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Letter From France | Italian Purveyors Lay Claim To the Hearts and Bellies of Paris

RAP épicerie offers Italian delicacies in its sliver of a shop, which includes a wine cave in the basement. Credit Gabriela Plump for The New York Times

When the sommelier Enrico Bernardo moved to Paris from Italy nearly two decades ago, the world of French gastronomy brutally rejected him. No matter that he had won the competition for best sommelier in Italy; when he asked 30 restaurateurs for work in their wine cellars, all turned him down. “They took one look at me and said, ‘You’re Italian,’” he recalls. “‘You eat pizza and spaghetti. What do you know about French food and wine? Besides, you speak bad French.’”

 

Bernardo went on to win the competition for best sommelier in the world in 2004. He opened two upscale restaurants in Paris, Il Vino on the Left Bank in 2007 (which has a Michelin star) and Goust on the Right Bank in 2013. His signature surprise menus, which match each dish to a different wine – many of them Italian – have made him a culinary star. “Paris is the food and wine capital of the world, and, imagine, Paris gave me the chance to be the best I could be,” he says. “And because it was so hard to succeed here, the fruit is even sweeter.”

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French Politics Served in a Pita

Thierry Marx, the Michelin two-star chef of the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, says he is waging a mini-campaign against culinary racism by making kebabs. Credit Guia Besana for The New York Times

PARIS – From a kitchen in the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Michelin two-star chef Thierry Marx is waging a mini-campaign against culinary racism.

He is making kebabs.

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At a Paris Flea Market, Tips for Treasure Hunters

The Marche Dauphine. Credit Julien Bourgeois for The New York Times

St.­Ouen. The name made me shudder. Whenever visitors asked me to take them to that vast set of flea markets just north of the Paris city line, I did my best to divert them elsewhere.

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Letter From France | The Globalization of Caviar

In the kitchen at Petrossian in Paris, where the caviar is now sourced from Bulgaria, Italy, France and even California. Credit Courtesy of Petrossian


 

Caviar has lost its national identity.

 

Over the years, caviar-producing wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea have been poached, smuggled and overfished to the brink of extinction. Sturgeon fishing fell under a series of strict international quotas and in 2008 was subjected to a global ban by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The only caviar on the market since then comes from tame varieties farmed in concrete basins and cages. The result is a global free-for-all in which caviar’s country of origin has no meaning, and only the best eggs win.

 

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Scheherazade Slept Here

After Doris Duke’s honeymoon in 1935, when she traveled India, Jordan, Egypt and Indonesia, her architectural perspective was upended. She and her new husband, James Cromwell, had planned to build a Mughal-style wing on the grounds of Mr. Cromwell’s mother’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla.; it morphed into a five-acre Islamic flight of fantasy on Oahu. Credit: Linny Morris, courtesy of DDFIA.

 

HONOLULU — The honeymoon did it.

 

Doris Duke, the fabulously rich tobacco heiress, was only 22 when she married James Cromwell, an aspiring politician, in 1935. The newlyweds traveled through India, Jordan, Egypt and Indonesia, and by the time they reached their last stop in Honolulu 10 months later, Ms. Duke’s architectural perspective had been upended.

 

They had planned to build a Mughal-style newlywed wing on the grounds of the estate of Mr. Cromwell’s mother in Palm Beach, Fla.; it morphed into a five-acre Islamic flight of fantasy on Oahu, at the base of Diamond Head on the Pacific. For the next six decades, Ms. Duke poured passion and millions of dollars into the 14,000-square-foot white rectangular structure of modernity and magic that she called Shangri La.

 

She was driven by the pursuit of beautiful objects, not religious fervor. Cecil Beaton, who photographed Shangri La during Ms. Duke’s lifetime, called it a “really fabulous Arabian Nights dream Persian house.”

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The Risina Bean Is Worth the Hunt

Chris Warde-Jones for The New York Times


 
About 1 hour – About 2 cups cooked beans
 
The risina bean has taken considerable work to rescue, and it takes effort to track down outside Italy. But it’s well worth chasing the heirloom legume online, and most of your toil will be done because the beans are simple to prepare. La Boutique del Gusto (laboutiquedelgusto.com) ships Cuore Verde risina beans. In New York, the beans are sold at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria. This recipe, from the Umbrian couple who produce Cuore Verde risina, brings out the beans’ grassy flavor.
 
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Letter From France | The Paris Hotel Scene Gets a Glitzy New Player

At the new Peninsula Paris Hotel, not far from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, workers are frantically hanging paintings and placing umbrellas on the rooftop terrace in preparation for this Friday’s grand opening.

 

At the new Peninsula Paris Hotel, not far from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, workers are frantically hanging paintings and placing umbrellas on the rooftop terrace in preparation for this Friday’s grand opening.

 

The Peninsula combines two related trends in the Paris luxury hotel landscape, both brought about by the shifting desires of the hotels’ wealthy international guests, most recently those from China, who are coming in ever-greater numbers. For many such guests, the history, culture and class of the city’s old palaces are no longer enough. They also require bigness, brashness and glitz: spa suites with private saunas and rain showers, trendy nightclubs, private butlers and on-site contemporary art consultants.

 
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Made in House? Prove It

Owen Franken for The New York Times
Jean-François Le Guillou, the chef and owner of La Forge in Paris, says he will display a government-issued symbol on his door saying that all his dishes are made in house.

 

PARIS — The black-and-white symbol looks like a saucepan with a roof for a lid. And if it sits next to an entry on a restaurant menu, it signals that the dish is “fait maison” — house-made.

 

Or does it?

 
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In France, a Yearly Feast of Fish

Nanda Gonzague for The New York Times
The St. Pierre statue carried by the water jousters.

 

SÈTE, France — This Mediterranean port town is famous for its annual Worldwide Festival of electronic music, seven miles of glorious beaches and fish.

 

Lots of fish.

 
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Letter from Umbria | A Storied Ceramics Workshop Where Visiting Artists Can Get to Work

Elaine Sciolino
At the Rometti ceramics workshop in Umbria, Jean-Christophe Clair, the factory’s artistic director, works on his “Birili” collection inspired by ancient and primitive shapes.

 

You won’t find Umbertide, Italy, in most guidebooks. This town in northeast Umbria has little to recommend it: no churches with vibrant frescoes, no hilltop vistas, no Michelin-starred restaurants, not even a first-rate pizzeria. Umbertide is so ordinary, in fact, that “The Companion Guide to Umbria,” the 1969 classic armchair reader on the province, singles it out as the only second-tier town in the region that is not worth even a short visit.

 

What Umbertide does have going for it is Ceramiche Rometti, a ceramics workshop, showroom, retailer and museum (okay, it’s just several dozen objects displayed behind glass) on the edge of town. Since 1927, Rometti has been turning out fine hand-painted ceramics and sculptures of clay mined from a local quarry that dates back to ancient Rome. Among its collaborators these days are Chantal Thomass, the Parisian queen of lingerie, and Roche Bobois, the high-end French furniture and interior design company. Through the latter, Rometti also has made large vases with designs by the 20th-century artist-writer Jean Cocteau with the authorization of Pierre Bergé, the longtime personal and business partner of Yves Saint Laurent.

 

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