October 31, 2007 at 10:16 pm | Posted in vie quotidienne | 6 Comments
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Happy Halloween to those celebrating back home, or those who, like me, are missing it.


French pumpkins look weird, don’t they? I don’t believe these can be carved.



October 30, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Posted in books, vie quotidienne | 2 Comments
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The other day, I was browsing through Gibert Jeune and found this on their employment-prep shelf:


It’s a book on how to outsmart personality tests, presumably administered by your prospective employer. I was immediately struck — personality tests? Handwriting analysis? Wasn’t that sort of thing discredited years ago? Exactly how widespread is this practice?

Of course, flipping through the book was even more illuminating: it’s chock full of pseudo-scientific games and puzzles designed to separate the “loyal, hardworking employee” from “devious sociopath”. And how does one outsmart these wily psychologists? Well, for starters, don’t ever admit a fondness for evergreens:

Bad trees!

And don’t even think about sketching a whimsical, imaginary tree like the one on the right. Either of these are a very bad sign. Instead, stick to happy, fluffy, socially-approved trees like this one:

Good tree

But remember: no roots, no visible branches, and make sure to get the proportions of trunk to foliage precisely right — otherwise you risk being doomed to a life of professional failure.

Pied de Poulet

October 26, 2007 at 12:19 pm | Posted in food | 5 Comments
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Last dumpling

One dumpling.

That’s all that remained of the dim sum feast I shared with Cath by the time I remembered to take out my camera. What can I say? Sometimes my enthusiasm for piping hot food wins out over my sense of journalistic responsibility.

We had agreed to meet at New Nioulaville to test out the best (and only?) dim sum Paris has on offer. Seriously, every time I asked anyone where to get good dim sum in this town, I always heard one of two things — New Nioulaville, or nowhere.

It’s true that decent dim sum can be maddeningly elusive even in the most cosmopolitan of cities. I’ve been told by a few people not to even bother in New York — you’re better off making the trek to Boston’s chinatown, if you want an authentic experience. Is Paris, likewise, a dumpling desert, or would New Nioulaville satisfy our cravings for tiny, flavorful dishes served at little cost and even less pretense?

Well, I’m ready to weigh in on the subject: as far as I’m concerned, New Nioulaville was everything I was hoping it would be: fresh, reasonably priced dim sum served properly, off of rolling carts (no menus) — and all this on a Monday afternoon! There’s probably even greater variety if you go for weekend brunch.

I only regret that I don’t have any other photos of the experience. But perhaps it’s for the best… some people would only have been grossed out by the chicken’s feet, anyway, right? Their loss — those salty-sweet nubbins were entirely delicious.

New Nioulaville
32-34, Rue de l’Orillon, 75011


Tel : 01 40 21 96 18

Fiac, Finit

October 23, 2007 at 11:43 am | Posted in art | 4 Comments
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The fair came to town this past weekend! That is to say, Fiac, the Foire international d’art contemporain. Even for those of us with a passion for contemporary art, Fiac can feel like a bit much — over the course of four days, you’re supposed to wander through the Louvre and the Grand Palais, sifting through thousands of works by artists known and unknown, always on alert for the art world’s Next Big Thing.

As for me, I opted for Reader’s Digest version: in between the two giant hubs filled to the brim with paintings, photos, and installations, a mere handful of sculptures were elegantly scattered through the Jardins des Tuileries — much more manageable.

27 years light

Some were merely puzzling, like this giant metal egg constructed from (I think) coffee pots.

Mon repos aux Tuileries

Others were whimsical, like Claude Leveque’s Mon repos aux Tuileries. It consisted of a beat-up old van containing a lit chandelier, apparently run aground in a fountain, amidst a forest of mostly-submerged street lamps. It’s hard to look at such a strange scene without inventing a story to explain it — most of mine involve a zombie holocaust.

Elefant Dret

And what’s not to love about an elephant balancing on its trunk?

Check here for the rest of my Fiac photos.

Chacun cherche son chat

October 17, 2007 at 10:59 am | Posted in vie quotidienne | 5 Comments
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I’ve heard it said that Paris is a challenging city for cat-lovers. In most Italian cities, cats roam at will, foraging and begging for food, making their presence known in alleyways, on church steps, and even hanging around famous monuments.


This, for example, is the view from our hotel window in Naples a few years ago. These kitties showed up the minute we opened the shutters, and kept up a three-day chorus of meows and purrs until at last we tossed some tuna out the window.

The Parisian cat, on the other hand, is much more elusive. They are quite popular as pets, but most French people keep their feline companions confined to their apartments, so the casual flanneur might never see them. But cats being escape artists by nature, if keep your eyes open, you may spot a few as you wander the streets. I’ve already seen a couple crawling along gutters or sunning themselves on shop awnings, plus there’s one who hangs out in a greek restaurant in the Quartier Latin.

Ghost Cat

This lovely specimen hangs out in the courtyard of my building, and generally comes out at dusk. We thought he was a ghost the first time we saw him.


October 15, 2007 at 10:13 am | Posted in food | 9 Comments
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Pre-Poached eggs

Saw these in the supermarket the other day, and it creeped me out. The sad thing is, I love poached eggs… on toast, in salads, as delightful little appetizers. And it’s true that, for all I love them, I can rarely be bothered to cook ’em up at home. But pre-poached, ready-to-eat eggs in a carton? Can this really be a good idea?

