Loco for Loca!

May 2nd, 2015

cocktailMaria Loca has been open for a few years and is located close enough to Bastille to be convenient, but far enough to take it out of the regular tourist fray. It’s small, quirky and casual with a laid-back vibe and friendly staff. The first time I stopped in just after opening, the place was packed with a lively sex-toy party. My latest visit was just a few weeks ago for a checkup and chat with co-founder, Mika (Michael Landart).

Here, the focus is on rum and cachaça, which serve as the base for most of their cocktail creations. back of barMika is well travelled and up on cocktail trends, so he has created a menu that incorporates fresh and house made ingredients and some interesting spirits. Just under 20 cocktail options include long, short and specialties at 11 to 13 euros. Of note, there is also a small section for his Old Fashioned creations.

locaRather than make a martini (you know I raised an eye brow over this…) the staff steered me back to the regular menu. I went for the Sherry Crusta. Sherry is a lighter option for a Crusta than the typical Brandy, so this version would not only be inline with the trend towards lower-octane cocktails but also be a lot more accessible to the more casual crowd that might roll in from this neighborhood. I finished up with the exceptional Woody Wood. This is definitely my kind of drink: a cachaça based cocktail that’s barrel aged for 6 months. This rich but mellow house creation is served in an individual bottle – serve yourself and sip it slowly.


Have a Seat

April 28th, 2015

fernmobPark chairs, known as Luxembourg chairs, come in upright and relaxed models in a restful shade of green. Today, these are manufactured by a company called Fermob. According to the Fermob website, “the legendary chairs and armchairs of the Jardin du Luxembourg [were] created in 1923 in the Paris parks department workshops, and…Fermob still manufactures [them] today for the city’s public gardens.” Fermob is based in Thoissey, about 50 kilometres north of Lyon.


The Picasso Museum Reopens

April 23rd, 2015

picasso2After almost an endless string of delays lasting over five years, The Picasso Museum finally reopened last October. It came with much controversy and drama as the head of the museum was fired over the delays in a bitter battle between the Picasso family and the museum. Sorely missed as a top attraction in the Marais, it’s in full swing again with long waits to enter. I purposely waited till the New Year and went in March when all the hubbub died down and there weren’t hoards of people hogging the viewing space.

The museum, a former hotel de particulier built in 1659, was one of the grandest palaces in the Marais and called the Hotel de Salé, as the owner Pierre Aubert was a salt tax farmer. The building was sold many times over but the longest reign was from 1792 to 1962, privately owned by the same family and housed various institutions including the Ganser-Beuzelin boarding school, where Balzac studied; the municipal École centrale des arts et manufactures (prestigious engineering school) and in 1944, it was occupied by the City of Paris École des Métiers d’Art. It was sold to the city in 1964 and restored from 1974-1979. After Picasso’s death in 1973, the family quickly decided in 1974 to donate his work in lieu of paying the exorbitant estate taxes. Working in tandem with the family, Michel Guy, French Secretary of State for Culture, they chose the Hotel Salé as the space for the museum.

picasso 1One of the most important changes to the museum was the gallery space was almost doubled, as the offices were moved to a newly constructed building next door. Obviously the expansion allowed for many more works from the collection to be shown than before which is a welcome plus. Organized in an almost chronological order, it traces Picasso’s process. I started in the basement, which was a mix of early paintings and sculptures and one room was devoted to photos of the many studios and homes in Paris and France where Picasso lived and painted. The main floor had some of Picasso’s most iconic paintings including a single room with Demoiselles d’Avignon and I especially loved seeing The Guitars series and the cubist paper sculptures.

>more photos

How to Hail a Taxi in Paris

April 20th, 2015

Guest Post by Vincenzo Castrogiovanni

Small TL 1Paris is one of the most popular and highly visited tourist destinations in the world due to its various tourist attractions like Disneyland, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and numerous others.

