Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Food for Thought - A French Brasserie Classique

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).

Steak au Poivre
Pomme Pont-Neuf (French Fries)
Tarte Tatin

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings - market day in the 17th.

The section of the 17th arrondissement nestled just between the Batignolles neighbourhood and the Parc Monceau holds many attractions. I am discovering them partly thanks to one of my friends who lives in this area and who thinks it is pretty great, so has shared some of its secrets with me. I went last Sunday to check out the market on the rue de Levis.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

La Terrasse - Sun worshipping Parisian take to the outdoors

Last week we were certainly spoiled by the sunshine of early Spring. While the Northern hemisphere sprung forward into the season of rebirth calender-wise, many places were still in the chill of Winter, like for example New York where it actually snowed last week! But not here in Paris, thankfully. Lucky we were to have temperatures going as high as 19ºC (66ºF), and the change was certainly noticeable.

Spring time means more time outdoors and people were certainly outside last week. The Italians are said to have made dining al fresco (in the fresh literally), an art-form. The food and wine just seems to taste better outdoors (though my brother may disagree with me on this one). Since the Italians, even non-Mediterranean cultures have taken to chasing after the rays of the sun trying to get as much vitamin D as possible. Long gone are the days of covering up to keep that pale pearl-like skin-tone that was all the fashion in the last century.

The sun just seems to bring out the best in most of us, don't they say that the people living in the sunnier regions are friendlier? And it certainly helps the day go by faster. So it was of no surprise at all to see that once the birds started chirping and the tree buds started to give way to the early flowers that the Parisians took to the outdoors and anybody who is anybody went in search of "La Terrasse".
Believe me even in the Winter-time you will find people outside dining, particularly those who wish to smoke, but it is really when the hot rays come pouring down, that you really see the action of the sun worshipers in search of that perfect Terrasse. See the glares of those waiting to take your hot spot at a sidewalk cafe and you will understand how this is coveted commodity.

It seemed as if every restaurant, cafe or bar was putting at least one table and chair outside to attract the masses. It it didn't bring the patrons in it at least served as a stoop for the staff.

With all the interest in terrace dining, it is no wonder that the city has had to pass new laws about the rules of outdoor dining since the good weather has returned to the capital. The rule which will go to vote today, states that you will have to have 1.60 Meters of space between the terrace dining and the end of the sidewalk to allow for passersby. You can install two terrace dining areas with a passage running in between if you have at least 6 meters of space, an improvement for restaurant owners who had to have 9 meters in the past. Another change is the disappearance of the plastic covers that were used to shield clients from the wind, now deemed unaesthetic. This all sounds very promising and I certainly hope that it means that there will be more spots outside.

But what about what you get for your sidewalk dining experience. Honestly if you have a spot in the sun, you don't even have to be that good to attract clients. Desperate seekers of the sun shall continue to flock to the sunny side of the street contenting themselves with mediocre meals and pricey drinks just to spend an hour or two basking in the sun. I am not ashamed to admit that this is sometimes me one of those seekers. Well frankly when you spend what seems like an eternity with dark gloomy clouds over your head, you will certainly go that extra mile to find the near perfect spot you've been waiting so long to get.

So take to the sun and enjoy Paris' terraces, always a great spot for people watching and a chance to stop for a little while and enjoy Paris the way Parisians do, al fresco, with a glass of wine, and your shades.

Source: La Vie Immo

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sipping on Saturdays - Back at Mama's Place: Mama Shelter

Had such a great time at brunch that I marked my calendar to go back to Mama Shelter once again for drinks and dinner. I do not regret this decision in the least. I picked Thursday night because according to their calendar, Aline Afanoukoe, well known Radio Nova DJ was to be enchanting her captivated audience from 9:30 PM to 1:00 AM. It seemed a reasonable enough excuse to head over to the 20th and once again partake in the electric vibe that you can not help but feel when you pass an evening here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Food for Thought - Mama Shelter's cooking up brunch

I am always trying to seek the perfect brunch and this one Sunday brought me to none other than the Philippe Starck designed hotel Mama Shelter in the 19th district. Sometimes you have to go a bit out of your comfort zones (in other words your respective districts), and venture off towards the horizon to perhaps even greener pastures.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings: Honfleur, discovering Normandy

