Archive for December, 2010

La Table d’Orphée

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
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La Table d’Orphée is a catering service located on rue de Bazeilles, just below rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement. It was opened a few years ago by two young men, Alexis and Orfeo, who have been friends since childhood.

On days when we have forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer, we have trekked down to their boutique to purchase dinner. They always have a good selection of house-made starters, main courses, and desserts to choose from! And the best thing is that the cost of their gourmet take-out dishes is about half of what one would pay for a fine dinner at a mid-priced restaurant.

As well as take out, the boutique also has a sit-down dining service, with a specially-priced menu at lunchtime.

Recently we peered in their front window and saw a delicious selection of pastries. Refusing to resist temptation, we purchased two: L’Opéra de l’Orphée and Le Kub de Noël Coco-Praliné.

Pastries in the Table d'Orphée Shop Window
(c) Discover Paris!

L’Opéra de l’Orphée is a thin, multi-layered (I counted eight) cake including a moist, dark-chocolate layer, a layer of coffee-cream frosting, a biscuit Joconde, and a top frosting of dark chocolate.

Le Kub de Noël Coco-Praliné is a cube-shaped, roasted-coconut-dusted cake filled with crème pralinée and a chocolate-cream center. The top is garnished with a craquant au chocolat, white-chocolate matchsticks, and a white-chocolate disc bearing the Table d’Orphée logo. The sides are studded with almond-vanilla-flavored macarons.

Kub de Noël and Opéra de l'Orphée
(c) Discover Paris!

So sweet, so satisfying!

La Table d’Orphée
5, rue de Bazeilles
75005 Paris
Tel. 01.43.36.48.10

Open seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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Africolor with Danyèl Waro

Sunday, December 26th, 2010
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Danyèl Waro
(c) Discover Paris!

The second part of the Africolor music concert held in Bobigny on December 5 featured Danyèl Waro, a singer from La Réunion.

Accompanied by a number of percussionists, Waro sang maloya—a musical genre descended from the era when slaves worked the plantations of the island. For Waro, this music represents many things, including defiance. In 1946, Reunion Island was incorporated into the French administration as an overseas département. By the early 60s, the music was perceived as a symbol of revolt against the established order and was (unofficially) banned.

Waro was born in 1955 to a family that lived in a hut with no running water or electricity. In 1972, he embraced maloya as well as the militancy associated with it after attending a concert by maloya singer Firmin Viry. When inducted into the French army in 1976, Waro refused to wear the uniform and was sent to jail for two years for insubordination. During that time he wrote songs evoking themes of resistance and solidarity, including his passion for his native land, the hardships of working as a sugar cane cutter, and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

Today, Waro is recognized as one of the foremost singers of maloya. He refuses to compromise the music, performing it only in Créole with acoustic (as opposed to electronic) instruments, including those he makes himself—the kayamba, the bobre, and the rouleur. Womex, an organization that promotes folk, ethnic, and traditional music, called him “the uncompromising maloya hero from Reunion Island.” On October 31, 2010 he received the Womex Artist Award. On November 24, he received the Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros for his album Aou Amwin.

To the unaccustomed ear, the music sounds strange and exotic. Waro’s voice is powerful, and though I could not understand the words, I could sense the emotional intensity. In one of his songs (I do not know if he performed it that day), Waro urges his compatriots to be proud of what he calls their island’s “bastard” society made up of Africans, Madagascans, Indians, Chinese, and Europeans.

Bastardicité

I’m not white
no, I’m not black
don’t pin me with an ethnicity
I’m cross-breed cafres (black), yab (white), malbar (Indian)
my roots are bastard, fine and pure
sinwa (Chinese), arab (Arab), zorèy (French), komor (Comorian)
my roots are bastard, fine and pure

Go on, find it if you want
Go on, buy it if you want
your white-icity, your French-icity,
me, I got no need to search
I got a reservoir of qualities
that flows and overflows
from all my Bastardicity
all my Reunionicity

Go on, find it if you want
Go on, buy it if you want
your pure Indian-icity, your pure Chinese-icity
your pure European-icity, your pure African-icity
me, I got no need to search
I got a reservoir of qualities
that flows and overflows
from all my Bastardicity
all my Reunionicity

Go on, straighten your hair
Go defrizz it if you care
I got no need to flatten my curl
I like my afro fluffed out full
it makes a great pillow for me and my girl

Play your snob games if you care
Show off your French, your savoir-faire
I got no need to brag that way
I got my Creole growl in me
to sing my maloya, my séga kabaré
to sing my maloya, my narlgon kabaré.

