Aussies Do Paris

March 5th, 2015

paris tragics book“You can get ripped off, you can have your pockets picked, some places smell awful, some of the people are rude and arrogant, the whole place is busy, noisy and full of traffic and even some of the food is crap,” write Oleh Butchatsky and Graham Jones in the new book Paris Tragics. “But you can say that about any metropolis. What you won’t find easily elsewhere is the sheer richness of human experience that represents some of the best things ever created by humanity.”

Written by two retired Australian menthe kind of guys who watch sports and don’t typically go in for girly stuff like macarons and Mariage Freres afternoon tea, Paris Tragics is the latest entrant into the crowded field of the anecdotal guidebook to Paris. The title of the book uses Australian slang for what we Americans might card a ‘tard–someone ridiculously into something. The book doesn’t take you far off the beaten track but rather offers you an armchair visit with humorous and quick-paced, to-the-point narration.

graham and olehIf you, like me, enjoy the self-effacing humility and directness so refreshing chez les Australiens, you will enjoy this preamble through the city with observations such as this: “This contrast between external restraint and internal opulence continues to be a definitive feature of French ornamental design.” There are useful tips, too, such as why the seemingly cheap Paris taxi fares are, well, not so much. “when you add the cost of the many tricks (and outright refusals) used by Parisian cab drivers on tourists (indeed on fellow Parisians) it usually works out to be more expensive.”

Graham Jones’s sketches of landmarks are delightfully simple and will undoubtedly remind you of the drawings you may have made on your own trips to the city.

Lanvin in the Limelight

March 2nd, 2015

lanvinCelebrating the oldest French fashion house still in existence, the Musee Palais Galliera has put together Jeanne Lanvin, the first full-scale exhibition of the designer. It has more than 100 garments from its own archives and from Lanvin. Alber Elbaz, the current artistic director of Lanvin, has worked closely the with museum to curate the show, which opens March 8.



February 25th, 2015

pirouette 1Pirouette is in a free standing building, very unusual for Paris, and is an open loft like space with double height ceilings and windows and a simple décor with warm wood floors, chairs, and tables.

The 20-euro formule, entrée and plat, offered only one starter and a choice of beef or fish for main course. The business/trendy/artsy crowd was mostly French and the dining room filled up quickly. The noise level was high but not unbearable and our table next to the window was a good choice for avoiding some of the noise.

pirouette 2Pumpkin soup with chestnuts is a popular winter staple in Parisian bistros, and my friend Lynn and I agreed it was one of the best versions we’ve ever had: so buttery and creamy we sopped up every last drop and we each could have had at least three more bowls full.

Lynn had the fish, egelfin (haddock) with grapefruit and fennel, and she thought it was superb. I had the onglet (steak) garnished with wonderful, succulent Grenaille potatoes. The artful presentation made our dishes even more appetizing and they tasted as good as they looked. Even though we thoroughly loved our two courses, we were still a tad hungry and decided to share dessert.

pirouette3Even though menus put the cheese course in the dessert menu, I disagree with this concept: cheese is cheese and dessert is dessert and there is no blurring the lines. I wanted to be easy and a gentleman and told Lynn to order whatever she wanted. I was a bit disappointed when she ordered the Ossau-Iraty cheese with a black cherry sauce because I wanted a real dessert, not a wannabe cheese course dressed as dessert. Even the presentation was a dessert wannabe- the cheese was sliced like a wedge of pie and the sauce smoothed over on top, more or less like a cheese cake, with an odd dash of red pepper on the side. Disappointment turned into high approval as the dish turned out to be excellent and equally as good as dessert.


5 rue Mondetour, 75001

Where’s the Burrito?

February 19th, 2015

death by butrrito 2One of the things we’ve seen a bit of in Paris – which I think will become more prevalent – is bars focusing on a single spirit. A few years back Sherry Butt opened with a leaning towards whisky. And more recently there’s Mabel, the self proclaimed Cocktail Den and Rum Empire, as well as Lulu White with a list of cocktails, each with a touch of Absinthe. And we also have the subject of today’s post: Death by Burrito. After a string of successful London pop-ups and residencies, chef Shay Ola brought his popular Death by Burrito concept to Paris late last year to set up a more permanent space in the 11th arrondissement (also known as “DBB Paris”). DBB Paris is the city’s latest taqueria/cocktail combo and is getting plenty of press for both its food and drinks. I like tacos. I like cocktails. I like London. So it seemed like a no-brainer choice when I was looking for a spot to take a group of 5 or so for some fun and food last month. death by burritoNow, with a name like Death by Burrito, you might think you’ll be getting burritos that are so effin’ big that you’ll choke under their weight. But what you’ll actually find on the menu are 5 pairs of small tacos and 5 small sharing plates like guacamole or trout gravlax with mezcal. Although I do have to admire the server’s attempt to explain the concept as “small, open-face burritos” Uh…in other words…tacos? You know what else makes me think they are tacos? They’re called “tacos” on the menu. Contrary to how it might sound, I’m not here to talk smack about the food. Whatever they’re calling it, it’s good. They go beyond the basics without going bonkers and offer up solid fusions like braised pork and kimchi or beef tartare tacos. Ingredients are fresh, tortillas are made onsite, and they don’t shy away from putting a little spice into the mix. [Update: since posting this DBB Paris assures us that burritos are coming soon, so we’ll be back for those.] Now that we have that out of the way, lets dish on the drinks… >more

A New Anthology

February 16th, 2015
That's ParisWe talk with author Vicki Lesage about the making of the just-released anthology: That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light.  
What brought you to Paris?
Newly single and fresh out of a job, I figured—as the French say—why not? So I booked a flight to Paris, planning to stay for just the summer. Ten years, one husband, and two kids later, I’m still here!
What gave you the idea for this project?
After submitting to a few anthologies I thought, “Hey, why not do my own anthology?” This was right around the time fellow author Adria J. Cimino and I started our boutique publishing house, Velvet Morning Press, so we decided to make it our first project. VMP’s goal is to discover new writing talent and launch their careers, and an anthology is a great way to find new talent!
The authors write about Paris—how do they know Paris? Do they live here? Are they from here? Have they visited?


