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single working/attorney mom with highly-refined Internet skills when it comes to searching for Paris apartments and Paris blogs
Interests: France/Paris (duh), red wine, dinner parties, Argentina, coffee, glossy travel and architectural design magazines, patent law, opera, museum shops, Flight of the Conchords, succulents, shrimp po-boys, opining on "who wore it best," really really good bread, Stephen Colbert, movies with happy endings, African drumming, New Orleans....
Recent Activity
On day 12 of this cleanse/detox regime that I do twice a year (and usually after a France trip), I am acutely aware of how much of our television diet includes intensively evocative, sexy images of food. As I am apart from that world right now, eating organic only, extremely low to no carb, and drinking about a gallon of spring water a day amidst a ton of vegetables, it's a good time to think back on that food-laden time just three and one-half weeks ago, not just in Angers but also the Paris part. I bet you were not expecting this. These are jelly beans. Something I would not ordinarily be interested in, but a friend hanging with me at the Bouvet Ladubay bar/lounge insisted they were amazing. They are hand-crafted, thus the uneven roundness, at the Q&K Confiserie in Angers. They were not icky. They were very delicious. I enjoyed so many things about my stay at the Hotel Mercure right there next to the Centre des Congres. Breakfast, absolutely. The lighting in the rooms. The proximity to Premiers Plans film festival. And some of the business lunches there were quite lovely. I had to get this little dessert from the buffet bar just to get a picture of it. Adorable. To get one of those many official lunches for us off to a right start, there was this array of amuse-bouche. I wanted one, very badly. They were so cute. But I was in professional mode, and there were just too many interesting people to meet and talk to over this lunch. There was local fine wine of course. I had some of that. At a chamber of commerce new year's wishes event over at the stunning Greniers Saint-Jean, it was finally cocktail time after the speeches... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2015 at GourmandeMom™
Leaving Paris for Angers on Thursday 15 janvier from Gare Montparnasse included seeing a not surprising police presence at the train station. I liked having it. I did not like that I had no time to eat and ended up only with a sandwich from Paul. Fortunately, those Paul sandwiches are pretty darn good. Compare and contrast Paris v. Angers: Getting to Gare Montparnasse in Paris from af83 meeting in the 2eme included an Uber driver who complained the whole way about the rude guy from his last call. I told him, once he dropped me off (not at the place more experienced drivers have used on my other trips to the station), I hoped his day went better. He said that was nice. I ate the sandwich on the train. On arriving at the station in Angers, I was met by a Premiers Plans representative sent to get me, which meeting was followed by a very nice ride to the festival venue down at the Centre des Congres, in a bright blue BMW SUV. Along the way I learned from the adorable representative, Mathilde, Xavier's assistant, that there was a solidarity march at Angers as well on Sunday. Signs of Charlie Hebdo were here too: (trans: We are not afraid.) The mayor of Angers, newly elected Mayor Bechu, gave a stirring opening night introduction to the festival, noting that what better way to heal and support freedom of expression than opening a festival that celebrates young artists from all over Europe--and now the world, with the festival showing new works from young directors in China, Algeria, and for the first time, Austin. But Liz, what about the food? Right. Getting there. Food and wine were bountiful at the festival, in many shapes and forms. I checked them all out.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2015 at GourmandeMom™
The Hotel de Ville, Paris (trans: Charlie Hebdo, honorary citizen of the city of Paris) Food was far from my mind on this Paris trip--which was for business mostly--but which started with a departing flight just 5 short days after the shocking attacks on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. My alter ego France and Paris life was suddenly all over the news, all the time, with glaring blue/white/red headlines announcing all the time it seemed: "PARIS TERROR ATTACKS." I could not believe that something so horrific had happened in a corner of the world that I know and love so well and so much--for the people, friends, and memories. Friends and family thought I was crazy to make the trip. To me, it seemed more crazy not to. I was not insensitive to their concerns and assured them of different ways to manage in case things were in fact as remotely awful as the news would have us believe. I thought of the shootings at high schools, movie theaters, and other public places in the US throughout the years. And then again, I had just barely missed getting side-swiped a few times in the past few weeks in crazy Austin traffic. But I also kept in touch with friends in Paris, asking how things really were. All felt fine--that hostage situation deal was a little worrisome they admitted--but they said please, do not worry. After an early afternoon arrival in Paris on Tuesday via British Airways--first time trying out that Austin-London nonstop--I had much work to do so did not get out much at first those first 36 hours. When I did, it was hard to know if the streets were quiet only because of what had happened, or because it was January, after all, and it was grey and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2015 at GourmandeMom™
