Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I wish this was a post on the marche de l'aveyron

But you know, that would be too easy.
I just realized that the Fete d'Auvergne was actually last weekend, not this weekend. This is one amazing market, so amazing it is only once a year! The auvergnats invade Bercy for the weekend, selling traditional products and hosting cultural events and activities. I discovered this on accident a few years ago when a friend and I happened to stumble upon the blocks after blocks of everything auvergnat. My favorite stand was the aligot stand (mmmm...aligot...mmm). Well, you can be sure I won't miss it next year! And in the meantime I'll just have to make it out to la maison de l'aubrac (if it's still around) to satisfy my aligot craving.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Les petits bateaux

This is one of the stands that rents out toy boats in the Jardin de Luxembourg. If you pass by on a Wednesday, you're likely to see the young French children, accompanied by their nounous, pushing around these old-fashioned wooden sailboats in the large pond in the park. And you might even be lucky enough to witness elementary-school style drama: there's always "that" kid, with a remote-control boat, terrorizing the rest (and the ducks, too!).

In my mind, these toy boats have an iconic role in French childhood; of course, I also make the association with one of my favorite brands, Petit Bateau, maker of oh-so-soft cotton goods for babies, children, and adult alike.

And just to up the melancholy on this gray day, how about the Raphael song "les petits bateaux"?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Graffiti in St-Germain

This graffiti certainly stands out on from the rest of this small road in St-Germain.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

If you were thinking of using the insurer MACIF,

maybe you should think again. Apparently punctually resolving claims isn't its strong point. The sign reads "The accident was May 12, we're insured by MACIF!"
Short and sweet, it certainly makes its point: the sign is hanging firm, over four months after the initial fire. This antique/thrift shop in the 6th closes up at night by putting boards through the window panes.  I don't know the story behind the fire, whose damage reaches up to the first floor of the building and on either sides of it, but I hope that MACIF will come through soon enough for the owners.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Serious question

Where can I find seedless grapes (besides Atac and Auchan)? Just wondering if anyone out there has seen any.

Real posts on the way, promise.

Oh, also, all the gyms/salles de yoga and pilates are EXORBITANT. I was just quoted 185/month for a gym. It took all my willpower not to laugh out loud. Does anyone have any experience taking classes at the municipal sport/loisirs centres?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Les Papilles

Les Papilles is one of the best values for those of you adventurous enough to accept whatever the chef deigns to serve you. For you have only one option when eating here: the 31 € "retour du marche" menu which includes entree, main dish, cheese, and dessert course. I lucked out with every course on my first visit, and had a great meal.

We were an hour late (oops), so we got relegated to the bar, but it actually wasn't that bad because we weren't as cramped as some of the people sitting at the tables, and the bartender/waiter was very sweet and took good care of us. I wouldn't mind sitting there again. R. immediately ordered the charcuterie platter, which started us off well.

We both went with the menu (well, it's not like we had any other choice), and I was very happy with the first course, a mint pea soup. I thought it sounded weird but I loved it. That bowl is filled with veggies, croutons, and bacon (yum), over which was served the soup.

Next was the lamb. Oh, that lamb. No, I'm not a pig, this was for both of us! The sauce around it was filled with roasted summer vegetables, and was almost like a meat-infused ratatouille. Delish.

My cheese course was so pretty: brie drizzled with olive oil, chives, and some sweet sauce (plum? black cherry? don't remember). R got a salad substitution for the cheese.

Finally, our dessert. A cup of mascarpone with fresh peaches on the bottom and a coulis of peach on top. I never order these creamy types of desserts, but they are always so good when I taste them, so I was happily surprised.

I do not remember the wine we ordered, but it was whatever the pick of the day was to go with the menu - see how easy they make it for you?

When we were leaving we noticed a large party appearing out of nowhere, leaving. It was then that we learned about the "rugby room": the private dining room downstairs, decorated with rugby memorabilia, complete with flat screen tele. Something to keep in mind for large groups.

This bib gourmand is the place to go if you want a darn good meal without breaking your bank account - so long as you don't have any special dietary restrictions. They were willing to make some movement on the menu - they offered to substitute the tuna for the lamb, but don't bring your vegetarian friend, or even your "I don't eat farm animals with four legs, but sometimes I eat chicken, and maybe pork if I feel like it, oh and can I have my dressing on the side?" friend. On the website there is a "carte" with tartines and salads, but I think that is only for lunch. They also sell their wines and canned goods for takeaway.

