Thursday, July 30, 2009

London Lite


Mom and I are doing a quick, "just see the high points" visit in London. We're so done with tourist attractions and wasted time in long lines. After the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Tour de France route, and Versailles in the last few days, we decided to take a leisurely bus tour of London and just skim the attractions. We waved to the queen at Buckingham Palace (not sure she's even in), got a glimpse of the changing of the Guard, marveled at the vastness of Big Ben and the House of Parliament, and agreed Westminster was lovely (especially from our comfy seats atop the bus). We did take on Harrods and it was a zoo, as is to be expected. Lunch in Harrods's Cafe was unexpectedly quiet and not too bad, actually.

We went to one of Gordon Ramsey's restaurants this evening for dinner. He has about a dozen places just in London. We decided on York & Albany, mainly because a female chef, Angela Hartnett, is at the helm and the menu looked simple, but good. By we, I mean me. Mom, it turns out, isn't much of a fan of British food (or French food, for that matter). So far, her favorite place has been Spring, which is really an American restaurant in a great Paris neighborhood that gets everything so right that the French claim it as their own. She grudgingly obliged me in going to York & Albany because I had made the reservation about two months ago. But guess what? She loved it - although she would only admit to liking it. She cleaned her plate and her lamb looked delicious. She also got the better dessert. I really missed out on that basil pannacotta. It was amazing but I barely got a spoon in edgewise. My elderflower and gooseberry compote was good but not spectacular. I didn't take photos but you can see the a la carte menu and photos at the above link. The ravioli of braised rabbit leg was to die for!

We're staying in Kensington so tomorrow we're going to explore the 'hood and venture over to Notting HIll and Chelsea, if we can make both. We have to catch a train back to Paris tomorrow evening. Our hotel, Base2Stay, was a great find and we've really enjoyed our stay. The staff are very friendly and helpful. It is "only the second hotel in London to have received the prestigious Gold Award under the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS)." I shouldn't plagiarize but I'm too tired to elaborate. Austin hotels, in a city that makes quite a fuss about being green, should take note of some nifty features Base2Stay has employed. The photo is of the electronic key operated power switch - it's required to turn on the lights so you can't leave the room empty with lights blazing. Also, all the outlets have switches so that you don't have to unplug appliances if you're worried about vampire energy loss. I'd highly recommend the place if anyone is planning a trip to London in the near future.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon


















Mom and I had lunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon today. I'll let the pics do the talking. Except to say that the Ladies Room is hands down my favorite thus far... very much like being in a Mark Rothko painting. Went to see the Louvre and then walked down the Champs-Elysees to stop at Laduree for a light dinner and delicious dessert.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Me and JJ


Shaunda sent me a photo she took at graduation when I received my diploma. As I said, JJ (Sarah's nickname for Chef Tranchant - we'd never actually dare call him such to his face) has a way with the ladies. How adoring do I look?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Spring!

I took Mom to Spring for a late birthday lunch today. We went about 4pm for lobster sandwiches and pommes frites. It was amazing. Everything I'd heard about Spring is right on target. Daniel Rose, a Chicago native who might just be younger than me, runs one of the best restaurants in Paris. The place is a charming little room about the size of a large walk-in closet (in America- not sure such a thing exists in France) that seats 16 people.

As you can see from the picture, the kitchen looks over the dining area and there is one server, one assistant, and Mr. Rose (in black in the doorway) who presides over all. They're all charming and friendly and seem happy to see all who walk through the door. We practically had the place to ourselves due to the odd dining hour and the fact that many Parisians have left for holiday. I managed to take a photo of the lobster sandwich before I scarfed it down but I lost all control over the dessert and dug in before I could get a snap. It restored my faith- simple
fresh peaches, blueberries, and red fruits with a crumble and creme fraiche (I think- whatever it was, it's divine). No pastry creme or buttercream in sight - what a relief!

