Just bring out a tray of these chocolate dipped golden berries after a nice evening around a dinner table and you'll get some gasps, oohs, and ahhs! Not only do these present well, but pop 'em in your mouth and they are ready to set off a mini explosion of sweet ambrosia coated in its bittersweet counterpart.
Some of you may have noticed that I've gone MIA. I've been at battle up against the French administration and got sucked into its big black hole in search of how to go about getting a driver's license without breaking the bank. I'm slowly pulling myself out of this administrative conundrum as I don't have much guidance and every French person around me has gone the traditional route in going with an auto-école (the infamous driving school) which of course makes sense since they had to learn how to drive in the first place.
Being a holder of a foreign license already puts me at an economical advantage since I know how to drive already. I've applied as a candidat libre (one who is not registered with an auto-école) but its big disadvantage is that I have to process all my requests online and in return it spits out automated responses stating they would get back to me depending on whether or not I have provided all the information correctly. Turnaround time can be anywhere from a week up to three weeks for your first file to be approved or rejected (as in my case). I had to tack on an additional few more weeks of waiting time for my file to be approved so that I could finally book a date for the theoretical part of the exam. If you are registered with an auto-école they direct you through the red tape.
I highly recommend for future candidat libres to start your application process straight away in order to get your file approved and then start preparing for the theoretical part of the exam. Your file is valid for five years.
My error was that I did it the other way around so by the time I was ready to take the exam I couldn't. The time lapse while waiting for my file to be approved didn't help matters. Whatever I had crammed into my brain certainly didn't stick around long enough to wait for my application to be approved by the police prefecture.
Once you pass the exam which takes a good 3 weeks of cramming—and it's not because I studied and took the exam in French (I get a big pat on the back for that)— you can move on to the practical driving stage where one has to log in a certain number of hours and then ask for a driver's test date. That request alone takes at least two months and apparently we are supposed to be thankful as our new President Macron actually reduced the waiting time to 2 months for people like me applying as a candidat libre. Supposingly, if I fail, I would have an eight to nine month waiting period until my next driver's permit test date. Word around town is that the auto-écoles have a strong hold with the police prefecture so that they receive priority over the dates for the driver's permit test.
A driver's education in Paris is costly. Driving schools offer packages but usually that alone doesn't get you to pass the exam so they also offer extra hours of class priced per hour or other package priced driving hours on top so one can expect to pay anywhere from 800 euros (if you are lucky) to 2800 euros and more.
I'm awaiting my driver's test date. It's been almost two months now and no word yet. No hurry though as I have yet to start my driving hours either. Tomorrow will be my first lesson on the streets of Paris! Will keep you posted...xx- M
Chocolate Dipped Physalis Berries
INGREDIENTS//yields 25 pieces
• 25 physalis berries, rinsed and dried
• 50 grams dark chocolate 95%, melted
Peel back the leaves and place them in a bowl then rinse them under water.
Wipe the berries dry before dipping them into the chocolate.
Prepare a bain-marie: I used a small pot and a ramekin. Fill the pot with water halfway to the ramekin. Take the ramekin out while you boil the water.
Break your chocolate into small bits and place them in the ramekin and place it in the hot water.
Stir the chocolate as it melts so that the chocolate is even and well mixed.
Place a piece of parchment paper on your working space.
Take the ramekin out of the pot once the chocolate is melted.
Place it on a clear working space and begin dipping each physalis berry into the chocolate and lay them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Be sure to space them out.
Let the chocolate set on its own or you can place it in the fridge for quicker results.
I used 95% dark chocolate. For a sweeter version you can use a chocolate with less cocoa bean.