(Song by Danyèl Waro from his album Batarsité on the Piros label, 1994)

An interview (in French) of Waro that appeared in Culture en Movement magazine in February 2000 has been posted to the Web site L’Elixir du Dr. Funkathus.

An extensive article (in English) about him can be found on the Womex Web site.

Wine and Cheese at Le Coup de Grâce

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
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Le Coup de Grâce is a wine shop that opened in September 2009 at 26, rue Berthollet in the 5th arrondissement. We stopped here after attending an open house held for an art exhibit in another part of town.

Arriving at around 9:00 p.m., we asked one of the proprietors, Etienne, if we could order a simple cheese platter and a glass of wine. He directed us to a tall table at which stood two tall chairs, and invited us to take a seat. In response to his question about the kind of wine that we might like to order to accompany our cheese, my partner said, “Viognier,” which is a type of white wine grape that produces a distinctive flavor. After a brief discussion about the qualities that this wine might contribute to the cheese platter, we settled for a glass of Martinelle, a vin de pays produced by Corinna Faravel in the Ventoux region of the Rhone Valley.

Etienne served each of us a glass of this pale-gold wine, and placed a platter of four cheeses on the table. These consisted of Saint Pascal, Cantal jeune, Morbier, and Comté. Saint Pascal is a firm, tangy, raw cow’s milk cheese from the Appenzell region of northeast Switzerland; Cantal is an ivory-colored, semi-hard cheese – when young (as ours was) it still has the sweetness of raw milk; Morbier is a supple cheese with black layer of vegetable product that recalls the days when soot was sprinkled on the fresh curd to keep insects away; and Comté is a firm, pale cheese with a nutty tang – when mature, it has a pleasant gritty texture due to the crystallization of salts.

As for the wine, I found it to be sharp with notes of bitter almond. My partner described it as soft with notes of peach. Despite these contrasting gustatory perceptions, we both enjoyed it and the cheeses that it accompanied!

While we sampled the wine and cheese, lively jazz played over the sound system.

The bill for the cheese platter and three glasses of wine came to 19€.

The walls of the wine shop are currently decorated with photographs by Jean-Claude Valette. Valette’s wife Ivlita Mujiri is the artist who designed the image of the devilish-looking wine taster. The image serves as the logo of the wine shop.

Le Coup de Grâce
26 rue Berthollet
75005 PARIS
Tel. 01.45.35.82.37

Opening hours:
Mondays from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Tuesdays and Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Thursday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
All day Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Wine and Cheese at Le Coup de Grâce
(c) Discover Paris!

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We participate in Wanderfood Wednesdays. Head over there to explore food from around the world!

Africolor with Groove Lélé, Ernst Reijseger, and Mola Sylla

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
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The 22nd edition of the Africolor festival is approaching the end of its season, with its final musical performances scheduled for Christmas Eve. Since 1989, when the first concert opened at the Théâtre Gérard Philipe in the town of Saint-Denis, Africolor has been bringing outstanding musicians to Seine-Saint-Denis (a French administrative département in the Ile-de-France region) to perform African and African-inspired music.

I had the pleasure of attending a concert at the MC93 theater in the nearby town of Bobigny on Sunday, December 5. The concert was a double treat because for the price (16€) of a single entry ticket, two groups from La Réunion would be performing: Groove Lélé with Ernst Reijseger and Mola Sylla; and the Danyèl Waro ensemble. In today’s blog I will present the first group, with my comments about the second reserved for another day.

Zembrocal is a popular dish of La Réunion that consists of turmeric, rice or corn, and red or white beans. The diverse people of this island sometimes compare themselves to this dish, because each element keeps its flavor and yet contributes to the overall taste. The group Groove Lélé that performed with Ernst Reijseger and Mola Sylla on Sunday afternoon exemplifies this idea—their music was a mixed bag of melodies masterfully interweaving European music, jazz, African rhythms, song, and dance. At one point I was wondering if I was listening to jazz, and at another I was wondering if I was listening to African music. I finally gave up trying to attach a label to it and decided to just listen and enjoy! If one were to ask the musicians what they were performing, they might say that it is maloya, a genre of music that is associated with Creole culture in La Réunion.

