Feed Your Head (2)

DSC02525So…did I dream that day at the Palais de Tokyo in early January? Could it be as magical a second time? Had to go back and find out. Lunch reservation for Wednesday noon. Got to the museum late due to traffic so went to Monsieur Bleu https://monsieurbleu.com before exploring the art. (Is this a good idea?) Knew the exhibits had changed but wasn’t prepared for complete transformation of the spaces. Last time we couldn’t find the restaurant on the pitch-black lower level. This time the windows were all uncovered for a totally different effect, but door still well camouflaged:

DSC02531(Door? Did you say door?)

If you know where to look, you can get in, otherwise enter from the river side?

More surprises: on  weekdays there’s a reasonable prix-fixe menu (starters 13€, main dishes 20€). Would have ordered the gambas again, they were so delish, but the menu had changed and my dream boat, grand seigneur, insisted I order à la carte. So….”Belle salade avocat-mangue-pamplemousse-orange-oignons-crevettes roses” (Beautiful salad avocado-mango-grapefruit-orange-onions- pink shrimp+fresh parsley & drizzle of customized vinaigrette and yes, it was a beautiful explosion of sweetness, tartness, smoothness, color, with a hint of the ocean).DSC02526

Main dish: “Noix de Saint Jacques dorées, beurre, orange-passion”  (Golden scallops in butter and orange-passion fruit sauce, accompanied by slices of red and golden beets, turnips in shiny butter).


(You’ll have to imagine my date’s salmon tartare with fresh herbs and Tuna Tataky Saku encrusted with sesame…)

Shared dessert: café gourmand:

DSC02530 (Expresso with tiny cheese cake, meringue, salted butter cream puff, on a bed of pistachio and pastry cream, fresh raspberies….and a chocolate praline).

Accompanied by a glass of white Viognier for me and red Burgundy for him.

Verdict: just as lovely as in January, a feeling of reverence, thankful for all the creatures and people who brought this meal to me here and now. Starting to experience a holographic map of France in my brain, wired to my palate. Every time I eat or drink something in this country, a geographical area lights up, linked to landscape, history, and tradition… a sacred grounding ritual.

Found our way back through the hidden portal to the exhibits on the lower level. First J-M Alberola, whose work focuses on details. In the mood for something on a larger scale, I rushed through what felt like a gallery, with framed canvases and display cases. Struck by one item that echoes a family travel joke (“Are you sure you packed the anvil?”)DSC02532Travel enclume in case, caption “Le verbe être remplacé par le verbe porter/The verb to be replaced by the verb to carry.”

Next a walk through colorful multi-media displays by Shana Moulton (no pix), and on to the Bas Bar (Stocking Bar) by Martin Soto Climent, more like what I hope for at the Palais de Tokyo, with panty hose stretched across the walls and ceiling, hammocks, tables and seating:DSC02533

Detour via Simon Evans (really a duo, for some reason Sarah Lannan’s name doesn’t appear in the title): collages of accumulated scraps of paper inscribed with scrawled soliloquy’s on white out, a word waterfall, woven or distressed surfaces painted and printed with iconic symbols and statements…Somehow was drawn in:

Next, attracted to this poster for Louidgi Beltrame’s movie  El Brujo (The Sorcerer):

DSC02535Turned out to be a million times more interesting than the film, unless you’re a fan of Warhol’s Sleep and really enjoy sitting through it, sorry J-P Léaud, endless hand-held camera shot of you crossing the trestle-bridge over the Gare du Nord tracks just doesn’t hold my attention.

Up to the main floor for:

DSC02544 Florian & Michael Quistrebert, The Light of the Light: stacked hulking LED-incrusted panels rotating on metal rods like mechanical totems.DSC02540

AndDSC02545dizzying op-art projections on angled movie screens…

My favorite of the day, Enrique Oliveira’s white pillars entwining into tree branches and trunks:DSC02547

And finally (you can’t make this stuff up) Vivien Roubaud’s “tarpaulin taking wing on a building site.”DSC02546Yes, I kid you not, a large square piece of torn plastic sheeting rigged to float up and down in the  Great Staircase…One can only conclude that all life is art depending on your perspective? So…in answer to my questions, no, I did not dream that January day at the Palais de Tokyo and even if several spaces are awaiting their new exhibits, yes, coming here can be as magical as the first time. Highly recommend choosing a good companion (I did). Conversation, wonder, and humor guaranteed…. Vive le Palais de Tokyo xxxx Aliss



DSC02479Fontainebleau Forest, winter. Stillness…..

