Sunday, September 30, 2012

after dark in the city of lights

For me, "going out" is a part of a healthy lifestyle. Why? How? It allows for pure, unadulterated friend time. And enjoying quality beer, wine, or cocktails. I try my best to hydrate beforehand, have a spectacular (somewhat responsible) time during, and then hydrate again, enjoy a slice of pizza, and sleep very well afterwards. Needless to say, it's been exciting to uncover the nightlife scene in Paris. Give me a good bar with fun music on a Friday evening or Saturday night and I am one happy gal.
Once a week or so, my friends convene at the Amex Café, a dive bar located on campus with exceptionally cheap wine and reasonably priced beer. For the end of long weekday, it works just fine, but I've taken weekend opportunities to scour the city for some amazing drinks. Here's where one month of research has gotten me:
 [Rosa Boheur: a festive tapas bar within parc des Buttes-Chaumon.]
[This charming happy hour site with killer sangria (and slightly overpriced but yummy small plates) transforms to a dance party after dark.]
[Le Pixel: a tiny, "New York-style" bar serving custom cocktails and Paris' best mojitos. It's conveniently on the Seine-edge of the 6th, perfect to start the night.]
 [Glass: this newcomer to the racy Pigalle neighborhood comes from the geniuses behind Candeleria (supposedly Paris' best Mexican taqueria - will confirm soon!)
[They've created an expertly-refined cocktail list (one with Pisco) in a simple environment... and they have Brooklyn Brewery on tap. And dancing. Oh, yes.]

Friday, September 28, 2012

crêpes on a rainy day

It's been chilly and rainy here in Paris. The kind of weather that encourages curling up with a pot of tea and studying the day away. It's not the kind of weather that condones scavenger hunts throughout the streets of the city though. And rather unfortunately, cold and wet, I spent yesterday morning wandering the medieval Latin Quarter with the French language class I'm auditing. The savory crêpe, sweet crêpe, and cider I had for lunch afterwards helped more than you know.
Crêpes originated in the northwest region of France known as Brittany. Savory ones are made with buckwheat flour (and actually called galettes), whereas sweet crêpes are made with white flour. Traditionally, both are served with slightly alcoholic apple cider as wine was less plentiful up there :). I've enjoyed two crêperies since arriving; most recently Crêperie Chez Suzette, and before then, Crêpes-Show. Good to know: the Latin Quarter and Le Marais are the best neighborhoods for crêpes.
A formule at a crêperie often includes a savory crêpe, sweet crêpe, and a drink for a fixed, affordable price. My favorite savory ones include the bistro (goat cheese, lardon, salad), the "pop-eye" (spinach, smoked salmon, over-easy egg | pictured above), and the complete (ham, gruyere, softly-fried egg).
As for my favorite sweet crêpe, I usually go for a nutella or chocolate filling, with or without banana. Yesterday I was feeling adventurous nostalgic for Northeast autumns though, and opted for a housemade apple compote filling with butter and cinnamon. It was beyond delicious. And although not the most nutritionally-sound of meals, for 9 euros and one warm, happy belly, lunches like these are so worth it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

to: danielle abroad

Last Friday, as I was sipping on the best mojito in Paris, a friend and I discussed keeping in touch. Most people aren't very good at it. While I was studying abroad as an undergrad, I wasn't almost purposefully--in an attempt to not be homesick and fully experience the cultural opportunity I found myself in. This time around, however, I can't not be. I don't have the luxury of knowing 99.9% of my best friends will be in the same place when I come back, ready to welcome me back to that familiar life of mine. They're scattered and busy, and have even less of a clue than I do as to where I'll be (physically and mentally) after graduating with an MA.
So we email. When I first arrived, I sent a couple of mass emails to friends and family to let them know I was safe and somewhat settled. Since then, I've made it a point to email at least one friend a week with personalized updates and questions that would otherwise be answered over coffee or drinks or the phone were I still living in New York. Does it remind me how much I miss them? Of course, but so do their Bon Voyage cards I have posted to my wall; an attempt at sentimental budget decoration.
And then I received a letter. To: Danielle Abroad, no less. One of my most thoughtful friends must've sent it as soon as I'd shared my Parisian address. I may have cried while reading. It reminded me of how lucky I am to have these people to keep in touch with.
Gosh, I really do miss them. Although I'm thankful to have the kind of friendships that won't completely falter after a few months of no contact, I also believe they deserve to know how much I wish every single of them were here. Facebook-stalking and Twitter-following is hardly enough when it comes to those who matter, right? Emails it is then! And a postcard every now and again. P.S. Happy (belated) 20th birthday to my favorite (only) little brother! I love and miss you, too.