Willy Philéas of Groove Lélé and Ernst Reijseger
Photograph by Jean-Claude François
Courtesy of La Strada Mundi

The performances by Groove Lélé, a group of about twelve singers, dancers, and percussionists, were dazzling. The group was founded in 1977 by Granmoun Philéas as a family affair. His goal: to sing and perform maloya, one of the two principal genres of music from La Réunion. With his passing in 2004, two brothers Willy and Urbain Philéas took over leadership of the group. In November of this year, it was awarded the Trophée des Arts Afro Caribéens for the best album of 2010.

Joining Groove Lélé on stage were two outstanding musicians, Ernst Reijseger and Mola Sylla.

Ernst Reijseger is a Dutch cellist who specializes in jazz and contemporary classical music. He has stated that he does not play a standard repertoire when onstage. Rather, he improvises all the way through the performance!

Mola Sylla is a percussionist and singer from Dakar, Senegal. Of his music, Sylla has said, “Previously I only played African music, and now I do not know even what I play. Some people hear elements of classical music, others call it World Music – whatever that is supposed to be – or even pop music. I believe it does not matter. If I play, I feel free.” (Volkskrant Magazine, June 1, 2001)

The three elements of the show, Groove Lélé, Ernst Reijseger, and Mola Sylla, combined their talents to serve up a fine dish of zembrocal guaranteed to please the most discriminating palates!

Mola Sylla
Photograph by Jean-Claude François
Courtesy of La Strada Mundi

Groove Lélé Percussionists
(c) Discover Paris!

Groove Lélé Singers, Dancers, and Percussionists
(c) Discover Paris!

Groove Lélé Singer with Percussionists
(c) Discover Paris!

Marrons Glacés – A Sweet Confection for the Holiday Season

Saturday, December 18th, 2010
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Marrons Glacés
(c) Discover Paris!

Marrons glacés (candied chestnuts) are part of the Christmas holiday tradition in France. In December, their individual, gold-foil wrappers in the storefront windows of chocolate shops and other confectionary outlets attract the eye and entice those of us with a fondness for sweets. The candy-making process is so tedious and the final product so fragile that only a few companies make marrons glacés in France.

We sampled a number of marrons glacés that we purchased at different chocolate shops in Paris, took them back to our kitchen, and then tasted them, comparing the qualities of each against the others. Read our report entitled “Marrons Glacés – A Sweet Confection for the Holiday Season” in this month’s issue of Paris Insights.

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Wandering Educators Reviews Paris Insights – An Anthology

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
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Wandering Educators, “a global community of informed, engaged educators who share their travel experiences, explore their fellow wandering educators’ travel experiences, and dialogue about international education and travel,” has just published a review of my book Paris Insights – An Anthology. The editor of the Web site, Jessie Voigts, also asked me some pertinent questions about my reasons for writing the book.

Thank you, Wandering Educators, for the great review!

Paris Insights – An Anthology will make a fine Christmas gift for the traveler who is planning a visit to Paris, or the armchair traveler who simply wants to learn what makes the city such a fascinating place!

A Mococha Christmas
By Monique Y. Wells

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
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We recently stopped by Marie-Hélène Gantois’ chocolate shop—Mococha—on rue Mouffetard to see what chocolate confections she is offering for the Christmas season.

Marie told us that this Christmas she has several new products for chocolate lovers.

From chocolate maker Jacques Bellanger (named Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1982—best pastry chef and confectioner), there are three types of crunchy bars:

Buggatise – crackly, crunchy praline layered with tender caramel accentuated by fleur de sel (sea salt), coated in dark chocolate

Sybille – the same praline, accompanied by almond paste elaborated with Sicilian pistachios, coated with dark chocolate and decorated with pistachios, almonds, cranberries, walnuts, and hazelnuts

Charlotte – praline with raspberry paste coated with dark chocolate and decorated with pistachios, dried figs, cranberries, and cubes of fruit paste.

Les Barres from Jacques Bellinger
(c) Discover Paris!

The bars are 25 cm (roughly 10 inches) long and are beautifully presented in a transparent wrap bound by ribbons on each end.

Marie has also assembled three chocolate delights in a package that she calls the Mococha “Coffret Craquant.” It is comprised of chocolate-covered, grilled almonds and chocolate-covered, grilled hazelnuts from Maison Weiss, and chocolate dragées wrapped in gold paper from Maison Médicis. There are also boxes of florentines and mendiants by Maison Weiss, chocolate-covered lemon peel and ginger by Weiss, chocolate-covered orange peels by Maison Corsiglia, and marrons glacés by Maison Corsiglia.

