mercredi 30 janvier 2013

Métro Musicians


Sounds of jazz, opera, blues filter through the stench and crowds as you do the daily grind through Paris’s metro stations.

Haven’t you always wondered about these musicians who play in the stations? Who are they and why do they do it??

Musicians here are just as part of the cultural landscape as the boulangeries and cafés. It turns out as part of Paris’s way to continue to promote a positive culture of art and music one must actually audition to be certified to play in the metro stations around Paris.  They wouldn't want "bad" musicians to taint the romantic perceptions of Paris, would they?! One needs to apply at the RATP Cultural Services Office and play in front of a group of RATP employees. If approved, one receives the coveted badge allowing them to indeed play legally in the tunnels and stations of the metros around Paris. The badge is good for 6 months and then one needs to only revalidate it to continue.

I stopped to chat with a beautiful young opera singer in one of the stations to ask her a few questions.  I look forward to hearing her beautiful opera voice as I ascend up the stairs to catch my train. She mentions it is very difficult to find a space in the Metro that has not already been taken. She says most people just pass by, but there are those who really do appreciate the music and recognize the songs she is singing.  She prefers this space because of the acoustics - and she is correct - it sounds like you are in a symphony hall.
She says singing in the stations is a chance to practice and at the same time share her art with all different facets of society. How beautiful is that??! She says, New York does this as well, but she doesn't know of many other cities around the world that give musicians this opportunity. She quotes, "I have at least a thousand unbelievable stories to keep in my heart for the rest of my life!" 

Next time you are passing one of these metro musicians, stop and listen - you will be surprised at how much of a natural relaxant it is to hear the soothing sounds. After a stressful day, these musicians offer a bit of respite from the weary commute. After all, good music always brings a smile to most people’s faces.

"Like" this Hand Cream and receive a voucher for a free tube!!


dimanche 27 janvier 2013

Ballet Revolucion - hot!

If you are in the Paris area and looking for an upbeat, get out of your seat and dance night, look no further than Ballet Revolucion. With a combination of ballet, contemporary dance and hip-hop, this Cuban dance troupe rocks! What was so nice to see is that this troupe was really enjoying themselves - they were smiling at each other and the audience - they were genuinely having a great time. Oh, and it's not so bad to look at all those hot cuban men in tight shorts dancing around either.

                                              Only through 3 February at Casino de Paris.

Here is more info on Ballet Revolucion

mercredi 23 janvier 2013

Recon Mission - Dessert!!

 Today, I brought out the David Lebowitz Pastry App and checked out a couple more of his pastry recommendations, heading over to the 16th. This is a posh area anyway so you can be sure everything is upscale, and with it, a hefty price tag. The first stop was Aux Merveilleux de Fred on Rue de l'annunciation. I love the name of this pastry shop as it has a bit of sentiment for me being the namesake of my Uncle who recently passed away and he loved all food and loved dessert and he would have found these just maavelous!

I love that you can be a voyeur in the front window and take photos and the workers inside take no notice as they have this neat little trick of leaving a window shade just about half way down so all you see are their hands working the creme and rolling the merinque around in the nuts. These merveilleux, which are traditionally from the North of France and Flanders come in 5 different flavors. The merinque is copiously covered in thick creme and rolled in dark chocolate, nuts, praliné or other coating. They come in 3 sizes - mini, individual, or a large cake to share.  Even better - no guilt if you opt for mini or individual serving!

This is just crying out for a spoon!

The chef has taken a bit of French history and tied it in with the names of the 5 flavors of Merveilleux. Back in the late 18th century, after the Reign of Terror, a new decadent and fashionable subculture emerged in Paris. The people associated with this new era were called the "incroyables" and their female counterparts were the "Merveilleuses". Paris was now a time of pleasure-seeking and entertainment  - basically foot-loose and fancy-free, wearing clothes that were outlandishly decadent and doing all sorts of illicit things. Hence, the names of the pastries to imply a pleasure-seeking, decadent dessert to do nothing short of tantalizing the taste buds. Oh and did it!! The French have a knack for play on words and this is a perfect example!!

