A Q&A with Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini

070828_Paris_Chocolate_and_Zucchini_F.jpgClotilde Dusoulier is the brains (and palate and stomach) behind Chocolate & Zucchini, a mouthwatering blog about cooking and eating in Paris that launched in 2003. Her first cookbook, also called Chocolate & Zucchini, was published this spring. It’s subtitled “Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen” — just the kind of curious outlook we travelers love! Here she shares with us some of her local food discoveries.

While your blog and cookbook center on home cooking, you also occasionally write about restaurant meals — everything from Alain Ducasse’s soigné bistro Aux Lyonnais to a hole-in-the-wall source for Vietnamese sandwiches. Do you have any recent restaurant discoveries to share?

I’ve really enjoyed my recent visit to Le Grand Pan [20 rue Rosenwald], a freshly opened Basque bistro in the 15th arrondissement that serves deliciously hearty Southwestern French fare, such as a grilled pork belly served with thick fries and chanterelles. Also in the 15th, I’ve just been introduced to an excellent family-owned Korean restaurant called L’Arbre de Sel [138 rue de Vaugirard] where the food is authentic and very fresh.

Are there any places you’d recommend for a special breakfast in Paris — something more substantial than the standard coffee and croissant?

I should first note that breakfast is a meal that’s typically taken at home in France, and Parisians don’t really eat out for breakfast. However, if you want to enjoy a good French-style breakfast — fruit juice, café au lait, bread or brioche with butter and jam, yogurt, a soft-boiled egg — I recommend Coquelicot in the 18th [24 rue des Abbesses], or Bread & Roses in the 6th [7 rue de Fleurus]. Both have outdoor seating, too, so you can enjoy the morning sunshine.

What’s your favorite street, square, or neighborhood you like to visit when you’re hungry?

I am fortunate to live in Montmartre, a neighborhood that’s rife with specialty food shops, so I do most of my shopping in the market streets around me, on Rue des Martyrs, Rue des Abbesses, and Rue Lepic. All you need is right here — bakeries, pastry shops, fish shops, butchers, cheese shops, wine sellers, charcuteries, spice shops — and you even have several to choose from for each kind.

As you write in the introduction to your cookbook, food shopping is a wonderful way to explore a city and a culture. Which are your favorite weekly food markets in Paris? Which would give visitors a truly local “slice of life”?

My favorite is the Marché des Batignolles, an all-organic farmer’s market held on Saturday mornings in the 17th, and where I buy produce, cheese, meat, and flowers. It is not the largest, but the selection is varied and inspiring, and it is one of few markets in Paris where the stall-keepers are actually growers, and not just retailers.

One of my favorite aspects of your cookbook is the section on desserts: not one, not two, but four chapters are devoted to sweet things. Where has your strong sweet tooth led you lately? Which pastry or chocolate shops do you find yourself returning to again and again?

I like to keep an eye on what the big-name pastry chefs are doing — Pierre Hermé in particular — but I most enjoy visiting the younger and the lesser-known, such as Fabrice Le Bourdat at Blé Sucré in the 12th [7 rue Antoine-Vollon] (try the glazed madeleines and the chocolate bars with crunchy flecks of salted caramel), or Claire Damon at Des Gâteaux et du Pain in the 15th [63 bd Pasteur] (try the chocolate and hazelnut éclair or the violet Saint-Honoré).

Jennifer Paull

Also see: Top Chef Travels