Paris finally has it’s very own version of Gossip Girl. The veritable online popularity contest SayWho? was launched just a few weeks ago by Paris-based creative agency Say Hmmm! (www.sayhmm.com) From the people who brought you drunken outdoor parties at Bagatelle, parties for luxury brands (think: Diesel, Givenchy and Russian Standard Vodka) and that ubiquitous tall sexy Danish dude Rasmus comes a new web movement which is picking up where Facebook left off. SayWho is basically a website – in French, but will eventually branch out into other languages and territories if all goes as planned – featuring photos of Parisian soirées. Party attendees are tagged and labeled, then thrown into a rating system where the city’s most-viewed partyers are ranked in order of social appearance. This week, for example, Kanye West is #15, Guillaume Canet #20, and Jeremy Scott #3. (and Rebecca Leffler #8 may I add.) A crew of photographers – including my favorite night reporter Mr. Jean Picon – let no party go unsnapped. Can’t make it out Tuesday night before your big meeting Wednesday morning? No problem, just check out the SayWho? photo recap and it’ll be just like you were there (only with no hangover or unidentified French guy/girl in your bed the next morning).
Check out my blog on SayWho? @ http://blog.saywho.fr/
xoxo French Gossip Girl
“He’s so French” was the slogan advertised all over the Cannes Film Festival a couple of years ago. The “he” in question is secret agent OSS117, aka Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, aka actor Jean Dujardin. The spy genre parody is directed by Michel Hazanavicius – I still can’t pronounce his name, but I love his movies – and the 2006 title “OSS117 Cairo, Nest of Spies” was a hit in Gaul. The next installment in the series “OSS117: Rio ne répond plus” (Rio isn’t responding anymore) is, in my opinion, even funnier than the first. Jean Dujardin is back in his starring role in this story filled with subtle humor and dry satire, a sort of “James Bond” meets “Naked Gun.” The screenplay is bitingly witty and Dujardin is brilliant as the anti-Semitic, racist, sometimes clueless spy. There’s even a token American guy in the film – actor Ken Samuels, who is hysterical in the role of Trumendous. The Paris premiere was held last week with the whole cast, among other French celebs. Jean Dujardin and his lady love fellow actress Alexandra Lamy, former OSS117 girl Berenice Bejo and current “Bath Girl” Louise Monot, and a hodgepodge of other French talent like Gilles Lellouche, “Hostage” director Florent Emilio Siri, and others who, if you can understand this English so well, you have no idea who I am talking about. Here’s a sneak peak at the fabulous film.
3. ZADIG ♥ LEFFLER
Or more like Leffler ♥ Zadig. Either way you look at it, it’s a trans-Atlantic love affair. Zadig & Voltaire is a French clothing brand – sort of a chic rock glam combo of hipster-wear with a twist. The brand is famous for its Parisian street style basics like cashmere shirts and dresses, jeans and funky leather studded bags. Zadig & Voltaire just opened up a store in New York’s trendy meatpacking district and also started a new Zadig&Voltaire Music label. Their new hit “Playground” is already making waves. I don’t think I go a day without wearing something with a “Zadig&Voltaire” label on it – the clothes are definitely too pricey (300 euros for a cotton dress?) but are logical purchases since they are all very basic and très chic. I have been carrying around my black leather Zadig bag for years already – it’s quality, great-looking leather. I just checked out their new Fall/Winter collection for next season which is fabulous and features the classic Zadig basics, but also more sparkly tops and dresses, cashmere wrap-around sweaters and a lovely straw hat I plan to wear to sport a “farmer chic” look this spring. Here’s the “Playground” clip for your listening pleasure.
