Thursday, September 24, 2009

Be Happy...Paris

I don't care what anyone says...Parisians were awesome. In 5 days, only two people annoyed the heck out of me; the rest of the time, Parisians were gracious hosts in an absolutely beautiful city. Both occurrences had something to do with a train station so I will happily shrug it off. You also can't smoke in restaurants in Paris anymore so the smoking wasn't even a big deal.

I thought I would finally close my Paris adventure notes with the other two things I came to Paris for: art and shopping.

My 5 favourite places to shop (or window shop...Paris is not cheap!)

1. Uniqlo. Okay, I am stretching a little because Uniqlo wasn't actually open yet but of all the cool things to come out of Japan...this is Japan's chic answer to GAP. The are featuring a Jil Sander capsule collection so vite! vite! vite! 17 Avenue de l'Opéra (Metro: Pyramides)
2. Galleries Lafayette. This is a Paris department store? Oy...way too much good stuff. I thought my head might explode. Printemps, across the street and my friend Celine's preference, has Laduree which might give it the edge but Galleries Lafayette is a classic. 40 Boulevard Haussmann (By the Opera Garnier)
3. Isabel Marant 47 rue de Saintonge in the Marais and 4. Vanessa Bruno 100 Vielle du Temple in the Marais. Both of these are my favourite stores for clothes in Paris. Think cool Parisienne girl's closet. Worth the splurge!
5. Colette. Colette is the place where they decide what is cool and we all buy it up. It is the original "emporium": everything from music to perfume to limited edition trainers. Be schooled here. 213 Rue St Honore

We bought a museum pass and if you really want to see some art I highly recommend it. Like it said in our guidebook, you either have a museum pass or you wait in line! And with 60 sites to visit, if you only feel like seeing the Mona Lisa and then escaping the throngs of tourists - you don't really feel bad because you didn't pay full price...

My 5 favourite sites in far! Maybe not the "insider's view" of Paris but if you are first timer like me, you have got to see these...

1. The Louvre...maddening crowds...worth it for a peak at Mona Lisa's smile
2. Centre George Pompidou...modern style
3. Sacre beautiful, perched above Montmartre
4. The Eiffel Tower...nothing like seeing it up close
5. Champs Elysee...not so much for the gap, nike and adidas...but for the grand boulevard, flanked by the arc de triomphe and the tuileries gardens

Next, on to Provence!

A bientot,

Monday, September 14, 2009 Paris

On to are a few that I was lucky enough to dine at plus a few that are highly recommended by others that I didn't get a chance to!

France really isn't for vegetarians; I find it a challenge to find totally meat free dishes while trying to dine with abandon(eating around the meat has become a bit of a norm). For those who prefer meals untainted by meat, salads, pastas, pizzas and soups will be your staples. There are also a small number of vegetarian restaurants I noted wandering the streets...I will highlight places I got a completely meat free meal...

One of my favourite aspects of culture and exploration of other cultures is that surrounding our food choices and norms. Most interesting in France is the utmost respect for good food and dining - and they manage to have such without the slightest hint for our North American excess. This is an excess which they notably detest and it might be best when in France not to note the "small" portion sizes :) For those of you used to dining at the Cheesecake Factory, take note! The portion sizes in France are the ones we should be eating...and with the quality of food here, bursting with flavour, you might be surprised to find yourself completely satisfied!

Should you find yourself wandering the streets of Paris, it is important to know that meal service is at very definite times - lunch is generally 12:00 - 2:00 and dinner from 7:00 - 9:00 or 10:00. Try and get a meal outside those times and you might find yourself with a closed restaurant or only a crepe at a restaurant with "service continue"(see my previous post for good street food options).

Meal times are to be enjoyed at a leisurely rate, with good wine and conversation. The French also strongly believe in the multicourse menu and the Menu or Formule is a 2 or 3 course which is also usually the freshest and the best deal. Amazingly, because of the proper portions, you can leave a 3 course meal here about the same degree of stuffed as after a single main course at home. Also nice, you can get demi bouteilles of wine. Your own bottle...just half the size. Very civilized at lunch ;)

So, on to the restaurants...

