Curry and cocktails

Recently we decided to try out an Indian restaurant based on a recommendation from our French teacher. She had backpacked through India and knew it quite well, so suggested we try this spot in the 10th, Dishny for some authentic Indian food. So in anticipation of my husband’s trip to India, we decided to try it out.

It did not disappoint. A very local, no frills, cozy place. And while I can’t really comment on the ‘authenticity’ of the food, it certainly seemed so. It was some of the best Indian food we’ve had. I ordered a lamb and spinach curry and Joe had the chicken tikka masala, which was the most impressive. Instead of being smothered in a creamy sauce it was done in Tandoori spices and tossed with a light said and onions. Both were delicious!

The service was incredibly fast and friendly too! Definitely worth a visit.

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After dinner we decided to check out a bar in the 4h, Sherry Butt, a trendy little cocktail bar on a quiet, unassuming street. The cocktails were an interesting assortment – offering seemingly trance and unusual combinations that resembled updated versions of some classic cocktails.

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L’Éclair de génie

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As much as I love autumn and Thanksgiving isn’t even upon us yet, I’m all geared up for the holidays. It is hard not to be when all of the shops have started to put up their decorations. It is a magical time of year. This weekend, we went our separate ways to do a bit of Christmas shopping. This was fairly incredible since my husband usually leaves his shopping until the end of December – typically on my birthday! Since he needed a bit of time on his own, Lily and I headed to the Marais to run some errands. One place I keep meaning to go while I am over that way is L’Éclair de génie, a wonderful patisserie specializing in, you guessed it, éclairs. The display is wonderful. The eclairs are beautiful little works of art, begging to be tried, but almost too pretty to eat. There are so many interesting and delightful flavor combinations. As much as a love a standard café éclair, I am all for a few new flavors. Decisions, decisions.

 

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I decided on a bit of variety – Caramel beurre salé (salted caramel), Vanille noix de pécan (Madagascar vanilla and caramelized pecan), and Passion-framboise (Passion fruit and raspberry). It was hard not to sample one right then and there, but I thought I would be nice and share with Joe. I was a bit worried about toting them around in their little box, but they held up just fine.

 

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They were all delicious. Perfection. It is impossible to pick a favorite. I just have to go back and try a few more flavors before deciding. Luckily we will have a steady stream of guests over the next few months which will be a perfect excuse to sample more. They are a bit pricer (5-6€ each) than an éclair from the boulangerie and slightly smaller, but they are bursting with flavor and a delightful little indulgence. The fresh flavors definitely leave you wanting more! The salted caramel definitely rivaled the delicious one we had at the Salon du Chocolat.

Previously, my love affair was with macarons, but it seems that éclairs have replaced them for me, and many others. Not that I have abandoned my beloved macarons, but these éclairs are special. They are pretty, light, and delicious, and also, very easy to eat! I think my next kitchen endeavor will have to be tackling l’éclairs. Perhaps I’ll get the cookbook for Christmas!Image

 

I did manage to actually run my errands and get a bit of Christmas shopping done, with time left for a stroll past Hotel de Ville. One of my favorite places to enjoy the sights of Paris, made even more charming by the carrousel that is now there. A delicious and delightful afternoon.

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Pumpkin pie smoothie

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Mmmm…..pumpkin. So since I had some pumpkin leftover from yesterday’s delicious pumpkin muffins, I decided this morning I was going to make a pumpkin latte so start Friday of right. Being as I had this idea as I sipped my nearly empty morning coffee, I decided perhaps the pumpkin latte would have to wait until tomorrow. A healthy pumpkin smoothie it would have to be instead.

