Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Liz Taylor is embracing Richard Burton to my right. To my left, emerald and diamond jewels are blinding me, almost to the point that I can barely see Lenny Kravitz and his entourage walk by followed by Johnny and Laeticia Hallyday. Then, a few minutes later, Juliette Binoche. Julianne Moore walks by and says to me: “How ARE you? So great to see you again! You look gorgeous!” (Perhaps she was equally blinded by the shining jewels?) A photographer snaps my photo. I pose in my très chic Vanessa Bruno fur vest and skirt and a bejeweled diadem on my head with gorgeous earrings dangling from my ears (courtesy of the lovely Anna Rivka). I find myself in the center of Le Grand Palais in a vast space with a massive black diamond centerpiece. I expect to wake up any minute, but in fact, I’m not dreaming this time. I’m at the opening cocktail for the new “Bulgari: 125 Years of Italian Magnificence” expo at Le Grand Palais.
The colossal Parisian monument was bejeweled with stars from across the globe including (my new best friend) Julianne Moore, Lenny Kravitz and Clive Owen who all took time to make their rounds through the eight galleries that trace the major events in Bulgari’s history from the opening of its first shop on the Via Sistina in 1884 to its modern day influence on global fashion. My favorite aging French rock star Johnny Hallyday, French Vogue Editor Carine Roitfeld, actresses Juliette Binoche and Princess Clotilde Courau and director Claude Lelouch joined the Bulgari family for champagne cocktails and a preview of the vast expo that will run from Dec. 10th through Jan. 12th in the French capital.
The expo is really breathtaking and if you’re in Paris now through Jan 12th, definitely don’t miss it. The massive diamond configuration made of mirrors in the center of the Grand Palais is extraordinary and the gallery devoted exclusively to jewels worn by screen legends of the 1950s and 1960s including Claudia Cardinale, Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Loren is spectacular. And then there’s Elizabeth Taylor… oh là là!
Elizabeth Taylor’s personal collection is on display for all to see and includes the now famous “Grand Duchess Vladimir’s Suite” brooch and necklace with matching earrings, a gift from Richard Burton during their tempestuous love affair. (Come on, did you expect an interesting evening out in Paris without a scandalous love affair involved?) The evening was definitely memorable. Not to mention, the old Italian ladies in their fur coats were just incredible – like the Italian grandmothers I’ve always dreamed of. I wanted to go home with them and have them cook me Pasta all Norma and knit me a sweater. Actually, forget the sweater, I’ll take one of their GIGANTIC diamond rings as a souvenir.
The expo is part of Bulgari’s global 125th birthday celebration. I definitely hope to celebrate MY 125th birthday in a similar way, are you all coming?
…And then Cinderella turns back into a pumpkin. The clothing and jewelry are returned to sender, the sparkling diamonds and emeralds remain in their cases and all I can do now is dream of Bulgari … And I will.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join together Le Baron and Rose Bakery in holy matrimony…” “I DO…” not believe it. Two of my favorite Parisian institutions have wed. Well, sort of. Lionel Bensemoun, of Le Baron fame, has joined forces with Kaori Endo, the culinary artist formerly known as the chef at Rose Bakery Marais for a new spot on 31, rue de Paradis in the 10th arrondissement called… 31, rue de Paradis. OK so I’ll subtract a few points for originality in the title, but 31, “Heaven Street” is a fair moniker. The new restaurant features a mostly organic, varied menu in a spacious, convivial setting.
The daily menu features Franco-Japanese fusion food including the “Bento” of the day with a meat, fish or vegetarian option. Today’s choice was a tofu with miso walnut sauce, chicken with sun dried tomatoes or a balsamic salmon, all served with a quinoa and red rice combo, a pomegranate/apple/cabbage/walnut salad and a broccoli, beet and parmesan salad. The bento is very healthy and well-balanced, delicious, filling and, for the price of just 13 euros, very affordable. Plus, no one in Paris makes tofu like Kaori – I’d been in withdrawal since she left Rose Bakery and now I’m thrilled I can again enjoy her incredible gift for tofu-cooking (yes, it’s a gift, I’ve tried to replicate it many times and have failed).
Rumor has it the spring rolls – today a chicken or veggie option – are also great and the “matcha-banana-nondairy milk smoothie” is also a must-try on a future visit. While Le Baron’s influence can’t be ignored – Lionel himself was there the day I popped in, and the place is teeming with hipsters – I found the ambiance surprisingly low-key and relaxed. It’s far from just “Le Baron nightclub at 1 PM” – it’s a very down-to-earth, zen spot with an eclectic clientele. Plus, the space is so vast that it’s a nice breath of fresh air from most of Paris’ teeny tiny, cozy spots where you’re eating elbow-to-elbow with your neighbors. It’s a great place to go for lunch with friends or even for a workday meal.
And, for those busy days, the takeout corner is absolutely perfect. In 5 minutes, one (namely, me) can walk out with a protein-carb-veggie-filled hearty meal and head back to the office with a smile. Well, I can’t personally guarantee the smile, but perhaps a dessert will do the trick? The matcha green tea-white chocolate- raspberry cake is literally a taste of “Heaven” and the chocolate cake had rave reviews too. Their smoothie and tea list is impressive and our mint and ginger infusion was perfect for a cold winter’s day. As of the beginning of 2011, 31, rue de Paradis will be open every day and certain weeknights for dinner. Just another reason to celebrate the new year. Now, let’s nickname it “Paradis” or “Heaven,” is open from 9 am – 6 pm Monday through Wednesday, from 9 am through midnight on Thursdays and Fridays (limited menu for now) and then Saturday from noon until midnight.
