Cyclope Bikes Shop

Sometimes I catch my husband looking at me when I blow my nose into a cloth or stick hair in the compost jar. He doesn't say anything discouraging or judgey, and though his look often covers a magnificent swath of rhetoric, he's quite supportive. When he realized I wasn't using- or buying- toilet paper anymore,* he gamely considered alternatives, waiting an extended period before discreetly slipping out to buy a pack for himself. When I started using honey instead of shampoo or conditioner, he was cool, assuring me my hair still smelled good, "Like a baguette."

In the matter of no-impact transportation, though, my husband is really advanced. He's been anti-Métro since Chirac, he's never had a Navigo, and he found his original bike- a matte black fixie- on Leboncoin. Sadly, that ebony ingot went the way of so many good bikes these days; stolen one night in Ménilmontant. Not only was his precious find gone, but his independence, freedom from traffic jams, and immunity to RATP strikes were wrested away, it seemed, irrevocably. Something more than Leboncoin was needed here.

Cyclope Fixed Gear is caddy-corner to Canal St. Martin, an unmarked shop a few minutes from Republique. The staff never forget a customer or a bike; cycle building is a dying craft in many countries, but here, it's running a 10k, riding a hot air balloon, and taking the stairs two at a time. The boys sit at a giant Mac creating perfect fixies, piece by piece, like Gary and Wyatt conjuring up Kelly LeBrock. My husband chose a champagne frame with matte trim. Cyclope threw in premium wheels and blackened logos for a unified appearance. Here's the finished product:

In the past, I've borrowed friends' bikes and rented Velibs, for nighttime rides along the Seine or heart-stopping car chases on Place de la Concorde. But I never considered investing in one as a daily means of transport. This beautiful, buy-once, keep-forever treasure may change my mind.

You can buy a recycled bike every Saturday from 10 am-1pm and 2-7 pm at 14 bis rue Cloÿs, 75018 Paris. Update: Cyclope Bikes Shop has a beautiful new home at 15 Rue Marie Stuart, 75002 Paris.

*This isn't the method I use, but here's an interesting article on family cloth. After researching the epidemiology of invasive fungal infections in tp-using countries, particularly France, Italy, and the US, vs. non tp-countries such as South Korea, India, and Thailand, I started using soap and water like my Hanguk-in friends. Remember, they invented BB creams and talking refrigerators. What has the US come up with recently? Six seasons of Duck Dynasty?
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La Trésorerie


Full disclosure: I don't have an interesting anecdote for these photos. I needed a new dish brush, and couldn't bear paying Conran Shop prices for a biodegradable one. La Trésorerie is a cozy, less infuriating alternative to Merci, stocking all the nice little touches that make a home radiate warmth and tranquility. It's in an unassuming building on Rue Chateau d'Eau; follow the street down towards Bonne Nouvelle and you'll see the full spectrum of Paris, languages and spices and colors and faces, clustered together along a littered strip of pavement.

La Trésorerie and adjoining Cafe Smörgås already made the blog rounds, but that doesn't make them any less enjoyable. Prices are reasonable- 1.50 for my dish brush, 3 euro for a salad- and the staff is industrious and kind. There's a lot of wood and copper, giving a rustic, calm feeling; simple, the way a good Nordic shop should be. Yesterday, they had a beautiful plastic-free lantern and camp bed alongside a lovely wooden toilet brush on a matching stand. I don't need any of it, but my heart fluttered at the innocent zero waste-ish-ness of it all.

My only beef is with the open-faced sandwiches at Cafe Smörgås. They're too small and spare! Do Swedish people really eat like that? If so, how do they survive winters? Impelled by paltry portion sizes, we walked to Marché Saint-Martin, one of those rare Parisian gems which, according to a cursory scan of Instagram yesterday, appears to have flown largely under the blogger radar. Le Comptoir de Brice, en un Bouchée, Allen's Market- wonderful, every one. We bought purple carrots at the vegetable stall and beer from Der Tante Emma-Laden, which carries a large selection of gluten-free items. In a few days, I'll return the bottles for refills- beer bottle consignment, how German is that? They even have kegs, just in time for Algeria vs. Germany. Wunderbar!
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Making Praline Rochers

Hello from Maison Schwarz. Maybe you've been watching the World Cup, or maybe you live in America and don't follow soccer. Me, I've been making rochers, nut-encrusted French chocolates resembling meatballs. Praline rochers are one of those sweet confiserie staples actual French people enjoy, unlike their less attractive cousins macarons, who they only invite out to make themselves look better at parties. The name means, when translated literally, "little boulders."


