nice was nice

On Thursday morning, I flew to Nice to meet Christina, an old friend I have known since the seventh grade. Since I had visited Nice before, my main goals were to eat good food and get a decent tan. I accomplished both.

After checking in at our hostel, we walked the couple of kilometers to the beach. We talked about girl stuff as we basked in the crisp seventy-degree sun. (We refused to swim, as the water was absolutely freezing!) When we got hungry, we walked to Cours Saleya to scope out a touristy bar and restaurant. By day, this pedestrian-only street is home to farmers’ and specialty markets, but by night, it becomes very Little Italy-esque. Hosts and hostesses stand outside the restaurant doors, flashing their menus and waving patrons to one of the many outdoor tables. It may be gimmicky, but it’s a perfect place to people watch and enjoy the last few hours of sunlight. Ultimately, we settled on a cute little bar for pre-dinner kirs and olives before heading to a pizzeria. I enjoyed a salami and peperoncino pizza, while Christina ordered an eggplant and ricotta pizza. My dish was absolutely perfect—crispy, spicy, slightly cheesy, and freshly seasoned.

The next day, we relaxed at the beach and did a little bit of shopping. Not too much to report. For dinner, we both tried aïoli niçois, a local dish of cod and steamed vegetables served with a garlic mayonaise. I have to say I was not a huge fan, but I was happy to try something new.

On Saturday, Christina and I decided to take the train to Cannes. Since the Film Festival is in a few days, we thought we might see a celebrity or two. No luck. We did, however, enjoy a leisurely lunch of white wine, mussels, and french fries. (Yeah, moules frites are a bit thing in France. It may seem like a strange combination, but it is a completely genius one.) My huge pot of mussels was served with a fresh cream, lemon, and herb sauce which was simply to-die-for. After gorging ourselves, we lounged on the beach and read fashion magazines. It was a really lovely and relaxing afternoon. We managed to gain the courage to walk into the water once. Eeps! It was so cold, our skin was splotchy and red after just one minute. Once the sun began to set, we walked around the old town. There were so many narrow, hilly streets—I’m talking six feet wide—lined with restaurants and boutiques. I wish we would have had appetites to eat there because the atmosphere was just too picturesque.

All in all, I had a wonderful time in Nice and Cannes. After spending the semester with seven guys (not to mention the occasional male visitor), being around another girl, especially one I have been friends with for so long, was a very welcome change. I am looking forward to leaving for London in just a couple of days, this time with Seth. I think it is kind of a big deal to travel with a significant other. What if your travel styles don’t match? Fortunately, I think Seth and I have more or less similar expectations for our adventures.

duncan arrives

For Duncan’s first day in Paris, Seth and I decided to take him to the Conciergerie. Since Duncan is such a history and politics buff, he enjoyed touring the prison and imagining what it must have been like in 1793, when Marie Antoinette and many other revolutionaries awaited their turn at the guillotine.

After sunset, we took the subway to the Eiffel Tower. We laid out on the lawn for nearly an hour just admiring the twinkling lights.

To see some photos from last week, click here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aclearglimmer/sets/72157626496383079/

To see some photos from yesterday, click here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aclearglimmer/sets/72157626645726362/

my mom in france

While my mom and stepdad were in Paris, Seth and I took them to as many of the nontraditional sites as we possibly could. We visited the Museum of Natural History, the old Roman ruins, Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, the Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens, Saint-Sulpice, Le Marais, the Hôtel de Ville, and the Arab World Institute.

On Wednesday night, we dined at Fish la Boissonnerie, a seafood restaurant owned and operated by a very friendly American expat. (He also owns and operates Cosi just across the street.) I enjoyed a three course meal of cauliflower-anchovy risotto; baked salmon with chorizo, sauteed potatoes, baby bok choy, and sweet mustard aioli; and rosemary-mint panna cotta with raspberry puree. (My mom enjoyed the same meal as I did minus the dessert. Blasphemy!) Seth ordered smoked eel with shredded carrots and pesto, cod with a sweet tomato chutney atop a bed of spinach, and a very pungent cheese plate. For Ken’s appetizer, he ordered a heavenly scallop carpaccio. As much as I loved my starter and main course, I thought the thinly sliced, barely cooked scallops were the most to-die-for delicacies on the table.