It started with a failed New Orleans trip: the idea to explore East Austin as if we had a whole vacation-like, open-ended, relaxing day to do so. We started at Jo's on South Congress with coffee outside around 10:45am. Gorgeous day. Who knew so many people would want their pictures taken there next to the wall of Guero's. Yes, none of this is East Austin, but we had to hit Tesoros first for sugar skull molds for Día de los Muertos. No small molds. I refrain from purchasing hand-embroidered Peruvian throw pillows and some luscious colorful hand-tooled Paraguayan leather purses and wallets. Then it was time for Eco-Wise, as I was thinking a validation stamp there would help with parking. I now have some new gloves and earth-friendly mosquito extermination things. I had to get the stamp at Vulcan Video. Where I purchased two bottled waters. The loose plan was to then catch Rich Harney at Whip In, as I need to chat with him about a House Concert, but, in the end, the lure of a breakfast taco at one of Melissa's favorite places was just too strong. Whip In must wait. Now we head to East Austin to find that food truck: Veracruz All Natural. Per usual when I go somewhere new (for me) with Melissa, I am wondering where this place has been all my life. The fish taco is the best I have ever had. Fish tacos are so often so disappointing: the fish is not seasoned enough; the fish (usually tilapia) is frequently dried out. There also is usually very insufficient shredded cabbage and sauce to make it anything special. Not so here. It was a huge taco and dripping with juicy stuff and spicy sauce. Thus, there are no pictures. Next, we make our... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
As we had no Outstanding in the Field extravaganza planned for this year, Mollie picked this event to tide us over--and it was a great one for a good local cause: saving Austin's Springdale Farm. Urban farms are charming, important, and an important part of Austin's culinary landscape. But regulations abound, and the cost of compliance is killing the real work of maintaining this farm. So Austin's food community rallied in a big way on Sunday September 28 for a fundraiser to help save Springdale Farm. For only $50 - a deal considering many of the food events Austin offers - we got exquisite cocktails (I vowed to stick to wine only, but then we tried what Cointreau was serving up) and samples of edibles from a veritable Who's Who of great Austin eateries. And we got vintage furniture seating areas, and music, and some Farm Games (Chicken "Poop" Bingo). Given the really big crowd - and this is just a small part of it pictured below - I hope we made a substantial dent into the financial matter of saving Springdale Farm. I lost my posse early on in the event, practically right out of the gate, because I paused a long time here at the table with the offerings from the Driskill Hotel. I just cannot say no to anything involving roasted corn. So I said yes to two of those little plates. And all that was mixed in with some finely blistered shishito peppers. Smart planning that the organizers had all those food offerings right up front. This allowed for something solid on the tummy to absorb the potent offerings over at the cocktail stands. Many local favorites there representing the cocktail scene (e.g., Tipsy Texan): There were wine offerings as well, from another local favorite: Austin... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
After another good round of detoxing this summer, I was slowly coming out into the world and sampling alcohol again. And carbs. One of the first memorable experiences after the successful 21-day detox of no caffeine, alcohol, or grains/bread of any kind (seriously weird how great that feels) involved stopping by a friend's house to sample something that sounded just too good to refuse: freshly-made salsa accompanied by a newly crafted cocktail she had created (infused vodka, cucumber, plus basil for healthy herbal freshness). That sounded so good it got me out of bed after a nap, which had been required after some light holiday day drinking earlier in the day with the neighbors. The spread that awaited me was pretty much how I could eat every day. Snacks. But gorgeous ones of textures and colors that I just don't have around my house everyday. Not only was there salsa mexicana (upper right), but also a bowl of peanuts and pumpkin seeds fried with garlic and chiles de árbol (bottom left). I went to town on the peanuts and pumpkin seed combo pretty quickly. And then there was that cocktail. On my arrival she was in prep phase: chopping the lovely multi-colored tomatoes into the salsa, and then effortlessly but patiently chopping the onions into perfect tiny little squares. Someone was sent to the store for more chips. "Really...I did not mean to be such a bother...." as I eyed the bowl overflowing with big beautiful colors and could not wait to dig in. I then exclaimed, as the bowl filled up with all that color: "Check that out. All the colors of the Mexican flag!" I am surprised she did not disown me as a friend right then (I have a masters in Latin American Studies after all). Right,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
