh yes, there is (Spoiler alert).

Tartes salées et sucrées

At the end of August I decided I need to expand my cooking horizon and make an effort of integrating into my new home country.

First, I researched the difference between quiches and tarts. After reading various cooking forum entries and of course Wikipedia, I conclude that quiche originally was only used for Quiche lorraine but now is used for any savoury tarts. Tarts can also be sweet, but only savoury tarts can be called quiche.

Secondly I started researching recipes. No matter what I do, I always end up with chefkoch.de. The recipe I decided on was not the shortcrust pastry dough (Mürbteig) I know – it contains cream cheese. And since moving here I always have fromage blanc at home. It worked out really well. My tart dish is probably a little too small for the recipe (26cm), so next time I’ll use a little less filling.

Today I wanted to try a sweet variant, to use up our very ripe pears. I settled on a caramelised pear tart, which proably is a Tarte Tatin (upside down & caramelized sounds about right). The recipe says that you should remove the pear juice before adding the pastry on top, which I skipped because the tart dish is difficult to handle when hot and full. so the caramelised pear juicy goodness spilled out. Then I wanted to turn it upside down using a large plate, which promptly broke in half before I could use it. So I had to use a smaller plate. That cause the remaining caramel sauce to spill down the side. Still, turned out looking good!

I will point to this blog entry, should I ever apply for citizenship ;-)

Edited to fix the typo in the title. d’oh.