Please, if anyone has tried these, let me know. I have to know if this really works.

Rainy Day Feast

October 11, 2007 at 11:33 am | Posted in art, food | 9 Comments
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I’ve been seeing a lot of bloggers lately complaining about the weather we’re having here in Paris. “It’s raining again!” they exclaim indignantly. “It’s been raining for weeks!”


Well, yes. Welcome to Paris.

But don’t worry, it’s not all bad. Because when the mist and fog and drizzle settle in, that just means it’s the perfect weather for indulging in a rich, fatty cassoulet.


This lovely specimen comes from a little basque restaurant right around the corner from me, but you can find similar dishes all around the city.


Exact recipes vary, but they generally contain some kind of duck confit, pork, and sausage, all cooked slowly together in a mass of white beans. And fat, of course — lots of it.

So yes, with every passing day, Paris is growing colder and rainier. Be grateful! Without this weather, we’d all be doomed to eat salads every day.

Les Bugnes
11, rue du Pot de Fer 75005
Metro: Monge
(oh, and if the cassoulet isn’t rib-sticking enough, they also do a lovely pied de cochon.)

Les Frites de la Liberté

October 9, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Posted in food | 6 Comments
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La Frite Bruxelloise

Way back in 2003, the United States suffered a serious embarrassment. I’m a little ashamed to even bring it up again, but the historical record will show that on March 11th, 2003, two United States Representatives declared, in a fit of pique, that the House cafeteria should henceforth refer to French fries as “Freedom fries”.

It’s safe to say that this was not America’s finest hour. France’s reaction, however, was to my mind delightfully typical: when journalists called the French embassy for a comment, they were informed with a Gallic shrug that French fries aren’t really French, anyway — they’re Belgian.

Whatever the origin, it’s worth noting that the dish itself varies a bit from country to country. Whereas here in France, fries are typically served in giant piles next to steak tartare or roast chicken, in Belgium they’re considered street food, scarfed from a paper cone and loaded with any one of a dizzying array of sauces.

Luckily, those of us with a penchant for Belgian-style potatoes don’t need to go all the way to Brussels to get our fry fix. Instead, we make a much shorter pilgrimage to La Frite Bruxelloise on Oberkampf in the 11th.


The heaping cones served here will do to satisfy a craving for Belgian fries, although the sauce options are much more limited than at your average frietkot.

La William

Despite this promising sign, “La William” did not deliver the sauce extravaganza we had hoped for. Indeed, the Andalouse and Samourai sauces were surprisingly similar to each other, with the Andalouse being the slightly spicier of the two. Still, it makes for great hangover food, and at €2.60, it’s a lot cheaper than hopping on the Thalys and heading to Brussels. Oh, and if that’s not enough, they also offer the best American-style cheeseburger I’ve tasted here in Paris.

La Frite Bruxelloise
101, rue Oberkampf
Metro: Parmentier
Open Sundays

UnAmerican Graffiti

October 4, 2007 at 11:17 am | Posted in vie quotidienne | 4 Comments
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As ever, I am fascinated and mystified by French vandalism; it always seems to operate on a much higher level than its American counterpart. The poster on the right here caught my eye while riding the metro — basically, it’s an ad promoting some kind of exhibition which is itself promoting the Rugby World Cup, held in France this year.

At first, I thought that scrawled imperative, “luttons” (“fight”) might be  part of the original ad — a sort of pseudo-meta-message meant to imply that the French people were really, aggressively supporting their rugby team.  But I’ve since decided that “luttons” was a genuine graffito, though — knowing French vandals as I do — I now have to assume it was meant at least semi-ironically.  Nevertheless, the precise message is, I’m afraid, lost on me.

But that only brings us to the further mystery of the supplemental message: “dormez!” (sleep!).  Was this intended as a commentary on the original poster?  Or on the (possibly sincere) luttons imperative?  If it’s the former, I can imagine someone walking around with a stack of “dormez!” notes, planning to affix them to every rugby poster in the neighborhood.  But if it is the latter, did someone really see the original vandalism, then run home to print up a single note?  And given that the “fight” command is delivered in the first person plural, whereas the “sleep” command is delivered in the in the second person plural, who exactly is being exhorted to do what?  Is the rugby team supposed to fight, and the potential fans to sleep?  Or vice versa?

And don’t even get me started on the inscrutable bike messages on the left-hand poster.


October 2, 2007 at 10:46 am | Posted in art | Comments Off on Ozga
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If you missed Kasia Ozga‘s unsettling rope sculptures back in May, you’ve got another chance now. Her exhibit, “Attractions et Oppositions,” is opening tonight.

“…[Ozga] thus creates a universe around the organic, on the theme of attachment and tension. At the heart of the exhibition space, the artist will present a participatory work conceived specially for the exhibit.”

Exposition: « Attractions et oppositions »
Opening tonight at 7:30
Running October 2-25th, 2007
Animathèque MJC de Sceaux, 21, rue des Écoles, 92330 Sceaux (RER :
Ligne B direction Robinson station Sceaux, BUS : 192 / 128 / 395)
Tel :


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