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Raw Foods

In the winter, it can be all too tempting to indulge in warm, heavy comfort foods. But sometimes, we all need a bit of detox with a day or two of vegan or raw meals. While going 100% raw is truly a mission (it’s nearly impossible and a bit cold!), incorporating some raw food into your diet can really benefit your health. Luckily, doing so can be quite simple.

If you’re interested in stepping into the raw food world, I suggest trying to make about 30-40% of your meals in a week raw. Why? Eating fresh, raw ingredients is important for our “inner composting,” or digestion. When you eat a raw food, you are actually eating living, enzyme-rich food.

You see, cooking vegetables destroys important microorganisms that are found in fresh vegetables, including enzymes that aid in digestion. With cooked food, your body needs to work hard to process dinner. That’s where raw food enzymes come in handy.

My favorite raw recipes are simple and require minimal preparation. Try slicing root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, fennel and turnips very thinly on a Japanese mandoline. Marinate them lightly with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt or soy sauce. The result is a delicious and flavorful meal with a satisfying crispness.

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Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

Why celebrate Earth Day just once a year? At Le Pain Quotidien, we believe that every day should be Earth Day!

In honor of the official holiday, we’re sharing our tips on living a greener lifestyle today – and every day. Luckily for you, we are here to help you every step of the way.

  1. Choose organic. With over 150 organic ingredients on our menu and in our pantry, it’s easy!
  2. Reduce plastic bag waste by bringing a reusable bag when you shop. Sustainable, spacious and functional, our Jute Tote is perfect for the job.
  3. Save your coffee grounds and give your garden a boost. Did you know that coffee grounds are great for repelling garden pests and are high in nitrogen, making them an ideal natural fertilizer? Enjoy our Organic Peruvian coffee at home, then make your garden happy!
  4. Try eating a more plant-based diet. It’s better for you, and for the planet. Look out for the 100% Botanical carrot symbol on our menu, which makes finding vegan items easy.
  5. Save energy by switching your incandescent light bulbs to CFL or LED. We’ve been making the switch in our stores and have reduced lighting energy usage by 80%!
  6. Compost at home to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills. Check out our Composting Tips article to learn about composting your kitchen scraps and how to get started!

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Buying Organic on a Budget

If you already buy organic or you’re thinking about transitioning to an organic diet, you’re probably aware that buying organic can be a strain on your wallet. Making good choices for your health doesn’t have to mean making poor choices for your finances. With some smart shopping using these strategies, you can be mindful of your budget and still steer clear of harmful pesticides and chemicals.

  • Buy in bulk. By joining a co-op or discount wholesale club, you can buy organic food in bulk and save big. If you’re worried about not being able to finish your stash at its freshest, you can always freeze your fruits and vegetables. Make sure to whip out your calculator when making bulk buying decisions, though. Sometimes that 5 lb. bag of chocolate chips isn’t actually less expensive than the more manageable size at your conventional supermarket. Do the math! Hint: Generally for grains, lentils, beans and nuts, volume sizes are more economical.
  • Order online. It may seem counterintuitive to order your food online, but especially for snacks, cereals, cleaning products, and even beauty products, why not? Prices are often competitive and online stores carry a wide array of organic products to select from. Try Mambo Sprouts or Amazon, for example. Our online Pantry is also full of tasty organic products – from our teas to our sweet and savory spreads.
  • Join a CSA. By becoming a member of a Community Supported Agriculture club, you can buy a share of produce or dairy products from regional farmers, and usually at a big discount when compared to supermarket prices. Support your local farmers and get the freshest, seasonal products available.
  • Grow your own. Consider starting your own garden. Whether you plant herbs, veggies or fruits, you can see big savings this way and you know exactly how fresh and organic that produce is.
  • Buy in season. Flavors are at their very best and in-season produce is often priced lower. Win-win.
  • Pick your battles. If you can’t afford all organic, be discerning with which items you buy organic. Fruits and vegetables with thin skins generally absorb the most pesticides. Choose organic meats, cheeses, and milk first. These items are worth the price tag of organic since they have the highest concentration of pesticides when non-organic. Bananas, on the other hand, are thick-skinned and less likely to have absorbed any potentially harmful chemicals.
  • Buy supermarket brands. When you’re shopping at your supermarket, choose the in-store brand over the private label. Many supermarkets are going organic and must follow the same organic guidelines so be sure to take advantage of their lower prices.
  • Shop at farmers’ markets. Head to the farmers’ markets! Although you may not see organic labels and USDA seals of approval, you can talk to farmers about their practices and confirm that they don’t use pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Produce at farmers’ markets is often fresher and because it uses less packaging, it’s also more eco-friendly.

