Monday, May 24, 2010

David Lebovitz Book Signing and a Candlelight Dinner

It all started with a hum. I couldn't hear the hum, but then again after so many years of working near jet engines, hearing a whisper is pushing it. Back to the Apple store we went with my son's brand new humming computer. We left it for the Apple Geniuses to diagnose while we browsed around the mall. Wondering if Williams-Sonoma was offering any free samples, we wandered in. Right up front beside the counter was a fancy ice cream maker with an enticing book propped in front entitled, "The Perfect Scoop", by David Lebovitz. It was like manna from heaven! Our recent ice cream making experiments were just that....experiments. This looked like we could actually make real ice cream, interesting ice cream, by an expert (or ice cream genius!). Being July, the month of my son's birthday, I bought it for him as a present. Later we sat and read through it together as my son took little green stickies to mark recipes he wanted to try. It was a good summer that year. I also discovered David Lebovitz had a blog....and....he lived in Paris. He just kept getting higher on the throne as I read and laughed and bookmarked and revisited his blog about "The Sweet Life in Paris". Then he wrote more books and I kept getting them. Through the blog I noted his book signings in Paris. It didn't work out last year, but voilà...this year I was in Paris for the signing. I brought all of my books from Boston to WH Smith Bookstore on rue de Rivoli this past Wednesday.

My friend, Nancy and I arrived a little early for the 7pm signing and found David already signing books. I was smitten as he patiently and sweetly gave everyone time without rushing. He graciously posed for pictures and chatted with all. Of Course, I had David sign "The Perfect Scoop" to my son. The rest were for me :-) Wh Smith said it was their largest turnout since "Harry Potter." My friend, Doug arrived as David was giving a short talk and answered questions. I introduced him to David and we left feeling lighter, even while carrying our bounty of signed books. It was about 8pm by now as we made our way to the Marais for dinner at Chez Omar, a North African restaurant. When we arrived, it was still light outside on this warm late spring evening. Inside, candles were lit at every table. We ordered a chilled Bordeaux Rosé that smiled in the candlelight. All 3 of us ordered the same meal, Méchoui roasted leg of lamb with couscous and and vegetables. Doug chose the wines, with a St.-Émilion Clos de la Cure for dinner. I liked the name and liked the complexity and flavor even more. We noticed the overhead lights still weren't on as the glow of the candles danced around the wood paneled dining room. Our conversation kept coming back to meeting David Lebovitz, his cookbooks, blog and how utterly sweet...(have I mentioned that?) and charming he was. When the food arrived we marveled at the large, finely roasted lamb, platter of couscous, tureen of vegetables in an orangey red broth and small dish of a spicy red condiment. As we dug in, the darkness grew. I looked up and saw the chef cooking by candlelight. We finally deduced there was a power outage, but it really didn't have any effect on the full restaurant or the diners. And I think they will have no trouble paying their electric bill this month. I couldn't believe we had devoured almost everything but the bones, which left no room for dessert. I guess that will have to wait until I get home and choose from David's, "Ready for Dessert" cookbook.

Stay tuned :-)

Chez Omar
47, rue de Bretagne
Paris, France 75003
Phone: 01 42 72 36 26

Friday, May 21, 2010

Days of Wine and Roses....and Ash

A pilot once said to me, "You can drop a flight attendant anywhere in the world and before you know it they have found food and the best places to eat." I agree. My crew and I had adjusted to the uncertainties before us as we turned around and arrived back at our Rive Gauche hotel in Paris. The Icelandic volcano cloud had canceled our flight, but not dampened our spirits. I had planned on making a spread for my crew on our flight back to Boston, but now we were back in the hotel. Within half an hour we met in our hotel's crew room as I made sandwiches of French ham, comté cheese, arugula and Dijon mustard. We had grapes, quiches and a couscous salad. Everyone contributed treats they had intended to take home.Baguettes and more cheese appeared as we discussed going shopping to buy clothes and necessities for our potential extended stay. The next 3 days were abuzz with activity. Since the following day was Sunday, a few of us went to street flea markets where I bought a few small treasures, and saw many more. This Sunday was special to a few of us. It was Mother's Day. We all went out to dinner that evening at Parnasse 138, on boulevard du Montparnasse. It is a traditional French bistro with many, many choices to choose from. I started with a goat cheese and lardons salad followed by roast lamb.Those are garlic cloves on top of my lamb...mmmmm. For dessert, a white chocolate and berry tiramisu was the perfect finish. Right before dessert, our captain bought roses for all of the mothers on our trip who were missing Mother's Day at home.***feel the love*** The next day some of us went to the outskirts of Paris to a small charming town, Ville de Suresnes. It was a cloudy day, but the Eiffel Tower can be faintly seen from this town on a hill. The World War American Cemetery and Memorial sits proudly at the top. I want to come back to this town another time to explore further. Back in Paris, it seemed like around every corner was a reminder of the volcano. Maybe it was a little of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, but a reminder for our extended stay in this city of light was always there. We were never sure from day to day when the ash cloud would clear and we would return home. On our 5th night in Paris a few of us opted for a quiet light dinner in a small private pocket room in the hotel. Dessert time! Did I really have to have another Chocolate Lava Cake??? Well, why not....ashes to ashes....let the lava flow!