The 24 authors in this collection are extremely varied: American, French, Canadian, and British. Some live in France currently, some previously lived in Paris for a summer or a study abroad trip. Some are native Parisians, some have only been here on vacation. And some have never set foot on French soil! We think this gives the book a wide variety of perspectives so that no two stories are alike.
What types of stories does this collection include?
We have fiction and non-fiction. Stories about love and heartbreak, loss and hope. Sarcastic takes on Parisian life, glowing commentary on the wonders of the City of Light. Lessons learned, dreams dashed. Funny and dramatic. A little bit of everything!


Free French Classes in Paris

February 10th, 2015

mairie du 18emeThe Paris Mayor’s Office has added a “Learning French” page to its website with tips on who can take classes and where. Staying in Paris awhile? Check your with your local mayor’s office (each arrondissement has one) for information on free municipal classes. No restrictions on nationality or residence status, but students must be must be over 18.

Classes are held between September and into June, Tuesday mornings or Thursday evenings. So you have plenty of time to prepare a trip!


A Cafe That Does It Differently

February 5th, 2015

anti cafe parisThe Anti-Café now has three locations in Paris – Beaubourg (4th), Palais Royal (1st) and Les Olympiads (13th) – cozy lounges where you can meet, hang out, use Wifi, play board games, enjoy all-you-can-eat snacks and beverages (or bring your own food and drink), all for just €4/hour or €17 for the full day. There are tables, some sofas, rooms that can be reserved for groups, and even events for “community” members. Imagine an airline lounge (minus the CNN loop on the TV) and that’s the Anti-Café. Considering it usually costs €3-5 just for a tea in any café with wifi, this seems more than reasonable.


The Edgier Side of the Flea Market

February 3rd, 2015

pucesA banquet for the eyes: antiquated furniture, crate-loads of jewellery, sacred artifacts from across the world, ritzy vintage and couture clothing; marvels that once belonged to another person, another era. These are the sights at the heart of the St Ouen marché aux puces, a popular flea market located in the poorer area of north central Paris. The objects here beg the question, “What is their story?”

But, bedazzled by beauty from times long gone, a voyager like myself risks overlooking another mystery surrounding something that is less visible; What social life exists in this particular place? For me, an amateur anthropologist, the people, punters and sellers at the market, were of equal interest as their wares. The story of the humans in this part of Paris, in a certain snapshot of time, is worth considering if you yourself are to make a pilgrimage to the area.

puces 2Under a grey Parisian sky, I entered the market from the direction of the Porte de Clignancourt Metro stop. The first stalls I encountered were selling items such as brightly colored sweatbands for goths and gimmicky T-shirts. If you look at TripAdvisor or Yelp, the wares here prompt disgusted reviews, encouraging people to veer right in order to reach what they evidently see to be “the true market.”

Instead of heading straight to the market’s more celebrated center, I continued along this avenue of shops and stalls, which dwindled into smaller stalls, and eventually ended at a space where items were being sold from squares of fabric on the concrete. Nearby, overlooking the scene, stood four policemen. I had also read online reviews, written by people who must have arrived via this end of the market. According to them, the characters you meet here are “very edgy, druggy, and easily provoked.” And “It seriously looked like a bunch of homeless people gathering underneath a bridge with a variety of tacky items spread out on a tarp.”


Fashionable After All These Years

January 28th, 2015

cardinPierre Cardin, one of the most prolific fashion designers of the 20th century and the first designer to mass market his name and products, is still going strong at age 92. His latest project is a fashion museum in a former factory in the Marais.

Last week at the museum I time traveled to the swinging ’60s to the land of plastic mini-dresses and 3D clothes, when Cardin was at his prime.

After a brief stint working for Dior in the late 1940s, Cardin struck out on his own in the 1950s, creating tasteful ensembles in line with the time period. He helped revolutionize fashion in the ’60s and ’70s with his futuristic clothes including mini-dresses with geometric shapes and bright colors and using plastic and metal on the clothes. He was also one of the first designers to simultaneously design men’s clothes.

The museum features 130 mannequins on three floors spanning five decades of fashion. There is also a room with belts, shoes, hats, and other accessories. Other Cardin products are displayed throughout the museum including his line of furniture.


7-Day Slosh

January 26th, 2015

PCWParis Cocktail Week has just kicked off so I went out and got it all warmed up for you.

In addition to specials in 35 bars across the city, PCW’s programme includes other goodies like special tastings, master classes, food fun and even a couple of PopUps in The Chamber.

I started Saturday at the swanky Bristol for an inspired martini and Boutary Caviar presentation and pairing. Maxime and Charles guided us through history with a tasting that took us from modern day martinis and caviar to the 19th century. We learned about the parallels between the two including ebbs and flows in popularity, murky origins of their names, flavor profiles and rituals. While this was a one-day only event, you can still stop into the Bristol bar for their PCW special, the Xmas Carol.

Next stop: Copper Bay to test out their PCW special, the Lizzy Sour and catch up with the trio behind the bar (Elfi, Aurélie and Julien). Copper Bay’s menu includes The Beast, which is a fat-washed Bourbon made with grease (!) from the newly opened BBQ joint of the same name.