BistroY... Les Papilles
30 rue Gay Lussac
75005 PARIS
tel : 01 43 25 20 79

Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday - Saturday
Reservations recommended on the weekends.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

So not having internet...kind of annoying. But now housing is all sorted out (nope, won't even go there!) and internet is too and I'd thought I'd share this lovely surprise that greeted us while walking home one evening a few weeks ago.
Le Figaro is currently exhibiting "30 ans d'emotion" at the Jardin du Luxembourg, with some of the most moving images in the past 30 years, many of which were covers of the Figaro Mag. You can find out more information about the exhibit and the photos on the Senat website.

Hurry by to take a look, since you only have until July 15 to see them!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Au Cheval Blanc

Recently had the most amazing, amazing meal I have had in a long time at the Cheval Blanc. I didn't take pictures except for this, but trust me. Five "official" courses, with wine pairings and all the in betweens. Fantastic service, inviting setting, love love loved it. Currently one-starred but I don't see why it can't earn another soon enough. Above is a photo of just one (yes, ONE!) of the amazing desserts that was on our menu. They called this the grand dessert, and each person at the table got this sampling of their sweets. Simply Amazing. They have tons of specials going on now because of a recent change in owner and it is worth the short drive from Strasbourg (or Germany if that be the case).

Oh, and did I mention I'm back in Paris now! Can't wait to write about my first meal back!!!

Au Cheval Blanc
4, rue de Wissembourg
Tél. : +33 (0)3 88 94 41 86
Reservations essential.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ambiance & Styles

One of my favorite design and homeware stores in Strasbourg is Ambiance & Styles. I always drop in when I am looking for a unique souvenir from France to bring home to friends or family, and they do the most beautiful job of wrapping the presents with contrasting paper colors, ribbons and all.

They have almost every possible object by Valerie Nylin, a French designer who has a line of tableware and accessories:including some great reusable shopping bags that are around 6€ each. Valerie Nylin's designs involve simple illustrations captioned with some sort of joke or play on words in French.

Ambiance & Styles has a substantial Alessi section, a good kids/baby section, more serious/classic china and flatware, and a kitchen section with every imaginable doodad.

The thing that mystifies me is that they don't have any locations in Paris. The name and the logo looked so familiar, I was sure I had seen them before in Paris. I also can't think of any comparable American chain. Definitely check them out if you are in Strasbourg or near any of their other locations.

Place St Pierre Le Vieux
Tél: 03 88 32 91 07
Tuesday-Saturday 10h - 19h

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Biggest Dog Ever

Chillin' in a corner press shop in Lembach, Alsace. We had a long discussion with the owner about how she prefers big dogs to small dogs (my dog would be a light afternoon snack for this giant), our shared dislike of poodles, and her philosophies on training dogs. I can't remember the breed, but I do remember the weight of the dog: more than 60 kgs! Over 120 lbs! Wow.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Only in France

FNAC, the French equivalent to Best Buy or Circuit City, memorializes the protests of May 68 on all of their shopping bags, replacing their usual logo with a revolutionary fist. May 68 court toujours ≈ May 68 is still alive.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hello Kitty Invasion!

Galeries Lafayette has paired up with Hello Kitty as part of their "Asiatic" theme, and the results are irresistible. Stuffed animals, coffee mugs, reusable shopping bags, stationary products: they all feature that famous Japanese cat against the Paris skyline and Galeries Lafayette logo. Yes, I bought the big shopping bag. And it took all my willpower not to buy the mug at the same time!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

L'atelier d'Grand Pere

R and I had been running around all day, and we needed to stop and breathe before we rushed on to dinner with friends. We first went by l'Epicerie, but as usual it was totally packed, so R suggested this place. Loved it! So cute, great menu, great atmosphere, great happy hour specials, ok service: a keeper for sure.

I got my usual pot of earl grey, while R took advantage of their happy hour special of tartine + 50cl beer for 3.90€. His "flambeur" tartine was true to its name, basically a tarte flambee -- melted cheese, cream, onions, and bacon, served piping hot on a wooden cutting board -- and so good that it was gone by the time my camera was out. They also have afternoon tea specials: for the same price you get your choice of hot beverage and dessert. And not to mention their lunch specials and enormous salads! I can't wait to try this place for lunch. AND it's open on Sundays!

p.s. hilarious. I had asked our waiter for a business card before we headed out, and I noticed him scribbling something on it before he handed it to me. I just now looked at his addendum to the address: "avec de vrais serveurs qui dansent la tecktonik." With true waiters who dance tecktonick. LOLOLOL. Well there ya go, yet another reason to check this place out, and possibly hit on their amazing dancing waiters.

