Monday, April 29, 2013

absinthe mixes well with girlfriends

Sometimes, I "need" a drink. But lately I've been so consumed with research (studying the diverse and critical audiences of Girls, analyzing social advocacy through material consumption, examining how social media has empowered restaurants to (1) create a voice for themselves and (2) join the critic conversation) that I'm confined to my desk most evenings. It's been this way ever since my brief breath of fresh air in the Jura mountains (photos and stories to come). Simply put, I miss my friends and our girls nights.
It's almost been a month since we've had one. A French bank holiday had fallen on a Monday, a very productive one for me at that, so I'd invited Rachael and Lorelei out for a drink. We wanted to try a new-ish wine/cocktail bar in the 10th, Joséphine; and somehow, I managed to arrive 10 minutes before them both. It was quite uncharacteristic of me as I'm usually late so I took the opportunity to grab a seat at the bar and order my first solo drink, ever. Doing so has been a goal of mine and I knew they wouldn't mind.
My first cocktail of choice? The aptly named Joséphine: chartreuse, calvados, lime, absinthe, grapefruit zest. It was refreshing and flavorful, accenting botanical notes of "the green fairy" (a spirit which coincidently originated near the Jura). I also felt its effects soon after drinking. Eventually though, once they'd arrived and both enjoyed first drinks of their own, we moved on to a second. I intended to order another cocktail but was unimpressed with the other options. It's not so much that they were uninspired as I just tend to shy away from whisky-based drinks. I switched to red wine instead. And by the third glass, we ordered the house fries.
Maybe it was the generous portion of our crispy midnight snack, the classy, art deco, jazz-rock vibe (good to know: there actually is a DJ/live music Thursday-Saturday nights), or most likely, the multiple glasses I'd had to drink, but soon enough, Joséphine became one of my favorite bars in Paris. The staff and end-of-the-night crowd ended up being so friendly, too, that we stayed until closing. Being a grad student in the City of Lights is hardly what romantic Parisian dreams are made of... but sometimes, sometimes it really is.
P.S. I will be 25 years old one month from today. I need a drink.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

my brother's castle

You thought we were done with Portugal, didn't you? Well, I've been saving the best for last: Castelo de Saõ Jorge. This fortress has existed in some shape or form since the 2nd century BC. It's survived Lisbon under the rule of Celtic indigenous tribes, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Suebics, Visigoths, and Moors. Today, it simply offers a glimpse at the history of this modern city... and some pretty incredible views, too.
Lorelei, Lara, and I were so, so lucky with the weather on our visit; especially when you compare it to today in Paris: grey, rainy, and cool. Le sigh. At least it makes it easier to work on these two remaining research papers (I finished one this past Friday!) and prepare for that final exam? Exactly. And during future study breaks, I look forward to sharing my most recent trip to the Jura. Ciao for now! I'm off to Sunday brunch.

Friday, April 26, 2013

parisian cravings

I don't often get cravings. Sure, I need to consume chocolate on a daily basis and occasionally am really in the mood for pizza or pho, but otherwise, I'm simple to please. Until I desire "American" comfort foods, that is.
Because it's not pancakes nor burgers I want then, it's my mom's grilled cheese... or anything from New York City's Momofuko, or Oakland's Bakesale Betty, or Seattle's Paseo
Admittingly, the last three are only recent developments. It's only since lunching at Verjus that I've become the least bit familiar with the tastes of those three restaurants that so instantly reminded me of home.
On my first visit, I met the boy for a scandalous weekday lunch. In other words, he had a day off of work, I was finished with classes early, and we ordered alcohol with our meal, ha. He chose a Black Isle Brewery beer with a Mr. Chang's Buns sandwich: braised pork belly, steamed chinese buns, hoisin sauce, pickles, scallion.
I, on the other hand, opted for a glass of red wine with a Bakesale Betty sandwich: Verjus' fried chicken, Morgan's buns, cabbage slaw with shallots and parsley, spicy mustard vinaigrette.
It was everything I'd hoped it be and more, and a welcome change from the standard ham baguette.
And for dessert, (because though the sandwiches were American-inspired, we were still undoubtedly in Paris and thus dessert was included in the prix-fixe menu), we both thoroughly enjoyed a cheesecake brownie.
Dare I say it was perfect? Although the wine bar itself is hardly one of my favorites, I will be back around lunchtime for a 15€ sandwich, dessert, and beverage. Now that the end-of-semester/term-paper/final-exam-induced stress is officially settling in, I could use the American comfort more than ever.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

