20 May 2010

A Baker's Feast Day

As mentioned in my previous post on le printemps, May 16 is a worthy day to mark on your calendar if you have a sweet tooth like moi. Happy St. Honoré's day! This feast day celebrated by bakers in France is THE moment to forget your diet, your curbing of sweet cravings and head your way to baker's heaven in a boulangerie/ patisserie.

the famous pâtisserie in different flavors: pistachio and chocolate

pink strawberry madness!

 A reason to stop by ave Daumesnil & no, it's not
 because I'm promoting a former neighbor!
In France, I noticed that more importance is put on feast day of saints. Daily, a saint is honored, to the extent that some frenchies bearing the same namesake also claim it as their day of celebration! My husband's friend treated us to apero during his "namesake day" or saint's feast day, Wladimir, and his guests were actually wishing him "bonne fête!". Also,  in most calendars made and sold here, each day states its corresponding patron saint. A tip for future parents, if you're in the process of researching for baby names, although very french, it's a good source!

Alleluia, praise St. Honore!
Merci beaucoup St. Honoré, à la prochaine fois (until next time!).

19 April 2010

Hello Sweet Spring!

Welcome spring! Bienvenue le printemps!

It's been a while since I have seen people wearing T-shirts, shorts and tongs (slippers) and yesterday was the perfect day for them.

Something else went perfectly well on this day of spring, pâtisserie (pastry)!

                                                                  St. Honoré

As it looks, this creamy, sweet dessert is only for the decadent! The french would term this overindulgent desire for food as la gourmandise! Love it.

It's composed of rings of choux stuffed with cream, the same pastry dough and stuffing used for éclair and the base is a Pâte feuilletée (a multi-layered buttery and flaky pastry). The caramel coating on the cream puff rings give it a delightful crunch making its over-the-top sweetness forgivable!

St. Honoré is named after the patron saint des boulangers et des pâtissiers (bakers and pastry chefs) and May 16, the day of his passing, is celebrated as his feast day. Last year during this day, there was a spread of booths in front of Notre Dame selling all types of bread and pastries made on the spot. They were also doing baking demos for the public.

Mango Coco fit for spring

Another trivia to share: several french pastries have religious namesakes. Aside from St. Honoré, there is the religeuse, sacristain, and jésuite. Now if only you could feel "holier" after gorging them down your throat. Oh holy gluttony, I will never resist your temptation!

14 April 2010

American Comfort Food in Paris

Craving for good ol' American food in a country of escargots and foie gras? I assure you that your greasy fantasies are very normal, even in  the land of fine gastronomy, but be careful, they increase especially if left unfulfilled! Hence, you've got 2 quick solutions: cook it yourself or pray your online search engine finds that resto tout de suite(immediately)!!


Now if you're lazy to play the homemaker, then find that American food joint in Paris! C'est possible, it's possible! Is there such a place?

I am glad to answer, "YES" indeed! Thank you google for making me stumble upon Breakfast in America which should satisfy any IHOP-lover's heartiest brunch craving in a snap(yes, very quick service once you FINALLY get seated).

It looks like a diner, smells and sounds like one, making you wonder, am I still in Paris? There are only a few tables which are laid out like a long counter giving you many chances to elbow rub your neighbors. The long wait (outside)to get you seated and its cramped size are all forgivable once you are given your buttermilk pancakes and oh-so-sweet individual maple syrup(I missed you Aunt Jemima) containers.

I was satisfied with my fluffy pancakes but regarding the burgers and other must-orders, I think I am due for another visit. Click here for their menu.

Breakfast in America Branches:
17, rue des Ecoles
75005 Paris, France
Métro: Cardinal LeMoine or Jussieu
Tel: 01 43 54 50 28

4, rue Malher
75004 Paris, France
Metro: St Paul
Tel: 01 42 72 40 21

Brunch is totally picking up here especially in neighborhood brasseries or cafes during weekends. Some last as late as 2 pm offering a menu of tea/coffee/juice, fruits, pastries, sausages, crepes and omelettes. Although do not expect the french to have fully adapted to American proportions. Prices range from 12-25 euros but if you prefer a more luxe spread of morning nibbles, there are the trusted ones in hotels like at Crillon for 68 euros. Check out this website for Paris/France brunch options.