This Wednesday wanderings takes us to a lovely Norman city called Honfleur. A two hour drive from Paris, it is a trip that’s doable for a day but is worth an overnight or 2 days. The first time I went to Honfleur we only went for a day trip and decided that it was quaint enough for us to return for longer the next time around.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mad about Matisse in the Museum of Modern Art

I expected the usual Sunday line, typical of the Centre Pompidou, but was pleasantly surprised to see that at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris I didn't have to wait to get in, and nor did I have to queue for a ticket (albeit a free one) as the museum's permanent collections are free to everyone. The building that the museum is housed in was designed for the International Art and Technical Exhibition in 1937, and opened as a museum of modern art in 1961 within the Palais de Tokyo. The exhibition provided the opportunity for some great acquisitions, while most of the rest of the works were acquired from the Petit Palais, which was running out of space, and from important donations and some purchases.

Our first stop was the Matisse gallery. My friends and I found ourselves in an amazingly tranquil room; we were the only visitors gazing upon the huge triptych 'Danse à Paris'. My friend and I had previously watched a BBC documentary on Matisse which showed how later in his life he painted huge murals and canvases with a stick of charcoal attached to a bamboo cane. The fluid shapes and arched bodies really show his technique and skill and I have to say (in a bit of a left bank Parisian art-student way) that I was moved! It is rare that a piece of art gets a room to itself and this one certainly deserves the honour.

The museum houses important Cubist, Fauvist, Realist and Surrealist collections, among others, as well a a growing number of contemporary works. I particularly enjoyed the fauvist pottery and the twentieth century furniture, along with the fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower.
We didn't manage to get round the whole of the museum as it is truly gigantic!

However, we didn't leave without taking in the Dufy room, where his monumental work 'La Fée Electricité' is on display. This is a 624m² painting commissioned for the 1937 Exhibition to celebrate the role that electricity plays in daily life. It is amazing! This was a good end to our visit, but I will definitely be going back to explore the parts of the museum that my aching legs did not allow me to discover.

Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. 11 avenue du Président Wilson 75116 Paris.
Bus : lines 32, 42, 72, 80, 82 et 92
Métro : line 9 - Alma-Marceau or Iéna
RER : line C - Pont de l'Alma
Open Tues-Sun 10 am -6 pm

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sipping on Saturdays: Paris takes on the Smoothie

They say it all the time, we need to have at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day or is it 5 servings. Now does a whole apple count as one serving or two? Hmm, no idea but I do know that I need to put more fruits and veggies into my diet for sure but Winter never motivates me to eat more fruit. But when the sun starts to shine, the fruit just looks more appealing. I can easily polish off a large bowl of cherries myself!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Foto: Macaron Day March 20th 2011

It's been 6 years since Pierre Hermé introduced Le Jour du Macaron, and boy are we grateful! This Sunday at Pierre Hermé boutiques and several other pastry chefs, you can enjoy this Sunday March 20th free macarons to sample and hopefully to inspire you to try the many flavors available.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Where to brunch?- Try La Maison Mère

The quest for the perfect brunch continues! My friend and I recently joined in with the Sunday morning pursuit of many a self-respecting Parisian, and looked for somewhere seriously good to brunch. We did quite an impressive amount of research before going, particularly my friend, who is one of those people who likes to look up restaurants, study the reviews and really weigh up her options before deciding on somewhere to go. This usually gives good results but takes some of the spontaneity out of proceedings. We decided on Cafe Pierre in the 12th, a seemingly good choice...until our plans were scuppered when we couldn't get a reservation. We obviously had the same idea as a lot of people.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is French Wine in Danger?

What is France without its wine? Here are some facts that would probably not shock you about one of France's greatest contributions and traditions:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Paris gets a Face-lift - Le Ravalement

You may have noticed around town all the scaffolding up outside the facades of many Parisian buildings these days. It happens every year, one building or another gets a face-lift so that we can later appreciate it's original charm. They call this the "ravalement".

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sipping on Saturdays - Call Me Bubbles: Champagne Bar

When I first walked past this little store front last year, I immediately texted my fellow Champagne loving friends to tell them that we just HAD to try this place which had sprung up in our favorite Paris neighborhood, Montmartre.

