Wednesday, October 30, 2013

les assiettes du septime

"Eating your feelings" or "drinking the pain away" is hardly a sound solution. But sometimes, when you've had an extra tough day, having dinner reservations with friends is just what you need. Especially if those reservations had to be made weeks in advance because the restaurant is one of the world's 50 best. And if the dinner begins with champagne, and then continues with six courses of pristine, seasonal plates--created that day from Bertrand Grébaut's culinary genius--paired with sommelier-chosen organic wine.
1st course
2nd course
3rd course
4th course
+5th course
6th course
7th course
At 55-euros, the Septime tasting menu (wine and cheese not included) was a splurge... but oh-my-god was it worth it. What you see above may very well have been the best meal I've ever had, in Paris or elsewhere. A few notable components: raw scallops, sliced fennel, aged Basque ham, melted comté cheese, whipped celery root, roasted pidgeon, blackened red pepper, pear sorbet with mint and feta, vanilla bean crème brûlée. The impeccably warm and knowledgeable service only made the experience more divine.
Once again, neo-bistros win, and now I understand why Chef Bertrand Grébaut deserves celebrity status. Previously, I must admit I'd been turned off by the hype. For my friends who still are, (or have no desire to intensely plan ahead nor blow their food monthly budget on one meal), I'd also recommend stopping by the Septime Cave. It's a cozy spot for an apéro snack and modestly-priced glasses of natural (read: without added sulfites) wine. Excellent bottles from small producers are also available for purchase.

Monday, October 28, 2013

start with why

More than a few weekends ago, I received an email from a reader: "I want to say thank you for being such an inspiration and role model not to just young women but to the Hispanic community as well." She went on to be so genuine and appreciative, I was nearly brought to tears. This is what makes blogging worth it, I thought to myself. And I was especially touched at her highlighting my role in the Hispanic community. We must both have checked that little box on standardized tests and administration forms...
I haven't disregarded my heritage (Mexican, Colombian, Irish, Scottish) here, but I also haven't broadcasted it. In so many ways, this part of my identity has caused me anguish throughout the years. Americans are proud of our "melting pot" yet don't welcome all people and cultures with the same enthusiasm. Multiple admissions essays, as a result, have illuminated how 'dirty Mexicans' have driven me to learn, experience, and connect at every opportunity. It's why I was so provoked to discover Irish prejudices. It's also why I'm so concerned about stereotypes. I know words are powerful, understanding is imperative, communication matters.
Sometimes, I get a little intense on here. It may keep some readers quiet. A few might prefer I focus on photographic stories about food and travel without the societal critique entirely. "Hey, Danielle, why so serious?" And here's the thing, to an extent, I'd rather not be. Beneath my analytical exterior, I'm just a fun-loving 25-y/o aware of how lucky she is (and how hard she's worked) to be living in Paris. I have so few things "figured out", it's completely humorous. So, in an attempt to sleep sounder, I strive to be light-hearted like my little bro. Then again, I can't imagine only sharing that feel-good fluff. This other "stuff" is too important to me.
I recall a weekend brunch, many Sundays in New York ago, when I revealed to Anna how nervous I was about being accepted into a masters program. Although it might be less conventional than most, your resume still seems to have intentionally directed you towards a degree like this, she told me. And she was/is right. That Anna is a wise one, in addition to being a wonderful friend. Months later, as I discussed my thesis with multiple accomplished men and women at the Media Evolution Conference, I kept returning to these concepts. Countless conversational 'a-ha' moments took place, even without having a specific topic in mind.
And suddenly, there it was, my thesis topic--at the culmination of personal experience and seasoned passion. I cannot express to you how excited I am to dedicate six months of research to it. It makes so such sense, I don't know how I didn't realize it sooner; especially as I finally had the chance to read Simon Sinek's Start with Why this past summer. Though I must admit the book was a bit repetitive, the takeaway is worth repeating daily: inspire people to do the things that inspire them. I'd recommend his TED talk, too. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
I was recently interviewed for an NPR article on how I wasn't raised speaking Spanish. In a self-inflicted sense, this one linguistic factor has made my role in the Hispanic community (whatever that really means) confusing. I've more so embraced global citizenship, as a result. And it's with all this that I intend to study the communicative relationship between diversity issues and 'ethnic' food scenes in notably international cities: New York, London, Paris. You won't mind joining me as I explore, will you?