Here are some American-esque fastfood chain of restos to check out in Paris:

Frog-Irish pub, brewery, english speaking servers
Léon's - Brussel's version of Friday's specializing in mussels and fries! 
Hippopotamus-French version of  Outback Steakhouse


Monoprix, a grocery chain in France, should have the basic ingredients to cook or bake your way to your stomach's satisfaction. As for me, I have been missing pies like the traditonal applie pie, apple crumble and New York-style CHEESECAKE! Below is a tweaked recipe for cheesecake cravers, also known as gateaux fromage blanc, adjusted according to french products.

I basically combined these 2 recipes from a french blogger and an american food critic living in Paris. 

French Style Cheesecake in 9 steps!

1 box of butter crackers, sables/galette (6 large crackers)

1 kg  fromage blanc*
150g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla stalk
zest of one lemon
3 eggs

*Fromage blanc, also known as quark, is a low-fat curd cheese usually made with semi or skimmed milk. Some of the French eat it as their yogurt or use is it as a spread instead of butter.

                                                 fromage blanc substituting cream cheese

1. For the crust, crush the crackers until you have a bread crumb-like texture.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and adjust the rack to the lower part of the oven.

3. Press the crumbs into a flat layer in the bottom of your pan. Try using the bottom of a glass to do this.

4. Bake the crust for 7 minutes until golden brown. Set the pan aside on a cooling rack while you prepare the batter. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350 degrees.

5. For the cheesecake, mix the fromage blanc and sugar until there are no lumps.

6. Add the vanilla and lemon zest. Mix in the eggs.

7. Pour the batter over the crust in the pan. Place the pan into a larger container, like a roasting casserole, and pour warm water until it reaches about one-third of the way up of the pan. This technique is called bain marie (water bath) which is primarily used for cooking with gentle heat, custard-like desserts or melting chocolates without burning.

8. Bake the cheesecake in the water bath for 45 minutes, and do expect a jiggly, semi-solid mass. Make sure to not overbake.

                       how it looks after being chilled in the ref. notice the vanila seeds? :-)

9. Cool the cake on a wire rack until room temperature(approx. 30-45 min), then refrigerate for half a day.

                             I added kiwis, very rich in vitamin C, and it was perfect together!

Useful Tips:
  • Most brasseries serve hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fries. Also known as steak haché but without the burger buns, make sure you don't get mixed up and order steak tartare which is a french specialty of raw ground beef.

    DIY Tuna Cheese Melt with apple mâche salad
  • Call me deluded, but do try the burgers at Mcdonald's. They taste better and seem to be even bigger. Try Royal Bacon which is a bacon cheeseburger or their CBO(Chicken, Bacon, Onions) with les deluxe potatoes(seasoned wedge potatoes) + ciboulette (spring onion) dipping sauce. Plus, you can order beer here!
  • Soft , chewy cookies are hard to find here. The french like them as crisp as biscuits so do not expect an easy grab at the supermarket or bakeries.
  • American fastfood chains available in Paris: Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Ben & Jerry's.
Leave a comment if you want THS to write about her other easy bake:
Apple Pecan Crumble

07 April 2010

A Peek Inside a French Woman's Beauty Closet

French women seem to carry inherently the almost-perfect image of beauty. Easily described as mysteriously sexy, effortlessly chic and au naturel, it's no wonder that there's a constant search for THE french woman's "holy grail". 

Should credit be given to the french-praising authors of books like "French Women Don't Get Fat" (which I am gulity owner of) and the  french-founded glossies like Elle and Marie-Claire influencing the malleable minds of beautyphiles? Or could it be that this enviable distinction is just a simple FACT?

Let me try to find out. 

