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I’m a bad blogger…but its Spring!

28 May

I know, I know, I haven’t been around here for months. I’ve been busy! I now work long hours (manual labor – best diet ever) that vary from week to week, know more people that I want to spend time with here, and am trying to eat everything that Paris has to offer in my last few remaining months here, so I’ve slacked on my posting. Plus, my camera has all but died. And I had visitors. And I really like sleeping.

Anyway, its my weekend today and so I’m going to put up some new stuff! Mostly so that my mom and dad know I haven’t died, just been busy eating. And drinking. And walking. Woohoo!

Springtime in Paris…you expect me to be inside writing when its like this out there? I have no willpower.

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Wait a minute, I need another picture

20 Mar

Something new has happened to me since moving to Paris. Well, lots of new things. But one in particular that I find intriguing. It has to do with this:

I was having lunch with friends at Le Loir Dans La Theiere, a lovely restaurant in Le Marais that has an “Alice in Wonderland”-mad hatter tea party feel. Its awesome. This was a picture of my meal, a goat cheese and shallot tart with a lightly dressed green salad. I loved it and I took a picture. Innocent enough, right?

Here, I had gone to Mamie Gateaux, near my school, a salon de thé and small café. I had a veggie crumble and, again, I took a picture to remember it for later.

I rationalized this all by telling myself it was great food and if I wanted to ever recreate it, I would have the picture as well as some notes to remember it correctly. So I continued on. It began progressing to an automatic response, grabbing my camera every time the waiter would come near, snapping pictures of different angles of my dish, all before grabbing a fork. It was Pavlovian.

Here were my simple melted camembert and honey disks with a salad and roasted potatoes at Le Café. Let me tell you this was 7 months ago that I ate this. Yet, I still remember it and how great it was, remember the restaurant, remember the weather… What a great way to keep all these memories, right? Right!

Until this happened. Take a close look.

This was not my meal, people. I mean there is ham of some sort right there in the middle of the plate. I wasn’t eating this, I was having this delicious morsel.

I was at Supernature in the 9th, having brunch with 3 friends. It was a cute place, a bit out of the way but good. Nothing I would probably return to, but I liked my meal.

But I have pictures of everything I ate there. And everything my friend, Kat, also ate. From a place I don’t plan on returning to. Of things I don’t necessarily eat.

What was happening to me? I was taking pictures of everyone’s meals when I went out, not letting them eat until I had a good shot. And no one thought this was weird. Actually, almost all my friends do the same thing here. We all sit down, chat, order, and then somehow, right as our food arrives, we all magically have our cameras out (sidenote: I usually just grab my phone now. As I’ve said, I’ve been a bit rough with my camera. It has more flour and butter than some cakes and I fear it can only take a picture now set on sport mode, sometimes without a flash. My phone officially takes better pictures. Sad.). We don’t ask anymore, just begin snapping at each other’s plates, and then satisfied that we have all taken pictures of everything on the table, we start eating.

Kat is here, prepping her awesome camera, for shots of our lunch. And I repeat, this isn’t weird for us. We don’t even discuss it.

So what does this mean? Have I become That Girl? The jury is still out on how this will work once I return to the “real world” where everyone isn’t the foodie that we all are here. Will people let me hold off on letting them eat for a couple minutes while I take a picture of the food they are hungrily awaiting? Will they be embarrassed that I have my camera out on the table and instead of taking pictures of my friends all out and enjoying our time together, I’m actually focusing the lens on the food? Will they think it odd that I am reaching across the table, without asking, and turning their plate towards me so I can get a better angle? Or will the biggest question on their mind be, “WTF is she doing with these pictures of food?”

The answer is I don’t know, but I currently have a folder on my computer entitled “Restaurant Food”. And another, called “Pastry Shops”, that has pictures of all the treats I’ve had here (this one makes more sense for me, or at least I rationalize my picture taking of desserts this way). And each of these have hundreds of pictures of various angles of the food I’ve been eating in France.

On the upside, I have memories of delicious meals with great friends (you just have to imagine the friends pictures, I’m too busy taking pictures of food) and I can remember the food better because of this sort of montage:

Soya, in the 10th, an all-veggie restaurant that is amazing. Here’s my lunch, a delicious pizza with a whole grain crust and roasted veggies.

