Sunday, October 19, 2014

Five *non traditional* events happening in Paris this month


(Photo: flickr.com)

During the travel preparation workshops I instruct in the Seattle area, people often ask: "When is the best time to go to Paris?" My answer: "Go anytime. There is always something happening in Paris."

How true. Paris is never boring. October is typically a busy month, with a plethora of trade shows, many open to the general public, (Paris Motor Show, Chocolate Trade Fair) and cultural events (Montmartre Harvest Celebration, Autumn Festival, to name just a few.) You can find all of these listed on the excellent website of the Paris Tourist Office. But this week, I heard of 5 very untraditional events, and they caught my attention.


1. Burger King is opening its French flagship restaurant in the 14th arrondissement.

I have already discussed the Parisians' fascination for hamburgers, food trucks, and every trend under the sun that is dubbed "C'est très Brooklyn" (just like in Brooklyn.) There is big money to be made out of Parisian Bobos (Bourgeois-Bohêmes,) local hipsters, Brooklynites wannabes, and some international visitors. 

Burger King, the fast-food giant, recently returned to the French market. Every day, long lines of worshippers wait outside the restaurant located inside the St-Lazare train station, inaugurated last Christmas with much fanfare. Granted many Parisian restaurants offer real hamburgers, but not everyone is willing to spend 15 Euros ($20) on a burger.


(Photo: Metronews.fr)

And so, this weekend, Burger King is opening its largest, most-modern restaurant near Métro Alésia, on the Left Bank. It is interesting the American fast-food giant chose a location named after a major military defeat that marked the end of Gallic resistance against Julius Caesar in 52 BC. Vercingetorix would roll in his grave!


An iconic Morris Column tries to ignore its loud neighbor
(Photo: paris14.fr)

2. Is lingering at your table a thing of the past in some Parisian eateries?

This week, a debate erupted online between the owner of HolyBelly, a "branché" (trendy) restaurant (trendy restaurants in Paris often have creative anglo-saxon names with menus peppered with anglo-saxon expressions,) and one of their customers. Even if HolyBelly usually gets rave reviews for its fresh, organic food, and coffee (provided by the popular Belleville Brûlerie,) visitors have complained about limited seating space, no-reservation policy (resulting in long lines, especially on weekends,) and steep prices.



Inside the Belly...
(Photo: Kinfolk.com)

And so this week, a customer sent an email to HolyBelly's management to share her experience: The food was great, but she and her friend did not appreciate being rushed by their waiter (after sitting at their table for barely an hour,) when they ordered two more drinks after a full breakfast. At that point, the waiter brought the check and suggested they take their hot teas "to-go," since there was a long line outside, and the restaurant needed their table. Do you see where I am going with this? 

The restaurant co-owner, a well-traveled Frenchman, later decided to publish the customer's email on HolyBelly's website, and wrote what felt like a drawn-out reply. You have to read it yourself, as well as the comments left by Internet users. People quickly took sides: Some spoke in favor of the friendly, entrepreneurial, owner, Nico, and his vision for his business; others sided with the disappointed customer, who only wanted what most of us expect (and get) in Paris: A chance to linger at the table, enjoying good food, a good drink, and good conversation. 



Outside the Belly...

This incident is worth mentioning here, since rushed service seems to be a growing trend in packed, new Parisian eateries, where seating is often limited and outdoor space non-existent. I, for one, love French restaurants and cafés for their slow pace, with minimal interruptions by the waiter. And the check should only show up on the table when I ask for it, at the end of the meal. I mean, if I want overly friendly yet rushed service, I can only go to the Original Pancake House or Red Robin, d'accord

What about you?


3. Another D.A.B. just opened in downtown Paris.

Quoi? 

D.A.B. = Distributeur Automatique de Baguettes. A machine that sells - brace yourself - fresh baguettes. It is called Pani Vending, and the award-winning inventor, Jean-Louis Hecht, a baker, is getting a lot of press. The machine has even been adopted by fellow bakers who use it to supplement their daily production!



Monsieur Hecht and Pani Vending

Apparently, Pani Vending makes excellent bread. Baguettes are partially pre-cooked, and when customers insert 1 Euro in the machine, baking is completed in a few minutes. Out comes a fresh, fragrant, crispy baguette... around the clock. Perfect for late-night cravings. 

If you are staying in Paris' 15th arrondissement, look up the new Pani Vending, rue Paul Barruel. Bizarre? It seems French baguettes inspire creativity...



