Posts Tagged France

More cooking classes in Paris

IMG_0207This year I returned to Paris again and headed straight back to my friend Paule’s cooking school. Even though I ran a cookery school myself for several years in Brisbane I still find attending another cook’s classes stimulating and there is always something new to learn. Every time I have gone to Paule’s school I discover not only new recipes but entirely new techniques.

The class started off with an escorted tour to the food shopping district close to the former Le Halles market. Paule’s business name is not named Promenades Gourmandes for nothing. Paule was one of the very first people to organise walks and shopping trips to the best food arrondissements of Paris.IMG_0222

The famous family pie crust. A very different technique of making pastry that I have documented in earlier posts. If you want to know more about a different and easier way of making pastry do look up her website, or better still put in a request if you are going to Paris.

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The starter menu for today was goats cheese and shallot tart but of course the French would have a better name Quiche au Chèvre et Échalottes Confites.

IMG_0235One of the students did not eat goats cheese so we made a lop-sided tart, that is one with the rounds of goats cheese to one side only.

IMG_0213Some patience required for the slow cooking of shallots for the quiche and ratatouille.

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The fabulous Lacanche stove.

The Le Creuset cocotte is an indispensable piece of equipment in Paule’s kitchen.IMG_1747

You don’t see the range in various sizes so often in Australian kitchen shops but you would easily be able to order one at a cook’s shop. I took these photos in Paris’s Galerie Lafayette where they offer cocottes in several sizes.
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The ice on top of the cocotte of ratatouille before it goes into oven – Paule left of picture  in stripes.IMG_0242

At the end just before serving the ratatouille in goes a little crème fraîche, a little something extra that most cookbooks don’t include.

IMG_0228The Tournedos de Saumon – fillets of salmon were coated in herbs and wrapped in slices of smoked salmon. The foil held the shape whilst it was being cooked. I was quite impressed by this dish and re-created when we went down to our rented farm-house in Provence.

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Salmon ready to be lightly cooked on both sides before being finished in the oven.IMG_0248

The salmon cooked and ready to serve. Love the wild patterned plate.IMG_0251

Sauce Vierge to go with the salmon. This was a reminder for me to make this sauce more often, it goes so well with fish and pasta.IMG_0223

Paule serves the most stunning best cheese always. On the board are Crottin de Chavignol, Saint-Marcellin, Brie, Saint-Nectaire and Comté. This year I learned that the crunchy taste in hard cheese are the fats in the milk that crystallise. Another tip this one is alarming for those that think it is the soft cheeses that are highest in fat, it is in fact the harder cheese that has more fat.  You will also learn as we did the ideal wine to drink with cheeses.

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Flourless chocolate souffle with the arty name of Léger Moelleux au Chocolat.IMG_0255

I did not get a photo of the higher inflated version as it came out of the oven. It had settled whilst we ate the other courses.

IMG_0247Paule always lays a beautiful table.IMG_1459

Here’s a pic of us on a wine tour in Beaujolais. I cannot wait to return to France and return to Paule’s kitchen.

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Brasserie Georges, a classic in Lyon

Water btle labelMy Parisian girlfriend Paule who has spent some time in Lyon said I should try to eat at Brasserie Georges as it is a legendary brasserie in Lyon.

Normally I am wary of eating in the Parisian brasseries because you often get rather old fashioned food at high prices. But with our friend’s recommendation we decided to go there for lunch. It was not too crowded and we were not rushed so we had time to take in the 1920’s design that was refurbished in 2006. This brasserie actually began as a beer making enterprise in 1836 so I duly ordered a biere and those who know John will appreciate that he had the Brasserie Georges labelled water.

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Fortunately we took advice but if you had no recommendations and only looked at the website first, the sheer size of the room could be off-putting. Although it is a very large restaurant most of the seating is divided into sectional areas and with intimate booths so it does not feel too impersonal. Amazing effect considering it seats about 450 people and can feed up to 2000 people per day.

