Années Folles: The Crazy Years

Since returning home last month I've had many humans running up to me on the streets of San Diego. "Bear! Bear!" they say, "What's up with Food by Bear: France? Tell me all about it."

Pretend you could climb into a time machine and be whisked off to Paris for a few hours in the 1920s, I respond. It's evening, and you've landed in a discreet corner of the Montparnasse neighborhood on the left bank. Your clothing has magically altered during this short journey to a century ago, so if you're a woman you're in a straight dress with a dropped waist, a long rope of pearls knotted below the neck and t-strap shoes with small heels. If you're a man you're clad in corduroy pants, dirty white sneakers and a casual and somewhat sloppy jacket. But how shall you spend your time?

You start by making your way to the Select and start with a Pernod or two, catching a glimpse of my old pals Hemingway and Djuna Barnes yucking it up. Then you're off to Le Jockey to see Jimmie the Barman and suck down one of his famous Jimmie Specials. And later you'll certainly want to drop into my old haunt, the Rendezvous-des-Mariniers. I'll fix you up a memorable meal while you eye the young French avant-garde cavort about the dance floor as Cole Porter tickles the ivories.

But certainly you must have the quintessential 1920s Paris experience: onion soup at dawn in Les Halles, the gigantic wholesale produce, seafood and meat market in the center of Paris. It sadly no longer exists, but looms large in the memoirs of the time. Here at dawn came the owners of small food shops, the chefs de cuisine of fine hotels, and the thrifty ménageres. The markets were surrounded by inexpensive restaurants frequented by gangsters, prostitutes and pimps, slumming socialites, and oh so many American expatriates. Les Halles symbolized what it meant to be in Paris in the 1920s: dance ‘til dawn, devour a thick, savory mess of onion soup, then home at last to start the same thing all over again the next evening. It's that magic, I say to my human friends, I hope to capture with Food by Bear: France.

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Father's Day Special

Osa and Osito have a surprise in store for me this weekend for Father's Day and I can hardly wait to know what they have planned. The excitement and anticipation has me wanting to do something for y'all as well so I'm offering 10% off of the remaining Food by Bear: France tickets. There aren't many left, so get 'em while they last. Now through Saturday with the code: GREATOSO at checkout. These will be some of the most fun dinners we've had yet. I hope to see you there! 

Scents of Les Halles

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feeds 4

4 sweet onions, julienned
28 oz beef stock
1/2 cup sherry wine
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
olive oil
salt & pepper
4 slices baguette, buttered and toasted
4 slices gruyere
1 oz shredded parmigiano-reggiano

1. In a heavy bottom sauce pot, pre heat pot for two minutes on high heat. Add a few tablespoons of the best olive oil you have to the hot pan. Then add onions. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are reduced to a dark, caramel color with soft texture. Slow and steady wins the race here. If you ride it out for an hour and half or even two hours you'll be left with the most flavorful soup. Be sure to redistribute throughout so not to burn.

2. Once onions are fully caramelized, deglaze pan with the sherry wine then add beef stock, bay leaf and thyme. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer on low for 30 minutes.

3. Cut baguette into one inch pieces and butter each. Toast baguette pieces on a sheet tray for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

4. Remove herbs. Add soup to just below brim of a crock bowl. Place one or two toasted baguette pieces in the center of the soup, then a slice of gruyere. Add a liberal amount of shredded parmigiano-reggiano on top of all.

5. In a pre-heated broiler, place prepared soup bowls on a sheet tray to melt cheese. Allow parmesan to caramelize slightly.

The Jimmie Special

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Jimmie the Barman was the most legendary bartender in 1920s Paris, hopping around from one new hot spot to the next. His original Jimmie Special can be difficult to replicate today; one of the ingredients can't be found in the states and others are difficult to procure. Below is my take on it. If all else fails and you're unable to locate all the fixings, just grab a bottle of Pernod and sip it straight or with a splash of water. Either way you won't be disappointed.

1 oz. cognac
1/2 oz. pernod
1/2 oz. dry curaçao
1/2 oz. solerno blood orange liqueur
1/2 oz. kirschwasser
soda (to taste)

Combine the cognac, pernod, dry curaçao, blood orange liqueur and kirschwasser in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly. Drink straight, with ice, or top with soda to taste.