French Films That Hit the Jackpot

October 16th, 2016

moulin rouge paris 75009Living in France is so incredible that it makes you feel like you’ve just won the lottery. After all, is there anything more luxurious than taking a stroll to buy freshly-baked brioche from your local boulangerie?
This association isn’t too far-fetched in reality. French history has been changed dramatically due to the lottery – it even created Voltaire’s fortune. And its impact continues to the present-day through France’s lottery-funded projects. Even non-French lottery fans from all over the world get into the French lottery action through sites like theLotter, adding to French lottery’s prestige. It’s no surprise then that France and luck have paired up in cinema for over eight decades. If you’re feeling lucky – and want to practice your French listening skills – here are three excellent options for your next movie night.

Le Million (The Million) – 1931 Nearly thirty years after George Méliès released his silent masterpiece Le Voyage dans la Lun (Trip to the Moon), French cinema glided elegantly into the era of sound film. One of the country’s first talkie gems was René Clair’s Le Million. Like so many of the first sound films, Le Million is a musical comedy. The plot surrounds Michel, a struggling artist who is being suffocated by debt. His luck changes when he wins the lottery, but of course, the story doesn’t end there. Michel leaves the winning ticket in the pocket of an old jacket, which his fiancée gives away before he can claim his prize. The two of them go on a wild chase through the city, encountering dazzling song numbers along the way.

barge on the seineLes Tuches (The Tuches) – 2011 Much had changed in France eighty years after Le Million was made, but Les Tuches’ 2011 release showed that the fascination with lottery winners remained the same. Definitely not as glamourous as Le Million, Les Tuches still manages some charm as a modern-day rags to riches comedy. Follow this zany, messed up family as they win €100 million and travel through France on their way to Monaco. The family is large, the jackpot is larger – the only question that remains is how large are the laughs?

La Liste de mes Envies (The List of My Desires) – 2014 Jocelyne and Jocelyn seem to be a match made in heaven, from their matching names to their perfect family life in northern France. Jocelyne is a wife, mother, and blogger, while her husband Jocelyn is a worker at an ice cream factory. Now that their children are all grown up, Jocelyne has more time to daydream about how different life could be. Her friends convince Jocelyne to buy a EuroMillions ticket – how will fortune change her life? La Liste de mes Envies is based on the best-selling novel by Grégoire Delacourt and has won a place in moviegoers’ hearts.

A Secret Menu and A Boozy Liquid Pizza

October 13th, 2016

secret-cocktailPeople who know about CopperBay’s new hush-hush menu can ask for this mysterious, unmarked, gray menu. There’s only one copy of this hand-drawn notebook, which offers three unusual, creative cocktails. So, what differentiates the secret menu from the standard menu? A few things: The presentation is kicked up a notch. There is more of a savory, culinary aspect to this particular trio. They’ll appeal to cocktail geeks looking for a deviation from the usual drinks. And each one delivers something unexpected or unusual. Because these drinks are more time-consuming to make and served in unusual ways, there is both a limit to how many can be served at one time as well as the hours in which they can be ordered. The Secret Menu is off limits during busy periods, so if you want to give it a try, I suggest an early evening, maybe even midweek.

graybookLet’s start with the Margarita, or what some might call a pizza in a glass. It’s made with anchovy-infused tequila and sun-dried tomato-infused Cointreau and served with a homemade dried olive powder rim. It’s presented on a cork coaster in a tiny pizza box with a side of (excellent!) capers and cheese shavings. I can feel some of you out there resisting the anchovy! Don’t fear the fish. Much like fish sauce can do for certain Asian dishes, the anchovy in this cocktail provides an unexpected umami pop. There are different layers to this drink that unroll at different times. First the nose is heavy with sun-dried tomatoes and then the anchovy lingers longer on the palette. More than just a gimmick, it is an interesting exercise in balance and expectations.


Don’t Go Home Without It

September 24th, 2016

A little fashion. A little food. A lot of style. Girl’s Guide to Paris has a wonderful cheat sheet of the very best gifts to bring back home to friends and family after a visit to Paris. Hint: There’s nary an Eiffel Tower in sight.