IMG_2004We opted for the Menu Presqu’ile a set menu, with a couple of choices in each category. Here is my entree of salmon and poached egg under a blanket of hollandaise. The thick slices of red onion are a touch rustic.IMG_2006

We both like chives fortunately and John had plenty on his lentil salad entree, dressed with red sherry vinegar and if I am correct a little bit of buttery mayonnaise in there as well and more chunky slices of red onion. A huge serving so I gave John a helping hand. Although we paid a set menu price, to give you a ballpark, the lentil salad was 6 euros and the salmon below on the normal menu was priced at 18 euros.

Salmon Roasted salmon had perfect grill marks, a cup of bernaise sauce and mashed potatoes and there are those chives again.

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The Boudin Noir – black pudding was made without a casing, it just fell apart and melted in my mouth in the best possible way, served with apple.Steak tartare for 4

The waiter to my right was making Steak Tartare at the table for four women. The Steak Tartare comes with chips and salad for 17 euros. No wonder this place is so well patronised. Good honest food to match the prices.

Elsewhere the popular dish being ordered by Lyonnaise stalwarts was Choucroute – heavily laden plates containing kassler, smoked sausages, smoked belly of pork, knuckle of pork and all the sauerkraut you could eat.

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And to my left another waiter making Steak Tartare for two men, as I watched him mix the ingredients I was beginning to wish I had ordered it.

Ile Flottante pralineBut that is for another time. Here is my dessert of  île flottante aux Pralines Roses de St Genix or œufs à la neige (eggs in snow) interchangeable names but essentially it is poached meringue floating in a crème anglaise and the Lyonnaise touch is to serve it topped with the classic pink praline. I couldn’t have been happier.

Choc dessert ballExcept when I tasted John’s dessert – very rich iced nougat covered in dark chocolate. He doesn’t eat dessert but makes some exceptions when it comes to chocolate, he will order and take a guilt laden scoop but that is to my advantage. I admit after my dessert one spoon was I could handle.
30 Cours de Verdun Perrache, 69002 Lyon, France

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Art scene Lyon, France

IMG_1347Lyon is a mini Paris in terms of its engagement with contemporary art. This visit we looked beyond the usual tourist galleries and found  the locals art scene. The contemporary art gallery here is known as MAC Lyon and some of the works are from its collection ‘Pour Mémoire, acquired from its own art Biennal, the last was in 2011. It was also showing a large body by  two artists, Daniel Firman and Phillipe Droguet. Photos were allowed but of course without flash so some of the white walls appear to be sepia in tone. The 12th Biennal de Lyon takes place 12 September 2013 until 05 January 2014.

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One last week in Paris

Returning to Paris after touring through other countries in Europe, we gave ourselves one more week there to enjoy our favourite city.  We went to see the blockbuster show for 2011, the major Manet exhibition at Musee D’Orsay.  We pre-bought our tickets online to save lining up but once inside the museum there was still a snaking queue before we could enter the show. Well I reluctantly admit it was worth the hassle of waiting – just to see up close Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863 –  Luncheon on the grass …..the woman’s skin is so incandescent made more compelling by its size, larger than I expected.

Edéenne is the moniker of a jeweller originally from Quebec who now lives in Paris. A show of 120 exquisitely crafted pieces of jewelry in a show entitled “Unique”. Such a feeble name for a jewellery show but that should not diminish the output of this woman. What a coup to be asked to show in this wonderful French museum.  Her publicity says that she works in the tradition of the 19th-century jewellers, who favored the beauty of materials over their intrinsic value. Edéenne is showing seven collections, each with a different theme.

Each collection was exhibited differently. I was not allowed to take photos which is a pity as one collection was so clever, each piece was sitting in the base of a terracotta garden pot. The flower that was the inspiration for the jewel in one of the pots. The jewellery is viewed by shining a small led torch down into the pot. My favourite was the hydrangea inspired ring that was set with tiny blue and mauve sapphires. Another I loved was the head of an animal, a deer I think it was, with its mouth open wide and its throat contained a gigantic stone.

Edéenne’s work is very much in the style of the jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels and Cartier particularly from the time when the Duchess of Windsor was busy commissioning and buying their jewels. Edéenne told us she has recently flown to Japan to deliver a special commission, adding she does not have a shop as she works primarily on commissions.