I am a huge fan of breakfast smoothies, especially with oats as it makes them a bit more substantial and healthy too. This got me thinking – wouldn’t a pumpkin pie smoothie be a great breakfast for Thanksgiving? A fairly odd thought for me since my family never….never had breakfast on holidays. Ok, maybe as kids my mom gave us breakfast, but as adults, breakfast wasn’t done.  Now I’m sure you thinking that is odd. Well if you have ever spent a holiday with my family you would completely understand and possibly skip dinner the night before too. I have a wonderful, large, Italian family. Holidays are marathons, with more food than you can possibly imagine. I grew up thinking that was how everyone spent holidays. Around 30 people, several courses, including pasta (of course!) along with at least 10 different desserts (as everyone always decided to bring a dessert in addition to what they were already bringing). Holidays were heaven. Lots of family and lots of food. And on my father’s side, lots of homemade wine too. It wasn’t actually until my husband visited for New Years many years ago when we were at University that I realized our family was fairly unique. I remember that New Years Day vividly (New Years Day is like a repeat of Christmas Day in my family) – my mom had decided she would cut back on the food since there is always too much. We would stick to hors d’oeuvres, antipasti, and dessert. Yet there still was Nonna’s delicious lasagna. Joe was a bit overwhelmed. Aside from meeting my large Italian family all at once, after an eventful New Years Eve I might add, there was more food and eating than he had ever experienced on a holiday. So that was our ‘pared down’ holiday – what would a full blown one be like? Well, he has of course now experienced that, as have my in-laws, and needless to say, they now understand why we skip sitting down to breakfast. Besides, it is much more delicious in my mind to have a nibble of antipasti and other enticing things as we prepare them. Quality control, after all.

That being said, my father has always wanted a little something for breakfast. My mom and I have always tried to give him something light and healthy, since there is a day full of eating ahead. Here is where my pumpkin smoothie comes in. My parents are coming to Paris this year for Thanksgiving. And while our ‘spread’ won’t be nearly like a holiday with 30 people, there will still be a plethora of food. It is Thanksgiving, after all. What better way to start the day, then with a taste of Thanksgiving in a glass? I’m hoping he and Joe, breakfast traditionalists, will like it.  I may keep a batch of pumpkin muffins on hand anyway, just in case!

Pumpkin pie smoothie

(makes 1 smoothie)

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 oats
  • 1/2 tsp pain d’épices mix (a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of a clove will do or whatever you like in your pumpkin pie)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 small coconut yogurt (I used Perle de lait, my favorite)
  • 1/8 – 3/4 cup semi-skimmed milk (to thin)

Pop it all in the blender. Add more milk as needed to desired thickness. Enjoy!

Cinnamon-sugar spiced pumpkin muffins

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There is something to be said for getting your day started early, or so I’m told anyway. I don’t really do mornings all that well. However, since I couldn’t sleep this morning, I decided I might as well get up, seeing as it was clearly a morning for muffins. Pumpkin muffins, to be precise.

One of the many things I love about the autumn is the flavors – it is the season for pumpkin everything in my mind. I have been stock piling my pumpkin stash, reluctant to use it all up to soon since it isn’t readily available here. Sure I can roast an actual pumpkin and purée it, but that doesn’t really allow for on a whim pumpkin treats. With Thanksgiving right around the corner and my stash still in good supply, I decided it was definitely time for more pumpkin goodies.

So pumpkin muffins it was. I did a quick search and scanned the first recipe I came across. It would do, with a few alterations.*

The result was delicious and perfect with some freshly brewed coffee. The whole apartment smelled heavenly – a great way to drag my husband out of bed on a rainy morning and make an early start bearable.

Cinnamon sugar pumpkin muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I use type 65 which is close to all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 heaped teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Pain d’epics spices (a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, ginger, cardamom, & star anise).
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon (to top)
  • Pecans

Heat oven to 190°C (about 375°F). I use a non-stick muffin pan, so just spray it with a bit of oil to prevent sticking. No need for muffin liners.

Stir or whisk together the dry ingredients, reserving 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tbs sugar.

Whisk together the eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, mashed banana, and pumpkin. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 3/4 full or until you fill 12 cups). Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture and top with a pecan.

Bake on 190°C (about 375°F) for 20 minutes and revel in the delightful scent that fills your home. Enjoy!

*Note: The original recipe called for oil and 1 1/2 cups sugar, less baking soda, different spices and no nuts. I like to make muffins healthier and these did not disappoint. The banana adds moisture and sweetness, eliminating the need for oil and most of the sugar. 

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Autour de Midi…et minuit

On Saturday evening we decided to try out another jazz club. Its becoming a bit of a weekend ritual it seems – no complaints from me! There are certainly plenty of jazz clubs in Paris to try.  We headed over to Montmarte to Autour de Midi…et minuit to hear Stephane SEVA Quartet.