>get the full list


September 13th, 2016

inspired-by-parisEver wonder if maybe Americans enjoy “being French” more than the French themselves? It’s an interesting theory explored with humor by author and part-time Parisian Jordan Phillips in her new book, Inspired by Paris: Why Borrowing from the French is Better than Being French. I met Jordan Phillips when she was living in Paris several years ago. Now she’s mostly in NYC, but still gets to enjoy the best of Paris by “borrowing” the best parts, from the food to the fashion (with a cameo appearance by “Naughty Paris”). Here is an excerpt from the chapter, The Paris Syndrome.

The Paris Syndrome

The modern French mind-set was established during the Revolution. Parisians are frugal and practical. Meanwhile, the rest of the world clings to the gilded Versailles vision of France, all Champagne towers and layers upon layers of macaron-colored garments.

black and white parisThough the Revolution seems like ancient history, it was a recent occurrence in France, relatively speaking. The United States is a toddler compared to France, and the events surrounding the birth of the United States are still very relevant to the modern American mind-set. Both countries are theoretically founded upon many of the same principles, but Americans emphasize the liberté while the French emphasize the fraternité. Strikes in the street in Paris are still commonplace, and we know that—we see them in the news; we make jokes about them—but why are they celebrated? To understand the reasoning is to understand the French. Asserting revolutionary heritage is of the utmost importance.

Putting the nuisances of strikes aside, French solidarity is a really beautiful thing to witness. A strong sense of place pervades all aspects of life in this prideful country. Powerful feelings about les droits de l’homme (human rights) hang like watchful clouds over every conversation and every decision. Fairness trumps all. In a time of crisis, there is nowhere better to be than surrounded by French people, who instantly kick into fraternité mode and will go to any length to help out a fellow human being.


Book ’em, Danico

August 26th, 2016

barmanA while back I made a visit to Mama Shelter where I was impressed by the drinks, as well as the person making them. That was 2009 and the bartender was Nico de Soto. And while Mama Shelter may have kind of lost cocktail cred over the past few years, Nico has seriously gone places (literally and figuratively.) He went on to work with the ECC group in Paris, London and NYC, travelled all over the world, won awards (including most influential bartender at 2014 Cocktails Spirits), and opened his own successful New York bar, Mace. And now, he’s completed the cocktillian loop, returning to France to open his second spot, Danico.

wallpaperDanico is the bar attached to hotspot Darocco, a large light, and chic 180 seat Italian eatery all housed in Jean Paul Gaultier’s former flagship location and brought to you by Alexandre Giesbert and Julien Ross. Don’t hesitate to head straight through the busy trattoria to this bar hidden at the back or slip in via the Passage Vivienne side entrance.

In terms of décor, French contemporary and tattoo artist SupaKitch added signature touches like quirky wallpaper and a cool cocktail bar logo to the otherwise casually chic and unassumingly elegant small bar and its mezzanine. In Paris, where space is often at a premium and service is not, Darocco and Danico’s welcoming ambience and attitude offer a more inviting alternative that let you feel like you can breath…

mixing a drinkBehind the bar, good-looking Frenchmen in nautical striped shirts (*wink, wink* Monsieur Gaultier) welcome incomings with a friendly smile and ‘bonjour.’ The Paris-based bar trio have all worked internationally with the Experimental Group and Nico, making for a tight team with a shared vision, set of skills and an understanding of service that allows them to function well even when the big man behind the bar is back in the Big Apple.


The 21st Century, Seen by French in the 20th

August 25th, 2016

molecular cuisineMolecular cuisine and mobile homes were predicted long before they became a reality. Other notions about the future, such as a barber shop where machines tended to your haircut and shave, didn’t quite happen. Either way these illustrations by French artists in the year 1900 (and thereabouts) are a delightful look at what the French envisioned for the year 2000. See them all here. rollin house

They’re All the Same, Right?

