Friday, December 11, 2009


Today was George Clooney Day at France 24
(Don't we make a great couple?)

xoxo Rebecca Clooney

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


So last night, I danced under the sparkling Eiffel Tower, saw the Arc de Triomphe break in half, watched Lily Cole ride a massive horse and buggy as geese and baton twirlers passed by and models in lingerie danced on top of chandeliers and swung on tall swings as the soundtrack of Mamma Mia played in the background. I walked through a field of mushrooms, ate cotton candy, was arrested by the police, and went home with multicolored panties and a stuffed flamingo. True story. I am not exaggerating at all (nor did I engage in any illegal substance abuse, mind you). It was Rebecca in Wonderland – Alice would have been so jealous.
The worlds of fashion, film and Parisian hipsters collided as Kate Bosworth, Eva Herzigova, Jean Paul Gaultier, Emmanuelle Béart, Melvil Poupaud, Zoe Cassavetes, Marina Hands, Aure Atika, Ora Ito, Julie Gayet and Elsa Zylberstein worked the room - and, by “room,” I of course mean the massive palace known as le Grand Palais.
Le Grand Palais was transformed into what I can only imagine heaven looks like – an enchanted forest with giant mushrooms led the path inside where the more than 2,000 guests were greeted with amusement park rides and games (see: the stuffed flamingo I won playing the duck pond game), numerous bars with clever names like la “Bise-trop” (sounds like bistro but means “kisses too much” in French), the Brasserie Lipps, the Patis’cheri or le Café de Flirt, all plays on words from famous places in St Germain-des-pres (Brasserie Lipp, Café de Flore, etc), Sonia Rykiel’s stomping ground. It was a surreal theme park for adults. Champagne flowed like water and Le Notre offered treats for the taste buds – everything from fancy finger food like foie gras and langoustines to sushi (at the bar called Su-Chic), cotton candy, crepes and gateaux aplenty. Rumors are swirling that the event cost somewhere between 2 and 4 million euros – the cost of the lavish invitations alone could have likely put me through college, not to mention the more than 300 technicians and waiters – and fake policemen! – on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly, and it did, right down to the convenient G7 taxi station outside as the party ended.
An enormous reconstruction of the Eiffel Tower hovered above the center of the building, sparkled as soon as night fell then became the site of a massive dance party after the parade ended. “What parade?” you ask ?
This definitely put Macy’s Thanksgiving version to shame. First, a loud crashing sound as the fake Arc de Triomphe broke in half, making way for a marching band, baton twirlers, geese (yes, actual large geese), Lily Cole on a giant horse and buggy wearing the new lingerie collection, followed by models in lingerie hanging from swings and chandeliers or sipping champagne in bed. Then, some fully clothed girls wearing the new Rykiel for H&M knitwear collection featuring some fabulous sweaters than I cannot wait to buy when the collection hits select stores all over the world on February 20th. (The lingerie line will be in stores everywhere as of this Saturday, December 5th by the way.) And, may I add, all of this to the tune of songs from the MAMMA MIA soundtrack – it was pure bliss. (Had there been half-naked MEN in their underpants I may have enjoyed it even more, but it was still a thrill.) There was a great energy in the room, everyone was cheering, dancing and smiling – even the models ! And, to say merci for coming, our friends at H&M and Rykiel left us with parting gift bags – a velvet pillow reading “Belle en Rykiel”* (*pretty in Rykiel – yes, it sounds much more melodious in French doesn’t it?), multicolored underwear from the new collection plus a look book of the collection.
It was a memorable evening – it’s been the talk of the town (my town, that is – Paris, France) all day and I fear will ruin all other parties we attend here for the near future. I woke up this morning with a flamingo, multicolored underpants and confetti – if that’s not the sign of a good night, then I don’t know what is. Merci to H&M and to Rykiel – hey, Sonia, we’re ready for the next party ! Until then, I will head over to the Café de Flirt – I mean, Flore – for “un club Rykiel” sandwich !

