Author Archives: Nikki

Paris Guide Nikki Rappaport

Paris Guide

Hello from the dead! JK. I’m resurrecting this space as a judgement-free place to write whatever the hell I want this year. I’ve been agonizing over whether to start something new, and maybe I still will, but for now, I still have this space and I can fill it with all the ideas in my head.

I often get asked for my favorite places in Paris and I just spent another week there in November, so I have a few new things to add. Time to update that list and have a home for it all. These are places I would visit or have visited again. Enjoy!

Breakfast at Neighbours in Paris

Coffee & Breakfast

Fragments – This is my favorite coffee shop for many reasons and stop here at lease once every trip. I love the location and the cozy vibes inside. Food is lovely too.

Neighbours – This bright and cheery space has terrazzo walls star tiles on the floor. The tables have colored pencils. And you’ll belly up to kind strangers at the shared tables. Coffee is from a UK roaster and their crumpets (with avocado!) can’t be missed.

Telescope – Go here for a quiet oasis and a good cup after a walk through the Tuileries and Palace Royal.

Ten Bells – Nice little coffee shop on the other side of Canal St. Martin.

Café Oberkamf – Get the green shakshuka!

Holybelly 5 – The hype is real here. Enjoy the fluffy pancakes and happy staff. Get here early (maybe make it your first stop when you arrive & before you can check into your place)

Echo – The bacon is unreal at this hip shop in Sentier.

Sweet Things

Du Pain et des Idées – The chocolate pistachio snail pastry lives up to the hype. You should buy at least two.

Circus Bakery – A cinnamon roll is must, their breads are great.

Popelini – Mini eclairs that are just heavenly. Loved the passionfruit and hazelnut flavors.

Croissants – Here’s my rule for croissants: they’re good mostly everywhere in Paris. Get them often. Doesn’t matter where. Pass a bakery, buy a croissant. You won’t be disappointed.

Pain Pain – Great bakery. Grab something and head up to Montmartre.

Mokonuts – Known for their chocolate chip cookie but also stay for lunch if you can!

Restaurants

I love a good mix of planning dinners but also stumbling upon things. Book a few dinners but also leave room for spontaneity and just popping into a bistro for steak frites.

Frenchie Bar a Vins – I had one of the best meals of my life here. Not just because the food is impeccable – savory and also fun – but because the service is wonderful and happy and the vibe is just great. Because it’s communal tables and no reservations, it’s a very friendly place where you’re bound to chat with people and the world feels charming and small. also, I love Frenchie to Go across the street – the beet Reuben is a great sandwich.

Coinstot Vino – Rowdy little wine tucked away in a passage. Racines is also nearby and highly recommended.

Au Passage – Interesting meal, many great chefs have graduated from here.

Ellsworth – Everyone talks about their fried chicken, and it really is great. I’d recommend booking this with a group of people. My meal was great but wasn’t the best solo dining experience.

Bistrot Paul Bert – A classic French bistro experience but without the fuss. Order dessert.

Ober Mamma/Big Love – I know these restaurants can be overhyped but honestly I love a lot about them. The food is excellent. The mood is so happy and fun. They are very accommodating. Big Love has gluten free pizzas (perfect for my friends) and also my favorite truffle pasta from Ober Mamma.

Le Comptoir – Fave spot in St. Germain to sit outside with great wine and cheese (and escargot!)

Richer – Wonderful interesting food and lovely atmosphere.

Wine & Cocktails

Le Barav – I love this wine bar and how people spill out into the streets to drink. If you want a bottle you go over to their wine shop next door and pick it out. Had some great natural wines here.

Le Mary Celeste – Corner spot with great wine & oysters, and good vibes.

A few others: Déviant, CopperBay, Night Flight, Experimental Cocktail Club

Things to Do/Places to Go

First of all, Paris is my favorite walking city. While the metro is great, I rarely take it because I love walking everywhere. So wear sneakers (bundle up if it’s cold) and walk!

Museums – Picasso, Rodin, l’Orangerie, d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou

Neighborhoods/Areas – Rue Monteguiel, marche les enfants rouges, Rue de Bretagne, walk along canal St. Martin, Jardin du Luxembourg

La Cuisine Paris – If you have time, book one of the many intimate cooking classes here. The instructors are wonderful and you’ll learn a lot about french food – and can bring it home with you!

