Monday, August 23, 2010

Stepping Back For a Minute

So I'm going to take some time off from the blog.  I've kept saying that I would since the Jury Duty but I think I mean it this time!

Mr. Paradis says I need three weeks of chatting to make up for the three week Jury Duty chat deficit I seem to have suffered.

But more than that I feel like I need to get anchored a little bit more into my life and feel its structure around me.  And to tuck into some soft spaces again.

To explore new paths.

And yes, to find that new darn camera!  I'll be thinking of you all and visiting.  I may not be commenting.  I guess I just need to be quiet in a different way for a little while.  I'll be back in a couple of weeks.  Hugs and toodles!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Los Angeles - Return to Bottega Louie

Hope everybody had a great weekend.  Mine was a bit of a mixed bag, most notable among its events being what seems like a pretty definite demise of my trusty camera.  Remember that Marie Antoinette post?  All those horizontal lines were apparently the camera, and not an effect of photographing video.  And every other picture I've taken since then looks like it was taken in the midst of a white-lightning storm.  So now you know.  (Sad face, I was getting quite attached to that camera!)  Meanwhile I think I still have some Bottega Louie pictures from the Jury Duty era.  I did promise to return there (didn't I?) and ever faithful.......

OK their croissants are excellent, and so accordingly, are their pains au chocolat.  Could be the best in L.A.  That's saying alot considering we have one or two P.Q.'s here, a Bouchon, and a Kayser Bread Bar.

I did not sample the beignets.  But one ALWAYS has to have something to go BACK for.  Isn't it so?

The Bottega Louie grapefruit jellies are a great success.  Somewhere between a classic pate de fruits and the old reliable fruit gummy.  Much tenderer and tangier than the jelly bean favored by past U.S. Presidents.  (If you can name that jelly bean loving President, I'll send you a packet - of grapefruit jellies.)

Finally the pieces de resistance - the macarons!   Aren't they pretty?  I did not sample the green ones, but a few others

managed to make it home with me.  Reminding me why I might not ACTUALLY have lost so much weight further to several sweltering days traipsing around Paris, camera in hand.  Because jury duty came immediately after.  (3 weeks of sitting all day!  And Bottega Louie.)  

Well with all the votes in, that livid blue one with the scattering of gold flecks on it was the clear winner, hands down.  (Who woulda thunk it?)

I've mentioned before that alot of American chefs have yet to figure out that great cuisine is about figuring out how to make something taste MORE.  And they frequently mistake "more" for very aggressive flavoring in one or two dimensions only.  Although these macaroons had a nice pouf-ey crown, and kept their tenderness very satisfactorily in plastic in the frig over a couple days, the fundamental flavorings did not entirely serve them well.  The coffee flavor (yellow, above) tasted only of the sharp edges of a brazilian robusta and none of the round smoky or chocolatey/vanillaey dense flavors that an arabica might have lent them.  The flavor was thin, and verging on sawdust-ey and if you hadn't known it, you might NOT have guessed: coffee.  The pink ones:  rose flavor.  The meringue was not so bad, but the white filling, cloyingly sickly sweet.  Wrong again!  WAY sweet!  The orange one was meant to be a tangerine or satsuma but you know what,  how many OTHER orange flavored macarons have YOU seen or tasted?!!!!  Could there be a reason for that?  In this case, VERY WRONG!!!!!!  (So.  Very.)  It tasted like artificially flavored orange soft drink or childrens' aspirin.   In fact, after one bite and a few days languishing in the frig, it went into the trash.  The flavoring was so overwhelming that it came out in a great big overpowering nose wrinkling whiff as soon as the box was opened.

So back to the winner, the blue macaron, Earl Grey flavored, in fact, with a nice dark chocolate filling.  Don't let the blue put you off....THIS IS THE ONE (you should put your dollars down for!)!!!!  If the chef is reading this, subtle flavoring is the way to go if you're thinking of making more macarons man! 

Isn't that really their charm when you think about it?  Something that is so light on the tongue with mysterious haunting flavors?  It should taste like eating a dream, with the precise flavor just slightly beyond reach, like a memory of childhood which is so utterly specific but unattainable and ineffable all in the same sensation.   It should really NOT be a smack in the mouth with something cross-eyed-provoking that makes you jump off your chair.  You would spill your hot drink down you!

Chefs: if you have any doubts, just ask Pierre Herme!

So I have said my piece.  (Do you care?  In case you don't, thanks for bearing with me!)  It doesn't mean I will NOT be going back to Bottega Louie.  I will, I will.  But I might skip the orange macarons and the Jury Duty part. Now.......... back to my online shopping for a new camera!  Wish me luck! I need it!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Le Musee de la Toile de Jouy, Jouy-en-Josas

A quelques pas de Paris..........(just steps from Paris)

is the surprisingly rather ordinary small town of Jouy-en-Josas.  Tucked into a narrow, dark ravine among verdant hills, at the bottom of which

runs a tumbling river that was, back in time, especially especially clean.   It was so well suited to the rinsing of printed cloth, that Christopher Oberkampf (his family living room recreated in the photos above) sited on the hill above it, an important fabric printing factory that changed the economic fortunes of France while simultaneously 

contributing something to its artistic patrimony whose ultimate value may be inestimable.

As we now know more than ever in America, economic vigor and robust industry (or the lack thereof)

has tremendous impact on a country's well-being.  So when the fabric merchants of France saw their market slipping away from them, under the onslaught of cheap wood-block printed cottons from India

they mustered the forces of French law, and the talents of the French people

to super-charge an industry and to refine its product into something "imbattable".
 Something beautiful, something for the ages

that embodied the rigor, ingenuity, artistry and energy

of the French culture.  Something durable, portable, marketable, persuasive

of the pleasures of the French "joie de vivre",  graceful for wearing

morning, noon and night.