At number 54 rue Custine came the cave a champagne, Call Me Bubbles whose name came from the hilarious show "Little Britain". Oh so appropriate!

They offer tasting of Champagne by the glass with a coupe at 8 euros and an accompanying buffet of sweet and salty treats. Perfect for an after work or if you just love your champagne (like I do).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday Food for Thought - Enishi, Authentic Japanese in Montmartre

Authenticity! I frequently find myself looking for it and too often end up settling for less. But I guess we all do.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings - The hidden face of the Canal St. Martin

I recently went on a great tour of the Canal Saint Martin area with an association called 'Ça se visite'. We started off at the metro station Jacques Bonsergent in the 10th arrondissement where we met our guide Sebastien. He talked us through the areas we would cover on our walk and emphasized that this would not be a stroll along the canal, it was a visit to discover the hidden side of the canal Saint Martin area.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Girl Power - The women who have shaped France's history

Today is International Women's day so we're celebrating some of the women that have marked France's history.

We start all the way back in the 15th century with the young Jeanne d'Arc. A peasant girl who led the French army to several crucial victories during the hundred years war, she certainly achieved a lot in her short life before she was burned at the stake at the age of 19. Today she remains a symbol of female empowerment and strength. Moving forward to the 16th century we find another strong woman, Catherine de Medicis, wife of Henri II of France. She was thrust into the political arena after the death of her husband and oversaw many political decisions on behalf of her sons, playing a key role in the reign of her third son Henri III. Before her husband's death however, she was excluded from affairs of state because her position had been usurped by Diane de Poitiers, the favorite mistress of the king, who wielded much influence over him. She had gifts, such as the Chateau de Chemonceau, and powers lavished on her, while plain old Catherine was left by the wayside. When Henri II died, Catherine got her own back by taking the castle and doing some building improvements to outdo Diane's previous work. There's nothing like a deco war to distinguish the women from the girls…

Another woman lavished with gifts was Marie Antoinette, the young Austrian Archduchess who landed herself a fancy French royal husband, Louis XVI, and became the symbol of
the decadence and frivolity of the years preceding the French Revolution. One of the original independent women, she escaped the formalities of courtly life in her rural retreat, Le Petit Trianon.

One important woman I was less aware of is Olympe de Gouges. An 18th century political activist responsible for writing the the Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen, she challenged the authority of men and the notion of male-female inequality. Her writings on such topics as the rights of illegitimate children and the right of divorce make her a pretty forward-thinking woman, as is often the case with these leading lights, she was before her time.

Next, we take a trip into the world of arts and science. Marie Curie, the Polish-born scientist and pioneer in the field of radioactivity, was the first woman to win a Nobel prize, and the person honored with two Nobel prizes. Not vital to her story, this trivia grabbed me: Marie Curie's cookbook is so highly radioactive that it cannot be handled and is stored today in a lead-lined box!…I'm not sure I would like to have been invited over for dinner. Anyway, Curie overcame barriers that were placed in her way solely because she was a woman. She was ambitious, emancipated, and independent. Much like George Sand, the 19th century french novelist. Remembered both for her work and her modern attitude, she often dressed as a man in public in order to gain access to parts of society from which women were often barred. She smoked cigarettes in public, something the French thought was scandalous for a woman (if only they thought that today…) and lived a pretty unorthodox lifestyle.

Another unorthodox woman is our next subject: Simone de Beauvoir, the feminist writer and thinker. Her book 'The Second Sex' was perhaps the first to recognize that men had made women 'the other' in society - women have always been judged against men, with men being the norm and women deviating from this. Her father asserted that "Simone thinks like a man!" and this was precisely what she came to fight against - the idea that to be a man's equal, a woman must be like a man. Hmm, there's a theme developing here.

And dressing women, as women? Coco Chanel. She was a fashion pioneer whose mix of tenacity and style assured that she has gone down in history as one of the most influential designers ever to have lived. Another style icon is Brigitte Bardot, THE french symbol of femininity and sensuality and the woman credited as popularizing the bikini.

