My tartine started with a trip to my local French Boulangerie for a ficelle.
What do our fellow bloggers, writers, and online friends eat, first thing in the morning? We are asking some friends to share their favorite morning nourishment with us. I will cook and eat it too, and bring you their thoughts on what to eat first thing in the morning. Here's Anne of Pret a Voyager.
Ooh la la! This elegant breakfast left me feeling fabulous all morning long. Anne shares with us her formula for the perfect tartine, and, oh yeah, this equation involves a French radio station! Oui, I'm rocking out as I type this . . .
Anne authors a savvy, creative travel blog, Pret a Voyager, from her teensy apartment in Paris. She fell in love with the city as an undergrad and has returned for a graduate degree. In between writing her thesis and contributing to Design Sponge's "Sneak Peak" column, she brings us insightful travel musings on her adopted home city of Paris, international trips she's taken as well as fellow travelers' stories with her "Boarding Pass" column. In this series, Anne interviews other folks who share her passion for seeing the rest of the world. I'm always inspired and impressed by the fellow bloggers, designers, artists and photographers who Anne connects with, because they really are making their travel dreams come true. Pret a Voyager emphasizes that it's not how many sites you see in a new land, it's how you can experience that place. I love that. As someone with a major travel bug, I so appreciate Anne's attention and reverence to life on the road. Lastly, for anyone traveling to Paris with an interest in food, design and art, Anne's blog is an excellent resource, with downloadable travel guides and points of interest.
About this breakfast Anne says:
At 12m2 (129sf) my entire apartment is smaller than most American kitchens. When I'm standing in my "kitchen" my arm span can reach from the wall to my shower, and within that space there is a microwave, two hotplates (only one works) and a sink. One step back, and I'm at the foot of my bed. Needless to say, I don't cook much.
As much as living in small apartments is part of life in Paris, so is eating good food. But sometimes the simplest foods can be the most rewarding. This summer I was lucky enough to spend the summer traveling around with a French family between Brittany in the north of France and the perpetually sunny south. While the French are notorious for taking the month of August off (Paris is essentially a ghost town), one thing they don't take time off from is eating well.
Every meal was a study in manners, new cuisine, and the etiquette of all the ways a baguette can be used. I quickly became a big fan of the tartine. I suppose it's just a more glamorous way of saying toast, but I loved watching how every French person I encountered prepared their own tartine, from how they sliced their bread, if they toasted it and what they put on it.
I'm lucky enough to live in the 9th arrondisement, with a beautiful view of Parisian rooftops and the Opera, and just a couple blocks from Rue des Martyrs, a wonderful market street with everything I need. While this "recipe" can be altered in countless ways, here's my equation for the perfect breakfast tartine.
- Fresh baguette (preferably hot out of the oven from the boulangerie)
- Beurre au sel de mer (butter with chunks of sea salt = pure heaven)
- Miel du campagne (creamy honey as opposed to the squeeze stuff in the bear)
- Optional: Nutella (weekends only); Bon Maman strawberry, raspberry or rhurbarb jam
Step 1: The Baguette
A baguette fresh out of the oven is always the dream. I think that's how I found "my" boulangerie - I just happened to buy a baguette and it was hot out of the oven. I practically devoured it before I got home. If the baguette is still warm, I skip the toasting. Otherwise, I stick it in my toaster. Contrary to popular belief, the French, despite having boulangeries at every corner, still eat day old baguettes. Toasting them is a good way to help bring them back to life.
Depending on the person you can slice (or break with your hands) the baguette in a variety of ways. I usually start with a "demi" (half) baguette, and then slice it the long way, as you would for a baguette sandwich. Some people like longer tartines. My personal favorite is around 2.5 inches long. If you're having a group breakfast, smaller tends to be better and then you can put all the toasted slices in a bread basket and everyone can make their own.
Also note that there are endless possibilities when it comes to baguettes: une baguette, une baguette tradition (what's pictured), un baguette tardif, the list goes on. The only way to know what is the best is to try them all!
Step 2: The Butter
The moment I first tried buerre au sel de mer this summer I thought I died and went to heaven. With chunks of sea salt churned into the butter, it's one of those truly simple pleasures in life. If you don't believe me, check out Nichole of Little Brown Pen - she is also addicted and brings back butter every time she visits Paris! (She and I talk about butter a lot!).
It's one of those things you must try when you visit France. The regular grocery store version is delicious, but you can also find higher quality ones at the local market or fromagerie [cheese store].
All you need to do is spread. I like it so I can still taste chunks of butter. When my friend visited over the holidays I introduced her to this treat. She stopped at this step because she didn't want to do anything else to mask the taste of the delicious butter.
Step 3: Miel
Honey is another food I learned to appreciate after moving to France. Before coming here I had never tried the creamy style of honey, but once again, it was love at first taste. The combo is to die for with the butter. It glops well, and I personally don't go for the perfect spread.
If you do find yourself in Paris in the near future, there is an incredible honey shop, Les Abeilles located in the secret neighborhood of Butte aux Cailles with more honeys than you ever think imaginable, and the nice man who works there will advise you and let you taste test. There is also Miel et Nature - Famille Mary, which is a small French honey chain, who has a location on the charming Rue Cler.
If I were truly French I would have a Nespresso machine and my morning espresso, but I'm the freak who doesn't drink coffee. Instead I go for two cups of Kusmi Tea. If it's a black tea I'll add a little milk and sugar, but if it's a green tea I drink it as is. (The tea cup and "bonjour" letters are from Le Petit Atelier de Paris located in the Marias)
Now pull up LeMonde.fr and turn on Nova Radio and you'll be transported to France for the morning.
Armed with Anne's detailed instructions, I tried my best to recreate her fantastic breakfast. I walked to my neighborhood bakery, bought a ficelle, purchased the best honey I could find and even discovered a French butter that didn't sound quite as good as Anne's, but would just have to do. Having bought all my new ingredients, blasting Novaplanet from my laptop speakers, I got to work. I even had Kusmi tea English Breakfast tea (stashed deep in my pantry for "special occasions"), from a Spring time trip to Paris last year. Such serendipity!
I happily prepared my meal with all of the French flourishes Anne mentioned. And I had a transcendent experience. Where oh where has this breakfast been all my life? Sure I had tartines similar to this in France, but upon touching down on US soil, I sorta forgot how simple and elemental this morning pleasure could be. Thank you Anne for reviving the honey tartine hiding within! And a moment on the honey, mixed with butter and a sprinkling of flake salt, atop the crusty air pockets of my sliced ficelle, that golden goo is poetry! I used to think I didn't really care for honey, before this breakfast, bien sur.
Anne's Honey Tartine
ficelle, cut in half and toasted
generous pats of French butter (I used President)
gobs of honey
sprinkling of flake salt
Toast ficelle to desired doneness. Spread with butter, honey and sprinkle with a little salt.
Thanks Anne for contributing to our Breakfast with a Blogger series!
• Visit Anne's blog: Pret a Voyager
• Related: How to Shape a Baguette Loaf
(Images: photo of Anne by Angie Meninger, photo of labeled foods and view from apartment/tartine on white background by Anne Ditmeyer, other photos by Leela Cyd Ross)