September 30, 2014

Becoming a Parisian Chef... if Only for a Day

Food is one of the best ways to experience a country while visiting, but what if you could take the culinary skills home too?

Cooking courses are a popular activity for many visitors in Paris, and although now a resident, something that I had wanted to try for quite some time. This past summer, after much searching and frustration in finding only very expensive ateliers, I finally discovered the perfect option for my husband and I.

Cook&Go is a unique, budget-friendly concept that proposes great food, instruction and fun for amateur chefs. During a 1 ½ hour class, an instructor walks participants through the preparation of an appetizer, main dish and dessert using a variety of fresh ingredients. During this time, they clearly demonstrate each step and share plenty of useful tips and techniques for the kitchen. Unlike traditional cooking courses, once the preparation is finished, items are packed up in a bag and taken home to reheat and enjoy. 

Cook&Go kitchen, Paris 15

The menu we chose was unlike anything we had previously concocted, and full of interesting new flavors. Our resident chef was extremely dynamic and full of helpful information. Having followed our course in the afternoon, we were thrilled to take our meal home for a dinner date later that evening. 

Our menu: La Cuisine de Maman  (69€ for two)

Appetizer: Chicken, olive and tarragon terrine with fresh salad and a fromage blanc sauce
Main dish: Filet mignon of pork baked in a salt and coriander crust, served with a citrus and spéculoos vinaigrette
Side: Zucchini and tomato tian
Dessert: Brownie and cheesecake mix

Key benefits
Several different themed menus are offered each month.
Each class welcomes a maximum of 15 participants.
There are 4 locations in Paris to choose from.
Prices are extremely reasonable, and start from 29€ per person.
Full recipes are emailed to participants following the class.
Special courses are available for groups and children.

Things to keep in mind
All courses are conducted in French, unless otherwise noted.
Reheating at home generally requires an oven, so this is not the best option if staying in a hotel.

September 29, 2014

Paris Shines Bright on the Silver Screen

An incredibly gray and rainy day got me thinking about cozying up on the couch with a good movie and a blanket. Two of my favorite films set in Paris came to mind as I began looking through my collection: “Paris, je t’aime” (2006) and “Midnight in Paris” (2011).

Paris, je t'aime film coverMidnight in Paris film cover

While perhaps not great masterpieces of our time, both are beautifully filmed and take us on a spectacular journey through the City of Light.

 A compilation of several short stories shot by different directors, “Paris, je t’aime” explores the various arrondissements through everything from mundane everyday scenarios to unexpected magical tales. 

Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” draws us in to the charming Paris of past, with dreamlike scenes bringing Owen Wilson’s modern-day character together with notable artists and writers from the 1920s.

In their own unique ways, both films do a remarkable job of shining a spotlight on the extraordinary beauty of Paris.

If you'd like to learn more about Paris' picturesque filming locations, click here.

September 27, 2014

Madeleine Pudding: A French Twist on an Old Favorite

Today while searching for an easy way to use up leftover madeleines, I came across a mouth-watering recipe which takes these traditional French cakes to a whole new level.

Bursting with warm  fall flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon, Pear and Walnut Madeleine Pudding, as seen on From Which Things Grow, is a delectable union of traditional bread pudding and France's favorite shell-shaped treat.

Enjoyed fresh from the oven, with a dab of whipped cream, this comforting recipe hits the spot like a dream.

Pear and Walnut Madeleine Pudding

Pear and Walnut Madeleine Pudding 
 (4-6 servings)

1/2 cup pear, cubed
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
10 madeleines, cut into quarters
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350℉.  Grease 4-6 ramekins (depending on size) with the butter. 
Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

In a bowl, combine eggs, cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. 
Whisk to incorporate thoroughly.

Divide the pears, walnuts and madeleines evenly between the ramekins, then pour the liquid mixture over them. 
Allow the madeleines to soak about 10-15 minutes before placing them into the oven.

Bake the puddings for 25-30 minutes or until set.

September 26, 2014

A Weekend Walk in Saint-Germain-des-Prés

When we think of Paris, an abundance of costly museums, restaurants and attractions come to mind. However, if you’re trying to stick to a budget, there are tons of great things to do that won’t leave you with an empty wallet.

Weather permitting, a self-guided walking tour is the perfect way to explore a new neighborhood and discover lesser-known sites and facts. Before arriving in Paris, look into purchasing a small local guide to allow you to get the most out of your stroll. A favorite route of mine comes from the French book, Le Guide du Routard Paris Balades. Check out some of the highlights below.

