Ghetteau Fabulous

November 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm | Posted in food | 9 Comments
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Last week as I trawled through La Grande Epicerie last week looking for overpriced cranberries, I also stumbled across this fine example of conspicuous consumption:

Bling H20

Introducing Bling H20 — sparkling water for people who want all their sparkle on the surface. Yes, that’s right: for a mere $55, you too can be the owner of a tacky, rhinestone encrusted bottle of plain, ordinary (and in fact, still) water.

Now, everyone who knows me knows I love pointlessly sparkly things, but I have to admit, I’m a little appalled. Seriously, is there any possible excuse for dog tags on bottled water? It makes me feel dirty for even shopping in the same store with this atrocity.

Bling!

Not too dirty to snap a couple of pictures, though. Ooh, sparkly!

Matinée d’Airelles

November 27, 2007 at 11:49 am | Posted in food | 7 Comments

Okay, I know I sort of implied last week that I was too cool for Thanksgiving and was giving a pass to all forms of seasonal tradition. But the truth is, I just didn’t have any holiday photos ready at the time — yes, you heard it here first: sometimes bloggers misrepresent their lives.

So what did I really do on Thanksgiving? I walked down to La Grande Epicerie and bought a €6 bag of authentic Ocean Spray cranberries.

Cranberries

So sue me — it turns out I am a bit of a traditionalist, after all.

Still, I didn’t really have the energy for a full Thanksgiving feast. Turkey, stuffing and pie for two people is a little ridiculous. Ultimately, though, my favorite part of any holiday isn’t the celebration itself, but the slightly dazed, groggy, and always comforting brunch the morning after. And so, Friday morning, I got up early to heat the oven and made my own little post-Thanksgiving tradition: cranberry bread pudding.

Bread Pudding

It’s like the two best aspects of Thanksgiving (stuffing and cranberry sauce) rolled into one and sweetened with sugar.  What better way to get a (slightly belated) start on the holiday season?

Not Just Pho

November 22, 2007 at 12:34 pm | Posted in food | 6 Comments
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So, it’s Thanksgiving today, which means all the Franco-American bloggers are posting about gratitude, or American traditions, or the odds of finding a decent pumpkin pie this side of the Atlantic. As for me — I’m here to tell you about my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

Quan Ngon

Charming ambiance, no? By the way, those towers you see reflected in the windows are Les Olympiades — Paris’s answer to “the projects”.

Now, I know Ms. Glaze gave her Vietnamese recommendation a little while back, located in the infinitely more charming and accessible St. Michel area. And sure, there are any number of little holes-in-the-wall around the city where you can get a piping hot bowl of pho. But what brings back to Quan Ngon again and again is the house specialty — crèpe vietnamienne.

Crepe Vietnamienne

Basically, it’s a light, fluffy pancake, fried until perfectly crispy (but not greasy) and wrapped around chicken, mushrooms, sprouts and veggies. It’s served with fish sauce and pungent greens (basil, mint, etc.), which I like to stuff inside, though I have no idea if that’s traditional. Either way, the flavor combination is definitely worth the trip.

So dream all you want of canned cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. I’ll be crunching into one of these.

Crepe Vietnamienne

Yum.

Quan Ngon
63, rue Javelot
75013 Paris
Metro: Olympiades

Red House

November 20, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Posted in art | Comments Off on Red House
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Red House

Last week I made my first visit to La Maison Rouge — which, contrary to appearances, is not a den of prostitution but a small museum with rotating exhibits that had been recommended to me a number of times.

On right now they’re showing Sots Art: Art politique en Russie de 1972 à aujourd’hui, an exhibit devoted to the works of politically motivated artists in the late soviet and post soviet eras. This focus makes for some graphically appealing (if somewhat heavy handed) pieces:

Lenin Coca-Cola

Some that were a bit more subtle:

Revolutionary Russian Porcelain

In this work by Kossolapov, Duchamp meets Malevitch, pointing up the contrast between avant garde art in Moscow vs. New York. Still others, however, were very nearly incomprehensible to an undereducated western eye:

Monsters

Here we have some creepy, suit-clad monsters, debating over glasses of wine. I think they’re supposed to be aliens, but I didn’t quite grok the political message.

Which brings me to the main weakness of the exhibit: there is absolutely no wall commentary. And I know a lot of people feel that wall commentaries in museums are a crutch, and that everyone should come to the art on their own terms, without the curator holding your hand through the whole thing. And that’s a fine approach for many exhibits — but when we’re talking about political art that was produced in a very specific context, really, I’m going to need some cliff’s notes.

Of course, the Maison Rouge doesn’t leave you completely on your own. When you buy your ticket, they give you a tiny little stapled booklet, in French only, filled with in depth essays regarding most of the works on display. But good luck finding a place to read it! There isn’t a bench in the whole show, and I wound up sitting on the floor at one point just to get a good angle and enough light to read the damn thing.

I have to admit, though, the booklet had a lot of interesting commentary, and really made me appreciate the exhibit on a deeper level. I just wish I’d hung around the comfortable lounge in the lobby area to read it before venturing inside.

