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Cooking in Paris

Updated on October 10, 2012

Maria's Adventure - Part Four/Cooking


The next morning Maria and I were scheduled to participate in a cooking class clear across the city in the 18th arrondissement in the district of Pigalle. This is a grittier area of Paris that is most notable for the red windmill topped Moulin Rouge (red mill in English) residing here.

We weren't due to cook until 4pm so we had some time to explore. My wife had outlined a walking tour of this area of Paris for us as I had done for her and Sams' trip to Oslo. This was a great way, we thought, of each being a part of the others' trip.

She had us taking the Metro from Place Monge station to Place Pigalle along the Boulevard de Clichy. Maria and I exited the Metro station not quite knowing where we were. An old woman was perched upon a bench waiting for a bus - we decided to approach and ask her which way was the Rue Durantin - that steep and winding alley that leads over the ridge that is the highest point in Paris. She looked at us for a moment, with her withered face partly obscured by her black cloak, shook her head and pointed above to a sign that read 'Rue Durantin' - ok - misplaced tourists! We started the steep climb with Maria complaining about aching knees and me encouraging her on. Halfway up the hill we came upon a beautiful small square in front of a small inn supporting a small cluster of tables with clients eating and drinking as they looked out upon the view of Paris down to the Seine in the far distance. This same square is where Pablo Picasso saw fit to locate his studio during his cubism period. My favorite quote from Picasso comes from an admirer asking him to explain cubism, “Cubism is no different from any other school of painting. The same principles and the same elements are common to all. The fact that for a long time cubism has not been understood and that even today there are people who cannot see anything in it, means nothing. I do not read English, and an English book is a blank to me. This does not mean that the English language does not exist, and why should I blame anyone but myself if I cannot understand what I know nothing about?” I sat there pondering what Picasso said as I looked at his Spartan studio along one side of the square - what a peaceful and enchanting place to live and work (continued).




View of Paris from Sacre-Coeur
View of Paris from Sacre-Coeur
Sacre-Coeur
Sacre-Coeur
Square at Montmartre
Square at Montmartre
Lunch at Montmartre
Lunch at Montmartre
Picasso's Studio
Picasso's Studio
Picasso's Square
Picasso's Square
Metro at Moulin Rouge
Metro at Moulin Rouge
Maria with her Teacher
Maria with her Teacher


After a rest we continued uphill, through another alley way, over the ridge of the hill, and onto another beautiful small square surrounded by whitewashed two storey buildings. Some had art studios, others cafes, and still others townhouses. Maria was hungry so we sat down at a table on the square. We ordered French salad topped with fresh caught North Sea salmon - cooked delicately with white wine and capers - after days of chocolate croissants a welcome bit of protein!

Ilene's walk had us continuing to Sacre-Coeur Cathedral. A fabulous view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. This is the highest spot in Paris. A lot of tourists and street-side performers. Maria and I stopped to listen to two young men singing and playing trumpet - they were quite good with Maria tossing a Euro into their hat. We had some time to kill before our cooking class so we chose to enter Sacre-Coeur. The cathedral was started in 1876 to thank God for saving Paris after their defeat at the hands of the Prussians in 1870. The building was placed in the then farming village of Montmartre and due to this location stands higher than the Eiffel Tower. The construction is of Chateau-Landon travertine stone which excretes calcite after a rain - this has kept Sacre-Coeur impossibly white after more than 100 years.

It was time for Maria and I to make our way down the far side of Montmartre to find our cooking class. After a few wrong turns we came upon a non-descript storefront with a sign hanging in front asking visitors to ring the bell. We were an hour early but rang anyway to let them know we were in the neighborhood. A small French woman of about 30 answered the door and said, ' good you are right on time'. I said, 'No we are early'. To which she responded. 'Didn't you get our email changing the times of the class?' Well - good thing we checked in early! The French woman turned out to be our teacher and she took an immediate liking to Maria. Cooking With Class is located on the Rue Custine in this working class area of Paris. The classroom is modern and relaxed with cook space and stoves for everyone. My daughter, to this day, says that this class was her most precious experience in Paris. We had decided on a dessert class taught in English. We were mixing and combining and baking. We made from scratch 6 pastries using only fresh, seasonal produce. We learned how to make desserts such as crême brulée, molten chocolate cake, Grand Marnier soufflé and also madeleines and lemon macarons. We ate the crême brulée and some madelines at class and were given the recipes to take home to re-create. The macarons were in a league of their own; this French pastry technique combines sweetness and delicateness on the palate, which gives you the impression of biting into a soft pillow of scented fruit. I would suggest to anyone wanting to do something different in Paris - an experience that not too many cocktail party conversations can compete with - to take a French cooking class. The cost of the class was 100 Euros each and well worth it.

We left around 6:30pm with bags full of dessert. Catching the Metro at the Jules Joffrin station near the Moulin Rouge, thankfully before nightfall since my adolescent daughter was in tow, and made our way back to Place Monge. We stopped for cheese, bread, juice and wine (for me) before retiring for the evening.


Madeline Ingredients

  • Two Eggs, Large
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • 1 Cup Flour, White
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 1/4 Stick No Salt Butter
  • Dusting Powdered Sugar

Madeline Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Melt butter and coat and flour madeline pan (separate cells for each pastry - or you can use a small cupcake pan)
  3. By hand or with mixer beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl; mix in vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Add flour until blended. Add the rest of the butter steadily and beat until blended.
  4. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the batter into your pan. Bake until slightly golden brown - about 9 to 14 minutes - cool and dust with powdered sugar.
  5. Delicious and easy!

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