Ladies Love Cool Jean-Jacques

Yesterday was our Intensive Basic Patisserie graduation ceremony and reception. Our chef, Jean-Jacques Tranchant, reiterated the intensive nature of the program and congratulated us on our hard work. He told us we had just finished the most grueling part of the Patisserie series and assured us it all gets easier from here on. Yeah right! But in a way, I'm sure it does. By Intermediate Patisserie, you understand the work load and the hours involved and you're probably more mentally prepared. You're also familiar with the kitchens, the chefs, and the school administrative staff. You know the importance of getting a good locker and that you can sneak around the corner in your uniform to get a jambon et fromage sandwich on your break (despite LCB rules to never wear your uniform outside the school).

I don't know when, or if, I'll be back but his words were encouraging. It was nice to hear him acknowledge that this was a tough experience and that he recognized we worked hard. The chefs make it look so easy, you're almost beguiled into believing it. Then you walk into the kitchen and reality smacks you in the face and brings you back down. I'm sure if I had begun at 14 years of age and had 40+ years of experience, it would be easy for me too. On bad days, it didn't seem like the chefs recognized our inexperience and just assumed we were incompetent. Or at least it felt that way. On good days, they would offer "tres bien" and "not bad for a first attempt" and you were elated at what amounts to high praise at LCB.

We presented Chef Tranchant with a bouquet of our awful marzipan roses that we all practiced making feverishly in anticipation of the final exam. The Dacquoise didn't make the list but we didn't want our work to go to waste. Chef died laughing when he saw it and was tickled pink (literally, he blushed). Ben, one of our translators, is in the photo with Chef and his bouquet. Unfortunately, it's hard to take a picture when you have a glass of champagne in your hand- forgive the poor quality.

Vanessa, who is also from Austin, and her mom Sheila took a few of us classmates back to see their neighborhood and to have dinner at a favorite spot after the graduation ceremony. Their 'hood, Butte-aux-Cailles in the 13th, was lovely and we had an awesome meal. I have eaten pork every single day, sometimes more than once, on this trip and last night was no exception. The South is a close second to France in pork consumption and I think I've done them both proud! I had an amazing and simple meal of pork cheeks and mashed potatoes. And would you believe pear clafoutis was on the dessert menu? Being hard headed, I insisted on ordering it but I just couldn't eat it. After drawing the caramelized pear tart for my final exam, I think I'm going to need a little distance for a while before I can enjoy the fruit again. Happily, Canadian Shelley ordered the Tart Tatin and offered to share so I chowed down on her dessert. It was great- almost as good as the one I made in the first week of class.

I'm really going to miss my classmates- they were such a cool group. If I could come back and take Intermediate Patisserie with the same group, I'd be back in a heart beat. With Eric and my three puppies in tow because I don't think I could leave them again for 5 weeks. It's been really tough and I can't wait to see Eric and the mongrels. I feel fortunate to have had this amazing opportunity and Paris is such a beautiful and vibrant city. That being said, there's no place like home. Mom arrived this morning early and is sleeping off a little jet lag then we're off to see the sites and celebrate her birthday today. We're going to enjoy Paris for the next few days and then head to London for a few. I catch a plan back to Texas next Sunday and I'll definitely be ready to leave. But I'll always remember Paris!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Oh la la" as Chef Tranchant would say

Today was my final exam for Basic Patisserie. We were given a list of 10 possible recipes, of which the school picked three for the final. We drew a number when we were called into the kitchen and we had to make whichever recipe we drew, without the aid of notes, recalling the techniques we were taught from memory. I drew Tarte Meringuee aux Poires Caramelisees, or Carmelized Pear and Crisp Almond Crust Tart. It went decently and I felt pretty good walking out of the exam. I knew I hadn't made the best dessert in the class but I felt pretty sure that I wasn't the worst either. After the 2.5 hours alloted for the final were up, we were escorted from the kitchen and a panel of chefs came in to review our work for presentation, correct technique, and taste. We were notified that we would be called within the hour if we failed and that otherwise, no news is good news. It's been 6 hours since the exam and no call so I'm pretty sure I passed. I felt safe enough to pick out a dress for the graduation ceremony tomorrow.

I haven't written specifically about class and how it has been going for the last couple of weeks because I didn't want to write anything that I would regret, need to recant, or that would be unfair to LCB. I have to admit, I was woefully unprepared for this experience. I honestly thought I was going to gad about Paris for a month and do a little baking to fill in the days. It's pretty funny to even write that statement at this point, but as my Mom always says, "The truth will set you free." I so could not have been more wrong.