Bon Marché & Le Grand Epicerie – elegant department store and grocery store, fun to wander around and look at all the things you can’t afford.

Shopping

There’s shopping everywhere in Paris and I certainly won’t be your guide for that, but a few shoutouts to some favorites I’d love to visit again:

Make My Lemonade, Des Petits Hauts, Medecine Douce, Super Shop, Slow Galerie, E. Dehillerin, Papier Tigre, Madeline & Gustave

Where To Stay

Hotels – The Hoxton (hispster, beautiful, fun), Hôtel Fabric (small, boutique, great location), Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal (elegant and more expensive, but I think I found a great rate)

Airbnb – Would recommend this one again.

Bonnes vacannces!

2016

This is my first post since July. I’m feeling unconfident about writing for myself. But I want there to be a record of this year and I want to do this more often.

At the beginning of last year I had three goals: move more, seek creative moments, travel. I feel like I’m just getting started on these. Not that 2015 wasn’t a productive year. Some highlights:

Visiting Los Angeles (enough to get to know it pretty well), San Francisco (twice!), Portland Maine, Nantucket, OBX, Denver, Atlanta, NYC, home to NJ, family trips to Ohio. Seeing so many great concerts: The Walkmen, Icona Pop, Smallpools, James Bay, Passion Pit, the Academy Is, Urban Cone, the Griswolds, of Monsters and Men. Growing my team from 1 to 8. Work turning into a family. Meaningful time with my family. Exploring coffee shops and vineyards. Surrounding myself in art. Reflective time by the water. Many Sunday Pastas. Making a new best friend. Four beautiful weddings. Yoga and tap dance and joining a gym. Short curly hair. The Gilmore Guys.

There’s still much I want to do to have a full life. I work incredibly hard but it’s important to find time for more. Traveling, finding inspiration in the world, staying active and healthy and having fun doing it, reading, sleeping enough, meeting new people, spending time with friends that bring me joy, writing, cooking new dishes, finally moving to a new apartment, turning stress into something productive, being intentional, standing up for my feelings. Sounds so much easier said than done. In 2016 I want my whole life to move forward.

Grandma Rita’s Jewish Coffee Cake

Grandma Rita's Jewish Coffee Cake

Food and family are a perfect combination; like peanut butter and jelly on white bread at midnight or mozzarella and tomato in a Caprese salad in summer. To me, family means a blend of recipes, fit for five or fifty, passed down through generations and adapted along the way.

My mom has seven siblings, so growing up in Ohio mealtime was not about the food itself, but the social event and being with the entire family. My Grandma Rita raised eight kids and while she was a simple cook, she proudly fed her large family with a limited budget every night. My mom once told me how grandma used to cut peanut butter with butter to make it go further. This kind of fight, creativity, and undying love is what my family is known for. We all get it from Rita.

Grandma Rita didn’t have a ton of regular family recipes. Some of my fondest memories with her were eating Kraft Mac & Cheese while watching Wheel of Fortune. She once made ambrosia cups for my 3rd grade class and we found out that most other nine year olds much prefer chocolate cupcakes. I recently realized while watching a Hellmann’s commercial that the parmesan chicken bake she regularly made probably came from a recipe on the back of the mayo jar.

Grandma Rita's Jewish Coffee Cake

However, for holidays and even some weekends while both my mom and her siblings and me and my cousins and brothers were growing up, Grandma Rita would make Jewish Coffee Cake. This is Rita’s recipe and everyone in my family knows it and loves it.

This coffee cake is simple. It has three sticks of butter. Pecans, walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon make it sweet and coffee cake-y. This topping is layered throughout and creates a crispy crust that this cake is known for. It’s baked in a bundt pan, because I assume that’s how many cakes were made in in 50’s. It’s super moist because it has sour cream in it. Which is also how it got its name.  When asked why she called it Jewish Coffee Cake, she didn’t know why, except “Because there’s sour cream in it.” But before she met my dad, my grandma had never met a Jew before.