Monday, November 30, 2009

Paris Zen

There’s no place like ohm. Click your heels and – actually, better yet place two heels together, stretch your arms over your head and reach down and breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out… Welcome to the wonderful world of yoga. Looking for a place to find your inner Zen among the craziness of Parisian life? Well, I certainly was until I found… Rasa Yoga. This yoga center in Paris’ 5th arrondissement was voted one of the top 25 yoga centers in the world by Travel & Leisure Magazine and has been voted the #1 Yoga Center in Paris by La Fleur de Paris. OK, so it’s the ONLY yoga I’ve done in Paris, but why go anywhere else when this is clearly the best? Rasa offers classes every day of the week, morning, afternoon and evening and offers classes in both English and French (some instructors end up doing the classes in “franglais” to please everyone, even better!) There are classes for every level – bring your grandmother or your friend the yogamaster visiting from India, there’s a class for both of them – and disciplines range from Vinyasa to Anusara to Ashtanga to Iyengar. I am currently mildly obsessed with Vinyasa yoga and enjoying the classes led by Brazilian instructor Adriano, but also enjoy the Anusara English-language classes* (*see: sometimes things, such as body parts are lost in translation. Story to follow…) led by the lovely Ebba and the charismatic Rajeev. The French-language classes were a good lesson in anatomical vocabulary for me. During one of my first classes in French, the instructor said “mettez les orteilles sur le sol” (“put your toes on the floor”). Now, the French word for ears is “oreilles” which, come on, sounds JUST like “orteilles” does it not? The word for “toes” in French can also be “petits doigts” so I was expecting that. In any case, I mistook “orteilles” for “oreilles” and, following instructions – or so I thought – placed my ears on the floor and lifted my arms. Everyone else was standing up, two feet firmly planted on the floor, hands in the air, as I was in a half-fetal position with my face plastered to my mat and my hands attempting to reach the sky. I unfortunately, don’t have a photo witnessing this, but you can imagine the ridiculousness of the situation. I now am fully familiar with the French word for toes. Not to mention, do not advise any yoga-like positions involving putting ones ears to the floor and lifting ones hands (I was sore for weeks).
But check out what I can do now!
(Just kidding, but one day perhaps?)

If you’re not Zen enough after a Rasa Yoga class, then head to the Anne Fontaine spa for a massage or facial that will – and you can quote me on this – change your life.

Located on the basement level of Anne Fontaine’s famous boutique on the rue St Honore, the spa is a haven of peace and beauty. Enter looking like Shrek and the talented Soraya will leave you looking like a supermodel. (*see my before and after photos below – incredible!)



I don’t know what they put in their oils – actually, I do, all-natural organic ingredients from Brazil – but they are quite magical. For all of you world-travelers out there (or even those of you in from the suburbs, once you’ve done it, you’ll be finding any excuse you can to return), I recommend the anti-jetlag massage. It’s 50 minutes of pure pleasure – a full body massage complete with oils (and, if you’re lucky, the magic hands of masseur Daniele), focus on re-energizing the legs and patches under the eyes to get rid of any trace of undereye circles and fatigue. Sip a cup of their “in-house tea” to purify your body and your mind. Every detail of the experience is perfect – from putting on your robe in the dressing area to waiting with a cup of tea and a magazine in the waiting area to a dip in the pool afterwards. Ooh baby, heaven IS a place on earth… and it’s right on the rue St Honore.

For those ladies looking for the best facial of your lives, ask for Soraya who will give you a “face evasion treatment” complete with exfoliating scrub, oxygenating mask and revitalizing massage with essential oils. If you don’t have the time – or the money – to go often, many of the beauty products used in the treatments are for sale. 50-minute massages and facials cost around 150 euros – yes, it’s not cheap, but can you really put a price on a trip to heaven? Plus, rumor has it, they’re opening a location in New York. To be continued… In the meantime, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out…

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Peanut Butter and jell-BRIE ?? Children, hide your lunchboxes !

Peanut butter and jelly is a winning combination. Peanut butter and honey – fabulous too. Some like peanut butter and banana – not bad either. But peanut butter and brie ? As the French say, “sacre bleu!” However, despite the ostensibly disgusting idea of mixing cheese and peanut butter, my favorite bakery (Eric Kayser organic bakery, rue Monge in the 5th arrondissement) is now offering the following sandwich: raisin bread with peanut butter, brie and tomatoes.
“Are they joking?” I wonder as I glance at the small poster advertising the new special sandwich. Or, perhaps just a typo? Just brie and…butter, the peanut-free variety? But no, they are in fact selling such a sandwich. The (French of course) lady working in the bakery confessed “I don’t like peanut butter myself.” Well, Madame, maybe that’s because YOU’RE EATING IT WITH CHEESE? She then added: “And I’ve heard people eat it with – gasp! – jelly! How awful…” Incredible. Have I entered the Twilight Zone? A place where a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is blasphemy, but where it’s quite acceptable to mix peanuts and brie, and add tomatoes no less.

Who is to blame for this strange creation? Is it the product of the Americanization of France? Is Sarkozy and Obama’s newfound friendship to blame for this strange mélange? Or is this sandwich actually a metaphor for Franco-American relations? The strong, rich , all-American staple peanut butter meets the delicious yet rather smelly French brie – just as the strong, rich, all-American USA meets the delicious yet rather smelly French people.
However, it’s true – I have yet to taste this strange combination of flavors. My very-French friend has actually tasted the sandwich in question. His response? “It’s ignoble.” But could it be that these two things thought to be mutually exclusive, actually come together in perfect harmony? Commercialized, manufactured peanut butter meets natural, unpasteurized brie – it’s a microcosm of international import-export politics. First a sandwich, then…the world !
Speaking of international politics, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy have just been parodied in an episode of “The Simpsons.” French politics meet American pop culture. It’s the peanut butter and brie sandwich of television if you will, and the result is incredibly delicious, check it out:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

France 24 Film Friday

This week's France 24 movies segment - in memory of Jocelyn Quivrin and Heath Ledger...

Friday, November 06, 2009

"AWAY WE GO" / France 24 Movies

Bonjour !