Angers, France is Austin's sister city, and it's worth a visit for many reasons--including what is nearby: the already very special Fontevraud Abbey made even more special now for the recently opened gorgeous new hotel and restaurant right on the Abbey grounds. Visit the Abbey and the grounds for sure, and soak up the history of Eleanor of Aquitaine ("one of the most powerful and fascinating personalities of feudal Europe" one random www source says), then spend the night and wake up in perfect quiet and peace in the French countryside. The style of the hotel decor may be best characterized as W Hotel meets high-end organic, sleek yet monastic. Seriously sublime. Fontevraud lends itself well enough already to fabulous outdoor celebrations, including festivals that keep the grounds open until all hours, with films projected everyone, including the Abbey walls, and people sleeping wherever a sleeping bag may fit. Sleeping peacefully in the cool tones of beige and white of the hotel rooms though is well worth the splurge. Visit the hotel web site here to see what I mean, and learn about the Abbey's fascinating history here. At the hotel web site, be sure and click on that video for views via a cute little drone to get up close and personal with the countryside and the hotel's interiors. Back when I visited in April 2014, I was not sure they would make the May launch date. But make it they did. In grand style. Jealous of Angers friend who received a special invite to attend these festivities, but as he sent me the pictures, all is forgiven. The photos are the work of David Darrault, and all are protected by copyright. A big thank you to the Abbey staff (merci, Anne !) for letting me share his superb... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
(Not my guest bedroom where this Life Lesson occurred, but my very comfortable bed at a charming hotel in Saumur from that April 2014 trip. I have asked Santa to find and bring this comforter duvet thing to me for Christmas. Soft natural linen on one side, soft furry stuff on the other side.) My son is leaving for college in a year, and it occurred to me that I had been remiss (along with many things along the way, such as not being well enough informed of how early I needed to start nagging about college applications, being afraid to look at his grades, living in denial about the state of his closet, etc.) in that he still lacked many life skills. But as he has been living with me his single working mom for years now he does have some skills in the Daily Household Living category: doing his own laundry, unloading the dishwasher, making rudimentary quesadillas (cut pieces from block of cheese crudely with knife; put cheese on tortilla; microwave; eat). And he has been putting his own plates away in the dishwasher since elementary school and occasionally setting the table--at least when I remember to yell upstairs and ask. But it's time to ramp up the household daily life skills before he gets away from me. And so I started him on a series Life Skills, Cycle of Life Lessons this week in the summer, which I announced to him with very little reaction from him. I was getting pretty tired of his sitting around with a pulled/tight hamstring watching TV as I was figuring all day at home looking at international economic development issues and patent portfolios. I decided he needed a behind-the-scenes look at some tasks, starting with the bed and its linens, to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
It is a bad idea, I knew this, to arrange for more than two meetings in one day in Paris. But time was limited after the Easter holiday, which included Monday. I had only two business days available before I left, Tuesday and Wednesday, so I pushed the envelope. Tuesday's schedule included meetings at 9am, 11am -- then a 1pm lunch meeting and a 7pm apéritif. It was risky to so heavily schedule, but I carefully planned all transportation routes the night before. It would be do-able: leave the house at 8am to get up north to La Villette; leave around 10:15 to get to Batignolles for 11am, then use the same metro line from edgy Batignolles to super chic Avenue Matignon for a business lunch about international technology collaborations. No problem. After much emailing the night before the 9am meeting, the 9am interlocuter could only do 11h30. Alas, that last-minute schedule change, after weeks of planning the day, just could not work. Desolée. So at 10am, I skipped down the rue de Bièvre into the sunny and cool Paris morning, enjoying the ample time I had to soak up Paris on the walk across over the Seine to the Hôtel de Ville métro stop. It is not a short walk, but it is an awesome and very familiar walk. I descend the steps into the métro stop, confident in this familiar routine on a familiar route, use my last métro ticket, and await the train. Odd. Why are the times for the next trains on the info panel all X'd out. Then I see the sign. Line 1 closed, and for a critical part of it. Dang. I knew it was closed the day before; just did not register that it would still be closed on Tuesday. Well, there... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