Photos from the Square des Batignolle

Saturday, October 26, 2013

kinfolk qs & snail mail

Good morning and happy weekend. I am in the brightest of moods after such a lovely Kinfolk gathering. And I'd love to share my experience with you here! But, I can't... because I enjoyed this unforgettable meal at Holybelly camera-less [hangs head in shame]. Words alone won't do it justice so I'm hoping a new friend will lend me his/her photographic evidence. It's worth waiting for, promise. In the mean time, shall we get to know each other better? Last weekend, Archana bestowed me with a second (!) Liebster award. I also wanted to give a shout-out to Danielle who sent me the sweetest "back to school" package from New York. Merci, vous deux!
  • What’s the first thing you did this morning? Rolled out of bed, put the kettle on for green tea, and poured myself a glass of lemon water. It's one of the only "detox habits" I swear by. I tend to wake up thirsty anyway, and the warm water with lemon juice feels as cleansing as it is--the lemon stimulates the liver and the water flushes out the kidneys.
  • Where would you build or buy a second home or apartment? Assuming I already own an apartment? ;) By the time I have a first home, I expect it to be in New York, so I suppose I wouldn't mind a second one somewhere along the Mediterranean coast (talk about a dream come true). Or perhaps a Parisian pied-à-terre.
  • Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail? I've got to go with You've Got Mail. It was so revolutionarily romantic for its time! Also, I kind of despise the Empire State Building scenes in Sleepless in Seattle ; too cheesy for me.
  • What song gets you pumped? Currently, I'm all about "Sweater Weather" by The Neighbourhood. Case in point.
  • Favorite magazine? I've been on a New Yorker-kick as of late. This article is just one reason why.
  • What’s your #1 way to de-stress? Walking, it has been for a few years now. I've found green spaces to have the optimal de-stress effect. Science has proven it, too.
  • Favorite reality show? I've honestly never watched reality shows. I'm one of few who can't stand 'em, I realize this.
  • Brunch – yay or nay? Yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay... I could go on, but, ye.
  • Favorite board game? Guess Who? or Clue. Apparently I was into games that demanded intellectual prowess ;).
Next, I'd like to pass the Liebster Award on to Rachel, Jenna, Freya, Lisa, and Katie. My questions for you, ladies: Go-to breakfast? Best weekend getaway? Last book you read? Nightcap of choice? Favorite movie? Celebrating halloween? First blog you followed? I'm off to do Saturday to-dos: groceries, clean apartment, drinks with Sandra, and a reunion with Miss Edna. Have a great one!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

recipes for cherished memories

Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is about a month away. And once again I won’t be in the U.S. to celebrate. I'm already preparing to extra-miss my family. But, I also intend to do my best to recreate the shared meal experience with my community here. In Lauren's words, “Living so far from home turns those with whom we share our meals, our laughs, our fears and hugs into our family.”
I was reminded of the fact this past Monday as I hosted Lara and Lorelei for my much-anticipated "Breakfast for Dinner" party. Now, I am again as I recall Lauren and I's latest resto date. We not only enjoyed amazing neighborhood pizza (I was obviously thrilled), but we also discussed the upcoming Parisian Kinfolk Gathering she’s helped organize this Friday with the lovely Holybelly team.

By the way, did you know restaurants began in France after the Revolution? I found out while researching this paper last spring.
“First, it put many domestic cooks on the street, and second, it set many nouveaux riches in search of good places to eat, nouveaux riches in search of respectability and well aware that the dinner table has always served as a place to administer qualifying examinations to the upwardly mobile,” (Ory 457, La Gastronomie). This phenomenon can be viewed as a mild democratization of an opulent dining experience, which of course, was only available to those that could afford it. At the same time, there was an “extreme centralism” of French cuisine shifting from Versailles to Paris.
Some of my favorite memories with family and friends have taken place around a table, and not necessarily in someone's home. There's something so intimate about "breaking bread" together. Or enjoying Corsican pies at a contemporary créateur de pizza.
Speaking of pizza, it's been too long since Chrissie and I made our own. And she's been on my mind as she trains for the New York City marathon in memory of her father. Please consider donating to a very deserving person and cause? I promise to thank you tomorrow at The Kinfolk Table (assuming you're in Paris) and share my mom's stuffed pepper recipe. There are tickets left! “Come enjoy the simple pleasures of a shared meal, where we purposefully nourish ourselves beyond our physical hunger.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