Here's a clip of my weekly France 24 movies segment (in English!) This week's topic, a film I absolutely loved, Sam Mendes' AWAY WE GO !

Thursday, October 29, 2009


It's official... I've been immortalized into a dessert ! (Well, OK, not immortalized, really just until they change the menu, but you get the idea..) There is now a dessert called Soupe "Rebecca" Chocolat Blanc- Wasabi, Glace Pistache // "Rebecca" White Chocolate & Wasabi Soup, Pistachio Ice Cream on the menu at Ze Kitchen Bis, aka the KGB (see previous blog post for more on that). It's a rich, yet not too heavy white chocolate soup sprinkled with wasabi (it sounds like a strange combination, but I promise it is absolutely delicious) and topped with mini-meringues and served with a pistachio ice cream and cookie crumble. It's a wonderful Franco-Asian mélange of flavors to end what is always a fabulous meal. Rebecca Soup is just like me - white, spicy and delicious. Plus, I only cost 8 euros ! So everyone head down to the KGB and try it !
xoxo Rebecca (of "Rebecca Soup" fame)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

France 24 Film Friday

Here's a clip from my new weekly movies segment on France 24 (in my native tongue for once!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The "Pursuit" of Jamie Cullum

Jamie Cullum played a private concert in Paris on Tuesday night for the launch of his new album "The Pursuit". Jamie was adorable and the music was great - a mix of his traditional ballads and some more fun dance music. Here is some footage from the show, live from the stage !!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Next Tuesday, be sure to head to famous Parisian bookstore (right next to Café de Flore) L'Ecume de Pages for a book-signing with writer Sylvie Bourgeois. Her new book BREVES ENFANCES brings together 34 stories from children who, through their own words, paint a moving portrait of their families. The stories will make you laugh and cry - sometimes both at the same time. Meet the author - and her husband Philippe Harel for those of you who are fans of the actor-director and his films such as "Les Randonneurs," "French Summer" or "Tu vas Rire, mais je te quitte" which I blogged about when I first arrived in France five years ago, ah la nostalgie ! (
See you all on Thursday !!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ou est Lafleur ?

Miss me?

Check out :

Sunday, September 27, 2009


KGB (kā'jē-bē') n. 1. The intelligence and internal security agency of the former Soviet Union.
2. Hot new restaurant in Paris’ 6th arrondissement.

While the Cold War references are hard to ignore, this KGB is a far cry from Russian intelligence. The K stands for Kitchen, the G for Galerie and the B for “Bis,” which, in French, means the annex to an address (“13, bis” would be the equivalent of apartment “13A” in English for example). This offshoot of William Ledeuil’s Michelin-starred Ze Kitchen Galerie, is just down the street from its mother restaurant on the quaint rue des Grands Augustins in St Germain-des-pres. The restaurant features Ledeuil’s famously fabulous cooking – think: modern French cuisine with an Asian twist – only in a more relaxed, casual setting with more relaxed, casual prices to match. The KGB also offers “zors d’oeuvres,” small tapas based on the chef’s daily whims to sample before the main courses arrive. Some recent favorites have been a langoustine thai broth with shellfish, a cream soup with mushrooms, raw black tiger shrimp with ginger and radishes, a lamb croquette and a beef ravioli. The bite-sized portions are enough for just one mouthful, but a great way to sample a variety of textures an flavors before the main event begins. While the new spot has only been open for a few weeks, the KGB has already changed its menu to gear up for the changing season. The chef offers a market special every night based on the freshest ingredients of the day – last night was a pan-fried red mullet fish served with delectable vegetables and citrus fruits. Cod, rabbit, lamb and squid tempura are among this month’s entrees. Many of the main courses are served in piping hot “cocottes,” ceramic pots offering one-dish wonders to regale your taste buds. Make sure to save room for the adventurous, and always delicious desserts – poached pear with curcuma and a white chocolate-peppermint ice cream or roasted figs with cherry ice cream, for example – which are très petit, but the perfect way to end the meal with a small sweet note. A few “zors d’oeuvres,” an entrée, a dessert and a glass of wine will cost you around 50 euros per person, a small price to pay for one of the tastiest, most interesting meals the city has to offer. The chef’s last name “Ledeuil,” in French means “mourning” and, when you walk out the door after dinner, you’ll be mourning the end of one of the best meals you’ve had in awhile. Make sure to reserve ahead – though the KGB just opened, it’s already packed every night. If you’re six or more, ask for the chef’s table in the back of the room, which offers a more private, “VIP” dining space. A Michelin-starred chef, a trendy yet relaxed décor, delectable cuisine and not-so-lavish prices (all around the corner from chez moi, may I add)? I can’t KGBelieve it !