Austin Angers Music began promoting its mini "psych fest" -- Levitation -- at this weekend's Austin Psych Fest in grand style: with gorgeous tartines and elegant sparkling wine from Bouvet Ladubay. The promotional invite alone was classy. The "Bistrot" format was to allow the VIP lounge crowd to have a chance to talk about the French version of Psych Fest, slated for September 19-20, 2014 in Angers, and all the many facets of the burgeoning Austin-Angers music connections. [Why Angers? Remember, it's our sister city. But that's just part of the story of the dynamic music synergy between Austin and France, and they include a formidable music promoter, Christophe Davy.] Amidst the hot sun (though the VIP lounge was tented and thus nice and cool) and a fashion parade from a demographic that I never, ever see in my usual life in Austin, Austin Angers Music kicked up the sophistication factor with a truly elegant spread of these tartines--on several trays and in many flavors and colors. Bread from Baguette et Chocolat. Gorgeous. The tartines did not last long. I held back to let others enjoy. And they did. Julie, from Nashville and who studied in Angers and speaks a lovely French, gets the credit for the stunning aray of tartines. Samantha Phelps, from Boring Enormous, boots on the ground for all things music regarding France, and Angers in particular these days, let me get a behind-the-scenes look where she and Julie were working this tartine magic in just a tent. Germain Kpakou, from 9 rue Claveau in Angers, gives in to the request here for photos with Julie. The tartine array allows for a cultural lesson: the tartine. What is it? It has a couple of manifestations in the French food culture. First, that name, "tartine," refers to a... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
I awoke this morning around 6:15 am and, comme d'habitude, checked the email on the iPhone while in bed. Among the emails was a Facebook message from a friend in Paris, sending me what he pronounced as a good article on Paris in the Sunday (today) edition of the New York Times. I read the whole article in bed. I liked it so much that I was inspired to get out of bed for the sole purpose of getting my own hard copy of the NY Times, which is delivered to me at home on Sunday mornings (tempting to kick this expensive habit, but mornings and articles like this keep me hanging on). I slipped on the organic cotton skirt that I purchased in a heat-induced delirium at Austin Psych Fest yesterday and headed outside to get the paper that was there, as hoped and expected, on my sidewalk. I made coffee, sliced some Poilâne bread for toast, and settled in. I already knew the story because I devoured it in bed at 6:30 am. I knew I already 150% agreed with the author about the unique pleasures of being in Paris alone. It is a luxurious, decadent experience. "I went alone, to live in the present. I sliced through an oyster with my cocktail fork, loosening it from its shell. A pulpy Utah Beach, it was brimming with lemon juice and its own slightly salty liquor. I lifted it with a thumb and forefinger, and tilted it to my lips." I know I know. Say no more. It's utterly delicious having Paris all to yourself (when all is right with the world (the right shoes, enough money, good weather)). A lot of places the author explores are the same places I have sought out or stumbled upon, including the... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
Though 2 business days and 1.5 holiday days are not enough to get immersed in the things I typically do in Paris (e.g., check out new urban infrastructure projects), this trip was long enough to remind of some of the best and worst data points about Paris noticed over recent trips. (Paris is in bloom, so pretty, but that also means pollen, which creates so not a pretty feeling) the "best" list Number 1: Hand dryers. This data point continues to impress me. Paris bathroom hygiene technology has come a long way in the past 2 decades. Back in the day, there were sad feeble motorized hand-drying contraptions whose output was a faint breeze that took minutes and minutes of standing there whilst water dripped down your arms. High-power dryers are cropping up in increasing frequency now. I have dripped water into the sleeves of too many black turtlenecks too many times. I still love this trend. Number 2: Taxis They seemed to be more abundantly around and about this trip. I found them when I needed them out and about. It helped that Maureen alerted me to a prime location where taxis are, typically, outside of late night and big public festivities (Nuit Blanche). I do not dare discuss with them the Uber controversies, though I always seek out updates from Uber drivers. I had some really good taxi drivers this trip: from the moment we left Gare Montparnasse to arrive at rue de Bievre, to the G7 taxi's perfect timing picking me up at the rue des Deux Ponts, Ile St. Louis, for the drive to Roissy-CDG for the return flight. You only need half-hour notice though I learned from him. Because I was under the impression on Easter Sunday for a few hours that I had lost... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