Place Saint Germain des Prés sign, Paris 6


Existentialist Paris: Saint-Germain-des-Prés (p. 148-156)  


Begin at the church Saint-Germain-des-Prés, located near the métro stop of the same name. 

After a visit inside the church (one of the oldest in Paris), step outside to discover La place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and the famous Les Deux Magots café, once a hotspot for writers and intellectuals including Giradoux, Faulkner, Sartre and Beauvoir.

Just next door, you'll find the Club Saint Germain, a former bar, bookshop and concert venue which in its day, welcomed jazz legends like Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

Moving on to what is today a Dior boutique, is the former home of one of Paris' mythical libraries Le Divan, which has since moved to the 15th.

Continue on to la rue Bonaparte, where you'll find le café Bonaparte, a favorite of Sartre's, located just underneath his apartment (number 42). And just nearby, you'll pass by number 46, where American writer Henry Miller once lived.

Make your way to where la rue Bonaparte and la rue Jacob meet to discover Le Pré aux Clercs wine bar, often frequented by Hemingway, who at the time, enjoyed bottles for only 60 cents a piece!

To continue this tour (in French), pick up a copy of  Le Guide du Routard Paris Balades.
For additional self-guided tours in English, check out travel guru Rick Steves' 2014 Paris Guidebook.

September 25, 2014

Dressing for Paris: Fall Edition

If you’re planning a trip to France’s capital, there’s no better way to feel a little more Parisian than to dress the part. We all know that when packing for vacation, suitcase space is premium, more than ever if you’re traveling from abroad. Below is a list of my favorite style items & tips to help you maximize your valise and start looking like a local.

 Photo credit:

1. A classic black or brown leather jacket
Fall in Paris is chilly, but enjoys some sunnier days too. Save precious room for shopping once there by leaving heavy winter coats behind and bringing one key all-weather piece.

2. Stylish, yet comfortable ankle boots
Ankle boots are versatile, and can easily take you from day to night. Leave your white or colorful sneakers at home to avoid the tell-tale tourist vibe.

3. Dressier ballet flats
Contrary to popular belief, Parisiennes don’t all run around in 6-inch Louboutins! If you want to keep up with the fast pace of the city, opt for a more practical, yet trendy shoe.

4. Basic mix-and-match pieces
With the ever-changing temperature, layering is key. Go for understated clothing in neutral colors (black, gray, beige, cream) that can easily work together, and be dressed up or down for any occasion: black cigarette pants, dark wash jeans, plain camisoles, cardigans and tees.

5. A great dress
Don’t forget to bring something special for a nice night out on the town. Keep it feminin and sexy, but steer clear of plunging necklines and thigh-high hems.

6. A selection of decorative scarves
Change any outfit up or just stay cozy and warm by throwing a few silk or cotton scarves in your bag. Minimal weight, minimal space, maximum effect.

7. A statement piece
Accessorizing is a great way to add interest to an outfit, but don’t go overboard and bring your whole jewelry case. Wear a pair of trendy Ray-Bans, try a bold fantasy necklace or add a touch of sophistication with a stunning timepiece.

8. A crossbody bag with zipper
While the Métro is great for getting around, it’s also home to many talented pickpockets. Want to stay safe, without your look screaming “tourist”? Scratch the oh-so-cliché money belt and invest in a more fashionable crossbody bag that zips closed. Plus, don't forget to throw in a bottle of hand sanitizer for when proper post-Métro hand washing isn’t an option.

9. Minimal makeup & natural hair
It’s true what they say; French women really are effortlessly beautiful. Take a page from their book and step out confidently with a fresh face. A sheer foundation, quality mascara and subtle lip color are more than enough to hit the streets. And forget about bringing your hair sprays and straightener: sporting natural, healthy hair is preferred.

10. A cute umbrella
Ask any Parisian, and they’ll tell you that it rains quite often here. Pack your own small umbrella to avoid running around town soaked, or having to buy an overpriced one on the street.

Be sure to check back later for my updated winter list!

September 21, 2014

Fall-ing in Love with Paris

As our summer tans start to fade away, and the leaves begin to change, it's clear that fall is slowly bestowing itself upon us.

Each year, the plesant smell of freshly fallen leaves wafts through the air, and a crisp breeze whistles through the cobbled streets. Parisians put away their cheerier clothes, and re-don their staple blacks and grays. Parents and children, the young and the old, leave their fond vacation memories behind and look forward to the new year ahead.

Bicycles and leaves in Le Marais

For many of us, autumn is a magical time which brings the excitement of getting back to our routines and preparing for the holidays to come.