1. Les Cocottes 135 rue St Dominique 7th arr (Metro: Ecole Militaires) This restaurant from chef Christian Constant is a chic take on French comfort food. The "cocotte" is a pot...stuffed with delicious French home cooking. They even offered a young vegetable pot that tasted of the freshest "pulled from the ground" peas, carrots and new potatoes. A must have is the fabulous tart or la fabuleuse tarte. Yup, its pretty fantastic...and it's chocolate.
2. Au Pied de Cochon 6 rue Coquillier (Metro: Chatelet Les Halles) This restaurant is pretty legendary in boasts that it has not closed its doors since it opened in 1947 and there may not even be a key to those doors. The place is open 24 hours and it is classic Paris bistro. Not for the meat timid...I had to push aside the Chicken in my salad.
3. Higuma 32 rue Ste Anne 1st arr (Metro: Pyramides) I found this Japanese ramen shop in the Paris Shopping Guide that the tourist info centres provide. It is super close to the Louvre and is pretty well stocked with locals...which is always a good sign. The Yasai Ramen is the vegetarian choice. Nothing beats a bowl of noodles (yes, Connie!) to restore your energy after a long slog on the pavement.
4. I also had a lovely meal at a restaurant near the Sacre Coeur...I will ask my Parisien friends the name so I can let you all know about it.

A few restaurants that I found highly recommended but didn't get a chance to visit...

1. Chez Janou 2 rue Roger Verlomme (near the Bastille)
2. Zoe Bouillion 66 rue Rebeval (in Belleville)
3. Lao Siam 49 rue Belleville (in Belleville)
4. La poule au pot 9 rue Vauvilliers (at Les Halles)

I am not sure if my next hotel will have stay tuned for my notes from Provence and Cote d'Azur!

A bientot,

Sunday, September 13, 2009 Paris has to be said that the French know food. The thing that amazes me most is that places we would expect to be run of the mill turn out the most incredible products. Ugly yellow awning? Amazing ratatouille! On a dingy looking street? Best croissant d'amande in Paris!Not only has Paris been all that I could have imagined it to be, the food is even better. And I do know food. While Paris isn't exactly a cheap city (beware the $5 cafe au lait) - you can get by "on the cheap" if you do as the Parisiennes do and make a pique nique. People here will sit out any number of gorgeous gardens or on the canal. You can make a couple of quick stops and then eat under the sun. Important to note - it is totally acceptible to drink wine with your picnic; buy a bottle at a wine shop and then wander into a cafe and ask them to open it for you!

The next couple of posts will be a few brief food notes from my 4 days in recommendations to follow tomorrow.

Five things you must eat/drink in Paris (and then walk off later!)

1. it croissant, pain au chocolate or tarte d'abricot. I am not a big fan of sweets or pastry at all - but I can't get enough here. Patisserie is a way of life; on every street corner you will find an independent patisserie with a vast selection of the best pastry you will find. Anywhere. Look for a shop that has a few people in it (at lunch or when school lets out...about 4:30) and then select at will. Patisserie also makes for a cheap lunch en plein air.
2. Un croque madame or monsieur....monsieur for the grilled cheese and ham; madame has an egg on top. Available at any sandwich shop.
3. Paris, meal service is at strict times - during the non meal hours, crepes are one of your only options at a cafe or on the street. Nutella for the sweet fans....ham and emmenthal for the savoury (although I just had chevre and fig confiture which was pretty amazing)
4. Kir....there is nothing more civilized than cocktail hour in Paris. Before dinner, plunk yourself down at any cafe and order un kir, which is white wine with cassis (or peach or raspberry liquer if you must). Cocktails are absurdly expensive in France and this is the perfect aperitif. Sit out as the Parisiens do and watch the world go by.
5. Macaroons from Laduree....75 avenue des Champs Elysees (metro stop Georges V). Not cheap; 4 tiny macaroons will run you 8 euros but come on, you must indulge once in a while and laduree is the ultimate expression of posh sweets in Paris.
6. Quiche....really? Yes really! Quiche in North America tends to be a rather heavy dish and taste like a thick omelette. I have no idea how the french make it the texture of silk, as if the whole thing were made of whipped cheese and the flavours are infused into it rather than floating in it. Not low fat. From the Patisserie or cafe

Thank goodness for walking for 8 hours a far the fancy Lagerfeld jeans still fit!

I will blog tomorrow with some restaurant recommendations, should the wi-fi (wee fee en francais) hold out.

A votre sante,

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Eat...dulce de leche

This one is for Jerome and is my super easy (but time consuming) recipe for dulce de leche!

