Saturday, February 27, 2010

Satisfying chasers for that Big Mac

The French can laugh at Americans for being stupid and fat, but god forbid they pass up a slice of cheesecake. Especially if it’s covered in Reddi-Whip and mini M&Ms.

There’s definitely a movement happening here in Paris. Muffins at Bob’s Juice Bar, scones at Rose Bakery, cupcakes at Berko, bagels, brownies (and cheesecake) at Bagels and Brownies, Millie’s Cookies (“the best cookies in London”) near the Opera, blueberry pancakes at Breakfast in America, hot dogs and pastrami sandwiches in the Marais… Anglophone food bits—the sillier and more outrageous, the better—is so à la mode

As Jo and I were battling the young hipsters for a table at Twinkie, the new “breakfast all day” restaurant around the corner from my apartment on Sunday afternoon, it became quite apparent to us that we must open an Anglophone café. The French worship at our junk food and pop culture alters… shouldn’t we be the ones profiting from it?

Here are some places that are…

WH Smith
Duncan Hines

Carr’s Crackers
Skippy peanut butter

Le Bon Marché
Pop Tarts
Dylan’s candy

Strawberry Fluff
Aunt Jemima

Hellman’s mayonnaise
Graham crackers

The Real McCoy
Reeses Pieces
Jiffy Pop
Stovetop Stuffing

Friday, February 26, 2010

French phrase of the day: tarte à la crème

Def: Cliché, something that’s been done ad nauseum. Like many Hollywood romances and Hallmark cards. Taking long walks on the beach. Talking for hours over a bottle of wine. Red roses. Tarte à la crème, amigos!

Of course, it also means yummy cream pies. But the colloquialism is more delicious.

The view from Belleville

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Les amies vraies

I’m geeking out over Goop again. I can’t help it—our girl Gwyn really taps into some important topics. Like… friendship.

One of my favorite all-time quotes is “Ah, how good it feels! The hand of an old friend.” (Longfellow) But her panel of experts in today’s missive has a few new gems:

We can’t make new old friends.

Our friends become our historians, secret keepers and comrades on life’s journey.

In essence, our friends are the life-affirming fountain from which we drink.

Old friends have stood the test of time; true friends are timeless.

They remind me of my girls back home. Love you. xo

French word of the day: faux cul

Def: Backstabber

These are the words you’re just not going to find in the French-English dictionary (at least it’s not in my Larousse). It literally means “fake ass”—or someone who just can’t be trusted. And, the best thing is, I learned this word from one of my clients.

"C'mon! Today!"

The slightly antagonizing but always apt commands from the yoga nazi.

Do it today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just one in a million

I usually think my photos are crap, but I love this one. I love Parisian streetlamps and I love the protruding rays of light I caught.

The practice of dining

Do you eat better when you’re single or when you're dating?

I used to think it was when you started dating someone new that you feasted better and more than any other time. During this lovely phase, there’s a lot of wooing going on—the guy’s usually trying to impress you, so he does his restaurant sleuthing and picks the perfect one. He actually makes reservations, insists on a bottle of wine and a starter and, finally, a dessert to complete the decadent dinner (okay, pourquoi pas?!) It’s all so indulgent and fun—your eyes, sparkly from infatuation, are especially large and open to trying things on the menu. Yet since you’re hyper-aware of how you look chewing, and with the potential of being naked at a later hour, you somehow manage to go out to these giant dinners without packing on weight.

But now that I’ve been a spinster forever, it’s occurred to me that I go out for dinner a good four nights a week. I’m eating quite well. Better than well, in fact. Because I still have dates—they just happen to be with girlfriends.

It's a symptom of being single in a city—your social calendar takes over your life. I mean, God forbid you let one night pass without going out and doing something. There’s so much happening out there in the world, a girl’s gotta eat, and with a whole roster of restaurants you’re dying to try, why not let that something be dinner? (I ask that, ignoring the conspicuous five extra pounds attached to my ass.)

This dining, dining, dining is strictly a girl thing though. You never see a table of four dudes, whopping it up with a bottle of wine and a smorgasbord of appetizers. Or two guys splitting dessert, their eyes blissfully rolling in the back of their heads. Going out for dinner is a way women reward themselves. For the long hours we put in at the office. For the crap we put up with on the dating scene. For the inferiority complex of not having a ring on our finger. And because some of us just really like to eat. Restaurants have become an urban sport.

I know it’s not just me. Look around the room the next time you go to that adorable wine bar, the neighborhood bistro, that hot-to-trot newbie that was just fawned over in Elle. It’ll be about 50% couples (half blissed out in the early dating stages; half totally bored with each other and managing to not find a single thing to say until the bill comes), 10% single guys (good chance, on business) and 40% single girls.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Like I said, a girl’s gotta eat. And this girl is all about eating well.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The poetry of two out of three

I stumbled upon this great little animated poem and had an a-ha moment. It was one of those times when I saw something in the world that was perfectly in sync with the thoughts bouncing around my head.