(Photo: Thetrendygirl.net)

4. A short-lived event took place in Paris this week.

Paris has always welcomed - and inspired - artists, and over her 2,000 years of existence, the French capital has seen it all, or so we thought. Parisians have often rebelled against art work or new landmarks they did not appreciate. The Eiffel Tower itself was so controversial and enraged so many, it was supposed to be dismantled after the 1889 World Fair. This week, an American artist, Paul McCarthy, got more publicity than he had bargained for when displaying his latest creation in the middle of the venerable Place Vendôme as a guest of the Paris Art Fair. I am guessing Mr. McCarthy does not mind publicity, good or bad, and he is a lot more famous today than he was 72 hours ago, thanks to a 70-foot high, green inflatable structure he named his "[Chrismas] Tree." 



McCarthy's Christmas Tree
(Photo: www.Independent.co.uk)

Within hours of the installation, a crazy rumor started spreading around Paris, Twitter, and then the rest of the world: A controversial American artist had set up a giant Christmas Tree *butt plug* in the middle of Paris. Even worse: Said artist had openly acknowledged that his art piece was rooted in a joke about a sex toy, even if it was inspired by a Christmas tree. Most passersby looked puzzled at best, or plain horrified as the giant *tree* was unveiled on Thursday. A Parisian man was so upset he slapped the artist before running away! On Twitter, a French conservative group declared: "Place Vendôme disfigured. Paris humiliated." The news was quickly relayed by the international press, and their readers had a field day taking cheap, but often humorous shots at "prudish" Parisians. Things took a turn for the worse when vandals took things in their own hands on Friday evening; cut the *Tree* straps and power supply. By Friday morning, the *Tree* looked like this...



The toppled *Tree*
(Photo: www.France24.com)

On Saturday afternoon, the *Tree* was taken away, never to return to la Place Vendôme. Since then, French authorities have extended their deepest apologies and their full support to a [visibly shaken] McCarthy.  The new Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, made an impassioned plea for "artistic freedom." 

Fact: Many Parisians - who had previously condemned the *Tree* - now condemn the act of vandalism, as they should. Give them a few more days, and they will say they miss the *Tree.* If Mr. McCarthy plays his cards well, the mayor of Paris will soon beg him to set up another *Tree* by the Eiffel Tower, the most protected Parisian landmark. 

Fact: Even if French conservative groups are widely blamed for this, no one has officially claimed responsibility. For all we know, the *Tree* could have been toppled by a group of inebriated students who got pissed because the neighboring Hemingway bar has been closed for over two years during the Ritz Hotel renovation. 

Fact: Many Parisians are now breathing a huge sigh of relief. Nobody wants to see a Christmas tree (real or imagined) on the way to work as early as October. Without the pompous green eyesore, la Place Vendôme is back to its former glory (well, not quite, since the Ritz Hotel is still a mess; and the Vendôme Column, once erected by Napoleon, is wrapped in [not so] creative scaffolding, as illustrated in the photo above.) 

As for Mr McCarthy, (many English internet users hilariously kept referring to him as "Sir Paul," thinking the *Tree* was the work of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney!) he will get over his Parisian episode, and will let his creative juices flow somewhere else... 



A McCarthy classic: "The Complex Pile" - Hong Kong, 2013

Parisians have strong opinions and volatile tempers. Mc Carthy should be grateful they did not take him to the Bastille (main reason: Parisians once got mad and destroyed the Bastille, and we all know how that ended.) Overall, looking at the bright side, he fared better than Robespierre, who, not unlike Mr McCarthy, always provoked strong feelings among his contemporaries. It seems *Parisian prudes* have gotten softer lately.



Robespierre meets his fate in 1793

Ending on a cheerful note...


5. This year, you can celebrate Halloween at the best amusement park in Paris.

Why go to Disneyland? Don't you fear déjà-vu?



Cinderella Castle, Mickey Mouse, giant pumpkings... Same old, same old.

Instead, head north to the Parc Asterix for the special, "Peur sur le Parc" (Fear at the park) event. I happen to know fierce Gauls like Asterix and Obelix fear only one thing: That the sky may fall upon their heads. I am curious to see what they have prepared for visitors. I am guessing it won't be pretty. But as long as you stay away from Christmas *trees,* you should be fine. 





A bientôt !




Crazy Gauls! 
(credit: Uderzo) 




Friday, October 10, 2014

At home, at the Bistro





Bienvenue at the Hollywood School House Bistro, Woodinville, WA.

Why the name?

It sits across from a local historic building, once the town's schoolhouse. 
Built in 1912, the venerable brick building hosts wine tasting rooms and private events. 




Reminders of the town's pastoral past surround the Schoolhouse...