This class has been the most physical, stressful experience I have been through in a really long time. We put in at least a 40 hour week at school, not counting the preparation, study, and practice required in what little free time was left in the day. Honestly, completing my thesis for my Masters was a cake walk (another terrible pun) in comparison. This has been an emotional roller coaster ride and I can't thank my husband and mom enough for dealing with my often irrational anxieties and for always offering encouragement. I hadn't read The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry before I came but a classmate lent it to me. It should be required reading for all LCB enrollees. (Although I don't think the book really captures the intensive course experience because the author did the 10 week regular sessions but there are certainly parallels.)

Aside from the physicality, I still can't put my finger on exactly why this experience was so intense. Is there such a thing as collective anxiety? I know most of my classmates felt the same way - we all bonded over the stress and pressure. LCB Paris is a pretty intimidating place as there is so much history and tradition associated with the school. The chefs are some of the best of the profession and carry and conduct themselves in such a manner. While at times terrifying, they were all mostly kind. They were also a little patronizing- you definitely got the idea that teaching unskilled Basic Patisserie students was a chore. I can't really blame them- as I told a classmate, "I learned more by error than trial."

My classmates are an amazing bunch. Most have real talent and I look forward to seeing what they do with the skills they've acquired. The camaraderie we developed was probably the best part of the class and made the craziness manageable. A group of us went out for a celebratory mid-day drink to mark the occasion of surviving the final. It's hilarious how not even an hour after the hellaciousness of the final, we were already waxing nostalgic about the class. I think the word "fun" was even bandied about. That's the power of French wine and a good charcuterie plate.

Tomorrow LCB is holding a graduation ceremony for us. I skipped the ceremonies when I finished my Masters but I wouldn't miss this graduation for the world. I honestly feel a greater sense of achievement for finishing this 4 week class than I did after 4 years of college and 2 years of grad school. Mom is flying in Saturday morning and we're going to do all the touristy things I've missed out on. I'm actually going to get to see (and enjoy!) Paris. I feel pretty lucky right now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ritzy Glitz


Classmates Shaunda, Andre, and I decided to treat ourselves to brunch at the Paris Ritz today. It was nice to see one other without hair nets and the glistening sheen of kitchen sweat. We all looked very presentable, if I do say so myself.

We met at the hotel at 11:00 am and relaxed, dined, and toasted one another's hard work over a four and one-half hour meal. We seriously did not leave until 3:30pm. It was so peaceful - not one waiter eye balled our table or hurried us. That would so not happen in the U.S.

The food was good- not incredible but pretty decent for buffet fare. The selection ranged from French, to Japanese, to Mediterranean. For some reason, I tried the hamachi and ebi. It wasn't terrible but you don't go to the Ritz for sushi so I'm not recommending it. The buffet was actually laid out on tables in a room adjacent to the dining area- no views of lines or people perusing. We were in the dining room off the court yard so we had a nice view. I have to report we all did the dessert selections justice- the crepe with a caramel extraordinaire sauce (had a citrusy, orange undertone) was one of my favorites.

The real reason you go to the Ritz for brunch is the for the scenery. And what a scene it was- everything had a layer of gold gilding, damask, or both. Ordinarily, it would have been a little too done for my taste. I joked with Shaunda that had we stayed much longer, we would probably have been gilded with gold leaf as well. Somehow, the excessive, excessiveness all merged together and worked. I think it's because there was a little wear, or more politely, patina. It's not like Vegas excessiveness where everything is shiny, new, and replaced or updated every few years. The Ritz looks like it has been that way for many years and isn't about to change. Just what you want in an institution.