Complete with a chandelier adorning the inside of this tiny shop


Such cool packaging!!

They also serve a Cramique, which first appeared in 1830 in Belgium and the north of France. The pastry chef has paid homage to this original brioche and added his own touches by having a choice of baked with sucre, chocolate or raisins inside - breakfast! Be sure to stop by and sample these goodies!!

The next stop was Desgranges on Rue Passy. The display of pastries stopped me cold as I stood and drooled at my choices. The cashier kept asking me what I would like, but I was at such a loss as everything looked fabulous. She said with a grin, well, we're here till 8:00 pm so take your time. (It was 4 when I passed by) I opted for an orange eclair, a mousse like cake covered in caramel beurre salé and a Baba Rhum.  Well, I was not disappointed. My favorite was the orange eclair - the creme inside was a coffee/caramel flavor and the orange fondant topping was very different from any I had ever had before. The Baba Rhum was so strong - I didn't care for it that much. The mousse cake with the caramel beurre salé was very subtle with good flavors, but I was hoping for a bit more of that salty caramel taste.

beautiful packaging
As you can see, the caramel mousse on left had a rough train ride home!

All in all, a good recon mission and next time you are in the area, have a go at one or both of these places.

samedi 19 janvier 2013

Galette de Rois

As xmas and New Year's become a distant memory and we are in the beginning of the winter doldrums, along comes 5 January and the arrival of the Galette de Rois (King's Cake) and the ever treasured "fève" (literal translation -bean) that is a tiny porcelain charm baked into the middle of the cake. These delectable cakes made from a buttery pastry and filled with frangipane (almond paste) can be found in all the patisserie windows up until February. Then they just up and disappear. The treasure found in the middle of the cake is the "coupe du monde" for the children. The patisseries all seem to display their particular theme of fève in the window competing for the best treasure to be found. The collection ranges from Bart Simpson to Disney characters to special designs. When you purchase the galette, the bake reminds you to "rechauffée" un peu and wraps the paper crown around the packaging to be given to the one who finds the fève in their slice of cake.

A game is made out of the serving of the slices by having the youngest child go under the table and announcing the distribution of each slice. Everyone commences at once to eat and the one who finds the charm in their slice is crowned "le roi" and proudly wears the paper crown. Now, I could be wrong, but finding a hard porcelain charm in your slice of cake would not go over well regarding liability issues in the U.S. The lawyers would be waiting in earnest to pounce on this opportunity! Here, no one thinks twice about their cake and perhaps choking on something found inside.

I say on average, one galette/week is eaten, however this family has already surpassed this average, hoping to collect the entire lot of fèves at our local patisserie. This is a great Sunday afternoon treat with friends and neighbors along with a bit of champagne or cidre - nice way to extend the new year celebrations. Happy fève finding!!

samedi 12 janvier 2013

Hidden Paris

Discover hidden Paris and all its mysteries. Paris Tourisme has set up over 84 sites around the Paris area for discovering new and mysterious things about Paris the weekend of 1, 2, 3 February. Activities for families are included. At the writing of this blog, most everything was full, so if you are interested, be sure and click the link here to check out all the details. Part of the fun and mystery surrounding this weekend is that you do not know where you are exactly going or what you are going to see up until the last minute when they email you what you will see and do.  After we participate in our "mystery"day, I will post a follow-up to let you all know what we did. All I know is that it has to do with music......

mardi 8 janvier 2013

Les Plus Beaux Villes Continued.......

   The Jura Province has a few awards for the  Les Plus Beaux Villes en France.

