My Blog in Review : 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

WordPress, this wonderful platform I have been blogging on for several years now has been so sweet as to prepare a fun, and interesting review report of 2013 on my blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 130,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Too Good to Eat

Post by Jenny Bailey

Too Good to Eat: The Most Stylish Desserts in Paris

Paris is heaven for those with a sweet tooth. After all, this is the city that brought us Ladurée macaroons, chocolate éclairs, opera cake and tartelette. With many of the best desserts in the world coming from France, it’s hardly surprising that even back in the 18th Century, Marie Antoinette is said to have uttered the famous words ‘let them eat cake’ when hearing that the peasants had no bread. Fast forward a few hundred centuries later and eating cake is exactly what holidaymakers,should do when they visit Paris, except that they may find that some of the desserts are simply too stylish to eat. Here are five of the most stunning desserts in the city: Continue reading

Mac Attack

I was having an email conversation with Sab of Paris Set Me Free, about macarons and his annoyance at how everyone is talking about them. I don’t know if I talk about them too much, I certainly love to make them, but the conversation made me recall a story that happened to me last summer. I hope you find it as funny as I (now) do.

P1030775

Some of my homemade macarons

I dedicate this story to Sab!

Here is my recount :

My boyfriend and I were invited to a birthday party for one of his colleagues and friends, who lives out in the eastern banlieu of Paris.
I had had a rough day.
It was hot.
humidly hot.
Muggy and making my makeup look sad.
After working in the office all day (my day job is working for an American study abroad company) I had to rush over to this party, which required several transportation transfers.
I also didn’t want to show up to someone’s birthday empty handed.
The closest thing to my office where I could get something, anything… was a boulangerie that makes macarons as well. I got a box of those.
Now, you should know that I had not eaten much all day, because I was so busy and forgot to feed myself much lunch.
I also had forgotten to keep my phone charging all afternoon, and was low on battery.
I also had several bag of things I had to lug around that day.
Not a pretty picture.
So, I grab the box of macarons, which actually has to be carried very daintily, and flat, so as not to crush the delicate cookies.
So with purse, other two bags and a macaron box, I board the first metro that I was to take.
Ooops. Wrong line I realize after I have gone about 10 stations too far.
Ok, no problem, I have lived here 8 years and know this system like the back of my hand, right?
So I get off at the next station where I can grab a different line that is going where I need to go….all the while carefully balancing the macaron box.
I get to the stop in the banlieu where I need to be, and realize that, oops wrong again, I was right the first time and should have taken the line I was on before.
Harumph!
Ok, too much to take the metro all the way back and transfer and then take the original line another 6 stations or so. Can’t fathom that. So I look for bus lines that can help. I cross a plaza where there are several bus lines crossing through to peer at the map of one of the stops. Ok it looks like I have deciphered which line I need to take to get slightly north of where I am. But that stop is all the way on the opposite side of the plaza. It’s a very large plaza. As I arrive there, the bus pulls up. Oh joy! But just to be sure I am not confused, I ask the driver before boarding if he goes where I need to go. Fail. He does not. He points out a station midway across the plaza that I would need to take a bus at.
Now. I am. officially. Not happy.
And I am starving. which makes my temper even shorter.
I recross the plaza halfway swearing under my breath like a weathered sailor, and before I can reach the stop in time, I see the bus I need arrive, vomit passengers, gobble up some others and then pull away. I run frantically, still trying not to jostle the macarons too much. Fail again. Arms waving, bags flying around my shoulders, hair flapping and me shouting « attendez ! » did not help at all. He was a heartless bus driver. And should be punished by being made to run after buses all day, only to never be let on board.

So I wait for the next one. It arrives in 9 minutes. Ugh. Oh well, it’s time to calm down and take a breath.

And look at the map on my phone, which is almost empty of battery by now.

Finally I am on the bus.

Hunger pains in my stomach make me peek in the macaron box. Just to make sure they are not crushed of course !

I get to the stop that I need, and realize that the bus has dropped me off on the wrong side of the périphérique. Aarrrrrrrghh !

Just carry on I tell myself. Just carry on.

I am now an hour late, by the way.

