While Paris-born singer Claudia Hommel admittedly doesn’t cook much, she knows a thing or two about where to get excellent, authentic French food. After all, her French mom took pastry classes at the Le Cordon Bleu—yes, that one in Paris, and taught Hommel to make béchamel sauce and mayonaise from scratch at age 12.
A bit about Hommel: If you haven’t seen her in person—at Chicago Symphony Center, Ravinia, the Art Institute, Metropolis in Arlington Heights or a multitude of other venues, you’re missing something. She’s one those magical performers you have to see to fully appreciate. Part actor, part crooner, Hommel, is sexy yet sophisticated in an Audrey Hepburn sort of way. When she belts out the French cabaret songs she is known for, you’ll feel like you've been transported to an actual Montmartre cabaret.
Besides singing and teaching at DePaul’s Community Music Division, Hommel will be accompanying about a dozen people to France this May. That’s right, people—PARIS IN THE SPRING! And with someone who can give you a unique, insider's perspective !
For more information about Hommel's trip and her performance schedule, click onto carbaret-paree.com.
Q: Who does the cooking at your house?
Hommel: My husband (Cappy Kidd, a green building advisor) does most of it. He’s not a gourmet cook, but he’s an inventive one. He made a wonderful eggplant, mushroom and Italian sausage dish the other night. And he bakes too.
Q: What are some of your favorite restaurants?
Hommel: We aren’t big restaurant goers, but we like Thai Thai, a neighborhood place. We get the Tom Kha Gal, a hot and sour spicy soup with coconut milk, chicken, lemon grass and mushrooms.
We enjoy Badou, a Senegalese restaurant on Howard near Ridge. It has elements of Southern soul food done West African-style. Their pastels (stuffed puff pastries) are the best.
Q: What is one of your favorite French restaurants in Chicago?
Hommel: Cyrano’s Farm Kitchen. They have really good salmon. The chicken is fall-off-the-bone good. And the chocolate mousse is to die for.
Q:Where can you get the best croissants in Chicago?
Hommel: La Boulangerie in Logan Square. The croissants are perfect, genuine. And they have really, really good breads. The croissants at Café Selmarie in Lincoln Square are authentic too.
Q: How about French onion soup?
Hommel: If you’re looking for it, go to Cyrano’s and Chez Moi. The chef there used to be at Bistro 110.
Q: I wish! If I did go, where would I find the best food in Paris?
Hommel: Neighborhood bistros are a dime a dozen in Paris, and they’re all very good. A La Biere is one I like to take folks to. You’ll want to have the escargot and apple tartin (upside-down apple tart). And La Coupole is a restaurant I recommend but can’t afford. It’s very pricey. I was taken there, and it's everything everybody describes.
Q:Where can you find the best food in France?
Hommel: The best food in France is in Dordogne. It’s in the southwest region, east of Bordeaux. It's where truffles, foie gras and duck confit come from. It’s the area where the French go when they want really good food. It’s impossible to sit in a restaurant there and not have the best food ever.
Q: Any particular restaurants that you'd recommend there?
En Cuisine in Brive-la Gaillarde. Le Bistro de l' Octroi in Sarlat. And the Manior d' Hautegente. It has a fabulous haute cuisine dining room in the middle of farmland and rolling hills.
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