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Cooking With Patricia Wells: Another Reason To Love Paris

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In 2001, before embarking upon one of my most memorable trips to the city I love so much, I discovered a book called, "The Food Lover's Guide To Paris" written by Patricia Wells.

Night after night, cuddled up in bed with my pile of pre-Paris reading material, I continued to make copious notes concerning street markets, fromageries, bistros, cafes, patisseries...until I had pages of must-do's, listed by arrondissement, all taken from Patricia's book. I decided I had to be shown the venerable oven downstairs, at the Boulangerie Poilane, shop for cooking gadgets at E. Dehillerin, and sample the croissants and cafe au lait at Laduree. Per Ms. Wells's recommendation, I was prepared to head straight from the airport, to the bistro, La Tour de Montlhery for a hearty midnight meal. I minimized my list, down to pocket-size and carried that thing around with me for two weeks, checking off one gratifying destination after another.

Now I have a collection of books written by Patricia Wells, and enjoy each and every one of them. I have tried out (successfully!) recipes that deliver what they promise. Her onion soup from "Bistro Cooking" is a family favorite. Hanger steak from "The Paris Cookbook" is ridiculously easy and yields a gourmet result. Her Gratin Dauphinois from "Patricia Wells At Home in Provence" elevates the potato to star status. Patricia makes certain that any fairly competent home cook can achieve great results, following her instructions.

While a student, attending the University of Wisconsin, did she dare to dream that one day she would be splitting her time between Paris and an 18th century farmhouse called Chanteduc, in Provence? Today her cooking classes, held both at her studio on the Rue Jacob in Paris, and at her country home, attract serious foodies who love to cook. Put your name on the waiting list and pray.

For the lucky few who enroll in the Paris classes, the preparation of meals is just one part of the experience. There will be trips to food markets, specialty oil and wine tastings, and lunch at one of the best restaurants in Paris. Besides being the consummate host and teacher/cook, Patricia has found a way to impart her knowledge about the importance of using the freshest and finest of ingredients. Letting the natural goodness of a vegetable or meat, impart its essence to a dish, is essential. Also, supremely important, is the simplicity of her instruction. One can come away from a week-long class with new skills and ideas that can be easily implemented back home in Iowa.

Why waiting lists, you ask? Who wouldn't want to spend a week in France, cooking, learning from, and drinking great wine with Patricia Wells? From her long-time stint as food critic for the International Herald Tribune, to the James Beard Best European Cookbook Award (for "Patricia Wells At Home In Provence") one surmises that this woman has to be really good at what she does. Even the government of France has honored her with the French Food Spirit Award.

For more information about her delightful cookbooks, and about her cooking classes, visit Patricia's website. If, by some stroke of luck, you manage to snag a reservation for one of her classes, please share your experience with me. I'm afraid my travel budget is on the meagre side at the moment, but someday I hope to take my place, wearing a crisp white apron, and brandishing a lovely glass of regional wine, by the side of this culinary guru. I will smile my way through learning how to sear, steam and smoke, and oh, la, la! My tummy will be happy.

At Home With Patricia Wells www.patriciawells.com


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