Haribo Orangina Pik

Everything here is cute because I am in the stage of what’s commonly known to sociologists as the “honeymoon phase” of complete and utter culture shock. The dogs belonging to the homeless people (I mean nomads!) are cute. The pigeons (I mean doves!)  on the streets are cute. Even the overpriced (I mean high-quality!) groceries are cute and wonderful and amazing. And so far, the cutest thing of them all has undoubtedly been these gummies, the result of six subway stops worth of hunting for the one vending machine that I vaguely recall having them. This is what’s known as a “compulsion.” Anyhow, screw that. Haribo has partnered with Orangina to create a gummy, the Haribo Orangina Pik and that’s all you need to know.

Orangina, still reeling from (and hawking) their successful man-beast hybrid sex campaign (look it up, it’s real) has made the absolute best career move of their entire life. Haribo makes the best gummies in the world. It’s a very natural, perfect pairing. And the gummies are shaped like little Orangina bottles. If I ever type a more perfect sentence, I won’t know it because I’ll have had an aneurysm from the cuteness flooding to my brain. There are two types of gummies to correspond with two Orangina flavors. Presumably, these were orange and blood orange, but looking at the Orangina website, they could be Orangina Indien or Orangina Geisha for all I know. The website is a little traumatizing.

The gummies, however, forgive all. They’re very bright both in color and flavor, with a forward, bitter zestiness and distinct sour, sweet fruitiness. The Haribo chew is like nothing else- dense and fleshy, with the most satisfying bite. The gummies are very firm and hold their shape well, and despite their thick coating of sour sugar crystals, shed none of them in the poking/photography process. I adored these. It’s fairly obvious that I loved them, but I especially loved them because they were so different in flavor. I even went out and bought Orangina to compare them to, and they were identical.

The Orangina Rouge was sweeter than the regular one, with a juicy, slightly sour flavor and lemon-heavy base, and the regular Orangina was a little more bitter, more reminiscent of the oil of orange rinds rather than the actual fruit. Delicious, idiosyncratic, and- dare I say it? Damned sweet.

Fanta Chateau Grokiff (Elderflower and Citrus)

I can justify many purchases, but rarely does soda make that list, the reason being that while I can’t suffer through low-calorie desserts, meat, or Wasa crackers, diet soda is actually something I enjoy. Yes, I’m one of those jerks, the kind who will tell you without prompting that they’re happier to have aspartame shakes or aspartame flippers in forty years than diabetes. I’ve even held off on trying all the Japanese Pepsi flavors I love so dearly. But now the cap is on the other bottle. Fanta France has me entranced and in love with its strange, French flavors. It has wooed me, wined and dined me, given me Fanta clap, and I still want more.
Although I’m sure this is a decade-long bottled (zing!) expression of the jaw-dropping terror and arousal I felt as an eleven-year old sitting in the dark of my local movie theatre at a showing of Girl Next Door (sorry, Mom, I never did see Ella Enchanted that night) watching the Fanta girls whiz by on jet-skis singing their trademarked theme song, I’ve always had more of an affinity for Fanta than I have for any of the other tinted, fruit-touched sodas on the market. And now that Fanta has incorporated one of my other favorite past-times into their soda, wine and pretension, I am now irresistibly compelled to buy it and nothing else. Your marketing dollars at work, people!
I cannot convey to you how amazing this is without buying each of you a ticket to France, taking you to my Monoprix on the Metro, and buying you a bottle to take home in addition to the special extra baggage cost imposed by Every Airline Ever, Incorporated. But I’m not Oprah, (ed. note: BlogHer, am I Oprah? Can we look into that?) so all I can give you are photos and a whimsical sip-by-sip essay because screw you, Robert Parker Jr. This is delicious. Fanta has managed to not only make an adorable soda label design, but the drink inside is the best non-artisanal elderflower drink I’ve ever had, somehow ranking above IKEA’s Swedish craftsmanship.
The elderflower is the most present flavor, with citrus notes to boost its tartness after each sip. It has the price of a store-brand beverage and the quality of one with cursive writing and a man burning $500 bills embossed on the label. It’s definitely sweet, with a thick, sugar-heavy texture, but matches that with plenty of effervescence and a good tang to offset the sugar, like more complex, herbaceous lemonade. I really enjoy it, despite my moral objections to sugary water. And the label. That label will literally be taped to my wall after I have finished the soda. Chateau Grokiff, from the coveted 2010 vintage, is officially my new 100-pointer under 99 cent recommendation, a phenomenon that certainly doesn’t exist in the wine world.I almost hate it for not going all the way and incorporating a cork, glass bottle, and actual alcohol. But their chateau is a drawing of an inflatable castle. I believe we’re done here.