On day 2 of the weekend for Les Journées Nationales du Livre et Vin, I was on my own to make my way around the VIP literary events featuring the weekend's guest of honor, Mazarine Pingeot. This Saturday afternoon event was no struggle at all though, because being the quiet academic type, I love a library, old dusty books and a lecture about 19th-century poetry. The lecture was over at the Musée de la Cavalerie, entitled: "Les ivresses de Verlaine." The loveliness of the day was almost ruined by my not sleeping at all the night before. The pharmacie in Fontevraud was, alas, closed when we arrived there for the previous night's event, so I could not secure a certain sleeping aid about which French friends raved (I had forgotten my Zquil). After the "conférence" on Verlaine I made my way back down the rue St. Nicolas, recognizing I had 2 hours before the next event at 19h00. I would take a nap. At 18h45, after a 1-hour nap, I stumbled down the stone spiral staircase at the Hotel St. Pierre to make my way to a venue for which I had only a vague idea of its location. I asked adorable Regis at the desk, who enjoyed teasing me how long I was sleeping in these mornings, if he knew the location (he seemed to know everything about everybody). He did, of course. But a driver was standing right there for other guests. He offered to take me to the event with the others. Fantastic! The others turned out to be the lecturer from earlier that day, and a very nice, extraordinarily interesting couple who worked for France Television. We were the first to arrive. There was a large, long table set up outside on the sidewalk, with all... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
Sunday April 13 would be the official big day for the Livre et Vin festival here in Saumur--thanks to Bouvet Ladubay keeping this event alive and even expanding it to national stature--but Friday night opened with a very special, private reception on the grounds of the Abbaye Fontevraud, with--yes Bouvet Ladubay's beautiful sparkling wines being served--but also a French president's daughter, Mazarine Pingeot, as the guest of honor. Mazarine Pingeot is a professor, an author, a mom. After seeing her here and there at various events, and being right next to her one night later as I mentioned that in Austin there are cocktails with mezcal AND absinthe (subtle gasp from the group), I get that she is a remarkably regular person. And in reading her book that I would buy later that night, that becomes even more clear. But the panel discussion that evening over dinner, was all quite clever and very literary: critics and authors addressed Mazarine's work, her father's writing, and her status now in French culture ever since her existence was made known to the French general public (read the story here). It was heady stuff. Another star of the night, in addition to Mazarine Pingeot, was the Abbey itself. Not very often is it open at night. Some public art and theatrical spectacles taking advantage of the light and shadows of this special place occur there from time to time, but tonight we had the place to ourselves (aside from a few artists in residence there). The Abbaye Fontevraud is in Fontevraud, a village of 1500 inhabitants (per the mayor herself). The Abbaye appears to be re-inventing itself, over and over again, keeping itself relevant in a region--a nation--of numerous architectural and geographical wonders. The web site itself was enough to draw me in. The... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
The best thing about a walk down (a hazy) memory lane for my favorite boozy walks in Paris is that they span some 30 years and, thankfully, show an upward trend in classiness. You can re-create these boozy walks if you like, and then enjoy the Euro lifestyle fact of no problems for driving: just best of luck finding a taxi. Don't get me started on the Taxi versus Uber thing. 1. "The First Time." That first time was the early 1980s. The age was 16. The beverage was cheap red wine. In a cheap pizza restaurant off the busy, sort of tacky, drag that is le Boulevard St. Michel. I remember red tables and cheap paper placemats. I remember a pleasant numbness and a sense of my life being so awesome as my other rule-breaker friends (we had snuck out of our hotel) stumbled back. Tearing up a little just thinking about that first time. You could re-create this boozy walk by an upgrade: maybe the goat cheese and cream pizza at Pizza Sant-Antonio (drizzle spicy olive oil on it too) on the picturesque Place du Bourg Tibourg in the Marais, accompanied by a much higher grade of house red in a nice half carafe. 2. "I Love Me a Good Wine Bar/JYF Year of Excess." The year was 1985, the first part of my Sweet Briar Junior Year in France program. The place was Au Sauvignon. This lunch was a pivotal gastronomic moment. An upgrade in the red wine for sure -- this was a wine bar after all, but little did I know of such things as "wine bars" back then. I was just 20 years old and from San Angelo, Texas (San Angelo way cooler now). I happened to order a glass of "le St. Emilion,"... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
My trainer had been asking me a couple of weeks ago, repeatedly, what I am doing for Valentine's Day--and telling me she needs to find me a date--though she knows full well that date is a four-letter word for me, way down low on the priority list, because like my situation with Excel spreadsheets, I (i) am hopelessly terrible at it, and (ii) have neither the patience nor mental energy or motivation to work on improving said lameness. And I would not have even thought much about this at all, but for her mentioning this at every one of our recent 6am workouts. Good thing that with all this "snow and ice" in Austin we have had to cancel some workouts, leaving some breathing room from the "let's find Liz a date" conversation as my abs are burning from plank walks with push-ups. And in these critical lead-up days to Valentine's Day, she has been sick, further diminishing the opportunities for having to listen to this. Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, January 2013 Years and years and years ago, in the early post-divorce stage, my [awesome] therapist back then mused out loud if my renewed France focus, bubbbling up around that time with intense vigor, was an escape from dealing with all that other, harder stuff. I'm not saying it is, she said, just wondering. Right. As much as I loved chatting with said therapist, it was finally time to leave that nest. Eventually some equilibrium was attained, and eventually I started to notice le 14 février kept coming around, again and again. And because of that annoying repetition, two years ago I chose to leave for a business trip to France on that day. That meant I enjoyed a Valentine's Day dinner meal contained in small plastic dishes, covered with foil,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
