Day of the gourmand and the French dna

Wiki says – A gourmand is a person who either takes great pleasure in food,
a person given to excess in the consumption of food and drink, a greedy eater,
or a ravenous eater.

What I didn’t tell you – on my last visit to France, I endured


Baguette mornings and some evenings,

I worked through these


I suffered these


Come to Mama!

But I need to bring up in today’s blog something of the French dna that I have
observed during my visits to this country. As many of you know, the French is
going through a wake-up call after the events of the past week … the horrific
deaths of the editor and staff of their satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo,
at the hands of terrorist gunmen.
Their September 11.

I’ve never met a French I didn’t like. A bit of an exaggeration, but …
in my halting, sometimes stammering French, they’ve responded, engaged with me,
in their halting, sometimes stammering English.

The French are a proud people. Proud of their heritage, history, culture, and arts.

The French work. Tirelessly. The proof is in their bread –

Meet Ridha Kadher, the winner of the best baguette for 2013.
Out of 203 Parisian bakers, he won €4,000 and earned the honour of supplying
baguettes to the Elysées Palace, the presidential residence, for a whole year.


When asked for a photo after our chat,
he gladly posed for one but not before asking his wife to join him.



Mr. Kadher, with roots from Tunisia, came to France as a young boy,
and started baking at fifteen, working side by side with his brother.
Indeed, he has come a long way. He now owns his own boulangerie,
Au Paradis du Gourmand.

His secret is « hard work and his mother’s recipe, a 24-hour ‘rest’ to allow the dough
to absorb water and hydrate for his traditional baguette, (5 hours for a regular one) ».

via RKadher

Au Paradis du Gourmand,
156 Rue Raymond Losserand,
75014 Paris France,
+33 9 62 30 47 13

Photos (1)-(7) ©vmanzo-w

Share Button

Read More


Pasta heaven

Feeling under the weather the past few weeks and culminating
with bed rest for a few days,
I dreamt not of gum drops and icicles, but of pasta! in any shape or form.

Enter 2015, and I find myself at Bar Primi, pasta heaven, for brunch.

Shared order of the day -

To start … Ricotta bruschetta, drippings of italian honey and hazelnuts


Egg crostino, chunky crab meat in garlic crema and arugula


Breakfast spaghetti, with kale, pancetta, topped with poached egg


Very attentive waitstaff in plaid shirts.

Yes, I noticed. Sorry, no photo. Deliberately.

Yes, I’ll be back.


Share Button

Read More


Coming soon. 2015

Your choice. Your move.

It’s time. It’s now.

Happy New Year!

From BreadandPassion.com



*image via Pinterest

Share Button

Read More


64 things I learned before 65

1. Sleep is a most sought-after commodity. It’s ok to sleep in.

2. Senior discounts.

3. Freckles? They’re now called liver spots, age spots.

4. Girlfriends are your dear friends. They listen. And listen.

5. Bolder is better. I mean, attitude.

6. And not in make-up. Some can get away with it – Iris Arpel, Paloma Picasso. Emphasize the lips OR the eyes, if you insist.

7. Mini skirts look better on the young.

8. Do I have a signature? Geeky glasses. Parfum No. 19. 1932. Arm candies – bracelets, bangles, and bags. Red …

9. Solitary is not a frightening term. Again, it’s ok.

10. I forgive myself. More. I’m even nicer to myself. More and more.

11. A stress-free life is possible.

12. It’s best not to lose one’s child-like wonder.

13. A fuzzy brain is for real.

14. Sh*t still happens.

15. One can have breakfast for dinner – omelettes, anyone?

16. You decide how you want to start your day – with joy, with lovely, with pretty. Or with a morning stretch. Or …

17. Sometimes contentment means slow mornings sipping coffee.

18. Walking, whether briskly or leisurely, is exercise. For that matter, moving is exercise.

19. The tv remote is not a good friend.

20. Nor is the kitchen after 8pm.

21. Brain tease is better than brain freeze. Say No to Haagen Daz.

22. B is no longer just the second letter of the alphabet. It’s also beans, broccoli, bokchoy, brussel sprouts, blueberries, baby spinach, baby kale, baklava (delete that), bran, bbbbbbread.

23. Your address list includes health practitioners of different specialties, classes – from yoga to nutrition – you wonder where your friends are … or perhaps they are now your new-found friends.

24. Be passionate about something. Or someone. You can’t go through life without passion. It pushes the envelope. It motivates. It gets you up in the morning raring to go. It’s better than caffeine.

25. Stay in touch. With friends. Oh, and thank you, Facebook! “if my friends could see me now …”

26. If you remain hopeful, you might still meet your soul mate. Even Jack Nicholson “… would love that one last romance, … What I can’t deny is my yearning. I’m definitely still wild at heart but I’ve struck biogravity. I have had everything a man could ask for but no one could say I’m successful with affairs of the heart.”