how to brand yourself

Academic post alert! I'm currently studying "how online social networks have transformed the dynamics of personal interaction, organizational behavior, marketing, branding, social mobilization, and civic action" in a class of mine. Part of the coursework involves blogging about the articles we read and discussions we have. Below, you'll find just that. I encourage you to contribute your thoughts, too.
I feel like a cliché calling myself another "American in Paris," but it's an accurate label nonetheless. No matter the fact that I buy fresh bread from the boulangerie, shop at the marché when I can, and wear more black than ever before, I'm consistently reminded of the fact that I'm not French; if nothing else, then for my inability to completely embrace bad customer service ;). Because of this, too, I'm branded from the very start, whether it be by a Parisian or another expat. (For the record, I tend to clarify that I'm from New York.) It's had me thinking more and more about "my brand" then--both online and off.
In a 2009 New York Times article, Putting Yourself Out There on a Shelf to Buy, Alina Tugend wrote:
"But what if I don’t want to be a brand? What if I don’t want to build a public image and network? What if I like the security and camaraderie of being 'just' a worker in a company? Creating my own brand sounds as if it is potentially liberating. But that’s what we thought about managing our own retirements rather than relying on pensions and choosing a phone company rather than being stuck with Ma Bell. It turned out, though, that that kind of freedom comes with a lot more risks and responsibility."
Today, unfortunately or not, it's pretty irrelevant whether you the feel the same way as she does. The truth is, "to be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You." And that's a direct quote from a 1997 Fast Company article. Stereotyping occurs anyway, now you can brand yours.
A recent Inc. article by Geoffrey James explains just how to Create your Personal Brand in 8 simple steps:
  1. Know yourself and what you're good at.
  2. Create a memorable brand name.
  3. Capture your online turf.
  4. Build a website for your domain name.
  5. Set up automatic updating.
  6. Share useful content on a regular basis.
  7. Get feedback from people you trust.
  8. Be authentic, even a bit risky.
In that case, (1) I think research, design, social media, (2) Does this count? (3-4) Check! (6-8) I promise I try.
It's a lot of pressure though, especially when you're so very aware of your brand as "an American in Paris." How could I possibly brand my multifaceted self--one who does actually "love art, food, wine, yoga, and travel" and wishes "to improve the ways in which the world communicates" in order to  promote global understanding--in just 140 characters? I can hardly wrap my head around this identity of mine myself.
Tonight I went to the "Communications via Social Media" panel thanks to the7eme, an online student publication. "Employers want to know what you can do... so go out and start doing things," advised the professor for this very class. To which Meg added, "don't be afraid to talk about what you've done. It can open a lot of unexpected doors." In the end, "people will search for you online, so it's important to take part in that conversation, and having your own website can be a great way to put your best foot forward." said Matt Cutts in a PBS' MediaShift article. Phew, at least that part's covered. Now for those business cards...

[Photos from Versailles, where my boy resides]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

diner des 3 découvertes

Early in my grad student career (a.k.a. six months ago), I sat in the office of one of my favorite professors. She told me all about a natural wine bar she'd just gone to with a friend as we discussed my research topic. She never did remember the name though. Serendipitously enough, just four days before I joined her and her class in the Jura, I unknowingly paid that neighborhood natural wine bar a visit.
I doubt I would've made it to Le Chapeau Melon (in the far from me 19ème) had it not been for Milsters and her "supper club that allows people to discover a new neighborhood, a new restaurant, and new people." It was wonderful. Not only for some of the most exquisite organic wines (including a champagne) alongside a fantastic meal, but for the company I enjoyed it with: the host herself, Chiawen, Rachael, and Stacy.
{salmon cru "label rouge" crème d'avocat - "red label" raw salmon, avocado cream}
{un pimiento del piquillo - stuffed red pepper}
{porco à alentejana - marinated pork with fresh clams (a Portuguese dish!)}
The 32,50€ prix-fixe menu doesn't include dessert, but we obviously didn't do without. Milsters opted for the assiette de fromages, I chose the fondant au chocolat (no surprise there), and the others couldn't resist the cheesecake. All were superb. Three and a half hours after we'd initially met at this cave à vin, I rolled myself home with a smile. I have yet to have a Parisian wine bar dining experience I haven't absolutely adored. And so, the research continues... ;)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

