Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Here is my report of my visit to Mexico city a couple of weeks ago. Balmy night awaited us, after we check in at the inn.
lovely, lovely place that I would recommend in a minute.( the red tree house) The tres amigas were ready to set foot in a city of vast proportions, with some neighborhoods in disrepair, while other claiming the splendor of times past. We wanted food and we wanted art.We got a little of both ( there 3 days) with a fair amount of margarita samplings ( mostly me). On walks, we encountered spices and condiments stalls
bakeries, churros restaurants, fruit stands at the park
WE had a decadent meal at Pujol, a world renowned restaurant: tiny jewels on big plates, where smoky baby corns dipped in coffee mayonnaise with powdered ants served in a gourd was the amuse bouche. We had a fun meal at padrinos, a new restaurant set in a old restored building with upscale stores and wine bars and delis in the upper gallery. The wall was quite a sight !
For more unique food, we had guacamole with dried grasshoppers, and tacos with hibiscus paste.
The Museum of Anthropology was fascinating and vast. I noticed a lava board that women used by sitting on their knees, around a wedge that enabled them to roll dough. WE had to go to Diego's studio and Frieda's house.the wheelchair at her easel was especially poignant.the blue walls represent Mexico to me : bold, lush,happy, electric !

Monday, December 12, 2011

outstanding birthday

A very generous friend had a wonderful idea for celebrating her birthday:Invite a group of her closest girlfriends to her house for a little tea and crumpets, enough to feel ready to embark on a secret expedition.Code word: sensible, as for : wear sensible shoes.We all pack into 2 cars and head South.Ah beautiful Highway 1 , rolling hills on one side, dazzling Pacific on the other, scraggly coves, eucalyptus groves. The sun is shining bright and the ocean is cerulean.We arrive at Pie Ranch, an organic, educational farm set in a beautiful hillside. I had my own idea of what the secret event was and I turned out to be right.It was an Outstanding in the field event !

After parking, we proceeded up the hill to a meadow, next to gardens, vineyards, chicken coops. A table was set. dispalying beautiful baskets of mushrooms, some mycology books. A bartender was pouring white vine , while staff passed hors d'oeuvres:chilled cauliflower soup with vadouvan ( I had never heard of that "French" curry blend before, but I just looked at a menu of a local SF restaurant and here it was again !) trend alert !

Spoons of pickled radishes and goat cheese, chai infused smoked pears on lavender skewers were paired with that delicious local wine from Monterey.
A mushroom hunting elf proceeded to give a short lecture on local mushrooms, how to find me, what to be careful of, where to find them etc...
Then it was time to set up the hill, direction: the woods to forage for mushrooms, mostly porcini. Some brave souls( through poison oak bushes) came back with smaller versions that we are used to see in the stores or in Europe. But still ! Who knew !
From our vantage point, you could see the ocean below, and as the sun was setting, we made our way back to the barn where dinner was going to be served.

The meal was served family style,always paired with a different local wine.
I am showing 2 out of the 4 dishes served:
a beet salad with walnuts, citrus, pickled garlic and puntarelle, and the desert: a pine needle infused panna cotta with smoked bacon caramel, pine nut toffee.

Both, big bold flavors, with big bold touches.
The night was starry and cold,when we made out way back home, our eyes and stomachs filled with outstanding gratitute.
( click on images to enlarge them )

Friday, August 5, 2011

time out

a quick foodie drop into another neighbourhood of San Francisco was tasty, with a side order of design, new architecture, bold culinary techniques, park benches, and fun people watching. Octavia Park ( at Hayes) is the nexus, with a first stop at Taste tea at 535 Octavia st. a sweet oasis of calm owned by a charming Chinese American young couple who wanted to offer unusual teas served in a traditional manner in a contemporary and stylish environment.

You can sniff your tea before ordering from this wall display of jars, and pair your tea ( I chose misty mountain) with a hot wheat bun ( curry vegetable ). It is an experience, a meditation as you fill you little cup and drain it into a smaller one, draining the excess water through the slats of your tray.and you sip, slowly to get into that imaginary slope,breathing the leafy smells released by the moist plumes of fog.