Robyn Metcalfe's brainchild, The Food Lab, hosted a "Women and Food Symposium" (back on January 18), exploring the role and voice of women in today's food culture--with Addie Broyles (@relishaustin & @feministkitchen & @broylesa) introducing the day and framing the issues evocatively along with Robyn. (Robyn and the first panel (not necessarily listed in order of appearance): Melanie Haupt (food writer; author, Historic Austin Restaurants); Toni Tipton-Martin (The SANDE Youth Project; author, The Jemima Code); Meghan McCarron (Editor, Eater Austin); Jessica Elizarras (Food and Nightlife Editor, San Antonio Current); Kim Voss (Journalism Professor, Univ. Central Florida, author, The Food Section (on the TV screen off to the side, via video)). Food culture, as I am calling it to describe the day, comprises everything from new social media affecting the reporting of food ("Writing About Food in the Age of New Media), women of color in the "foodie" world, the co-opting of local, community foodstuffs for global mass marketing (Pioneer Woman), "Peace through Pie" (thanks to author Toni Tipton-Martin, @thejemimacode), to entrepreneurship in the food space ("Making a Living at Food" featuring food editors/journalists (Virginia Wood, Austin Chronicle; Julia Moskin, NY Times) and chef owners telling their stories (Sonya Coté, Sharon Mays)). And the day closed with what may have been the best panel of the day: "Gender in Cookbooks," featuring spunky Laura Shapiro, culinary historian and author of, among other things, Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century. I should have brought the book along and had her sign it, as Kate Payne (The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking) was smart enough to do. You could not get closer to what makes my psyche tick than this combination: Literary theory (light version), social anthropology/social constructs, history, business creation -- superimposed onto the food culture of today,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2014 at GourmandeMom™
With the next Paris reconnaissance trip a long few months away - in April 2014 - and with budget constraints limiting shipments of Poilâne bread straight to me, I anxiously sought out the sur place resulting from the in-house bread program overseen by Mark at Odd Duck. Ever since the Outstanding in the Field event with Bryce Gilmore at the helm and Mark at the bread oven, I've been anxiously awaiting Odd Duck's opening for a ready source of crusty, exquisitely textured homemade bread. Dinner there last night on December 30 - at the embarrassingly early time of 17h30 - met this longfelt need. As I had dreamed it, bread was on the menu. For $5, and I did not mind that at all--though a Poilâne miche -- 4 times the size of these sweet little loaves of carbohydrates -- is 9.05 euros last I checked (just now), which is about $12.30, making Mark's bread fairly pricey compared to the humongous size of a Poilâne miche. No matter. Eating just the crust of this bread, with this butter, is a meal in itself. With red wine of course. Do I mind paying $5 for this bread, served alongside a huge gloppy delicious mass of homemade butter? Non. Though at Arro I was highly offended by the idea of having to pay for bread, I am getting used to the idea now. For Mark's bread, this bread made in those cozy warm bread ovens -- where we were seated last night, with views out through the glass out into the West, looking back over my left shoulder, as the sun was setting and the sky all orange and hot pink -- I will gladly pay $5. On a scale of 1 to 10...the scorecard. Vibe/Decor : 9.3 I arrived at 5... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2013 at GourmandeMom™
For many reasons, I signed myself up a couple of weeks ago for a volunteer shift at Austin's Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) way down south on South Congress. I thought I signed up my teen as well (for lessons in community, volunteerism, just getting him off the *%^%#$ couch, etc.), but that did not work out. I had no idea what to expect when my 1-4 pm shift on Saturday December 28 came around, but what I got in return were insights far beyond the mere act of volunteering. If you are looking for some direct-impact volunteer opportunities, consider CAFB. In addition to many opportunities and times to help out, it has family night on the first Tuesday of every month and a Thursday 6-8:30 pm shift for adults who want to help but need a work/family-friendly shift. Here's where you can sign up. (No cell phones allowed during the volunteer shift. Safety first. No distractions allowed. This was after we were done. View onto just a very small part of the operation and those precious, scarce banana boxes.) Observations on organization, the food donation system, and how far away we are from a healthy, sustainable food system. Of course CAFB is very much involved in the debate. 1. CAFB: well run and organized. I did not appreciate beforehand that because we were dealing with food, many health and safety regulations had to be followed. CAFB staff, while hilarious and highly entertaining, took this very seriously. (And by the way, CAFB, the fact our team leaders that day were so utterly talented in the comedic realm, I immediately felt welcome and not as freaked out at why on earth was I here with not a single person I knew to do something I had no idea about.) One of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2013 at GourmandeMom™