August 22nd, 2016

brasserie lippBefore setting out for an unforgettable day of Paris dining, it’s important to understand the differences between these types of establishments. And once you do, it’s important to understand that the distinctions are becoming blurrier all the time.
Bistros are generally small, often family-run and open for limited hours at lunch and/or dinner. The food is typically hearty and traditional, but today’s bistro chefs are putting out creative, inventive cuisine, and many bistros have been opened by chefs who paid their dues at high-end restaurants before striking out on their own. Like the food, the wines can range from basic to spectacular. A few favorites are Le Bistrot Paul Bert, Chez Michel, La Régalade, Chez l’Ami Jean and Jadis. Always reserve–not just to make sure you have a seat but out of politeness.
Restaurants are traditionally the most formal of the lot, and from them you can expect an elegant, multi-course meal, careful service, great wine lists and a hefty check. This term certainly applies to legendary two- and three-star tables like Taillevent, Le Meurice, L’Arpège and Pierre Gagnaire. Booking in advance is imperative.
Brasseries, Alsatian in origin and many with glowing Belle Epoque decor, are iconic Paris dining. Numerous brasseries still serve specialties like choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with several different kinds of pork) and have beers on tap, but you can expect a broad menu and a bustling atmosphere. Many have oyster stands out front where an écailler prepares grand platters of shellfish. Two of the most famous—Bofinger, with a stunning stained glass dome, near the Bastille; and Lipp, in St.-Germain-des-Prés—are worth visiting for the atmosphere, though perhaps not for the food. Other classics include Julien and Le Grand Colbert.


The Last of Summer

August 19th, 2016

august in ParisAugust is a famously sleepy month in Paris, the time when the juilletistes (those French who take their summer holidays in July) switch places with the aoûtiens (pronounced “ah-oo-sien”, who prefer their vacation in August). Small shops may close for the month, and bakeries go on rotation. Even some cultural institutions go into standby mode. For those stranded in the city, there’s always “Paris Plage,” that bizarrely agreeable transformation of the banks of the Seine into a stretch of the Côte d’Azur. Anyone not familiar with it should go. On the right bank, stretching from the Louvre to Bastille, you’ll find more than artificial beach (5000 metric tons of sand) available for lounging and tanning, but also tai chi, games for kids, an open air library, space for playing boules, and more. (A similar installation runs along the Bassin de la Villette, which you can access near the Métro station Stalingrad.) This year Paris Plage runs through September 4th, so there’s still plenty of time to enjoy it.


An Action-Packed Day for 50 Euros

August 6th, 2016

I don’t normally work with companies promoting services, but I recently received a challenge that I thought would be genuinely interesting in connection to a service that seemed particularly useful to travellers. The challenge came from WeSwap, who asked how I would spend £50 in one day in Paris. Obviously it’s pretty easy to spend that amount of money very quickly in the French capital, but the challenge was rather to see just how much I could do with that sum.

weswapWeSwap is a social currency service that enables travellers to exchange money between themselves without the need to go through banks. WeSwap credited my account with £50, which I actually swapped before the Brexit vote, meaning I got a now generous looking €64.25 for my £50. Given that withdrawing money from a cash dispenser is charged at €1.75 (although this fee is waived if you withdraw €200 or more), I have rounded this down to €60 for the purpose of this challenge.

So what did I do with €60? A mix of history, culture and sport, with a little bit of food and drink to keep me going!

Museum of Fun!

July 25th, 2016

Blue Sky RioA new museum opened in Paris by the name of Art Ludique Musée, housed in the same building as the MoonRoof restaurant and the Mode et Design museum–you know, the big crazy green thing on the Quai D’Austerlitz. If you’ve not yet been there it’s a hotbed of happenings including Wanderlust and Nuba restaurant, cocktail and nightclubs.

Jeanne & Chris Wedge, whom I know from back home in New York, were attending a show in Chris’ honor at the Museum, a retrospective on his work at Blue Sky Studio–the only East Coast animation studio in the US. Despite the rainy week, we had Blue Sky in Paris. He’s an Academy Award-winning animation director and has directed such movies as Epic, Robots and the first of the five Ice Age movie. His studio has produced many more films. Some of the best animated work out there in the past 30 years was created Blue Sky Studios. The company that he created with a group of colleagues will turn 30 next year.

ludiqueHe says it all with art. And that’s the point of this show and in the museum in general, to let people in on the artwork and illustration as well as the hundreds of hours of conception work that is done to create great animated movies. As a lover of film but someone who knows absolutely nothing about animation, getting the headphones at the museum was critical.