In the summer of 2011, I spent a few weeks in Paris, teaching English and taking cooking and baking classes and as I was planning my time there, I started to hear some buzz about a new wine bar, conveniently located just around the corner from my “home away from home” in the 2nd arrondissement near the rue Montorgueil. Frenchie Bar à Vins was an offshoot of the wildly popular Frenchie restaurant and sounded like possibly the only way I might get to taste chef Greg Marchand’s cooking, since Frenchie itself was booked months in advance…
Fast forward to a few weeks later when I had just landed in Paris and a colleague from Toronto was passing through and wanted to meet for dinner and I suggested we give Frenchie Bar à Vins a go. We arrived, unknowingly, just as the (tiny, original) space had just filled up (there were like 4 tables or something at the time) but knew we needed to stay, even if we had to wait, as we spied a certain Paris food writer there with friends – I mean, if David Lebovitz is there, you probably want to be there too. Here’s the post he wrote about that meal. In the meantime, as we were both looking at each other and saying “OMG it’s David Lebovitz” (seriously fangirling), a waiter swept in behind us with a table and chairs which he proceeded to place outside the tiny storefront on the equally tiny pavement (the chairs barely fit) “pour les demoiselles”. Well, ok then, if you insist….
We had a meal we still talk about today – I mean, all it took was my first taste of smoked mozzarella and I was hooked. The wine, the food and a glass of “bulles” on the house for our trouble (having to sit on the pavement) – it was a magical evening and one that cemented Frenchie Bar à Vins in my mind as a “must go to” restaurant on every trip to Paris since then (a tip – arrive around 6.45 to make sure you are in the first seating if you don’t do queues. The space has since doubled in size but it’s still pretty small so arriving and eating early are good ways on ensuring you get a table without having to wait).
The following summer, I tasted burrata with pea pesto and was reminded of just how wonderful these dishes are. Fresh, seasonal produce, prepared simply to really let the ingredients shine. This is what Greg Marchand excels at (I’ve since eaten at the actual restaurant proper and can attest that it’s also a definite “go if you can get a reservation”) and now with Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking, you can get a little taste of this in your own home.
From the publisher:
On a quiet cobblestoned side street north of Les Halles in Paris, a veritable food revolution is happening thanks to chef Greg Marchand’s game-changing restaurant, Frenchie. Here are some of his most inspired and deeply original recipes, dishes that are radiant not just in color but in flavor, and filled with alluring hints of international influences. Chutneys, pestos, and flavored vinaigrettes take the place of heavier and more traditional French fare, and the juxtaposition of ingredients (watermelon with ricotta salata; roasted carrots with oranges and avocado; raw baby turnips and juicy pears) adds energy to a once hidebound bistro tradition. To the question “Is there anything new under the sun?” Frenchie answers, unequivocally, “Yes!”
As someone who’s familiar with Marchand’s food, I was eager to see what this book was all about. But before I even got to any recipes, I was completely charmed by his introduction. I knew a little bit about his background (that he’d worked at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London, for example which is where he got the nickname “Frenchie”) but had no idea that he’d grown up in an orphanage and that this is where he first became interested in food (he liked to cook on the weekends to escape the rough and tumble of the playground). Once he turned 16, he headed to culinary school in Brittany and graduated to a job in London at the Mandarin Oriental. A transfer saw him cooking in Hong Kong then back to London where, unfortunately he didn’t get on well with the new head chef and one day, simply up and left. He worked in Andalusia for a while before heading back to London for his stint at Fifteen where he eventually became head chef. A move to New York City saw him working at The Grammercy Tavern, and exploring the melting pot of cuisines New York offers during his time off. When his wife found out she was pregnant they didn’t have very good healthcare and their visas were about to expire so they packed up and went back to Paris in 2008 with the dream of opening up a place of Marchand’s own. Frenchie opened in April 2009, just as the Paris “bistronomy” trend was starting to take off and the “simple yet inventive food, using high quality ingredients, in a laid back bistro setting, with affordable prices, a menu that changed daily and a short but exciting wine list” Marchand had created seemed to be the answer to what Paris restaurant-goers were looking for. Now, some 9 years after the original restaurant opened, Marchand has created a real community in the rue du Nil. As well as Frenchie and the expanded Frenchie Bar à Vins, there’s Frenchie to Go and, most recently, Frenchie Caviste but more than just the eateries, he’s also got his restaurant suppliers right there in the street (Terroirs d’Avenir).
Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking‘s recipes are a wonderful way to bring a little piece of Frenchie to your home without needing to try for a reservation and get on a plane. The recipes are organised by season (with starters, mains and desserts in each chapter) and each recipe includes wine or beverage pairings (so smart, I’d love to see this more often in cookbooks). There’s a short section for sourcing certain ingredients but for the most part, the recipes use seasonal fresh ingredients that are fairly simple to find if you’re buying them in season. These are recipes definitely designed for the home cook (easy to follow, clearly laid out). Hey, I might even try some of them with my Petits Chefs sometime 🙂
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Disclosure: I received a copy of Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking from the publisher for review purposes. I was not asked to write about this book, nor am I being compensated for doing do. All opinions are my own.
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids releases July 31, 2018! Click here for pre-order details!