27. If you’re wondering if he’s with his son or his boyfriend, he’s with his boyfriend, and so goes if he’s with his daughter ….

28. You don’t say yes when you really want to say no. Just say “no”.

29. If you want to play it safe, wear black. Always wear black. Then accessorize. Always accessorize. And, please, don’t give up heels!

30. Don’t wait to tick off items on your bucket list til you’re 64. Start early.

31. Keep up on your reading. And re-reading the classics.

32. No more regrets. No more frowning. And no more excuses.

33. Use your good china, silver and crystals more often.

34. And sleep on those hundred thread count bedsheets.

35. One word – silk.

36. Embrace 64. Not only gracefully but graciously.

37. Continue speaking well of others. They’ll continue to speak well of you when you’re long gone.

38. Be generous with oneself. With time. With words. Two words – give back. Time. Offerings. Listening. And caring.

39. Pearls are timeless. Pearls of wisdom too.

40. Mystery knows no age. No need to tell all.

41. Fall in love all over again. With yourself. For every squint, for every line is a wonderful memoir.

42. Repeat. Forgive yourself. Forgive your mother. And your mother’s mother.

43. Continue to have role models – even younger than you. And at the same time, mentor someone younger.

44. Celebrate ‘everyday’. With a bubbly. Everyday.

45. It is still ok to daydream.

46. There are no more dress rehearsals. It’s show time.

47. Learn to paint. To sketch. Buy adult coloring books.

48. Yes, I’m still evolving. Reinvent oneself.

49. Silence that internal chatter.

50. Only milk has an expiration date. Don’t accept a shelf life on your dreams.

51. One word – Manicure. Pedicure. Facials. Massage. Maintenance.

52. Say out loud – I deserve epic romance. Insist on it.

53. Get excited about life.

54. Another great romance is possible.

55. You can still run away from home. But this time, do it first class all the way.

56. The last chocolate in the box? Yes, it’s yours. Enjoy in all its deliciousness.

57. Show appreciation. Feel gratitude.

58. Get a dog.

59. When with Nona, it’s Nirvana!

60. Be at the moment. Focus and give up multi-tasking. Take baby steps.

61. Ask yourself. What of your childhood dream. I’m living it.

62. Ask yourself. What of tomorrow. …

63. More bubbly. Celebrate.

64. There’s life after 60 …


Share Button

Read More


Holiday gift suggestions

I’m half way done with my holiday shopping? We have 12 more days. And we’re not stressing out this year.
Here are some suggestions -

For the foodies in your life - keeping it healthy


Olive oil. Always welcome in any kitchen. Choose organic, extra virgin at Eataly


Artisanal vinegars at  Eataly

Home made flavoured salt. Here’s how -

Lemon-Rosemary Salt. Mix the following 1/2 cup sea salt, 3/4 tsp dried lemon zest,
3/4 tsp dried orange zest, 3/4 tsp dried rosemary


Cutting board at William Sonoma


My Kitchen in Paris by David Lebovitz. You can order here


Gift cards from www.BreadandPassion.com for their specialty bread a month club,
or a gift basket specially hand picked and packed with the recipient in mind. Contact us at breadandpassion@gmail.com

For the wine aficionados -

Cannonau di Sardegna, for its high polyphenols, antioxidants, here
To purchase, click here

For the book lovers -


The Kindle Fire, Amazon

For the fashionistas - in the know


Furry fingerless gloves, Shopbop


Anything from Alexis Bittar

For the gym enthusiasts - to end up fit and fabulous


Fitbit, an activity tracker here


UP3 Jawbone, another activity tracker, to pre-order here


Ice cleats or traction devices for runners and/or walkers in the snow here or here

For the very last-minute - go to Open Table here
And purchase a restaurant gift certificate.


There are always tickets to a Broadway show, a performance at the Lincoln Center, a jazz concert at The Blue Note Club,
a pampering session at a spa, a museum membership …. the list goes on.

What’s on your gift list?

Share Button

Read More


Summer’s fun when you’re at the market

In Provence, France.

I cannot let summer pass by without a visit to this dreamy part of France. Let the photos speak for themselves.


Driving through plane tree-lined roads,


And lavander fields,


The buying or just-looking crowd starts to arrive


To linger and discuss the day’s events over coffee,


Over croissants and sweets,


Over jam-load of jellies,


And juices.

Then I shop.


Their colourful wares never fail to catch my eyes.


I think of spaces to fill


Or hearts to touch.


I taste bruschetta


Or garlic aioli and dried chiles.


Monsieur entices you to a taste of his tapenades


While Madame poses for another photo opportunity.




A rule of thumb at the markets – do not touch, do not squeeze;

ask for assistance and Madam or Monsieur will gladly choose for you –

will you have it today? the next few days?