Dulce de leche is a South American milk caramel that is made from sweetened condensed milk. When I was in Argentina, I found the locals smothering this on medialunas for a sugar charged breakfast, in crepes for dessert and as a filling for yummy traditional cookies called alfajores (If you are going to Buenos Aires, stop by Havana Cafe to buy multiple boxes of these cookies. Don't share.)

Feeling nostalgic and in need of a treat...I discovered this fool proof way to make your own dulce de leche without slaving over a hot stove stirring away. This is a good thing to make in advance; pop in a movie while you are waiting for it to transform.

You will need:

1 can of sweetened condensed milk such as Eagle Brand
1 heavy medium sized soup pot with a well fitting lid
1 electric or stove top kettle
3 hours to hang out...


1. Remove label from can and place in pot, unopened. Fill pot with water to cover can by just about 1 cm.
2. Bring water to a boil and set timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, boil a kettle of water and add boiling water to pot, as needed to restore original water levels. If the water level gets too low - it, and your pot will explode. Bad news.
3. Repeat step 2 five more times, for a total boiling time of 3 hours.
4. After 3 hours, remove pot from heat and replace water with lukewarm tap water and allow to cool for 1 hour.
5. Move can with an oven mitt if still hot and place in fridge for 2 + hours.

DO NOT attempt to open can until it is completely cold otherwise you will burn yourself as the dulce de leche spits out when you try to open the can. Believe me. It hurt and I learned my lesson.

Serve dulce de leche with sliced banana and apple as a great dessert. This makes an easy potluck option as all you have to do is open the can, scoop out and cut up some fruit.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Weight Loss Tip: Eat High Fibre Foods

You won’t see me selling the crash diet mentality…or endorsing some crazy acai cleanse. If you have ever dieted and regained more than once, you know that it is no way to live. The kind of strict lifestyle it requires to get serious poundage off fast kind of sucks the fun out of living. And I bet that the faster you take the pounds off, the faster you are going to run for an extra large pizza to help you put the pounds back on. I am a big fan of the little change…pounds are gained and lost by a hundred calories here, fifty calories there. If you have a lot of weight to lose in order to reach a healthy weight, you will probably want to make more than one change at a time. But if you only have ten or fifteen pounds to lose, why not take the “slow and steady” approach to weight loss and commit to making small, permanent changes?

One of the most important changes we can make for our health is switching to high fibre foods. The average Canadian only eats about 14 grams of fibre per day but a woman needs 25 grams and a man needs 38 grams of fibre each day. Why bother with roughage?

Fibre is like a workout for your gut: it adds bulk to your stools which helps to tone the gut and ensure that all of that gunk moves through your system quickly. Why is that so important? It’s waste, right? What happens if you leave your kitchen garbage sitting too long….now imagine that inside of you. Enough said! Eating fibre is filling and when you are trying to lose weight, you want to feel full so you are less likely to eat more. Fibre also helps keep your blood sugars in check which prevents huge spikes in insulin – a barrier to weight loss.

Here are some simple ideas to increase your fibre intake…try them one at a time and be sure to drink lots of water. Your body needs a bit of time to adjust to additional fibre (and plenty of water to make sure you don’t get constipated!).

1. Switch to a sprouted grain bread like Silver Hills. Sprouted grain bread generally has 5 grams of fibre and 5 grams of protein per slice. Regular whole wheat bread rarely has more than 2 grams of fibre per slice. Sprouted grain bread will really fill you up – a sandwich with sprouted grain bread will ring in at 10 grams of fibre before the side dishes…that is more than 1/3 of a woman’s daily intake.
2. Eat bran buds. Seriously, they’re a dietitian’s best friend. Nature’s Path makes Smart Bran which has 13 grams of fibre but per 90 calorie, 2/3 cup serving. Stir this into some yogurt for a super filling weight loss snack.
3. Eat ½ cup of beans every day. Beans, beans, beans….anyone who knows me is sick of hearing me talk about beans. So why aren’t you eating them? Beans are the richest food source of fibre: a half cup of black beans has 8 grams of fibre. A half cup of chick peas has 6 grams. There are tons of recipes for bean rich main dishes but you can also cheat and add beans to almost anything….salads, premade soups, casseroles or even rice side dishes.
4. Switch to whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta is an easy swap; thin pastas like spaghetti or linguine have an easier-to-love texture than shapes like penne. An 85 gram serving (a quarter of most spaghetti boxes) has 8 grams of fibre….
5. Snack on apples, berries and pears. Not only are they local in many parts of North America…they are also the fruits with the highest fibre (Pears are highest at 5 grams).