Fête des Mères

Strength, creativity, patience, and sacrifice.  All the things she has perfected; all the things I am just beginning to understand.

Happy mother’s day, mom!

Paris for 4th-timers

Monumenta

So what do you see when you’ve seen it all?  My parents just packed up and set off.  But we spent the past week together not seeing the sites.  But like any great capital city, there are plenty of new things to discover in Paris that have not yet been immortalized on postcards.

1.) Daniel Buren’s Monumenta 2012.  What better way to wrap up a visit than with VIP passes to a vernissage at one the most impressive monuments in Paris, the Grand Palais!  Thanks for the passes, mon mari qui fume.  Buren planted 72,000 meters of candy-colored table trees.  It is as if Mary Quant was Avatar’s production designer.  The plastic-topped trees link together to create an interactive forest, flirting with the reflection of daylight and the passerby.  Catch it until June 21st.

2.)  The Bois de Vincennes.  Just east of Paris lies its largest park, complete with a proper chateau, free botanical gardens, and a forest almost three times the size of Central Park.  After getting lost in the streets of Paris, why try it in the forest?

3.)  Want to take a daytrip?  Want to see a castle?  How about the Chateau de Chantilly.  Check it out here.

4.)  The Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, the ultimate flea market, one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Take line 4 to Metro Porte de Clignancourt and walk toward the expressway to a find a tented market.  Unless you need a new Bob Marley t-shirt or a cell phone cover, keep walking.  I can never trace my steps because I always end up meandering through the small side streets of packed antique malls.  There’s a bit of everything, from museum pieces, to postcard vendors, to button booths.  My favorite little haberdashery is Daniel et Lili, tucked away at stand 128 at the Marche Dauphine.  With an immense stock of carefully organized vintage brooches, antique postcards, and bargain bins of original odds and ends, it is the perfect place to find an oddball souvenir or two.  Or stumble upon a little bit of music and catch a bite to eat at  La Chope des PucesParis’ premier Django Reinhart bar.  LIve music plays in front of the house, and the restaurant in the back beckons the jazz age.

Can you add anything else to my list?

All ‘chocked up!

Artichoke season is upon us.  I can’t help but pick them up these beauties from the farmer’s market. Partially because they still remain a mystery to me.  What’s one to do with that exoskeleton of tough scales?  I know, I’ll watercolor it!

I must admit, I am still mastering the art of artichoke carving and preparation.  But they will get my asparagus treatment, splitting them in half and baking them with a welcome smattering of garlic, lemon zest, parmesan and breadcrumbs.  I need your help, dear readers.  Please send me your favorite artichoke recipes!

Radishes & butter.

Terraces and cigarettes.  Rosé and the summertime.  Radishes and butter.  Radishes and butter?  Yes! As a Ranch-dipping American, this came as a bit of a surprise to me .  (How does one butter a radish?  Have the French found an excuse to dip things into butter now?  I admit to sneaking single-serving Country Crock packets under restaurant tables as a kid, but this is absurd!) In France, butter is the assigned spouse to radishes, with a sprinkle of extramarital sea salt just to keep things interesting.  Although everyone does it differently, according to mon mari qui fume, the butter to my radish, the radishes are cut into four parts which create the surface area for the butter.  The beauty of the pairing instantly makes itself clear; the smooth butter flatters the crisp, occasionally spicy radish.  Give it a try!  Anyone know where to get some Country Crock around here?

Even the kiwis are French!

I am a real foodie now!  I’ve started buying locally and seasonally.  Farewell, sweet bananas and pineapples from faraway.  See you sporadically!  However, I made a recent discovery.  Over Christmas vacation, we spent a few days at a friend’s cottage in the mountains near La Cévennes.  The only fruit in the house were tiny kiwis no bigger than my thumb.  And they were local, harvested just nearby.  I always assumed that kiwi’s acidity and zippy vitamin C meant their origins were more tropical than domestic.  But as winter fruit, they add a bit more variety to the apples, clementines, and grapefruits that fill the colder months.  But since Spring has sprung, I should scrap this watercolor.  It’s completely out of season!