The Happy Spectator (THS) was invited to spend an afternoon of ooh la la la at la Maison Guerlaindubbed as the jewellers in the Art of Skincare since its founding in 1828 by Pierre-Francois Pascal Guerlain, a famous chemist for "precious beauty potions".

              an ancient style compress powder/foundation made in 1918

He became official supplier of custom perfumes to crowned heads of Europe and eventually created Eau de Cologne Impériale (1853) for Empress Eugenie! Also, I was impressed by the brand's devotion to research and innovation upon knowing their Orchidarium in China to be the center of most of the natural raw materials in its skincare line and perfumes.

sample orchid extract for its anti-ageing l'Orchidée Impériale skincare

Admittedly, as an eczema-prone, rare user of luxe beauty creams, I attended this press visit with limited consumer knowledge of Guerlain except for the Terracotta Bronzing Powder(thanks to my older sister whom I would religiously watch apply make up on herself when I was younger) and their recent endorser, Nathalie Vodianova.  Although I had a big hunch that by the end of the day, I would be a Guerlain convert or at least return to the husband with that "french glow".`

At their neo-classical Marais boutique decked in black and gold, I couldn't help myself from wondering which among their products would unlock the french treasure.

                 a less intimidating store facade than the Champs Élysées' branch, alluring many window shoppers

grand perfume organ at flagship boutique, La Maison Guerlain, along Champs Élysées

 From the Terracotta line to the display of iconic fragrances dating back to 1904 to their successful l'Orchidée Impériale, there was too much eye candy.

                                  bronze me away, pretty please. Terracotta Light 45€

a preserved 1904 bottle of Mouchoir de Monsieur, perfume for men

             unique way of getting a whiff of each perfume: sniff the funnel!

Their latest lipstick, Rouge G de Guerlain, based solely on its packaging, is what I call silver sophistication. Designed by jeweller, Lorenz Baumer, it also serves as a chic powder case. Seriously ladies, its case alone had me at "first-glance". I tried my friend's during a dinner inside the ladies room and mid-way through its application, I thought that it would have been sweeter to do it in public! Haha! This lipstick encapsulates
s-e-x-i-n-e-s-s and is a definite win in getting everyone's attention.

                                                      39,0 € in 25 shades

Among the many rich fragrances which almost got me dizzy, I preferred Cologne du 68. Even if my nose was on olfactory overload with the melange(mix) of perfumes, it was refreshing to smell the scent's subtle composition of 68 ingredients. Plus, since it is unisex,  I actually entertained the idea of sharing it with my husband. Cheesy, me.

 Angelique Noire or Cuir Beluga are must-buys for perfume junkies. seductive & unique scents! 155,0 euros 70ml

Regarding Guerlain's les soins, I was amused by the Happyology hydrating cream line claiming to "stimulate the release of endorphins"?! Is this for real? No need to exercise anymore! :-)  L'Orchidee Imperiale is probably amazing but way OVER my budget. For 50ml of creme, it is 350,0€. Obviously I am not its target market.  More of my comments on their skincare products in my next post where I write about their facial treatment.

So are products like these hidden in the secret drawer of every très belle descendant of Joan d'Arc? Is it a matter of having the money to purchase it all? What have the french women been doing for centuries to maintain this fresh look?

Then came the words of a wise french woman, Sylvaine Delacourte, Guerlain's Director of Perfume Development and former make-up specialist.  Deeply rooted in the luxury world since 1994,  she shed some light on the basic truths of beauty care for the french woman.

  • To simply put it, you can't put on beautiful make-up WITHOUT HAVING BEAUTIFUL SKIN.
  • Education and investment on SKINCARE are the rules by which the french play.
  • Make-up must be quick and efficient.
After hearing these statements, I laughed knowing it was pure logic. Instead of spending time in applying the latest shade of whichever tint on your face, FIRST take the time to STUDY the needs of your skin. Then, match it with a daily application of preventive, hydrating creams and proper cleansing. It's simple maintenance. Et voila, c'est tout (that's all).