Gluten-free rochers are hard to come by in Paris, and zero-waste rochers even more so. Emboldened by a recent episode of Le Meilleur Pâtissier, I made my own at home. As with zero-waste tomato sauce, these are more expensive than store-bought, but the price differential is met by a significantly higher level of tastiness. This recipe yields about 10 candies, nearly all of which I'd eaten by the time I got around to taking pictures. There are two left now, something to keep in mind if you're looking to beef up your Instagram feed.

white chocolate dark chocolate rocher praline rochers chocolate chocolat

Homemade Praline Rochers

001. The nuts

Roast 500g hazelnuts in the oven, 8 min at 170°.  Peel the whole batch.
Set aside 20 whole hazelnuts for the center.
Finely chop the rest. Separate 25g chopped hazelnuts.
Add 20 cl water to the remainder. Process in blender or food processor until smooth.

002. The filling

Bring 30g heavy cream to a rolling simmer.
Melt 180g chopped chocolate in a water bath.
Combine cream, chocolate, and hazelnut paste.
Depending on chocolate used, add confectioner's sugar to taste (no more than 30g)
Allow to cool before using hands to roll into balls.
Place a whole hazelnut in the middle, pinching the chocolate shut.

003. The coating

Temper 150g chopped chocolate in a water bath or microwave.
32° for dark chocolate, 30° for milk/white chocolate
Using a spoon, dip rochers into tempered chocolate.
Place on a wire rack to dry.
Transfer to baking sheet before completely dry.
Allow to set several hours before serving.
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Making Macarons

It's a pretty egregious omission on my part that we find ourselves in the second month of Paris to Go's existence and I have yet to feature macarons. Maybe I've been intimidated by the sheer ubiquity of this lustrous cookie, the taste of which you can internally rhapsodize without ever being able to fully verbalize. Making macarons is no hassle-free experience. It requires nothing short of a two or three hour commitment, and will end up covering your hair, clothes and kitchen in pesky almond pulp. But when your teeth crack the polished surface of the macaron and sink into the fluffy amygdalin strata, you'll appreciate the care taken to transform a deceptively simple ingredient list into a triumph of dexterity and culinary know-how.

For a batch of 20 cookies, you'll need 70 grams almonds (pistachio or hazelnut may be substituted), 120 grams confectioner's sugar, two large egg whites, and 50 grams granulated sugar, plus whatever filling you choose. It can be ganache, buttercream frosting, jam, even foie gras- these are your macarons. Pipe macarons directly onto Silpat silicone mats or compostable culinary parchment.

Pulse almonds in a food processor until fine. Combine with confectioner's sugar and continue processing, two to three minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve and pulse again, breaking up any clumps. Continue until you have 28 grams solids left. Whisk egg whites together with granulated sugar. Beat using a stand mixer, gradually increasing speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about ten minutes; the egg whites should be completely immovable. Add flavoring and food coloring now (optional, gel food coloring only). Beat on the highest setting, thirty seconds.

Fold in dry ingredients, scraping around the bowl towards the middle. Continue until batter takes on a custard-like consistency, about forty turns- there's no room for fudging here, you literally have to count each turn. Line a baking sheet with parchment and transfer batter to pastry bag. Using a round tip, pipe macarons onto parchment. It helps to pencil in three-centimeter rounds, four centimeters apart first. Firmly tap the sheet onto a counter to release any air bubbles. Let sit at room temperature thirty minutes before placing in the lower third of a preheated oven, 175 degrees celsius. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Allow to cool at least ten minutes before removing sheet and adding filling.

Store in a biodegradable wooden box or drawstring linen bag and enjoy your zero-waste treat, because French people probably won't (I have a core group of 20 French girlfriends- escargot-loving, Brouilly-blood type, Johnny Hallyday-posters-on-the-wall-French-girls- and only one actually likes macarons). A few flavor pairings:

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18 Hanger Closet: A Secondhand Wardrobe

This post has been updated. Click here to read about this season's zero-waste wardrobe.

There's nothing I can say about the "minimalist" "French girl wardrobe" that hasn't already been said, except this: it's a total myth. As a child, I changed clothes three times a day, and in school, I wouldn't be caught dead in the same outfit twice. Eventually, I grew up and realized I didn't need five leopard-print dresses or any lamé bodysuits, for that matter. Getting rid of things is addicting, and we moved here with seven bags, no boxes. That meant whittling my wardrobe down to the very best, the seasonless, the most functional. Many French homes, I learned, were stuffed floor-to-ceiling with books, gadgets, and trendy disposable clothing. Out went my conception of streamlined Parisian closets populated exclusively by beautifully made classics. I bumped my head and woke up in Oz, where all the Munchkins carry Kooples tote bags, Zara rules Winkie Country, and Deadly Poppies are off-gassing synthetic fabrics.