and the NY store:
4. MR SUZUKI
Finding tofu in Paris is like finding … well, like finding tofu in Paris, an ostensibly impossible endeavor in the land of steak frites and foie gras. While tofu is found at most organic stores like Naturalia or Bio Génération chains, it doesn’t compare to the “real” stuff from Japan. Luckily, that’s where Kioko comes in. The Japanese shop near Opéra sells Japanese imports of all kinds, including Suzu Tofu, homemade every day and hand-delivered by the tofu master himself, Mr Suzuki. I happened to arrive at Kioko just when Mr Suzuki was delivering his fresh tofu of the day. In Japanese-accented French, he described the entire process of the tofu-making to me, then went on to give advice on how to cook the tofu, all with a huge smile on his face. He is my new favorite person in Paris (or at least my favorite tofu-maker. He’s actually the only tofu-maker I know, but I think if I met the others, I’d still favor him.) Tofu has a bad reputation, but is a wonderful food – it’s filled with protein, absorbs the flavor of any marinade or sauce and can be stored in the refrigerator for longer than most meats. I am a To-fool.
Did I mention I adore all things Jean-Georges Vongerichten ? Or just Jean-Georges for short since nobody in any country seems to be able to correctly pronounce his last name, nor do many people know he does indeed have a last name since he is known across the globe (mostly in New York and in Asia) as Jean-Georges. I am addicted to his Paris hotspot, Market. I’ve been going since I moved here nearly five years ago, and even got the chance to celebrate the 7-year anniversary of the restaurant with JG himself (and copious amounts of truffle pizza and mini cheesecakes – it was a dream come true - see photo of me and the culinary master himself.) The trendy, New York-like décor is complemented by the, well, trendy, New York-like cuisine. Jean-Georges offers modern French cuisine with an Asian flare. My favorites include the black truffle and fontina pizza or the tuna rolls to start, the daurade (a white fish) served with a sweet and sour sauce or the always-changing variations of duck breast or chicken as main courses, and then – bien sur – the most amazingly delicious cheesecake ever in life to end the meal. Try not to fill up on the delicious breads and butter albeit very tempting – you must save room for dessert. JG is offering a special “recession menu” (he is the ONLY one in Paris, France to do this mind you) for 34 euros for three courses if you eat before 8:30 pm or after 10:30 pm. Please note that you need to ORDER by these times. I went last week with a group of friends. We reserved for 8 pm, sat down around 8:20 pm (see: I was eating with mostly French people) and didn’t place our order until 8:34 pm, and were thus told we were “too late” to take advantage of the offer. But 34 euros for three courses at JG is an extraordinary deal (most of the main courses cost that price or more) so I plan to return imminently for an early or late night chowdown. Care to join me?
PS It appears that my BFF JG has followed me onto blogspot?
6. PASSOVER IN PARIS
When Moses was in Egypt land … he would have been appalled to discover that Paris, France is not very Pesach-friendly. While in the US, or at least in MY part of the US (read: the tri-state area), supermarkets dedicate full aisles to Passover products, the Parisian supermarkets are severely lacking in Passover fare. I had to go to four different supermarkets yesterday just to find K for P wine. And while the US offers Manichewitz products including everything from Passover muffin mix to Pesach-approved cereal, and matzoh in all forms – whole wheat, crackers, gefilte-fish flavored (no just kidding, but I imagine it will be on the market by 2015) – Paris offers a few boxes of matzoh and other canned K for P products. So sad. The Bon Marche Grand Epicerie sells 450 different kinds of olive oil, 600 different types of ham … and offers a measly mini-stand of a few boxes of matzoh and strange-looking chocolate chip cakes. So instead of “Next Year in Jerusalem” how about “Next Year at Monoprix”?