Still looking at this beautiful jewellery exhibition we managed at times to get sidetracked looking at the vast array of Légion d’Honneur awards, they alone are worth a visit anytime. Apart from the significance of the awards and how and why they were bestowed on people, the art of designing and making them is a study all on its own. An audio guide is available in English and free of charge,  you just swap your driving licence for a loan of one. For Napoleon’s enthusiasts like I am, there was quite a bit to see and some of his fine chains of office, medallions all finely jewelled and enamelled.

GREAT QUICHE – For the nicest quiche pastry it is hard to beat Rose Bakery where I had a quick lunch. It is owned by an English woman – her name is Rose…. and her French husband. Some years ago I ate at their first bakery in Paris that is still operating out of gash in the wall up in the 9 e and now they have opened another tiny place in the 12 e. I chose one of the eggplant and roasted tomato square shaped quiches at their second Paris bakery in the 3 e as it is just around the corner from the apartment.  I was amazed to see their business card lists one in Tokyo, one in Seoul and London so methinks it is fast becoming a cult. I like the glass and metal design of the entrance of the one I had lunch in.

BON MARCHE – I went food shopping in the wonderfully abundant Bon Marche gourmet food department store but a floor walking supervisor type person told me in no uncertain terms, wagging his finger at me not to take photos. I wasn’t the only person taking photos, I just happened to have a more visible camera. So frustrating as I always see such wonderfully decorated cakes in Paris and cannot resist keeping a photo to remind me of how sophisticated Parisian patisserie can be. So as much as I would love to show you the photos I took I have to respect their policy and won’t show them on my blog.

L’OPERA CAKE – John returned to Angelina’s near the Tuilleries for his hot chocolate drink fix. Since Dalloyau was not too far from us he called in there to see if they match the standard set by Angelina’s. it was the best excuse for me to try the famous Opera cake, a coffee soaked almond sponge cake, layers of coffee buttercream, chocolate ganache and chocolate glaze. A treble clef or flakes of gold leaf are generally used for final garnish. The Opera cake actually dates back to 1903, when Louis Clichy premiered it as the ‘Clichy’ at the Exposition Culinaire in Paris. Many years later, Parisian pâtisserie Dalloyau reintroduced and popularized it as ‘L’Opera.’
We took this photo so you could see the hot pink interior.

ANOTHER CHOCOLATE REPORT – We made a special trip to see the chocolatier Jean-Charles Rochoux in rue d’Assas in the 6e, how could I have missed it before. I chose the lovely faux crocodile skin box size I wanted and had it filled with anything that was covered in dark chocolate. There is even some crocodile skin pattern chocolates in there. Around €31. I know last time I raved about Pierre Marcolini chocolates but there is no rule that says I can’t flit from chocolatier to chocolatier, they all need my support. When I return to Brisbane I am going to invite my regular commentators on my blog to a chocolate tasting of the contents.

The very last meal out was at a new restaurant in the 11 e, an area not far from Bastille and we were smitten, and will return. I will write a separate post about Septime Restaurant soon.

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What’s in my Kitchen – Paris

Kitchens in Paris are not at all to my liking, they are far too small for all the work you have to do in there but I try to get by and work with what I am given. As someone who loves to cook and particularly to shop in exotic places it is so disappointing to find kitchens that are so cramped and ill-equipped. There is an art to squeezing in everything that is essential but practical bench space is always at a premium. We keep some essentials in Paris for our annual visits, a storage box on wheels that is kept for us by our apartment rental agency owners. As far as we know no one else asks or imposes on them to do this in between visits. Maybe we are only the fussy ones.

What was really clear about this apartment is that it is not set up strictly for rental. We could see it is lived in by the owner who vacates temporarily so she can rent it out for extra money. We did accidentally meet her and we gathered she was living with a friend whilst we were living in her apartment. This explains why there were very personal bits and pieces in the kitchen including good quality sea salt from the Camargue area of France.  The dried spices you can buy at the nearby Monoprix supermarket.We bought the oil and vinegar, a bottle of French olive oil and a bottle of French wine vinegar are usually the first items to go on my shopping list when I arrive. This kitchen has an eclectic array – spotted coffee mugs, I do like the green glazed bowls, a little chipped but it adds character. An old blue thermos flask, a green and black spotted jug. You feel like an intruder but aren’t other people’s kitchens interesting?

