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)


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.”


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:


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:



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):


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 Résistants, 16 rue du Chateau d’Eau, 75010, Paris. For lush photographs and mouth watering travelog, see http://www.lesresistants.fr


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


Year of the Doggie?


Year of the Dog begins… I took this picture on December 29th 2011 near me in Paris…It’s signed by 4 street artists: Bitume, WD Rok, Hero, and Doudou.

Hope 2018 will be a sweet puppy, not a mad dog… To be continued xxxxx Aliss


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


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 Chloé, 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, sautéd 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



How to make Christmas last forever (or at least until the end of January…)


As a native of more southerly latitudes, I had to learn to ignore Parisian weather to survive. If I had known before I moved here that my birthplace near Washington, DC, is comparable to Madrid and Rome in terms of sunlight, whereas Paris is comparable to Montreal, that lack of sunshine depresses the immune system and dampens the spirits… I may not have come. Then one day I was ranting about the gray skies to a French friend who said, “Il y a d’autres soleils à Paris” (There are other suns in Paris) and that was a turning point. I learned to love rain even when it falls every day for months as it has this winter, the darkest in 30 years:


Living in Paris has made me think that Christmas and Hanukkah lights are Northern Hemisphere responses to winter sun deprivation, and this year they are more vital than ever. So here are my strategies to make Christmas last forever, or at least until the end of January and the gradual approach of Spring…

  • Virtual fireplace on flat screen TV (DVD’s available and now streaming on Netflix!)
  • Epiphany galettes (King cakes) still on sale in the bakeries (collect prizes, wear crowns!)
  • New Year’s cards can be sent until at least the end of the month (and received!)
  • New Year’s resolutions boost energy and project us into the future, especially if updated and tracked  http://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/resolution-ideas
  • Skype faraway friends and family to open presents they sent by mail
  • Sort pictures, print some to send with New Year’s greetings
  • Play with presents: make a list of who gave you what and what you will do with each one in the new year, include thank you’s in New Year’s cards
  • Keep a log of good times over the holidays, in your appointment calendar, and relive them by journaling: funny things people said, conversations, realisations, issues to clear up?
  • Food memories: recipes new and heirloom, to share in New Year’s messages
  • Food continued: bake cookies and send to older and younger loved ones
  • Keep the tree and decorations up even as the tree folds inward like a shriveled umbrella and begins to look like a biological equivalent of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake (in Great Expectations)
  • Make un-decorating part of the holiday, set aside lots of time, enjoy treasured ornaments, as mementos and promises of future holiday celebrations
  • Keep the music playing: all the oldies you didn’t listen to when it was really Christmas, laugh at Bob Dylan and Elvis holiday albums, discover Yuletide gems by Lynerd Skynerd, Louis Armstrong and the never-obsolete Frank Sinatra. If that’s too much, fall back on instrumental “Winter Solstice” and “Celtic Christmas” collections from Windham Hill and others…
  • Recycle your tree in any of Paris’s parks until January 28th (and beyond), knowing it will become fragrant mulch for gorgeous spring landscaping…
  • Hibernate without guilt, perhaps with the help of a carefully selected winter virus, just severe enough to keep you on the couch in front of the “fire” with herb teas and soups,  but not requiring antibiotics or ER trips…
  • Continue your creative and professional work when the fog clears
  • Start thinking about Valentine’s day…

To be continued, love xxxx Aliss




A Tale of Two Christmases (updated 12/26/17)

IMG_0927Rockefeller Center, of course 🙂

As Josephine Baker said, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris” (“I have two loves, my country and Paris”) That’s totally me! Both Christmas styles are genius, if very different…

It’s taken longer than I expected to synthesize my pictures and thoughts, due to jetlag and holiday socializing, but, here goes..

I had to go to the Washington D.C. area in early December for a family funeral in Arlington. It was very solemn but heart-warming, bringing family together to commemorate a life well lived.DSC03934a

It was amazing to return to the area where I grew up and then take the Amtrak train north from Union Station, like when I was in college.


Seeing NYC from afar over northern NJ  marshes reminded me of the first time I saw it rising on the horizon like the Emerald City when I was a teenager.