As connoisseurs of hot chocolate, we recommend that you stop by Mococha to sample Marie’s delectable brew! Made from Venezuelan dark chocolate (72%), whole milk, crème fleurette, and sugar, it is thick, rich, and slightly fruity in flavor. A cup of this beverage and a macaron by Jacques Bellanger warm both body and spirit!

Place Setting for Hot Chocolate and a Macaron

Mococha
89, rue Mouffetard
75005 Paris
Tel : 01.47.07.13.66
Metro: Censier Daubenton
Hours : Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Monique Y. Wells is cofounder of Discover Paris!—Personalized Itineraries for Independent Travelers and a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of two books, numerous articles about Paris, the Entrée to Black Paris™ blog, and the Les Amis de Beauford Delaney blog.

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We participate in Wanderfood Wednesdays. Head over there to explore food from around the world!

Paris Vegan Day

Friday, December 10th, 2010
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Veganism is more than a diet—it is a lifestyle. This is the primary lesson that we learned when we attended Paris Vegan Day on November 28 at La Bellevilloise, a cultural center located in the 20th arrondissement of the French capital.

Our day began at La Halle aux Oliviers, a grand banquet room located in the back of the cultural center. There, we feasted on an all-you-can-eat vegan brunch, a meal that we recently reported on in our Paris Insights free restaurant review.

Cooking Demonstration
(c) Discover Paris!

Following the brunch, we entered the main area of the cultural center to see what Paris Vegan Day was all about. La Bellevilloise has three floors, each of which was devoted to vegan-centered activities. We entered the ground floor where a cooking demonstration was being given by Sébastien Kardinal. Sébastien was showing the large audience how to make Tofoie gras, a vegan alternative to foie gras. His recipe (in French) can be found on the VG-Zone Web site.

Food'Joie
(c) Discover Paris!

At the opposite side of the room, Elodie Beaucent was creating amusing faces from vegetables and fruit. She gives workshops to adults on how to make a balanced vegetarian lunch from organic food products; and to children on how eat healthfully and to create funny faces from food. She has a Web site (in French) at Food’Joie.

Vegan Fashions
(c) Discover Paris!

Going upstairs, we arrived just in time to see a fashion show of vegan clothing presented by Joshua Katcher of The Discerning Brute (Web site in English). Male and female models paraded out one by one demonstrating attractive clothing that incorporates no leather or wool. Instead, the leather-like jackets that the men and women were modeling were made from rubber! I had never heard of vegan clothing before, but the idea that there could be a market for these products made me realize that veganism was a way of life, much more than just a diet.

Vegan Speed Dating
(c) Discover Paris!

Walking over to the Freshman Consulting stand, a company that had set up a speed-dating service for vegans, the concept of veganism as a lifestyle became even more apparent. How could vegan and non-vegan partners ever hope to live together harmoniously? I wondered. Vegans eschew anything that exploits the use of animals in the service of man: leather and wool products; meat, fish, and poultry; animal testing for drug and cosmetic research and development; the consumption of milk, honey, and eggs… They consider that the exploitation of animals in any form by humans is morally wrong. A couple that does not adhere to this fundamental concept would, in my mind, be in constant conflict. For a man or a woman, then, to find a partner that subscribes to this principle, he or she must move in a circle of vegans, hence the usefulness of a vegan dating service at this event.

We moved about to other stands on this floor.

Dominique and Alice
(c) Discover Paris!

Dominique and Alice were selling justuman eco conscious t-shirts.

Lili Cerise
(c) Discover Paris!

Lili Cerise was selling cute handbags.

Lush Cosmetics
(c) Discover Paris!

Lush was selling cosmetics.

The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life
(c) Discover Paris!

Messler Elliot was selling her book The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life.

Jasmine
(c) Discover Paris!

And in the hallway, Jasmine was distributing a brochure entitled “Nutrition végétale” (Plant-Based Nutrition and Health).

Downstairs Exhibitors
(c) Discover Paris!

Finally, we descended the stairway to enter the basement. This level is normally used as a nightclub, and we entered a vast, poorly-lit room with red lighting predominating. We found the effect to be rather sinister, so we did not remain long. This floor was given over to advocacy groups, including animal rights and anti-vivisection societies. A link to a Web site (in French) of one of these groups gives an idea of what they advocate, as well as their militancy.