Some small recipe books above the refrigerator. In French of course.

I was happy to see the owner does like to cook, three aprons hung on a hook. Even the refrigerator is larger than we normally see.

The rustic baking dishes are like mine at home.

The dish draining rack and metal jug that we used to water her few plants. We had a dishwasher, the French have taken to dishwashers and we get one in most apartments.

I was pleased to see she had some good size wine glasses. The owner has made the most of the space with this rack.

Fortunately this time along with a small French Press coffee jug was a small espresso machine. Alas I did not get to use this cast iron casserole, just a bit big for the two of us this time. Normally in my home kitchen it would not be a problem, in this I would make Beef Bourguignon, invite friends or simply freeze the left overs for another time. The cooktop set into the bench was a Rosieres with four electric hot plates and was very serviceable but the oven could be improved, it was one of those small above the counter ovens you can buy in any electrical department. I used to warm the plates on the top as the casing was so thin.

Even though I go for simple white plates and contemporary kitchen ware I do have a soft spot for dishes like these, they seem very French don’t you think. I wonder what the next kitchen holds for us in Paris next year.

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We left our lock in Paris

We left a little piece of our love in Paris, in the form of a padlock that we attached to railing on the Pont des Arts.  But will it be there – next time – we have to go back and see.

The locks glisten in the sunshine and enhance the very ordinary metal mesh, and look they are doing no harm so lets hope the authorities leave them alone this time.I do like this big fat Buddha lock.

For years the newspapers report that ‘love-struck couples’ have been fastening padlocks to the railings of the Pont des Arts, engraving them with their initials, adding a few sentimental words and then tossing the keys into the Seine river below to symbolize their eternal love.

Earlier this year many vanished overnight. The municipal authorities said romance had to be dispensed with and removed the locks. Newspapers have reported that most people have said that since Paris is a haven for lovers, why would the authorities want to ruin the reputation.

Some locks have survived the recent cull but ours probably won’t, I understand some of the more interesting locks were not removed but as ours is so plain, it will probably disappear. We just found an unused lock in our drawers at home and John went to some trouble to have it engraved in Berlin. We kept it simple just our first initials and the date. We should search for a more distinctive one for next time.

We saw another couple with their lock but they took for ever to make up their minds where to put it. I did not have the heart to tell them it may not be on the fence for their next visit.

The gold heart should survive the next cull.

The locks are sometimes dressed with a ribbon so they can be recognised easily again. We added a yellow ribbon for remembrance to ours.

I told John it is tradition to throw the lock in the Seine, he was not so keen, but was he going to revisit to remove it, I don’t think so. Before he could object any further I threw it in.

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My Way with Jean-Michel Othoniel

We had not heard of this artist but he has obviously made an impact in Europe or at least in France to be given a large exhibition at the Pompidou. Maybe by posting this on my blog he can get another audience down under and further afar.His installation is fascinating and executed in a variety of materials that shows over a period development of his art practice in ideas and medium.

This invitation has included creating an exhibition for the Pompidou childrens’ activity area.

The work in glass is a collaboration he undertook with Murano glass blowers. He persuaded them against discarding the glass that was ‘wounded’ a wound that will always resurface no matter how you try to continue to work with the same object. He wanted the wounds to be part of the design.

The bookshop sells wearable size replicas of the glass necklaces, no I did not buy!The scale has impact but it is a simple design.

The glass bunting on this life-size boat is a bit more complex.

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Anish Kapoor at Grand Palais

We bought tickets online for MONUMENTA – Leviathan and are we glad we did, we marched straight through the entrance and avoided the long queue.

The Monumenta series is sponsored by the French government’s Ministry of Culture and invites the world’s leading artists to fill the space. To art lovers around the world, Anish Kapoor needs no introduction. I won’t go into any description, the sculpture can be appreciated on many levels and does not always need interpretation. Anyone wanting to know more about his work should follow this link to his website.