 I wanted to share a couple more villages I traversed through.  In this Village, Baume Les Messieurs, there is the most beautiful waterfalls set in among this village that is in a valley surrounded by huge canyons. The French call them reculées as during the glaciers these huge rocks were left and eventually "pulled"away from each other to form the valley. You walk up these rickety wooden steps to reach the top of a small waterfall, but the scenery is incredible. It's a link to the past as nothing is disturbed. During this time of year (December), there is nothing open - and in fact there is not much in this town anyway. It boast a 12th century church where the monks still make their beer to sell at their local shop. Other than this, there is nothing else in the way of commerce. During the summer, hikes into caves, as well as climbing and camping are available.

Canyons surrounding village - these go all the way around the village

View from the top of the falls

Another village in this area to see is Pesmes. Half the fun is the drive to these villages. You set the GPS, and you have no idea what is at the end of your road, or where you will turn next. Most of the time you are driving through fields and dirt roads and windy cliffs that can not fit more than one car at a time. It was a bit harrowing to be on the outside of those windy cliff roads.

Pesmes is a village stepped back in time. Homes are built into the castle structure and sit high up overlooking the village. The view from the top is wow!! Just walking the narrow streets of this village stirs up images of what life might have been like here during the 14th Century.  Interestingly enough, this village boasts a bar, hairdresser and a small supermarket and most important... a public toilet in the supermarket!!

The bridge coming into Pesmes

View from the climb up to top of Village in Pesmes

Another view from the top

dimanche 6 janvier 2013

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

While in the Jura, we visited some beautiful small villages. One of them, Château-Chalon is so small, there is nothing there in terms of commerce. However, it has the distinction of holding the award of   "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" and it deserves it. The climb up to this town is amazing. You wind through beautiful 100 year old vineyards and fertile farm ground to reach a phenomenal view when you reach the top and the entrance to this town.

View from the top as you enter Château-Chalon

Meandering through this 15th century village has you wondering what these people do here. There was no one around. Each each new corner you turned unearthed a new charm.  This was a town were wine merchants lived and that appears that is all that is left, so...... why not do some wine tasting!! We knocked on this little door and this little old man came out.

I asked him if we could taste some of his wine, but of course he said. He took us back to his bat cave - literally.... we then tasted some of the Jura wine made in this area. He said his wine was from century old  vines - imagine!!!

I don't care so much for the Jura yellow wine, but I did buy some of his other whites. He told me they need to be served room temperature for optimum flavor which is different for any other whites I normally drink.  I thanked him for his time and on we went.

As we walked back to the car, what was around the corner, but a portable meat butcher truck.  Remember, I said there is no commerce in this town, so the butcher comes to you.  Definitely a step back in time.

What a ya have??
Traveling Butcher


mardi 1 janvier 2013

Poulet De Bresse

Well, I went back a few days later to try the Poulet de Bresse. The woman in the shop (her husband is the butcher) remembered me and she struck up a conversation with me which is really unheard of in Paris. People in the small towns are definitely more friendly and patient.  She explained to me that the older people do take their chickens with all the parts and prefer to cut it up themselves. Everyone else asks the butcher to prepare their chickens for them. I almost forgot to check inside - all those parts were left for me to discard.

Again, the chicken had all it's parts and I remembered to take a photo this time. Notice the white feathers and blue feet that are synonymous with this particular breed.

This is the only chicken that has been awarded the AOC designation which means that the raising of the chicken is held to high standards and produced in a traditional manner using only ingredients from specifically classified producers from designated areas. Happier chickens who are raised outside and eat grass and a wheat and milk mixture from this area just taste better!!

This chicken was fabulous, even better than the poulet noire. Once you taste this chicken, you will never want to eat another.

A simple recipe is:

Rub lemon all over chicken
In pan, add olive oil and garlic, all olive oil to top of chicken and season with gros sel and pepper.

Cook for about 1 1/2 hrs. It will be superb!! Serve with roasted potatoes prepared the same way.

 Here is a link to finding these chickens at various butchers all over France in case you find yourself tempted to try one out.