Now, I wear basically the same outfit every day- dress/cardigan/heels, or shirt/jeans/shoes- year-round and nobody notices. I took these photos with my phone, so they're not winning any beauty contests; since then, I've sold my blazer and t-shirt, replacing them with an infinitely more useful beige cardigan. Frankly, I think it's too much- I haven't worn some things all year. I went through a Kate Middleton phase, hints of which tend to surface in my wardrobe. Currently, I'm searching for a flattering linen t-shirt, and I'd love to get rid of a few dresses, but since my lifestyle dictates wearing one five days a week, a skirt-heavy wardrobe is surprisingly functional.

cartier tank santos francaise and ring bague trinity louis vuitton richard prince pumpsvalentino louis vuitton alberta ferretti alexander wang mcqueen cartier tank francaise and trinity bague ring 
Christian Louboutin Décollete / Louis Vuitton Richard Prince 'Pulp' / watch and ring

My clothes are mostly wool, linen, or silk; fully lined to aid comfort; and, with very few exceptions, secondhand. I bought the sunglasses on my first trip to Paris, and shopping for my diamond-free wedding ring was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I wouldn't deny anyone. Other than that, it's all used, with nary a receipt or shopping tag in the garbage. 

This formula isn't for everybody- if your lifestyle entails picking up kids and driving them to soccer three times a week, your closet will look very different from mine. According to Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, author of the book Elegance, the basic minimum wardrobe for a Parisian consists of:

For the winter

Spring and summer

1 coat in a bright color 1 lightweight wool dress or suit
1 matching skirt 2 blouses
1 sweater in a complementary color 2 skirts
1 black skirt 1 pair of slacks
1 black sweater 1 pair of shorts
1 pair wool slacks 1 pair of jeans
1 silk sweater with a pretty neckline 2 cotton knit tops
1 pair of black high-heeled pumps 1 natural colored straw bag
1 pair of flat, comfortable shoes 2 pairs of sandals
1 pair leather boots 1 pair espadrilles
1 black leather handbag
1 pearl necklace

All of these garments can be worn two years at least, except shoes, which should be in impeccably fresh condition. Don't go crazy with black- in Paris, black is the color most associated with shop girls, the kind you see smoking cigarettes outside Le Bon Marché. Beige, navy, or stripes are more authentic. Bisous!

Paris to Go

Paris Privée: Jardins de Hôtel Matignon

I'm late to the party here, but it's okay, because French people are throwing it, and they've only just opened the wine and the hostess won't be ready for hours.

I walked past the nondescript wall surrounding this park-like garden every day, never knowing the largest private grounds in Paris hid behind those stones. Enter 36 Rue de Babylone through a double alley of tilleul trees, up a promenade conceived in the Napoleonic era, to a reception area designed by Achille Duchene.

My husband and I were just walking to the market when a nice lady in navy- aka Pantone's "Color of the 7ème"- invited us in. The staff gave us cucumber water, and we got to try peppermint from the gardens.

Bees produce honey on-site, harvested by caring apiculteurs. Fourteen Prime Ministers planted the trees, including magnolia, caramel, érable and parrotie.

Les Jardins de Hôtel Matignon are open to the public the first Saturday every month.
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Homemade Confiture de lait and Crème fraîche

As a child, I remember watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on PBS (it aired after Arthur), wondering how they managed to get the bones out of chicken. Nothing rubbed off on me, of course- last year, I made pasta that tasted exactly like toothpaste, and it didn't even have any mint in it. I've come a long way since then, but I still get self-conscious when French people come to dinner. The point of my telling you all this is as follows: On Monday, my husband invited some friends over- Monday, before any decent marché volants- and since one of them already tried my go-to dessert (crème anglaise with mint and seasonal berries), I had to master another gluten-free French recipe tout de suite. Please note: My dietary restrictions aren't governed by whim. I was celiac in the 80s, before it was trendy.

Confiture de lait is France's answer to dulce de leche. A quick search on Pinterest turned up a dozen vegan versions using coconut milk and brown sugar, but I figured modifying a French recipe was asking for trouble, and used milk from Carrières-sur-Seine instead. Combine 1 1/2 cups brown sugar (traditional recipes use granulated sugar), one vanilla bean, and 1 liter milk in a four liter pot; simmer over medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves, stir in 1 teaspoon baking soda. Reduce heat and cook one hour, uncovered, on a low setting. Remove the vanilla bean and cook another two hours, until thick and custardy. Strain mixture through fine mesh or leave as is- I like the little fat morsels that melt in your mouth, so I skip this last step. Store in an airtight jar and serve hot or cold.

As with dulce de leche, confiture de lait is too sweet to enjoy on its own. It's delicious on shortbread tartlets with shaved chocolate and mascarpone, but one of the most impressive serving methods is also the simplest- mixed with crème fraîche and fresh fruit. To make real crème fraîche, you need lait entier. Set in a parfait jar with the lid slightly ajar, 2-5 days. As for where you should keep it, I've heard conflicting things: some crèmeries say a windowsill, others say it needs to be warm, but out of direct sunlight. My whole apartment is sunny, and I leave it on the kitchen counter. Spoon the cream off the top (if you shake this a long time, you'll make butter)- it should be nice and tangy, thick but still light on the tongue, like eating a sassy cloud.