Friday, December 10, 2010
“We’ll always have … OPI”
“We’ll always have Paris.” It’s true, Humphrey Bogart, we will. But can we have a decent MANICURE in Paris? That’s another story entirely. In America, one out of every two women have properly manicured hands, 98% percent of whom have gotten them professionally polished. (Statistics courtesy of Rebecca Leffler’s Hypothesis, inc.) In Paris? Much fewer and far between. 12% ? (source: My Wild Imagination). Manicures here not only cost a fortune, but just finding a place to get one is a task in itself. In NY, every street corner has a nail salon. (It’s right between Starbucks and the gym, see it now?) In Paris, pas du tout! Enter… OPI! The famous nail polish brand now boasts five nail bars in Paris for pampering from hand to toe. A polish change is just 5 euros and a full SPA Manicure 35 euros and classic manicure 20 Euros (which, if you live in America, will think is exorbitantly high, but if you live in Paris will think is a great deal!) The manicure features Avoplex oil and lotion, plus OPI nail care products like Nail Envy in all its forms. My favorite part? They are big on their puns and all of their colors boast clever names. My new favorite color for winter is called “We’ll Always Have Paris” – how perfect! Their “Swiss” winter collection also features some fabulous colors (with even more fabulous names) like “I’m Suzi and I’m a Chocoholic” or “Ski Teal We Drop” or even “Diva of Geneva.” Next up for 2011? An All-American “Texas” collection of colors including “Dou Think I’m Texy,” “San-Tan-Tonio” and “Too Hot Pink to Hold’em.” Special thanks to Barbara at the rue de Turbigo location for a beautiful manicure ! (OP)I LOVE OPI!
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Watch our movie reviews of the week on the "Crash Test" on "Le Grand Journal" !
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
1. Le Klay
I just returned from a place I never dreamed possible. A place into which that no one else would have ever dreamed that I, moi, Rebecca Leffler, would step foot. The French fat lady has sung (an ironic metaphor when you read what’s to follow). French pigs have flown. I – are you sitting down for this? (another ironic metaphor in fact) – just got back from … the gym. In Paris, France.
I know, it’s the craziest news to hit France since terrorist warnings and a President marrying a supermodel. But oui oui, mes amis, it’s true: I’ve joined a Parisian gym. First of all, let me point out that “Parisian” and “gym” are not indeed antonyms. Parisian gyms do exist. Mostly under the “Club Med” moniker and mostly filled with smelly, sweaty people crowding for treadmills, but there are, more recently, a new generation of trendy workout spots invading Paris.
In French, the word for “treadmill” is “tapis roulant” or “rolling carpet.” In Paris, the rolling carpet has replaced the red carpet as France’s crème-de-la-crème skip the crème and head to the gym. While the French are known for idly sipping café au lait and smoking cigarettes, Paris’ new generation is embracing American gym culture. And, because the famously chic Gallic capital must always be fashion forward, the city’s new gyms are offering unique exercise opportunities for what have become the city’s new “gym-set” crowd. At l’Usine and at le Ken Club, France’s media and entertainment industry execs mingle with celebs like Marc Jacobs and Lenny Kravitz. In a nearby arrondissement (le 2ème) at Le Klay, Paris’ elite night dwellers converge for post-party-um trapeze workouts or hangover elixirs at the gym’s own in-house restaurant and juice bar. In New York, there’s a gym on every street corner. In Paris, there’s a bakery. However, more and more, the city’s stereotypically idle population are putting out their cigarettes and putting on their workout clothes to hit the gym.
I’ve opted to mold myself out of “Klay” (get it? How clever, those Frenchies - aren’t they?) I must say, everyone is surprisingly très friendly (even the French women actually smile and say hello in the locker rooms - incroyable!) and the machines are impressive. Klay is huge (as my muscles will be shortly, I hope) – it spans four stories including a swimming pool and sauna, boxing room, cardio floor and wide space with a variety of machines and free weights. What’s great is that it never seems to be too crowded and so far I haven’t had to fight anyone for a machine (stop laughing – these are skinny French kids remember, I may actually have a chance this time!) Plus, the locker rooms are totally modern and swank, and the place feels like a luxury hotel. There’s a lobby downstairs complete with internet and the day’s newspapers and even an in-house restaurant – le Depur – that serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner and even post-workout protein powder shakes! Klay is definitely the haute couture of gyms. Klay is so cool it’s even gotten moi motivated to cross the river in the dead of winter (well the dead of winter hasn't quite arrived but based on the sub-Arctic temperatures and SNOW I'd say we're almost there, wouldn't you?). I'll be pumping up le fer (iron, en français) Paris-style all winter long. I haven't yet checked out the many classes Klay offers including yoga, pilates, "total body," pump, freestyle, spinning or "cardio funky" (just saying that in a French accent makes me laugh so much I may not even need another workout), but I do plan to. Plus, Klay has several personal trainers on site who are all totally pro. I really feel at home there and especially commend those working out today circa 11 am for not bursting into hysterics as I attempted a sideways crunch exercise on a large plastic ball and splattered myself into a strange, quite scary bodily contortion. Thanks to my new trainer, the fabulous Adèle Van Damme, currently kicking mes fesses into shape, I may just be a Muscle Mademoiselle soon. Anyone care to join me? OKlay, let’s go!