Wednesday, September 23, 2009


“Cococook!” Coco cook? Who’s Coco? What is she cooking? Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for the arrival of revolutionary – well, not quite revolutionary, but quite a step forward for Paris, France, the land of steak frites and no room in the dictionary for a linguistic equivalent to “doggy bag” – new concept in cuisine, Cococook. The new spot on the rue Charlot offers takeout and delivery to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Cococook serves up fresh, local ingredients in the form of healthy and balanced salads, sandwiches, main courses and desserts from 11:30 am to 11 pm every day of the week. Order a quinoa salad with pomegranate and grilled almonds or a “Sandwich Cococlub” (bacon, eggs, mayo and tarragon) to the office at noon, or pick up a plate of roasted chicken with quinoa, green beans and almond milk or a milanese with vegetables and pesto on your way home at night. The French cuisine with an Asian touch offers an eclectic array of both meaty and veggie options sure to please even the most difficult palates – think: soba noodles with edamame and a peanut sauce, a mushroom, spinach and ginger frittata and several varieties of “croquettes,” little meatball-like balls filled with chick peas, peas and cauliflower, mackerel or sweet potatoes and baked in the oven. The desserts are a delectably sweet end to the meal – don’t miss the pumpkin and vanilla cheesecake, the chamomile and almond cake or the panna cotta with black sesame. Check out the menu @ Fresh and healthy food at reasonable prices ready to take out asap or delivered right to your door (if you live or work in the 1st-4th arrondissements, that is) ? It’s enough to give you a bon HAPPYtit!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Top 10 Things I love about Paris in September

1. “La Rentrée”

La Rentrée [ratre] nf. 1. The period marking the end of the summer and the beginning of back-to-work and back-to-school for the entire city of Paris after weeks to months of vacation. 2. In Paris, in July and August – and especially August – inhabitants flee like lemmings to vacation destinations across the country and the globe. Restaurants close, nightclubs shut down and even the most animated of neighborhoods start to resemble ghost towns. The narrow streets of the city are empty other than the pitter patter of tourists’ feet and the occasional loud Texan saying “Naw where is that Aiiiiifulll Tawr.” Then, suddenly, starting the last week of August, those same streets begin to fill up with French-speakers, restaurants re-open their doors, the parties start again and new TV seasons get underway. Not to mention that, in France, the big US summer blockbusters all wait to hit theaters until this time of year so there is entertainment to be had. Bookstores overflow with the latest from “La Rentrée Littéraire,” when hundreds of new books hit the shelves. La Rentrée is one of few times of year when many Parisians are actually – gasp! – smiling ! Yes, whether it’s love or simply optimism, something is in the air as September rolls around. That same nasty neighbor who snarled at you in June is now smiling (and quite tanned, may I add). A new year is about to begin and there’s an incredible energy everywhere – Paris is a different city. There’s something to be said about a Parisian with a tan and a smile (and it’s not “rude”). As they say here, “Il faut quitter Paris pour mieux le retrouver.” Which translates roughly to “You need to leave Paris in order to appreciate it more.” As much as Paris can be suffocating at times, especially during those last weeks of June or early July when the humidity turns the city into a broiling sauna filled with smelly French people and hoards of tourists, every time I leave and come back, I’m reminded of what a magical place it is. During La Rentrée, most of the city has left and returned, and everyone shares this sentiment of “wow, I forgot how beautiful this place is.” Of course, this is only a momentary blast of optimism before the cold, dark late Fall/early winter months arrive, but I say, enjoy it while it lasts – Vive la Rentrée !

2. “Julie&Julia”

“I just feel so French. I just must BE!” Meryl Streep, playing Julia Child, tells her husband (Stanley Tucci) in Nora Ephron’s summer hit film “Julie & Julia.” Julia Child’s story is very much like my own – fabulously wealthy with a loving, perfect husband … I’d say we’re two of a kind. It’s the story of a very tall American woman who moves to France, discovers a passion for cooking (and eating) and writes. Aside from the fact that Ms. Child happens to become a best-selling author, transforms the way America cooks and influences the entire country still to this day. Julie & Julia” hits French theaters on Sept. 16, after a premiere at the Deauville American Film Festival earlier in the month. The film follows Julia Child as she embarks on a culinary romp through France and cuts on and off to a parallel story of a young blogger in Queens who attempts to cook all of Julia Child’s recipes in 2002. While the film would have been much better had Ephron chosen to simply focus on the former (Amy Adams is a not-so-tasty side dish to Streep’s main course, and the viewer spends the entire time she is on screen anxiously waiting to get back to Meryl in Paris in the 1940s/50s), “Julie&Julia” is a delicious sampling of French cuisine with a distinct American flavor. It’s Paris filmed by Hollywood for American audiences, and all of the clichés associated with our favorite Frogs are accentuated as expected, but Streep is a joy to watch, Stanley Tucci is fabulous and the food itself, so wonderfully shot, is a star in its own right. I don’t recommend seeing the film on an empty stomach – the close-ups of all of the buttery, creamy goodness of French cuisine will make your stomach moan (and that obnoxious French lady next to you likely moan as well – Remember, this is France, and “a movie” and “a big tub of popcorn” are mutually exclusive).