Winter weekend about an hour south east of Paris, staying in Malesherbes, a little town nearby, at a hotel called “L’écu de France.” The word écu has linguistic cred because it originally meant a long shield or support for a heraldic coat of arms, then designated a medieval gold coin, and more recently was almost used as the official title for European currency. Thank heavens “Euro” won out because l’écu is a homonym for les culs (the asses) in French. (So we were staying at “the asses of France” = Gallic in-joke….)

Anyway, great place, modern accommodations, good food (more about that later) with outbuildings, foundations and ground floor dating back to the 17th century, timbered ceilings, a huge fireplace in the breakfast area, and a stately staircase up to the rooms. Ours was so silent, it was like an isolation pod: no humming refrigerator, no sloshing-gurgling washing machine, no fingers pounding on keyboards, no voices seeping through the bathroom wall, no doors slamming on the landing, no sirens from the street, no motors vibrating the buildings, no neighbor child practicing the saxophone…. People always remark on how calm our place is, but  I realized the sound effects are frequent, if muffled, and how strange and velvety smooth real quiet can be.

Couldn’t wait to walk in the forest… 35 million years ago it was under the ocean and over time, compressed sand formed huge boulders that cover almost 10,000 acres of the total  60,000. They huddle together like trolls turned to stone in The Hobbit. Off season is perfect, very few hikers and climbers, only the occasional trail biker. Calm, alive, natural matrix, network of living creatures, communicating in subtle ways underground and through the air. Peace.

Recalled running across a new term: “forest bathing,” translated from Japanese and Korean, meaning to spend relaxing time in the woods. (French version: “sylvothérapie“)

Highly recommended reading, how trees secrete natural antibiotics, essential oils, and other substances that heal infections, comparison of number of germs found in cities (lots) and in forests (none), beneficial effect on stress symptoms such as blood pressure…etc



Disturbing to think that seeing the information presented scientifically is more persuasive than just being there. Are we so removed from our senses that we can only take them seriously when they’re expressed in statistics? Why not trust what we feel when we’re there?

Now the food:

Assortment of terrines made on site by the chef (pork, pheasant, rabbit)

Selle d’agneau au jus (roasted lamb saddle in mouth-watering sauce)

Fontainebleau maison (fromage blanc, mixed with whipped cream)

Pithiviers pastry (almond cake, very good with the Fontainebleau cream)

Fresh baguette bread from local bakery

Wine: Saumur Champigny (red), Saint Cyr en Bourg (Touraine), Domaine Saint-Just vinyard, Cabernet Franc grapes

Lovely service, price reasonable… Generous breakfast, full lunch menu…

Vive la France

xxxxx Aliss

Winter Window

DSC02517Birch after heavy rain, every branch carrying rows of identical tiny droplets reflecting the world. Playing with the image on the computer, trying to define details intensified the orange and turquoise shades and although it looks very different from what I saw in the moment, it’s truer to how I felt. Wanted a winter poem to quote. Went on line, found Shakespeare, Frost, De La Mare, Akhmatova… all deep, moving but nothing that fits. How to translate feeling into verse? Jot down whatever comes without self-censoring: colors, shapes, atmosphere…Sad, happy, wistful, longing, hoping, or all of the above? Memories, dreams, stories? Make an idea tree: note answers to above questions, then draw branches from each one and note words that come by association, keep going until you cover the page… Let rest a few hours or overnight, sleep, work, think about other things, walk…see if any phrases form, with or without rhymes. Let rest, come back and play, shuffle, cross out, replace…

A “work in progress”…like a riddle. Would love to know what you see from your window, your thoughts, please share in comments with links… To be continued.. xxxxx Aliss

Love Sweet Love


Is there a recipe for more love? One to try: the Metta blessing I discovered thanks to  Krista Tippet and her On Being interview with Sylvia Boorstein, a Jewish Buddhist, thinker, and therapist. Boorstein shares a Lovingkindness meditation she has adapted into English.  Treat yourself. It’s 8 minutes of bliss, starting with a self-blessing we can all use: “May I feel safe, may I feel content, may I feel strong, may my life unfold with ease,” then expands to loved ones, acquaintances, and the world.


