Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Consumed by…

Eating (247)
Randomness (i.e. Just Because (212))
French (i.e. Language (168))
Wandering (113)
The weather and work (105 and 103)

That sounds about right. Those are my label numbers; what I’ve written about on this blog. While I wish Traveling and Shopping and Art and Beauty were higher, I think my love of food and exploring were tempered by more mundane obsessions with the weather and my inability/desire to communicate.

For 2011? Here’s to continued Eating and Wandering. But maybe I’ll have to add some new labels to the blog, too.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Bonne Année, à tous!

Bougeois et Balzac

The wee Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Maison de Balzac was the antithesis of Baccarat’s glitz and glamour. Set in Balzac’s rickety home on a hill, the work mostly encompassed folksy needlework and literary displays that go in tandem with Balzac’s novel Eugénie Grandet.

Indeed, before her death earlier this year Bourgeois herself suggested to the Maison that she create an exhibition of works based on the novel as Bourgeois, who had an abusive father, deeply identified with the novel’s main character as the “prototype of a woman unable to fulfill herself… the prisoner of her father, who needed a maid.”

She was a remarkable woman and an amazing artist. Ever since seeing her giant spider sculptures in Rockefeller Center over a decade ago, I’ve been a fan. While this exhibition did nothing to move or enchant me (sorry) as the retrospective at the ICA in ’07 did, I’m still glad I got to see her feisty spirit alive in Paris.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

La semaine des feries

It’s getting freaky in Paris! The crowds, the traffic, the anticipation and glee. Tomorrow is New Year’s, and this town takes this holiday seriously!

The tourists have arrived en masse. Don’t even try going to the Monet exhibition or Musée d’Orsay these next few days. The lines there can be outdone only by the hungry and tenacious people waiting for a table at Le Comptoir or a cake from Pierre Hermé.

Don’t go anywhere near la Grande Roue in Place de la Concorde, Fauchon at Madeleine, and beware: amateurs abound on the Velibs.

Meanwhile, the locals are hoarding their champagne and oysters, foie gras and smoked salmon. The markets are pawning king crabs and blue lobsters, crevettes by the kilo and cheese by the wheel. Pierre Hermé resurrected a tent for New Year’s orders near its rue Vaugirard boutique and shopgirls stand with silver trays of rich and crackly praliné bonbons to pass the time while you wait in line (Merci! Much appreciated!)

The lights are glittering, the temperature is (finally!) mild, and now the only questions remaining are: What are you doing tomorrow night?? (And what are you wearing?)

I had a moment today

It wasn’t one of those acutely tender moments, but rather a long few hours of “Oh yeeeaah… I remember this feeling!”

It was sunny for just a few hours earlier and I hopped on a Velib to do some sweets reconnaissance. As I biked across the Seine, through Saint-Germain, out into the fifteenth arrondissement (to Des Gateaux et Du Pain and Pierre Hermé, bien sur), it was a beautiful reminder of my earlier days in Paris. When I didn’t really know many people or have any obligations. Every day was a bit of an indulgent and unknown journey. I’d Velib all over town, stumble upon cute new parks and shops, eat at multiple patisseries in a day, and fall a little bit deeper in love with Paris.

I always knew that phase was precious in its fleetingness. Once you know a city and develop a routine and relationships, time takes on its regular cadence. Tick tock. Tick tock. The magic and possibility, while still there, aren’t felt as strongly. Soon, they no longer tease and lead you to new sensations and experiences. Only because your heart, curiosity and eyes aren’t open as wide. (Which, I don’t think is tragic, but, rather makes the fleeting stage more beautiful.)

The past few months have been a social whirlwind. It’s been fun but frantic. And these past few weeks—planning and orchestrating a move, wrapping up work in the Paris office trying to connect with the New York office, Christmas shopping and traveling, cramming in dates with friends and visits to restaurants, researching and writing articles and the book—have been more hectic than ever.

So it was more than errands, more than a bike ride, more than a dash across town when I took off on the Velib today. It was a brilliant flashback to who I was, how I saw Paris, and all that I am taking home with me next week. (And I really needed that.)

La Maison Baccarat

One of the nice things about having a looming exit date (because the anxiety, stress and sadness/bittersweetness of it all is a potent cocktail that’s better left ignored) is the impetus for getting out into this beautiful city and doing some the things—some, there’s no way I can squeeze in all—I had wanted.

Last week, I finally made it to the Baccarat Maison.

No, not to dine in the Cristal Room (next time, mes amis!), but just to admire the insanely decadent chandeliers, sculptures, vases and other sparkly objects.

(Though some of them, owing to the current exhibition, were more hairy and feathery than sparkly.)

It was a quick and nice visit. But next time I would skip the relatively modest entry fee for the Maison and just go to the store.

It had a wilder and glitzier exhibition that really shone beautifully.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Follow Your Bliss

I posted this quote last year. But, it warrants reposting. Especially at this time of the year when we reflect on what's past and what we want for the future.