But for a low-maintenance gal like myself, let's hope that an increased water intake, no alcohol and a touch of Terracotta Bronzing Powder will do and still bring out "my happy glow". Plus, a spray of Guerlain perfume, of course.

Useful Tips:
  • For your fragrance to last all day and night, in the morning, apply perfume behind the ears, inner side of wrists, inner part of your elbows and a spray of eau de toilette on the back and chest areas. This is guaranteed yumminess.
  • Best way to test a fragrance after spraying it on your skin is by using fabric, specifically cashmere or silk.
  • To give your nose a rest during perfume sampling, sniff on coffee beans; granted the store provides it.
  • If you are having difficulty choosing a perfume, there are ways to simplify the selection process like by doing an association sample test as seen below.

THS would like to thank Luxasia and Guerlain Paris.

For inquiries on Guerlain products available in  Metro Manila, Philippines, you may call Rustans Makati & Shangri-La Mall 633-46-36 loc. 122

Guerlain Marais Boutique
10, rue des Francs-Bourgeois
75003 Paris
Tel 01 53 01 02 00

La Maison Guerlain  Boutique
68, avenue des Champs-Elysees
75008 Paris
Tel 01 45 62 52 57

04 April 2010

Celebrating Easter in Paris

Bonnes Paques! Happy Easter everyone.

mass in notre dame: click here for sunday schedule

I never really walked around Paris on Easter Sunday. I knew I wasn't going to see a New York type of celebration with a bunny parade but it was a perfect opportunity to join the tourists and treat ourselves to some chocolate.

Traditional Easter symbols in France are not bunnies, although in Alsace they are used, but rather fish (Poisson d'Avril/ April Fish) and bells. French Catholics symbolize the ringing of bells as the flight of misery/grief on Good Friday to the Vatican in Rome; then these flying bells return on Sunday morning carrying chocolate and eggs! 

the sunny resurrection.. before the afternoon's rain and hail

The line outside the cathedral was expectedly long. Seeing it as the moment to benefit from the reputation of being "parisian pricks", we cut the queque and pissed of some tourists. Sorry, but we were already late enough for mass. And for those interested in attending mass, there is an international one at 11:30 am every Sunday in Notre Dame.

Coincidentally, it was the 1st Sunday of the month, and during this special day in Paris, these national museums do not charge entrance fees. Profitez! Seize the opportunity everyone!

We thought we could squeeze in a visit to the Conciergerie before our late lunch but the line was too long.

  where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned for a few days prior to her guillotine

Next stop, was lunch. On Sundays, most restaurants are closed except for the ever-reliable ones along rue St. Anne, home to quick, authentic Japanese cuisine.

Although a traditional Easter Sunday meal for a French Christian household would be 'Gigot D'agneau' (leg of lamb) and a grand omelette, signifying the end of the 40-day fasting from meat and eggs.

   Yakiniku lunch meal for 12,50 euros

                             Pork miso ramen with gyoza on the side for 8,50

 most of the restaurants have published food reviews posted at the entrance

Best part about eating out in small cities like Paris is the chance to walk out that stuffed feeling of goodness until the appetite is ready for the next treat..chocolates in the Marais!
Call us late bloomers but the more we play tour guide to visitors, the more we have realized  how damn walkable the whole of Paris is.  Comfortable shoes, good weather and a hand to hold are all that's needed!

We arrived quite tired but ready for our easter fix at Jodis & Gourmande Chocolatier,
producteur d'idees en chocolat.


                         ganache noire et lait fourree au miel(stiuffed with honey)

                                                                    praline-stuffed moulin eggs


                                                     our bag of bonbons: chocolate and caramel

All in all, this Easter in Paris was indeed a happy, memorable one for my husband and I. No amount of rain, shine, line and hail combined could stop us from enjoying a new "beginning" with a bag of chocolates.

And thankfully next year, we will be splitting the sugar count among three. :-)