(Enjoy just the meditation or also indulge in the entire talk, about conscious child-raising and care-giving, including a poem by Neruda)

A gift you can give yourself and the planet. Why wait? Valentine’s Day is an ideal time to begin.

PS Boorstein gives other versions and background on line on the Yoga Journal website, on her blog and on Youtube…


Happy Valentine’s Day

xxxx Aliss

Russian Dumpling Party

(In case you’re wondering…That’s my bubbly in the picture, not his 🙂 )


Still a long way to go until Spring… Having as much fun as we can in the meantime. No snow this year, but we pretend with Pelmeni, Siberian “ravioli” (from the Far East like all pasta, until Marco Polo brought it to Europe in the 14th century). Never realized what an institution this is for Russians until our Saint Petersburg friends initiated us. During our in-person tutorial, they told us how their clans gather around kitchen tables and make hundreds of dumplings to store outside on frozen apartment balconies all through the winter, bringing some in once or twice a week for dinners. Everyone competes to see who can make the most and the best, singing, telling jokes and stories. Each family has their own recipe and unique style so when a couple moves in together or marries, their traditions better be compatible or the relationship won’t be happy. Of course there are Pelmeni restaurants in the old country, but nothing compares to home-made ones. So, as soon as Parisian temperatures approach zero, we set out our ingredients, roll out our dough (gyoza and wonton wrappers are for sissies!), chop our meat and onions, cut out our circles, dole out filling, boil our broth, and enjoy with black bread, red caviar, sour cream, vinegar, chives (considered sacrilege by some) and only top-of-the-line beverages.


Veronika’s ST-P style, for 4: 1 pound of meat (mixture of beef and pork), 1 large onion, 1 pound of flour, salt, water, bay leaf, black pepper corns (+ fresh herbs, vinegar depending on the family…)

Olga’s Siberian style (more people, more elbow grease) filling: 2 pounds ground meat (half beef, half pork and veal, must not be too lean!), 1 tbsp water, 2 large onions, salt, pepper. Dough: 2 lbs flour, salt, water, 1 egg per cup of flour.


Pour flour on the table or counter, add a pinch of salt, make a little well in the middle, start adding water and mixing until it begins to form a ball. (Siberians add eggs)


Keep kneading, adding flour and water until it becomes smooth and elastic. Work as a team, taking turns, it’s strenuous! Never try this in the spring or summer!


Now we’re getting somewhere. Roll it into a ball, let rest.

Meanwhile, prepare meat and onions for filling (we put pork shoulder in food processor and mix with ground beef).DSC02505 Roll out dough on floury surface until thin and cut circles with the rim of a glass. These look huge, but are about 3″ diameter. Bring a big kettle of water to a boil. Pop in a bay leaf, black pepper corns, and salt.

DSC02506Put a spoon of filling in each center, fold over, moisten edges and pinch shut, fold corners to center, moisten and pinch again. (Variation: pinch off little pieces of dough and roll out individually, then fill, fold, close, fold again)


We cheated. Ours are bigger because we were hungry and in a hurry.

DSC02508Gently drop dumplings in the boiling water, about 5 per person to start (don’t let them glob together) and boil until they rise to the surface. It’s OK if one or two come apart, that makes the broth even tastier. Meanwhile, munch on whole grain black bread and red caviar.

DSC02510Dip dumplings out with a strainer, place in shallow soup plates with a ladle of broth, garnish with organic smetana, crème fraîche, or sour cream (and fresh chives, dill or parsley). Some people like a few drops of vinegar. Repeat as necessary.

Winter Heaven!

