August 29, 2011
Every true Parisienne has certain key items in her wardrobe: at least one beautifully printed scarf, a chic sac à main, a black cocktail dress and classic trench among them. But to most, the lingerie she wears under her carefully crafted ensemble is as central to her wardrobe as her Chanel mini sac.
The French affection for small stretchy pieces of lace — embroidered, embellished and often painfully uncomfortable — is apparent everywhere you go. From the ubiquitous soft lit advertisements featuring headless, amply endowed torsos to the city’s hundreds of boutiques devoted exclusively to under garments, visitors to Paris quickly realize that lingerie here is serious business.
Soon after arriving, I discovered my own lingerie drawer was in dire need of an overhaul. Faded cotton panties and functional athletic bras simply would not do in the City of Light.
I ventured out in search of my inner seductress, trying to imagine wearing a garter while keeping a straight face. With so many specialty boutiques to choose from – Aubade, Lise Charmel, Chantelle and many more – I made my first stop at Princess Tam Tam, a mid-range chain that does sexy as well as cute and sassy.
After poking through the racks and selecting some pretty pastels, a saleswoman approached to offer some assistance. I held my stack of panties and said I was ready to pay. “But where were the matching bras?” she asked, clearly horrified that I might buy the underwear alone. Buying a bra and panties that aren’t part of a set? Pas possible. Continue Reading »
Posted in Parisian Living, Shopping | 7 Comments »
August 25, 2011
Warm? Friendly? Spontaneous? These aren’t perhaps the first words that spring to mind when describing the typical Parisien. However, I can assure you that once you learn to greet and meet like a local, the slightly frosty exterior slowly begins to melt.
In Paris it’s essential to say bonjour many times each day. A Parisian lives and breathes bonjours. To foreigners this may seem excessive, but barge into a shop, skip the bonjour and see what happens. French customer service, already suffering in the image stakes, reaches new levels of indifference.
If, like me, you work in a large French company this situation can spiral dangerously and risks occupying a disproportionate part of your already coffee-break-filled day. I’ve come to dread lifts: not only is the bonjour compulsory on entering, the bonne journée (have a nice day) is also necessary on exiting. Et oui, this applies each and every time someone hops in or out. Even though my office is on the 5th floor, I’ve started taking the stairs!
Please note that the bonjour shouldn’t be too cheery or effusive for fear of rippling the careful air of nonchalance. Continue Reading »
Posted in Parisian Living | 16 Comments »
August 22, 2011
Spending a summer in Paris is a dream come true, but as the Parisians rushed away to enjoy the famous French summer holidays, we got a bit envious and started dreaming of our own escape into the countryside. Thankfully, we were in for a treat: a day trip to one of the most famous regions of France…Champagne! We were invited along by Sydney Kruger, owner of A Tasty Side to Life, a private tour service that specializes in unlocking doors to some of the best small producers of the region.
Picked up in the morning by a private driver, Sydney, a girl who knows her way to my heart, had croissants waiting for us in the car. As we made our way out of Paris to the fresh air of the countryside, she filled us in on the history of the region (still one of the least visited in France), and gave us some great information on how champagne is actually made. By the time we arrived at the first vineyard, we had enough knowledge to taste like the pros. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Tours and Classes, Travel | 6 Comments »
August 18, 2011
Gelato from Amorino in Paris is a no-no for the lactose averse, unfortunately! (Josh Leo)
Hello. For about ten months now I have been grappling with intolerance in my life, something deeply rooted and painful to me and to loved ones. I feel that it’s time to come out with it, to share this issue publically in order that others may not suffer as well. Here it goes:
My name is Bryan. I live in Paris. And I am lactose intolerant.
I join the roughly 30 million Americans who, by the age of 20, develop some sort of negative reaction to dairy products. If I were in America, I probably wouldn’t worry so much, since there are more soy alternatives available in the grocery store than stars in the sky. The real problem is that I live in France, a country that can proudly boast a different cheese for practically every day of the year. Cream-filled pastries line bakery windows. Ice cream and gelato can be found on every corner. How’s a guy supposed to deal with such blatant intolerance of his own intolerance?
Double-dairy: for extra creaminess, do as the French: spread a little butter on your bread before heaping it with brie (Bhamsandwich)
I’ve learned to cope. I don’t take it personally that most French foods are riddled with lactose molecules. Every time I get the urge to grab some Camembert or ask for a double scoop of pistachio ice cream, I remember the pain. Consuming the dairy sends a ticking time bomb into my gastro-intestinal tract. Mere hours later, it feels as though a family of rabid meerkats are tirelessly trying to burrow their way out of my stomach. It’s not good.
