Archive for March, 2010

Promenade with Patrick Jouin – Part 4

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
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Patrick Jouin Talks about Urban Design
(c) Discover Paris!

During the promenade with Patrick Jouin, he presented his ideas about how his designs for street furniture fit in with the Parisian scene: “Because Paris is unique, we should create street furnishings in its image…There should not be a striking contrast.” For the Velib’ bicycle project, Mr. Jouin created bicycle attachment points to resemble blades of grass bending in the wind. The information and payment terminal has a form round and supple, like that of the trunk of a tree. Angles have been suppressed, and the result is a bicycle station that is pleasing to the eye.

His plant-inspired motifs are based upon a style of art and architecture called Art Nouveau that was popular in Paris (and in other cities) around the turn of the 20th century, particularly the style that was developed by Hector Guimard for the entrances of the metro stations.

Velib' Bicycle Station
(c) Discover Paris!

Promenade with Patrick Jouin – Part 3

Saturday, March 27th, 2010
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Patrick Jouin took great care to fit the new generation of outdoor public toilets into the existing decor of the city. For the exterior design, he found inspiration in Hector Guimard’s Art Nouveau entrances to Paris’ underground metro stations. The result is a graceful curve at the top of the sanisette that terminates in an overarching roof, providing some shelter for persons waiting outdoors in the rain.

For the interior design, he first commissioned a study to determine how people use a public toilet and what might be the source of their reluctance to use one. The interior of the new sanisette takes into account many of the concerns that were revealed by the study. For example, it is more roomy than the old model, and the roof is translucent, allowing natural lighting to filter in. Many subtle changes were incorporated, including the positioning of the toilet on the sidewalk, out of the flow of pedestrian traffic.

Like the old model, the new one is self-cleaning after each use (the toilet bowl retracts and is washed, and the floor is washed).

The success of his design will be measured by the public acceptance of the units, especially by women, who were reluctant to use the old model. I used a new sanisette recently and found the experience, including such simple tasks as soaping, washing, and drying hands, much more agreeable than my experience with the old model, some of which still exist in neighborhoods around the city.

Patrick Jouin Talks about His New Sanisette
(c) Discover Paris!

Promenade with Patrick Jouin – Part 2

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
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Calvi, Proprietor of Do Porto A Roma
(c) Discover Paris!

During the promenade with Patrick Jouin, the majority of the group stopped at a delicatessen near the Centre Pompidou for lunch. The owner, Calvi, posed for a photograph in front of his establishment. The restaurant/delicatessen is located at 169, rue Saint-Martin and is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Along with antipasti and pizza, Calvi sells Italian cannoli and Portuguese pastéis de nata. Yum!

Promenade with Patrick Jouin – Part 1

Sunday, March 21st, 2010
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Patrick Jouin at the Centre Pompidou
(c) Discover Paris!

On Saturday, March 13, I joined a group called Promenades Urbaines for a walk around Paris with Patrick Jouin, an architect who has been involved in the creation of a number of projects for the city. Mr. Jouin calls himself (in French) a designer. I’m not sure what the equivalent would be in English, but it would encompass architecture as well as interior and industrial design. In any event, there is no denying his creative spirit and enthusiasm for the projects that he has been engaged in. The promenade took us all over Paris to view a number of his works in the public and in the private sectors, including the new generation of outdoor public toilets, or sanisettes (of which he is particularly proud), and the Velib’ bicycle stations. In the private sector, he has designed cooking utensils, eating utensils, lamps, and chairs, as well as the interiors of restaurants, including Alain Ducasse’s posh Plaza Athénée. I plan to present some of his creations in future blog entries. In the meantime, travelers to Paris can visit an exhibition of his works, entitled Patrick Jouin, La substance du design, at the Centre Pompidou through May 24.

Chocolate for Saint Patrick’s Day

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
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Patrick Roger's Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate
(c) Discover Paris!

Curious to see if any chocolate boutiques in Paris were selling special chocolate confections for Saint Patrick’s Day, we inquired at numerous shops over a period of several days. We were surprised to learn that one sales clerk had never heard of the holy man! Others had prepared or were preparing their molds for Easter, but had no plans to honor Saint Patrick. During our research, we also learned that the wonderful cacao-whisky sorbet made by Berthillon contains Scotch, not Irish, whisky.

Finally, Gary Lee Kraut told us that we could find chocolates for Saint Patrick’s day at Patrick Roger. We quickly learned that only the Roger boutique on avenue Victor Hugo still had a supply. When I entered the store, none other than the great chocolate craftsman himself was there! I was able to purchase some of the last few ganaches that they had in stock.