A few feet away, the Bistro beckons, with a generous outdoor sitting area, 
recently equipped with welcoming fire pits...




My friends and I have enjoyed good times there, in the sun, this summer...
Fall is here, and the evenings have gotten chillier. 
The dining room is inviting at nightfall...





Bistro, (def.): A small, modest, European-style restaurant.
Service is attentive, friendly and relaxed. 

Callie and Spencer fit the bill...






Food is unpretentious, yet delicious, largely inspired by home-style cooking.
A few days ago, the 3-course meal (Prix fixe, just like in Europe!) included: 
melt-in-the-mouth short ribs, creamy mashed potatoes and haricots verts. 
Un régal !
This week, Chef Frank has prepared a fabulous special: 
Lapin à la moutarde 
(traveling anonymously in these parts as "braised rabbit," 
but this French Girl knows better.) 




As an entrée (starter,) Chef Frank offered me a sampling of fresh escargots
served in the shell, in the traditional herb butter sauce.
A crisp, green salad ensured I would not feel too guilty
 while indulging my colimaçon [snail] craving.





But la pièce de résistance was the rabbit, and it did not disappoint. 
The rich, creamy mustard-based sauce, tangy without overpowering the dish, 
was the perfect complement to the tender rabbit. 







Another winner at the Bistro!

In a town well-known for its wine-tasting rooms (with limited food options,)  
restaurants range from family-style eateries serving ho-hum suburban fare; 
to chichi and often overpriced establishments.
Many have on thing in common: They'd better work at turning down the noise!

The young Bistro at the Hollywood SchoolHouse stands out as a unique place. 
From finger foods (a local favorite,) to hamburgers and salads, to more complex dishes;
it shows versatility and craft, and offers fresh, delicious food, 
at affordable prices; 
served with a smile in a relaxed atmosphere. 

Good luck to you, les amis!



Chef Frank and Sous-Chef Kyle

Where? 

The Bistro at the Hollywood School House
14810 NE 145th street
Woodinville, WA 98072
Tel. (425) 892-2575

When?

Tuesday 12:00-5:00pm
Wednesday-Saturday 12:00-8:00pm
Sunday: 11:00-5:00pm

http://hollywoodschoolhousebistro.com/



French Girl's favorites:

The Spanish skillet (served on Sundays) 
Croque-monsieur with tomato soup 
Les frites!
Any of the desserts (That includes the homemade chocolate macaroons.)



A bientôt !





All photos by French Girl in Seattle.
Do not use, reprint or Pin without permission.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

5 reasons why le Millefeuille is the star of French pastries



Café de la Paix, Paris

"To be irreplaceable, one must always be different." 
Coco Chanel


1. Mille...what?  (Keep them talking.)

Movie stars know the trick. Even if you don't have a strong screen presence, adopt an exotic, even an unpronounceable name. It will get them talking, if nothing else. Millefeuille is one of the prettiest words in the French language, along with libellule (dragonfly,) coccinelle (ladybug,) coquelicot (poppy,) or pamplemousse (grapefruit.) 

Millefeuille is pronounced ['Meel-fuh-y-uh] or, if you are American, [Napoleon.]

Mille = One thousand. 
Feuille (noun, f.) = A leaf. A sheet of paper.
Millefeuille = One thousand leaves. One thousand layers.


Once, in New York City, a French bakery named Millefeuille
sold me... a Millefeuille

... which I enjoyed with a beautiful view.


2. The Millefeuille origins are shrouded in mystery (Keep them guessing.)

Its origins can be traced back to the 17th century (when it was mentioned for the first time in a French cookbook,) but who invented it? Mystère... 



An American suburban version, nicknamed "Napoleon"
(trying to look taller, like its namesake, with three layers of crème anglaise!) 


3. Le Millefeuille is more elegant than a Parisienne...

Monochromatic colors, simple, yet so effective: Dessert as haute couture. Delicate texture, with the juxtaposition of three layers of crisp, buttery pâte feuilletée (puff pastry,) and two layers of vanilla-flavored crème pâtissière. The eye-catching white icing top, with its etched design, for a perfect marbled or "combed" effect.




4. Imité, jamais égalé.

Imitated, but never duplicated. 

Different varieties of Millefeuilles can be sampled all over the world. In France, renowned chefs love to put a new twist on the traditional pastry; even offering savory versions, with tomatoes, salmon, or Brie and apples. I have found my favorite Millefeuilles in unassuming French pâtisseries. I don't mind sampling new versions, but I have one rule: Whipped cream - or jam -  is never an acceptable substitute for the crème anglaise filling!