One measure of a place for me is always the Ladies Room. I believe in minding the details and if the restroom decor looks like an afterthought or the facilities aren't clean, the place isn't likely to rate high with me. The Ritz passed with flying colors. The Ladies Room looked like a miniature version of the Versailles Hall of Mirrors. The room is shaped like an octagon and every other wall is an exact copy of the opposite wall. Every surface was mirrored and reflected the gold fixtures. I got confused trying to exit because all the doors look identical. Can you believe the gold swan faucet? It looks much more tasteful in person- the photos make it look like something out of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. You know how Gianni Versace could pull off the gold look without being tres tacky? So can the Ritz....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fete Nationale

Full Disclosure: I did not take this photo. Because my camera is crap and I've fried the battery, as well as the backup. The photo is a still from a video a classmate, the sweet and lovely Ms. Arlin Tao, posted on FaceBook. She braved the swarming masses for the celebration to take the video. My phone takes pretty decent pics but there is no zoom- get on that Steve Jobs. So I'm not posting my grainy, far away photos.

The pot luck party was brilliant. None of us felt like cooking and no one compared shopping lists so we all showed up with bread, cheese, and wine. There was so much stinky cheese going around the whole place smelled like the Metro on your average day. Shaunda's view of the of the Eiffel Tower is incredible so we had a front row seat for the fireworks. She's quite the hostess and represented Canada very well- she even brought a Canadian flag with her that she draped over the window ledge. She does not, however, say "eh" which is a great disappointment to me (I have to rely on Victoria to get my laughs).

Karma has a way of working things out. The upside of my camera being jacked up is that I actually had to just relax and enjoy the show. No finger poised over the trigger waiting for just the right moment to capture a memory. Sort of asinine, huh? Instead of actually experiencing the moment, a camera creates so much anxiety to ensure you document the moment so that you don't actually appreciate the very image that you're trying so hard not to miss. Trust me- it was amazing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

David Lebovitz responded to my comment!!!!!

I'm having palpitations! I'm actually swooning! David Lebovitz responded to a comment I made on his blog.

Yesterday I was perusing his blog entry on making Jook (from July 11th) where he discusses the paltry, pathetic produce to be found in French supermarkets. His postings always generate a lot of comments but I'm just not usually one to make a comment. It's like FaceBook for me- obviously I'm not doing it right because I just don't get what the big deal is. I have, however, taken to Twitter. As you might have noticed from my at least daily tweets. I can't tweet from my iPhone here because I don't want to pay AT&T's astronomical data roaming fees. You can all thank AT&T that you're spared every mundane thought I have since it has to be interesting enough (at least for me) to actually remember it for when I get to a wifi zone.

So back to David's blog... I posted a comment asking why the bananas in France were so mealy and awful. It was really more of an observation than a question. I managed to eat a couple of bananas when I first arrived but now I've given up. One of his readers, Linda, responded with an interesting idea on a possible cause for the icky bananas. That alone was enough to make me re-consider my averseness to comments. I kept scrolling down to browse the rest of the comments, where I saw at at 2:44am on July 13th (man, he really burns the midnight oil), that David had responded to Linda and I along with a few other responses to comments. I can't believe that he takes the time to read all of his comments and actually responds to many of them. If you want to check out his post (and see my comment and his response), you'll find it at www.davidlebovitz.com. I read his book, The Sweet Life in Paris, before I came. It's hilarious - if you get a chance, check it out.

I'll be on a red banana hunt this weekend! (you have to read his response for that to make sense)

Soundtrack of the City

I got a quick picture of a jazz band on Place des Abbesses performing Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" while out shopping this morning. Paris is turning out to be a very musical city. As I type this, I'm enjoying James Brown second hand. Thankfully, my neighbor above me over the courtyard has good musical taste. Often when I open my windows to catch a breeze, I'm treated to whatever s/he is listening to. I'm even learning to appreciate the accordion players who seem to stalk me on the Metro.

It's a beautiful day so far - today is Bastille Day and Paris is gearing up for the celebration. An LCB classmate is hosting a pot luck dinner at her place since she has a view of the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero from her rental. I hear the fireworks display is amazing so I'm looking forward to it. I'll post some pics.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Night Bike Tour of Paris


I met an American girl in the Laundromat who told me about Fat Tire Bike Tours. She convinced me I had to take the night bike tour of Paris. Seeing as how I've been feeling like I'm missing all the city has to see, I decided to take the tour Saturday night. I joined a group, picked out a bike, and took off on the bike lane that taxis and buses also happen to share. If this sounds dangerous, it's because it is. The tour had a single guide who lead an unwieldy group of American tourists who probably hadn't ridden bikes since they learned to drive. I'm exaggerating a little- actually our group did pretty well with no crashes and only a few near misses with irate taxi drivers who don't like to share the lane. Our guide's name was Paul, who grew up in Hawaii surfing the big waves (actual quote) so almost every monument description was punctuated with "Dude!"

