April 22, 2015

An memorable housewarming party

This was a party that was not going to happen without me! Three years of noise, dirt and ugly scaffolding that glared at us every morning at breakfast. When we first moved into our flat we actually tried to negotiate the price given the works going on in full swing across the road. Dahhh, really? Welcome to Paris folks: take it or leave it!

Well, this hotel formerly known as the Hotel Majestic, opened in 1908, converted to government offices in 1936, served as the headquarters of the German military high command in France during the Nazi occupation of Paris, and reopened as a hotel in 2014 following four years of restoration, has found its old glamour with a modern twist thanks to the Qatari group whom invested in The Peninsula to open this splendid five star hotel in Paris.

We first noticed the three huge trucks pulling up one morning at the entrance. Was it to be the filming of a movie? The first night went by without any action. Then the silver rugbyball-shaped statue went up on the roof terrace. Maybe a concert? But the night passed and all remained quiet. By the third day I could not stand it any longer, I marched across the road and inquired to what was going on. 

A perplexed looking staff member answered: "Madame, et ess ze opening night of The Peninsula."

Well, this party was not going down sans MOI! Who would dare to be so rude as to throw a housewarming party without inviting their neighbours? I was either getting myself an invitation OR gate-crashing the party.

My hubby realised the graveness of the situation and miraculously had us put onto the guest list pronto.

First we watched the VIP arriving from our kitchen window, not that we recognized anyone but the cars were a treat to look at. I changed into my fuchsia cocktail dress and hand in hand with my hubby slid out of our front door and had to keep myself from skipping across the road. I thought of all the VIPs and tried as gracefully as possible to arrive at The Peninsula entrance where a charming lady checked the guest list for our name ... and ... sure enough, we were on it! Yessss. Yessss. Yesssssssssssss!

We walked the red carpet, admiring the acrobats hanging from floating balloons at the entrance. Walking passed a Rolls Royce old-timer, we entered the lobby and were welcomed by a classical orchestra. We hardly got through the revolving door when a bellboy all dressed in white with his little bonnet greeted us while a waiter next to him served us a glass of champagne from a silver platter. I felt like I had entered a palace and was about to meet the queen!

We ventured across the huge lobby full of people but none were wearing bright colours. It was a curious mix of guests. Hong Kong Chinese linked to the Peninsula group, Middle Eastern people tied to the Qatari investors and of course the locals, les français.

We reached the terrace from where we waved to Expat girl looking out of our kitchen window. How cool is that?

The sounds of Mexican Mariachis echoed throughout the terrace. Moving on swiftly into the Asian restaurant we came across a female Chinese DJ featuring her talents. The Gallery area showcased Josephine Baker style singers. We enjoyed a spectacular evening of caviar and fois gras accompanied by champagne served by graceful garçons throughout the hotel. The smiling waiters - constantly ready to top your glass or fill your plate - made me feel like a princess.

We never made it to the top terrace given that the queue for the elevator was 2 hours long but then again, it didn't matter.... I can now say that I've had my share, I have explored the grounds of this utterly luxurious hotel situated in front of our lovely Haussmanian flat... and should we be posted somewhere else tomorrow I can say with satisfaction that I am happy to move on.









April 15, 2015

Chop, chop et voilà

It has been a long time since I took a cooking class but when the opportunity presented itself to participate at my Dutch friend's house and get to work in her super-duper designer kitchen I jumped at the occasion.

Marie-Françoise, a native French lady, who was to introduce us to the French lifestyle, met us at the local market and I liked her at first sight. She was friendly, straightforward and honest. Later on during our class, I discovered that she was also pretty laid back about her cooking session without ever losing her professionality. She obviously knew her stuff but also improvised very smoothly when there was a need. We all got to work and made a great team I dare say.

The menu called for: Asparagus with Mousseline sauce, followed by Armoricaine Monkfish, and crowned with Profiterole and Chocolate sauce for dessert. Did you know that Amoricaine is cooked with Cognac whereas Americaine with... yes, that's right... whiskey! Either way, the recipe calls for alcohol which can only be positive!

We chopped, we peeled, we washed, we drained, we sautéed, we boiled, we steamed, we cooked and we baked all morning. It took us exactly 20 minutes to make fish stock from scratch. This surprised me to no end, homemade stock always sounded like a lot of work to me with an “ain’t no way I’m going to do that” sign attached to it! All it takes, is to put the ingredients on the stove, cook and then drain. Voilà! However, the secret is you need to flirt with the fish monger Cri-Cri d'Amour to get the juicy fish leftovers.

By one o'clock we all felt very cuffed with ourselves for having produced such exquisite looking profiteroles and sat down to enjoy our meal accompanied by a wine selected by our wine expert, Hélène who joined us for the fun.

Today, our little group of French cooking enthusiasts are one step closer to mastering the art of entertainment à la française!