A feat always to work in this space, a gigantic glass house built in the Belle Époque era in glass and iron.

Last year we were in London and saw the pavilion next to the Serpentine Gallery designed by Jean Nouvel, the French architect, it knocked us out and here again we are surrounded by powerful red aura.

Anish Kapoor rose to the occasion admirably. I am silenced for a change, the work speaks volumes.We are all diminished.The building requires a powerful statement.The wonderful light during the day.The amazing balcony in iron.

Floors could be in Pompei they are so worn.

I think this is a newer floor area.

If you haven’t worked it out by now, the first red photos are what we encountered when we first went inside, the purple forms are the exterior.

Doug Hall, the previous Director of the Queensland Art Galley was honoured on his retirement by the gallery when they purchased an Anish Kapoor sculpture and dedicated it to him for his service. Just a small connection to our humble state of  Queensland.

Looking back from the exit door

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Artists chairs Angelina’s, Paris

Angelina is the place to go in Paris for hot chocolate, the cakes are popular and they sell packs of chocolate to take home so you can make your own. Close to the Tuileries (magnificent gardens) and the Louvre Museum it is often difficult to get a table as tourists and ladies who like to meet for coffee head flock here.

I have written on Angelina’s before but on our visit this week we saw some new artworks gracing Angelina’s –  Louis XVI chairs hanging about. They are limited edition artworks, signed and numbered and undoubtedly for sale.

The artists have painted the underside of the seat so we can see more of their work from our tables.This visit John’s hot chocolate did not live up to his expectations, because it was not large enough. He normally gets a large silver jug that pours two cups and this time a small jug arrived that only filled the cup once. He was not impressed, that and a Berthillon chocolate ice cream is his one and only indulgence.I ordered the classic Mont Blanc confection and a glass of Sancerre. On the way out we called into the retail shop and noticed Angelina’s has now put its recipes into a little book. The recipe book is in French but I still had to have one. It is small but packed in a round box, another collectors item that will probably end up in the Slow Food Library of Gastronomy at the State Library of Queensland where all my books on cuisine are headed.

I might have written about Angelina’s and almost every blogger in Paris has but I think I am the first to mention the new recipe book.

If you would like to learn more about the chairs, visit this website.

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Yves St Laurent vintage

The Foundation established for YSL by Pierre Berge regularly exhibits collections with guest curators. I was not in Paris for the big exhibition at Grand Palais so decided to visit this current small exhibition at the Foundation gallery.

On arrival, we were told – no photos of the exhibition, so what you see here is from their publications.

This exhibition La Revolution de la mode shows the rapid change he underwent just after working as the head designer for Dior couture. He was the head designer at Dior at only 21 years of age and was designing for the very rich and conservative.

I recognised many things from the days I spent living in London, known as the Swinging Sixties. Loved seeing some of the very same metal loop belts I wore back in the sixties were on show, why didn’t I keep them?

Many of the dresses could be worn today, particularly the tailored day wear clothes made in navy and khaki wool or gaberdine. They are absolutely timeless. Some of his tuxedo suits for women are there, the famous design that Yves says in his video did not sell when they were first paraded in the couture collections.

Most of the exhibition was day wear, and from his ready to wear ‘pret a porter’ ranges.  Also lots of costume jewellery and accessories from the late sixties to early seventies.Anoushka was a very famous and very tall model during the era of this designs, and has donated or loaned a few of her personal items. Two other vintage clothing collectors in France have done the same but the rest belong to the Foundation.Note that Pierre Berge his partner gets top billing.

This book only cost 3 euros, we could not resist. Anoushka is on the right side with the large brimmed hat and wearing one of the large linking ring metal belts.

Yves had a happy childhood and parents who loved and encouraged him according to biographical notes. He was brought up in Algeria and so it is easy to see why he spent time in Morocco and bought the wonderful Marjorelle house in Marrakech.

Later at Art Curial bookshop we saw a very special YSL collectors edition of designs and samples, it is in the out of this world euro price range. Pierre Berge is making sure his reputation goes on and the memorabilia will escalate in value.

Has anyone seen the movie Yves Saint Laurent, his life and times, yet?

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