3. Le Montana

If you were expecting an American bar with moose heads on the wall, beer on tap and a crowd of muscular men sporting t-shirts and baseball caps, think again. THIS Montana is the French hipster scene’s version of Montana. (Read: no moose, champagne glasses aplenty and men wearing tight pants with gel in their hair whose last workout consisted of walking across the street to buy a pack of cigarettes). Situated right next to 6th arrondissement hub the Café de Flore, le Montana opened last Fall and has been attracting the crème-de-la-crème of the left bank (and their reluctantly accommodating right bank friends who agree to a trans-Seine-lantic voyage) ever since. Le Montana is “Le Baron” (trendy hipster sceney club by Alma Marceau) all grown up. Opened by king of nightlife Andre and the (self-proclaimed) king of cool, Jean-Yves Le Fur, Le Montana has been attracting the fashion crowd, the media crowd and the arty crowd since it opened during fashion week. Guests – who often include celebs like Sofia Coppola’s hubby Tomas Mars, Milla Jovovich or Dita von Teese – can sip cocktails upstairs in the très chill bar or, after a few drinks, may opt to dance the night away on the dance floor downstairs. Finally, the Germanopratin”* [*term designating inhabitants of the 6th arrondissement who rarely leave said neighborhood and frequent its establishments notably the Café de Flore and its environs] community can rejoice – “Left Bank chic” is back in style. (And it’s right around the corner from my apartment, even better!)

4. The Deauville American Film Festival

Less than a two-hour train ride from Paris, Deauville is the perfect stop for cinephiles during it’s two-week annual September film festival. The 35th edition runs September 4th-13th in the Normandy seaside town. Harrison Ford will be the fest’s 2009 guest of honor and Andy Garcia and Robin Wright Penn are also expected in town for career hommages. Contrary to other more fascist film festivals (cough cough – Cannes – cough cough Toronto), screenings are accessible and open to the public. Some highlights from this years edition include more commercial fare such as “Julie & Julia,”
Marc Webb's "500 Days of Summer," Gerard Butler starrer "Gamer,” David Hollander's "Personal Effects" with Michelle Pfeiffer and Ashton Kutcher, Anne Fletcher's "The Proposal" and and Michael Meredith's "The Open Road" with Jeff Bridges and Justin Timberlake. Festgoers can also catch screenings of films that gained critical acclaim at other festivals like Cannes or Sundance such as Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock,” Lynn Shelton's "Humpday" and Lee Daniels' "Precious." Deauville's Uncle Sam's Docs sidebar will show seven documentaries including Robert Kenner's buzzed-about "Food, Inc." and R.J. Cutler's "The September Issue." Like the films in selection, the stars in Deauville are also more accessible than usual. Don’t be surprised to catch Matt Damon drinking a beer in the Hotel Royale lobby, see Harrison Ford and Calista F. going for a morning jog on the beach or bump into Meryl Streep on your way out of a seafood restaurant. The short train ride from Paris to Deauville is a great way to see the countryside and a convenient day trip or weekend getaway.

5. “L’Affaire Farewell”

“L’Affaire Farewell” stars Guillaume Canet and – well, do you actually need another reason to go see it when it hits French screens on Sept 23 ? Okay, so perhaps not everyone shares my huge crush on Canet, but there’s no denying the actor’s talent. “L’Affaire Farewell,” a political thriller from director Christian Carion (“Merry Christmas”) follows a KGB officer in Moscow in the 80s whose actions hastened the fall of the USSR. The film co-stars the talented Emir Kusturica and gives audiences a complicated and engaging yet not too esoteric story told in English, French and Russian. The suspenseful spy movie also features an all-star supporting cast including Willem Dafoe, Alexandra Maria Lara and Niels Arestrup. Make sure to say hello to “Farewell.”

6. Rose Bakery

As Edith Piaf once said, “Je vois la vie en Rooooooooose.” I certainly see la vie en … Rose Bakery. The bakery / eatery, co-owned by a British woman (Rose) and her husband, is a Franco-Anglo-Saxon twist on all things breakfast, lunch and brunch. The original Rose Bakery is located on the quaint rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement and has expanded to a second location in the “Haut Marais” on the rue Debelleyme. Rose serves up the best brunch in town, but doesn’t take reservations, so expect to wait for a long time, unless you arrive on a Saturday or Sunday before noon (as I’ve learned to do). You can dine inside or opt to take away the fresh salads of the day, homemade mini-quiches or delectable scones and cakes. The staff at le Marais location are cheery and friendly and the housemade bread and butter are reason alone to head over. Both the more Japanese-influenced fare at the Marais location or the more British homestyle cuisine at the original rue des Martyrs spot use fresh ingredients, organic veggies and serve both meat and vegetarian options. The specials change every day, so even the most loyal customers (cough, cough) are forced to try new things and taste the season’s freshest ingredients. And, at reasonable prices relative to the quality (think: 12,50 euros for a quiche or pizzette and side salads or 13 euros for a cheese scone and scrambled eggs or around 3-4 euros for a dessert tart or cake), I continue to see the world through Rose-colored plates.