Since the first hint of the change in season, visions of sugary candy corn, spicy pumpkin pie and perfectly browned turkey have been dancing around in my head. After several weeks of this mental ballet of seasonal goodies, an overwhelming urge to immerse myself in the familiar smells and tastes of home finally led me to Thanksgiving in the Marais.

An unassuming épicerie on the rue Saint Paul, the shop is small, yet thoroughly stocked with much sought-after American treats and basics: chocolate chips, oatmeal, maple syrup, Jell-O, Betty Crocker mixes...

Thanksgiving in Le Marais

Baking items at Thanksgiving in Le Marais

Having planned a special trip and prepared a shopping list just for the occasion, I was elated to find every item for my favorite sweet creations.

And now that each precious ingredient has been carefully tucked away in my pantry, I am impatiently awaiting a cozy autumnal weekend at home to get started on my baking.

Canned pumpkin, molasses, Karo and pecans

20, rue Saint Paul 
75004 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30am-7pm
Sunday, 11am- 6pm

September 20, 2014

The Best View of Paris...

...isn't actually in Paris. While Montmarte and other notable landmarks offer breathtaking views, the most spectacular panorama of Paris can be found high atop the hills of Suresnes, a quiet suburb to the west of the city.

Situated at the foot of Le Mont-Valérien, La Terrasse du Fécheray offers a picture perfect scene revealing many of France's architectural marvels: la Tour-Eiffel, le Panthéon, Montmartre, La Défense,...

Off the beaten path, yet still easily accessible by public transport, this tranquil park is the perfect place to step out of the hustle and bustle of the city, and take a moment to really drink it all in.

La Terrasse du Fécheray
174 Boulevard Washington
92150 Suresnes

Make a day of it with a visit to some of Suresnes' other hidden treasures.

Marché Caron 
Covered market  
Place Jean Jaurès 
92150 Suresnes
Thursdays & Sundays, 8am-1pm

La Vigne de Suresnes
73, bd du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
73, bd du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
73, bd du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
73, bd du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
73 Bd Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
92150 Suresnes
Monday and Tuesday, 9am-6pm by reservation
06 72 00 11 16

Au Père Lapin  
186 Boulevard Washington
92150 Suresnes
Monday-Saturday, 12-2pm and 8-10pm
Sunday 12-2pm
Suresnes American Cemetery
123 Boulevard Washington
92150 Suresnes
Daily, 9am-5pm

September 19, 2014

Tea for Two at The Lobby

Growing up with an English father, I have long enjoyed the tradition of savoring a perfectly steeped cup of tea. But more than just sipping this classic beverage, I am charmed by the sophisticated ritual of indulging oneself in a proper linen, china and sweets Afternoon Tea.

Residing in Paris, I have some of the most sumptuous tea rooms at my doorstep that would fill any chic Parisian, or other, with glee. From luxurious world-renowned hotels (Le Bristol, Georges V, Hotel Daniel…) to long-established salons de thé (Ladurée, Angelina,…), some of the world’s most delicately perfumed infusions and palette-pleasing creations are just a short outing away.

This past weekend, my husband and I ventured out to The Lobby in the newly opened Peninsula Paris for a special 1st anniversary treat. On the menu: dainty finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones slathered with clotted cream and an abundance of sinful desserts that would make any foodie dream.

From the décor to the fare, the attention to detail was magnificent. A delicate leaf pattern on the menu cover was subtly revisited on the linens, and a live 3-piece band brought us back to the elegant days of yesteryear. 

Tea served at The Lobby, Peninsula Paris

The miniature sandwiches were light and simple, but so noticeably prepared with care. Flavorful scones perfumed with orange zest were quickly devoured with large dollops of cream and strawberry jam. And perching atop the silver 3-tiered platter, macarons, sweet sandwiches, carrot cakes, chocolate rochers and cheesecake completed the spread.

Selection of desserts, sandwiches and scones at The Lobby, Peninsula Paris
Traditional Afternoon Tea desserts at The Lobby, Peninsula Paris

As our leisurely afternoon tasting was coming to a close, we were touched to receive a beautiful anniversary surprise- an exquisite gold-dusted dark chocolate wafer, reading “Joyeux Anniversaire!”. The perfect (and delicious) end to a perfect day.

The Lobby at The Peninsula Paris 
19 Avenue Kléber
Paris, France, 75116
Afternoon Tea served from 3-6pm 
Menu 45€ per person/ 80€ for two
Reservation advised