Clotilde Dusoulier started her popular Paris-based English-language food blog Chocolate & Zucchini in 2003, but she first got interested in cooking while living in Northern California, and her young modern sensibility has won her many a fan abroad and more recently at home, where her blog is now translated into French. Her first book, the Chocolate & Zucchini cookbook, was published last year.
Out today is her latest book, Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, a personal guidebook on where to eat, drink and shop for food in Paris. To celebrate, she let The Kitchn tag along to some of her favorite food shops in the Montmartre neighborhood where she lives...
"Whenever I visit a city, I do a lot of research to find out what the food scene is like, where people eat and what they eat," Clotilde says over a late-morning espresso at the Rose Bakery, a popular spot run by a British expat on the lively rue des Martyrs, just down the street from her apartment. "I use blogs a lot. But for every city I visit, I always wish I had a book written by a local. This is that book. There's a lot of content out there about Paris. The idea was to give a personal perspective, not to be an absolute judgment or list the top 100 places, but my favorite places where I would send my friends."
She spent a year eating out more often than she normally does, checking out places she'd read or heard about, revisiting favorites, and checking in on some of the more legendary addresses to see if they still deserved their reputations (don't expect negative reviews here -- the overrated were merely left out, she says).
Has all that dining out changed her as a home cook?
"I have gotten a lot of inspiration from things I've tested here and there," she says. "I've learned a lot from restaurants, like a new way to use an ingredient. The way that I cook is not trying to emulate restaurant cooking. But at restaurants I may get a good idea for a side or something like that." The book includes 12 recipes either inspired by dishes she's tested or supplied by chefs or bakers, like the Salade Toute Violette (All Purple Salad) adapted from a recipe by chef Sébastien Goudard from Paris' Délicabar.
Before we set off to explore some of her everyday food shops on the rue des Martyrs, she pointed out that she also shops frequently on the nearby rue Lépic, as well as the organic Marché des Batignolles on Saturdays. And she often eats lunch at the Rose Bakery, whose counter is stocked with individual carrot cakes, quiches, and giant bowls of fresh salads, her favorite. "There's really no place like this in Paris," she says. "The philosophy of the food is no frills but excellent ingredients prepared well and there's a lot of vegetarian food. There's something Anglo-Saxon about this place that's not found elsewhere in Paris. It's a very good example of something that's a combination of British and French that works."
Our first stop is at Arnaud Delmontel's award-winning eponymous bakery, where Clotilde often buys the Renaissance, a traditionally made baguette named after the historic building that houses the boulangerie. She also likes the seigle feuilleté au miel, a honey-sweetened rye bread creation, as well as their financiers and macarons. Looking at the case of bright-colored little treats, her eye catches on an unfamiliar combination: fraise-fenouil (strawberry-fennel), and she immediately orders two to go.
On the sidewalk, she takes a thoughtful bite and says, "Strawberry with fennel works well because the seeds come though at the end. So after seeing it here, maybe I'll use fennel seeds in a strawberry salad, or on a strawberry tart or something, because I wouldn't make macarons. But everything gets filed away in my brain somewhere."
While she doesn't make delicate, labor-intensive macarons at home, she does enjoy making bread. "You have to pick your battles," she says. "I like to bake bread, because I think it's fun and gratifying, even if it's never as good as what you can find at the bakeries."
Our next stop is a boutique called 3 par 5. "It's not exactly food-related," she says, but points out that she often comes here for its lovely selection of contemporary tableware for herself or as housewarming gifts.
Down the street, she stops in at Les papilles gourmandes, a store specializing in French produits du terroir. "They don't make their own things, but they order from the best producers -- it's like a Tour de France of charcuterie!" she says. Her favorites? The straw-covered ham ("It has a lot of flavor -- it's a little herby") and butter from the celebrated artisanal butter brought in from Jean-Yves Bordier in Saint-Malo.
Buying key prepared ingredients has always been a secret weapon of the Parisian host, and Clotilde says that she often grabs some tarama or hummus at the Greek deli at #13 when she doesn't have time to make something in advance (and the shop's homemade blinis at Christmastime).
Her local fish shop Poissonnerie Bleue has been around since 1955. "The fish is fresh and they're very sweet and it's family-owned," she says. "I always buy what's on special because you know it's seasonal and plentiful."
Her final stop is at her neighborhood branch of the organic supermarket chain Naturalia, just around the corner on the rue Lamartine, where she stocks up on staples. "I've just been gradually switching to all-natural," she says, pointing out her favorite brands of organic yogurt and veggie burgers and another favorite shortcut, a bottle of pulpe d'ail, which is garlic paste with salt, safflower oil and a bit of lemon juice that can be added at the last minute for extra flavor.
Clotilde also buys organic vegetable bouillon cubes to make soup. "I make stock when I have a chicken carcass, but I'm not religious about it," she says. "I know that stock gives soup a certain depth but it's not an absolute. When I make soup I don't think it's necessary and I usually just use water."
Is there anything she doesn't like to eat? "I'm not too crazy about licorice," she says, "and I can't bring myself to like spinach. But I can eat if if there's enough cheese in it!"
Clotilde's rue des Martyrs address book
Favorite lunch spot
46 rue des Martyrs 75009 Paris
39 rue des Martyrs 75009 Paris
Tableware and housewarming presents
3 par 5
25/27 rue des Martyrs 75009 Paris
Straw-covered ham and Bordier butter
Les papilles gourmandes
26 rue des Martyrs 75009 Paris
5 rue des Martyrs 75009 Paris
Organic staples around the corner at:
37 rue Lamartine 75009 Paris
• Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, $12.21 at Amazon
- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. She can be reached at kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com