Broth can be refrigerated or frozen, reused once, for more pelmeni, soups or sauces, but do not refreeze 🙂

Fat Tuesday

DSC02482Hoping to extract body from couch soon following three days in a haze of herb teas, soup, homeopathy, blankets, and bad TV, only interrupted by 2 outdoor expeditions that couldn’t be avoided without permanently compromising parental integrity. Photo above is to remind myself there is a world somewhere and I usually like to walk around in it and photograph it. Should have known I was coming down with something when accent circonflexe issues  and arrondissement numbers made me delirious. To be continued…

“19th Nervous Breakdown” (rant/hoax)

DSC02511(Thanks for the title, Rolling Stones, thanks for the vodka, Russia)

How could I ever forget my first French dictée in middle school with Mme. Fanelli? In shock, I tried to learn all those bizarre spellings by heart, but those weird little lines above the words, what did they mean, if anything, and how could you memorize something so seemingly random? On the big day, I wrote out the text as best I could and then to make it look “French,” I went through and placed “^” and “/ ” and ” \ ” here and there on consonants as well as vowels, admiring the result. Of course, Mme. Fanelli was not impressed and I spent many hours of the ensuing years committing the patterns to memory. I learned that the hat usually meant the word’s ancestor had an “s” after that vowel or distinguished it from a homonym. Etymology is an acquired taste to be sure, but after a while I learned to love the origin of words and the hat, or circumflex accent, gave clues to vocabulary family trees. Hatted vowels suggesting the exaggerated open pronunciation of bourgeois speakers appeared in comics and jokes. Slash accents were more complicated, one “grave” (low), one “aigu” (high) and I honestly have only started to really hear, much less pronounce, the difference on a’s and e’s. Still, the circonflexe has become part of my mental furniture and writing, a badge of honor almost as important as my French passport. Haven’t dared to look at the other spelling changes they plan, who knows what else is on its way to the guillotine…) (Did anyone see that old SNL skit, Best of Dan Ackroyd, “The Decabet”? Is that where we’re going?)

And…Rumor has it Mayor Hidalgo wants to merge the 4 tiny arrondissements in the city center and rename all the districts. Could our XIXth, which strikes fear into the more posh areas as (OMG!) far away, working class, graffiti-ed and supposedly jihadi-infested… become the new XVIth (!!!!!????) a number synonymous with tradition, wealth, class, power, culture, and the very Eiffel Tower… Much merriment among my neighbors, can’t stop laughing… (Would this be like calling the Bronx “Central Park West”?)

What’s next? When in doubt… Bottoms up! Down the hatch! Here’s mud in your eye! Santé! Tchin! À la tienne!

PS After all the outrage and “Je suis accent circonflexe” banners, the voice of reason has spoken on social media this morning. According to an article in Le Monde, the Académie Française made these recommendations years ago and they are being applied by school textbook publishers in the fall. ^^^^^ are still welcome, but not mandatory on “i” and “u” (except in certain cases?!? Doesn’t sound like much of a simplification…) Anyway, the moral of the story: language is a hot topic here…is there any other place in the world where dictations are public events and even aired on national TV?  And the change of arrondissement numbers was a crazy joke/hoax! Vive la France!

Candles, Groundhogs, Crêpes

Rose Window, Notre Dame, Midwinter
DSC02512Sunday morning, Ivan and I were invited to church. Young girls in white capes greeted us at the door with candles to light for the ceremony. As I tried to keep up with the unfamiliar liturgy, half in Latin, half in French, “Lumen ad revelationem gentium: et gloriam plebis tuae Israel, présentation du Seigneur au Temple,  purification de la Vierge Marie, quarante jours après la naissance“… “This must be Candlemas!” resonated in my mind, like an echo from Elizabethan times. Thoughts about the earth’s path around the sun, how pagan Bear cults celebrating the end of hibernation transformed into La Chandeleur (chandelle + ours?) in France and Groundhog Day’s Punxsutawney Phil extravaganza in the US… Northern Hemisphere, early February, exactly halfway through Winter, energies are at their lowest, statistically more people leave the planet now than any other time of year. Parisian skies are gray and heavy. It’s not just my personal after-Christmas blues… we all need reminders that life renews and returns. Are round golden brown disks with sugar and melted butter images of the sun?

On tonight’s menu, two versions: savory buckwheat galettes with cheese, ham, an egg or creamy mushroom fillings, sparkling cider, green salad, then crispy thin dessert crêpes with jam, cream or chocolate-nut spread…

A game I play when making fluffy American pancakes: waiting for the bubbles to pop on the griddle, I flip them over to see the smooth “sun” side, then flip again to see how the bubbles have formed a pattern on the “moon” side. What pictures come up? Clues to our heart’s desire? I call it Pancake Divining 🙂

Also see:


to be continued

PS Wrote this before I knew Eric Kristy had passed… And Kim’s mother, and so many others…unbelievable…