For my tastes, equal parts confiture de lait and crème fraîche work really well. I read somewhere that you're supposed to serve strawberries with this, but the texture and flavor of nectarines are a perfect complement. If you're in the US, you'll have to simulate crème fraîche: according to Julia Child, use sour cream for a foolproof substitute. Blend 1 tablespoon into one cup heavy cream, and allow to ferment and thicken at room temperature, or whisk together equal amounts sour cream and heavy cream until thickened.

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Robert Mapplethorpe at Grand Palais

Robert Mapplethorpe Patti Smith Horses Grand Palais Paris

A few years ago, I attended the opening of Sofia Coppola's Mapplethorpe exhibition at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. My flight was delayed and I didn't have time to change before the show, so being in that sterile, clinical space made me really self-conscious. It was like I'd forgotten I was in the Marais, and even though I'd gone six hours without a shower, I was still the cleanest person there.

Coppola's selection focused on Mapplethorpe's subdued later work- a kitten hiding in the couch cushions, a baby with Little Lord Fauntleroy-blond ringlets, pineapples and palm trees and the gentle spray of an ocean. Because of the shocking sadomasochism that came first, those innocuous photos carried a far more lascivious connotation. No one can look at Mapplethorpe's color-saturated lilies without something darker springing to mind.

Robert Mapplethorpe Patti Smith Horses Grand Palais Paris

That night, I was introduced to Patti Smith. She said hello, and I stood there silently, wringing my hands. I wasn't starstruck, I just didn't know any of her songs, apart from "Because the Night" (I later learned the chorus of "Gloria"). It must have been painful to watch, because someone offered helpfully, "You're both from the same place." "Oh, you're from Cleveland too?" I said. "No, you're thinking of Chrissie Hynde," she replied caustically (Chrissie Hynde is from Akron). Later, I skimmed the book Just Kids and realized how much we have in common: we both love William Blake, grilled cheese sandwiches, and we both have brown hair. At one point, I  praised Tosca with Smith in earshot- apparently, she was listening to it when Mapplethorpe died. I doubt she heard or cared, I only mention it to illustrate the kind of culturally sensitive and empathetic person I am.

Mapplethorpe died a month after I was born. Smith was the first to make it big and, after his death, she championed his work, building a rich, idealized world around his life and presence. His confusion and brutality tapped into the cultural zeitgeist, but I couldn't even look at all the photos- they were sort of boring, and if I'd paid to see them, I'd have been really upset. Maybe that says something about the desensitization of subsequent generations, or the effect Instagram has had in plebianizing tastes. More likely than not, this is the case of an influential artist romanticizing something irretrievable- Mapplethorpe wasn't the only person to be poor or suffer, and if Patti Smith hadn't loved him, he would have never been famous. It's an unpopular stance, but I'd recommend going only to enjoy the gorgeously colored Grand Palais and the spectacularly lit exit stairs. Sheer sentimentality managed to resurrect Mapplethorpe's vision, one perhaps better off staying buried.
Paris to Go

How to Set a Table

How to Set the Perfect Table
Cutlery, Arne Jacobsen for Georg Jensen. The perfect zero-waste table setting includes bone china square plates and linen napkins from Merci, Paris

When I hosted my first dinner party, I didn't know table setting was a thing. I set out a stack of plates, napkins, and silverware, expecting guests to serve themselves. They looked at me helplessly. Only later did I realize that French hostesses plate food and set the table accordingly.

Formal settings dictate a charger underneath the serving plate; informal settings include a bread plate and knife above the forks. For the sake of minimalism, I've pared these down to the very basics (click each photo to enlarge). To get really fancy, you can use up to five glasses- for sherry, champagne, etc.- plus separate utensils for fish and shellfish.

If our tableware looks a little Nietzschean, that's because it is. We use Arne Jacobsen for Georg Jensen flatware, as popularized in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I found my set on eBay, but my aunt gifted us matching serving pieces. They're a dream to eat with, and because it's a timeless style, finding replacements or duplicates is easy. Square white stoneware is my personal preference. The plates present food beautifully, while recycled glassware allow liquids to pop visually.

Setting the Table: Etiquette

Basic table setting 

Place utensils one inch from the table's edge, outside in by order of use. Knife blades face the plate, and the water glass sits above the knife. Spoons go to the right of the knives, while forks sit at the left of the plate.

Informal table setting 

Add a wineglass, teacup/saucer, salad fork, salad bowl, and dessert spoon. Suitable for brunch and three-course meals.

Formal place setting

For three courses or more. No more than three of any utensil should ever be placed on the table at one time. Place cards sit above the dessert spoon and cake fork.

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