Everything started off grand. The weather was cool and breezy, the sun was going down, and it was really exhilarating to be riding a bike on the streets of Paris (when it wasn't terrifying). I kept imagining that scene in The House of D where David Duchovney is riding his bike really fast down a beautifully lit street at night. I'm pretty sure we rode down the same street- either that or every street in Paris is beautiful at night. Also, every Erykah Badu fan should see that movie.

So we rode over to Notre Dame, Ile St-Louis, the Louvre, a few more places where I didn't quite catch the names, down the Champs Elysees, and cut back to the Seine to hop on a tour boat to take a ride to see the lights from the river. Still going well, Paul breaks out some red wine and pours everyone a glass to enjoy on the cruise. Tour mates were great- mom and daughter from Houston, a girl who is finishing up Johnson & Wales pastry program, the cutest married couple ever from Miami, and a group of ladies who swam for Villanueva College who came over to do a relay swim of the English Channel (seriously- it took 11 hours). What is it with sporty chicks from Villaneuva and me? I took a tour to Morocco with the volley ball team when I was in Spain. Anyways, after we were all settled in and sipping our wine, it started to rain and by then it was chilly. The boat was packed and all the smart people who had the forethought to check the weather had taken the inside seats so we spent an hour long boat cruise shivering and wet. Then we got back on our bikes (still raining) and rode back to Fat Tire's offices.

I had to take two packed trains to get back home and made it (finally!) after 1 am. I didn't hear my phone ringing while biking and Eric was sure I was dead on the street. After I called him back to convince him I was alive, I had a cup of tea to warm up and crashed out. I woke up late, sore, and rueing the whole bike tour idea. Until I downloaded the photos and remembered that the first 3 hours of the tour were actually very cool. I would have totally loved it had it not rained. Next time I do laundry, I'm going to accost some other American tourist and insist they take the tour. And if you're ever in Berlin or Barcelona, Fat Tire does bike tours in those cities as well.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Research"

In the name of research, I went on a macaron run this morning. Actually, it was a macaron walk. I haven't done any running since I arrived in Paris- they look at you funny when you're attired in workout clothing here. Obviously, only stupid Americans would waste time running for no good reason. That stereotype about all French people being lithe and chic is very true. Despite the fact that they flock to the McDonald's from my Metro stop. You would think it were a three starred Michelin joint to see the crowds. Talk about the French Paradox!

Anyway, I went to both Laduree on Rue Royale and Pierre Herme's small boutique on Rue Cambon. I spent approximately 30 Euros on 13 macarons. I'm not even going to convert that to dollars because I'm sure I'd probably choke on a macaron if I actually knew what I paid. Very different aesthetic at each shop- you can probably get an idea from the packing. Laduree was very traditional and pretty. Pierre Herme was very modern and sleek.

So far, I've eaten Laduree's Blackcurrent violet version and Pierre Herme's Passion fruit and chocolate au lait. The Pierre Herme flavor was the best but they were both delicious. I'm not going to make any declarations yet on a favorite- I've got 11 more to go. I'll keep you posted- S.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Never blog when you're tired...

There are certain things you should not do when not in your right mind. Driving, making phone calls, writing... Sorry about my lack of editing skills on yesterday's post. Obviously, I'm not creating deserts- in my exhaustion I kept forgetting the second "s" in dessert. And for those sticklers out there, yes, it is the Place de la Concorde and not Place du Concorde. I stand corrected (again) as does the post. That's the second time this week! 

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Roller coaster ride

The last 36 hours have been severely trying, enlightening, delightful, and exhausting....

