April in Paris…

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A picture that speaks for itself, the entire city population was outside yesterday, more to come xxxxx Aliss

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Happiness Recipes: a musical massage! (25/3/18)

For guaranteed fun and uplift try Gamelan! If you’re in the Paris area, it’s easy, keep reading. If not, it’s easy, too, scroll down for link to online version  🙂  (Photo: Javanese gamelan at CitĂ© de la Musique, Paris 19)DSC04180

This is really a cool thing to do, alone, with friends or family. If you’ve never heard of it before, gamelan is an ensemble of 30+ elements, native to Indonesia, mainly composed of percussion instruments such as gongs, metallophones or drums. Sometimes there are string insturments such as rebab, celempung (kind of cithare), and woodwinds like the selung, a sort of bamboo flute. Gamelan plays an important role in Indonesian society. Every village or wealthy family owns one. Each is blessed and respected. Playing is not reserved for an elite, all social categories can participate. Gamelan is played on many occasions, religious or official ceremonies and holidays, and is often accompanied with other art forms: dance, song, and shadow theater. (Photo: gamelan workshop, CitĂ© de la Musique, Paris 19)DSC04185

Shadow theater shows (Wayang Kulit) take place all over Indonesia. They can last all night. A dalang (storyteller and puppeteer) uses hand decorated leather marionnettes behind a scrim to illustrate epic tales from the Ramayana that relate the good and evil deeds of mankind in relationship with the supernatural realm. DSC04186

Gamelan uses fewer notes than the western chromatic scales– one with 5 notes (selendro) and one with 7 notes (pelog). Virtuosity results not from individual solos but from coordination between all the players, who don’t learn alone at home, but always in a group. The 30+ piece ensemble is considered as a single instrument. There is no sheet music as such. The learning process is oral. Instead of naming the notes, numbers are used to indicate which gongs and which metal bars to strike with special mallets. Gamelan uses repetitive cycles that overlap to form sound mandalas! (The dragon below is part of a Balinese gamelan at La Villette, Paris 19)DSC04181

If you are in Paris, sign up for the next gamelan workshop:

http://philharmoniedeparis.fr/fr/activite/atelier-du-week-end/18745-gamelan-de-java?date=1528632000

If you are not in Paris, or just want to explore, click on this link to see 5 gamelans from different regions (Java, Bali, Sunda). You can play them using the buttons on the panel at left:

http://pad.philharmoniedeparis.fr/gamelan.aspx

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and see how the cycles form sound mandalas!Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 21.15.18

The workshop leader at the CitĂ© de la Musique is very nice and well versed in gamelan culture. He demonstrates the techniques and gets everyone in the groove. Can’t recommend it highly enough! A musical voyage away from our western habits into a shared experience of soothing, almost transe-inducing, musical relaxation and massage.

Enjoy! xxxxx Aliss

Text about Gamelan adapted and translated from CNED, Éducation Musicale, 4/e, 2018

 

Happiness Recipes (food!)

Pumpkin fondu           (Photo Z Worthington)

Theoretically Spring is around the corner, but Winter is still with us, at least until next week’s Equinox, with more snow and freezing temperatures on the way this weekend, now called the “Helsinki-Paris”… So before I say goodbye to the cold, here are two recipes I discovered this year and want to celebrate because they really brightened our spirits and table.

Why do I think about cooking and restaurants so much? Because I really believe that preparing and serving good food consciously is a form of social and ecological activism that fosters genetic diversity and sustainable, human-scale farming! It’s also a way to honor cultural traditions and life in general. When I attended “Les secrets du chef” (Chef’s Secrets) evenings at the Cordon Bleu school, I learned that every dish is a hologram of history, geography, evolution, language, and sensuality.  We know how the taste for spices resulted in trade routes across the globe, but did you know that following schools of cod led the Vikings to the New World? The ways this fish was caught and preserved, with smoke, salt, and air drying, provided livelihoods, terms, and tools for many people over centuries…No wonder the Cordon Bleu chefs speak so passionately about their ingredients…

So, recipe number one: Pumpkin and Cheese Fondue, but not just any old pumpkin, please. It has to be potimarron, much sweeter than other varieties. The English call it Red Kuri Squash, other names incude: “Japanese squash”, “orange Hokkaido squash”, and “baby red hubbard squash.” Personally I had never seen or tasted it before coming to France. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_kuri_squash