It finally was time to leave our tony Rive Gauche address. The next day after yet another delay, we were cleared for our departure to Boston. My white Mother's Day rose had a comfy first class seat for the long flight ;-)
Our flight plan was an extra 2 1/2 hours as we flew over Iceland, north of the volcano. I've flown along the coast of Greenland before, but never directly over it. The view was breathtaking. Hours later the coast of Massachusetts was in sight, and our long awaited landing into Boston was imminent. My rose and I, along with many happy memories made it home at long last!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dinner at L'Epouvantail, Paris...and Turn Around!

Leaving Ô Chateau's wine tasting we were more than ready for dinner. Coming up from the wine cave, the light seemed a little bright even in the gloaming of the evening. Hopping on the metro at the Louvre-Rivoli stop, it was a quick, but busy ride to the Marais on this Friday evening in Paris. We arrived just as some of our friends were walking up and others were seated for our 8pm reservation. I have been coming to L'Epouvantail for years and watched the transition from owner to owner. Along with the updated traditional menu there is a young, fresh and engaging vibe here now. At each table a chair with green chipped paint sits beside the updated, sleek wooden chairs as a tribute to the previous decor. I like that...a reverence to the past. We ordered wine...(Yikes!)..since our other friends were ready for their first glass. While catching up on each others day's activities, we ordered our food. With each passing course, from the amuse-bouche, crisped asparagus with proscuitto and shaved Parmesan to the duck with Dauphinois potatoes, we all laughed and talked. Would you like dessert? But, of course!! And like the foreshadowing in a good mystery book, I ordered the Molten Lava Cake. A spoon dipped into the warm cake allowed the chocolate lava to ooze onto the plate meeting the vanilla crème anglaise. There were no dark volcanic plumes here, just puffs of delight. Other desserts came and went. We paid our bill and headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep before our flight home the next day. While we slept lava flowed, the volcanic ash cloud built and shifted all along the coast of France. We caught wind of the precarious situation as our luggage was loaded for our ride to the airport the next morning. Just before arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport, our driver got a call to turn around and go back! Some of us smiled, some stiffened knowing it could be a long delay before returning to loved ones, and others thought of their Mother's Day plans the next day and awaiting children. But there was no choice. We had to make the best of it and hey, we were in Paris :-)

To be continued.....

L'Epouvantail
6, rue Jarente, Marais
01 40 29 03 03
metro: St. Paul

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wine Tasting at Ô-Chateau, Paris

We were looking for clarity and legs....first impression and taste....a nice open aroma, and of course, balance. We began with a crisp glass of Champagne in this 17th century cave that was once the cellars of Louis the XV. The lively glass of bubbles tickled our noses as the evening began to unfold during our Ô-Chateau, "Tour de France" wine tasting. We were given a list of the selected wines that were being tasted and a blue ballpoint pen to jot down notes. I had also brought along a book for my observations. Going around the table, we all introduced ourselves. The limestone cellar was filled with people from all over, sitting around tables set up in a U-shape, eager for what was to come. My friend, Doug who had made the arrangements for the evening, just sat and took it all in while our host, Olivier bounced around the room as he kept us entertained and informed. Baskets of bread chosen as the best bread fit for the French President, were dotted around the tables. Generous Champagne seconds were offered. Then a white Loire Sancerre was poured, that was described as being "fresh, smiley and fruity, borderline flirtatious." After swirling it in the glass, like a lusty youth we checked for age and length of legs. Taking a sip we perceived the grapefruit and pear flavor with it's mineral and acidic fresh taste. Ahhhh...nice....make notes, perfect for fish on a warm summer evening. Next came a Burgundy Chablis which was described as having "tamed minerality, gentle balance and tender texture---yummy." And that it was, as well as being lemony and buttery. Please pass the President's bread...I need to soak this all in!! After visiting Champagne, Loire, and Burgundy, we moved on to the Southwest for a Fronton. Conversations at the tables became more animated with each pour. Olivier kept us smiling with his anecdotes and colorful descriptions of the wines. He described the Fronton as having a "Delightfully silky texture---charming berries and vanilla-a lollipop wine." Our next stop was in Bordeaux with a Haut Medoc. Envision "a sunny day---old convertible cruising slowly through the vines, and having a taste of cassis and tannin." Swirl, look, smell, taste.....soak in the sunshine and dream of roast duck or grilled beef to accompany it. Hop back into the convertible and head to the Rhone. There we had a "sensual and voluptuous" Côtes du Rhône Village. It was fruity, spicy and peppery with a hint of black olives. This was the final stop on our "Tour de France" tasting. Olivier passed out a cheat sheet just in case our memories became a little impaired ;-) Just click on the photo to enlarge.

As we were leaving, some lingered and sat and talked.
We stopped and chatted with a few people and met a lovely mother and daughter who were also from Boston. The daughter, Alex is now living in Budapest and has a blog, Adventures in the Pest. We exchanged websites to view as this wide world just gets smaller and smaller.

I followed Doug up the steps as we made our way to meet our friends for dinner in the Marais at a favorite restaurant, L'Epouvantail.
We had no idea the Icelandic volcanic plume was shifting towards France and would be extending our stay. To be continued.......

Ô-Chateau
Les Caves du Paradis-Royal Cellar
52 rue de l'arbe sec
Paris - 1st arrdt.
+33 (0) 1 44 73 97 80
http://www.o-chateau.com