Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rear Window

I've got some interesting neighbors in the building next door. My bedroom looks directly into their dining/living room, which makes it impossible to avoid either overhearing conversation if the windows are open or seeing things you're not supposed to see if someone forgets to close the curtains. This is true in both directions, which is why I'm also ultra-vigilant about my own windows.

For the past few weekends I have been really confused. First it was some old white people; then a black family whose young kids kept hanging out the windows; then a very loud group of Americans. At first I was excited -- American neighbors! -- until I realized that they were only here for the weekend since (DUH) the apartment was probably just a vacation rental. Yeah, it took me about a month to figure out why my neighbors across the way kept shape-shifting.

Last weekend some raunchy English girls rented it. Saturday afternoon, I was reading in bed, not paying attention to the outside world. R strolled in, walked over to the window, and stopped dead in his tracks. His eyes became saucers. "What?" I asked him. He just pointed. I got up to take a peek. "Oh..."

One of the girls was giving a strip tease to her other friends, with the windows and curtains wide open. By this point the girl was wearing only a thong.

At that exact moment, she turned around, saw us gaping, screamed, yelled "PERVERTS!" and slammed the window shut and pulled the curtains tight. BUSTED. The shutters remained firmly shut for the rest of the weekend.

I know R was probably very disappointed with this reaction, imagining all the wonderful possibilities of debauchery...a "Dear Penthouse" letter come true, etc. I guess he'll just have to wait to see if next weekend's neighbors can top this.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Truer words have not been spoken

I was browsing Rick Steves' travel tips and I came across this gem:

Cold milk is rare in most [European] countries. Avoid the "longlife" kind of milk, sold off the shelf, that needs no refrigeration. This milk will never go bad or taste good.

I can't stand that irradiated milk and I always pay more for my paltry liter of fresh milk. French people are amazed to learn that back home, we buy our fresh, cold milk and orange juice by the gallon, not the liter. 1 gallon = ~ 4L! (OK, if you insist, it is exactly 3.7854.) And it doesn't really so much amaze them as reaffirm their suspicions that Americans truly are fat pigs who need everything in XXL quantities.

In case you need a visual:

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

My dirty little secret

In America, when you think frozen food, you think TV dinners. Lean Cuisine, Sara Lee cakes, Eggo waffles: not exactly culinary masterpieces. As always, the French are way ahead of us, with a frozen food chain that offers products that are more than just edible. While Picard does offer the basics you'd expect - frozen veggies and the like - they also have an inédits line, which is quite gourmet. Pictured on the left is an appetizer, scallops sitting on a bed of a basil-tomato paste and drizzled with a garlic & basil dressing. When my boyfriend bought this and served it, I would have guessed that he had bought it at a traîteur if he hadn't told me it was from Picard. Picard is so good you won't know it is frozen!

You could easily have an entire meal -- appetizer, main dish, and dessert -- from only Picard, and I know that it is done. Even the French can't tell the difference: one friend was slightly peeved to learn that on a return invitation for dinner, the host family served a meal that was almost entirely composed of Picard products. Why was she upset? Not because she had eaten Picard -- she didn't even know until the hostess told her -- but because she had slaved days over the meal she had served that family when they had previously been invited to her house.

Picard offers other family style dishes, and not just frozen lasagna and its variants. One of R's favorites during winter is the Poêlée à la Franc-Comtoise, which I could see as a breakfast side in the US. Bacon, sausage, onions, cheese and potatoes - it seems like a meal for a hearty lumberjack!

In addition to these basics, Picard also has a large range of desserts available, from exotic sorbet flavors to pies, cakes, and pastry components.

Of course, there is a downside to Picard: some items, especially the inédits line, can be a bit pricey. But for the convenience and the quality, as well as the actual customer service I have always received while shopping there, it can't be beat.

Locations throughout France

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Maira Kalman's take on Paris

Please check out Maira Kalman's blog on the NY Times for some beautiful illustrations of Paris.

UPDATE: The Julie Saul Gallery in NYC represents Maira Kalman. In October 2007 there will be a show of her NYTimes drawings.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fils du Soleil

Lodged between République and Strasbourg-Saint-Denis, the Fils du Soleil provides a little slice of South America in the middle of Paris.

The main event of our meal here was the love affair between my small dog and the owners' black lab, Nero. The wife was so enamored of the pair that she even offered to take them both for a walk and then up to their apartment, in the same building, to dogsit during the meal. We also learned how she came to acquire Nero and were shown all the photos of him on her cell phone: further proof that having a dog brings out the hidden Southern Hospitality in Parisians. The dogsitting offer was very kind but I had to refuse, and instead Nero was banished to the owners' table to keep his amorous paws off of my dog. No worries, though: I have passed by it a few times since then and if Nero is leashed to one of the poles in front of the restaurant, the two lovers are able to faire la bise.

Besides, this is a restaurant, not a doggie daycare, so let me tell you a little bit about the actual food. Tortilla chips and fresh salsa were brought to us as soon as we were seated, and we both ordered mojitos that were served to us disappointingly tepid. Reading the descriptions of the main dishes, I (correctly) decided that a main dish would be more than enough, but R started with the coquita de aguacate con mais (5.40€), which featured the most incredible avacado either of us had ever tasted. Like butter, and the size of a grapefruit, we had to inquire about its origins. The husband said he got it from an African speciality shop in the 10th near Faubourg Saint-Denis, and though I haven't been by to check it out I think I know which one he's talking about. Anyways. I digress.

For the main dish, I had a burrito (13.80€), which was served with guacamole, beans and rice, and a salad. What guacamole! I hadn't realized how much I was missing it, or just how good it could be, until I had it here. R had the bandeja paisa (13.80€), which was definitely a manly man dish: ground beef + lardons + eggs + chorizo + beans n'rice + plaintain (which I stole). And a side salad, which of course evens it all out.

We were both stuffed by that time and couldn't even look at the dessert menu, though the owners tried to ply us with tequila shots. All in all, the closest thing to TexMex I have found here in Paris, though I ought to be clear that this is far superior to the TexMex chains back home and it's not really even fair to put the two in the same sentence. They also have both lunch and kids' menus.

The menu (click to enlarge):

Le Fils du Soleil
5, rue René Boulanger
75010 Paris
01 44 52 01 21
M: République or Strasbourg-Saint-Denis
Tuesday - Friday, lunch & dinner; Saturday - dinner only


Friday, November 03, 2006

The woes of having a cameraphone without a flash

Tonight I saw an OSS 117 SmartCar! Alas, no photo to show for it. I can only hope that it will stay in my hood. I will try to hunt it down and post it later.

OSS 117, a James Bond spoof, is a Jean Dujardin film that came out this spring. One of my favorite scenes is where OSS 117 is supposed to be undercover but ends up giving a rousing performance of the song "Bambino":
***EDIT*** YouTube is being dumb and won't let me embed. I already hate the Google takeover. Here is the link

Also I came across this nice photo site, and the title for this photo made me nostalgic, since La Samaritaine was my favorite, until I realized that this is Galeries Lafayette, NOT La Samaritaine. Right? Did La Samaritaine even have a dome? I think the top floor was stationary stuff, but I'm just confusing myself even more trying to remember. La Samaritaine was my favorite for two reasons:
1) They had an actual dog department. The women who worked there were equipped with measuring tapes to determine your dog's size, and in lieu of dressing rooms they had dressing tables. Nevermind the fact that most of the doggie clothes cost more than I would spend even on myself.
2) They had an awesome vintage section in this wierd alcove connecting area. With authentic Burberry trenches in all sizes and colors starting at 100€! I'm kicking myself now for not taking advantage of that.

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