La Fermiere Creme Gourmande au Chocolat et Piment

I could talk about the differences in food and eating habits between France and America for hours. I could bore you all to tears and it wouldn’t make a dent in the new discoveries I make each day, the slight changes to my habit that I note and watch before my eyes and lips. One of the most critical, one of the things I thought would never change about me that was almost instantaneous, is the attention and care the French pay to yoghurt. And the quality is evident in the product. I’m not a yoghurt person. I’m not even really a mousse guy. It’s different here, the flavors are adventurous and the product finer. It delivers on its promises with more variety than the American brands, of that I’m sure. My school cafeteria served candy apple (pomme d’amour!) yoghurt the other day and lo and behold, it tasted like a candy apple with chunks of fruit and a hint of burnt sugar. 
So with the combined entrancement of the bizarre as well as a desire to eat healthfully and cheaply, I’ve taken up a yoghurt habit. Yup. Never thought I’d see the day. It’s my favorite form of entertainment. And with every wholesome yoghurt flavor, there exists a dark side. Yes, lumped right alongside the Danone and yaourt Grecque is crème gourmand, a cruel, delicious partner. Very easy to confuse it for its low-calorie counterpart, in its svelte pots and attractive packaging, but it’s richer, more luxurious, and obviously more caloric. Being next to a breakfast item, it takes almost no convincing to assume that its proximity to an early-morning treat makes it suitable for the wee hours as well. So I bought one for breakfast. An experimental breakfast, for the site of course.
This particular crème caught my eye because of its bewitching combination of flavors—dark chocolate and chili pepper, not unusual in solid form, but highly coveted in creamy dessert. I was curious to see how the added cream and change in texture would affect the spice, as lactose products are notorious for soothing the burn of spicy foods. This was one of the most attractive products I’ve ever purchased. 
I didn’t buy this at a specialty food store, nor pay specialty food prices—this was about $3 and change for two substantial pots. I fell in love with how utterly naturalistic they looked, both in and out of the package. They resemble clay paint pots filled with pure, chocolate, brown paint and are wonderfully solid and easy to reuse. Both fortunately and unfortunately, I intend to reuse them to make a better crème piment.
 It turns out that my initial assumption was correct. The spice, though present in enhancing the flavor of the woodsy, dark chocolate base with a cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice perk, was completely devoid of heat, smokiness, and the clean bite of pepper and paprika that I sought this out for in the first place. Nevertheless, it’s a flavor that begs for experimentation, and if the initial product didn’t succeed, I’m confident that my version will certainly do the trick. Until then, I’m content to explore the rest of the crème section.

Roasted Nectarine, Riesling, and Bacon Panini

Excessive? Nah. Not here. There’s a world of foie gras and French fries out there to explore. In comparison to the rows of éclairs at the bakery down the street and the wafting scent of waffles rising up to my apartment, this sandwich almost seemed pedestrian, or dare I say, healthy- in comparison. To celebrate completing most of my law school applications (!!!) I made dinner at home tonight, using up some nectarines and chopped bacon and part of the Poilâne loaf I’d purchased earlier in the week. My mission? A killer panini.

You wouldn’t expect to see panini in Paris, but they’re as common as croissants in some areas and street corners. While doing some photoresearch for my latest blog, Dogs of Paris, (check it out!) I got a craving for the filled baguettes and savory sandwiches and decided to go home and make one of my own. I started out by tossing sliced nectarine in cane sugar, salt, and pepper, then caramelizing it in rendered bacon fat. Deglazed the pan with a little Riesling, and smashed the whole thing between two pieces of Polaine’s famous brown bread and a few slices of Cousteron cheese. Nom.

Roasted nectarine and bacon panini
Ingredients (serves 2)
Four slices of brown bread
Two tablespoons of butter with sea salt crystals
Three ounces of Cousteron or other soft cheese, sliced or shredded
1/3 lb of chopped bacon
1 nectarine, sliced
1/2 teaspoon of cane or brown sugar
1/4 cup of Riesling or other white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Spread the butter on the bread and sprinkle cheese on each slice. In a medium-sized saucepan, start frying the bacon over a low heat, rendering the fat out and crisping it. Sprinkle the nectarine with sugar, salt, and pepper, and let sit for five minutes.
2.  Put the bacon on a plate, leaving the fat in the pan, and cook the nectarine over medium-high heat until soft and caramelized. Toss with the bacon and deglaze the pan with Riesling until it is reduced and forms a pan sauce. 

3. Spoon the toppings onto the bread and sandwich together, grilling until outside is toasted and cheese is melted. Serve warm with sauce on the side for dipping.

Riesling won’t know what hit it! And neither will you.

Mamie Nova Gourmand Dessert au Speculoos

I’m pretty sure I could convince my Facebook friends that speculoos is replacing Nutella in Europe. It wouldn’t be difficult. Those people believe everything I tell them, even that time that I posted a photo of myself standing next to a vintage Mercedes and told them I’d rented it for six months. Classic. But honestly, this would be an even easier hoax. Every grocery store I walk into has the requisite shelf o’ hazelnut spread, relegated to one corner of the room next to the accordion music CD’s and authentique French tourist berets, but speculoos is intruding and infiltrating products I would have never expected to see it in. Applesauce. Ice cream. Yoghurt. Chocolate. Even some varieties of coffee are tainted with the speculoos virus.

Recently, I found these suckers next to French Activia and pried them out of Jamie Lee Curtis’s cold, dead hands to review. Gourmet speculoos dessert mousse creme? What is this, a cupcake competition show on the Food Network with intense rivalry and celebrity judges? Mamie Nova knows what’s up. The website calls these desserts as “unctuous as yoghurt,” which I assume is in the same category as “as sexy as someone taking a spinning class” and “as eloquent as Rosie O’Donnell.” Well, I officially give zero damns, because desserts and products like this are exactly what I came to France for. This is an awesome treat.

Also, this happened and I have no regrets.

Texturally, this is a cross between a flan and a dense, luxurious pudding. It’s priced like pudding cups in the US, about $2 for two cups, and has the quality and thick, yielding texture of a dessert you might get in a restaurant. A good restaurant where they make you wear jackets. It’s coffee-colored and very milky, with an initially strong flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel. Again, similar to a flan, but the cookie flavor in this is unmistakable. My only regret is that this doesn’t incorporate some of the smoky, toasted flavors of its namesake, but it does a fantastic job of being both accurate and delightful to eat. Definitely a treat I’ll be picking up again for myself, and maybe even for guests if my Facebook friends forgive me for being a complete tool.