Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Le Tour de France 2009

Oh, it was warm in Paris on the Avenue des Champs-Élysée this past Sunday, and just a little crowded. As the city waited for the Tour de France bicyclists to arrive, there was a parade and a lot of fervor. Souvenir shops, tee shirt hawkers and cold drink stands intermingled with the onlookers all along the grand boulevard. Everyone searched for the best place to see all of the festivities. My friends and I were in 3 different groups and planned on meeting up. Sounds like a crazy plan, but after exchanging cell phone numbers we headed out at different times. The group I was with started out at the Arc de Triomphe, and ended up across from the Grand Palais where there were large video screens on the side of the street. Cameras were following the bikers as they approached Paris showing them at every angle and location. At first I didn't appreciate the video screens, but as they showed the progression of the ride and closeups of the bicyclists, they built that Lance?! With so many people raising their arms high in the sky to capture the perfect photo, the American obsession with deodorant was sorely missed! Some people though, had the perfect seat. The crowds just kept getting larger, the bicyclists closer and then they finally arrived! You could feel the rush of wind as they passed. Congratulations and thanks to all of the amazing Tour de France cyclists. What a show!

Even as they passed the finish line, we still hadn't been able to connect with our friend Lisa, until
the end. It almost seemed like a miracle when she found us in the crowd as it was dispersing. Our friend, Doug was in another location, so we decided to meet up at a regular spot. The podiums were being prepared as the race wound down. We watched as the winners received their trophies, before going to meet our friend Doug. He left me a welcome message. When we arrived he was a sight for sore eyes, with cold beer to cut the Champs Elysee dust, and baguette with peppered saucisson. We discussed where to go for dinner and exchanged stories of our day, marveling at the stamina of those men in lycra!
Written and mainly photographed by Diane with some photos by friends, Lisa and Jana.
Thanks Ladies! And thanks Doug, for that final text!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kiss and Makeup

My friend, Beth had to exchange something at the large department store, Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Trying to exchange or return something in Paris is not a gratifying general the attitude is, if you buy it, you own it. So we had braced ourselves for an uphill battle. A few conversations and a half an hour later, she had graciously exchanged her item. We looked at each other with an amazing sense of accomplishment. I wish I had taken a picture to document it!! Walking through this architectural beauty with a stained glass ceiling and balconies that Marie Antoinette would have approved of, I noticed women getting makeovers at the cosmetic counter. As a promotion, world class makeup artists were there for 2 weeks. Since we were on a roll, we decided to see if we could have our makeup done. Undaunted, the charming artiste began to work his magic on us. Afterward, feeling pampered, pretty and pretty hungry, we went locally for dinner. Beth had researched restaurants, and we decided to give the nearby, Carte Blanche a try. After settling in, our waiter brought us an amuse-bouche of layered crab, tomatoes and avocado. An amuse-bouche is just like a kiss...something bestowed upon you to show the talent and intent of the giver. It is a prelude of what's to come. We were ready for more and ordered from the menu! We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our meal, even with a mediocre dessert. After patting our lipsticked lips with the crisp white napkins and with shopping bags in toe, we headed home.

Here is my adaptation of "the kiss", with a little cayenne pepper to keep it hot...the makeup is on your own!

Crab, Tomato and
Avocado Amuse-Bouche

For the crab layer:
2 ounces crab meat, with a squeeze of lime

For the avocado layer:
1/2 ripe avocado, smashed until almost smooth with a squeeze of lime and a
dash of cayenne pepper

For the tomato layer:
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large clove garlic
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
dash of cayenne pepper

You'll need 4-2 ounce shot glasses.

Mix all of the ingredients for the tomato layer in a bowl.
Stir to meld the flavors and adjust the salt and cayenne pepper according to taste. Evenly divide the layers between the 4 shot glasses. In each glass, add one layer of the crab and then a layer of tomato mixture, draining most liquid from the tomato mixture as you spoon it into the glass. Top with the smashed avocado and serve with several crostini.

To make the crostini, thinly slice a baguette, brush with olive oil and toast.

Serves 4.
Written and photographed by Diane.

Crab, Tomato and Avocado Amuse-Bouche recipe (pdf)

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Bastille Day Celebration

This year is the 120th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower and so the Bastille Day, or le quatorze juillet, celebrations were kicked up a notch. Masses came to the Eiffel Tower's Champ de Mars to celebrate the commemoration of the storming of the Bastille in 1789. Power to the people! Every year there is a grand fireworks display in the evening with musicians playing throughout the day. The sunny afternoon had everyone festively sprawled on blankets filled with foods from every ethnicity. We gathered up picnic items from the morning produce and cheese markets, the local grocery store and had some essentials brought from home. The front and center locations fill up very early, so we were off to the side a little. The musicians played, people danced or just enjoyed the liveliness with food and wine. As evening approached, we were all relaxing with eyes toward the sky. The first fireworks came and teased the crowd as they cheered. As darkness fully settled in, the sky lit up. The Eiffel Tower sparkled and fireworks seemed to come from every level.The tower itself changed colors with it's own light show. The grand finale shot out as the 1812 Overture played and the sky became a kaleidoscope of fire and color.

It was a finale to remember and gave a celebratory power to the people as they all stormed back home.

Written and photographed by Diane.
The last photo was contributed by a friend.