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La Pinata: Pinatas Made By Prisoners Near Paris’ Canal Saint Martin

Parisian shops devoted entirely to a single specialty (like olive oil, honey, or communist literature) are considered obvious fixtures in an urban landscape where commercial efficiency is, if anything, an afterthought. So, when my roommate Winnie showed me a place on our street specializing in piñatas, of all things, my only thought was, “Of course. Naturally.” It was, incidentally, just across the street from our radical left-wing bookstore.

Winnie, a journalist, was covering the shop in a story with an unusual social twist. The piñatas, it turns out, are made by prisoners.

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Posted in Arts, Design, Events, Shopping | 10 Comments »

The Book Club at Le Carmen: Paris’ Hippest Literary Party

Literary woman about town Sara Rahman has the scoop on Paris’ newest and hippest artsy event: The Book Club, occurring monthly at trendy SOPI wine bar, Le Carmen. The next gathering takes place tomorrow, so here’s everything you need to know. -Geneviève


Dress code: book required, clothing optional (not really, please don’t do that). The Book Club at Le Carmen was launched this February in order to promote a new literary magazine, A Tale of Three Cities (TOT), which will be debuting this June. The lit-chic fête is held the last Wednesday of every month at Le Carmen near Place Pigale in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, in the rooms where Bizet composed his most famous oeuvre.

I recently met with Rosa Rankin-Gee, one of TOT’s founding fathers and a talented writer, editor, and purveyor of merriment in her own right. We sat atop a hill this Easter Sunday and chatted about her most recent work in progress.

Naturally, my first question was who attends.

“Beautiful people who read.” Excellent. Those non-prescription Ray-Ban specs are being put to good use after all. Truly, though, the crowd at the two parties I attended was mighty fine looking indeed (see photos).

Now, if that isn’t reason enough, why did TOT decide to do TBC?

“It’s all to do with the magazine which is a join-up of dots between Paris, London, and Berlin. And I suppose it’s the exchange of stories by writers in those cities. The Book Club’s quite a nice way of doing that. We’re sharing books, we’re sharing stories.”

So, what to wear? Continue Reading »

Posted in Arts, Events, Parisian Living | 8 Comments »

Frog Fight: The Search For Paris’ Best Barista (and Cup of Coffee) Is On

We’re a bit obsessed with Paris’ budding coffee scene as of late. At the heart of it all are the Frog Fights, where Paris’ best baristas compete to show off their brewing, frothing and presentation skills. This month the event took place at Coutume Cafe. Our girl about town, Sara Rahman, has the inside scoop. Stay tuned for the location of the next event! -Geneviève

The test – Zoe Kingan

Earlier this month, an eclectic crowd bulged from the seams of Coutume Café, the host of Paris’ 9th monthly Frog Fight barista competition. Cameras clicked, wine glasses clinked, and at the center of the huddle, 25 or so baristas took turns in pairs behind a gleaming espresso machine, shuffling to execute caffeinated masterpieces as quickly and elegantly as possible.

Zoe Kingan

Certainly not the first item on the menu to tempt the flocks of foodie pilgrims seeking sensory nirvana in Paris, coffee is usually an afterthought in traditional French dining. Sort of like the benediction rounding out a Catholic mass: essential, yes; transcendent, only if your priest/server is endowed with certain god-given qualities rarely found in the earthly realm.

Fortunately for Paris and all of us who pray for mercy each time we encounter the flat, soupy stuff that passes for espresso in some of this city’s finest restaurants, something interesting is brewing in our back alleys. In the past couple of years, several hip coffee shops have popped up around town, surprising their easygoing clientele with something other than the atmospheric qualities French cafes always get right: really good coffee. The Frog Fight is part of this trend.

Cupping – Zoe Kingan, Cara Tobe

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Posted in Coffee, Events, Food | 7 Comments »