As the holiday frenzy winds down I am looking forward to quieter times with family and friends, which reminds me of one of the most charming holiday parties this season: a good old-fashioned kaffeeklatsch. We were told our invitations did not include an invitation to our significant others (i.e, the husbands of the married folk). As part of getting schooled in our friend the hostess's German heritage, we learned about the tradition of the kaffeeklatsch. Women would gather and enjoy each other's company, conversation (gossip) over cakes or other simpler sweets and coffee. And so on a quiet Sunday afternoon, early in the holiday season, we arrived for the kaffeeklatsch. The living room was casual and set up with a yummy sugary pastry and china coffee cups. The more formal living room just the next room over was set up to the nines, with more china, a china coffee pot, creamer, plates, silver knives and forks, and finely starched delicate linens with crochet. We were told that the more formal setting in here, contrasted to the casual living room à propos of the kaffeeklatsch, replicated the kaffee kuchen ritual. This ritual would generally not take place at home for the pastries were so fancy for this: one would generally go out for this ritual and have -- cake. We got things started off right with French 75 cocktails. Then it was time to move in for the conversation and cake. We tried to adhere to the formality of German custom and call each other "Frau" this and that, but that did not last long. I wanted a seat at the dining room table very badly and maneuvered myself to get one. I was just so tickled with the German carols, the china, the silver, and the sweets all around. And... Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2013 at GourmandeMom™
My neighborhood has an adorable holiday tradition of "The Parents Party"--to distinguish it from the myriad of other awesome neighborhood parties (where we can drink and eat to excess and just walk home), such as "The Kids Party," where Santa makes an appearance and delivers presents to kids of a certain age. One year that party was at my house, and Santa nearly fell down my stairs, and I never hosted that one again. Now that I've grown up and out of the Kids Party, I have been delighted to have had the Parents Party chez moi for three years in a row now. Last night was number 3. Every year the dynamic is different: one year we were singing Journey and the Rolling Stones; next year we had jazz pianist Rich Harney and a drunken group selfie on my front porch; this past year (last night) we had a little bit of everything:, including two jazz musicians: vocals and piano--both women--and gracious underwriting of the live music element from my posse of music guys in the hood. We started around 7pm for this annual potluckof food and wine, with folks wandering in around 7:30 and onward, and did not wind down really until midnight. I started to email my gratitude to our awesome group this morning, but decided why not turn it into a blog post. So here goes, along with a photo essay of some really phenomenal food: Dear "RidgeleaMoms" (term of art given the composition of the group): It was a delight to groggily wander downstairs – just now at 11 am – to find a clean house. I was particularly in awe of – seriously – the pristine nature of my floors. Not a single crumb. Tara really went to town with the sweeping. I learned... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2013 at GourmandeMom™
Somewhere during the 1985-86 school year, my Junior Year in France, I started my love affair with that rustic crusty miche of bread goodness made only and exclusively (then) in Paris in a tiny charming bakery on a sort of tiny street (the rue du Cherche-Midi) on the left bank of Paris: Poilâne bread. When I took the plane back home to Texas in June 1986 after 11 months of student life in France, I was laden with the most ridiculous items, which never would make it onto a plane these days. I had about 6 carry-ons. But the most precious item of all, which I clutched closely to my heart for most of the trip home: a "miche" of Poilâne bread. In that heavy, dense miche was embodied all my happy memories of a student life in Paris. Even more charming about a whole miche of pain Poilâne: each one is emblazoned with a giant P, for Poilâne of course, but for me that beautifully swirly font also evoked another P-word: Paris. On this last trip in November 2013, after lunch at the Cafe de le Nouvelle Mairie over near the Pantheon, it hit me. Why not head toward Poilâne and bring back my own miche. [Would sure beat the $40 or so FedEx shipping price for getting that miche over here from France when I am feeling indulgent and order a miche on line.] And so on a cold, rainy day in Paris, my last day there, I made my way to the rue du Cherche-Midi. Customers do not have to buy an entire miche. Indeed, it takes days and days if not weeks to finish one. There is a nifty device the salesperson can use to cut off the correct requested amount of a miche. My turn.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2013 at GourmandeMom™
