by Sybil PrattNovember, 2001
An American in Paris
Patricia Wells loves food and loves Paris, and she knows food and knows Paris as few do. A food writer and restaurant critic, Wells has lived in the City of Light for more than 20 years, shopping in all the wonderful markets, eating in cafes, bistros, grand restaurants and neighborhood haunts, talking to everyone about food and collecting recipes wherever she goes. Though Paris is, and always will be, a style setter in modern cuisine, the trendy always shares the gastronomic spotlight with the traditional. And Ms. Wells follows suit in The Paris Cookbook, giving us a masterful mix of quintessentially French classics and the inspired fare contemporary chefs have created to wow their patrons. Samplings from the culinary cutting edge include Artichokes and Goat Cheese Chez Michel, Fresh Cod Brandade from Les Bookinistes and Joel Robuchon's Warm Potato, Truffle and Parmesan Salad. Among the chef-enhanced perennials are David van Laer's golden, butter-bathed Potatoes Anna, a delicate take on late-night onion soup from the Brasserie Balzac and a Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse as made by one of the premier Parisian chocolatiers. Don't worry, amid the elegance are wonderful everyday dishes touched with that Gallic je ne sais quoi Polenta Savoyarde, piquant Zucchini and Curry Soup served hot or cold, Warm Fig Compote with Lavender Honey. Ms. Wells' directions are thorough and supportive and, for those of you lucky enough to get to Paris, she lists the names and addresses of all the restaurants, shops and markets mentioned, so you get a gourmet guide as well as a fabulous cookbook.
Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.