La Maison Rouge
Sots Art: Art politique en Russie de 1972 à aujourd’hui
10 boulevard de la bastille
Open Wednesday through Sunday

Check out some more pictures here

Abandoned, Late Afternoon

November 16, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Posted in vie quotidienne | 2 Comments
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Abandoned, Late Afternoon

The second in what is apparently becoming a series — spotted on the Quai de la Rapée, in the 12th.

Counterfeit Cake

November 14, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Posted in food | Comments Off on Counterfeit Cake
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Tropezienne

Can anyone tell me anything about this cake?

It’s called La Tropezienne, but its story is a bit baffling. According to that site, which looks fairly official, it was invented by Brigitte Bardot’s caterer, and has nothing directly to do with St. Tropez, despite the name. Then a communist millionaire bought the rights to sell a short-lived frozen version. Then the name and recipe were bought by the sales manager, who now distributes it throughout southern France and, bizarrely, to race car drivers.

Except, I bought mine here in Paris, from the bakery on the corner, which was proudly employing the supposedly trademarked title “La Tropezienne”. Is mine a knock-off? I don’t know, and I don’t care. It’s a pretty simple dessert, ultimately (cake layers sandwiching a lemony-cream, and sugar on top), and it was delicious.

Les Convulsionnaires

November 12, 2007 at 11:23 am | Posted in books, spectacle | 2 Comments
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St Medard

Just a few blocks from me, at the bottom of the rue Mouffetard, is the church of St. Médard. Dating from the 12th century, it’s a completely ordinary, unremarkable neighborhood church — that is, until you know its story.

In the early 18th century, a jansenist deacon known as François Pâris was buried in the (no longer extant) cemetery of St. Médard. Celebrated in life for his piety and asceticism, his grave became a site of prayer and pilgrimage, and before long, there were reports of miraculous events on the site: visitors — mostly teenage girls — were afflicted by ecstatic fits, trances, and “collective psychosis”. Known as the Convulsionaries of St. Médard, these passionate young women barked and meowed, committed “indecent acts” — some even demanded to be whipped, beaten , or strangled by on-lookers to demonstrate the purity of their devotion.

Predictably, crowds began to gather around the cemetery to watch the divinely-inspired theatrics, and eventually a royal ordinance was put in place to close the cemetery. The following day, some local wit had posted this sign on the door:

“De par le Roy, défense à Dieu de faire miracle en ce lieu”
By order of the king, God is forbidden from making miracles in this spot.

From the Guide de Paris Mystérieux.

Return of the Eggs

November 7, 2007 at 10:48 am | Posted in food | 13 Comments
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Hey, so — speaking of the marginally edible, it’s about time I give you guys an update on those box eggs!

And let me start by saying, oh, the things I do for this blog. Not since the horror of Speed Rabbit Pizza have I sacrificed so much for the education and amusement of my readers. But now, on to the report:

According to the box, our pre-poached treats may be eaten hot or cold — if desired cold, simply pop them out of their handy plastic bubbles. I decided to try them hot, which meant dropping them — fully plastified — into simmering water for three minutes, and then removing the packaging.

Boxed Eggs

Mmm… appetizing, no? I didn’t think so either, so I decided to give the eggs a little help: I whipped up a Mornay, threw in some leftover mushrooms, and toasted up some bread.

Boxed Eggs

That’s the sauce, and those are the eggs, in all their shiny, dimpled glory.

Boxed Eggs

To their credit, the eggs actually splodged quited satisfyingly, when broken into. I was impressed by the contrast between the firm white and the perfectly liquid yellow — well played, box eggs.

The actual eating experience, however, was a different story. The yolk was, in fact, a little too thin, a bit like slathering your food with yellow water.  The white was unpleasantly gummy — think of chewing on a pencil eraser, but less satisfying and without the rubbery taste of nostalgia.  Indeed, the whole ensemble was disconcertingly flavorless, almost as if created by someone who had seen poached eggs at some point, but never actually had one in his mouth.  In fact, it strikes me as extremely unlikely that these unfortunate globs of protein ever resided inside a chicken.

The cheesy mushrooms, however, were quite nice.  So… got any more revolting food-stuffs you’d like me to try?

A Londres

November 5, 2007 at 11:45 am | Posted in art, food | 2 Comments
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Almost Full English

Guess who went to London this weekend!

Everyone’s always telling me how wonderfully fresh and inventive British food is these days, but as unappealing as this may look, it’s pretty much the only thing I’ll eat when I’m in England. I’m a traditionalist that way.

But man cannot live by breakfast alone, so I also met up with old friends, made new friends, and saw a ton of weird and wonderful art, most of which couldn’t be photographed. A shame, really — I know you guys wanted to see the giant column made of shrimp shells.

Then I took a walk in the park, saw some extraordinary architecture, and bought up a bunch of candy bars (reviews to come over time, lest I go into diabetic shock).

And of course, ate more breakfast.

With chips

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