And I have the firm belief in this now,
not only in terms of my own experience
but in knowing about the experience of others,
that when you follow your bliss, doors will open where
you would not have thought there were going to be
doors and where there wouldn't be a door
for anybody else.

—Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Vegan Mondays

Since Monday wasn’t vegan—how could it be? Leftover Christmas turkey, pizza at The Orange and, um, well, a box of chocolate bonbons on Eurostar, which, coincidentally, was the perfect pairing with Jonathan Franzen’s half-priced, signed copy of Freedom—today is Vegan Mardi!


Coffee and soy milk
Wheat toast with raspberry jam
An apple

Sauteed root vegetables
Another apple

The same fennel & carrot soup I made last week. And the week before that. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit.
Yummy dried apple

Merry, merry, happy, happy

The holidays. Love ’em or hate ’em, filled as they are with stress and anxiety, hope and emotion, champagne and turkey.

Christmas this year was very different for me as it was the first time in a gazillion years I wasn’t home with my mom and stepfather and a houseful of Christmas cookies (snif). But to make up for it, I had the joy of watching the two cutest kids in all of Jolly England tear into stockings and presents and dance around with new toys in unfettered excitement. It was magique!

My lovely holiday weekend also included a (brutally cold) walk through the woods and a (wonderfully cozy) dinner at a small village inn—in fact, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in months, and, given how much I’ve been eating lately, that says a lot.

We celebrated with neighbors over mince pies and Christmas puddings (after the cheese and champagne, bien sur), relaxed with books and movies on the couch, and went shopping in London, where I treated myself to a coveted handbag. (Sweet!)

It’s never easy saying goodbye—to loved ones or a brilliant year—but that’s part of the holiday magic, too. The charm and coziness, indulgence and sloth, Christmas tree and candles, they can only last so long.

So how about you? Was your Christmas filled with brightness and laughter?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone is having a warm, happy day filled with good food and drink, and lots of love.

Thank you for sharing this past year with me. Here's to an amazing 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last night & last rites

A snowy night. Beaucoup champagne. The twinkling lights of Paris.

And, best of all, celebrating with the girls.

So long, Ogilvy/Paris. 'Twas beautiful.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 days of Christmas: Kitty love

A mélange of local friends and talent, an obsession with all things French, and my own Christmas wishes, here’s my daily pick for anyone lacking Christmas gift inspiration.

C’mon. You know you love him as much as I do. Or at least Erin Hill’s renditions of him. Thanks to her lovely watercolors you, too, can have this crazy cat chez-toi.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 days of Christmas: Prepping for the next fete

A mélange of local friends and talent, an obsession with all things French, and my own Christmas wishes, here’s my daily pick for anyone lacking Christmas gift inspiration.

Many people believe an experience rather than an object is the right way to go when it comes to a great gift. I don’t disagree. Especially if the experience is something like, say, I don’t know, a cooking class. Like how to make Galette de Roi at La Cuisine! Miam!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The little things I love

• Vin chaud
• How they squeegee instead of shovel the sidewalks
• Incredible in-store gift-wrapping
• How each arrondissement has its own street decorations
• The beautiful abundance of champagne and chocolate

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Vegan Mondays

A fairly boring Monday. Diet included. But it was vegan!

Coffee and soy milk
Walnut bread

Veggie tagine
Sesame bread sticks

The same delicious fennel & carrot soup I made last week
Another clementine (‘tis the season)

12 days of Christmas: Books, books, books!

A mélange of local friends and talent, an obsession with all things French, and my own Christmas wishes, here’s my daily pick for anyone lacking Christmas gift inspiration.

In my book (ba-dum-bum), books are always a great gift: giant coffeetable books, quirky trivia or design-y books, travel guides, classic novels, first editions, cookbooks or just the latest from your or your loved one’s favorite author.

Here in Paris, there a gazillian talented writers. Writers who are as passionate about food and eating as they are about travel and Paris. In addition to these Francophile titles, any one of these “love of food” books would be a divine gift.

Hungry for Paris by Alexander Lobrano
Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah
Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

Weather check: all it wants to do is snow, snow, snow

Pretty, yes.

But, bah humbug, such a pain in the ass.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New York & Paris; Dreams & Duels

Sometimes when I write for something or someone other than my own blog, I manage to get outside my head a bit and see things with a clearer perspective. Such was the case in writing about the dueling charms of New York and Paris and my “dream life” here in Paris. It was fun to reflect and share, especially since I was doing it for my kindred spirits. Merci, Erica and Kasia!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

12 days of Christmas: Dressing the part

A mélange of local friends and talent, an obsession with all things French, and my own Christmas wishes, here’s my daily pick for anyone lacking Christmas gift inspiration.

Walking along rue Saint-Honoré, there are all kinds of beautiful things that shout your name and beg for you to take them home: pretty scarves, giant leather handbags, little teas, cool baskets

Sometimes you really want to listen. Sometimes, loudly or softly, something speaks especially to you.

I can still hear this fairy tale dress from Bottega Veneta calling my name.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hip hop, yo

My best friend sent me this video a long time ago. I forgot how freakin' funny it is.