People Waiting to Get In
(c) Discover Paris!

As we left the building, we learned that attendance had exceeded all expectations. In fact, people were waiting on the sidewalk in the cold, because security regulations did not permit everybody to enter at once. Judging from the lively activities that went on within the cultural center, the enthusiasm of the attendees, and the number of persons waiting to get in, it was a successful event. Alexandre Pivan, one of the organizers, told us that he anticipates that in five years the city of Paris will be the leading center for veganism in the world!

Paris Vegan Day was organized by Deborah Brown Pivain and her son and daughter Alexandre and Caroline Pivain. The family owns and operates the Gentle Gourmet Bread and Breakfast in Paris. We dined at their establishment in April of this year and reviewed their cuisine for our Paris Insights newsletter.

Making Venezuelan Hot Chocolate

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
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Puerto Cacao
(c) Discover Paris!

On a recent excursion into the 17th arrondissement, we stepped into Puerto Cacao, a chocolate shop that processes cocoa beans to make its own confections. (Most of the chocolate vendors that we have heretofore reviewed either create their own confections from refined chocolate or resell chocolates that have been made by somebody else.) The store is spacious and well stocked with sweets in just about every conceivable form, from dark chocolate, to milk chocolate, to white chocolate. Having been inspired by the hot chocolate of Le Cuillère Suisse (which I reported on in my blog of Wednesday, November 17), we were looking for an alternative way to make the beverage.

We were greeted by salesperson Monica Ardelean, who explained to us that she had two products that would serve for making hot chocolate. One was a powdered cocoa sold in a bag; the other was a solid block of Venezuelan chocolate. She expressed greater enthusiasm for the second product, saying that it produced a better brew. Indeed, she sold hot chocolate in her shop and invited us to taste it! We found it hearty and somewhat bitter, but not unpleasantly so.

Monica Andelean
(c) Discover Paris!

We purchased a 310-gram block of the chocolate for 5€ and took it home to try the recipe that Monica gave us. We cut 100 grams (3.5 oz) off the block and melted it in a double boiler on the stove. At the same time we heated one liter (about one quart) of milk in a saucepan. When the chocolate was melted and the milk was hot, we stirred about one-half cup of hot milk into the chocolate, along with 15 grams (about one tablespoon) of sugar and about one-quarter teaspoon of vanilla. We then blended this mixture in a blender. Monica’s recipe called for transferring the blended mixture into the saucepan of milk and stirring. However, the chocolate paste in the blender was too thick to pour, so we reversed the process, adding the milk from the saucepan into the blender. We turned on the blender and – voilà! – we had a frothy, hot chocolate beverage. (For those who try this, the milk should not be hotter than 80°C (176°F) to avoid damage to the blender.)

We found our hot chocolate to be as bitter as the beverage that we had tasted in the store. We realize that chocolate in its purest form is a bitter product, so we added another tablespoon of sugar and another quarter teaspoon of vanilla. This time, the sugar helped temper the aggressiveness of the chocolate. The beverage was hearty and filling.

Making hot chocolate in this way will try the patience of many, especially those who are accustomed to making chocolate milk from instant cocoa powder. There is the wait while the solid chocolate melts and the milk heats; then there is the task of blending the two liquids together. Finally, there are utensils and countertop to clean up afterwards. But the reward for those with forbearance will be a satisfying cup of hot chocolate made from cocoa beans from Venezuela. It is about as authentic a beverage as you can get!

310-gram Block of Venezuelan Chocolate

Melted Venezuelan Chocolate

Hot Venezuelan Chocolate
(c) Discover Paris!

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Le Timbre

Friday, December 3rd, 2010
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Chef Chris Wright
(c) Discover Paris!

In November, we dined in a tiny establishment called Le Timbre, located in the 6th arrondissement. Owned and operated by Englishman Chris Wright, the restaurant serves French cuisine with his special touches. To learn why we recommend this restaurant as a great place to dine, read our review in this month’s Le Bon Goût.

Le Bon Goût is the restaurant feature that we include in our monthly newsletter Paris Insights. In it, we appraise a Parisian restaurant and give information about its chef.

Access to the newsletter is by paid subscription. Click here to read a brief summary of the December edition, and here to enter a subscription.

Bonne lecture!

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