In France today, which women are important? Carla Bruni is in the public eye but that is not to say she will be remembered like the women on our list. However, she does seem to wield more power over Sarko than we may think, and she's a successful songwriter, singer, and model in her own right. In politics, I often hear about Christine Lagarde, the French minister of economics, finance and industry who has been named by the Financial Times as the best minister of finance in Europe and by Forbes as one of the most powerful women in the world. In an arena traditionally dominated by men, she is really asserting her power.

Let's hope we will eventually lose the concept of particular areas of work or culture dominated by one sex or the other, and reach a real equality. In any case, today is not so much about celebrating feminism as about honoring the women who have shaped the history of their countries.

Photo credits: Wikipedia

Monday, March 7, 2011

Paris - The ultimate open air gallery

Paris is a city of artists. With its impressive roster of museums and galleries this is not difficult to notice. But just below the surface there is a less obvious art scene, the world of street art. Street art is big news. Just recently I went to the opening of a street art exhibition at a chic gallery on the rue St. Honoré. The audience contained quite a startling number of rather senior fur-wearing Parisiennes accompanied by their poodles. So street art has been well and truly taken off the streets and into the houses of a select few. This is nothing new. But I started to get more interested in seeing where the art comes from…the street.
Coincidentally, on a guided tour of the 'hidden face' of the Canal St Martin a week or so later, my wish was granted. I will talk about this fantastic tour on Wednesday, but for now, one of the things I most appreciated about it was the insistence on observing the small details of the city. Cities are complex, big, scary sometimes, but we can appreciate them at every level.
On the tour I got talking to a woman who is obsessed with street art. She pointed out so many artists, styles, and hidden details. Just like with famous 'conventional' artists, the work is quite easy to match with the artist, and I was soon learning who was who.

At every pause, every corner, my new friend would point something out and tell me about it. She knew specific pieces, others had disappeared and others were new to her. I liked how this ephemeral this art is, it will never get boring. She was so enthusiastic and her enthusiasm for this urban art was infectious.

The following week, she informed me of a event called Le M.U.R. This is something that takes place every two weeks at the wall of the Cafe Charbon in rue Oberkampf. A different street artist comes each time to create a new piece of art for the wall. I was there to see FKDL, a Parisian artist whose work we had seen at many moments during the tour. He works mainly in collage, collecting pages from journals, flyers, magazines and newspapers and sticking pieces together then directly applying the result to the wall, normally in the form of a figure. For the M.U.R, he did a purple and red background with swirling black abstract shapes, and one of his typical women in the middle.

It was fun to watch street art in progress; I imagine it doesn't occur very often that we actually see someone creating art in this way. I prefer to see it this way, either at an event or just wandering round the city. It is the ultimate accessible art: get out there into the open air gallery that is Paris!

More info on the M.U.R can be found at
A really good tour of Paris street art can be found on the iphone app Invisible Paris

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Buzz on the Bars of Paris - by Sophie Delon

Story by Sophie Delon for Parisien Salon

This story originally appeared on Parisien Salon, an online magazine and travel planner named by Lonely Planet and Travel Onion as favorite blogs for Paris

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Fotos: Le Salon d'Agriculture meets Fashion Week

There's always so much going on in Paris it is sometimes hard to keep up. The Salon d'agriculture came to a close on the 27th of February and on March 1st, Paris' fashion week opened up.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday Food For Thought - Making the most of your Paris Market Visit

One of the things I love most in Parisian is it's markets. I am sure many people would agree with that but I do suspect that many people including locals don't use the fresh food markets as much as they should. Why? I ask would anyone choose the supermarket over a fresh market with so many wonderful looking things to eat and taste and people to get advise from. Go ahead ask the stock keeper at Carrefour for advise on how to prepare the filet of sole that you wish to buy, if you don't get a luck of utter stupor then I'll eat my hat!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings - Beyond Paris: Angoulême

One of the things I have loved about Paris since my first time living here as a student is its proximity to so many wonderful places. I dear say that as a student I probably spent more time visiting places outside of Paris than inside Paris . . . I know, I know, what was I thinking but really the opportunities were just too tempting and with a reduction card from the SNCF it was definitely affordable (for the under 25s), access to far points in France as well as points abroad were just so easy.

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