The venue was a cozy little cave. It was definitely an intimate little venue so pretty much everyone who found a seat had a good view. The band played a mixture of music – from Frank Sinatra to Ray Charles, along with Calude Nougaro and Fats Waller. The band definitely enjoyed themselves and even had a guest singer join them for a few songs in the second and third sets.

I’m not sure we’ve found our ‘place’ yet, but Autour de Midi is definitely worth a visit. With live music on Tuesdays through Saturday, I’m sure we’ll head back sometime.

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Unfriendly Parisians? Au contraire!

Many people think that the French, Parisians in particular, are unfriendly, or dare I say snobby. This was something I never particularly found to be the case, but after having lived in Paris for nearly a year now, I feel like this is something I can better comment on.

I don’t find Parisians unfriendly at all – in fact, I find that most people are friendly. Yes, there are customer service differences, but that is a more of a cultural difference than a personality issue. I first started to think about this when I noticed how overtly friendly people are when I’m walking Lily (our very popular puppy). And I’m not talking, smile and pass politely friendly. I’m talking start up a conversation, ooh and ahhh, and make all sort of noises that are only excusable when referencing two things – babies and puppies. And to a ridiculous extent. Walking has become quite difficult now with her as we can hardly make it 5 feet before being stopped. I have to say that walking an adorable puppy certainly has forced me to have more conversations with random people (aside from the boulanger, boucher, etc.). And people are genuinely nice. Not only do they try to spoil her with chicken, entire pieces of pork and fine French cheese, they stop, chat, say congratulations, wish me luck, a ‘bonne promenade’ and ‘bonne journée. Granted the later is can be a polite social convention, but still. People stop. They have hearts that melt when they see something cute. In addition, they have expanded my knowledge of french adjectives immensely. 

Much of the unfriendly stereotype comes from people visiting who don’t speak any French. I can empathize – my first few times in Paris I didn’t know any French. My French is still limited and I knew absolutely none upon moving here, but even in my trips to Paris before, made an effort to at least learn ‘Bonjour’ and ‘parlez-vous anglais?’, and ‘merci’. In fact, pretty much anywhere I travel, I make an effort to learn those three phrases. Picture this – you are in your home town and a stranger walks up to you and asks you a question in a foreign language. A typical person in the US or in the UK would be annoyed. I have heard many Americans say ‘this is America, speak English’ (despite the ever-changing demographics). And certainly an English grumble or two about speaking English, especially when it concerns Americans! I’m you’re saying, ‘No, never,’ but think about it. Of course we expect people to speak ‘our’ language. If not, then we certainly expect them to at least try, with a polite ‘excuse me..’. So I’m not in the least surprised that a French person seems a bit irritated or isn’t overtly friendly when you walk up to them and speak English. Even a simple Bonjour does wonders. I find that the more French I at least attempt, the more people seem genuinely helpful. This could bring me to a bit of a rant on tourists who expect the place their visiting to be like home, but I’ll save that for another time. After 7 years living in the UK, I actually think the French are friendlier than the English. Perhaps some of my English friends would object, but many other expats have expressed similar sentiments. 

My french is still a work in progress. I can sort of have a normal conversation, usually can understand the gist of what someone is saying, but my responses are still a bit limited, and I’m not yet confident enough in my grammar choices. Even so, people will try to talk to me. Many who also speak English are very willing to speak a mix of French and English with me, some even helping me.

This is not to say that I don’t feel slightly out of place in some shops – perhaps not as ‘put together’ as some Parisian women. But that is me. The same thing would happen if I walked into any higher end boutique in jeans and a t-shirt, I would probably immediately be passed off as not being a potential customer. I am not saying that it is right, but we make snap evaluations all the time – it is human nature. That being said, people in most shops here are friendly and very willing to help, but also aren’t pushy. Nothing makes me walk out of a store quicker than a pushy salesperson. And outside Paris, in the South and other areas we have traveled, people are even nicer.

So make an effort, say Bonjour. I’m willing to bet most people will be much happier to help you. I’m sure there are some who may disagree with me, but perhaps you aren’t making an effort, or you just encountered rude people – they exist everywhere!