This time I was on my way to see beloved younger family members who are building careers in the theater and IT worlds. Not having been in NYC at Christmas time for several years, I had to make every moment count: a long taxi ride Uptown from Penn station with a very chatty cabdriver:  DSC03945

A walk across Central park for an afternoon at the Met:


Midtown Christmas windows:


Rockefeller Center:


Bryant Park Winter village:


Visiting in Washington Heights (near GW bridge) and Queens:


Theater outings (The New School, The Public, Japan Society):


Thai “smashed” ice cream on MacDougall Street:


Shopping and pilgrimage to the Stonewall Inn in the Village:


A gorgeous fluffy snow storm:


Singing along with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” at the top of our lungs with the crowd at a cool tequila and mezcal bar called The Ghost Donkey downtown, then Uber home on the FDR:DSC03983.JPGhttps://www.atabula.com/2017/10/31/images-panorama-de-11-buches-de-chefs-patissiers-stars/

Hours on steep subway stairways and deafening dirty platforms enlivened with occasional mozaics: DSC03954

Pounding the broken pavement between stations with a capella groups singing on street corners:DSC03978.jpg

And before I can blink, time to fly back to Paris: DSC03998

First adjustment: Paris is much farther north, so it gets darker earlier here and even a bright day is muted compared to NYC. Also Christmas lights seem to be more of a public than a private thing here. The shopkeeper in charge of ordering the display over our street has retired and no one has taken over. Local cafés, bakeries, chocolate and cheese stores did their best to cheer things up:


Our own little family invested in a very tall tree for indoors and a floor-to-roof outdoor string of LEDs for our balcony:


Driving around the city, I noticed posher neighborhoods all lit up with specially designed garlands, welcoming visitors and shoppers, but there’s less self-expression by private individuals here. It seems to be catching on slowly and the occasional bright balcony takes your breath away. A welcome relief: hopping on public transportation to shop is a breeze in Paris, quiet, clean and easy to navigate:


But another adjustment: most of the good Christmas playlists are in English. Maybe because everything in France is still less commercial, holiday music is mainly religious with a few notable exceptions, including francophone Canadian, African and West Indian imports.

For me, the epitome of French Christmas spirit is the Bûche de Noël or Yule Log cake, a form of edible folk art reaching new levels of refinement every year. Star pastry chefs are now vying to create more extravagant versions in every shape and color, from electric guitars to Santa hats to playing cards, at astronomical prices.


The less expensive ones in our humble local establishments are good enough for me: rolls of sponge cake and butter cream icing or slabs of mousse and ice cream with fruit glazes and every possible variation of tiny plastic forest scenes, wrapped gifts, Santas and snowmen.


Of course Paris is the uncontested world capital of food and can’t be beat for the availability of fresh ingredients for home cooking along with gourmet restaurants at affordable prices. Chef Philou’s foie gras and smoked salmon:Philou_boutiquehttp://www.facebook.com/Philourestaurant/

Lunch at Yam Tcha, Michelin-starred Franco-Chinese fusion:



And on the 24th, our French relatives hosted a traditional Christmas Eve dinner for 18 of us with almost that many nationalities represented around the table:DSC04041

In former days, everyone would have attended midnight mass. Now we open presents at about that time and stagger home in the wee hours to recover.

Our American background calls for stocking presents the morning of the 25th, then another round of gifts in front of a virtual fire, under the watchful eyes of our kitty, who got a new scratching box with catnip and lots of her favorite–ham:


This was followed by a late afternoon skype with the US family in their sparkling White Christmas landscape, whereas ours was dreary and Wet. They were spending the day in the kitchen, we were still full so didn’t have to…

So… New York definitely wins the contest in terms of music, personalized lights, and great music. Paris wins in terms of deliciousness, cozy internationalness, and human-friendly transportation. New York has the big tree at 30 Rock (see above) but Paris has the world’s biggest artificial tree, the Eiffel TowerDSC01934

… Feeling privileged to spend time with loved ones in both places and enjoy both atmospheres…

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! On to 2018! xxxxx Aliss