2. Saturne, my new favorite culinary planet
Anyone living on planet earth – or Paris, France, but isn’t that the center of planet earth? ;) – cannot possibly have missed the multiple rave reviews of new restaurant Saturne. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I finally had dinner there this week. Oh là là, in the galaxy of affordable yet delicious restaurants, Saturne has earned it’s rings. We sat in the “bistro” section in the front of the restaurant, which was casually cool, though next time I will definitely try to sit in the main dining room. We started out with an “amuse-bouche” (one of my favorite French words that literally means a “mouth-entertainer”) which did indeed entertain our mouths – a “beignet de rouget” which is fancy French for a fried ball of fish, but tasted light and refined. Then, our first course – raw scallops with sea urchin and shaved goat cheese. While I’m not the biggest fan of sea urchin (I compare it’s taste to a sautéed version of the villain from “The Little Mermaid”), the scallops were high quality and the shaved goat cheese was incredible. So incredible, that it made its way to pretty much all of the following dishes, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. The next course was perhaps my favorite. Described as gnocchi with goat cheese, I expected a plate of heavy bricks soaking in cheese. Instead, fluffy potato pillows arrived on a bed of pesto and fresh herbs and topped with that delectable shaved goat cheese. Incroyable! I never wanted it to end. Then, the next course. A piece of lamb so tender that a knife was unnecessary. I asked for a non-meat version so was presented with a nice piece of St.Pierre (or John Dory- fish with a light cream emulsion and a mussel purée and seasonal vegetables including tiny dark green Brussels sprouts that were absolutely delicious. Then, my sister had the “baba” with calvados and milk ice cream and I, a very interesting combination of apple ice cream with shaved sheep’s milk cheese (yes, my dear goat was replaced with his cousin for the final course, but equally delicious), apple compote and topped with meringues. Then, on a whim, we ordered an infusion to end the meal and were awarded honey madeleines, which were so buttery and delicious they brought back the French childhood I never had and would have made even Proust himself jealous. And to think, the chef (Sven Chartier) is only 23 years old! I’ll definitely be back for more!
3. My new snood made by my new French grandmother
“Huh?” I’m reading your mind, aren’t I? You’re thinking “What’s a snood?” or perhaps you’re thinking more along the lines of “You have a French grandmother?” Let me explain. A “snood” is that ubiquitous, usually wool object, you are probably seeing on the necks of girls everywhere that’s a cross between a scarf and a turtleneck. And my French grandmother knit me my very own! And you can have your very own French grandmother AND Snood too! There’s a brand called Golden Hook that offers personalized, hand-made scarves, hats and other knits all made by real French grandmothers. You can go to their website
(http://www.goldenhook.fr/), choose your French grandmother then pick your scarf or hat style and color, and your grandmother will knit it for you. I’m currently obsessed with my Snood – it hasn’t come off my neck yet this winter and, seeing as how Mother Nature has decided to punish France with severe hypothermic conditions this year, might not until May. You might say I’m “hooked” ! Their tag line on their website? “Pick one of our awesome grannies. Say bye-bye to cold.” So, in sum, a French grandmother AND comfort from the cold? It’s snood good to be true! And, this just in, Golden Hook is on display at the Palais de Tokyo’s Black Block store from Dec. 2nd through the 16th so make sure to check it out as you gaze at the modern art around you.
We all have our Achilles heel. I happen to have two, and they literally are the heels of my feet. Enter, Camper! After years of having to choose between fashion and function, finally my feet can have both. Camper shoes literally make my feet feel like they’re walking on air, but, unlike most comfortable shoes, they’re actually quite stylish. Camper’s black lace-up “Mamba” shoe took me through an entire Cannes Film Festival this year, and are still my favorites. The recent additions to my Camper collection include a pair of purple curvy shoes and a black leather calf boot with blue and grey detailing (see both below). Dear Camper, I love you so much, it – DOESN’T – hurt. Sincerely, Rebecca’s feet
5. « Patidou » Squash
In English, it’s called “sweet dumpling squash” (totally not as cool as “Patidou,” right?) These small, plump squash are ubiquitous at the French fresh food markets these (very cold) days and are absolutely delicious. Try slicing and broiling with some maple syrup or roasting with sage and parmesan or, my current favorite, stuffing with risotto or quinoa.
The sweet and savory mélange of flavor lends the patidou to many different culinary creations. Plus, the skin is edible! The patidou is sort of a mix between a sweet potato and a butternut squash in texture and flavor – I’d say the most similar is the delicata squash, which is equally delicious. So what are you patidouing with your winter squash this season?