Patrick Roger’s special chocolates are made with Guinness, the famous Irish dry stout. Although we found the confection to be rich, smooth, and deliciously bittersweet, we could not taste the Guinness. Later, I entered Connolly’s Corner, an Irish pub, and purchased a half-pint of the brew. To my taste, the beer has a mild chocolaty flavor, which would account for its imperceptibility in the chocolate ganache.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Master Craftsman Patrick Roger
(c) Discover Paris!

Evening of Jazz at the American Church

Sunday, March 14th, 2010
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Rasul Sikkik, trumpet; Wand Dockery, bass; Suliman Hakim, alto saxophone
(c) Discover Paris!

A fabulous jazz event was held last night at the American Church in Paris. Entitled the “First Independent Festival of Black American Musicians in Paris,” the program featured three groups: Steve McCraven & Black Studies Band, Mra Oma & New Brotherhood, and the Kirk Lightsey Quartet. The audience, consisting largely of American expatriates and French fans of jazz, responded enthusiastically to the performance.

Jazz was first introduced in France in 1917 by James Reese Europe’s 369th U.S. Infantry “Hell Fighters” band. Last night’s event was a tribute to his creative spirit.

A Cultural and Social History of the City of Light at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
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Much more than a book about crime in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris, The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (New York: Little Brown and Company, 2009) is an absorbing cultural and social history about the City of Light during the period known as the Belle Epoque. In careful prose, the authors describe a number of important discoveries and achievements in science, technology, art, and literature, and recount the impact that these new forces had on those who lived during this era. As suggested by the book’s cover, murder, theft, and detection form the basis around which the authors weave their narrative, but they also develop other themes, including the public’s fascination with crime and with criminals who triumph over the forces of law and public order.

Readers who seek a good crime story that builds to a climactic denouement might feel frustrated with the seemingly deliberate, uneven manner by which the narrative unfolds. However, for those who have the patience to read through the chapters, their reward will be keen insight into the spirit of the age, before that world was swept away with the onslaught of WWI.

Pan Roasting My Own Coffee

Sunday, March 7th, 2010
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Pan roasting coffee beans

Taking a handful of unroasted Indian Malabar coffee beans (purchased at Brûlerie de Jourdain—see the post on Tuesday, March 2), I placed them in a cast-iron skillet over a high flame. I rapidly tossed the beans with two wooden spatulas until they became as dark as the sample of roasted coffee beans that had been given to me. The roasting process took about ten minutes. I heard the beans crackle as they roasted, a good sign! Eventually, the beans began to glisten and smoke rose from the skillet, indicating that coffee oils were burning. Finally, I removed the roasted beans to a cool dish.

Coffee beans - before roast and after

The beans were unevenly roasted, but I don’t think that this can be helped if roasted in a skillet. After they had cooled, I transferred them to a coffee grinder. As I ground them, they gave off a wonderful, sweet coffee aroma. I brewed the grind in a French coffee press, the water heated to 80° C. When I poured a little water the grind it gave off a tarry aroma. This, I think, indicates that some of the beans were over-roasted, possibly burnt. In any case, I added additional water, and then tasted the brew. It had a strong, dark-roast flavor that I found quite agreeable.

Presentation of Paris Insights at the Alliance Française of Salt Lake City

Thursday, March 4th, 2010
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The Alliance Française of Salt Lake City has invited Monique Wells to present Paris Insights: The Best of History, Culture, and Contemporary Life in Paris on Sunday 7 March at 3 PM.

Location: Gore Auditorium at the Gore School of Business at Westminster College, Salt Lake City.

Admission is free!

Fresh-Roasted Coffee in Paris

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
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Gaston-Hugues Berthier, proprietor of Brûlerie de Jourdain

In 2007, I wrote an article about fresh-roasted coffee in Paris, which I published in my Paris Insights newsletter, as well as in my book, Paris Insights – An Anthology. Since then, I have visited several different brûleries in Paris. These are shops that roast their own coffee beans, either on the premises or at an off-site facility.

On one occasion I decided to try roasting the beans myself, drawing my inspiration from Steve Van Nattan’s Coffee Page on the Web. I went to the Brûlerie de Jourdain at 140, rue de Belleville in the 20th arrondissement and spoke with the owner, Gaston-Hugues Berthier, who sold me 250 grams of green Indian Malabar coffee beans. He advised me to roast only a handful at a time, and to keep moving the skillet. He gave me a handful of roasted beans, so that I could compare the color of my roast with his.

Mr. Berthier’s father founded this brûlerie sixty years ago. His huge coffee-roasting machine stands at the front of the shop. While we were discussing coffee, his sound system was playing some real cool jazz.