There are many different transportation options while you are visiting Paris. One of the most suitable way, if you are new to Paris, is to hail a taxi for visiting different places. It is easier to get a taxi cab then to wait for the metro bus or local transportation and map out your route.
Hailing a taxi cab in Paris is similar to getting a Taxi in any other part of the world. But it will be much more frustrating because either each taxi that passes by will be already taken or it will not stop for you even if it’s not taken. Why is this so? There can be different reasons for that.

Firstly, throughout Paris official taxi stands are located which are at times called ‘taxi ranks’. If the nearest taxi stand is located within the 50 meters of radius where you are standing, then the taxi driver will not be allowed legally to stop for you. Secondly, the driver might not stop by himself as a matter of inconvenience because you might be with a large group with lots of luggage. On weekends, it is often quite hard to find a taxi due to a crowd of visitors moving from one place to another.

Taxi Leader TPBSince it is quite a headache and time wasting to practice to find a cab in the streets or at taxi stands, the best option is to call a taxi company to get around the city. By booking a taxi with TaxiLeader.net, you can get an instant access to the licensed taxi from the time you arrive at the Paris airport.

TaxiLeader.net provides you with a wide range of taxi options for booking. You can book a choice of your car such as sedan car, limousine or minibus according to your tour requirements. You can tell your route to the company and they will arrange it accordingly.
You can book a Paris Airport Taxi which will welcome you at the airport upon your arrival with a licensed and English-speaking driver displaying your name on a card. You will also be provided with the phone number of the driver in case you are unable to locate him at the airport.

Compared to other means of transportation, it is cheaper and more convenient way to do a complete tour of Paris. If you arrive at Charles de Gaulle, the company provides you with the exclusive taxi at that specific airport. You will know the cost of the journey in advance so you do not need to get into the frustrating hassle of negotiating on the cost of your trip.
You do not need to make an advance payment for the taxi hail. After you complete your trip, you can conveniently make the payment to the driver on the spot. With all these advantages, it is best to book your taxi prior your visit and have a worry free and enjoyable trip to Paris!

Mixology 101

April 19th, 2015

mixology1Last weekend I stopped into Bar le Coq to give their Saturday afternoon cocktail class a test run. The team behind le Coq – Thierry Daniel and Eric Frossard – also run the Cocktail Spirits salon and pulled off the first annual Paris Cocktail Week this year.   So, clearly, there is some cocktail expertise at play here.

At 4pm, eight of us lined the bar in front of our own ‘stations’ for a bit of liquid learning from bar manager, Jeremy. We were served a welcome punch which we sipped while learning about equipment: shakers, spoons, strainers and jiggers with enough background to give guests a good concept of what they need and how to use it at home. We talked ingredients with a quick lesson in benefits of fresh juices, realistic recommendations on spirits to mix and a look at the important role of ice. The pace works well with plenty of opportunity to ask questions along the way.

mixology 2We then moved on to the holy trinity of cocktail making: strong, sweet & sour. When professionals talk about balance in cocktails, they generally mean finding equilibrium between these three elements. And learning that concept is much more useful than learning to make just one particular drink. It’s the kind of knowledge that can be applied to a multitude of mixed drinks once you understand it. When it’s time to put your own skills to the test, each student chooses their own cocktail to make under the guidance of the barman.

Although it’s not always easy to find a good, basic bar course that understands cocktails, it is possible. But, le Coq offers up one other thing that you won’t find in any other class in town. We took our freshly made cocktails and headed to their backroom lab. Le Coq is the only Paris bar with a Rotovap (rotary evaporator) machine. They use this very high-tech piece of scientific equipment to manipulate and create cocktail ingredients. While you can’t learn everything there is to know about molecular mixology in a short visit to their lab, it’s definitely an opportunity to see a different side of drink-making.


Renewal Blues

April 13th, 2015

passportEvery ten years I have to renew my US passport. When you live in Paris, you do it through the US Embassy by mailing in your old one with the fee and photo and special forms you need to fill out and print. There are very specific directions on how to do this, so it’s not a mystery, but it is time consuming and requires a bit of running around and QUITE a bit of cash.