But which did not so much survive the wear of the years.  When worn on the PERSON.  For us now in the 21st century to enjoy.

Happily however, the good news is that maisons bourgeoises throughout rural france may yet

be found hung from floor to ceiling in these infatuating patterns which HAVE survived the depredations of the years and communicate and celebrate still

 what life could and should be.  With their scenes of sweet rusticity.

And their invitations to comfort.

Ah oui.  La be-l-l-e vie......!

You may not be surprised that there were NOT a lot of men in this museum.  Le Musee de la Toile de Jouy.  In fact, my own Mr. Paradis stayed in the car for a nap!  And the only other person I saw of the less-gentle gender was sitting outside in front, having a coffee.

BUT FOR YOU "La Boutique Oberkampf" at the museum is ALWAYS OPEN i.e., accessible 24/7.  If you read French!  Click the link to the museum and look for "Acceder a la boutique en ligne!"  If you can't visit the museum this weekend and soak in the glories of "toile de jouy", online ordering could be just the thing.

Happy Shopping!  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Paris - What Lies Beyond........

For those of us who don't get to live in these places,  and will never have the chance to know them intimately and take them for granted...........

All I can say is, "LET ME IN - LET ME IN!!!!!!!!!!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pakistan - What Can You Do?

Most of us, if we are lucky, have our homes, light, family, comfort, a future to anticipate.

Thousands in Pakistan, since the first of August, no longer have any of this.  They are fleeing flooded homes for their lives, with only their lives if they are the very luckiest.  And help is not coming to them.

Via the Huffington Post and Dalia Mogahed:  Muslim Faith: Function Over Form link here

Sharing our wealth with those in need, though it is dear to us, gives us practice putting God before material gain. By giving some of our money to the orphan and the wayfarer in kinship, not patronage, we empower ourselves to be masters of our material possessions, not their slaves, while at the same time building brotherhood in society.
Further to this Passage from the Koran:

True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west -- but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance -- however much he himself may cherish -- it -- upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God. (2:177 [Asad])

A couple suggestions to receive your donations:

The International Red Cross
The Red Crescent Society
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres

The need is great.  

Forever Paris, Escape, Le Train Bleu

I'm so sorry all you Parigots....I hear it's raining there again.  These pictures are from the first or second weekend of "la Grande Evasion".  When it was still brilliantly sunny and vacation was still ahead.  We were returning a rental car to the Gare de Lyon and decided the thing to do immediately after was to have breakfast at le Train Bleu.  

Shockingly this place, which has at least been landmarked, is not these days so well maintained, in terms of its food, and its image.  The banal train station cafe below was packed and churning with activity, but upstairs here, an atmosphere not unlike Miss Havisham's house!  I think the restaurant must be owned and rather neglected, conceptually, by the SNCF - the national railroad company.  I generally think the French have the right idea about the government role in it's cultural patrimony.  But I'm guessing the SNCF think they're in the transportation, not the food, industry. Fair enough but in the case of Le Train Bleu, a rethink is in order!  This should be a destination par excellence.  Not a "lost relic".

What do you think?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Paradise in Plasticine - James May's Toy Stories

OK.  Just had to post this.  As part of my re-entry therapy, I've just watched James May's Episode Two about making a plasticine (Sculpey or Fimo to you?) garden for the Chelsea Garden Show.   You can find the whole of it on YouTube - just google James May's Toy Stories and look for Episode Two.  Someone has uploaded it in 6 Parts and there's actually more of it there than was shown on BBC America where it was a bit tightly edited.  (Ain't technology grand!)  

This will get you started:

Well hubby and I are pretty much in agreement this is our favorite "Toy Story", not only because it has "Paradise" in the title, but also because there are so many of our old haunts in it, from Liverpool St. Station that we went in and out of daily when we were working in the City, to a sequence shot at one of our local pubs from back when we lived in Chiswick. (Yup that's it!  Which has been much improved since our time there.  Closer to Christmas I'll post some pictures of it.)  And because they show Jane Asher's cake shop on Elystan Place, a neighborhood we know very well for all it's lovely shops, and services.  We've gone past Jane's shop a million times - and never EVER seen her in it! The whole series is in a "Best of British" vein, but this one makes everyone there seem very loveable.  Especially Joanna Lumley who you should know from AbFab.

I've been wanting to play with plasticine for awhile although I have some reservations about how "green" it really is. But this was very inspiring!  And James May!  Isn't he cute?  Also if you haven't seen it, check out the Lego House Episode which I posted about here earlier this summer.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Los Angeles - Disney Concert Hall

I haven't been to the Guggenheim in Bilbao which I expect must be a 

very much larger structure.  And I don't know the interior of the Walt Disney Concert Hall intimately.

But I feel very lucky to be living close by to it.  The exterior is sleek and exciting in a very refined way.  At the rear is a nice little garden

with this blossom shaped picassiette fountain.  

This fountain's esthetic is so different from the actual structure either in or out.  But it's kind of fun, with nice textures to run your hands over.

The actual main concert hall is a veritable jewel box, one made by a traditional Japanese bamboo craftsman or wood worker for his prize cricket or favorite nightingale.  So sorry I don't have a picture.  Though I have been to a concert there.  The atmosphere is rarefied, and exquisitely intimate.  The acoustics are already famous.  They are everything you might expect.

Meanwhile how fun is this little recital hall?

So if you're coming to L.A., to visit this, don't just stand in front and get your picture taken.

Take the tour, have a walk all the way around, buy some tickets and get the full experience.  You won't regret it.  Here's the link to everything you need to know about it!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.