My friend’s delicious lasagna.

And my other friend’s spiced montage of deliciousness.

Followed by our shared crumble.

And I have just singular photos, of amazing food. I’ve been to L’as Du Fallafel a few times. I love falafel. And in an ode to that love, I have this.

I have delicious pictures of food from our Indian Feast for graduation at Saravanaa Bhavan in the 10th.

My delicious lunch at L’Epicerie in Montmartre to catch up my friends about their stages.

Sometimes I go a bit far and get pictures like this. Why I need to remember that I had coffee one day in Paris, I’m not sure. But still, cute cup I thought.

Food pictures are taking over my life. I have hundreds, of food I am about to eat. Food my friends are eating. Food I’m making. Food in the markets. Food. Everywhere.

Hmmm, yum. Breizh Café crepes. Do you know I love you?

And that’s what this is about, I guess in the end. I love food. I’m embracing that fully. Not that I’m not taking pictures of the breathtaking sites of Paris, of the great times with my friends when we are all hanging out, but I’m adding a new category to the usual pictures.

In the end, I’m not sure an intervention is needed. Yet. I like having my pictures. They are fun to take, fun to go through after. They make me hungry and remind of the places I’ve gone. All good things…

Now, hold one minute. I need a picture of your dinner. Thank you.

Pity Party, for 1 please

7 Mar

I’m back from hiatus and am here to blog. My reasoning for my intermission here on my little blog is pure and simple – I started my internship, or stage, one month ago and I have been more than exhausted since then.

I started work as a pastry chef at a hotel here in Paris, the Plaza Athenee, under one of the most respected and impressive pastry chefs in France, Christophe Michalak. A world champion in Pastry, I was excited to get started and see what this guy could do.

The first two days were very corporate – I had to don a suit and go to orientation. All in French. I thought my French was coming along and I would be ok. This 2 day orientation made me realize how naïve I was. But I made it through, understood a good portion of it and was just excited to finally get into the kitchen.

Well, a month later, I’m in the kitchen and am watching some truly impressive, talented patissiers do their thing. But, due to the language barrier, I’m still not doing much myself. For good reason – this is a big operation, with a standard to uphold and when I don’t understand what it is I’m supposed to be doing, they aren’t too keen to let me have full reign over making much. Still, its incredibly frustrating to not be getting my hands dirty with much other than weighing ingredients and doing dishes (two things I understand though!).

Needless to say, I’m doing some soul searching right now, trying to determine what is best for me and my future career. I love watching all that is going on in my kitchen, seeing the creations come to life and see people who are genuinely great at their craft take some flour, sugar, butter and eggs and make something so beautiful. But I’m frustrated that I can’t talk to anyone, that I’m not doing much, and that I spend 4 out of 7 days a week, 12 hours a day from when I lock my apartment door to when I come back in, feeling rather lost and confused. Plus, I’m ready to just make some cake.

So, what’s a pastry chef in Paris not doing much baking to do? Throw a pity party. I was getting so I was letting my emotions get the best of me and turn them onto Paris itself. I was wondering why I had left my family, friends and life in the States to come to Paris. Stupid Paris, what’s so great about it?

Oh, right. That.

I needed a refresher course in why I was here and why I had fallen in love with Paris to begin with. So I grabbed my coat and headed over to Laduree.

There are about a million pastry shops here in Paris and I’m happy to say I’ve been to quite a few of them (ah, research!). But for some reason, I had still yet to go to the classic, Laduree, even though there is a store close to my home. I’ve been trying all the new, interesting shops and testing all their interpretations, but I had yet to have the ultimate classic, a Laduree macaron. I am happy to say I remedied that today.

I went to the shop, ordered in French (to prove to myself I knew something about the language – yup, I can order all the macarons, baguettes, bries, and vin rouges you can shake a stick at, but I’m rather lost when someone tells me pretty much anything in the kitchen apparently) one pistachio and one salted caramel macaron and headed to the Seine. If I was going to wallow, I was going to wallow right.

I sat down by the water and watched the boats, listening to a man playing an organ grinder in the background. I grabbed the pistachio macaron and bit in.