L'atelier d'Grand Pere
11 rue Sainte Barbe
67000 Strasbourg
Tel: 03 88 22 24 30
Open 7/7
Sunday-Thursday: 11h - 21h
Friday & Saturday: 11h - 23 h

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Not Liberty Island...

This replica of the Statue of Liberty is right outside of Colmar, where Frédéric Bartholdi was born. It's actually in the middle of a traffic circle, and I did a double take as we were going around it, but was still able to take a photo in time. Just not what I expected when traveling along a French road.

Friday, April 04, 2008


So what is there to see in Selestat, a town between Strasbourg and Colmar?
Well, there was this churchand that church
There's also the Maison du Pain, a museum on the history of bread. We didn't go into the museum, but I did treat myself to one each of these meringues from their adjoining bakery:Mmmmm.
Selestat is also known for its Humanist Library, but we didn't visit it.
Finally, I love these French warning signs, especially the cat one:(Felin Hargneux, mal nourri means Bad-tempered Cat, malnourished)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Le Buerehiesel

Continuing on with our Formule Jeunes adventure, R & I made reservations at the Buerehiesel, a one-starred restaurant smack dab in the middle of Orangerie Park. This restaurant lost its three stars when the father handed it over to the son, but Eric Westermann was awarded his first star in this year's Michelin guide. We didn't know what to expect, and after the Auberge de l'Ill it was hard not to be disappointed. (though to be fair, after the Auberge what wouldn't disappoint?)

Our amuse bouche was a mousse of foie gras. So I'm not a huge fan of foie gras, but this was ok with me since it was more like a delightfully buttery spread. That I can do, especially when I'm hungry!
Next up was the entree, this half-cooked (purposefully), herbed salmon, encircled with arugula and diced tomatoes. The herbs and slow-roasted tomato vinaigrette were fabulous, fabulous enough for me to stomach the cold salmon (again -- just got unlucky with set menu, but hey, I liked the stuff I normally don't so it all worked out).
Our fish course of steamed mullet topped with raw oysters, in a Riesling sauce, arrived next. OK, so the slimy, salty, oysters didn't go over so well. R liked them fine enough though.
Finally we got to the dish I had been waiting for since we received the menu: roasted lamb with rosemary. Only...I like my lamb medium rare! And the waiter had asked, and we had specified this. But by the time we got it, a few pieces were properly cooked but most were brown through and through. This is how I like my lamb. It seem silly for me to be making such a big deal out of this, but is it so wrong to expect things to be properly cooked in a one-star restaurant?
Enough whining, on to dessert. Souffle and grapefruit sorbet. Simple and sweet.
The Mignardaises are almost always my favorite part of the meal -- aren't things always cuter the smaller they are? (does this meet the rules of cuteness?)Here you see the thin cookies on the right, the mini-madeleines and rose marshmallows in the middle, and the sugar, candied orange, and chocolate truffles to the left. I liked the truffles the best, but I also enjoyed the marshmallows.

So. The verdict? Well... When we walked in we immediately knew that things would be different. The decor is very sparse and basic...but not in a stylish faux-zen way. Dinner might not be the best meal to have here either, since you won't be able to appreciate the surrounding gardens. I'm sure during the day the scenery is amazing, as the main dining room is like a conservatory. The staff was kind enough, but the service was badly coordinated. The wine pairings kept arriving halfway through the matching dish; things felt very rushed (I think our meal took 1h30 -- talk about American-paced!!!); the team of waiters and waitresses and hostess and sommelier didn't seem to click. They just weren't on that night.

I can attribute part of my disappointment to the menu -- none of the dishes were my favorite thing to begin with. But even R, the most adventurous and least picky eater I know, wasn't that impressed. And our underwhelming dishes had nothing to do with the service or the mediocre (R's judgment) wines we were served.

68€ for a four-course wine pairing meal didn't make it a total loss, but if I ever go back it would be to try their set weekday lunch instead (3 courses for 35€ -- and they put their entire week's menu online at the beginning of the week in case you want to pick the day/menu you like best).

