Wednesday, April 25, 2007

artsy chokes

Well, everybody is talking about the chokes, and showing some in pretty in mauve pictures. I have always loved artichokes, the Britanny kind of my childhood, grown by the salty ocean breezes, and the foggy iodine mists. My family had a contest on the best, most artfull arrangement of eaten leaves on each plate.....A fresh artichoke from the Farmer's market makes a huge difference, it is sweeter, the texture is meatier, it is a whole different bird. I usually steam them, letting them shine on their own, served with an aioli with a dash of cayenne.This last time, I wanted to try to dress them up a bit, party demanding it. So, I steamed a few, cooled them, quartered them, dressed them in a marinade of olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme,salt and pepper and popped them in the oven to roast for 30 minutes ( at 375 degrees). so good ! the same little dish of aioli was served alongside......
speaking of ocean breezes, the last pictures were taken at the Dune du Pyla, an amzing natural phenomenon on the Atlantic coast of Southwest france, where a huge dune of 220 feet sits between water and pine forests......

Sunday, April 22, 2007

dinner with friends

Just came back from watching "the namesake", adapted from a book that I relished . I am, as expected, attracted by stories of loss, longings, identity, belongings, split tongue and minds...... The movie missed in conveying the complex internal emotions evoked by this life choice of exile.The expressions of nostalgia became an exotic travelogue, realities of adapting to a new environment trivialized and reduced to ridicule. Read the book ! But, back to my life ..... Still have a few things to share about my trip: My friend Fra, that I have known forever, is married to Xa, and it is always the sweetest of thing to meet each time. It is often a lunch and some exhibits, arms in arms manoeuvering the narrow sidewalks.This time, after years of renovation on their house,it was time for a splendid dinner in their new digs.It is a couple of metro stops outside of Paris, and when you come out, you find yourself in a quaint, soft smelling village, with quiet streets bordered with individual houses with gardens.lovely! so close and yet so far. Xa is the chef, and for what should have been a casual meal with friends became this lavish, time induced feast. But to start on a simple and original note,champagne was served with thin ,wide slivers of black radish to be dipped in grey salt.followed by a home made terrine of new peas, mint and poached chicken breast...... and that was just the apetizer. the rest of the meal was just as impressive with a fish dish cooked in a big cazuela in the oven with a tomato broth, followed by a splendid apple cake served with the now famous and ubiqituous salted caramel ice cream. We ran to catch the last metro trought the drizzly and empty streets.thanks Fra and Xa for an evening to remember, in a place far away, exept in my heart.

Friday, April 13, 2007

love, beauty,style and FOOD

In my last entry, I showed a window display of a new bakery.Pierre Herme had set the tone a decade or so ago, with his original miniature store, black laquered, where cakes were displayed as art in showcase drawers, making each creation a food' couturier" piece to admire, and eat.My all time favorite of his is the Ispahan macaron; a shocking pink cookie with a filling of rose essence, lichis and fresh raspberries,topped with a red rose petal !. So it is no surprise to see disciples sprouting in the most unlikely places,where,baking has become an art, where the master's creation( here a religieuse of rose and violet) become a seductive bauble, beautiful and delicious.This is the new age of reverence toward the best and most unique ingredients,presented in the new church of love, beauty, style and food.
To get back to the love part, I was taken by this graffiti, and by the hour and a half smooching session next to us as this newly married couple couldn't keep their mouth unlocked and their hands on their forks for more than 10 seconds....Ah Paris....

Friday, April 6, 2007


It takes 3 hours speeding through the gentle landscape of France to reach the town of Bordeaux.Set along the banks of the wide and calm Garonne,the exquisite buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries gleam. The whole town seems to wake up from a long ,abandonned sleep, to emerge as a beautiful,friendly, embracing the modern while respecting the past attitude town. The wide avenues downtown are left to the pedestrians to amble and window shop, in delightfull quietness, reminding one of Venice, where the only sounds,on the little piazzas where of birds in flight or the click-clack of high heels on stones. Here ,set against the old mansions (built on fortune made with Far East trade,wine of course and unfortunately and shockingly slave trade(there was a plaque by the river commemorating and aknowledging the plight of the victims), you can catch the snaky tram as it pass by,electric wiring brilliantly tucked underground.Actually the whole downtown is closed to cars, and the streets are mobbed.You see tons of people on bicycles,may be on their way to meet friends in the myriad of tea-rooms,probably a taste left over from 3 centuries of British rule long ago .Being in France, art is everywhere, celebrated and encouraged,a big wharehouse by the river, serves now as a museum of Comtemporary Art. The bulding is amazing in its scope , with georgous stone walls,the art was provoking and the cafe/restaurant designed by Andree Putman was stunning.Brunch was served on Sunday under the ewes,to the sound of mellow French techno-lounge.Now imagine the terrace under the sun, with an amazing bottle of Bordeaux,post-art and ready to nosh and talk....

Thursday, April 5, 2007

foodiz momenti

When in Paris, I loved a couple of places we went.One was in the middle of nowhere, far, far from the maddening crowds,on a little quiet side street.It was called Urbane,and it is the kind of restaurant I love: small,with the chef/ownner at the stove,minimalist decor with a hint of artsiness, where all the small touches feel thought of and just right.As an exemple, we loved the streamlined salt and pepper grinder on each table, and went to the Bon Marche to buy the same for us, now I can grind my grey salt and not have any complaint about the crunch....back to Urbane: the food was so, so good, the flavors complex but fresh,the presentation was pretty and the staff,a lovely Irish woman, was perfect. We absolutely adored the pace of the meal ( everywhere actually),where there is no rush to get you out.We always had to ask for the bill, when we were ready, isn't it civilized ? two things stood out from the trip: truffle oil and rectangular plates. At Urbane the dessert was a stand out: brochettes of almonds and macereted prunes in a phyllo lollypop with a cinamon and star anise ice cream.........the spring raviolinis had a tiny spoon of that trufle oil to pearl on.the wine, a served cool red Chinon refreshed palate and mind.
The other place was called Da Rosa, and this one was smack in the middle of things, rue de Seine to be precise, in the Saint Germain area of cobblestone alleys and touristy cafes.This place is a store where the owner imports top of the line canned, jarred, smoked, aged,packaged artisanal ingredients, and set up a few tables for lunch to serve simple meals with those said ingredients.Quite a good concept.the food was bold and simple.The plat du jour was Bellota ham ( supposedly the best ham in the world, from Spain, where the pigs are fed a diet of acorns and other goodies, have a good life until the end....) with mashed potatoes with .....truffle oil.very good indeed.On the way down to the toilets, the bellotas were still aging in the cellar....

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

the first atelier

Walking past " l'atelier" where I lived the first ten years of my life,I was pulled by a magnetic force of nostalgia and memories.
On the street side is my grand father architect studio, where men in suit drew lines with rulers, where the scent of amonia used to create blue prints was making me dizzy. Usually, front doors are locked now, and you need a code to get in.But the door was open,and I had a brief whiff of happiness. The place had been renovated, fresh paint gleamed, and my old romantic garret of childhood looked like it could live through more centuries of lives well lived.My parents, younger brother and I lived in the upper "loft space", a bare bone painter's atelier, with toilet but no bathroom, kitchen the size of a stamp,a wood stove chimey that my dad had to light daily in winter , bringing the logs from the cellar.....But it was charming, love and beauty prevailed, and the courtyard resonated with chirps.