The Metro line I take to school was down due to technical difficulties yesterday for a period of time. Specifically, the period of time I needed to board the train- I leave for school an hour before I need to be in class. By the time I called the school for assistance in mapping out an alternate route, changed to a different train, took a connector train, and then a bus transfer I arrived at school 23m after class started. LCB policy is that if you're more than 15m late you're not allowed to join the class. And you can't go into the kitchen for the practical if you miss the demo. In one fell swoop, I struck out twice. 

We were scheduled to tour Angelina Pastry Salon, a famous old pastry shop off the Place de la Concorde, between the demonstration class and the practical so I decided to hang at the school to wait to join my class for the tour. Fortunately Juliette, the school Director, happened upon me. She took one look at my face and realized my nerves were way too frayed to be hanging around the school in such a state. She took me on a walk and talked me off the ledge. She was very kind and sympathetic. She told me about her graduate studies in Louisiana and how difficult it was for her to adapt. Naturally, it was my turn to be sympathetic. Trading Paris for LA must have been a total system shock. Her point was that I probably needed to lighten up a little (gee, you think?). And you know what, I think I have.... I realized I can't live or die by how well I replicate some icky dessert that I wouldn't even think of eating. Maybe that wasn't exactly her point but I think the gist is that we're not exactly curing cancer or splitting atoms here. 

So I went on the class tour of Angelina. It's an amazing and beautiful pastry shop/salon that looks just like what you would image. Apparently, Proust was quite the fan. Angelina is famous for their thick, rich hot chocolate. It is divine but a little bit goes a long way. After the tour, we were treated to a tasting of the hot chocolate and some of their more popular desserts. The photo is of the tasting treats- a pistachio financier, a Mont Blanc, and a raspberry macaron with a raspberry chocolate ganache filling. It was all very good but that macaron was the best thing I've tasted in a long time. I haven't yet made it to Laduree and Pierre Herme- supposedly their macarons are better. I can't even imagine...

Today I left for class an hour and a half early. The Metro was up and running and I got to school in record time- 66m early. There is a beautiful park just off the Metro stop closest to the school. I'm just going to hang in the park and read one of the books I brought over from my pile of unread books that I never seem to have time for at home. I think I just might be able to finish them all before my return. That's a pretty nice trade off for the extended commute. 

As I type this, I'm listening to an NPR stream of great Jackson 5 covers- any MJ fans, if you get a chance, check it out. I'm going to finish up my glass of wine and go to bed. I think I'll sleep much better tonight.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I stand corrected....

Tonight was the student dinner for the Intensive Basic Pastry and Cuisine classes. LCB hosted the dinner at a restaurant just off Boulevard Saint-Germain. Despite the tony address, I just assumed it would be an old fussy French restaurant heavy on menu items most of us have only ever seen in a copy of MtAoFC (I'm stealing Julie Powell's abbreviation for Mastering the Art of French Cooking). I based this presumption on the seriously old school pastry we have been making in class. Unfortunately, I'll probably never bake 90% of this stuff ever again. Most of the pastry we've made thus far has been too heavy, rich, overly sweet, and alcoholic for my tastes. They really like boozy desserts here. The Cointreau family owns LCB so guess what the number one liquer used in the school is??????

But I digress... the point is despite my low expectations, the atmosphere, food, wine, and company were all exceptional. And to think, I almost didn't go due to exhaustion. The restaurant name is Atelier Maitre Albert and it is part of the Guy Savoy group. We had four courses:

- chilled asparagus soup
- fish course 
- duck course, and
- a dark chocolate and raspberry dessert that I devoured! (maybe I've got my groove back)

The ladies in the photo are fellow classmates. Together we make up the North American contingent of the student body- a few fellow Americans and a couple of Canadians. Guess which ladies are Canadian? I can never tell until they slip up and say "eh." As in, "We should probably put the dough back in the chiller before we roll it out, eh?" Cracks me up every single time!

Monday, July 6, 2009

I forgot the most galling part...

That pile of piped Chantilly cream below... I had to whip that by hand, thank you very much! Even though Chef used a Kitchen Aid in the demo to make the cream- did we get to? Non! I had looked up yoga classes taught in English before I left. As if I'll have the time or energy. You know how your arms feel like noodles after a good yoga class? Well, we should all save our hard earned money and just make whipped cream. The muscle exhaustion is worse but I'm sure hoping the toning effect is the same.