So for the past few months I have resisted, swearing off cheese and opting for meats on my picnic sandwich instead. No more butter, just olive oil, please. Yogurt? Sure, if it has those bacteria in it that will help me digest the evil lactose (look for bifidus at the supermarket yogurt aisle).
Bye bye ice cream, hello sorbet – with the added vitamins helping to fight scurvy, who could complain? It’s difficult to pass up the fruity seasonal sorbet varieties at Pozetto or Grom (like fig and blueberry) once you try them. The alternatives, seemingly less tempting but altogether surprising, are there if you choose to look. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 24 Comments »
August 15, 2011
Hake with carrots and zucchini
In April, the Paris food scene saw the grand return of creative culinary prowess with the opening of Septime, a modern bistro in a remote corner of the 11th arrondissement that breaks free from the confines of traditional French cooking. Buzz about the high-caliber restaurant was instantaneous and spoke largely of the mastermind behind the apron.
After a tenure at L’Arpège under the auspices of Alain Passard, Bertrand Grébaut went on to snag a Michelin star at Agapé at only 27 years old. Earning himself even further attention was the 10,000€ Evian-Badoit grant he was awarded to bring his own venture, Septime, to fruition. Innovative, successful and under 30 – my friends and I were intrigued.
Chef Bertrand Grébaut
The moment we entered the restaurant, we were greeted with warm, sincere smiles and glowing enthusiasm from devilishly handsome young servers. We were seated in the entry dining room, across from the bar where the evening’s first guests chatted gleefully over a glass of wine. It features one long communal table and is slightly quieter than the larger room just beyond the glass partition that offers a view of Grébaut and his team hard at work in the open kitchen.
Before even glancing at the menu, we were transfixed by the post-industrial décor, hanging lamps (which we later learned were from Holland) and the rustic, unrefined wood tables throughout the restaurant that provided the warmth and sophistication missing from the neighborhood. Passersby must have felt similarly because most stopped in front of the restaurant, with its wide-open windows and enviable energy, to analyze the menu and get a feel for the ambiance. This stop-and-gawk continued all evening, much to our amusement.
Tables set at Septime
After fawning over the environment, it was time to dive into the deceivingly short menu and choose between three appetizers, three main dishes, and three desserts. We opted for a bit of each with the 55€ carte blanche tasting menu — by far the wisest value given the quality and artistry involved in each plate. The chef has carte blanche and selects the combination of dishes each guest will receive, but he will accommodate food preferences and/or allergies. Following our order, a sommelier advised our wine choice, explaining its origin and why it would produce the perfect sense of balance and harmony with the dishes we would be served. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 11 Comments »
August 10, 2011
August. An ideal time to be in Paris, as long as you don’t expect endless days of sunny hot weather or being able to work on the perfect tan. Yes, as the current season has shown, Parisian summer weather can be unpredictable! Being in Paris in August is still fabulous (and my favorite month of the year by far), as long as you don’t need to:
• Receive medical attention of any kind…
• Get a haircut
• Order furniture
• Perform administrative tasks
• Renovate your apartment or fix a small leak
Picnicing at La Villette before a movie
As of July 1, the French are either on vacation, planning vacation or dreaming of vacation. When August 1 rolls around, they are pretty much all truly en vacances (if not physically, at least mentally). Nothing serious is possible in Paris before September and la rentrée. One must know this and plan accordingly.
You can forget about ordering the new couch you’ve been coveting anytime between July 1 and Sept 1. “Oh la la Madame… the factory where the couches are manufactured is closed until the end of August! Zut, alors the 6-8 week delay will bring you to at least mid- October before delivery can be made.”
You can try to get to the dentist to repair the filling that inconsiderately fell out over dinner. Another chorus of “Oh la la Madame, ze dentist is on vacation and will be back September 1.” Continue Reading »
Posted in Events, Parisian Living | 7 Comments »
August 8, 2011
Pétrelle is a small French restaurant tucked away in a quiet corner of the 9th arrondissement. It’s not new – indeed it’s been around for 18 years – and it’s not easy to stumble upon, yet it has enjoyed continued success among discerning locals and tourists alike for almost two decades. Erica Berman from Haven in Paris, Forest Collins (52 Martinis), Kasia Dietz (Love in the City of Lights ) and I (I Heart Paris ) decided to go and check it out to find out just why just why this unassuming but charming restaurant is such a perennial success.
So, first thing’s first. What did we think of the food?
Erica: The meal was tasty, fresh, honest and uncomplicated with pleasing portions and lovely artistic touches. It felt like a French ‘potager’ had come to my plate since I, unfortunately, could not go to it. The vegetables were perfectly cooked, the fish tender and juicy, and the desserts rich and sinful.
