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Wandering Chef: Sarah Schafer in France

At Irving Street Kitchen in Portland, Oregon, chef Sarah Schafer applies classical French technique to her Southern-inspired menu. The chef recently spent ten days in France, splitting her time between Paris and Champagne. Here she shares her favorite meals and Champagne houses. 

Le Bon Marché
“Le Bon Marche is the oldest department store in Paris, designed by Gustav Eiffel and opened in 1852. And while it specializes in luxury fashion, furniture, upscale gifts, and housewares, it might be best known for its food department. Called, ”la grande épicerie de Paris,” it’s a grocery department that offers more than 5,000 different products from around the world (above). I was blown away by the foie gras case and the sheer variety and quantity of foie gras products—everything from whole lobes of foie to potted terrines to slices of fresh foie. Everything was portioned into serving sizes beyond imagination. They aren’t kidding when they say that the French love their foie gras! Even in smaller grocery stores throughout the city, foie gras is as available as if it were a carton of eggs.” 24, rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris. +33 (0) 1 44 39 80 00, lebonmarche.com

wandering chef sarah schafer

“We stumbled upon this tiny restaurant on our way to the Pantheon. It’s maybe only 15 feet wide with one gentleman running the entire operation. He does everything from the cooking to the serving. The building was originally an old blacksmith shop that dates back to the 1600’s and the stove is the original from that period. There is a full menu, but this is the place to go for steak-frites and the house-made salumi served with butter and cornichons. It was my birthday and I was planning to eat light as we were going to Frenchie for a special dinner that night, but heck, I couldn’t resist. The frites are served with a heavenly garlicky aioli. No one is in a hurry. This is the ideal spot to sit back and enjoy what French dining is all about.” 2, rue Laplace, 75005 Paris, +33 (0) 1 46 33 68 49. 

“Frenchie is owned by Gregory Marchand who used to cook at Gramercy Tavern in New York. I also cooked there, however, not at the same time. Frenchie is a 20-seat restaurant and you must make reservations here at least two months in advance, which is no small feat because they don’t always answer the phone. You have to just keep calling back until someone answers. We are talking commitment to eat here. And he recently opened a wine bar across the street—Frenchie Wine Bar—but this place does not take reservations. It’s a brilliant business model and very cool place. People start to line up at 6:45 pm, 15 minutes before the wine bar opens. Everything is served family-style at high-top tables. The cooks serve you the food. And he has an amazing, yet expensive, wine list.” 5-6, rue du Nil, 75002 Paris. +33 (0) 1 40 39 96. frenchie-restaurant.com

wandering chef sarah schafer

Maison George Larnicol
“I fell in love with this little chocolate and pastry shop in the St. Germaine, but particularly for a very specific pastry called kouignette. They are a smaller version of kouign amman—a Breton butter pastry somewhere between a croissant and a cake, representing the most perfect equilibrium of salty, sweet, flaky, and chewy. It was almost like a sweet dough, yet filled and rolled with salted caramel and baked in muffin tins. It was the kind of sweet you could have every morning of your life and never tire of it. I had one every single day in Paris.” 132 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, +33 (0) 1 43 26 39 38. chocolaterielarnicol.fr 

Le Bal
“A café and restaurant on the ground floor of a photography gallery and bookstore. A friend of mine works here which is how I found out about it. Located near the Moulin Rouge, it’s in an area that is known for not being very safe. But the mayor is supporting small business growth here and it is now emerging into a more fashionable, hip neighborhood. The Franco-British chefs, Alice Quillet and Anna Trattles, serve really interesting, inventive food. I had a sauce that I had never seen or heard of before, a “Burnt Bread Sauce,” which is basically a puree of burnt bread with shallots, butter, and water. It was served with smoked foie gras. Delicious.” 6 Impasse de la Défense, 75018 Paris, +33 (0) 1 44 60 75 51. le-bal.fr

Day Trip to Champagne
“I took a day trip to Champagne (because I absolutely love Champagne) and it’s only about a 45-minute train ride from Paris. We visited two houses and were able to see two sides of the champagne process making—the very old-school way and the more modern way on a grander scale. Both produce spectacular Champagne.”

Champagne Salon
“This is a very small family run Champagne house. It has one vineyard and only uses Chardonnay grapes. In 100 years of operation they have only released 34 vintages. This year they just released their 1999 vintage. They are currently aging 2004, 2005, and 2006. They do the riddling by hand—the turning of the bottles to activate the yeasts.” 5-7 rue de la Brèche d’Oger, 51190 Le Mesnil sur Oger, +33 (0) 3 26 57 51 65. salondelamotte.com

Champagne Lanson
“This house is on a much grander scale. They have about 50-75 acres, they do a vintage every year as well as a non-vintage and use a variety of grapes and riddle mechanically.” 66 rue de Courlancy, 51100 Reims, +33 (0) 3 26 78 50 50. lanson.com