Monday, September 24, 2012

le dimanche

I'm not sure if you're aware or not... but Paris isn't a very convenient place on a Sunday. Very few stores are open and hardly any service providers are available, leaving countless French people and Francophiles to truly taking the day off. Just imagine how "unproductive" the day must be in a small provincial town!
This can be frustrating for Americans, and understandably so--we're accustomed to having 24/7 access to anything and everything and most of our life "stuff" gets done on the weekend. Still, I'm choosing to embrace this foreign concept. My sole Sunday responsibility is to spend quality time with someone I adore? Merci bien.
[Buffet brunch at Monseiur: coffee, tea, pear juice, orange juice, croissants, scrambled eggs, mesclun salads, pain au chocolat, fruit salad, pancakes, bread, cheese, butter, jam, and frommage blanc topped with a berry compote]
[My date for the day: Marie]
[A longer than expected visit to Musée Carnavalet - (see more photos here)]
[market-shopping at Bastille and window-shopping in Le Marais]

Sure, I may have had a whole lot of reading to do for class (which I did do, eventually), but I couldn't have asked for a more perfect Sunday.
["êtes la plus belle" = "you are the most beautiful/fairest of them all"]

Sunday, September 23, 2012

dinner parties in paris

I am meeting Marie for my first brunch in Paris later this morning. I don't think brunch is necessarily a French thing, but it's one of those few American traditions that has successfully (albeit on a small scale) infiltrated its way into Parisian culture. So happy for that! And to have received such a stellar recommendation from My Little Paris. Looking forward to sharing my experience with you soon.
To show my gratitude, I thought I'd reflect on the most recent, rather "French" meal I enjoyed. My friend Shola (pictured above, center) is living in apartment with two super cool French twenty-somethings. Last week, they hosted a dinner party at their beautiful apartment in the 10e. It was, as expected, a potluck of sorts. 
[Greek pasta salad, French bread with assorted cheeses]
[stuffed mushrooms]
[toasted croissants with basil, tomato, and steak]
[quiche aux légumes/lorraine, salmon crackers, Spanish chorizo]
It was a beautiful meal, complete with the majority of my new friends and copious amounts of wine. Then (as expected) we continued to a bar for late-night dancing.
As much as life hasn't at all been overwhelmingly glamourous, Paris has been fun and mostly very good to me so far. I think I'm finally starting to feel at home.

Friday, September 21, 2012

can't believe it's not butter

Good French butter (from Bretagne) is unlike any other; it's slightly salty, just sweet enough, and more farm fresh than you can imagine. Then there are the baguettes, chocolate mousse, ratatouille, brie, salade niçoise, nutella crepes, truffles, steak frites, etc. I've honestly already had moments in which I've tired of French food though. Fortunately, Paris is just about as multicultural New York (for which I too am already nostalgic for). So I'm currently in the midst of seeking out its many brasserie alternatives.

At the end of my first week here, I was lucky enough to have been introduced to Le Negus in the 11e arrondissement. I've only enjoyed Ethiopian food twice at a time when I wasn't eating meat, and yet I knew I'd absolutely love it. I did.
Three new friends and I shared a spectacular plate of a sweet beef ragout, frommage blanc in Ethiopian spices, spiced chicken, salad, and delicious stewed lentils, spinach, and peas. Scooped up with plenty of injera (an airy flat bread), of course.