In Sex and the City, they said you could have only two of the following three: an amazing apartment, an amazing job and/or an amazing boyfriend. (Or am I making that up? Was it just me and my friends who thought that? In any case, I think it’s a common New York truism.)

Similarly, sadly, (tragically?) Kenneth Koth proclaims that you cannot have love, work and friends—only two of the three are simultaneously possible.

As my weeks here in Paris ebb and flow with excitement and exhaustion, I can’t agree more. It’s something I’m trying to crack: do I give up my freelance writing for the rest of my stay here in order to free up some time and lessen my stress so I could enjoy “French life” a bit more? The thing is, it’s always been how I measure my success, so the thought of doing that terrifies and depresses me.

And yet, I can’t keep grinding away at work 9 or 10 hours a day and also pursue the freelance. If I stubbornly decided to keep doing both, I’d have to give up the friends. Which, with friends like Mel, Jo, Sarah and Michael, is just not happening.

And love? When that flutters outside your window, you certainly don’t bat it away. It’s too rare and precious and one day, I may be so lucky.

Meatloaf profoundly put it this way: Two out of three ain’t bad. This poem is, well, more poetic. Now the question is, what I am going to do about it?

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Vegan Mondays

Since my Mondays are already meat-free and since I've been obsessed with veganism (but lack the willpower to commit) since New Year's, I am compromising and hereby creating Vegan Mondays. This is my third one and it's a piece of cake.

Coffee with soy milk
Blood orange
(semi-ripe) banana

Falafel sandwich
Dried apricots

Homemade veggie soup

But lest you think I’m getting too healthy or preachy, I should point out that dinner on Saturday consisted of two giant peanut butter-caramel brioche, two servings of bread and butter pudding and one meringue with cherry-basil jam. And dinner last night? Chocolate praliné cake and champagne. Disgusting and awesome en meme temps!

Sunday morning in the park

I decided I needed a dose of nature Sunday morning when I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep after an hour of trying. So I hopped on a Velib and pedaled through the small streets of the first and second arrondisements as the sun came up. It was calm and peaceful, if a little chilly, but the perfect solo act first thing in the morning. And then I hit the Tuileries for my fix of green.

Needless to say, it was a barren wasteland.

Not exactly the lush, vibrant, manicured landscapes we imagine in Paris.

We’re still waiting for spring. Everyone is dying for it—dying to shed the hats and gloves, to sit outside on café terraces and picnic blankets, to just be comfortable again.

Day by day, we’re getting there.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Early spring fashion trends

• Leather leggings: I had a pair BCBG leather pants in the late 90s. I thought I was really hot. Now it’s all about leather leggings, leather minis, leather hot pants or just good old leather jackets.

• Harem pants: Fitted from the knees down, but potato-sack-loose around the butt and thighs, jersey or silk Harem pants manage a chic-comfy balance.

• Drape-y jumpsuits: Loose, billowy jumpsuits in solids and prints, pants, shorts and dresses are spring’s romantic calling card.

• Short shorts: The shorts, tights and boots look held through the winter. Come spring and summer, the tights will be banished and French women will flaunt their genetically perfect legs.

• Big patterns: Florals and plaids are sticking around, but the fashion-forward are moving on to bold tribal and graphic prints. Not recommended for wallflowers.

• Leopard print: Love it or hate it, it’s just not going anywhere.

Four stars on the Eurostar

Next time you book a Eurostar ticket, be sure to closely check the rate difference between Second class and Leisure.

The past two times I’ve returned to Paris from London, it’s actually been cheaper to go Leisure—crazy, considering you get champagne, a three-course dinner and free glossy magazines. Yesss.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The little moments I love

I think it’s good to be aware of little things that make you happy so you’re more aware and appreciative in the big scheme of things. After posting about my gym class, I had to ask myself, There’s more than low-impact aerobics that makes me happy, right?? Right. A few more of my favorite moments of the week:

• Tuesday aerobics, and Thursday yoga
• Walking along rue Montorgueil on my way to work each morning
• Having that one night a week that I can crawl into bed with my book on the early side
• Catching a whiff of bread and pastries coming out of the boulangeries’ ovens
• Leaving work Friday evening—the very, very best time of the week
• Waking up Saturday morning, preferably not hungover, and knowing I have the whole weekend ahead of me
• Seeing Mom and Bob on Skype
• Noticing something for the first time, be it a statue at the top of a building, a florist on a street I pass every day, a cat in a window and, lately, the occasional sounds of birdsong…

Et vous??

Thursday, February 18, 2010

C'est vrai

"She's got herself a little piece of heaven."