And not just any old cheese, please. Reblochon is my pick (although some people swear by camembert). In Sainsbury’s Book of Food, Frances Bissell describes Reblochon as “One  of France’s great mountain cheeses… made in Haute-Savoie, semisoft, with a yellowish brown rind and a gentle fruity flavor… sold in flat rounds set on thin wooden slices.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reblochon

Here’s one of my favorites, made with raw milk, vive la France:DSC04179Ingredients:

1 medium potimarron

2 small (or 1 large) raw milk reblochon cheeses, depending on availability

Pecans or walnuts, sprigs of fresh thyme, salt, freshly ground pepper, honey

Cut a hole in the top of the potimarron, large enough to insert the cheeses, scoop out the seeds and some of the pulp (to be saved for soup). Cut off the pointed tip under the potimarron so it sits firmly on a baking sheet or in a glass pie dish. Salt and pepper the inside.

Slice excess rind off cheeses and insert each in the potimarron, making small cuts in each top for pecan or walnut halves. Sprinkle with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with honey. Replace the potimarron “hat.”

Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 45 minutes then turn oven up to 410°F (210°C) for 10 minutes, or until the potimarron is tender when tested with a fork and the cheese has melted and blended together.

Remove from oven, take off “hat,” dip fresh baguette chunks (or other delicious bread) in cheese mixture, then use forks to carve out pieces of potimarron drenched in cheese 🙂

Enjoy! PS when I made this the first time, the small reblochons fit inside easily, the times and temperatures were perfect and the cheese was bubbly without further baking. The second time I used one larger reblochon cut into pieces to fit. I followed the instructions to the letter, but had to add cooking time. Third try, I used small cheeses again but had to add cooking time. In an emergency, you can use a microwave for the finishing touch. In other words, improvisation may be required… Leftover potimarron is fabulous mashed and reheated later as a side-dish. 🙂

Recipe 2: Mini Mushroom Crissants, made with Sylvia’s Wild Mushroom-Chestnut Fricassee (courtesy of Sylvia Sabes, my favorite travel and lifestyle guru)DSC04062

Sylvia’s Mushroom Chestnut Fricassee (great vegan dish to include in holiday menus!)

Go to Picard (France’s gourmet frozen food chain) and buy morilles (morels), baby cèpes (ceps, porcinis), girolles (not the same as chanterelles, but I guess you can substitute these in a pinch) and pre-cooked chestnuts. The quantity depends on how many people you have to feed. Sylvia uses 3 packages of each mushroom for one of chestnuts.

Sauté the mushrooms (in olive oil if going for vegan, otherwise in butter), one kind at a time, being careful to drain off the liquid as you go (and freeze it for soups). Morels 10 minutes, then cèpes for 3 minutes, add chestnuts and girolles and sauté for another 7 minutes (refer to package instructions).

I had this at Sylvia’s for Thanksgiving and it was amazing. All the mushrooms were nicely browned with the chestnuts, tender and chewy. When I made it, I must not have drained off the liquid the right way because it got a little soupy and I had to thicken it for a while, which changed the texture.  I added garlic, Adobo (salty lemon and herb mixture), sweet paprika, and lots of pepper. Then I shaped it into a round “patties” with a metal circle form and plated it with arugula dressed with virgin olive oil, balsamic, and fresh parsley. Huge success! I had a lot left over, and a party coming up, which gave me the idea for the mini croissants (pictured above). The day of the party, I bought puff pastry, cut it into triangles, stuffed it with the mushroom filling, and baked in a medium oven until brown. DSC04059Next time, I’ll baste with egg yolk to get the perfect golden finish. No one noticed I hadn’t done that, big success, and leftovers can be reheated… For more brilliant inspiration from Sylvia Sabes: http://www.facebook.com/LoveOnlyNParis/

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

 

Happiness Recipes (updated 14/3/18)

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Winter is still with us, how can we love it? Let me count the ways… Number one: new discoveries and passions like Madame, my favorite woman street artist, whose interactive mural collages I discovered on a recent cold evening at Art 42, a Parisian programming school and street art gallery in the 17th. In honor of International Women’s Day, I posted the one above, shown by the stairs in Art 42’s courtyard: “By calculating everything, we made our lives indecipherable equations…”

From Madame’s website Bio: “…I work with and rework vintage documents and photographs from the last century up to the 50’s and 60’s, to create new, more contemporary images. 