Oh yes, I’ve been ‘reprimanded’.


The art of presentation at the market.


The melons of Cavaillon are intoxicatingly sweet and juicy.


There were dried fruits too.


Those spices and their aromas fill the air.


Which ones to go to market with?


Then the music starts to play

unnamed unnamed


And hunger sets in




Roast chickens – chicken from Brest . . . . .

Shall we take a break . . . . .







Share Button

Read More


When gifted with basil, what to do


I was picking some greens at the CT4MB garden when Mike, of next-door Colonial Nursery NJ, came over with a bunch of freshly cut, eager-to-please basil. With his engaging smile and an offering I could hardly refuse, it looked to me a bouquet of flowers. Simple pleasures.


So back to the question – when gifted with basil, what to do? The first thing that comes to mind is presto! pesto – an easy way out to an elaborate preparation of a meal which I almost always am inclined to do these days.


With pasta. On summer-grilled, fresh corn – finger-lickin’. On flatbread – fantastic! On your next chicken sandwich – divine.

That’s it. Here goes -

No-fail basil pesto

Prep time: 30 minutes Yield: Makes 1 cup


4 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed

1/2 cup pine nuts

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese

Salt/black pepper


Rinse basil leaves in water, pat dry with paper towel and chop coarsely.

In a food processor or blender, combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, and pulse a few times.

Add cheese and pulse some more.

Pour olive oil in a steady stream while the blender is on. If too thick, add more olive oil.

Salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Store in an airtight glass jar for a week in the refrigerator or freeze for three months. (Note: add a thin layer of olive oil on top to maintain its color.)

Share Button

Read More

Eggs en cocotte 3

The Weekend. Eggs en cocotte and toast

Looking forward to a long, lazy weekend, a simmering one at that. I’m feeling … breakfast, slow, leisurely, and satiating. What comes to mind? Les oeufs en cocotte. Simple and easy. Very much a French dish, coddled eggs baked in ramekins.


Eggs en cocotte and toast

Time: 30 minutes. Serves: 4



2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs

4 teaspoons heavy cream

Gruyère cheese, shredded

Sea salt

Black pepper

Herbs – your choice of freshly minced rosemary, dill, sage, thyme, or parsley

Buttered toast



Preheat oven to 375°F.

Crack an egg into each buttered ramekin, careful not to break the yolk.

Sprinkle evenly with gruyère, and mixed herbs.

Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle cream on top of egg.

Repeat with the rest of the ramekins.


Eggs en cocotte 1


Arrange the ramekins in a deep baking pan and pour boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins as in a bain-marie.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake until the egg whites are set.

12 minutes for runny yolks, 15 minutes for soft-cooked yolks.


Eggs en cocotte 2


Eggs en cocotte 4



This calls for crusty bread, freshly brewed coffee, and today’s papers.

Half hour later, energized and ready to face you, World!



1. We can add any combination of the following – caramelized onions, minced herbs, shredded cheese, chopped mushrooms – at the bottom, after buttering, the ramekins.

2. Go a little fancy and add a few drops of truffle oil before baking; or go all the way fancy, add a sliver or two of truffles.

3. http://www.cordonbleu.edu/news/easter-2014-recipe/en

I choose to go simple and elegant, and savour the sunny runny yolk. And that crusty buttered bread. I choose to go back to my childhood, Saturdays with my Papa, preparing his version of what I now know as les oeufs en cocotte. Misty-eyed.


Share Button

Read More


Let’s get acquainted -

I’m Valérie. (I added that accent on the “e” to make it frenchy.)

French cards

Wannabe French. French no wannabe me.

Sleepless nights no longer a problem. I just roll with it. Down by 10p, up by 2a, reach out for my e-toys, or one of the books in bed with me, and out again in two. Yes, candles. Yes, Chanel No. 19.


It’s definitely coffee in the morning, and a slow, lingering one to start my day.

My early morning mantra – I am my dream. I write. I sketch. I paint. (I do not but I believe in my “vision”.)


My two shih tzus, Coco and Marcel, are my exercise pals. And the shore. And a lady named Amy. My goal is to live to 100.

Always with my phone or pad. Always.

My middle name is Manhattan. It used to be Manila. Came to this country 35 years ago.

Yearly jaunts to France.

Born with black straight Asian hair. Dying to have long tight curls. 
Grey is a problem. Color is a friend. Have gone bronze, copper, and red.

My nails are red. A signature.

My lips go red too.

Crazy for high heels. Used to be. Knees and cold weather – they don’t go together.

Love to wear cloche in winter. Nothing in the summer. Gotcha!


I cook. I bake. I eat. Am a food fan.

Started my bread biz last year, Bread and Passion. Re-energizing it this year – from bread dough to bread site.

Check in regularly.


Welcome to my world. …

Your turn.

Share Button

Read More