le samedi

I arrived at Gare de Lyon at 10:10pm last night. It had just rained in Paris. After three amazing yet exhausting days of tasting in the Jura, I could hardly wait to sleep in my own bed and have a relaxing weekend...
This morning, my beau and I found a spectacular Saturday buffet brunch, and for only 17,50 (sadly, a good deal), we enjoyed coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, pain au chocolat, scrambled eggs, tomato-mozzarella salad, cous cous, greek-style vegetables, charcuterie, green salad, and yogurt over fresh fruit with muesli.
Afterwards, with thoroughly satisfied bellies and a bright, shining sun, we walked back to my apartment.
Along the way, we picked up a baguette, apples, spinach, and goat cheese at the Marché des Batignolles.
We also passed a brocante in front of Parc Monceau and feasted our eyes on antique furniture and fixtures.
Then we decided to join the dozens of Parisians lying in the park, basking in the sun. What a glorious day. Last Sunday, with envy, I'd watched others enjoy the sunshine outside my window while studiously working on a research paper. Surely I still have many hours of reading, writing, and studying ahead of me, but it was so necessary to let those responsibilities be for a few hours and make the most of Paris in its eventual spring.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

in yelp we trust

Last night, MLK, Jr.'s words--"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that."--shone across the side of a Brooklyn Academy of Music building. It was the result of a collaboration between two political groups, the NYC Light Brigade and The Illuminator in response to the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon earlier that day. I was finishing up a final research paper at the time, while also checking in on Boston-based friends on Facebook, and following the news on Twitter. I Skype-d my family before bed, too.
Times like these make me long for home in the most heart-wrenching of ways.
{breads, tomato spread, wine}
They also make my appreciate social media. (Please forgive me for segueing into academia). As you knowI'm currently studying "how online social networks have transformed the dynamics of personal interaction, organizational behavior, marketing, branding, social mobilization, and civic action" in a class of mine. In our last class, we discussed the "disintermediation" of reviewing, rating, and ranking, and its implications on trust.
It reminded me of my first and favorite dining experience in Lisbon. Though I'll admit I neither follow restaurant critics nor take much notice of Zagat ratings or Michelin stars (no mind that I usually can't afford venues that possess the latter), I'd referenced a guide that evening. It featured the much-acclaimed Portuguese chef José Avillez and his latest venture; "his own little spot where he could present a simpler and varied cuisine but with the expected touch of sophistication." Soon after reading, we made late night dinner reservations for contemporary Portuguese cuisine and a laid-back ambiance at reasonable prices.
{portabello risotto, mesclun salad}
If professionals have regulated credentials, what do journalists have--specifically those who cover and critique restaurants--that offers the same prestige? Not even I could argue that all journalists are professionals; especially (and unfortunately) when journalistic standards are less clearly defined than ever before. Then again, have we ever trusted newspaper writers and editors in the same way we do our doctors?
It's doubtful, but I'll continue to turn to news outlets to be more informed about the world around me, even if that means reading articles online. With that said, I primarily look to fellow bloggers and hungry strangers for restaurant reviews. And oftentimes, when I have as delicious a meal as shown above and below, I blog about it and hope that you trust me enough to visit, say, Cantinho do Avillez for yourself someday.
{Cantinho chocolate cake with strawberry ice cream}
In a world where tragedy has the ability to hit at the finish line and in a school classroom just as it does in places known to be much less safe and secure, trusting each other becomes as challenging as it does necessary. It may seem absurd to do so in the midst of grief, sorrow, anger, fear, and my gosh, who am I to suggest such things? (especially after my restaurant review tie-in), but I so strongly believe people are inherently good. I believe it is through this trust, and the compassion and community it breeds, that the light of humanity will endure.
As always, please feel free share any thoughts or reactions in the comments. Also, by the chance that you're concerned as well, here are some ways to help Boston Marathon victims. I leave for the Jura early tomorrow morning but will be back this upcoming weekend with new photos and lighter words. Take care until then.