Q&A: Dani Cadena on moving to France in the middle of a pandemic and baguette runs in lockdown
Plus, her plans for the holidays
Happy Snow Day from Brooklyn! I have a special treat for you today—a virtual trip to France with Dani. I can’t wait to visit her when that’s possible!
Dani Cadena is a social media consultant, writer, and creator. She recently moved from Brooklyn to France and her life has changed so much. We’ve been friends for a while and I’ve been obsessed with her Instagrams from France—walks through the forest to buy bread, mushroom foraging, and incredible style in the countryside. We caught up to talk about food in France and what she misses about New York.
We’ll be going live on Instagram (@thisneedshotsauce and @danichain) tomorrow (December 18th) at 12:30 pm EST to talk more about French food, Covid restrictions, and new hobbies. Join us for a lunch break!
Q: Why did you move to France and where are you currently living?
A: My husband is French so we always had plans to move to Europe, but due to the pandemic, we decided to do it sooner than expected. There were many reasons that influencd our decision but ultimately we wanted a different lifestyle which we couldn’t afford if we stayed in NYC.
We currently live in the Southwest of France, about 45 mins from Bordeaux.
Q: What was it like to move during a pandemic? How did you say goodbye to New York?
A: It was weird but actually easier than I thought. I think leaving NYC is always a difficult thing to do, but since the city hasn’t been the same this year, it was easier to leave because it didn’t feel like the city we knew and loved. In a messed up way, that helped.
I said goodbye by making a list of places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to eat before leaving. I only got through like, 25% of it, but now I have an excuse to come back soon. (Ed note: Dani even said goodbye to each of her old apartments)
Q: What’s a typical day like in terms of meals?
A: Everything here revolves around food, French people really take their time to sit down and enjoy their meals.
Breakfast- We usually wake up and have coffee with a small breakfast: usually a toasted piece of baguette with homemade jam.
Lunch- We have lunch at 12:30pm and it lasts like an hour. We have a starter, entrée, fruit/dessert and end with an afternoon espresso.
Dinner- We have dinner at 7:30pm and it’s the same as lunch except there’s a cheese course before fruit and no coffee.
Q: Since France is currently on lockdown, how are you spending your days? What does food shopping look like?
A; Lockdown just ended, but while it was going on, food shopping was one of the only activities allowed. We usually go to the farmer’s market every Saturday and get all the fresh fruit and veggies there. We also get a whole chicken and oysters which is what the Masquere’s eat every Sunday for lunch. As for fish, they sell fresh fish on Fridays and Saturdays, so that’s what we buy and eat every weekend.
Other than eating and cooking, I recently took up running haha so we’ve been doing that a lot and riding our bikes into town to get bread. They eat SO MUCH BREAD. We go through like, two whole baguettes a day.
Q: Your Instagrams from France lead to such wanderlust. What’s it like being there after living in New York for so long?
A: It’s such a nice change. After being stuck in a small Brooklyn apartment with no outdoor space, living in the middle of the forest is exactly what we needed. This is definitely a good place to quarantine.
Q: What are your favorite things you’ve cooked or eaten in France?
A: I love Paul’s mom’s roasted chicken which she makes every Sunday. It’s such a nice and simple recipe but also so delicious and comforting. I also tried Cassoulet for the first time which is a traditional dish from the Southwest of France. It’s super filling and heavy, perfect for winter.
As for cooking, I made a basque cheesecake that I’m still thinking about, and gluten-free chocolate cookies that were so good we ate them all in one day.
Q: You’re living next to a forest and have done a lot of mushroom foraging. What’s that like?
A: Paul’s dad is a ~mushroom expert~ and it’s currently mushroom season, so we go foraging every other week and then Paul’s mom cooks something delicious, like a mushroom pasta, with them.
Q: Looking ahead to Christmas and New Years, are there any traditions you’ll be participating in? Are you bringing any family traditions over there?
A: Because of COVID-19, we decided to just have a small dinner with immediate family (just his parents and siblings), so I have a feeling things will be different. Not sure what the menu will be like, but I’m assuming we will have oysters and foie gras.
I did find a Venezeulan place in Paris called Ají Dulce and I ordered hallacas (sort of like Venezuelan tamales) and pan de jamón (the literal translation is ham bread) which are two things we traditionally eat in Venezuela for Christmas dinner.
Q: What do you miss most in terms of food? Have you been able to find all your staples, especially for Venezuelan dishes?
A: Surprisingly, I have. There’s a company I found through Instagram that delivers frozen Venezuelan food and other goodies, so I placed an order with them. There is also a Venezuelan restaurant in Bordeaux and in Paris. The one thing I’ve had a hard time finding are corn tortillas for tacos. Also some spices and condiments are tricky to find, I’ve been looking for miso for weeks!
Q: What French inspired recipe would you recommend people try?
A: I’m biased, but Paul’s mom's roasted chicken is amazing. (Ed note: Get the recipe here)
I also had the BEST baked potato the other day and it was so simple. We melted mont d'or cheese, grabbed some ~jamón Serrano~ and threw it all on top of a potato and it was SO GOOD.
And for people with a sweet tooth, chocolate fondant.
Q: Baguettes or croissants?
A: This is a very difficult question to answer. I’d say croissants because I don’t get to eat them as often as I eat baguettes. Also FYI, ‘tradition’ (another type of bread) is so much better than a baguette!
I also asked Dani some questions you submitted on Instagram
Q: Why did you move/how hard was it? I want to live abroad someday too!
A: We moved because we wanted a different lifestyle that we simply couldn’t afford in NYC anymore. It’s not easy, but since Paul is French it was a little easier. If you want to move abroad, I’d say you ideally need about 4-6 months of planning before committing to it. Also, make a list of all the pros and cons, of new expenses and how long you’ll go without a steady income.
Q: What do you find yourself spending more time doing there that's a surprise to you?
A: Just being outside and doing physical activities like biking and running. I hated running in the city, but there’s something about being able to run in a forest that motivates me. We’ve also spent A LOT of time eating and barely any time watching tv.
Thank you, Dani! Remember to follow her and join us on Instagram to talk more about food in France and pandemic life tomorrow (December 18th) at 12:30 pm EST.