Creative icing work chez Benoît, New York City

5. Le Millefeuille commands love and respect.

Le Millefeuille is a delicacy, a moment of pure happiness and indulgence, and it should be approached as such.

Slice a Millefeuille like a traditional pastry, and you will soon be dealing with a gooey mess, crème pâtissière running away; puff pastry collapsing into a myriad of unsightly crumbs. Instead, use a serrated knife. Go from front to back, without pushing down on the crust, in one, swift motion. Like so:





I am fortunate to know a lady who makes the best French pâtisseries and viennoiseries in Seattle (no local croissant can touch Nohra's, in my humble opinion.) I introduced her to my readers a while back. Remember that story? Nohra recently moved Inès Pâtisserie to a new location, in the lively and eclectic Capitol Hill neighborhood. I was curious to check it out. 



Inès Pâtisserie: Viennoiseries in full display!

This week, I called Nohra and asked if she could make a Millefeuille for me to pick up on Sunday. It's not on the regular menu, you see. "Je ferai ça pour toi avec plaisir," she replied ("I will be happy to do that for you.") And so I went, and picked up my treasured Millefeuille - and a few other goodies too, since I was meeting French friends for coffee that afternoon. The verdict: Absolutely délicieux. Nohra put her own spin on the original recipe, adding a bottom layer of raspberries, a touch of rum in the crème anglaise, and substituting a caramelized top for the traditional white fondant. Délicieux, indeed. Merci, Nohra !


My giant Millefeuille (4 in. x 15 in.:)
I made two stops on the way home and shared it with friends!

If you live in the Seattle area, you can find Nohra here:

Inès Pâtisserie
1150 11th avenue 
Seattle, WA 
206.992.5186
Wednesday-Friday 8:00am-4:00pm
Saturday-Sunday 9:00am - 4:00pm






All photos by French Girl in Seattle
Do not use, reprint or Pin without permission.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

10 reasons Seattle is better than Paris


Seattle Body Art 
(pinterest.com)

The Emerald City vs. the City of Light. They have a lot of things in common these two, and not always good ones. Under *areas for improvement,* I could list their notoriously unpredictable, and depressing weather; traffic; parking; or the cost of living (as anyone trying to invest in real estate in King County, WA, or in downtown Paris can attest.) 

A lot is said, and written about Paris every day, in the social media, or in the press. Seattle may be a popular city, but many don't know much about it outside of the United States. Because I have lived and worked in Paris and Seattle for a long time, I thought it'd be fun to compare them (as much as one can compare cities with populations of 2.2 million and 650,000+)

The results are in: Seattle wins. Here are 10 reasons why Seattle is better than Paris.

#1: Seattle is a natural beauty. 

Paris may have world-renowned architecture, gardens, and urban landscape, it can't rival Seattle's outdoor life and majestic scenery. Everywhere you look, there are mountains, and water. From Mount Rainier (an ancient volcano,) to the Cascades or the Olympic mountain ranges; from the Puget Sound (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean,) to fresh water lakes, Lake Union, or Lake Washington, Seattle is the tree-hugger and outdoorsy type's paradise. Montmartre is a hill, not a mountain, and can you reach the slopes from Paris in less than 45 minutes? Mais non


Mount Rainier, the beloved local peak 
(www.snowbrains.com)
The Puget Sound 

# 2 Commuting is a lot more pleasant in Seattle than in Paris

Seattle:



Paris:




# 3: Seattle watches better

Parisians, people-watching is not a sport! In Seattle, watching sports has been elevated to an art form. From kid sports (a major weekend activity,) to college or professional teams, Seahawks, Mariners or Sounders; on TV or at the local state-of-the art stadiums, Seattleites' favorite pastime is watching sports. 



Seahawks fans have a name "The 12th Man"
(www.mynorthwest.com)

# 4: Had Hemingway known about Seattle's coffee culture, he would have never emigrated to Paris' Left Bank

This is the land of Starbucks. Need I say more? Here, coffee making takes time, creativity and craft. Baristas are smarter than software engineers. They have to, to understand local customers' challenging orders. "Can I get a 3-shot, non-caffeinated, half and half, non-fat, small moka latte, without the chocolate... but put some whip on top?" -- After such an order, you hope most people remember to say "please."




The original Starbucks store at Pike Place Market
The perfect café Latte (a local favorite)
(www.ineedcoffee.com) 

# 5: Forget macarons, pains au chocolat and tarte Tatin: Seattle does sweets better!

Molly Moon's all organic, all local, all "green" ice cream has longer lines than the Ile St Louis' Berthillon. That's proof, right?