In fact, I might do just that. I don't feel comfortable completely writing this restaurant off yet because I love the family story behind it, and the magic of the park setting is undeniable. Anyone else want to chime in?

Restaurant Buerehiesel
4, parc de l’Orangerie
tél : (+33) 3 88 45 56 65

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Colmar and Le Croissant Dore

I said I would write more about Colmar, so here goes. Colmar is an adorable Alsatian town worthy of at least an afternoon visit if not more. Our afternoon stroll took us through the old town, each storefront more wonderfully Alsatian than the next.
There was also a church,the famous Bretzels of Colmar (that I didn't try), And a door marked from the 15th century
and just beyond the passageway to the right of the 15th century door, the most wonderful cafe, Le Croissant Doré. Don't you love how they wrote their name above the door? It reminds me of those Highlights stories that substituted images for words.

The front pastry case lured in many a passerby,and this tiny cafe was packed when we arrived. I loved this place. Art nouveau decor through and through, this cozy place was filled with friends catching up, families treating their children to an afternoon soda, readers curled with a good book...and on top of that, friendly service from two adorable old ladies! All the faux French cafes or bistros in America strive to have what this place has -- authenticity, a neighborhood feel -- and so if you want the real thing, this is where you need to go.

Le Croissant Doré
28, Rue des Marchands
68000 Colmar
Tel: 03 89 23 70 81

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Auberge de l'Ill

To celebrate the coming of Spring, and to take advantage of the Formule Jeunes promotion while it lasts, R and I made reservations at Auberge de l'Ill, which has had its 3 stars since 1967! Quite the Alsatian establishment.

All of the photos might be a little dark because I didn't use a flash.
We were served this cute platter almost immediately, accompanied by champagne. From top to bottom: herbed mini-madeleines, emmental crisps, smoked salmon puffsNext came this emulsion of boudin noir. I hate boudin noir (just the English term -- blood pudding -- makes me cringe), but I loved this and ate every spoonful.
Next up was this gorgeous martini glass full of marinated scallops layered with an asparagus puree and a blood orange gelee:Our waitress encouraged us to mix the layers, and it was delicious even if the blood orange was a bit tart. We also had our pick of the bread basket, and these amazing fresh butters.You can see the logo of the restaurant carved into the butter -- this level of detail was present everywhere, as all the silverware was similarly monogrammed.
After this we had our fish, a bar sauteed to perfection, accompanied by one lonely maki.R's favorite dish came next. This was a work of art. Pigeon and goose liver were tenderly wrapped in cabbage, all inside a fluffy pastry. The pigeon was wonderful, red and meaty, and of course I loved it when it came in such a cute package! Not to mention the gravy...

Finally, the sweet part of the meal, my favorite. I can't remember the order of all the sweets. I think they might have first brought out these cookies while we waited for the full dessert.and these, which were like really crispy mini beignetsThen came the real dessertA shotglassful of cappucino, a scoop of chicory ice cream, and a layered pastry of pear and dark chocolate. The chicory ice cream, pebbled with chewy bits of chicory, was surprisingly yummy.
A huge platter of chocolates to choose from appeared as soon as we had finished the dessert. (yes, I was in heaven, no I wasn't greedy and didn't take one of each). I tried one of the dark rochers, a truffle, and a praline. All were amazing.

One thing that sets this place apart from all others is the service, which you will notice as soon as you enter. Someone to greet you, someone to take your coat, someone to lead you to your table and pull out your chair for you. Even when I got up in the middle of the meal to head to the ladies' room, the waitress precipitated my moves and was behind me to pull out my chair. A new napkin awaited on each return. Still, however vigilant the staff members were, they didn't hover - they, and their touches, were practically invisible, as I guess all hallmark service is.

Each of the dining rooms had their own feeling. The entrance felt Japanese, as you might see in the details of the name; the middle rooms felt like they came out of a Bond movie set from the 70s, with cheesy glass partitioning and shaggy white carpets; and the last room felt like a ski lodge with its roaring fire, deep wood paneled walls, and couches in the back corner. We were seated in this last room, which had a great view of the stream below, with the willow trees and the cobblestone bridge not to far off.

One thing I've left off is the wine pairings that came with each course. Maybe next time I'll remember. Our entire meal, including wine pairings, sparkling water and coffee, was 90€ per person. Quite a steal for such a fabulous experience.

Auberge de l'Ill
2 rue de Collonges au Mont d'Or
Tél. 03 89 71 89 00
Fax 03 89 71 82 83