As I read in between drafts of motions a few articles about trends in French gastronomy, including this piece in Slate about the lack of French female chefs in France, I recall it is a seasons of thanks. I am reminded to thank my parents for fostering this "French thing" I have going on: from that costly Junior Year in France, which got me life-long bragging rights to say I took a class at the age of 20 (infancy) in French at one of the French grandes écoles--Sciences Po in Paris; to educational French class trips to France while still in high school (educational especially in getting to be friends with Côtes du Rhône at an early age); to their staying with my son whilst I have gone off in recent years looking for ways to "figure out" France for business (it will take a lifetime) and my place within that culture as experienced here back home. I am grateful to be able to say that this was not an "awesome" trip in terms of sublime moments walking up and down the Seine, and that is just fine. That is what makes it a great trip. It was an exhausting research and business intelligence-gathering trip. Amidst that "worst trip ever" (because of so much work and not enough time walk around and be wistful and eat at Frenchie To Go or le 6 Paul Bert, etc. etc.), it was a maybe best trip to date, and there are many stories to come: Enlightening Insights (hopefully blog posts) To Come From The Trip 1) The Loire Valley The Loire Valley in the fall is something to behold. Rolling green hills covered with spots of bright gold, red and orange. Producers described for me the tiny microclimates so unique that just one... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2013 at GourmandeMom™
Not much is open on Sunday in Paris (but for the publicis drugstore!!...see below)--it is part of what makes Paris nice and calm and tranquil--but this is not so great when one is sick, home at the apartment, with no groceries. And it is freezing cold outside. It helps that clients let me borrow their apartment, where the towels are huge and warm and fluffy, the sound system fantastic, and the huge kitchen better equipped than mine in Austin. But I cannot eat them out of house and home. I had to go shopping. As I wander aimlessly with swollen ears, red eyes, sore throat I see the Arc de Triomphe in view as I walk up Boulevard Hoche. I have seen absolutely nothing open but for two cafes on Boulevard Hoche/rue du Faubourg St.-Honore. And then it dawns on me what the Arc de Triomphe symbolizes. It means that salvation is near. It means the publicisdrugstore is just right there. What is this drugstore you may ask. To anyone visiting Paris, I think it would look super cool and hip for many reasons. It is no mere "drugstore." It is part designer boutique with gorgeous leather purses, scarves, baby clothing...part really fantastic bookstore, complete with a chic little patisserie with gourmet chocolates, and now a "steakhouse" with burgers, etc., and the high-end l'Atelier (Etoile) de Joel Robuchon. I still love this place. But I cannot stop at the bookstore anymore. I end up bringing too many heavy items home. I have many, many books from here from years past. More important to me on this trip to le drugstore: the coffee bar, the bakery, the high-end to-go foods: salads, yogurts, quiche, pizzas (like goat cheese and sausage); chocolates, pastries, get the picture. And for someone with a head... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2013 at GourmandeMom™
Much like the last time I landed early at Paris CDG and then took the train to Angers, despite 2.3 hours to wait, I still just had a minute to spare getting to the right place on the train. But that is another story. I wish I could take the TGV from Austin to Paris. Arrival in Angers. It is always a delight. Even today on a drizzly day it was lovely. The rainbow tram was a burst of color in the grey. It was time to find my apartment rental. This was the first time I was opting for the apartment route in Angers, which is the route I almost always take in Paris. Outside of the bigger cities, the vacation rental ritual, however, is not nearly as organized. I still love the idea; it compels one to explore a different part of the city and be part of a real neighborhood. But I will ask more questions next time I rent in less robust rental markets. I finally find the apartment, only after the kind landlord had been waiting a long time. I got a tour. These 1800s tile floors are lovely. There is an upstairs, where the bedroom and bathroom are. She tells me one of the most important things for a renter in a new neighborhood: where to shop for foodstuffs. She shows me where to go. Then I ask THE most important question, which always gives me heartburn for an apartment rental: the wifi. The internet access. I ask where the code is. It is written in those tiny black letters on the "Livebox" under the bed. Ok. Ignore bad feeling. Try to. As soon as she leaves I try to get all my devices fired up and connected to that code. No go. Off... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2013 at GourmandeMom™