I really liked the creative and artsy touches. Specially the room partitions, hand tied with strips of natural linen.

Then, it was of to Octavia park, where a couple of containers had been reused and turned into a couple of take out businesses:
a coffee stand, where you cup is brewed on demand, and an ice cream stand where you scoop is prepared on demand. I guess there is a trend for the ultimate in freshness and a respect for the utmost individual taste.

I love the greys and reds, the industrial meeting the trendy.

The other container hosts Smitten, a new ice cream shop that takes the molecular to the streets.Once you pick your flavor ( they use seasonal, premium ingredients),the liquid mix goes into a contraption which uses liquid nitrogen that will freeze your scoop in a matter of seconds: ice cream on the spot ! I indulged in the salted caramel and it was all that I expected: smooth texture, rich mouth taste,and yes delicious caramely salty tones.They have a "kiddie" scoop, which I renamed " the french scoop": perfect size for that kind of indulgence, and feeling even more French, after sitting on a park bench next to the stand, watching tourists go by and dogs on the grass,licking my little scoop.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

a "dogpatch' afternoon

I have been going to this part of San Francisco for a long time.Mostly for work, since along the 3rd st corridor, are a lot of photographer's studios where I have worked though the years .Back in the days, it was an industrial wasteland, but, a new ballpark was built as well as tons of tony lofts and a new tram line, which changed the landscape of the neighbourhood for good. I am not sure but I think some savvy developers wanted to give a catchy name to the still dicey area, and after some historical research, renamed it "dogpatch".It has a ring to it, a little raw, a little wild and untamed, but appealing.Which still describe the blocks anchored by the American Can building where the refurbished work spaces are.So, I would drive in , park, work and drive home, missing all the new spots to check. It was time to remedy the situation and plan an afternoon of discovery.
I started my exploration a little further down towards Hunter Point to reach the miraculous oasis that is Flora Grubb "nursery. The day was particularly bright and clear, and upon entering the gardens, it felt like reaching an exotic landscape, where bold plants, unusual colored pots, cosy nooks in fragrant arrangements transported me to a land of beauty, nature, whimsy and design.My images do not start to portray the wonders at every turn, the surprises at every object for sale,the sounds 0f the swaying palms. please GO !

The it was off to the Yellow House, where the restaurant Picino has relocated, as well as MAC which sells super trendy designer fashion and housewares,a coffee bar and a wine store.
Checked the beautiful ceramic works of Rae Dunn and Sherry Olsen( at MAC), two of my absolute favorites and settled for a cappuccino and warm plum cake at Picino. the menu on the chalk board was art !
I loved the interior design: open, light and minimal with some awesome spoon photos on the wall.I have just finished working on a spoon/people painting, so here it is in the middle:

Across the street in a funky warehouse was a corner business called Rickshaw where you can design your own messenger bag after checking the piles of fabric, and styles.

Then with my friend C as guide, we stopped at Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous, a new ice cream shop. these tasty shops seem to be popping everywhere, with a sligh rough edge, a little artisan feel here, a little gourmet trend there.flavors are complex, not your basic chocolate or vanilla. lines are long.everybody loves ice cream !Then off to Poco Dolce new retail shop for its fine chocolates tiles and other delicacies.we sampled the burnt caramel toffee almond chocolate: not to be missed....Around the corner on Illinois street was the storefront for Olivier's butcher shop, the new French butcher in town, who goes and picks the beasts that he will carve himself in French cuts of "bavette" or "onglet".the photo below shows Olivier in white and his associate in red.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Carolina in my mind...

I returned a few days ago from a first time visit to North Carolina, in Chapel Hill to be precise where a friend had moved to from the bay Are where we met.
Expanses of green meadows, surrounded by dense forests that go on and on is what will stay in my mind. Beautiful homes, horses grazing, myrtle bushes that romantically explodes in soft lilac like bundles of blossoms, trails that lead you through the forest to your friend's house back yard, a heat that make you crave mango lassies from a smiling owner

ice latte from a cafe deep in the woods....

We walked in front of Lantern, a cute restaurant that had just won a James Beard award. Unfortunately timing was wrong and we did not get to try it, I leave you with the specials in the window.