After filling ourselves to the brim, we sipped Ethiopian coffee as Alem, one of Le Negus' owners, poetically explained the history of Ethiopia and its coffee. I can't wait to go back, but not before discovering more of Paris! I hear the Sri Lankan and Indian food at La Chapelle is fabulous; I hope to taste the delicacies of the 13e's Asian quarter; and if Belleville is known for its African shops, I don't doubt there's a few amazing eateries, too. As for sushi, a friend recently introduced me to Sushi Gan. Bon appetit indeed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

as parisians do

I've never heard someone argue that Paris isn't a beautiful city. Time and time again, however, I have heard how rude Parisians are. In a Franco File Friday interview, Amy Thomas (author of Paris, My Sweet (A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) and one of my favorite travel articles) said, "After visiting many smaller French towns, I understand that Parisians are to the French what New Yorkers are to Americans." 
Well then. This, my dears, is exactly what I despise stereotypes. I think it's just about story time...
Upon moving into ma chambre de bonne, a random passerby helped as I struggled to carry my large suitcases through the doorway.
Later, as I was having trouble with the lock on my door, a neighbor from down the hall heard me and came out of their apartment to lend a hand.
The following day, when I gave my landlord the security deposit, he thanked me and offered to let me leave any valuables in his apartment if I ever take an extended trip.
Each time I forget that little piece of paper with the front door code during that first week, the guardian typed it in for me with a smile.
And yesterday, when I went to the laundromat for the very first time, an older woman showed me how to figure out the machines without me even having to ask.

Although I don't doubt that Parisians can be rude, life experience has taught me otherwise. They (like anyone anywhere) can often be very nice. And helpful, too.

P.S. The photos above were taken in my 17th arrondissement neighborhood.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

sans une cuisine

The kitchen in ma chambre de bonne = a mini-fridge, microwave, one hot plate, and a shelf. Yep, even the kitchen in my NYC apartment was more impressive.
So, I'm required to get somewhat creative. Breakfasts thus far have featured tea and muesli/multigrain flakes with yogurt/fromage blanc topped with market fruit.
Since I'm only shopping for one, occasionally I run out of one or all of the above ingredients. This time last week that meant I strolled up the street to my closest boulangerie for a fresh croissant and café crême. It was a delicious treat. You'll notice above that homework tends to join me at the table...
I'm often on campus for lunch and thus have been exploring the boulangeries in the 7th arrodissement, too. Sandwiches (like this one) are the perfect mid-day meal. On occasion though, I do have the chance to really sit down and dine. I usually take the opportunity to fill up on vegetables with a salad, but I've admittingly discovered a croque madame better than the one I ate in Strasbourg.
Adopting a French-style of eating has meant that I hardly ever have an afternoon snack. With that said, last weekend following our visit to Ikea, Marie and I were starving at 4pm. We each enjoyed a pain aux raisin and iced tea as a result. Fun fact about the beer that my iced tea resembles: it's swiftly becoming an even more popular happy hour drink than wine here; mostly because of the price point.
Lunches out mean dinners at home. The meal above was one of my favorites: garlic-pepper eggs, a fresh piece of baguette with hummus, and sliced market cucumbers topped with olive oil and salt. I haven't minded that few p.m. meals have strayed from this standard vegetarian protein, fresh vegetable, and bread with cheese or hummus equation though. I tend to "cook" simply anyway.
And when it comes to baking without an oven, I've embraced No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. It's a good thing they turned out well on my first try, too! They were my contribution to my friend's potluck dinner party last weekend, along with a bottle of champagne.
Speaking of wine :) I'm fortunate enough to have another friend from school that lives in my neighborhood. Her and I have appointed Wednesday as our date night. A shared  carafe of vin rouge or ice cream cones paired with lots of girl talk is just enough to make up for any and all kitchen (or lack there of) frustrations.