It all began with a William Sonoma cookbook on Parisian cuisine that a friend gave me several years ago. I would sit and page through the recipes and look at the beautiful photographs. I longed to walk through those boulangeries and choose some pastries, to sit at a bistro and order my plate of perfectly cooked French food, or to sit with a strong cup of coffee at a cafe. I made some of the recipes from the cookbook and would practically eat every morsel of herbed poulet off the bone and roll around in the au gratin potatoes. Heaven. So Ben and I decided about two years ago that for our tenth anniversary we would go to Paris...and eat. We both love good food and the movie Julie and Julia, only re-enforced the dream and caused our salivary glands to go into overdrive. I have to say, our trip to Paris was everything and more that we had hoped for. I feel like I am at a bit of a loss to describe the grandeur of the palaces and art, the hum of the cafes and how pleasant it was just to walk and see all the places we'd heard about our whole lives. Fortunately, I don't have to describe it all, as a picture is worth a thousand words, right? I have so many images, that I have decided to blog two or three parts to our Paris trip to avoid the stress of having to whittle down the images for just one post.

The first set that I wanted to do was our French Cooking Class, which we did our second day in the city. Ben had done the research and booked us a class through La Cuisine Paris, which we would most highly recommend. This experience was worth every penny. We took a tour through the Marché Maubert, one of the oldest French food markets, with chef Camille who talked us through what we should know about traditional French baking, how to choose good fish, and what to look for in fresh produce. We tasted several things and decided on our menu. I was thoroughly impressed that she could take the batch of us and with input on what we were interested in, create a menu on the spot and then teach us all how to cook it. She wove in stories, and welcomed questions. Sophie came along to answer questions and to purchase and stand in line for items.

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We took a whiff of those strawberries that we later used to make tarts and they were so fresh and sweet smelling, like jam.

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I loved how fresh the food was and how beautifully it was all presented.

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The guys muscled the bags of food around the market.

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The wine merchant.

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The cheese was so delicious and a plate of it finished our meal. I read recently about an French woman who said, "A meal without cheese is like a beautifully dressed woman with just one eye!" Cheese is important!

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Then we walked across the Seine to the class which is in a lovely area. We sat at tables with pots of strong tea and french presses of coffee to have a bit of a break while Camille put all the food out and prepared the kitchen quickly for us to cook.

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We really had a great group in our class, so fun and easygoing. Everyone was game to try anything and rather gracious with me, as I left some of the jobs to snap some pictures!

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On the menu was:

artichokes (peeled and cut like roses and then cooked in oil and water)

salad of fennel, beet leaves, oil, and lemon

new potatoes roasted with garlic, oil, fresh thyme and a bay leaf

mushrooms-fried with shelled peas

red mullet-with oil, szechan pepper, salt and lemon zest

sardines-fresh with pesto made with parsley, chives, dill, pine nuts, garlic and oil.

cheeses- a variety served with a traditional baguette

strawberry tarts with creme fresh which didn't get photographed as I gulped it down immediately!

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It was fun to learn all the steps in the meal and we were jotting down notes as we went.

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It was no small task to teach us all what to do and produce such a gorgeous meal on time but Camille was so gracious, quick to assist and a great teacher.

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Don't mess with the girl with the knife!

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At the end, we were all happy to peel off our aprons and sit in the dining room filled with gorgeous light and a view of Notre Dame. We raised our glasses and went to work eating.

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What a pleasure it was to share a meal with other experience we are definitely glad that we had! Thank you, La Cuisine Paris!