(www.seattletimes.com)

Forget fancy French pastries when you visit the Puyallup Fair - don't bother pronouncing it, just follow your GPS there - and sample a Funnel cake!

Yum. No doggie bag necessary, I am sure!

# 6: Seattle rules at salmon breeding/protecting/catching/cooking

Ever tried fishing in the Seine river? All you will catch is an old Louboutin shoe, the occasional [ugly tourist] corpse, and millions of silly little keys left behind by visitors after they hooked their love locks to Parisian bridges.

Well... In Seattle, you catch the most fabulous salmon. King Salmon, Sockeye, Coho, the list never ends. Salmon is on every menu in the Emerald City (except in coffee shops, because they have figured out that salmon lattes do not taste as good as pumpkin lattes.) Seattleites love salmon so much they built a fish ladder where local kids and their parents can watch the brave fish struggling against the current on their way in and out of town. 


Budding environmentalists wishing salmon "Bon Voyage" at the Fish Ladder 

Flying salmon (it does exist, in Seattle) is a big attraction at Pike Place Market!

#7: Forget Paris-Plages. Seattle has a real sand beach!

The first settlers landed in West Seattle, on Alki Beach. The rumour has it it was pouring down that day. Not to worry. They were a tough bunch. Today, only locals, tourists, and pirates, visit the beach. If only the Puget Sound was not so darn cold, we could almost swim there!


Alki Beach
(www.seattletravel.com)
Pirates landing on Alki Beach during SeaFair. Arrrgghhh!
(www.westseattleherald.com)

#8: Parisians are too uptight. Seattleites are more relaxed.

It is not known who introduced flannel to Seattle. Doomed artist Kurt Cobain? Vampire covens tucked away on the Olympic Peninsula? No matter. Seattleites fight the constant dampness with fleece, and weatherproof clothing brands such as The North Face or Columbia. Forget Paris' les Galeries Lafayette or le Bon Marché! Locals shop at R.E.I., major purveyor of everything Northwest. 



REI: Temple of Northwest Style
(www.urbanomnibus.net)

#9: Paris dwells too much on the past. Seattle looks ahead.

Old Bridges. Gallo-Roman ruins. Time to dust things off, Paris: Urban planning in Seattle includes flexibility, and a willingness to move with the times. Out with the old, in with the new! Heck, after a devastating fire in the 19th century, the original city of Seattle had to be raised up by a couple of floors once it was discovered the city had been built on tidelands, and toilets often backed up at high tide! Not to worry. As explained in the fascinating Seattle Underground tour, the whole city was rebuilt, and elevated. It's amazing to visit Seattle's underground passageways today and realize those old tunnels, and windows, were once at street level! 


Seattle's Underground Tour: A must-see local attraction
(www.examiner.com)

Today, the urban-planning tradition à la Seattle endures. People are getting tired of this eye-sore known as the Alaskan Viaduct? Let's tear it down and reclaim Seattle's waterfront. The 520 bridge is unsafe? Let's raise funds and build a new bridge. 


Seattle's answer to Paris' la Tour Montparnasse: The Alaskan viaduct
The soon-to-be replaced 520 Evergreen Bridge
(Would you look at the gorgeous weather?)

(www.plg-plic.com)

#10: Seattleites are quirkier

They are a liberal bunch. They are pretty accepting of other people's quirky ways (unless said other people are conservatives.) They will do anything to save the planet. They are strangely attached to a bunch of interesting characters and places...

Paris thinks Love Locks are a problem:



(www.huffingtonpost.com)

Paris is lucky not to have to deal with Seattle's Gum Wall:


(www.agnb.com)


Somewhere in Seattle, there is giant troll, tucked away under a bridge. He is friendly and often poses for photos. (I personally believe he is just hiding from the rain, and like most Seattleites, hates using an umbrella.) 



(www.rainycityguide.com)

In the same neighborhood, one can see a giant space rocket that points at the sky but never really goes anywhere. And a giant statue of Lenin, that is allegedly for sale, but nobody except Bill Gates could afford it, and besides, everyone has too much fun hanging out with old Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov.



Lenin and his friends
(www.miscmedia.dreamhosters.com)

Well, in case you are not convinced yet that Seattle is better than Paris, consider this: Paris has the Eiffel Tower, but Seattle has the Space Needle. Even if they were both built to celebrate World Fairs, Elvis Presley only visited one of them and even shot a movie there. 


That's Elvis, and the Space Needle! 


In fact, some say Elvis has never left the building.





A bientôt.


Photo credits: 
Wikipedia Commons, unless otherwise noted 
-- French Girl in Seattle