6. Anna Rivka jewelry
After around 8 million (approximately) trips up and down the rue Vieille du Temple, I recently stumbled across Anna Rivka jewelry’s fabulous shop. (My Hebrew name is Rivka, may I add.) Her handmade jewelry is simple, but elegant and features semi-precious stones and metals. The style is funky and urban, but at the same time, classic and antique. I’ve been wearing my double-flower “Les Fleurs” rings and another Fleur around my neck since I stopped in. Everything is gorgeous in the shop – I literally want to buy everything in the store. It’s definitely worth a trip if you’re in the neighborhood. Or, if you’re not: http://www.annarivka.fr. J’adore Anna Rivka! Love, Rivka
7. The goat cheese at Raspail market – not baaaaaaaa-d
I have a confession. I never really liked goat cheese. The goat cheese I grew up with in the US usually resembles cream cheese, which I’m not such a fan of and yes, there are indeed other things to top bagels with, thank you very much. And then, I discovered… le fromage de chèvre français. For years, I contented myself with pretty much any chèvre thrown my way (the cheese, that is – no one has thrown a goat at me to date). And then, I discovered… the goat cheese at the Raspail market (first cheese stand to the left if you're coming from the rue de Rennes side). Their fresh goat cheese, in both “ficelle” or slightly salted “crottin” or “pyramide” form is so fresh from the goat you can still almost hear it baaaaa-ing if you listen closely. The ficelle with turmeric and some pumpkin seed oil, a recipe courtesy of my favorite Viennese-Parisian chef Babsie Steger, is absolutely delicious in any season (http://babsiesteger.blogspot.com/2010/05/chevre-tres-tres-frais-hile-de-courge.html) and their crottin spread on toast with a bit of honey is a sweet treat any time of day. So “buck” up and get over to the market for the best cheese of your life. It’s much ado about mutton.
8. Les Belges
I’ve always identified with Belgians. As a New Jerseyan, I’ve had to suffer incessant mockery from New Yorkers (and pretty much everyone in the United States). After years of “what exit?” and references to “the armpit of the United States,” I moved to Paris (where most people don’t know you’re supposed to make fun of people hailing from the magnificent Garden State) and met… Belgians. While mostly known in the USA for their waffle-making abilities (which I sincerely thank them for but wonder why the amazing concept of frozen waffles for breakfast hasn’t hit France yet?), the Belgians are also – and quite unfortunately – famous for being the butt of many French jokes. Enter Dany Boon’s latest film “Rien à Déclarer,” (or “Nothing to Declare”) his follow-up to the box office record-breaker “Welcome to the Sticks.” In the film, a French customs officer and his Belgian counterpart must learn to work together in peace. While the film is far from Oscar or César-worthy, it’s a fun romp across the Franco-Belgian border and is, to my surprise, actually very funny at times. It’s a film designed to be a national – and international (Belgium, bien sûr) – hit so the humor is rather puerile and the story quite mundane and predictable yet the time passes quickly and it’s a very enjoyable film. The cast is fantastic – Benoit Poelvoorde is less annoying than usual and Boon is in his element. Karin Viard, aka the funniest woman in France, plays a small yet hysterical role alongside the always fabulous Francois Damiens. I have “nothing to declare” other than, definitely don’t miss this film if you’re in France in February!
9. My Cuisinart
The latest addition to my life is an American import in France that makes great food and fits perfectly in my apartment. No, I haven’t started dating an expat chef (though, that does sound tempting) – I’m talking about my new Cuisinart food processor. It’s changed my (culinary) life. ‘Tis the season for purées and my Cuisinart miraculously turns potatoes and pumpkins and squash or whatever winter vegetable I throw its way into a creamy delight. Not to mention, it makes delicious pesto sauces – or rather, the Cuisinart makes the pesto sauces and I make them delicious, but our teamwork is extraordinary. I just add the ingredients, hold down a button and – voilà! Dinner is served… Je vous aime, Cuisinart!
10. Gwyneth Paltrow’s rendition of Cee-Lo’s “F—k You” on “Glee.”
OK so maybe this doesn’t qualify as something technically IN Paris, but I have been singing this song over and over again (many times, out loud) throughout the streets of Paris, so does that count? Like much of the world, I’m a bit obsessed with “Glee” and Gwyneth Paltrow rocked last week’s episode. If you haven’t heard the “Glee” – and PG ! – version of the song – it’s now “Forget You,” download away. It’s unfortunately extremely addictive and I fear I have scared many French people recently belting it out on the streets, on the bus and in public places. “I see you driving 'round town With the girl i love and i'm like…forget youuuuu….” Fantastic.
I’ve spent the past three days (well, almost) with Paul Haggis in Paris to promote his latest film “The Next Three Days.” The film is an adaptation of Fred Cavayé’s French movie “Pour Elle” and stars Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks. I took to the stage on Monday night to translate a Master Class with the director, then worked as a translator at the press junket on Tuesday and finally hosted the Paris premiere of the film on Tuesday evening. It was so incredible to hear such a talented writer and filmmaker (and producer!) talk about his rise to success. “It’s a ridiculous business. You need to believe in the impossible,” Haggis said. He added: “Russell Crowe’s character in the film is right when he says that if you follow logic, you’ll never succeed. You need to believe, even when all of the odds are against you and you need to work ten times harder than everyone else.” He then said during a press interview that “You need to be mad to accomplish anything great in this world. That’s why we’re all sitting here today. Otherwise, we’d all be accountants.” Russell Crowe is fabulous as usual in the film, and, though long, I like how Haggis strayed from traditional Hollywood thrillers by allowing the characters to develop before giving us a fast-paced, intriguing and thought-provoking finale. The film hits French theaters next Wednesday so enjoy the next three days before you enjoy “The Next Three Days”!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Voilà the link to my segment on Friday's "Le Grand Journal" episode.