I have informed my boyfriend of my trials and tribulations, so he knows how much of a wreck I am going to be when I arrive. I send a frantic text message to say that I am still not there yet, and am sort of lost. I type furiously on the key pad for fear that the phone dies any second now.

I find the footbridge that crosses the 8 lanes highway that runs around the city of Paris. I nearly have a heart attack while crossing it, as I get slight vertigo, and I could see down below on both sides of the bridge where cars were rushing pas like angry water rapids. I felt like any gust of wind might blow me over the side. (Silly really since it was a very wide bridge). But I walked smack dab in the middle just in case. And I walked fast.

Once on safe grond I consulted the dying phone again, to find the street i needed. I thought I found it, walked for about 3 minutes and realized it was not the right one. I retraced my steps. Asked help from a few passers-by. They did not know. But of course !

I am close to tears by now. And I am so hungry, and my blood sugar so low, that I might start yelling at the street signs soon. I decided I would do myself and everyone else at the party a favor and not appear as a mean crazy lunatic upon arrival. I carefully remove part of the ribbon that has secured the package, open the box and chose a macaron. It’s pink. Raspberry. It could taste like rubber for all I care. I just need some sugar in my system ! I eat it. On the street corner. Make-up dripping, bags hanging off my arms like dead weights, hair a mess. Patience gone. I eat that macaron. It was gone very quickly. I don’t think one is enough. I take out another one. I eat it. I feel slightly better.

Time to keep moving. I am so late they may have forgotten I was coming at all!

Oh please little android phone don’t die on me now ! I pray.

I peer at the darn map for the 50th time, and figure it out. But by now I am on the right street. I look up and see the right street name and feel a flash of joy rush through my brain. Then I look at the street number. Noooo ! I am going to have a ten minute walk.

I take out another macaron.

I walk.

I eat the macaron.

I don’t care anymore.

When I finally arrive, there is only half a box of macarons. I am greeted at the door by my boyfriend and the party host whose birthday it is. I look like a sad, sorry, pitiful drenched rat that is slowly wilting in the Parisian summer heat. I slowly lift up the box of half-eaten macarons and give a please-pity-me smile, and say… « I had to eat some of them. It was either that or not arrive at all ! » We laughed long and hard about it.

I am sure he will never forget that birthday gift !

So what is the moral of the story ? Always buy a few extra macarons for yourself !!!!

Heeeheeeheeeheeee !!!

Christmas dinner – Paris style

The fat content was high, the calories NOT low, but the taste and the enjoyment were divine!

Christmas dinner in Paris :

We started with foi gras… a delicacy made from the over-saturated liver of a goose (or a duck) that is cut onto toasts and garnish with onion, fig or other savory jams. We had a white wine jelly and an onion confit to go with it. Accompanied with a white wine that is doux (sweet).

Then comes the pièce de résistance, the dinde (turkey). Oven roasted and basted in butter (margarine for lactose issues) for 3 hours in which the house smells so good you could eat your own arm and not feel it. Stuffed to the brim with a veal stuffing complete with parsley, shallots, chicken livers, cognac and chestnuts… go ahead and drool. We sewed up both ends so the stuffing would not escape, nor the flavor.

And to go along with the scrumptious turkey and mouth-watering stuffing, there were stewed prunes and roasted chestnuts. The stewed prunes seep overnight in earl grey tea, and then are stewed in a pot with butter, salt and pepper…Mmmm! The chestnuts get a little gravy from the roasted turkey over them after they have simmered in a pot for a few hours. So, so delicious.

The dinner accompanied with a red wine with bold flavor in order to contend with all of the tastes on the table…

And then, if you are not full enough… there is dessert! Dessert was an ice-cream yule log (and for me a chocolate sorbet!) Plus some of my homemade macarons: raspberry-lychee, thank you very much!

Bellies taught and happy we sipped a little espresso for digestion and were grateful for all of our blessings. I hope your Noël was as delicious and that your new year will bring many wonderful things your way.

Bonnes fêtes à tout le monde!

Macarons à mourir! – Macaron madness!

