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

Mon Chou Tchouchouka!

Tchouchouka we will be!

Long before my mother-in-law was my mother-in-law and before I knew the proper name of tchouchouka, I wrote about this star recipe, which always makes an appearance at my in-law’s.  Traditionally, tchouchouka is a cooked Berber salad of red peppers and tomatoes.  Although not traditionally French, it has become one of my fondest food memories of France.

When I moved to France, I quickly learned that Sunday was the ultimate day of relaxation.  I mean a ‘watching 3 movies, not moving the couch’ type of Sunday.  And thanks to France, I was finally able to train myself to do this without feeling a drop of guilt.  When I started seeing mon mari qui fume, I learned Sunday was the ultimate day of family, too.  Whenever we weren’t glued to the couch or scavenging for food after everything closed in the afternoon, we were more than likely on our way to his parents’ place in the tony 16th arrondisement.  Although they have recently relocated to Nice, making this salad reminds me of our times together.  It brings me back to mortifyingly breaking the wicker chair I was assigned at our first dinner together.   And piecing together what little charm I could in my limited French at the time.   All embarrassment aside, I instantly appreciated these warm, patient, curious people who would soon become my family.  And I remember tasting this deceptively simple salad for the first time.  Made from 1 part red peppers to 1.5 parts tomatoes, the vegetables are charred and pealed, then cooked down with a bit of olive oil and garlic until they form a smoky and sweet confiture.  Served as a first course with good bread, there is no better, healthier, or cheaper way to kick off an excellent meal among friends or family.

tchouchouka

1 kilo red peppers

1.5 kilos ripe tomatoes

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 clove garlic

salt & pepper

1.)  Place peppers and tomatoes on a sheet tray.  Cook under broiler until blackened.  Turn and repeat until all sides are charred.

2.)  Let cool.  Peel and de-seed peppers and chop into small pieces. Peel and chop tomatoes.  In a saucepan, heat oil over a low heat.  Add the peppers, tomatoes, and garlic.  Simmer over a very low heat until thick and caramelized.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Trim a branch, strike a pose.

One of the major differences between New York and Paris is the pockets of greenery scattered about Paris.  Once getting past heavy, Haussmanian doors with ubiquitous door codes (the right of passage to reach any French person, place or thing), the majority of apartment buildings hide a small garden, most likely amidst parked bicycles and garbage cans.

When I met my husband, I was instantly taken by his own private petit jardin. (“He’s got a car, an accent and a garden!  Instant upgrade!”, exclaimed my 2009 self).  Living on the ground floor, it fills our apartment with clean air and a terrific breeze from the nearby forest, the Bois de Vincennes.  And it allows me to indulge in an urban impossibility, compost.  As of late, it is a bit unkempt.  Case in point, winter rolled around before we had the chance to cut the grass.  Ideally, I would love to plant sweet pea seedlings.  However, as any photographer/stylist duo, we utilize gardening simply for impromptu photo shoots.  In my one-track mind, dress-up always trumps gardening.  Trim a branch, strike a pose.

What’s your gardening philosophy?