After reading Paris My Sweet, it seemed like I was spotting and noticing more French things in random places. I would notice the creamy looking chevres at the grocery store or the vibrant pink macaron staring at my face when I went to pick up a slice of chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday. On my Sirius radio, I dialed in to the “chill” channel that played a French fusion song. I’m definitely not a Francophile, but I do love and appreciate French culture. Teaching about French culture, things do seem hoity-toity and grandiose. Yet, I love the careful detail that they showcase in their culinary tradition and their fashion runways. I love how the French admire cafes and art or how they style their pooches to match their designer purses. Man purses are not funny but practical and very utilitarian. I think of deep reds, mahogany wood, rustic large looking clocks, black and white checkered floors, luscious wines and fleur de lis. I was lucky to have toured France for my very first trip to France in the summer of 2007 and from what I remember, it was everything I expected to be! First Word and Impression: ROMANTIC!
Source: glamourmagazine.co.uk (A beautiful walk at night in Paris)
Source: greatshomedesign.blogspot.com (Les Deux Magots: One of the most famous coffee shops in Paris)
Source: patchinparisdogblog.blogspot.com (Cute Dog at a Cafe in Paris)
Source: http://museumviews.com (Chanel Fashion Show in Bombay 2012)
Source: Vogue March 1999 (A pastry for my poodle, merci)
Of course the French Revolution epitomized a life of luxury and ostentatious living that clashed with the frustrated and angry third estate. Louis XVI and his Austrian wife Marie Antoinette hosted elaborate parties with tables full of ice sculptures, duck, lamb, and wagonloads of bread. Click this link to see what Louis XVI ate.
Source: http://www.history.com (Marie Antoinette & Louis XVI)
At the same time, the French people were so hungry from bad harvests and penniless from unfair taxes. If a farmer or commoner could not pay, they were subjected to the corvees which basically turned the farmer/commoner into an unpaid worker to help them pay off their debt to their lord. The first estate (clergy) and second estate (aristocrats & nobles) even placed taxes on the farmers/commoners to hunt wild game. In almost every situation, it was an unfair situation but a win/win for the upper two classes.
Source: thepinkdoormat.blogspot.com (Looks snobbish, but I wouldn’t mind this once in awhile)
Source: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/ (Royal Opera House in Paris)
Prior to the French Revolution, King Louis XIV and Cardinal Richeliu fostered a strong French aesthetic that eventually turned into a national pride for the French people. Things like the ballet, opera, portraiture, architecture, garden design, couture, culinary traditions and etiquette all became highly developed and refined. The story about Chef Vatel goes to show how much French people bought into this mentality of high expectations to be the best that you could be to impress the King or Queen. For these very things, I feel that the French still believe they rock the bread and patisserie world. I know that when I lived in Japan, many Japanese left Japan to train in the famous French patisserie schools in order to come back and be worshipped & glorified for their newly acquired mastery. The Japanese LOVE French pastries and take their training SUPER SERIOUSLY! Never underestimate the Japanese tasting palate, they know their stuff!
Source: http://chuvaness.com (La Boutique by Joel Robuchon: Tokyo, Japan)
5 Things to Get You in the Mood to Love Things French
- Julie & Julia: This film makes me feel giddy about France when Julia Childs and her husband lived there in 1948. Just watching her walk through the streets of Paris in the first scenes where she shops at the local fromagerie (cheese shop), boulangerie (bread shop) and various food shops makes me envious. The scene where Julia and her husband eat sole meuniere makes me want to drop what I am doing and just take the next flight to Paris.
- Midnight in Paris: I was so proud of Woody Allen for producing an original film that was full of Parisian culture during the roaring 20’s. Surprisingly this time is also referred to as the “Age of Anxiety”. Watching this film did not feel like anxiety to me but of a time of uninhibited fun and hedonistic fun. The mixture of modern scenes and 1920’s scenes blended together like a beautiful pairing of an exquisite meal and a refreshing cocktail. I enjoyed listening to Ernest Hemingway’s serious monologue while drunk and I laughed while I watched F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda party the night away. I like how Woody Allen showed us Pablo Picasso’s tempestuous temper and how Salvador Dali was fixated on a Rhinoceros. Just watch this movie to feel good. It’s a sweet movie.
- Eat a French Pastry for breakfast and a have a cappucino: Be adventurous, grab a book, call a friend and go to your French restaurant/cafe. Try a croissant, a pain au chocolat, an eclair, a madeleine, brioche, palmiers or a macaron. Click here for a list of French Pastries.
- Have a picnic with a loved one, family or a future loved one! Make sure you pack some French cheeses, grapes, nuts, a baguette and maybe even bring a small jar of nutella. Bring a nice bottle of French wine and VOILA! Click here for a list of French Picnic Items.
- Play Petanque. Petanque is a superbly popular sport played in France. Mostly played by French men, this game is so serious that men will skip their wine and beer and drink coffee to make sure that they are 100% alert and attentive. Click here to see a clip from an Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations episode that showcased Petanque.
Source: saveur.com (How about a French Picnic)
Source: nycgovparks.org (Try a game of lovely Petanque)
Jean Philippe Maury at the Aria in Las Vegas
I can’t believe that I have never heard about Jean Philippe Maury and his lovely desserts. Apparently he started at the Bellagio in Vegas. I recently went to the modern and chic Aria and experienced the god sent gifts of Jean Philippe Maury. I couldn’t decide what to try because just the sight of the cases filled with desserts would make one cry. I tried a key lime tart and will honestly say it was the best dessert I have ever had to this day. I wanted to try more, but knew that I would have to put in a good 3 hours at the gym! The dessert was airy, light and filled with hidden treasures. The top of the key lime tart had a delicately designed green swirled chocolate topping. As I bit into the key lime, I felt as if I was eating fresh citrus. I was surprised to then taste a tangy baby tangerine in the midst of my tasting extravaganza. My friend rolled her eyes back into her head as she enjoyed her brioche with nutella. Enough said….Just look at the pictures below and go experience Jean Philippe Maury at the Bellagio or at the Aria.
Other Articles Worth Reading:
- World Pastry Forum: Jean Philippe Maury
- 10 of the Best Cafes in Paris: The Guardian
- 101 Things to Do in Paris: Time Out Paris
- New York Times: Midnight in Paris
- Ten Things Not To Do In Paris: Conde Nast Traveler
- National Geographic: Paris, France: Ultimate City Guides