7. St Germain-des-pres / The 6th arrondissement

Hey you – yes, you, old French lady about to get on the 87 bus with a big bag of groceries from l’Epicerie at the Bon Marche on one arm and a cane on the other – have you heard about a little something called THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS? Actually, no, Madame La Riche hasn’t heard, nor have any of her neighbors apparently. The streets of Saint Germain-des-pres are filled with consumers of all ages buying clothes and bags, splurging on 3-course meals in restaurants, and sipping ridiculously overprices coffees at Café de Flore. Yes, Mesdames and messieurs, “You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone…” (cue the eerie music). You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land called St Germain-des-pres whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Bon Marché department store. There, you’ll see strange things like plump wallets bursting at the seams, people smiling and – gasp! – aliens from another dimension trying to mingle with local shopkeepers (oh sorry, those are just tourists again). At first, I figured that these people who have the time to shop at 3 in the afternoon on a weekday must have been victims of the financial crisis and are simply unemployed with nothing else to do. Then, I saw them do peculiar things like not checking the price of something before putting it in their shopping carts or buying four Louis Vuitton bags at one time. These do not look like the symptoms of unemployment/poverty to me. (I’m no money doctor, but I can diagnose a bad case of Imoutofajob-itis almost immediately.) It’s uncanny, I tell you. It’s the fifth dimension over here on the Left Bank – no one seems to be struggling to make ends meet. There’s always food on the table and little old ladies with golden canes and bags of $15 apples getting on buses. I keep waiting for Rod Serling to pop out and ask if I’d like to have a steak frites with him down the street.

8. Sundays at the Organic Market, Blvd. Raspail

I am a reformed Sunday-hater. While I used to dread the day when everything in Paris closed, when none of my friends were awake before noon (or before 5 pm – you know who you are) and when the next day to look forward to was, my second least-favorite day of the week, Monday, return to work. Lately, however, I have learned to love le Dimanche, thanks, in part, to the organic market on the Boulevard Raspail. From the wee early hours of the morning through early afternoon, farmers from all over France make the trek to Paris to share their organic fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses and even wine with the Parisian population. (or rather, the more economically stable, healthy food loving population of Paris since all of the goods there are very VEP (very expensive produce)) The market is always bustling with people – mostly Raspail veterans who come with their baskets on wheels to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies for the week, but also some tourists. The stand owners are typically very friendly – probably because most aren’t from Paris – and usually volunteer samples of the week’s freshest fruit, or a sliver of the day’s apple tart so that a young American girl can taste it before she decides to invest (it was delicious. Investment made.)

9. Paris Fashion Week

It happens around six times a year. Suddenly, the entire city appears to be invaded by tall, leggy creatures with bobbing heads and obscenely dark eyelashes. There are no taxis in sight, no rooms available at the Ritz and not an empty table to be found at the Hotel Costes. And – holy merde! – an alien with a leather skirt is attacking the Plaza Athenée! (oops, don’t worry, that was just Victoria Beckham on her way back from lunch.) Paris Fashion Week - the Spring/Summer 2010 Ready-to-Wear collections that is – will kick off on Sept.30. For those working in fashion, this means days of running (or if you’re Anna Wintour or someone of a certain status, not running but rather, driven in a private car by a chauffeur named Pierre-Jeeves) from one show to the next and from one cocktail party to another. For those NOT working in fashion (cough cough) this means a few days of “really, really ridiculously good-looking” people-watching, a few more fun events than usual and a champagne-induced hangover leaving everyone Haut Cout-SORE. While the parties have been a bit more reserved (they never served food anyway, but now they’re being a tad stingy on the champagne) in the wake of the global financial crisis, Paris Fashion Week stills manages to attract fashion magazine editors, models and movie stars from across the globe. The Ready-to-Wear collections (which, may I add, are only ready to be worn by about 3% of the very, very rich population but are still more wallet-friendly and “wearable” than the couture shows) run through October 8th and, while you’ll need invites to the shows and parties, have a drink at the Hotel Costes or the Café de Flore and you’ll run into the très chic fashionistas (and fashionistos) from all over the world.

10. Carla and Nick

Because the Obamas couldn’t be the ONLY très chic and supercool first couple in the world.

PS Clip of moi talking about Michael Jackson on France 24:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chicsetera Profile

Saturday, July 11, 2009

10 Things I love in Paris (and Bordeaux!) This Week


I’ve found my true calling. If a career in writing fails (see: the catastrophic state of the global world of journalism at the moment), I’ve found plan B: DJ ! Last Monday, I invaded the Cha Cha club with my sister (visiting Paris for a few days) and nightlife photographer/ DJ extraordinaire Jean Picon for “Les Américaines à ChaCha.” The crowd (yes, we had quite the crowd for a Monday night in early summer I might add) danced to our wonderful musical selection, and fun was had by all. Cha cha cha !

2. The Hotel Regent in Bordeaux

The Hotel Regent is the recently-opened 5-star hotel in the center of Bordeaux. I had the opportunity to stay a few nights in a “junior suite,” a vast and cozy space complete with comfortable beds, a re-done, modern bathroom, not to mention a welcome kit with wine and caneles (a Bordélaise dessert specialty). The hotel is located in the town’s center, so is a convenient place to stay, and also boasts a gorgeous view of the city. Extra points for the incredible buffet breakfast, one of the best I’ve had (and I’ve had many). The staff were charming – I highly recommend this spot for a trip to Bordeaux.