I loved the decor and the window sill decorations of simple flowers and produce:

Culturally: it was quite inspiring: between a powerful performance by the Bill T. Jones company, to an exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of art in Raleigh called "30 Americans" a retrospective of contemporary African Americans artists. Loved Nick Cave, Henry Taylor, Carrie Mae Weems.
Thank you S for a wonderful time !

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

back to food

Oh yes, food.when Spring releases the greenest green and the delicate edible blossoms. When I am inspired by these colors and tastes.

Had a wonderful dinner at Commonwealth in the Mission in San Francisco. The restaurant setting matched my outfit : black, grey and white: simple, austere, elegant ( the decor....). Leaving the main act to the food, which is a delicate fusion of Japanese ( aesthetics and ingredients) , French nouvelle cuisine( simplicity of perfect products barely seasoned),molecular gastronomy (foams and recreated parts), with of course, seasonal, local, organic produce.....
we started with 3 light dishes :
an asparagus with crushed avocados, nasturtsium petals,olives ( caramelized and pulverized),chicory root, almonds and meyer lemon.

second was another salad: radishes in various forms( pickled and shaved mostly) goat milk butter ( the twisted ribbon laying on the top: interesting, pretty, but tasteless), sunflower seeds.

another salad of spring peas,yuba, black trumpet crackling.silken tofu, coconut milk ( foamed),thai spices( undetectably subtle)

presentation was very pretty, and a bit fused over, making for a very nice picture but a sense of overwought thinking and plating,
then onto more assertive dishes:
a grilled squid, ham hock, bacalao croquette, swiss chard, cilantro pistou ( French for pesto, sounds a bit better, no ? now that pesto is so common)

a branzino, with wilted gem lettuces, oyster nettle puree ( another pesto renamed puree), preserved lemon, caper and balsamic.That was my dish, and I thought the fish cooked perfectly and the wilted gems, genius pairing.

desert was a peanut butter semifreddo, chocolate ganache, with "frozen pop corn" which was a salted buttery cream that evaporated on your tongue.very playful and grand with the peanut butter/chocolate combo.

The second desert was a frozen goat yogurt with a coulis of strawberries . Again, a disappearing act on the tongue, light and fresh.

The meal was very good, the portions on the small side ( perfect for me), the flavors light and delicate. I thought it was an experience, may be more visual than gustatory.
Speaking of light and fresh, I quickly made the celery sorbet that was featured in the Sunday New York Times: LOVED, loved it. The celery flavor is there, but with the sweetness, other tonalities emerges: anise, grass,clover blossoms). DId a shot with it paired with lemon zest sorbet, and as I was getting ready, I shot my little prep tray of garnishes.

Obviously there is a trend in the culinary world to turn some ingredients upside down, and use fruits with proteins, or vegetables in deserts.
Here is another example: a Pierre Herme macarron that I had in Paris this march: orange-carrot-cinammon ! it might be less shocking toAmericans with their carrot cake, but it felt like a vary daring pairing in a French patisserie.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I liked these two images together.Kind of busy, messy, with bold colors.They have no relation to each other, except that I took them because they caught my eye at some point, and they share a certain exuberance, wild colors certainly do that,and bring a dynamism to a photo or a painting.
You have a fishmonger display at a parisian outdoor market last month ( I bought delicious prawns to fill avocados halves, one of my Mom's favorites) and a tray of ingredients used for a job last week.The shot was done, and I had gathered the stuff to discard.
On the well worn dark tray, it looked like a old still life.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


capturing the soul in a photo portrait is daunting.Is it an elaborate plan with particular lighting and set or is it just snapping the shutter the moment you feel the vulnerability, the truth revealed.May be a little of both.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

brightness and contrast

How I love flowers ! the poignancy of the impermanence,the diversity and beauty of nature, the delicate fragrances, the tender powders that turn magically into honey.Now that early spring has arrived here, the streets are lined with pink blossoms, and the tiny buds are forming on the branch of my fig tree.How I love spring !

These new paintings that I call landscapes are on their way to Florida where they will hang at theStudio B.we will see if they are a match to the white sands and turquoise water.