After five days of traveling around the Cote d’Or and Chablis, visiting winemakers whose domaines go back multiple generations, eating excellent food whether classic or nouveau nouveau, and hunting for truffles (plus, of course, eating them), I arrived last night to Paris, a city that enthralls me and yet, makes me yearn for a time when it was less expensive, and more bohemian. Not that I’m complaining, at all. I think that if there’s anything that makes Paris a total gem, and unquestionably worth spending time in, it’s the abundance of amazing food and wine. You can not only eat at Michelin-starred restaurants created by world-famous chefs, but every corner store offers fantastic cheese, and your local wine shop will have the 2012 Premier Cru Dauvissat on the shelf. COMPLETE HEAVEN.
So, I felt conscious that I hadn’t been to France in ten years, and that my understanding of the nation’s culinary history could be bolstered. I found a small company called Le Foodist that offers cooking classes that stress the connection between food, history, and culture. Perfect, I thought. And–it was! The chef, Federic (“Fred”) Pouillot, is obsessively knowledgeable about the stories, often going back centuries, behind the techniques, personalities, and dishes that constitute classic French cuisine. He weaves this knowledge into his instruction, and the class culminates with a full story-telling session when you sit down to the meal. Also, in keeping with modern French tradition that emphasizes the quality of ingredients, Chef Fred points out why he uses certain kinds of products as opposed to others (he also offers a market visit as part of the class, for an extra fee, so you can see who his purveyors are and learn their costs).
I plan to write more about my class at Le Foodist later, but for now I just wanted to share some pictures. And friends, you can bet I’ll be whipping up some salmon tartare to go with this 2008 Mersault I’m bringing back in my suitcase. The most important thing about a cooking class, in my opinion, is that you take away some technique or recipe you can actually do, at home, with whatever equipment you have at your disposal. I can say that most of Chef Fred’s dishes, such as the tartare he showed us (shown in tiny discs below, atop soy-poached turnips), are easy enough to replicate in any amateur kitchen. The true bonus of the class, however–which lasted over four hours!–was that I came away with a much stronger and very specific sense of how deeply rooted cuisine is in French culture, and how those roots are tied into global culture more broadly. If I could offer just one critique of the class, though, it would be that the wine could use some improvement. Chef Fred clearly knows about wine, and takes time to explain each pairing, but to be honest, none of them were very good–my guess is that it’s difficult to include nice wine in the budget, but I just think that people should enjoy nice, natural wine from known domaines alongside such lovely food. More details to come. For now, I’m off to drink some wine!