Bon vendredi!

Paris browns

The city's golden limestone takes a more somber tone in winter.

Especially along the Seine.

Can't you feel how chilly it is here?

But beautiful, still.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 days of Christmas: Granola and spreads savoir-faire

A mélange of local friends and talent, an obsession with all things French, and my own Christmas wishes, here’s my daily pick for anyone lacking Christmas gift inspiration.

One thing I’ve become a slave to here in Paris (one of many, I guess I should say) is spreads. From Nutella, I progressed to Speculoos, and then all those lovely gourmet praliné, caramel, and honey spreads. And then, of course, there are Rachel Khoo’s homemade spreads—like a nice dark chocolate and Earl Grey spread or white chocolate and matcha. Miam.

Her Pates à Tartiner and Barres de Cereales cookbooks are sweet and lovely, inspiring and delicious. I can hardly wait for next year’s title.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 days of Christmas: Double whammy

A mélange of local friends and talent, an obsession with all things French, and my own Christmas wishes, here’s my daily pick for anyone lacking Christmas gift inspiration.

I discovered the most adorable ceramic atelier near my house, and wanted to buy the whole place up. I did buy a few gifts here, but what I wanted to scoop up for myself was already sold.

For in addition to the sweet ceramics, the atelier had an exhibition of Joanna Concejo’s artwork. Nearly every one of her pieces was sold, but I’m keeping my eye on this artist.

I could fly home to New York on this little cloud of happiness

I hemmed and I hawed. I’ve been eating so much lately, I didn’t really need to go to the new l’Atlelier de Joel Robuchon, where I knew I would want to eat beaucoup. Then again, I’m in Paris for only 3.5 more weeks. Why wouldn’t I go??

As soon as I arrived, it was special. Especially since I saw M. Robuchon there in the open kitchen. Quel chance!

The host greeted me by name, “Amy!” (I guess they don’t have many single girls making reservations for one…), guided to my corner at the bar, and seated between two pairs of men.

“Une coupe de champagne?”

“Oui!” I enthusiastically accepted. Pourquoi pas? I was at l’Atlelier de Joel Robuchon! M. Robuchon was right there! I’m only in Paris for a few more weeks!

Having never been to any of his restaurants, I wanted a good cross-sampling but I wasn’t up for the Discovery Menu. No matter. There were dozens of options. I had a feast.

I started with a basic salad, which was anything but. Endive, walnut, Stilton, apple: we’ve all had it, but not like this. It was light and effervescent. Super.

As were the procession of other small plates: John Dory with coriander, lime and a tomato compote, black cod with daikon, and salsifis—a root that I was totally unfamiliar with, but was given to me by M. Robuchon as un cadeau. It was served skewered on brochettes, topped with a creamy Parmesan and slivers of fried potato. Sigh.

The two pairs of men I was seated between included two Michelin reviewers, and two older gentlemen. The former two told me the latter two are part of The Club des Cent, “the dark power behind French gastronomy.”

I enjoyed speaking with them all. The reviewers were middle-aged and quite down to earth and friendly. They pointed out other people in the restaurant I should have recognized. Like the actors Jean Reno and Charles Aznavour and the former prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The “dark power duo” were also quite charming though reserved until the end of the meal. They’ve known Joel Robuchon for 40 years and assured me he is the most loyal friend and collaborator; known to be lovely to his clients and tough in the kitchen. Indeed, M. Robuchon was lovely. He chatted plenty with me, “Mademoiselle Amy”, and everyone else, on both sides of the bar/kitchen.

After seeing one of the reviewers get the caramel soufflé for dessert, well, guess what I had to finish the meal?

Except my (delicious and light) soufflé wasn’t the end. By that point, most everyone in the restaurant was gone and there I sat, befriended by the staff, if only for the day. Antoine poured me a glass of wine and Patrick insisted I have another dessert that the pastry chef, Francois Benot, wanted to share with me; a mélange of banana, passionfruit, rum, granita and cream that they developed in the Seychelles.

By the time I rolled out of there, with many handshakes and “enchantées” and smiles, I was beyond sated, beyond charmed, just… beyond. It was just perfect.

More spirit, s'il te plait

Last night, after a lovely meal with friends and colleagues, I opted to Velib home in the cold, dark night. It was perfect. Empty streets and blinking stars, I had Paris' Christmas lights all to myself.

It reminded me that I need to take some more evening strolls to see the different quartiers' decorations.

Like the magnificent Notre Dame, which I walked by over the weekend. It will be my gift to myself: to wander aimlessly and take in more of the city's Christmas magic.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12 days of Christmas: Chocolate is never the wrong choice

A mélange of local friends and talent, an obsession with all things French, and my own Christmas wishes, here’s my daily pick for anyone lacking Christmas gift inspiration.

Did someone say bonbons??

Whether from New York’s Vosges or Paris’ Jean-Paul Hevin, amazing bonbons in exquisite packaging is always a crowd pleaser. At least in my house.