Paris chow-down

After a week of relatively healthy eating, I have fallen off the wagon. In the past 24 hours, I’ve been powerless to say no to:

• The ceasar chicken sandwich—the very first sandwich I ever ate at Cojean, and my very favorite, on the menu this week.
• Michael came over to fix my cable and watch the Olympics. We needed dinner. Rotisserie chicken from the boucherie was absolutely perfect.
• Crepes, cookies and apple crumble. Our semi-monthly petite dej at the office was as over-the-top as usual.
• And tonight, an agency party. I know I’ll indulge in an overload of cheese and champagne. Mais, c’est la vie. That’s what France is for.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Okonomiyaki: Japanese soul food

I couldn’t understand (much less pronounce) what Jo kept raving about. Now I do.

“Okonomiyaki” is a Japanese pancake—Okonomi means “what you like” or “what you want” and yaki means “grilled”. (If only French could be that logical).

After a couple months of hearing Jo telling me we had to go for Japanese pancakes on rue Saint Anne, she, Sarah and I had dinner at Aki last night. And now I understand why she was so keen to share this delectable treat.

It’s the most curious thing ever. The recipe mainly consists of flour, grated yam, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage. And then you can order different varieties like pork, squid, shrimp, cheese or veggie. I opted for the asparagus and tomato option.

They grill it up, and then douse it in sauces:

one that is like a sweet barbecue sauce…

followed by another heavy mayonnaise-type sauce.

Finally, they sprinkle fish flakes (katsuobushi) on top, and these paper-thin shavings ripple and wave like live grubs.

It looks and sounds not in the least bit appetizing. But trust me, once you’ve eaten the okonomiyaki, there’s no going back.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

French words of the day: Carton! Énorme!

Def: Great! Amazing!

I don’t know that the French would actually use these two words together… I suspect not. But they’re two words I picked up from the subtitles from tonight’s viewing of I Love You Phillip Morris—the world’s weirdest, sweetest, funniest, most ridiculous romantic comedy.

(And on the note of gay love, if you have a FB account and haven’t already, be sure to join the I Bet We Can Find 1,000,000 People Who Support Same Sex Marriage group.)

Step 2-3-4

One of my favorite moments each week comes Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. This is when we start warming up in my “20/20/20” aerobics class.

I don’t know what it is—the goofy 80s music? The goofy Frenchmen (for four out of five classes, it’s just me, one middle-aged man and the male instructor) flapping their arms and scissoring their legs? Or maybe it’s just how goofy I feel, literally bouncing around this chic gym the way I feel I’m always bouncing between two worlds. It somehow makes me feel connected to this life I’ve carved out in Paris. Like I belong. That it’s not just the city’s beauty, my new friends, or the pain aux raisins that keep me here, but that there are quotidian activities that I could be doing anywhere and getting just as much pleasure out of them.

Weather check: trade-offs

Today is sunny. Hooray, sunglasses! I forgot what you felt like on my face.

But still, it’s bitterly cold. And I am. Soooo. Over. The cold.

Tomorrow’s forecast calls for warmer temps (so I actually might be able to leave off the pashmina that I’ve been swaddled in pretty much since November). But rain (which, of course, means more grey—baaah) is a’comin for the next three days.

Monday, February 15, 2010

London love connection

Let’s just start by looking at these faces.

Are they not the cutest kids in all of Great Britain?

Maybe I’m biased because they’re also so sweet and affectionate. I love feeling their little paws on me and the softness of their cheeks when they smoosh their faces against mine.

In any case, Annika and Aidan are the greatest and visiting them and Chris and Dana is always a huge boost for me.

The weather was predictably cold and damp—just the way it’s been in Paris all winter. But still, we got out and got around.

We took a quick ride over to their local playground on Saturday and then spent the rest of the day at home. Dana made a killer meal, the way only she can do, and Chris treated us all to Valentine’s roses, champagne and cakes (good brother!).

On Sunday we went to the lovely Horniman Museum for the “Myths and Monsters” exhibition. (Eeek!)

Lots of dress-up, music exploration, animal fascination and those monsters.

I love how many emotions are visible on Aidan’s face when he’s telling a story—he gets so excited. The cutest ever.

Yay for family.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Year of the Tiger

I'm a Goop & Gwyneth (dork) fan, I admit it. (Dork.)
I especially liked this most recent newsletter—maybe because I don't know much about Chinese medicine or philosophy. Maybe because the featured expert, Adele Reising, practices but two blocks from my happy little apartment in New York. But it's worth a read.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Speculoos, my new favorite word

Okay, one thing that sometimes makes baguettes even better is waiting until you get home so you can slather them in…

The biggest slave to Nutella I am, I never thought another spread might capture my heart. Speculoos comes pretty close. The same color and consistency of peanut butter, yet it’s sugar-y sweet and somewhat spiced and crunchy too.