3. Gravelier Restaurant (Bordeaux)

Ratatouille would have been jealous. My sister and I had a birds-eye view of the kitchen at Gravelier restaurant in Bordeaux. Located on the Cours de Verdun in the heart of Bordeaux, Gravelier offers some of the most flavorful, inventive – and surprisingly affordable – cooking in the city. We opted for the 39 euro prix-fixe menu, with a choice of two appetizers, four main courses and two desserts, just enough to give choice, but also force diners to be somewhat adventurous. We both started with a “vive piquante,” a filet of cold white fish served with a delectable mint-infused sauce and steamed langoustines in a mayonnaise-like creamy sauce. Then, my sister had the “galette estival de boeuf” (seasonal beef tart) which arrived in the form of thin slices of beef cooked to perfection atop a paper-thin pastry crust, with colorful vegetables, arugula and parmesan. I had the duck, served in savory chunks, with fresh cherries, a sweet and savory cherry sauce and accompanied by small, warm mini-cakes filled with sweet potatoes and vegetables. Both were simply divine. Our dessert was a “blanc en neige,” a soft, meringue-like white sugary ball on a skewer with marinated apricots and served with an apricot nectar sauce and warm chocolate sauce (mine came “sans chocolat” as requested of course!) The petit fours for dessert served with the coffee were also worth overcaffeinating oneself just to try them. The staff were warm and welcoming, and I highly recommend asking for the 2-3 seats at “le bar” to watch the chefs in action. Gravelier is closed Saturday and Sunday nights, and also offers a 28 euro menu serving the chef’s selection of the night or a 60-euro “menu carte blanche” including two fish appetizers, a meat dish, a cheese plate, a “pre-dessert” and a dessert and advertised as “trust the chef!” I certainly do trust the chef after our wonderful meal there and will be sure to return next time I’m in the city.

4. Le Gabriel (Bordeaux)

Thanks to Madame Gravelier (owner of Gravelier, bien sûr), my sister, Erica, and I also discovered a wonderful Bordeaux spot, on the night after it opened ! Le Gabriel, new three-story bar, bistro and restaurant located in the center of Bordeaux’s Place de la Bourse overlooking the fountain and the river, opened the night before we dined there. Le Gabriel is run by chef Francois Adamski, a former chef in Bourges at a Michelin-starred restaurant, who has since settled in Bordeaux in an attempt to earn himself a star. Adamski was named "Meilleur Ouvrier de France" in 2007 and earned the famed "Bocuse d'Or" in 2001. He's taken his Bourges crew with him to the kitchen, but has a whole new look for the restaurant. "We had the different floors to work with - we had to imagine different things we could do with them," Adamski told me. On the first floor is a cozy bar area, complete with outdoor terrace for drinks or afternoon coffees when the weather is nice. On the second floor, a more affordable "bistro" (they call it a bistro, but it looks more like a très chic petit restaurant) offers lower-priced variations on traditional French fare. On the top floor is le restaurant gastronomique. The bistro seats around 80 guests and the restaurant just 30 lucky diners. The brand new establishment took just five months to work to complete. Adamski told me he is aiming for "simplicity and elegance" with Le Gabriel. The name "Le Gabriel" comes from the architect who designed the building back in the 1800s. We dined with a lovely view of the Place de la Bourse and the fountain, and we happened to be there on the night the city was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the French Air France. We stood on the balcony and watched as fighter planes flew overhead and the former head of Bordeaux’s Air Force retired during a traditional ceremony. A uniformed band played “La Marseillaise” as crowds gathered around to watch – it was extraordinary. Chef Adamski came out to give us a private tour of the restaurant and I saw his sous-chefs at work in the kitchen. They even gave him the famous “oui, chef!” when he placed an order. The food was, quite simply, fabulous. An amuse-bouche of a tomato stuffed with zucchini, eggplant and parmesan served with a crunchy cheese cracker awakened our taste buds, complemented with a choice of whole grain or white bread served with a sweet, delicious, fresh butter. For a starter, we both had the langoustines, cooked to perfection in a sweet and savory, thick mustard and passion fruit sauce with a little wasabi kick and fresh mango. I had the John Dory fish, served with a white wine cream sauce over a couscous "semoule" with cilantro and lemon confit, and my sister had a macadamia-crusted marlin with rice-stuffed cabbage. For dessert, I had roasted peach (cooked with the pit still in which, as the chef told me, adds flavor) served over a warm pistachio molten cake and verveine ice cream. My sister had a “vacherin” served with a meringue-like cold ice cream in peach, pistachio and almond flavors. The petit fours for dessert – macarons, financiers and dark chocolate truffles – were délicieux also. Big thanks to Chef Adamski for a wonderful meal, a personal tour of the premesis and a sneak-peek at the just-opened and not-yet reviewed (until now!) establishment. A bientôt !