Consider making the switch, if you haven’t already. There are plenty of ways to avoid splurging when choosing organic food.

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For the Love of Chocolat

From waffles and beer to frîtes with mayonnaise, Belgium tends to have a reputation for its delicious culinary specialties. But perhaps the most well known food of all to emerge from this tiny country is chocolate!

Recognized the world over as the finest chocolate available, Belgian chocolate tells a story of craftsmanship, tradition and excellent ingredients.

The history of chocolate making in Belgium stretches back to the 17thcentury, when Spanish explorers introduced cacao to Europe from their South American travels. Traditionally consumed as a drink by ancient Mayans and Aztecs, this custom soon became a luxury exclusive to Spanish nobility, who ruled Belgium at the time.

Interestingly, in a 1697 visit to Brussels, Henri Escher, the mayor of Zurich, tried this chocolatey beverage and was so impressed that he brought the idea back to Switzerland. Several hundred years later, Switzerland is Belgium’s main competition in the realm of chocolate!

However, it wasn’t until Belgium’s King Leopold II colonized the Congo in the 19th century, that chocolate became more available to the general public. This not-so-sweet intervention gave Belgium direct access to high quality cacao trees, spurring the now deep culinary tradition.

Today, Belgian chocolate is distinguished by its artisanal, old world processing techniques and high quality standards. While the European Union allows chocolatiers to replace up to 5% of their cocoa butter with various vegetable fats,  Belgian chocolatiers pride themselves on using 100% cocoa butter, which enhances smoothness and flavor of the chocolate.

When it comes to chocolate at Le Pain Quotidien, we bring Belgian tradition to the table, along with some serious sustainability credentials, by partnering with Tohi, a family-owned company known for their organic, fair-trade chocolate.

Traveling the world in search of subtle and sometimes little known flavors, the master chocolatiers at Tohi have created a delicious and sustainable line of organic chocolate bars for us. Ranging from traditional flavors to more surprising and rare flavors, our favorites include Speculoos, Poivre Rose (pink peppercorn) and Earl Grey.

Besides creating organic, fair-trade chocolate, Tohi is also well known for its environmentally conscious practices such as its completely recyclable packaging and COneutral production, which means the production of our chocolate has net zero carbon footprint on our planet.

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Belgian Beer: No Hops, No Glory

Upon mentioning Belgium, people are generally quick to make the association with great beer. And for good reason! Beer is to Belgium as wine is to France. For such a small country (Belgium measures only 11,000 square miles) it offers an incredible range of beers, from the sweeter fruit based brews to the world renowned “Trappist.”

The story of Belgian beer has its origin in the Middle Ages, when monasteries and abbeys had a monopoly on beer brewing. Because of the uncertain quality of the water supply, the relatively low alcohol beer of the time was preferred to drinking water. Over the next 7 centuries, the brewing methods evolved to what are now considered the traditional, artisanal methods.

At the beginning of the 1900s, Belgium counted more than 3,000 beer breweries. Today, Belgium is still home to roughly 180 different breweries giving Belgians a wide range of different beers to choose from. From low alcohol to heavy, from a light pilsner to a dark trappist, from sweet and fruity to immensely bitter and sour, Belgians have every type of beer available to them.