Ah yes. It came rushing back to me. These things are good! I love macarons! And macarons are French! Something about being here must be right. I ate the rest of the pistachio goodie and was feeling infinitely better. Laduree, you’re a classic for a reason. They aren’t like Pierre Herme, with his inventive and sometimes odd sounding flavor combinations. They don’t color the heck out of the almond meringue like Lenotre. They are classic. Lovely, pastel colors, classic flavors and a well perfected recipe.

After the salted caramel macaron (one of my favorite flavors ever), I felt whole again. I am here in Paris for a reason. I sat for awhile, watching the people across the river and listening to my little organ grinder man, because by now, I had claimed him as mine. Things felt right again in the world.

Laduree might not be my favorite macaron, because I can’t choose something like that without feeling horribly guilty, but I can say they saved me today. And I’m heading back to work to tomorrow, no longer mad at Paris. Now if I only could magically speak French…

Curtains going down on the school chapter

6 Feb

As many of you know, I was in a 5 month intensive pastry program here in Paris. This meant, that 5 days a week, I was in a kitchen with 8 colleagues baking up a storm. Not bad to be me. Sadly, all things must come to an end and school had an end date. It also had a test. Oh my.

I didn’t have to apply by sending a cookie or a cake, but I couldn’t get my diploma without putting my practice to the test and in turn, get a grade. A grade from 2 MOF’s (masters in pastry) and a worldwide known chef, with impressive familial ties to the world of cuisine, Escoffier. Piece of cake – if you aren’t the one making the cake.

For our final, we had to prepare: pate a choux for éclairs and religieuse, pate a foncer for an apple tart, puff pastry for a pithiviers and chaussons aux pommes, crème anglaise for ice cream molds, an almond paste trio of roses, and, the ever fun, moka. Basics, that needed to prove we knew what we were doing and wouldn’t embarrass ourselves by calling us Patissieres. Easy enough, right? Oh, and we had one day to do it. And the 3 grading chefs? They were there the whole time, looking over our shoulders. As were our normal pastry chefs. Have I said oh my yet?

Luckily, we all did great. I spent a couple of days leading up to the exam practicing making roses quickly and piping the flames for a moka, as well as reviewing recipes and going over my pictures of each step of each recipe. While practicing and planning my timing for a pastry final wasn’t exactly like pulling the all-nighter I did the night before my biology final in college, the pressure was no less since this was again my future career on the line (biology didn’t pan out…not shocking). Plus, I was whipping cream by hand at home so I could practice piping. That’s hard!

Exam day came, I got to school early and my prep work served me well. I still need to work on the moka piping, but it went much better than my initial try!

Unmolding the crème anglaise ice cream…comic relief for the chefs that day.

The pithiviers, which proved to be a bit troublesome that day.

Apply tart – I knew I had this one, at least. Christmas helped me practice!

The dreaded Moka.

Religieuse, filled with a coffee pastry cream. Fondant and I are still getting to know each other.

And the éclairs, also with coffee pastry cream and awesome fondant. At least it was shiny!

And everything all together, for my final presentation, minus the ice cream. All the chefs complimented me on my work, so I felt quite relieved. Plus, I got a nice pat on my back when one of the MOF’s grabbed a couple of my chaussons on his way out after grading. I felt highly complimented!

So now my school chapter is done and I’m off to my internship tomorrow. Oh my…

I’m alive!

29 Jan

Its been a busy month, that’s for sure. So busy that I’ve neglected my poor blog to a despicable degree, a fact that I will be making up for in the next week.

Since we last blogged (I say we to make me feel better that its actually me slacking), I’ve been to Colorado for a wonderful Christmas with family, moved into my apartment in San Francisco, went to Napa (purely for research, no fun whatsoever), met new friends for New Year’s, came back to Paris, made a chocolate sculpture, rocked a pastry final, went on a trip to Evian, graduated, went skiing in the Alps, went to Copenhagen, and now I have one week before I start my internship at the Plaza Athenee. See, busy. Plus, I got a Kindle for Christmas and seeing as I’m obsessed with reading, I’ve spent my spare time learning things about safaris, Columbian druglords, the Mafia, and some other randos.

Have I thrown enough excuses out yet? Ok, good. Now I’m back to blogging. I have one week to catch you up on all that. But, to hold you over while I type, here’s a look at my final for Pastry School, ice cream not included. Can’t believe its over!