Yesterday for lunch, Seth and I took my mom and Ken to Le Marais for their first falafel. As much as everyone loves L’As du Falafel, Seth and I are bigger fans of Chez Hanna. Their lines are minimal, their chickpea balls and toppings are super fresh, and their eggplant is perfectly roasted every single time. After lunch, Seth and I explored some new sites alone, including the Church of Saint-Séverin (one of the oldest remaining churches on the left bank), the National Assembly, and Madeleine Church (a temple designed to glorify Napoleon’s army).

For dinner that night, the four of us reunited on the L’île de la Cité to meet some of my mom’s former work colleagues, Pierre and his wife Carlotta and Alex and his wife Helene. Pierre and Carlotta own the most amazing apartment on L’île which looks out onto Notre Dame. We had a class of champagne at their place before walking down the street to Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole. As you might imagine, the food was very traditionally French. After a filling dinner, we strolled to a curbside ice cream cart for an on-the-go treat.

My mom and Ken left Paris this morning for Normandy. We will see them in a couple of days but probably not for long. Seth’s friend Duncan will be in town by then, and we will have someone new to entertain.

[Fish la Boissonnerie: 69, Rue de Seine 75006 Paris]

[Chez Hanna: 54 Rue Rosiers, 75004 Paris]

[Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole: 24 Rue Chanoinesse, 75004 Paris]

the wild brunch

To celebrate pencils down, Seth and I decided to host a brunch for all of our classmates. We prepared zucchini and green bean frittatas with goat cheese and parmesan, bacon home fries with paprika and cayenne, and strawberry crepes with mascarpone and jam. For drinks, we served orange, clementine, and grapefruit mimosas. We had such a great time! I absolutely love getting the opportunity to cook for people, as it allows me to practice my timing and technique. Plus, Seth gets to show off his rad pan-flipping skills.

The savory recipes from the wild brunch are posted below.

Zucchini and Green Bean Frittata
(Each only served six, so we made two!)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup green beans, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large oven-proof, nonstick saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, zucchini, and green beans, and saute until caramelized and tender, 12-15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl with the whole milk until frothy. Whisk in the goat cheese, parmesan, and parsley, and season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread the vegetables in an even layer in the pan. Pour in the egg mixture, making sure to cover all of the vegetables. Let cook, uncovered and untouched for 4-6 minutes until the egg on the bottom has started to set.
  5. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 5-8 more minutes until the top is set and cooked through.
  6. Transfer the pan to the broiler and broil for a minute until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool for 5 minutes. Slice into wedges.
Bacon Home Fries
(We prepared three batches of this delicious stuff!)
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup lardons (approximately 2 slices bacon)
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, fully baked and diced into 1″ cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Directions
  1. Lightly fry bacon in cast iron pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion becomes soft.
  3. Add the potatoes, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Spread the ingredients in an even layer in the pan, and leave alone for five minutes.
  4. Stir the mixture, spread again, and leave alone for five more minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, add the parsley, and stir again. Let cool for five minutes.

[photos courtesy of MJ]

photo shoot

Today as I strutted through Montmartre in my finest secondhand Miu Miu, I had to restrain myself from doing this:

The only thing stopping me was my lack of photo shoot companion. To my wonderful fashion-focused girlfriends in Houston (and beyond): I miss you so much.

[photo: “Gossip Girl” episode 104]