Linked to this large selection of different beers is another very Belgian phenomenon, the beer glass. Almost every beer has its own specific glass in which it should be served. It is believed that this special glassware is designed to bring out the flavor of each beer. The most well known are perhaps the typical Stella Artois glass (which is actually different in Belgium than it is in the US!) as well as the goblet shape of the trappist glass.

Just like wine, the diversity of Belgian beers allows them to pair well with different courses of a meal. In many Belgian restaurants, there is often a course paired with beer rather than wine. Though Belgian beers can be consumed at almost any point of the day, people often tend to forget that they make an excellent aperitif! The bitterness that is inherent to most beers stimulates the appetite and their flexibility allows them to pair well with the appetizers such as cheese and crudités that are often served with this course.

At Le Pain Quotidien, we carry a number of Belgian and Belgian style beers that are perfect for doing just this. Join us this summer on one of our patios to sit back and enjoy one of Belgium’s greatest inventions! Through the end of August, our restaurants in New York and in DC offer a happy hour that allow you to try some of Belgian’s finest at half price from 4PM to close. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Alain’s Favorite Kitchen Tool

It’s no surprise that my favorite kitchen tool is the knife. I believe in good, uncomplicated fare, which often times only requires the simplest preparation of fresh ingredients – cutting, chopping, combining. Fresh ingredients sometimes only need a good knife to be prepared for consumption. This is where the need for a quality, multi-purpose knife comes in. Medium-sized, high quality.

My favorite knife is a basic, demi chef knife, which is usually about 10” in size or about 250mm. This is a medium sized knife, perfect for various types of food preparation from cutting meat, large fruits and vegetables to finely chopping shallots and herbs. If you’re putting together a wedding registry or you’re simply in the market for new, updated kitchen tools, a good knife should take priority. With its numerous uses, a quality demi chef knife is certainly worth the investment.

I suggest keeping your demi chef knife sharp using a round sharpening steel. When you’re preparing, be sure to use a sharpening steel frequently to maintain the knife’s sharpness and precision. You shouldn’t be able to see a space when the knife is flat to your cutting board. Your knife should be flat enough to chop parsley or other herbs finely. Also, try to keep your knife dry when you’re not using it to prevent rusting and corrosion. If you care for your knife properly, it will last you years!

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5 Surprising Facts About Honey

At Le Pain Quotidien, we have always been honey enthusiasts. In fact, our founder Alain has 15 of his own beehives at his home in the south of France! But with two new honeys in our pantry, these days we’re extra sweet on honey. And for good reason! Honey has so many wonderful things to offer beyond its delicious taste. Read on for 5 interesting and surprising facts about honey!

1. It doesn’t spoil.

While excavating Egyptian tombs, archeologists have often found pots of honey that are thousands of years old, yet as wholesome as fresh honey. Thanks to a combination of factors, honey is one of the few foods that never spoils. If preserved properly—meaning the lid stays on the jar and no water is added—this sweet treat can last forever!

2. Honey is as old as history itself.

It’s hard to trace the exact beginnings of honey since there is evidence of the substance as far back as history records. That said, fossils of certain honey bees date back almost 20 million years! These fossils make honey bees one of science’s greatest mysteries, as the bees have changed very little while the world around them has changed significantly.

3. It comes in many different flavors and colors.

Depending on the location and kinds of flowers the bees visit, honey can differ significantly in flavor and color. The US alone is home to 300 unique kinds of honey, with floral sources as diverse as clover, orange blossom and wildflower. As a general rule, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor while darker colored honeys are usually more intense.

4. Honey has numerous health benefits.

Raw, organic honey is loaded with vitamins, minerals and enzymes which protect the body from bacteria and boost the immune system. Honey is often used to relieve cold and flu symptoms such as coughs, sore throats and congestion.

Honey is also one of the oldest known wound dressings. Its high viscosity helps to create a protective barrier on the cut and its antibacterial properties prevent bacteria from growing on the wound. For these reasons, applying honey to wounds can even increase the healing speed.

5. A single honeybee worker produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey during its lifetime.

As the saying goes, there is power in numbers! To sustain the entire colony during winter, honeybees must produce about 60 pounds of honey between spring and fall. It takes tens of thousands of workers to get this job done, which explains why an average bee colony has 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees. To produce just one jar of honey, honeybees travel the mileage equivalent of three times around the world!