That was the best answer she could come up with, and though it didn’t make much sense, that’s what Jewish meant to her: a particular infamous and unfamiliar-to-her ingredient. I never identified with any one religion or just one heritage, but to me, Jewish (and Italian and Irish) means food and family. And this simple recipe represents the melding of my backgrounds in a cake (which happens to be my favorite food).

Grandma Rita passed this weekend but her legacy lives on in all her children, her grandchildren, and even this cake. It’s one of my all-time favorite recipes and I look forward to making it and thinking of her for many years to come. For my family, here is the recipe and I hope you will make it often and think of our wonderful family often. For everyone else, this recipe is truly delicious so I do hope you try it. And when you do, I hope you make your own memories over it and share with people you love. That’s what Rita would have wanted.

Grandma Rita's Jewish Coffee Cake

Grandma Rita’s Jewish Coffee Cake

Cake Ingredients:
3 cups flour
15 oz sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cup butter (3 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Topping:
3/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts + pecans)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan with butter very well.
  2. Make the batter: In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in sour cream.
  3. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly incorporate flour mixture into sugar mix.
  4. Make the topping: In a small bowl, combine nuts, sugar, flour, cinnamon.
  5. Sprinkle topping at the bottom of the bundt pan, layer with half of the batter, the rest of the topping, then the rest of the batter.
  6. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert and let cool on wire rack.

Grandma Rita's Jewish Coffee Cake

 

Sunday Pasta: Uncomplicated Bolognese

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Pasta Bolognese

A simple bolognese comes with many food memories for me. Mostly involving boys. Boys like meat sauce. It’s just a given. It’s hearty and manly, yet also comforting like something mom would make to feed them while they were growing kids. See? It’s all about the memories.

I made my first bolognese when I was 14 for Aaron, my high school boyfriend. I shopped for all the ingredients myself – especially confused that you’d put carrots in tomato sauce. I studied my mom’s Joy of Cooking recipe with each step: the chopping, sautéeing, sweating, browning, simmering, stirring. I was on my own on this cooking endeavor. I was so anxious about doing it right and if he would like it. I learned so much that afternoon.

I didn’t know I would want to become very familiar with this kind of adventure as an adult. It’s still a treat to me when I learn in the kitchen. I really should do this more. In addition to the joy I get from cooking, there’s also a zen that comes with it. Life isn’t complicated in here. Men aren’t confusing. Work isn’t overwhelming. It’s ok that I’m not doing something more or making more plans. I crave these moments of uncomplicated. Thank you, food.

This bolognese is not a challenge. It’s uncomplicated. At least I hope it’s not for you if you would like to try it. I threw this together within in hour when I made impromptu plans to have guest over for dinner. Running to the market for supplies (don’t forget a crusty baguette for garlic bread), swiftly getting the ingredients into the pot, cleaning as I’m going (I rarely do this, but when I do I love myself), teeing up the pasta to cook and the dishes for serving, saving a minute to check your hair isn’t a complete mess. Brush off your shoulder. Damn nice work.

It doesn’t take much to impress me or bring me joy. I’d like to think this bolognese is the same way. A simple way to impress and bring joy. We ate comfortably on the couch with a bottle of pale rosé. With a salad of torn local lettuces and heirloom tomatoe slices. We sopped up the sauce with thick pieces of garlic bread. Casual. Easy. Memorable. Uncomplicated.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Pasta Bolognese

Sunday Pasta – Uncomplicated Bolognese

In a heavy sauce pan, heat about 1/4 cup olive oil. Sauté onion (about one whole, chopped) and a few cloves of chopped garlic. Once onions are soft, add carrot (about 2 whole, shredded) and stir. Add ground beef, break up pieces, and stir until browned. Once the beef is browned, add a can of whole peeled tomatoes (squish tomatoes in your hand to break up before adding) and a can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer on low for a while. If needed, add some tomato paste to thicken. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil. Spoon over thick pasta & sprinkle with Parm.

For garlic bread – melt butter and a few chopped cloves of garlic in a small sauce pan. Pour over bread that’s halved lengthwise. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 400° oven or until browned.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Pasta Bolognese