These original visuals are always articulated in the following characteristic way: an image and a punch line that dialog, but don’t illustrate one another. 

Once these small format collages are finished, they are scanned and then printed in very large formats and affixed in the street, to offer passersby a door to another more playful, offbeat reality.  

It’s about offering viewers an image that can be interpreted in many ways, an open door to elsewhere.” 

Photo of photo displayed in the basement of Art 42, “Building paper castles, we don’t cause the storm, we defy it.”

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And a detail from wall sculpture upstairs, “Day and night always end up in embrace” DSC04084DSC04083

Below: “To be sure I’d never find myself, I sowed my heart like a tiny bread crumb” has frames that swing open like windows:

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She keeps her own identity and image secret, posing beside “I sometimes embrace the past to stay standing”DSC04082.JPG

To see and find out more, see her website and Instagram:

http://www.madamemoustache.fr/

http://www.instagram.com/madamemoustachestreetart/

All the pieces above and examples of her earlier work can be seen at

Art42 Urban Art Collection and Coding Institute
96 Boulevard de Bessières
75017, M° Porte de Clichy
01 77 12 54 55
The name refers to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (42 being the ultimate answer to Life and the Universe)
The gallery/coding school concept is the brainchild of Nicolas Laugero-Laserre (collector, director of ICART art institute, former director of Espace Cardin) and Xavier Niel (CEO of Free, married to Delphine Arnault of LVMH) and it doesn’t disappoint: 150 works by 50 artists cover the walls of 3 floors, a courtyard, and the cafeteria, including Banksy, JR, Invader, Shepard Fairey, Philippe Baudeloque, Romain Froquet, Monkey Bird, Swoon, Bault, Evol, Jef, and Aerosol… Admission is free, Tuesday evenings 7-9 pm and the first Sunday of the month 3-6 pm, with tours in French, English, and Spanish. Reservation is required.
Highly recommended! xxxxx Aliss

Taming the Beast from the East (updated 2/3/18)

DSC04163Cold front blowing in from Siberia, the French call it “Moscou-Paris”, all the better to feed ourselves with…

Before continuing this post, I just need to say how grateful I am to have a roof over my head and food on the table in front of me. I want to thank our city officials for their huge efforts to shelter the homeless. The cold sunny days made me feel intensely alive and also deeply worried for the people and creatures endangered by it. For many years now our family has been contributing warm clothing, sleeping bags, linens, and toiletries whenever possible through various charities, but it seems like a micro-drop in a bucket the size of an ocean. I generally post upbeat photos and information as a way to lift my spirits in the face of all this, not because I don’t know there is great suffering everywhere…

So, recently I was lucky to be invited to sample some of the best restaurants in my area of Paris, lovingly chosen among the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmet selection for the arrondissements near me (X, XIX):

http://restaurant.michelin.fr/restaurants/paris-10/restaurants-michelin

All of them share a commitment to ultra fresh farm to table ingredients in creative combinations, natural wines, original, low key decor and inspiring websites.

At the top of my list of recommendations:

Mensae, http://www.mensae-restaurant.com 23 Rue Mélingue 75019 Paris (be sure to reserve)

Remoulade of crab, rice chips, lobster shell powder (pictured above)

Wild Pollack confit and grilled, broccoli, and brussels sprouts in haddock mousseDSC04164 Wine: Sople e Joios, Mas de l’Escarida, Rhone

Followed by dessert: White chocolate and citrus sundae, clementine sorbet, fresh mint leaves and strawberry accents DSC04165 (Yes, I need a new phone/camera…)

Next on the list, Fraiche, 8 rue Vicq d’Azir, 75010 Paris http://www.fraicheparis.fr/photos/ See my previous post from July 8 2017 🙂

Marinated salmon with its beet “declination”DSC04168

Scallops, sweet potato chips and Iberian chorizo sausageDSC04169And instead of dessert, roasted St Marcellin cheese with herb sauce and apple confitDSC04171Served with Domaine Servin Chablis

Last but not least, Les RĂ©sistants, 16 rue du Chateau d’Eau, 75010, Paris. For lush photographs and mouth watering travelog, see http://www.lesresistants.fr