Films of the week:
CHARLIE ST CLOUD
Wait a second? Vegans? Paris? Aren’t those terms mutually exclusive? Oui oui, even in the jungle of steak frites, fromage and crème brûlée, vegans do roam. And they’ll all be gathering to celebrate their veggie-chic ways on Paris Vegan Day on November 28th at la Bellevilloise. The theme? “Comment vivre sa vie vegan?” or How to live a Vegan life. From 11 am to midnight, the streets of Paris’ 20th arrondissement will be filled with anti-animal, pro-FUN for all complete with musical concerts, culinary demonstrations from celebrity vegan chefs like Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero or Joshua Katcher, a vegan brunch, conferences all day long, planet-friendly fashion shows, a raffle to win fabulous prizes and a photo competition about “Being Vegan.” The event is sponsored by the brand Lush, magazine VegMag, the world’s first Vegan B&B the Gentle Gourmet, V-G Zone and Un Monde Vegan. So put down your steak knives and check it out! Bon Vegappétit!
For more info, www.parisveganday.fr
And not from Paris and looking for a place to stay while in town for the event? The Gentle Gourmet is the city's (and the world's I believe) only Vegan B&B !
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
On November 23rd, girls from all over the world of all ages and all sizes will be flocking to line up along the streets of their current cities. They’ll be pitted against each other in a survival of the fittest where only the strongest will endure. Yes, my friends, on November 23rd, H&M will launch their collection from Lanvin across the globe. The very lucky Irina Lazareanu is the official model for the collection that features 30 looks and 15 accessories for women and 25 outfits and 10 accessories for men. Wait, let’s review – Lanvin elegance at H&M prices. Seriously? It’s too good to be true. Well, almost. Just try and fight against the thousands and thousands of girls who will be waiting on line to attack the store’s shelves. Last night, H&M unveiled the new collection at a cocktail in Paris and I can tell you first hand that it’s FABULOUS. It’s fun and colorful, yet classy at the same time. I’m especially into a dress featuring legs and high-heeled shoes, a long, faux fur vest, all of the hot black more formal dresses and the fabulous jackets. Oh là là Là…nvin!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Looking for the best meal – and the best deal – in Paris for lunch or dinner? Hungry? Tough luck – you won’t be able to get a reservation at Frenchie for at least three months. The hotspot has been the talk of le town since it opened, and is still packed every night and day it’s open. “Frenchie” is named for chef Gregory Marchand’s nickname when he worked abroad. The traveling chefsman is now back in his native land and turning out dishes that can be described as “French grandmother meets wordly contemporary.” I’d been to Frenchie back when it first opened and found it perfectly enjoyable, but not memorable. Then, after reading the only positive reviews and talking to foodie friends here who are obsessed with the place, I decided to head back to the rue du Nil. “What could possibly be so good?” “What’s all the fuss about?” I wondered. And now I know. First of all, Frenchie’s location on a tiny little street near the Sentier makes you feel like you’re literally in Marchand’s home and watching him while he cooks for you. Every so often, Marchand will stick his neck out to make sure his diners are content. The service is warm and welcoming without being overbearing. And then there’s the food…
While I do usually prefer more of a choice, the fact that Marchand picks out the day’s market’s best and offers just two choices actually forces you to try thing you wouldn’t normally try. I shared both appetizers, since they were both too good to resist – one was a cooked and raw beet salad with a yogurt and hazelnut sauce and the other a smoked mackerel with Brussels sprouts and a root vegetable purée – DIVINE. Then, the choices were pork belly with parsnips or a seabass with a mushroom sauce. I chose the seabass and, though I’m not a huge mushroom fan, it was absolutely delicious. And then, la pièce de résistance… dessert! The baba au rhum looked good, but I opted for the Physalis tart. Not only did I learn what Physalis is (not a sexually transmitted disease though it does sound like that, non?) but it was quite possibly the best dessert I’ve ever had. And all of it washed down with Poujaran bread – does it get any better than that? Not to mention, 38 euros for the whole meal – incroyable! Thanks, Monsieur Marchand, see you … well, I’d say soon, but looking like I’ll next be seated in 2015 at this rate!
2. Claude Monet
Once upon a time, I fell in love with Claude Monet. I was only 16, he was 260 (not such a shocking age difference, we’re in France remember?) It was love at first Water Lily. Now, the love of my life, notre cher Claude, is back for an incredible expo at the Grand Palais in Paris. Almost as interesting as following the artist’s works is seeing where all of the paintings come from since most have been pricked from museums all across the world. Pre-paid tix are sold out, but it’s worth braving the lines for this memorable exhibit. Claude, je t’aime!
