Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton is the newest contemporary art space in Paris. It's privately funded and is a spectacular building that makes me imagine a sailboat in space. It's best to buy your tickets online here; the price includes admission to the adjacent park and you get to avoid the wait of over an hour on week-ends if you pre-order. There's a reduced rate of 9 Euros until December 17 as they install all the exhibits.

There are signs everywhere leading you to the Fondation, but if you are not sure just follow the crowds from metro Sablons, Bus 244, or take the 1 Euro shuttle from Place Charles de Gaulle at Avenue Friedland near the metro exit.

Just watching the water was soothing :)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Le Café d'Avant

Some of the most beautiful surprises are friendships that last decades and which span continents and generations. I moved here thanks in large part to a friendship like that and last week I was invited to a fantastic event here because of another friend who doesn't even live in this country! Ok, so Belgium is only an hour and a half away by train, but it boggles my mind how connections to people can be made and evolve no matter the time and or distance. 

She is an alumni of a University in NYC which held a private event in Paris, so she invited me to attend as her "Plus One". In a building with a view of Notre Dame and the Seine, champagne was served alongside beautiful appetizers. Not all of them were delicious, but all were gorgeous with contrasting textures, flavors, and some combinations worked better than others. My favorite was the one with the edible flower, filled with a marinated beef, and my second favorite was the mushroom square with the gold enoki. Her favorite was already gone by the time I got there, since six other savory bites had been passed earlier. Sweet bites were offered from chocolate to citrus, but I skipped those to make sure I could still eat dinner afterwards.
We met up with a friend of hers who lives in Paris, for dinner after the event. I love finding and sharing a new place for a resident in Paris, especially if it's in her old neighborhood and she loves it! Le Café d'Avant is a very casual comfortable place that offers set menus from about 15 for lunch, to 25  for dinner. If you book with The Fork or La Fourchette, you can also get a discount don't want to order the set menus and get at least two items from the full menu. 

My friend's friend saw two boudin and didn't hesitate to order that and the panna cotta since that was her favorite entrée and dessert! She happily enjoyed both the traditional white and black sausages with apples, pureed potatoes and salad.
My friend and I both ordered the grilled Daurade, one of my favorite fish, served with a cheesy risotto and green beans. The menu noted that the fish was fresh and it was not only fresh, but prepared well. It could have used a bit of salt, and the risotto could have been a bit warmer, but for the incredible price of less than 15 it was remarkable!
The only one who had room for dessert was the one who didn't eat appetizers before dinner:) Both my dining companions loved panna cotta and both said this one got better with each spoonful (yes they shared). It was lighter than most and yet still made with cream (we asked). 
The best part of any day is spending it with company you enjoy, but when I got to eat well, treat my eyes to beautiful views, and meet interesting people, all in the same day, that is a heavenly day in the city of lights:)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Marché aux Puces Saint Ouen

I finally went to Les Puces de Saint Ouen (the biggest and most well known Flea Market) last week-end. I followed the excellent instructions/map from OhHappyDay which really helped me navigate not only public transportation there, but also getting to the actual Flea Market. Most people think the swap meet is the flea market, but if you see this type of knock off stuff for sale, you are definitely NOT at the flea market. 
A few words of caution, DO NOT carry your cash or credit cards in a purse or back pocket in this area, and DO NOT head back to the metro from any other street than the one in the OhHappyDay map. There is an entire tent city of homeless people under other parts of the bridge and the people hanging out next to the soccer field are very edgy, druggy, and easily provoked (and this was at noon on a week-end). If you are familiar with how the Bronx or Tijuana used to be, this is the Parisian version, so just stay on the main roads as they said in "An American Werewolf in London"!

You must get to Rue des Rosiers before you are in the center of the actual markets of Saint Ouen, and there is a handy map of the stalls online or on the street once you get there.
There are 15 markets in all and some are marked with huge signs
while others have more discreet ones like these

the stalls may line cobblestone alleys
or be scattered amid two story modern metal structures.
Some of the antiques cost thousands of euros, so there are beautiful displays
where you can peruse the unique furniture
and sparkling chandeliers.
My favorite piece was this transportable wardrobe which likely served a well to do traveler aboard a ship a few decades ago. In perfect condition and at 2900 Euros, it could serve as an armoire in a Parisian apartment today :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Madame Shawn

There are times I miss the balmy temperate weather of Los Angeles, but sometimes I also miss my favorite restaurants. Yes, it's true, there is world class wonderful food and wine here, but my palate misses the spiciness that is ubiquitous in nearly every neighborhood in California, from Thai to Mexican. When I am warned that something here is "spicy" that usually means it has garlic, or maybe some pepper. When I saw a Thai restaurant literally next door to Du Pain et Des Idées,  I was drawn to the aromas and the idea that I might enjoy a Thai restaurant here as much as my beloved Chan Dara in Los Angeles. It was a good idea, but as with many anticipated experiences, it wasn't perfect. Service at lunch is friendly and efficiently bilingual in French and English, but dinner service is rudimentary at best with older Thai ladies who do not speak French (or English) very well, so be prepared to point to menu items to get what you want, and do not expect a smile.

The set menus had very good prices,
and the drinks were very nice glasses of wine
or classically prepared hot tea.
The side dish was either rice noodles
or a sauté of fresh vegetables, both good choices.
One one occasion, I ordered the spicy shrimp with basil (which was very slightly spiced, but flavorful).
One rainy day I ordered the soup with slices of tender beef and vermicelli noodles in a slightly sweet broth with vegetables and a fried "nem" which is like a mini eggroll. I'm not a fan of sweet broth, so the fact that I enjoyed this was a testament to their skills.
Thankfully, the third time was the charm, with a delicious spicy beef sauté that was still pink in the middle, and had enough spice and flavor to rank as the best Thai dish I've had in Paris so far. 
This restaurant has several restaurants and cafés around the area, and each has slightly different service but similar menus. I would definitely recommend this as a place to introduce people to Thai food, but I'm sure there are better places in Paris; suggestions anyone?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pablo Picasso's Parisian Birthday Present

Today is Pablo Picasso's birthday and Paris celebrated by reopening the Picasso Museum after 5 years of renovations. Located in the Hôtel Salé, a historical former residence, the museum displays 5,000 pieces of his work (the biggest collection in the world) as well as 150 pieces of other artists such as Cézanne, Matisse, and Gauguin.
I only saw the news that the opening day was today with the regular hours of 9:30am-6:00pm, not knowing that because it was the grand opening the doors actually opened at noon. I got there at 11:15am and there was already a huge line, so I waited, knowing it would only be a much longer wait if I came back later.
The crowd control was very well organized; I heard the Museum director say she was very pleased that over 4000 people were already queued up for over five blocks at opening time. Those at the end of the line were in for at least a three hour wait to get to the entrance!
The restoration of the building was spectacular.
Three floors of various periods and mediums gave fans plenty to peruse.

This was my favorite Picasso,
but this was my favorite piece, a Gauguin :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014