5. Palais de Party (Ephemeral Club in Palais Tokyo – “Le Club Sans Nom”)

As we all know, the cooler a place, the less information one has about it. All of the hot spots in NY and Paris don’t even usually have a sign on the door, you’re just expected to know where they are. And now, to top off this trend, comes “Le Club Sans Nom” (“The Club Without a Name”), new hot spot sponsored by Russian Standard vodka, on the first floor of the Palais de Tokyo modern art museum. The launch coincides with new art expo A MAN ON THE MOON, a collection of photos of planet earth taken by astronauts from the moon. Pass through the fabulous expo on your way to the new club, open from 10 pm-2 am nightly through Sept. 20th. The NY loft meets Berlin garage club interior leads to a terrace with an extraordinary view of the Eiffel Tower. It’s the same Parisian hipsters you’ll see at Le Baron or the Cha Cha club (both locations are partners in the ephemeral spot), but in a different, more “cultural” space.

6. “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”

Muriel Barberry’s book, currently translated to the big screen in French theaters in “Le Hérisson” starring Josiane Balasko, is the best book I’ve read in a long time. The moving yet humorous story is ostensibly esoteric, but in fact, a very accessible, relatable tale of a concierge in a bourgeois Parisian building.

7. Glou

I’m stuck on this recently-opened restaurant like GLOU! (Sorry, the pun was just too evident to pass up, and it doesn’t work in French unfortunately.) This new hot spot, opened by former Regal – French food magazine – founder Julien Fouin and colleagues Ludo and Herve, is an affordable, casual and tres chic restaurant in my favorite neighborhood, le “haut Marais.” Right on the rue Vieille du Temple, Glou offers a wide assortment of dishes to please every palate – quality hams, a great cheeseburger, fish, and even a vegetarian plate for non-carnivores. Their gazpacho is a refreshing and flavorful pause on a hot summer day and, while the food is very basic with not much culinary adventure, all of the ingredients are high quality and tasty – think: melt-in-your-mouth bufala mozzarella with tomatoes so fresh they appear to have been just plucked from a country garden, a creamy “organic, raw milk” rice pudding and their original “Glou yogurt” for dessert. You can sit upstairs, or downstairs perched on stools around a big table or even on one of just three small tables outside. Glou is a great place for a “tête-à-tête” catch-up session with a friend or a fun place for a big group. I discovered this new spot not long ago and have been GLOUed to my seat there every since !

8. White chocolate wasabi (Ze Kitchen Galerie)

William Ledeuil’s white chocolate wasabi dessert is officially my new favorite dessert in Paris (and, perhaps, the world.) In fact, Ze Kitchen Galerie is currently at the top of my Paris restaurants list (I’d give Les Fables de la Fontaine the runner up spot). Ledeuil’s inventive cooking is a modern twist on classical French dishes with an Asian accent. Ze food is zelicious ! The name aptly describes the ambiance inside – an open kitchen with glass windows in the back, and modern art paintings all along the walls. The food is on the pricier side, but for a Michelin-starred restaurant, it’s actually quite reasonable. A yellow tomato gazpacho added intense flavor to my appetizer of fried creamy burrata balls – the most gourmet, and delicious, “mozzarella” stick you can imagine. The chicken and shrimp ravioli are also delectable. The duck main course is cooked two ways – one confit and the other a filet – the meat is cooked in an aromatic teriyaki-like sauce and swims on the plate alongside fresh seasonal vegetables. I also recently enjoyed the main course “rouget” (red mullet fish) served over an Asian-tinted mashed potatoes, quite possibly the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had, with ginger, olives and other unidentifiable sauces and vegetables. Every mouthful is different, and satisfying. And then… dessert ! Yes, white chocolate and wasabi is indeed an odd couple – white and creamy chocolate meets Asian-infused spicy wasabi. It’s like the John Lennon-Yoko Ono of desserts. Green tea, pistachio sauce, torrone nougat, vanilla, fresh strawberries and crunchy cookies complement the flavors, all topped with a meringue. Special mention to our Brazilian waiter [insert name here if you know him or are him!] currently manning the tables, who is friendly and lovely and, when a slight confusion over our main course order occurred, offered us another dessert on the house that rivaled my white chocolate-wasabi favorite. Dessert number deux was a strawberry and passion fruit “cappuccino” with fres chunks of strawberries, a cream sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. It was a symphony of flavors in my mouth – creamy, yet fruity and light at the same time. After the meal, take a walk along the Seine, right around the corner. As it is, it’s tough to get a reservation at Ze Kitchen, so please make sure to call me before to call in to make sure you don’t take my table, merci beaucoup.

9. L’Orangerie

I fell in love with Claude Monet during my first trip to Paris when I was younger (yes, can you imagine a bigger cliché?) and it’s been a long love affair ever since. Monet’s nymphéas can be found at the recently-renovated L’Orangerie, complete with other impressionist works. Definitely a must-see.

A picnic in the Tuileries gardens (see photo) followed by a tour of l'Orangerie is the perfect plan for a hot summer afternoon in Paris.


I finally have my carte de séjour! Vive la France ! It expires in March, but still a victory after many days/weeks/months of suffering. Paris, je t’aime !