Kasia: Beginning with a courgette and girolle appetizer, the meal was very ‘fresh from the farm’ in flavor and artistic in composition – Basquiat, if I had to pick an artist. My Saint-Pierrefillet was a small but flavorsome portion complemented with a mélange of vegetables and herbs – this dish more a Kandinsky. The rich chocolate mousse left little room for the complimentary meringues eyeing us all evening. Hard to resist!
Forest: Well-prepared fish and proteins were dressed up with pretty veggies and garnishes like fancy hats on racing day. Cheese was served the way it should be: in big chunks on a plate allowing guests to cut off their own portions.
Kim: A very French menu with classics such as ris de veau, beef tournedos and a seasonal fish of the day featured on the hand-written menu. The focus is on simplicity and letting the quality of each ingredient shine through. I chose the fish of the day – a fillet of John Dory, cooked to perfection and served with a selection of seasonal vegetables – followed by a pudding of raspberries in a fluffy creamy mouse and with a crunchy mille-feuille style biscuit. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 6 Comments »
August 5, 2011
Parc des Buttes Chaumont (Celine NYC)
If you’re in Paris in summer, you’ll pretty quickly realize that as soon as the sun starts to glimmer, Parisians grind into picnic gear. However, despite informal appearances, there is a complex and unspoken code of conduct to be adhered to in order to avoid unforgivable picnic faux pas.
Do dress appropriately.
It is important to give the air of not trying very hard. For girls: a categorical ‘no’ to heels and look-at-me makeup. For guys: forget smart suits or bling sportswear, it’s all about skinny jeans and scarves. Subtle colour and pattern coordination are à la mode. Hats highly recommended.
Do arrive late.
It is useless to turn up anywhere near the appointed picnic hour. It is best to saunter up several hours in, give a slightly (don’t overdo it) apologetic smile, whilst simultaneously giving the impression that your diary is over-spilling with très fun engagements and that the organiser should therefore be delighted that you’ve managed to squeeze them in.
Do invite lots of friends.
The concept of ‘the more the merrier’ is de rigueur. Whereas the biting winter winds keep Parisians at home or drives them (penguin-style) into crowded, sweaty bars, the warm summer weather democratizes social gatherings, which are known to take on gigantesque proportions!
Do not buy ready-made sandwiches.
It is unacceptable to pop to the supermarket and pick up a long-life cellophane-encased creation that deigns to call itself a ‘sandwich’. A fresh baguette, some cheese and charcuterie are the bare minimum. Continue Reading »
Posted in Green, Parisian Living | 17 Comments »
August 3, 2011
Corsica: the (not-so) hidden gem of France. It’s that droplet in the Mediterranean, the little spot on the map that’s always got better weather than you. It’s a small island spattered with tiny coastal towns, separated by mountains with winding roads so narrow, a pair of mountain goats would have to walk single-file. My girlfriend’s people come from there, so we decided to take a trip to discover this place, these people, and if possible, avoid any mild-mannered political arson that might come our way.
Now, to imagine a Corsican, take a French person who talks like an Italian and spends all day at the beach, et voila! Corsican identity is fierce. You can’t find a store, street, or product that doesn’t bear the proud Corsican flag. Corsicans admit they’re known for being a bit lazy, but certainly not lacking in ambition. A common postcard has a Corsican flag running up the Eiffel Tower with the motto: “yes, we can”.
As you could assume from the place that brought us Napoleon (the dude, not the dessert treat), Corsicans are tough. You’ve never seen so many serious faces relaxing at the beach. There’s also quite a bit of mafia down here. The term ‘vendetta’ was basically started in Corsica – or Sicily; there’s actually a pretty serious vendetta going on about who really started it. On the flip side, Corsicans are a genuinely welcoming people – all you need to win their affection is to share their appreciation of their homeland. Continue Reading »
Posted in Travel | 18 Comments »
August 1, 2011
My job frequently requires me to eat elaborate three-course meals at lunch and dinner several days in a row. It’s something I have trained myself to do over the years and my stomach rarely utters a peep of complaint, as long as I don’t overdo the wine (not as easy as it sounds). I am grateful, though, when I come across a restaurant that acts as a kind of cleansing interlude, replenishing my body with crunchy vegetables and wholesome grains.
Until recently Rose Bakery served that purpose: after munching my way through one of their colorful mixed salad plates, I always felt ready to face another multi-course feast. But as this café has grown ever more popular and expensive I have started looking for alternatives, and Nanashi has become my new haunt. Continue Reading »
Posted in Restaurant Reviews | 7 Comments »