paris underground

When Seth’s brother Eliot first arrived in Paris, the weather was absolutely beautiful: sunny and decently warm. An hour later, the sun vanished and the temperature dropped. Somewhat discouraged, we walked down the street to grab a crepe. Seth ordered a very delicious bacon, leek, tomato, cheese, and sour cream crepe; Eliot ordered a beef crepe (I forgot what else was on it); and I ordered a potato, tomato, and sour cream crepe. After a short food coma, we waddled to the Eiffel Tower to introduce Eliot to the Paris cityscape. By then it was windy and rainy outside, but we powered through. We walked from the Eiffel Tower to the sixth arrondissement, searching for a decent French restaurant along the way. We finally stumbled upon Les Jardins Saint Germain, a French restaurant with the interior appearance of a Chinese restaurant. I was immediately skeptical, but our meal was actually really delicious. Seth, Eliot, and I all chose a three-course menu option which included une entrée, un plat principal, et un dessert. For starters, Seth chose la soupe à l’oignon gratinée (french onion soup); Eliot, le chèvre chaud rôti aux amandes (goat cheese cakes fried in an almond crust); and I, la terrine de porc (a forcemeat loaf of pork served with bouillon jelly). For mains, Seth ordered le magret de canard (duck breast served with a berry sauce and parsley potatoes); Eliot, l’escalope de saumon au beurre nantais (a salmon filet served with buttered noodles); and I, le confit de canard pommes persillées (duck leg served with parsley potatoes). Because the decor and a majority of the waitstaff were Chinese, Seth and I assumed the duck was going to be the best main course option. I think we were right. My meal was absolutely amazing. Seth thought his was a bit overcooked, but I thought it was still very good. For dessert, Seth and I picked la crème caramel parfumée à l’orange (crème caramel flavored lightly with orange); Eliot, a sort of yogurt-fruit combination. By the time our desserts arrived, we were so full from the appetizers, main courses, and wine that we could hardly finish them.

After dinner, we walked down the street to meet Will, Sohael, and Sanket at Le Bar du Marché. We sat outside and had a drink apiece before wandering to an underground sangria bar Sohael and Sanket had visited on our sophomore trip to Paris. 10 Bar (pronounced Dix Bar), was extremely hip in a retro, vintage sort of way. The stairs leading to the basement were insanely steep, and the fire exit was blocked. (Basically, had there been a fire, we all would have died.) The space was small and cramped. The walls were adorned with mirrors, warm yellow lights, and old neighborhood posters. The clientele, much like that at La Perle, was young, attractive, and artsy. As we sipped our pitcher of very sweet red sangria, we noticed a skinny little door in the corner; we thought it might have been one of several doors in Paris which leads to the catacombs. (Apparently, the labyrinth of catacombs is a site for very secret and very wild underground parties. We all really want to go, but we have decided to save the journey until the end of the semester just in case we get deported.) Everyone had a good time relaxing and talking. Around one in the morning, Seth and I decided we had tortured Eliot enough and decided to take him home for some sleep. At least now he will not be jet lagged!

a “family” feast

Tonight, Brian and MJ had our class over for a potluck feast. For appetizers, Nick made bruschetta, and Lyon concocted a beet and goat cheese dip. For mains, Brian and MJ made a broccoli cheese soup, Will made vegetable fried rice, Sohael assembled a strange fish and banana leaf dish, and Seth and I brought a white mushroom lasagna. I was especially proud of the lasagna because it was the first time I cooked without following a recipe at all! I only used Ina Garten’s portobello version as general inspiration. (Portobello mushrooms do not exist in Paris, so as much as I wanted to, I could not have possibly followed her recipe.) Anyway, all of the food was absolutely scrumptious. Our class has some good cooks!

After dinner, we played a circle game involving hand signs, distractions, and general trickery. (MJ, what was this game called?!) We also played a few rounds of telephone charades and word games. (Seth did a particularly accurate silent impression of Justin Bieber.) All in all, it was a wonderfully comical and relaxing evening. I had a great time!

[photos courtesy of MJ]

the lunch club: part deux

Today our class participated in a leisurely walking tour around the eighteenth and nineteenth arrondissements. We visited the Père Lachaise cemetery (where Oscar Wilde and other famous people are buried) and Buttes Chaumont (a beautiful scenic park on a hill); we admired street art by Mosko & Compagnie and Nemo; we strolled through Belleville.

UPDATE: To check out some photos from the walking tour, click here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aclearglimmer/sets/72157626230619072/

After our wonderful walk in the sun, we stopped at Le Vieux Belleville for our second lunch club session. For my starter, I enjoyed a small charcuterie plate with salami, prosciutto, and rillettes (a sort of pork spread). Seth chose a salad with smoked salmon and chèvre (goat cheese). For our main course, we split two entrees: rare horse steak and stewed beef kidneys. Both were just okay. The horse steak was not thoroughly seasoned. I definitely prefer horse raw, mixed with herbs and citrus, to rare. As for the kidneys, they were a little too potent for my taste. I prefer lamb sweetbreads to beef, as they are milder in both odor and flavor. I had never eaten beef kidneys, though, so I was happy to try something new.