I am no Ladurée chef pâtissier, but I have taught myself how to make some pretty decent macarons. It’s a cookie that they have been making in France since the Renaissance period, that is light, full of flavor and addictive! (I think the Italians invented it, but I believe it’s safe to say that the French perfected it). :-)
I will share this recipe and photos so you can try your hand it these delightful little delectables.
MACARON COOKIES :
For about 12 macarons
100g of very fine almond powder. (2/3 cups)
160g of powdered sugar. (1+1/3 cups)
100g of egg whites ~3 egg whites or just a tad less.
40g of granulated suger (just over 3 tablespoons)
2 to 3 tsp. of powdered cocoa ( for chocolate macarons only!)

Mix the almond powder and the powdered sugar in a bowl. Then sift it to make sure it is a uniform mixture with no lumps or clumps.

With a mixer, beat the egg whites until the are very stiff, and add the granulated sugar. Add the food coloring, and continue to whip until the color is uniform.

Then mix very VERY delicately (on slow speed) the dry almond powder mixture with the stiff egg whites.
Line a pastry sheet with baking parchment paper, in two layers.

Use a pastry bag (also called a piping bag) or of you don’t have one use a ziploc bag with a tiny hole cut in one corner, to distribute the dough in little circles that are just under an inch and a half in diameter. Space them well. You should make 24 of them for 12 macarons. (mine were a little large…)

Let them sit out in the open air for an hour so that they “crust” on the surface. Do not touch them. Some recipes say a half hour but I do a full 60 min. just to be safe. This prevents the surface from cracking up in the oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. (180°C)
Put them in the oven for 8-10 minutes. To make sure they do not brown on top, watch them carefully.

Remove them from the oven and let them cool. They should be room temperature when you take them off the baking sheet.
FILLING :
My cream filling is for lactose intolerant people. I use margarine from the natural foods store, several spoonfuls (about a cup), that I whip with about a cup of powdered sugar. I judge it all by eye and taste testing (more fun that way!)
(For chocolate macarons use a ganache recipe)

Add Vanilla flavoring (OPTIONAL – a few dashes of lemon juice or a couple spoonfuls of lemon zest for a lemon vanilla flavor). Add some food coloring if you would like it to be colorful. Whip well. I like lots of colors!

Put a dollup… um is that the technical term? ;-)…on the flat side of one macaron cookie, and sandwhich it with another. Et voilà!

Eat. Savor. Enjoy.

Alice à tout prix! = There’s something about Alice!

Alice is having a party and all of Paris is invited! Alice in Wonderland that is. Or as we say en français Alice au Pays des Merveilles. While we wait for Tim Burton’s highly anticipated film to hit cinema screens across the country on March 24th, we have the opportunity to delve into the magic before-hand at the Printemps department store on boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement. I was able to speak with Martin Butruille, the promotion manager for Disney France who negociated the campaign and contracts with Printemps. The well connected department store then dug into it’s deep teapot of artists and poured out a steaming cup of fashion that everyone seems to love! Mr. Butruille also worked on the approval of the window designs, backgrounds and concepts, but the couturiers were given artistic freedom on their garment creations. Not to be left out, Laduree has jumped in the mix, because what is a tea party without delicious things to eat?!? There are macarons EVERYWHERE. (If you don’t know what a macaron is, you are missing out on the most heavenly cookie on earth). And Laduree has created a Salon de thé éphémère inside the store, where you can delight in a macaron or two, a cup of tea, and all the amazing decoration that has gone into this promotional marriage of Printemps and Disney. I was also both delighted and sad to see a beautiful design by Alexander McQueen featured at the center of the window displays. It may very well have been his last piece. His creative genius will be greatly missed.

Okay, enough mad hatter jabber! More fashion!

Alexander McQueen
Charles Anastase
Chloé
Ann Demeulemeester
Martin Margiela
Haider Akermann

Christopher Kane Nicholas Kirkwood

If you would like to check out the Printemps pre-show online go to http://www.printemps.com/ the front page features the fun at the blvd Haussmann store. They are also doing promotional games on twitter and facebook : https://www.printemps.com/instantgagnant/jeux.aspx?idjeu=22

Don’t be late for tea with Alice!