Passport Photo (only a few places in Paris will do the “approved” format) €9.95 + 60 minutes to get there, get photo and return home.
Mandat Cash (money order) €105 + fee €7 + 20 minutes at the Post Office banking counter getting the Mandat (you can’t do it at the mailing counter).
2 Chronopost envelopes (one to mail my passport to the Embassy, one self addressed for them to send my new one) €50 + 20 minutes to get the envelopes and pay at the Post Office (including arguing with the clerk who wouldn’t let me tear off and keep the top copy, as directed by the embassy).
Plus 20 minutes to find, read, fill out the online forms and print them at home.

Total cost: €171.95


Go Go Gaultier

April 7th, 2015

gaultierThe phenomenal show that has wowed over a million visitors worldwide, “The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk,” finally arrives in Paris with a special edition. One of the longest-enduring fashion icons, Jean-Paul Gaultier, the original bad boy of Paris fashion, the exhibition tracks his roaring success from haute couture and pret a porter from 1970 to 2013. The multimedia show includes sketches, archives, stage costumes, film footage, fashion shows, concerts, video clips, dance and television shows.


Thrill on the Hill

April 2nd, 2015

terrace tres particulierSummer is around the corner, so it’s time to start talking terraces. And, one of the city’s most divine and discrete of garden terraces is at Montmartre’s Hotel Particulier. Their bar the Tres Particulier has had a recent revamping.

After opening, the Très Particulier underwent a few facelifts and hosted a few ephemeral bars. Most recently, interior designer Pierre Lacroix was pulled in to recreate the space into something sophisticated and special. The remodel brings a Lynchian tropical touch to the main bar space with jungle plant-and-parrot wallpaper. checkerboard floorClever little quirks like the masked owl lamp or the mirrored bar panels add a dreamlike element to the experience. Adjoining the bar area is the greenhouse terrace with large, lush plants whose color pops against the red velour armchairs and black-and-white tile floor. Beyond the bar is the outdoor terrace and garden where you can drink under the stars. The bar, like the hotel itself, with its whimsical qualities and rich textures and colors, slides you into a surreal state of mind.

tres particulier barFrancesco, the current barman, has some familiar cocktail spots on his C.V. including Gocce, le Demon, Andy Wahloo and Miss Ko. But, it’s the Gocce influence that is most evident in his current work that features bold flavor and fragrances. There are 10 cocktails ranging from 13 to 15 euros in price. The names are inspired by film and books such as the “L’attrape-Coeurs” (translation: Catcher in the Rye – which features not rye, but cognac) or the Twin Peaks-inspired “Laura Palmer.” In addition, a regularly changing punch of the day is available for 11 euros per person. or 41 euros for four people.


Cringe-Tastic Candidates

March 25th, 2015

meerkatWho says the French have no humor? Don’t answer that because I already know (#everybody). But here’s something hilarious, if unwittingly so. Posters for candidates in the local municipal elections taking place right now across the country. From the BCBG boy who wouldn’t hurt a…meerkat? to the duo who fancy themselves on the cover of Voici magazine, the hopefuls may not do much to change France’s turgid political system but they will bring a smile to your face. As the French say: MDR. Thanks to my pal Charlie Sputnik for spotting this round-up of even more cringe-tastic examples.


New Girls in Town

March 18th, 2015

madeleinesMany new gourmet shops have opened on rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement; it seems as though a new one pops up every few weeks. I stumbled upon a most adorable pastry shop, Mesdemoiselles Madeleines.

A recent trend in pastry shops in Paris is taking a classic pastry, such as éclairs and cream puffs, and ramping them up with unusual flavors and fillings and also creating mini versions of them.

Mesdemoiselles Madeleines takes the beloved Madeleine and gives them bursts of new flavors including salted caramel, hazelnut, grapefruit/pistachio, raspberry/rose, and chocolate/mint.

I’m a pushover for anything with salted caramel, so I sampled the mini version. It was moist and chewy and the caramel was subtle.