Does this discovery come as a surprise to you, too?

Cheap Date

Every now and then, we married folk give our MacBook Pros a rest and we get some fresh air.

Most recently, we caught Molière’s Le Malade Imaginaire at the Comédie-Française, where his plays have been produced since Molière himself.  Unfortunately, the opulent Salle Richelieu is closed for renovations, but steps away in the Palais-Royal, the Comédie-Française  is camped out temporarily in the Théâtre Ephémère.  With 746 places, green construction, exceptional visibility even from the nose bleeds, and the unparalleled production values of the  Comédie-Française, it was an evening of high culture with a very small addition.  65 places with an obstructed view are available at the last-minute, starting at 7:30 for just 5 euros. For all the young lovers under 28, free tickets are available on the first Monday of every month with the presentation of an id.  When the curtain goes down, there is an obligatory stroll through the designer galeries of the Palais-Royal.  Fortunately, Rick Owens does not frown upon a smiling window shopper.

To top off our evening, we grabbed a bite just nearby on Rue Sainte-Anne, the Japanese quartier of Paris.  The long lines are a testament to which places are recommendable.  One of our favorites is Aki at 11 Rue Sainte-Anne, 75001 Paris.  Although there is a variety of soups and menus, the okonomiyaki, the seafood and vegetable omelette, is the highly-recommended specialty of the house.

It was such a wonderful evening, I had to run back home to my MacBook Pro and tell you all about it!

What are your favorite cheap dates?

Cafe Titon

Original illustration by Jessie Kanelos

Very few cafes have the same open charm and open arms as Cafe Titon on the corner of Rue Chanzy and Rue Titon.  On a no-frills corner in the 11e arrondisement, Cafe Titon opens up like a clamshell onto the street.  Maybe it is the ancient stone mosaic tiles geometrically breaking up the floor or the makeshift loveseat of beatup leather armchairs pushed together.  Photos are hung back-to-back to engage patrons and the passerby. The wraparound bar’s stocked shelves of Paulaner glasses and a currywurst special on the menu are a subtle wink to the fact that Cafe Titon is Paris’s Germanophile bar.  An overhead projector broadcasts football matches, riling up a rowdy crowd in the evenings.

It is one blueberry scone and chai latte away from being a coffee shop in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Wicker Park, Chicago, or anywhere but here.  But I will spare the comparisons and embrace the currywurst, the beer on tap, and maybe even football!

34 Rue Titon  75011 Paris 09 53 17 94 10

EuroDisney. A gobsmacker’s moveable feast.

Paris is begrudgingly hailed by some Parisiens as a Disneyland for Americans.  Frankly, it is a moveable feast for all the world’s wealthy gobsmackers. But did you know that EuroDisney is the most-frequented attraction in France?  Hands down, it beats both the Eiffel Tower and the new Abercrombie & Fitch on the Champs Élysées.  (But don’t worry, I still have seen Parisien women wearing neither sweatpants nor the A&F bedazzled bottom variety.)

Considering my childhood dreams were A.) to convince my parents to take me Disneyworld and b.) become a Snow White impersonator by trade, it was not difficult to enjoy EuroDisney.  Regardless of its European sensibilities like Perrier on tap, like any Disney institution, the pizza at Euro Disney is still bad.  But how about those Mickey Mouse meringues?

What are your thoughts on Euro Disney?

I usually have no problem putting my own foot in my mouth, but my phone has been helping me out a lot lately.  Bless its heart though, the poor thing isn’t completely bilingual yet either.  It has not adapted its predictive text to French yet.  Consequently, I have sent a few doozies lately.

When a friend texted proposing to get a coffee, intending to reply “oui, avec plaisir” (aka “I’d love to!”), my phone responded with “oui, avec plaudit”.  No, we did not plan a rendezvous, but rather a rigoletto.  Comment-allez vous?  Comment-allez voucher.  Fortunately, my phone has a thing for the opera; he will do just fine here.