Tomorrow evening, Seth and I are attending a potluck feast hosted by Brian and MJ. I think Seth and I will use our leftover tomato paste to make lasagna. Yes, dear reader, that means my next entry will focus on food… again.

shopping + s/s fashion week

Yesterday after French class, I was invited to go shopping with Brian’s wife MJ. I met her at l’Hôtel de Ville for some browsing in the first and fourth arrondissements. After a quick stop at Lush, we visited Zara, Mango, two H&Ms, and Sephora. I know, I know, we have these stores in America. So what? I walked away with some much needed shampoo and conditioner, a black and white puff-sleeved top, a black and white geometric-print spring scarf, and a couple of other necessities and samples. We went to the strangest place for lunch, a restaurant which served a motley buffet by day and Italian pasta and gnocchi by night. Some of the, um, delicacies we had to choose from were fish pizza, some kind of soup which I forgot to try, salad, turkey curry with rice, crepes with sweet and savory toppings, a cheese platter, and some kind of sponge cake. As weird as it sounds, the food was actually pretty good. I especially liked the fish pizza, even though I thought it was sausage before biting into it. Ha, what a strange surprise.

After an ice cream at Berthillon and a stroll along the Seine, we returned to l’Hôtel de Ville. There, MJ spotted one of her favorite Paris fashion bloggers photographing a random girl on the street. She looked so cute with her messy hair, khaki-colored princess coat, and brown combat boots. Have I told you that I often dream of a fashion blogger stopping me on the street? “You have a great sense of style,” he says to me. “May I photograph you for my blog?” The next day, I visit his website to find an unusually glamorous photo of me staring off into the distance, wearing some fabulous coat.

Also, this week is Spring/Summer Fashion Week in Paris. Everyone has really upped their style game. Lady Gaga is in the city somewhere, probably masquerading as a womb.

wine tasting

After yesterday’s horrendous film critique, I was left feeling uninspired for my studio review. It came and went, and it was neither good nor bad. The first presenter’s critique lasted over an hour, leaving only twenty minutes or so for each of the rest of us. That was fine with me, though, as I was not really in the mood to talk about folded paper.

The review ended promptly at six, and the undergrads sped off to Cosi (not to be confused with the northeast American chain) for a wine tasting with the dean emeritus. It was so much fun! We tried eight wines: three whites and five reds. As we tasted, we wrote down their colors (light gold, medium gold, light red, medium red, dark red), smells and tastes (pear, corn, hops, earth, strawberry jam, smoke, dates, sun-dried tomato), textures (fatty, chalky), and ideal food pairings. By the end of the session, my handwriting was all over the place, and I started scribbling words like, “CHEESE!” and “BACON!!!” all over my paper. I guess I should not have participated in a wine tasting on an empty stomach. Whoops. Anyway, I definitely did not like all of the wines I sampled. For instance, I did not care much for the Riesling from Alsace (in east France, close to Germany), as its taste reminded me too much of blonde beer. One of the reds, a blend from Corbieres (in south France), was so full-bodied that I could not imagine eating anything with it. My favorite wine, according to my notes, was a Grenache-Syrah blend from Vacqueyras (in southeast France). It smelled lightly of dates and tasted somewhat spicy with its faint notes of cloves. Mmm, so delicious.

This is kind of an awkward moment in my story to make this transition, but I suppose it is as good as any. So, now that the weather is getting a bit warmer, Paris is, um…, crawling with rats. I have seen about ten in the subways this week, two of which were actually running around on the platform! Eek! Also, as I was enjoying my second-to-last taste of wine in Cosi, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, the quick whip of a mouse’s tail as it scurried behind a bench. Eww.

Anyway, back to the good stuff. After the wine tasting, we grabbed sandwiches from downstairs. It was probably about ten in the evening, I had not eaten since noon, and I had consumed eight small glasses of wine. I was starving! We gobbled up the tandoori turkey sandwiches as quickly as possible before hurrying off to an Irish pub. I felt I had had my fill of wine, so I refused to drink anything else. The others did not seem to be too worried about that. A night out with everyone was definitely what I needed to lift my spirits.

We are basically free from school until Friday, with the exception of a single French class on Wednesday morning. I think I will work on my portfolio a bit, gather some more footage in Gare du Nord, maybe even watch a movie. I am definitely looking forward to a relaxing couple of days.

[photo: Ratatouille (2007)]