Monday, January 18, 2016

Winter Warmth

Pont d'Alma on a Sunday evening.
Here we are on day 18 of the new year and things are going swell.

The Irishman and the doge just get more lovable by the day. I'm enjoying my new job as Personal Assistant to a Head of Division who knows a thing or two about leadership. Since my big New Year's resolution post, I'm down 1.6 kg. And even though winter has finally arrived, Paris can be quite cozy -- chocolat chaud at Cafe de Flore, anyone?

I'll do an honest-to-goodness cleanse before January wraps up, but in the meantime I thought I'd share this four-ingredient (six if you count the garnishes) soup that's as delicious as it is warm.

Butternut Bliss Soup

If the soup doesn't warm you up, there's always Armagnac.

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
2 medium white or yellow onions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
chives and creme fraiche to season

  1. Heat the butter in a large pot and add the chopped onions. Sauté until translucent
  2. Add the squash then the broth. Cover and boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the squash is tender. Really, you should be able to cut it with a spoon.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the squash and onion from the pot to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. 
  4. Stir your puréed veggies back into the broth. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of chives.

Bon appetit :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Resolutions for 2016

Okay, I get it. Resolutions to lose 10 lbs or start a new healthy eating plan or write that novel in the upcoming year are pretty much doomed from the get go, which also makes making them kind of, well, pathetic. I know this -- hell, I've comforted my unresolved self with all the articles about the resolution-initial effort-failure feedback loop every December for at least 5 years running. I know that most of us well-intentioned ninnies will fall off the wagon by February (where I come from we call that Mardi Gras).  And yet.

This year, I'ma do it anyway. I'm going to try putting myself out there in an Amy Schumer flailing among the Knicks Girls at the end of Trainwreck kind of way

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sibelius and the Sinfonietta

Multifunctionality at the Instituutti: cafe by day, performance space by night.
Photo credits: CUT architectures
As mille et un hipster apologists have extolled and more and more start-ups are commodifying, there is a certain current of back-to-basics nostalgia and existential longing for innovative simplicity (zen) among millenials. Virgin landscapes, perhaps especially those of the far north, call to us even, or especially, as they warm -- glaciers at once receding into themselves and insodoing, falling heavily into the same psychological dark spot we reserve for the realisation that we may never be able to afford a mortgage, that we might always work in admin.

It was fitting then, trendy even, that the raucously talented young musicians of the Sinfonietta Paris Chamber Orchestra should perform Finnish composer Jean Sibelius's still unpublished Piano Quintet in G Minor on what would have been his 150th birthday this past Friday at the Institut Finlandais.

The institute's performance space conforms to all of the precepts that have made Scandinavian aesthetics so universally comfortable - clean lines, natural materials, light. The lobby outfront unapologetically presents minimalist pottery by Finnish designers and hand-knitted linens at prices one can only assume guarantee the artisans a standard of living befitting citizenship of a country with famously low income-inequality.

The orchestra director and the directrice of the Institute both made short remarks before the concert that struck charming notes of cheer and practicality, like an Ikea bedspread. The concert began with "Svartsjukans Nätter" (Nights of Jealousy), a melodrama composed of strings, piano, soprano and oratory. Since I "get" classical music about as much as I do, well, someone speaking in Finnish, I can only speak to how deftly the piece navigated an emotional range between violins that sounded like refreshing summer rain and poetry reading like Loki dying of heartbreak.

Unsurprising in this era of grappling, of split priorities, of alternately recasting and romanticizing the past and of cynicism confronting pugnacious optimism in the present, the Sinfonietta is struggling to stay alive. Afterall, what could be more supercilious than a chamber orchestra? What could be more vital than preserving cultural masterpieces, of adequately rewarding hard work and immense talent? Donate here.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mission: Impossible 5 at Le Grand Rex

Photo from

While it might have come out on 30 July over in the New World, Tom Cruise's newest beat-the-baddies installment "Mission : Impossible 5 - Rogue Nation" doesn't open 'til Wednesday here in France. (I'm not sure why the delay, but then again I'm sitting in Starboock listening to Shaggy's "Angel," so perhaps the French aren't so bothered about sitting at the front of the mainstream pop culture bandwagon.)

The Irishman is unabashedly a fan of Tom Cruise and the franchise -- he claims it's the stunts and the jokes, I think he also identifies with the character/actor's unfailing good-guy persona ;) -- so a quick search for screenings on led us to an avant première at Le Grand Rex, one of the oldest and swankest cinemas in Paris, which also does cine-concerts, live shows, film panels, and premiers.

Booking in advance is advisable. The tickets for the pre-screening were cheaper than for a normal Saturday night showing at 10 euros each - and we also added two drinks to our reservation to save time at the candy counter.

The movie was playing in La Grande Salle which, spoiler, looks like this:

Photo courtesy of, because my iPhone 4 camera sucks

Sunday, July 5, 2015

4th à la française

For the past three years, the Irishman has taken me to Le Georges restaurant on the roof of the Centre Pompidou to celebrate America's birthday with a view on the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.

The food is summery, the waitresses slinky-chic, and the view unmatched. Don't miss the angle on Sacré Coeur on the way back down the outside escalator. Ask for a table outside for the best ambiance. Reservations encouraged.

Dress, Kookai; ballerines, André.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ballooning in Bazouges

Sorry blogosphere, the last six weeks have been a whirlwind. I started work and spent a lot of free time (fruitlessly) house-hunting.  But let's focus on the fabulous!

Through my old university, I met one amazing woman in September! NT is a pilot, race car driver/navigator, helps the blind, and not least of all owns a hot air balloon! At the end of what seemed to be a rough week for everyone in Paris, she casually mentioned that she and some friends were heading down to the chateau where she keeps her montgolfière and invited the Irishman and I along.

The next day we found ourselves racing through the Gare de Montparnasse as fast as my chubby and high-heeled little legs could carry me.  Safely aboard the train to Le Mans (with a full 2 minutes to spare!), we settled into our separate seats and I got to do the NYTimes crossword puzzle on the Irishman's iPad for a while until he found me and took it away to read BBC Sport.

Arriving in Le Mans, we were met by NT's dashing French husband and her American-naturalized-French friend who happens to look EXACTLY like Joan Cusack circa 1993. She must get a lot of people staring at her trying to figure out where they've seen that face before because she's got a great, aren't-you-cute-now-stop-staring wink. I've got to get on developing one.

The chateau was indeed a little French castle of a design comparable to Bagatelle, and when we arrived it's lovely owners, an American former supermodel and her aristocratic hubby, were serving up the red and a delicious lentil soup while a splendid fire roared away under a bust of one of the rois Henri.