In other words, it’s like crushed up Speculaas—those thin, crunchy Danish cookies—that have been blended with extra sugar and additives and preservatives so you can smear it on bread and croissants and make weird sandwich combinations out of (Speculoos and pear? Speculoos and Nutella? Speculoos and Nutella and peanut butter??). It’s really good for you, too. No, really! It gives you lots of energy and happiness.

Speculoos, people. If you’ve had it, you know the bliss that I describe. If you haven’t, you must try it. And if you can’t find it, maybe I can be convinced to start a Speculoos mail order business.

Sometimes heaven comes cheap

One thing I’ll say for the French: they know how to make a good baguette.

Two of my favorite moments this week included getting demi-baguettes in the evening, still warm, therefore impossible to resist tearing into in the street (it’s okay, I’ve seen other people nibbling on their baguettes). It’s like nothing else: warm, chewy, crunchy, doughy and earthy. Altogether sublime.

French phrase of the day: en chair et en os

Def: flesh and bones

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Toot, toot

A few new projects entered the world this week.

The new Annie and Misha site officially launched and has gotten a few press mentions. (We’re all quite excited about it.)

And after months of silence, I’ve finally found a few moments in life to contribute to The Moment again (who also covered the LV site).

Floral weiner dogs at Colette

Spring's must-have accessory, I imagine.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Weather check: bah

There’s a symbiotic connection between me in Paris and me and New York. The latest evidence is snow. Granted, it’s not storming here and schools aren’t closed but it’s been snowing off and on for two days now. In fact, it’s been frigid, raw and miserably winter-like.

And as proof of symbiotic connections between weather forecasters the world over, just like in the U.S., you can’t rely on them here! Nowhere has there been any forecast for snow. In fact, it’s been saying 35 degrees and 20% chance of showers.

It’s freezing, trust me.

Cheese & Pizza

When I’m not binging on a three- or five-course meal, I love just nibbling on some cheese or pizza—which I’ve also been doing a lot of lately.

Maria Luisa: 2, rue Marie-et-Louise, 10eme
Went with: Jo and Olivier on a Thursday night
Had: I got the vegetarian, which, I forgot had mushrooms on it, so I spent more time picking out the insidious fungi than I did enjoying the mozzarella and aubergine. Jo’s margarita was nice and simple—proof that pure ingredients, nine times out of ten are the way to go. Olivier’s pizza du jour was a white pie with spinach and sausage.
Impressions: The space was cute, the staff was sweet, the menu was massive, the anticipation was great… but the pizza was ordinary. Overall, a nice spot to sample, but no need to rush over.

La Briciola: 64, rue Charlot, 3eme
Went with: Sarah on a Monday night
Had: We split an amazing caprese pizza. The sweet sauce, beautiful mozzarella and modest basil leafs were pitch-perfect individually and especially together. We also split a nice bianca pizza, piled high with rocket, slightly stewed cherry tomatoes and parm. Yummy pizza.
Impressions: Lovely little neighborhood spot with a chic Haute-Marais crowd. It was full (bonus points: they’re open Monday nights) and the bartender was cute. And, hey, great pizza!

La Trinquette: 67, rue des Gravilliers, 3eme

Went with: Sarah on a Tuesday night
Had: Un plat mixte: a little fromage pour moi, a little chacturie and paté for Sarah, great olives, and even a tapenade that was mild enough so as to not turn my stomach, all served on/with doughy Eric Kayser bread. Perfect.
Impressions: This place, not even two months in, already has a serious fan base. It’s always jammed with fabulous, young Frenchies, and it feels homey and alive in a way that usually only comes with heritage. The three young guys who opened it specialize in Southern France and know their goods. I'm glad this is in my 'hood.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Opéra de Paris

You have one night in Paris. Ten euros in your pocket. Do you go to a UCG or the GO?

A-ha! Trick question because ten euros won’t even buy you a movie ticket at UCG. But for 10 euros, you can be seated in the premier loges at the absolutely exquisite Opera Garnier. C’est fou, non?

Okay, granted, it’s not exactly easy to get tickets for the ballet or opera. But Mel and I snagged tickets for a mellow chamber music performance: Beethoven, Glinka and Rossini.

The music? It was nice. Beautiful. Would I have enjoyed a jazz trio in the lobby of the Ritz just as much? Probably so. But that’s not the point.

The point is, you get dressed up, you go to this enchanting landmark an hour before your performance starts, and you buy un coup de champagne (for which you’ll need another 11 euros, but it’s money well spent, especially since they’re posh enough to serve it in proper stemware).

Then you take in the beauty.

The marble friezes and statues...

...the interweaving corridors and hidden alcoves...

...the landings that are perfect perches for people watching.

Velvet red, gold leaf and waaah?? Marc Chagall?

If you’re lucky enough, you have a friend who will dork out in awe and wonder just as much as you.