Monday, February 28, 2011

Paris gets greener with Auto'Lib

When the Ve'lib service started in Paris back in 2007, a lot of Parisian were excited by the possibilities of picking up a bike quickly and easily to get around the city with ease - relatively speaking. I own a bike and I have to admit that I don't use it as much as I would like. Between worrying about the cars running me over and the possibility of theft of one part or another on my bike, I was not to keen on the idea. Ve'lib on the other hand was a great option since - the bike isn't yours and you just place it back in a terminal and off you go - no fuss no muss. I did hear some rather funny stories of friends who road around and around trying to find a free spot to park the ve'lib. With the Ve'lib app on the iPhone this task was made much easier.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thursday food for thought - A French brasserie classique Read More

Today I thought we would try something a little different for our Thursday food for thought post, by presenting you with a classic brasserie menu idea for your next romantic meal at home or if you just wish to re-create French experience right at home. You can put on your Gainsbourg CD, set up a little table (the smaller the better), in your living room or in your garden and whip out a nice bottle of red wine (suggestion to follow).
Menu:
Steak au Poivre
Pomme Pont-Neuf (French Fries)
Tarte Tatin 

A classic in every French cookbook,
Steak au Poivre is the perfect main course for a romantic meal.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
4 1-inch thick strip steaks but you can also use fillet
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon oil (sunflower or peanut)
1/3 cup shallots, chopped
¼ cup butter, cut into 2 pieces
½ cup Cognac
¾ cup heavy cream

Preparation:

Season both sides of each steak with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat, and then sauté the steaks, 2 at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer the steaks to a heatproof dish and keep them warm in a 175-degree oven.
Pour any leftover liquid from the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Add the shallots and 1 piece of butter; sauté for 5 minutes, until cooked. Carefully add Cognac (it may flame) and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir in cream and other piece of butter; heat through, stirring constantly. Serve over steaks immediately.

Makes 4 servings

. . . . . . . . . . . . . Read More . . . . . . . . . . . .

And now for the fries!
 
French fries or "pomme Pont-Neuf" are probably the most popular french recipe. But, they are not always cooked properly. So, there is a recipe that will give you the best French fries results possible, every time.

Ingredients:
Potatoes good for frying
Salt

Peanut or Sunflower oil


Direction :


1) Peel, wash, and cut your potatoes into "batons" of 3 1/2 inches (10 cm) long and a 1/4 inch (2 cm) thick. Make sure to choose potatoes suitable for frying, sometimes known as chipper potatoes, such as Maris Piper or Binge.

2) Heat your fryer to 180C/356F, then carefully plunge a small amount of French fries (of the same thickness) and cook them for 4-5 minutes. Strain them and set them aside. Repeat this step until all your potatoes are done.


3) Just before serving them, heat up your fryer to 190C/ 374F and finish to cook your French fries, in small amounts.

Your "pomme Pont-Neuf" are cooked when they have a golden colour and crispy texture.


4) When done, place them on some kitchen paper and season them with some table salt and serve them straight away.

And now the just desserts

Tarte Tatin

Crust (pate sucree)

180g/6oz butter at room temperature
100g/3oz superfine sugar/icing sugar
zest of one lemon 1 vanilla pod
1 pinch of salt
2 yolks
250g flour

Caramel
2 tbsp water
100g sugar
1 teaspoon of butter

Apples
8 apples, peeled, cored and quartered

Procedure
In a standup mixer cream butter, sugar, salt, lemon and vanilla until light and fluffy. Stop the machine, scrape well, add yolks and whip again until eggs are incorporated. Add flour and mix slowly until incorporated. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hr minimum.

In a thick pan (or skillet) put water, then sugar, then the butter and cook over medium heat until caramel is amber color. Off heat add the butter, then pour in the tart pan where you will cook the tarte. Let cool then arrange the apple slices, fit as many as possible, about 2 layers of apple slices.

Preheat the oven at 180C/350F

Roll the crust and place over the apples. Cut a few vents to let steam from cooking apples escape during baking. Bake until crust is golden brown.

Place a large plate on top of the pan and flip in a rapid movement (some hot juices might splash you so be careful). Let cool in the plate before serving. 

Bon appetit! I know I'm hungry now!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sipping on Saturdays - Let them eat cake . . . Swedish style!

On the very rainy Saturday we had last week, I needed something to cheer me up. I found my friends were in the same predicament so we made tracks to the cafe of l'Institut Suédois in the Marais for tea and cake. A Swedish friend of mine had been to the cafe before and reported back that the calm atmosphere, cool deco, and delicious homemade cakes were all authentic so I really wanted to try it out.



Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Foto - Boating in the Tuileries


The Jardin de Luxembourg is famous for its toy boats, but I rather like these colourful examples in the Jardin des Tuileries: they certainly brightened up a cold January day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Food for Thought - Le Passage Obligé

As we approached this restaurant in the Marais we were in high spirits as the sun had finally come out to play. We decided on a window seat to take advantage of the nice day and do some people watching. My boss Yetunde quickly had a shock of déjà vu, recognizing the space and the feel of the restaurant. She thought it had been a vegetarian restaurant in a past life, and indeed it had! (The waiter confirmed this). I liked the décor, with its exposed stone walls, calm lighting and low tables with comfy chairs. It has a mix of oriental and French influences, much like the cuisine. So, onto the menu: it was surprisingly good value, not something you necessarily expect in this area, three courses for 16 euros or 2 for 13 euros. We ended up choosing the latter and saving ourselves for a great chocolate shop (Georges Larnicol) afterwards. We each had a glass of Brouilly (a fruity Beaujolais) to accompany our meal.



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wandering Wednesdays: Be a Parisian - Take the Bus

At every single check-in I do, I emphasize just how easy it is to use the bus in Paris to get to the sites. In the Montmartre area we have 5 great bus lines that I point out at every check-in, the 31 (will get you to Gare du Nord, Gare de L'Est and the Champs Elysee), the 67 (will take you to Ile Saint Louis) the 80 (will take you to the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysee), the 85 (will take you the the Luxembourg Gardens and St Michel), and the 95 (Opera Garnier, drops you directly in front of Louvre and takes you into St Germain). So why the trepidation when it comes to taking the bus? What's the rush?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's wild! The Museum of Hunting and Nature

Last year I visited Paris with a friend who wanted to go to museums and exhibits that were a little off the usual tourist trail; I agreed with this wish so we decided on the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (the museum of hunting and nature.) Also she is quite fascinated by stuffed animals (of the taxidermy variety) so this was the perfect museum for her. Unfortunately it was closed and as we only had limited time in Paris we were not able to return on that visit. Fortunately (for me, not so much for her) I went back on Saturday with some friends and the museum was open and ready to be explored.


It is housed in a former hôtel particulier (city mansion) and contains three floors of permanent and temporary exhibition space. As we entered the first room we heard a roar and a scream of fear. Uh oh, had we walked into a house of living exhibits à la Night at the Museum? No, surely not, it was the daytime. It turned out to be a very cute American toddler being terrorized by a stuffed wild boar (roar provided by the little boy's grandfather.) This put us in childish spirits and started our visit off on the right foot, as this is an interactive museum ready to be enjoyed and not just a stuffy space full of stuffed animals! The rooms are wonderfully lavish, with original furnishings, chandeliers and floorings: the stuffed animals and hunting-inspired decorations adorn the spaces and create a rather surreal stetting. I liked the huge deer who stared at me with a look of wisdom, and the coyote in the same room who looked a little dazed. The stuffed polar bear is incredibly impressive; it's hard to believe they're really that big!


There are various rooms filled with hunting trophies, dears' heads, gazelles and even a lion. One such room was very funny, we could hear a ruckus coming from within and when we peeked around the threshold one of the boar heads on the wall high above us was proclaiming something or other in a loud voice, jaws moving and all! Two young French boys were looking on, flabbergasted at such an oversight on the museum's behalf, "but.. but.. he's still alive!? Well, can't he come down and talk to us?" The museum attendant replied that this was a privilege reserved for the museum's curator!


Upstairs there are more interactive exhibits such as a relaxing area where you can listen to various different birdsong, and a recreation of the hunting cabin shared by the museum's founders.
I would recommend this museum for families, overgrown children, and normal adults… therefore, for everyone!

Where?: 62, rue des Archives, 3rd arrondissement.
When?: Open daily except Mondays and public holidays.
An admission fee is charged.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday's Food for Thought: Le Miroir Delectable Bistro in Montmartre


I must shamefully confess that when I asked the manager of this lovely little eatery on rue des Martyrs how long they had been open, I was surprised to hear that they had been there for 2 years already. Where was I? You'd think I'd follow my own advise and wander around a bit more to discover new places. But let me be perfectly honest, I (like most people I think), tend to go on recommendations. Well I am happy to say that after I asked my husband to take me to a place I'd never been, he brought me to Le Miroir for a Saturday afternoon lunch.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings: Celebrity hangout - Père Lachaise cemetery

The largest cemetery in the city of Paris (and also thought to be the world’s most visited) is a vast resting place for those who have enhanced French life during the past 200 years. Located in the 20th arrondissement, the cemetery perches on a hill overlooking Paris, a dignified end for those who are buried here.