(see photo of THIS year in Monoprix)
7. FERME DU MANEGE YOGURT
It’s white and creamy and I swallow some almost every morning. Get your minds out of the gutter! I’m talking about French yogurt. While I do miss my occasional Stonyfield Farm’s during trips to America, French yogurt is in a class of its own. Don’t have a cow, the US has some good products too of course, but here the yogurt is mostly full-fat made from whole milk instead of the “fat free” (and usually “taste free”) fare found in US supermarkets. In French supermarkets, the yogurt aisle is a well-stocked department of its own. I have tasted every yogurt in the country (yes, 4.5 years allots a lot of time for yogurt-tasting). I enjoy the more commercial Danone products, have dabbled in sheep’s milk yogurts (much thicker and creamier, but typically easier on the stomach) and goat’s milk yogurts. I’ve decided to stick with cows for the time being (I’m moo-ving on, sorry Brebis sheep). La Ferme du Manège is probably the most expensive yogurt – I’ve found it so far only at the Bon Marché Grande Epicerie and the individual containers are quite costly, but are nearly twice the size of the average French yogurt (which is about 1.2 the size of most US yogurts) – 180 g instead of 125 g. The Ferme du Manège is creamy, but not too thick and uses no cream, only milk and fresh products. I love the honey flavor and the vanilla, but have also enjoyed the occasional “Mureboise” (the delicious offspring of a blackberry and a raspberry), fig and caramel (ok so it’s a dessert disguised as a breakfast addition, but let’s keep fooling ourselves, it’s damn good). They even have a few flavors made with skim milk. I’ve never been to the Manège farm, but I hope to one day take a trip and thank them for making my mornings even more enjoyable.
8. ERIC BESSON
After hours and hours of tears and several visits to the Police HQ in Paris, I am still struggling with French authorities to renew my visa to stay here. I recently received a letter from the Minster of the Interior telling me that, while it is not under her jurisdiction, she has transferred my file to Monsieur Eric Besson, Minister of Immigration. While this appears to be good news – that is, SOMETHING is happening with my file – the idea of Eric Besson holding a fat file with “LEFFLER, Rebecca” written on it sends shivers down my spine. Besson has recently become well-known for cracking down on illegal immigration and has set arrest quotas for those citizens who “assist” such people. There was an article in this week’s New York Times that said this: "France is restricting visas for workers from outside the European Union in the face of rising unemployment, according to a policy directive by President Nicolas Sarkozy that was released Tuesday. “The absolute priority must be for people in France who are deprived of work to get back into jobs,” he said. The unemployment rate among foreigners from non-European Union countries living in France was 22 percent, he said, compared with 8 percent for the whole population." This is NOT good news for moi, ladies and gentleFrenchmen.
Dear Mr Besson, if you are reading my blog (you know you are), you are France’s Minister of “Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Solidarity Development” and I just happen to be very well-integrated into French society, not to mention do so much for the national identity of France through my many stories in the Hollywood Reporter and elsewhere and help, “solidarity development” is like my middle name. Please let me stay ! Je vous aime !
9. TRADER JOE
Oh how I miss you, Joe ! Joe-meo, Joe-meo, wherefore art thou Trader Joe-meo? Definitely not in Paris, France which is très disappointing. I have learned to live without my family in close proximity, without good bagels and without available taxis, but life without Trader Joe’s has become increasingly difficult. I have recently been diagnosed with SGW – Severe Granola Withdrawal. My body is craving those delicious clusters of whole grain goodness and my yogurt bowl weeps as it is forced to cover itself in unacceptable French cereals. Then there is the mix of “harvest grains,” the greatest thing to happen to “I just got home and am hungry and want something delicious, satisfying and well-balanced that goes with anything” since sliced bread. Not to mention their “just a handful” series which provide the perfect amount of nuts, trail mixes or dried cranberries. But Joe, woe is me – you refuse to offer your products online or send them to me (yes, I’ve sent letters requesting such a service) or to open a store in France. Your almond granola is my Proust Madeleine – it makes me feel like I am back home in America. So I will pine away in Paris for my dear Joe, eating a croissant all the while dreaming of rekindling our love affair soon in the USA.
10. TAYLOR SWIFT's "WHITE HORSE"
Yes, I confess, I’ve been playing “Love Story” over and over on iTunes. I admittedly enjoy the country tunes from the singer who is still in her teens and sold more albums in American last year than anyone. I’m currently into her very cheesy, yet secretly (or not so secretly) “White Horse”.
I'm not a princess
This ain't a fairytale
I'm not the one you'll sweep off her feet
Lead her up the stairwell
This ain't Hollywood,
This is a small town
I was a dreamer before you went and let me down
Now its too late for you and your White Horse,
To come around.