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away…” Actually it doesn’t. (Or maybe that’s because a tarte tatin or chausson aux pommes don’t count as “apples”?) When all else fails – it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Oscillococcinum! (say that five times fast) This hard to pronounce yet easy to swallow French homeopathic medecine works miracles. Feel flu-like? Just take a bit every few hours and – voilà! You’re cured. Vive la France and their strange but fantastic medecines.
4. La FIAC
What the FIAC? No seriously, are you asking yourself what the FIAC is happening at the Grand Palais this week? In fact, it’s a colossal modern art fair that takes over Paris once a year. Gallery owners from across the globe convene to show off their latest contemporary art masterpieces. What are you waiting for? FIAC you!
5. Ze Kitchen Galerie
I know I know, zees eez not zee first time I am writing about ze wonders of Ze Kitchen Galerie. But what can I say? It’s simply zee best. William Ledeuil’s asian-inspired modern French cooking is unparalleled, especially in terms of its price-quality ratio. Ledeuil changes his menu depending on the seasons, and always offers the freshest of ingredients with ostensibly bizarre yet unexpectedly delicious flavor combinations that amuse and surprise even the most sophisticated palettes. I’ve been a few times in the past month (yes, ‘tis the season of visitors!) and some of this season’s memorable dishes have included a seabass with a turmeric sauce and vegetables (though that description doesn’t do justice to the cacophony of interesting flavors on the plate), a handmade pasta with shrimp, scallops and an incredibly creamy yet light sauce, a Thai bouillon soup with shrimp that exploded with flavor and And then there were the desserts: poached pears with fried coconut and caramel with an apple and caramel ice cream, an apple and ginger cappuccino, a chocolate dish topped with a creamy coconut milk panna cotta-like sauce that was incredible, a molten fig cake to Ledeuil’s signature dessert (and my all-time favorite) the white chocolate and wasabi ice cream with strawberry and pistachio coulis (yes, I’ve tried all of the above). And all in a swanky yet relaxed setting with swanky yet relaxed waiters who make the experience flawless.
6. Jackass 3D
I had the honor* (*loosely used here) to host the JACKASS 3D premiere here in Paris on Wednesday night, then the press conference on Thursday. The film’s director Jeff Tremaine and stars Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera were in town to promote their third dimensional onscreen antics. I did manage to emerge unscathed, though having to translate sentences like “he’s a douchebag” and “I stuck my penis into vodka” was quite an experience. I must say, though I may have lost a few (or a few hundred) brain cells in the process, JACKASS 3D is actually quite entertaining at time, though the “toilet humor” segments went a bit too overboard (warning: don’t see this film while eating, before eating, after eating, or if you plan to eat in the next 24 hours – OH LA LA!)
(photos courtesy of Olivier Borde)
7. Disney’s TRON in IMAX 3D
On Thursday night, I headed to the Gaumont Pathe Quai d’Ivry to catch the exclusive world premiere of Disney’s upcoming “Tron: Legacy” movie at the IMAX theater. Disney screened 23 minutes of the movie and all I can say is so far, so good – can’t wait to see the finished product! “Tron:Legacy” is based on the 1982 sci-fi movie “Tron” with Jeff Bridges about a hacker and an electronic world. While I’m not so into hackers or electronic worlds, the special effects were incredible, especially in the IMAX cinema, and I adore Jeff Bridges, who rounds out an all-star cast also including Michael Sheen and (very handsome) newcomer Garrett Hedlund. The film comes out on Dec 17th in the US and in February in la France.
8. “Drop Dead Diva”
OK, I confess – I watched Lifetime all summer. As if that were bad enough, I watched a TV show about a model who dies and is reincarnated into the body of a lawyer and looked over by her guardian angel as she pines away for her former fiancée who just happens to work in the same law firm as her, all of which is complete with musical numbers and guest spots from Paula Abdul. Alas, it’s true (I mean, the fact that I watched the show, not the plot, as far as I know…) However, apparently I’m not the only one with such a guilty pleasure. “Drop Dead Diva” has already had a successful two seasons on Lifetime, has been ordered for a third season, and is selling well across the globe. The show’s second season will air on French cable network Teva and the first season has been picked up by major terrestrial network M6 here. The show’s star, Brooke Elliot, was in Paris to promote the show and I met her for a diva date at the Hotel Bristol.
“It’s a different show than we’re used to. The overall theme of the show is globally understood – this idea of identity and self-acceptance. In the end, we’re all humans battling different issues,” Elliot said of the show’s success abroad.
She added: “Our society has created rules we’re supposed to follow. Our show is eradicating the myth that you have to fit into a certain little box. But if you’re stuck inside the little box, then you miss out on all the beauty around.”
But is it hard to play a character with a different set of beauty rules?
“I never see her as ugly,” Elliot said. She added: “Just because someone doesn’t wear makeup or do her hair doesn’t mean she’s ugly. I have never been of the belief that Jane is ugly.”
Plus, Elliot has not only gotten to do a few musical numbers, but also share the screen with several high-profile guest stars like Paula Abdul and Rosie O’Donnell.
“I get to do a lot. It’s a pretty fantastic position to be in as an actor,” she said, adding: “It’s crazy to shoot with Paula. I grew up listening to Paula Abdul and watching her dance with the cat. I love when Rosie’s on – she’s so talented and so easy to act with. She makes me laugh.”
So what’s up for the next season of “Drop Dead Diva” ?