Put a fork in me- I am done!


Six hours in the kitchen today- on top of three hours in class. Oh, and I'm just getting home at a quarter till eleven and I have to leave for school again no later than 7:30am in the morning. Somehow, I thought this would be more fun. When do we get that part? So far, I've just experienced anxiety and near panic attacks- trying to perform under the watchful eye of a Chef who is yelling in French that you have two minutes to get your pastry into the oven will do that.

And look at the god-awful thing we had to make first today. It's called Saint-Honore and I think it's disgusting. But then I don't care for a pile of choux dough and Chantilly cream. Sorry if I'm cranky tonight- the stress and pressure is catching up with me. I'm sure when I look back on this in the future, I'll laugh and think what a great experience. Someone remind me about the panic attacks so I don't get any ideas about taking the Intermediate Class!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

On lovers, dogs, and dog lovers

Paris is for lovers- or is that Vermont? Ever since the DVR was introduced, I've fallen behind on commercials. Paris is also for the dogs. My neighborhood in Montmartre is full of well mannered and well maintained pooches. I'd love to share a picture but I haven't worked up the nerve to take one yet. It seems a little creepy taking a photo of someone else's dog- kind of like taking a picture of someone's child that you don't know. Most owners don't even use a leash- their dogs just obediently follow them. How unlike our three mongrels. Not that they would care to walk anyways- they're strictly air-conditioned couch potatoes. Apparently the Texas heat doesn't suit them.

I miss my husband and my mongrels. When I studied in Spain in college, I remember vowing that I would return one day with someone I loved. PDA was rampant in Spain and could be a little depressing if you were unattached. Thankfully Paris isn't quite as PDA prone as I remember Madrid to be. Still, it would be nice to have Eric by my side. Since we knew school would occupy the majority of my time, we decided it wasn't practical for him to visit if we'd only see each other on the weekend. Right now, I wish we weren't so practical...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Julie (and me) and Julia


Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia, came by the school today for a book signing. She blogged about cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days. The blog became a book and the book has been made into a movie. I hadn't had a chance to read the book yet but I picked up a copy and got it signed. I'm looking forward to the movie - Meryl Streep is playing the part of Julia. How perfect!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sugar Rush

I don't know if I have reverse jet lag or if I'm overdosing on sugar....

I have slept less than usual (my usual is 6 hours and only if Ambienized) and have no appetite. That's not a good thing when you're in Paris and especially not good if you're making beaucoup pastry all day. I wish you were all here to eat for me. I think the heat is stir-frying my brain. July is the hottest month in Paris and the school is practically an oven (I know- terrible pun). We're required to taste the chef's demos before we go into the kitchen for the practical class where we make the recipe. I can't believe I just used the word "required." Me, who loves any and all sweets and usually has dessert with every meal. Surely this will pass...

I have posted some pics of my classmates, a very scary Frenchman who taught our first demo, and today's handiwork. My Tart Aux Pommes is the top one- Victoria's is the bottom. She's a very sweet and cool Canadian lady. She's the tall chick in the picture. Rayner is the guy and Diane is the other girl- they are both from Singapore. We all share one end of a long prep table. The alpha types are at the opposite end of the prep table. The folks at my end of the table are definitely more chill. Funny how people instinctively organize. That being said, for the most part, all of my classmates are pretty cool and we all try to help each other out. 


The chefs are intimidating but so far most have been kind as well. I'm hoping that Scary Chef (pictured) is really just a big teddy bear with a gruff exterior. I haven't gotten close enough to determine yet.  I'd tell you his name but I'd have to get out my syllabus to spell it correctly. It's a total Gallic tangle that is still unpronounceable to me. LCB is very serious about molding their students- I think I might have mentioned before that it's pretty intense. When Eric was a culinary student back in the early nineties, he trained with old school chefs who taught in the classical French style. He tried to prepare me for what to expect but hearing about it and experiencing it firsthand are two different things. There isn't a Kitchen Aid or Cuisinart to be found in the school. Everything is mixed by hand. Mon dieu! I feel like I've joined the Marines- they're going to break us down first and then re-create us in their image.