The cemetery has its own metro stop, Père Lachaise, but I exited at Gambetta in order to walk downhill through the cemetery (not out of laziness, I had just heard it was the best way to wander…)
My first impression was of a town of graves; a map resembling a street plan complete with avenues and roundabouts greets you at the entrance. I made my way towards the impressive building housing the columbarium where such famous names as dancer Isadora Duncan have been cremated. Famous names are certainly not lacking. Making my way down through the cemetery I found the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Amedeo Modigliani, Jim Morisson, with its love-torn graffiti and (apparently) weeping fans, (although I wasn’t lucky enough to witness this spectacle), Edith Piaf, Colette, Marcel Proust, and on and on!


Some tombs really reflect the person in question, for example the artist Arman’s grave shows a bronze sculpture of a broken violin, typical of his work. This is a more modern tomb, unlike most of the 19th century gothic creations: I was impressed and a little amused at some of the ‘streets’ where each family had clearly tried to outdo each other in a show of monumental splendour and ostentation.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you are of the more gloomy leaning) I visited on a very miserable day, which certainly added some spookiness but also explains why I didn’t take many good photos, therefore I’ve used some pictures taken by Yetunde on a gloriously sunny day.
You can get to the Père Lachaise cemetery by metro to Père Lachaise, Philippe Auguste or Gambetta and by bus on the 26, 60, 61, 64 or 69. The cemetery is near to the market that I previously visited, and could easily be combined for a great morning trip.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Don't Seek and You Shall Find- Ginette en Voguette

Sometimes it just pays to stroll the streets of Paris NOT looking for the monuments but just taking in the city itself. Friday was a mild, sunny February day (thank you global warming), in Paris and I went off to meet my friend Gail for coffee in our neighborhood in the 18th district. We were seeking the warm rays of the sun so wrote off the various cafes and bars we saw which were not in the sunshine passing numerous window displays at jewelers and chocolate shops along rue Ordener positioning themselves for Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sipping on Saturdays at Chez Prune

Every Saturday we hope to bring you another great location to have a drink in Paris. We welcome your suggestions as well so send them our way. Here is the first in the series:

Looking for a relaxed bar to go for a drink amongst friends? Chez Prune is a good bet. In the hip Canal St Martin area this well known watering hole is a good choice if you want to sit down, chat, and take in the welcoming atmosphere.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The hidden villages of Paris

If you like exploring Paris off the beaten track then these areas are for you. I didn't know places like this existed in Paris, with its Haussmannian buildings and fancy stone facades. I sometimes come across houses, as in real houses with four walls and a pointy roof like a kid would draw, particularly in Montmartre, but never before in this concentration. I spotted the areas on the map, as they stand out from the straight avenues typical of Paris. One has strange winding streets and the other has many small roads sprouting from a larger road, that reminded me of the layout of housing estates in the UK. Thus, with a little trepidation I set out to see if they really were like the estates of my home country or whether they would be slightly more romantic (being in Paris it can't be too hard).



Monday, February 7, 2011

So you think you can cook - Paris restaurant invites you to be the chef for an evening

Food is in! There is no doubt about that. Everywhere you go it's all about what to eat, what not to eat, where to eat it and how to eat it. Paris is becoming the hotbed of new concepts (trying to keep up pace with the Scandinavians who are rocking the world menu's no doubt - See the Bocuse d'or award winners for 2011), by trying to make French food and French Cuisine more accessible to everyone - I think they have much of the expat community to thank for this. From your "diner clandestine" - clandestine Dinner parties where you don't know the menu, the place or who will be there, to French cooking classes taught all in English (not needing a personal translator like Julia Child once did), to French haute cuisine restaurants being more about fusion that about snails and onion soup, and the move towards "bistromonie" (almost bistro prices for gastronomic cuisine - sounds like the making of a future blog here), French cuisine is re-inventing herself with an intense injection of freshness.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crepes Day! Get out the frying pans

Yesterday, February 2nd marked Candlemas or as the French call it "Le Candeleur" or "Fêtes de la lumiere" or "Jour des Crêpes" (crepes day). Candlemas is a religious Catholic holiday which includes "a feast to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of baby Jesus.

Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on Chandeleur, but they also do a bit of fortune telling while making them. It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year." - Courtesy of About.com

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