A splendid selection of fresh fish


Cri-Cri d'Amour our friendly fishmonger


An abundance of choice


What it takes to make a fish stock


Flambéeing the monkfish


 Fresh produce is the secret to a tasty dish


Un petit aperò to keep us going!


Tout le monde à table


Monkfish à l'américaine 


Profiterole baked to perfection


Yum!!!

April 14, 2015

The best pita in town

It feels like I am eating my way through the month of April. I attribute it to spring and the good weather. Parisians and Expats alike start flocking around the cafés and terraces after the long, grey winter.

Following a quick round-up via SMS, my red-haired South African chavera took a bunch of us to lunch in the Marais, a popular and active commercial area and a major centre of the Paris Jewish community. Living in Paris we've all heard of (or been to) the l'As du Falafel, easily spotted thanks to the long queue in front of its green facade, with staff running up and down scribbling orders for the take-away window, but did you know that just around the corner is Miznon? Miznon (which means buffet in Hebrew) is the Parisian branch of the pita-crazy, good fast food joint opened by chef Eyal Shani in Tel Aviv. It is the coolest, most unconventional and eclectic fast food place you can imagine.

A former UVarium converted into a café that’s a little rough around the edges with garden touches and outgoing waiters that call your name when your order is ready. Trust me, some of us have never heard our names pronounced that way. We chatted to the two ladies seated next to us and compared our pitas. Once they left, we were introduced to our new table neighbours by our charming waiter but then ignored them since we were too into our own conversation.

We offered to take fotos of a trio that seemed to be lifelong friends and were clearly regulars and even bumped into a friend who was visiting from Israel and obviously preferred this joint to steak & frites in a bistro!

I am no foodie, so I will not go into a great deal of detail about the menu, you'll just have to try it yourself. I will say that their speciality is a kind of burnt cauliflower and even if this might not sound tasty believe me it is worth trying ... and I guarantee they serve the best pita in town!








April 12, 2015

42,195 km in the most beautiful city of the world!

"Et allez ! C’est parti pour 42.195 km de plaisir dans la plus belle ville du monde ! QUE DU BONHEUR!"

... and boy, were they lucky, the over 40'000 participants of the Paris marathon today. The sun was out, it was not too hot and the Parisian had decided to come out by the thousands and cheer on the runners arrived from over 150 nations.

Now, I'm a runner but I know my limits. I'll stick to constancy rather than distance. I run my 4 to 5 km a couple times a week and am very happy to encourage the "real runners".

So, today - much to my kids' delight - I dragged the entire family to various spots along the route to cheer the participants on. "Really, Mummy?!?" Yes, really! I have tremendous respect for the people who undertake this challenge although personally I think it's madness. But hey, à chaqu'un son truc!


The main sponsor's advertising campaign.


Avenue Foch beyond the arrival.
The first ten athletes to cross the line were either Kenyan or Ethiopian.


A few media facts


Some Brazilian animation


Food for the spectators


 "There is no finish line"


I can, I will ... and I did!


Champs Elysées closed to the traffic, yupee!


A humorous albeit peculiar supporter


A very picturesque marathon: the runners passed many of the French capital’s most historic landmarks, including the Place de le Bastille, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.


Police trying to figure our where to go next!?!

April 11, 2015

A taste of Paris

Beatrice was to give us a Taste of Paris this morning. This half-British, half-French lady had impressed me during our chocolate tasting tour a few months back. Sure enough, she arrived loaded with bags full of books, illustrations and goodies to taste. Think Mary Poppins, all she was missing was the coat stand.

We started off at the old Les Halles district, famous for having been the site of the central Paris food market for many centuries. This quarter is still home to a wealth of specialist food purveyors and culinary equipment stores. On the tour we discovered the fascinating historic neighbourhood with its typical Parisian street markets.

We tasted fresh Gariguette strawberries, dried prunes from Agen, while Ms Poppins told us about the ancient water well on the rue de la Petite Truanderie which a desperate lover had thrown herself down centuries ago.

We were the lucky tourist group that received a personal "degustation" of different French cheeses served with wine, of course at "La Fermette". All this at 11 am in the morning on the pavement of Rue Montorgeuil.

At "A la Mère de Famille", Paris’s oldest sweet shop - in its original location for 250 year - we savoured some almond paste "calissons d'Aix" before we hit "Stohrer", the oldest pastry shop in town, and the birthplace of the Baba au Rhum, world-renowned for its chocolate eclairs. Even the Queen of England has stopped by to taste them!

By one o'clock when we thought we had tasted it all, our lovely guide walked us across the Nelson Mandela gardens, passed the Cathedral of Saint-Eustace to Godard, the foie gras specialist who gave us an exceptional tasting of authentic goose and duck foie gras.

It was a tour none of us will forget: the sun was shining, the magnolias and cherry trees were in full bloom and we were sipping wine in the streets of Paris half-way through the morning. Paris in the springtime is wonderful!










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