“I’m hoping that we can get into Deb’s shallowness that still remains. I would love to see some of her closed mind shatter and see her keep living her life in a more spiritually open way,” Elliot said.
And why not add a few dream guest stars into the mix? “I’d love to have Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Joan Cusack, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson or Kate Winslet on the show…I mean if we’re going to ask, let’s ask!”
The very un-diva-like Elliot seems a far cry from Deb’s superficial supermodel character, though she admits: “I’m very girly like Deb – my makeup and hair take me time to do.” However, she added: “But sometimes, I’m more shy like Jane. I’m a mixture of both.” Plus, she said, “I like to try and make Jane a little more girly.”
So will Elliot trade in her acting career for a new career in court?
“I’ve learned some things about the law, but I don’t have the desire to be a lawyer,” she said. Can’t wait to check out the third season of “Diva” – yes, you heard it here first, my guilty pleasure has become simply a pleasure!
9. Bruce Willis
Why? Because he’s still the man after all of these years. I caught Bruce at the Plaza Athenee while he was in town to promote action comedy “Red.” Willis ironically plays a retired CIA agent in the film and had a lot to say about the controversy in France about the retirement age. As the streets of Paris around him filled with protests, Willis offered his views on current French politics: “I’m very pro-choice. I’d like to see you have a choice of when you retire and when you don’t,” but added: “On the contrary, other people think that what I say should be changed, that I shouldn’t even be talking about it.”
So how does Willis manage to look so good as he ages? “Here’s my secret: my mother has really good skin. My mother has great genes. I don’t wear products, I don’t wear lotion. I only wear makeup when I absolutely have to for work,” he said.
This isn’t Willis’ first visit to Paris, of course – the prolific actor makes regular trips to France. He told me: “I have been here a lot. I like to get out of the United States I like to get out of my own country. I like to eat food and I eat a lot more food when I’m here. I can’t stop. Sometimes it’s a problem. But there are a lot of things I like about France. I like the pace here I like a lot more than other places. I really love the people. I always feel welcome here. There are some really great papa razzi here.
10. Robert Redford, Nicolas Sarkozy and the Elysée!
I joined my friends Nick (Sarkozy) and Bob (Redford) for the Legion of Honor ceremony at the Elysée Palace in Paris. (Excuse me, would you mind if I just repeated that? Not often I get to say that.)
Nicolas Sarkozy and the Sundance Kid were the stars of the Elysee Palace when the French President named Redford a Knight in the French Legion of Honor at a private ceremony in Paris. Redford was honored for his work both on and off screen, with Sarkozy citing Redford’s work in “The Great Gatsby,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Out of Africa,” but also his involvement in the Sundance Institute and work as an environmental activist. “For us, the French, you represent American mythology. You’re the face of the America that we dream about,” Sarkozy said, adding: “You are the incarnation of the United States and all that that country represents.” Redford accepted the award, telling guests about the time that he spent living in Paris as a struggling young artist and how that influenced his career. “It changed me in very dramatic ways,” Redford said of his 1957 visit to France, adding: “I began to look at my country through the eyes of another country.” Redford was joined by French filmmaker Costa-Gavras, the CNC’s Veronique Cayla and French writer-director-artist Loic Prigent at the intimate gathering among other high-profile guests who enjoyed mini Croque Monsieur sandwiches and champagne to toast Redford’s love affair with French cinema. Redford told the crowd: “France – this country has made a contribution to world culture that is just profound,” then ended the night showing off his French language skills, saying: “I’m deeply, deeply, honored. Merci, merci.” Redford’s The Sundance Channel recently launched on SFR in France and is already available in the territory on Numericable and Free cable providers. Plus, Redford personally invited me to the Sundance Film Festival. Cher Robert, I'm waiting for my invite!
11 sorry, just too much to love about Paris this week!) “L’Homme qui voulait vivre sa vie” / “The Big Picture”
Don’t miss Eric Lartigau’s French adaptation of Douglas Kennedy’s American best-selling novel “The Big Picture.” The film premiered in Toronto and will be released in France on Wednesday. Lartigau manages to capture the spirit of the novel, though changes the storyline, setting and language to make it his own. Romain Duris is wonderful as the protagonist in this story about a man unhappy with his life who is able to start over after a horrible accident. The thriller about a man running from his past features incredible cinematography and a fabulous soundtrack. Bravo, Lartigau! I had the chance to talk to the director before the film premiered in Toronto. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
Me: Why the decision to adapt this particular book?
Eric Lartigau: In fact, the decision was made 12 years ago when I first read the book. I called my agent right away and asked him for the rights, but they were already taken by a US studio, so I started working on other projects. Then, two and a half years ago, someone told me that Pierre-Ange Le Pogom had bought the rights to it. We had a drink and talked about the movie until 3 am. My initial goal in making this film was to talk about fear and the questions “Do we really know each other?” and “Do we really know ourselves?” and “How do societal and social pressures make us forget who we really are?”
Me: This is an adaptation of a popular novel – did you feel pressure to remain loyal to both the book’s author Douglas Kennedy and loyal fans of the novel?