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Smoked Lake Leman Fera with polenta, lemon, lamb’s lettuce, Atlanta leaks and fromage blanc

Wild pollack with heirloom root vegetables

Winter clementines, Conference pears, Corsican lemon sorbet, nut streusel, custard and fromage blanc

All on vintage dinnerware with an excellent Bourgogne Aligoté and an unforgettable organic Sauvignon from http://www.vinibee.com/nos-vins-naturels/la-pente-de-chavigny/

We are blessed

xxxxx Aliss

How to be your own Valentine (and outsmart winter blues)

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So, as planned,  I made Christmas last until the end of January. Then decorations were put away, tree recycled,  pictures sorted, cards sent, presents played with, playlists turned off, virus waned, work and life went on along with the darkest winter in three decades, heavy, gray, damp. Jealous of NY weather, I grumbled, “This is it, I’m done, have to move to a place where I can see snow”.. and presto-change-o, Lumos Maxima! This week we had the biggest Paris snowfall in 30+ years, 10 inches in 24 hours… Suddenly lightness and brightness instead of gloom.DSC04122.JPG

Later in the week, the sun was even shining on the snowy roofs and city gardens.

Of course it wasn’t all fun. People were slipping on icy pavements, or stuck in cars and transportation. (Not to mention the homeless and refugees living on the streets.) Thirteen beautiful trees keeled over in our Buttes Chaumont park up the hill.

In any case, a big life lesson. Everything can change in a few hours…

But, we’re not “out of the woods” yet. Spring doesn’t arrive for another 7 weeks and knowing this part of the world, we could definitely enter a depressing weather tunnel again. So here are some strategies to outsmart the end of winter:

  • Be your own Valentine! Create an atmosphere of “anything can happen” expectancy. Make a list of things you love to receive and enjoy–hugs, flowers, pretty chocolates, massages, pedicures, compliments, cards and postcards, dinner invitations, high tea invitations, party invitations, concert/theater/museum tickets, hearing a favorite song, “I love you” texts in your inbox, trip to the pool, a walk in a beautiful landscape, vacation plans, flattering pix of yourself, happy pix of you with people you love, smiles, fun movies… Whatever your heart desires. Write each one on a piece of paper, fold up and put in a jar or box by your computer, labeled “Open Me.” Then open one a day until Valentine’s Day (and beyond) and give these things to yourself within 24 hours, or at least schedule it. (I guarantee you won’t remember the entire list and you’ll get a spontaneous lift.)
  • Even better! Turn the energy around. Be everyone’s Valentine! Give yourself all of the above and invite a special person or people to join you. Giving is receiving, right?  You’ll get a love boomerang!
  • Music! How to create a magic holiday updraft? Back in the 60’s, French otolaryngologist Alfred Tomatis discovered that Mozart violin concertos stimulate the cerebral cortex, creativity, optimism, and calm efficiency. Researchers theorize that it’s about inducing beta waves in the brain. Who knows. Try it and see. Another good bet: the complete works of the Beatles in chronological order, Irish bands Kila and Solas, Bretons Alan Stivell and Dan Ar Braz will get your blood moving (let me know if you suddenly start repainting and remodeling your apartment single-handedly). You can experiment with light transe-inducing gamelan, dance to “Happy” by Pharrel and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, float to Ravel’s Daphnis and ChloĂ©, or maybe your taste runs to Macklemore, whatever, have fun, see what works!!
  • Have a crepe party! La Chandeleur was earlier in the week and Mardi Gras falls on February 13th, two occasions to make dinner pancakes! Organic hard apple and pear ciders are prominently displayed on grocery store shelves, buck wheat crepes grilled in big skillets with your choice of cheese, mushrooms, ham, egg yolk, sautĂ©d onions or shallots, sour cream… plus green salad on the side, is very festive, you’ll see.*
  • Take advantage of these weeks to make other winter recipes that are easy to burn off in cold weather. Some new faves: Reblochon fondue in roasted potimaron pumpkins, wild mushroom fricassee (thank you Sylvia Sabes) 🙂 Leftovers from both of these can be turned into soups and fabulous mini mushroom croissants… Pumpkin fonduDSC04062
  • Details coming… (Thank you Z Worthington for the fondue picture)

*Got these dates mixed up at first but now they’re correct 🙂

To be continued xxxxx Aliss