Craving honey yet? Check out the two new varieties in our pantry: Orange Blossom and Lavender. Our Orange Blossom honey is light and aromatic, derived from the blossoms of the orange tree while our Lavender Honey finds its origin in the nectar of lavender and has a delicate, floral scent. Both of these products are available at your local Le Pain Quotidien and in our online pantry.

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Cold Brew Coffee
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When it comes to coffee in the summertime, drinking it cold is almost always a must. Here at Le Pain Quotidien, we love getting our coffee fix with cold brewed coffee. Compared to its hot brewed counterpart, cold brew is much less acidic and has a smooth velvety taste. Filled up in a glass with plenty of ice, this is the perfect refreshing drink to start your morning or give your afternoon a boost.

Read on to learn how to make it at home – all you need is coffee, water and a little patience!

Instructions:

  1. Start by choosing the coffee you’re going to use for your cold brew. You can opt for whole bean coffee, which you’ll need to grind to the coarseness of your preference or you can use already ground coffee. We like to use our organic Medium Roast Ground Coffee to create a flavorful brew.
  2. Once you have your ground coffee ready, combine it with the filtered water in a large pitcher. If you own a large French press, you could choose to use this as this makes it easier to separate the concentrate from the coffee grounds after brewing.
  3. Stir to combine the ingredients, making sure that all the coffee grounds have come in contact with water. Cover the mixture with a cloth or kitchen wrap and let steep at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
  4. After the coffee has fully steeped, line the strainer with a coffee filter and fit it over the second pitcher. Slowly pour the coffee into the filter until all the liquid has passed through the strainer. Discard the remaining coffee grounds (or compost them!).
  5. The final product will be a concentrated brew, so be sure to dilute it to taste. We suggest diluting it 1-1 with water or your choice of milk. Serve over ice and enjoy!

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Salt Preserved Lemons
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If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, chances are you’ve noticed loads of gorgeous lemons on the shelves! As the winter weather lingers, brighten up your kitchen with salt preserved lemons.

This staple of Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine – consisting of lemons cured in their own juice and salt – will pack a huge punch of intense, concentrated flavor to many dishes, from salads to tagines.This recipe features meyer lemons, which are sweeter than regular lemons and have a more intense flavor and aroma.

Try pairing salt preserved lemons with other Middle Eastern or Mediterranean-inspired flavors like our antipasto from Les Moulins Mahjoub or extra virgin olive oil in our pantry!

Instructions: 

Begin by sterilizing your jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Set them out to dry. Meanwhile, scrub lemons well under running water and pat them dry as well. Be sure to use organic lemons – you’ll be eating the peel, and certainly won’t want the residue of pesticides, fungicides and waxes lingering as it would with conventionally grown lemons! If you absolutely can’t find organic lemons, make sure you rinse your lemons extra well with warm water.

While many recipes will tell you to cut the lemons into flower shapes (quartered, leaving the bottom sealed), cutting them fully into quarters will make them easier to use down the line when you’re ready to add them to a dish. Trim the ends off of each lemon as well.

After cutting 8 of the lemons into quarters, place the pieces in a large bowl and toss with salt until they’re completely covered (about 2 tsp per lemon). Then, pack the lemon wedges into your sterilized jars (about 4 lemons can go in each jar), and let sit for an hour. The salt will begin to draw out some of the juice from the lemons.

After an hour, press the lemons down further into the jar to release more juice. Squeeze the remaining lemons into a bowl and pour their juice into the jars. Each jar should be filled to the top!

Seal the jars and keep at room temperature for several days up to one week. Be sure to turn the jar over and give it a shake once a day. After about a week, transfer jars to the fridge to cure for another two weeks. At this point, they will be ready to use! They will keep in the fridge for months. Better yet, flavor will improve with aging.

When ready to use, discard the pulp and rinse the peel to remove excess salt. Et voilà!

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