Lartigau: Many people said “It’s unadaptable!” “It’s too American!” but I think that the theme is universal. Douglas Kennedy was very generous. He never asked for anything. I wanted to make sure not to betray what he’d written. I wanted to adapt it without simplifying it and I wanted to give the book a visual language. He makes a small cameo in the film, but he waited for the end of the editing to see the finished product.
Me: And what did he think of the movie?
Lartigau: I was very touched because I expected him not to like it, and instead, after the screening, he stood up during the end credits, came over, kissed me and said “You’ve given me the greatest gift one can give to a writer.” I was very touched by his attitude. He told me: “It’s not the book, it’s your film. It’s your story and I have mine and that’s marvelous. It’s funny that the movie is very different, but it’s exactly the same story that I told.”
Me: Kennedy’s original story takes place in a Connecticut suburb and in Montana, but your film takes place in Paris and in Montenegro – how much did you have the change the story to adapt to the different geographical surroundings?
Lartigau: It’s much easier to get lost in the US than it is in France. I wanted the character to turn his back on France and head East, where he could get lost. Once you cross the border into Montenegro, you feel like you can travel for miles without seeing anyone, similar to Montana. We really feel like Ben Bradford is in another country when he goes to Montana in the book, just as Paul travels to totally different surroundings in the movie.
Me: Geographical location and language aside, how does the movie most differ from the book?
Lartigau: It’s a 400-page book and I couldn’t make a four-hour movie so I had to condense it and make choices. I didn’t want a voiceover, so we had to put all of Ben Bradford’s anguish into his dialogue and expressions. That was the most complicated part. It’s more about the dramatic tension and the psychology and less an action thriller where the spectator is worrying “Will he get arrested in Montenegro?” I concentrated more on how this character would conquer his inner demons. IOnce he gets to Montenegro, he figures out who he really is. It’s a psychological thriller.
Me: The protagonist in Kennedy’s book is Ben Bradford and your protagonist is called Paul Exben – is the “ex ben” ironic?
Lartigau: Exactly – I threw in a bit of irony. It’s a wink at Douglas Kennedy.
Me: Photography plays a big role in this movie – is it an art that interests you personally?
Lartigau: Yes, it’s always interested me. It’s something that touches me profoundly. Photography is a very particular art. Today, anyone can take photos, but when you are a spectator at a photo expo, that’s when you see what a real photo is and a real photographer who has a unique view of the world. You notice the difference. I worked closely with a photographer on the movie – Antoine D’Agata. I asked him to take practically all of the photos that we see at Paul’s expo in the movie. Antoine is a passionate photographer with a real unique view of people.
Me: Did you have the French public or a more universal audience in mind when you were writing and shooting this film?
Lartigau: I never thought about that to be honest. I thought about things in the context of what happens in France, but the questions Douglas poses in the book are universal and that’s what is interesting about the story. Everyone asks themselves the question “Am I happy in my own skin?” and “What would I do if someone gave me the chance to re-live my life?”
Me: The book is about the “American dream” – what does the “American dream” represent for you and what’s the “French dream” equivalent if one exists?
Lartigau: Beyond the American dream is the quest for the self more than for a particular identity. What interests me are these doubts, that are all universal. The dream is about understanding our fears and identifying them then doing what we really want to do. The ending of the movie is different than the ending in Douglas’ book, which I found to be very sad – this character who ends rather alone, and for me, that’s not what the American dream is about. The dream is about understanding ourselves and listening to ourselves. Even 12 years later, the social pressures are the same and I wanted people to understand that in the film.
Me: Your recent films “I Do” and “A Ticket for Space” were both popular comedies. This film, as a psychological thriller, is a departure from that genre. Was it tough to make the shift from comedy to drama? What do you prefer?
Lartigau: I love both. Above all, I love to tell stories, whether they’re dramatic or joyous. Plus, we can easily fall into comedy from drama. The situations that make us laugh are also sometimes the most terrible – we can translate comedies into dramas and it’s a very exciting experience. I love both. I’m crazy about stories and crazy about actors – that’s what motivates me.
Me: Your last comedy, “I Do,” was considered to be in the style of American romantic comedies. Would you agree? Are you influenced by US cinema?
Lartigau: I’m very flattered. Of course, I’ve grown up with American cinema and it’s fed my appetite for making movies. As far as romantic comedies go, Americans are the world champions – you can’t get any better than that. It was the critics who, after the film was made, made that comparison – that wasn’t our goal. But I’m still very flattered.
Me: What are some of your upcoming projects?
Lartigau: I’ve been working with Alain Chabat again – this time, on a new script. I just read a book that Pierre-Ange [Le Pogom] gave me. I’ve been reading different scripts – comedies and dramas. There’s a little bit of everything, I don’t know yet. It’s a real investment - two to three years of my life - so I need to be prudent and at the same time, just got for it, so we’ll see.
Me: The French title of “The Big Picture” is “L’Homme qui voulait vivre sa vie” or “The Man Who Wanted to Live His Life.” Do you relate to your protagonist? Do you feel like you’re really living your life?
Lartigau: Yes, I’m trying. I am lucky enough to live with a wife that I love, and children too. I’m absorbed with my work and I’m thrilled to be able to do what I love. At the same time, I feel like I could be doing something else. That’s also fear speaking – not to be understood by audiences or to be late with something. But I can’t complain about the life I’m living now – it’s filled with many happy moments.