around the world in 5.5 years

C'est my blog’s half-birthday! Yep. Five years, six months, and one day ago, I posted on for the very first time. I'd only hoped to share healthful food and travels on Around the World in 340 Days as I spent two semesters studying abroad in Ecuador, Chile, and France. Who would’ve guessed we'd reach "expat" status half a decade later in Paris?
Not I. And yet, I have... or I feel like I have anyhow. I was telling Marie this past Sunday night that since I've been a full-time intern (as opposed to being a full-time grad student), I've had to create a "real life routine" here. I'm liking it. Now to answer Belinda's prompt for October's Q&As: how do your family and friends back home perceive your new life, and is it accurate?
Inaccurately, I think, but allow me to explain. "Living abroad in Paris" comes with excessive perceptive strings attached. Many Americans supplement the belief that Parisians are rude with the Haussmannian dream or avant-garde edge that the city itself distributes with pride. This is hardly ever a conscious judgement. How could the vast majority of my friends, family, and fellow citizens know otherwise? Especially when there's ample amount of evidence of beautiful buildings, well-dressed residents, and "careful pleasures" like museums, restaurants, and bicycle lanes. (Aside from those celebrating Earth Day, the latter is probably least well known). The photo above is evidence of me trying my best to blend in before revealing an adorable American accent ;).
But would they assume my apéro haunt is an English pub? Mostly because my best French-American friend works there? In addition to an awesome Zimbabwean and French-Algerian musician raised in the States? Probably not. But, that's okay. I have you, this 5.5-year-old blog (obviously we're celebrating because I missed its fifth birthday/Lara's 26th), and the lovely blog community to make up for it. Thank you so much for joining me on this journey to an authentic Parisian life, sans Chanel and (often) champagne...

Monday, October 21, 2013

femininity à la maison

Merci, madame. These words used to make me uncomfortable. Could I no longer be considered a mademoiselle? Had I become the only “ma’am” to be suspiciously carded outside a Parisian bar? (Yes, this really happened, and yes, the drinking age here is 18).
In every language, I’ve generally avoided calling myself “a woman.” I was a girl, a lady, sure, but not a woman. I didn’t believe I could handle the pressure or responsibility that comes with being one. I ain’t no Martha Stewart! And I don’t even usually talk like that. Then, this weekend, I read Rachel Jones’ recent article in The Atlantic, “Homemade is the New Organic.” Her brilliant premise: “I couldn’t help but consider how our attitudes surrounding domesticity, and its current post-feminist, Etsy-fied flavor, have changed our appreciation and definition of what constitutes a home-cooked meal.” Had I, too, fallen victim to believing the modern woman was still defined by her traditional roles of mother, wife, and otherwise humble yet multitalented caretaker? To an extent, yes.
I didn’t have a sexist upbringing... yet my dad worked late six days a week and my mom cleaned and cooked for us, in addition to working from home. She became a real estate agent when I was in high school as well. “Never mind that we are working longer hours and women are still responsible for making the majority of the meals in the home. We are inundated with recipes extolling the virtue of seasonal finds from the local farmer's market, or the health benefits native to exotic oils—good things in their own right.”
Although I wholeheartedly believe in feminist thought and speak up against present-day misogyny and our need to better support each other, in the end, maybe I want the job, the husband, the kids, and the dinner, too? But isn't that mostly okay? Shouldn't I be able to show love and affection through kitchen labors? Aren't I allowed to bake cookies for my coworkers, and be proud of myself for it (mostly because I successfully did so with a toaster oven)? I truly hope it's not any womanly label making me feel this way.
At the very least, it's certainly something to think about. “Home cooking has become warped by our fixation on doing it all and having it all—even in the kitchen.” This past Saturday, I went to a fabulous potluck dinner at Shola's. The culinary highlights: sweet potato-lentil soup, Persian samboosehs, and a plum tart; the latter prepared by a fellow grad student's pastry chef husband. And tonight, I'm thrilled to be hosting a "Breakfast for Dinner" party. On the menu: spinach salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette, hard-boiled eggs, and buttery pancakes with maple syrup and a warm cinnamon-apple compote. The question is: am I making everything moi-même? Not quite; it’ll only be a mostly homemade meal. I’ll come home from the office to a trusty American pancake mix :).

Friday, October 18, 2013

les histoires de cœur

One week ago, early on Saturday morning, I woke up to an email from a best friend. Subject: :). I knew exactly what it was about, even before opening. I called immediately. She'd gotten engaged. My best friend, engaged! And to such a good man! Who loves her so! I've been completely thrilled for them ever since. They so totally deserve their very own happily ever after. And the wedding, gosh, the wedding. She's going to be absolutely stunning and the party will be phenomenal. Outside of our wonderful shared friends, she has other fabulous friends from home and med school, and an amazing family, too. I might be excited to bask in love again.
{home sweet home}
Currently, I might also be in the midst of a thorough self-reflection on the love I've had, have, and will soon/eventually have. I've been thinking about how well I've been honoring and respecting the love I give as well--to myself and to others. Big stuff, people.

I feel like we're not warned enough about how crazy-confusing this twenty-something period of time in our lives is. The rapid flux between the best and worst days is insane. Even navigating with optimism, as I try to do most often, does not ensure peace of mind and heart. It's why I appreciate the lived wisdom from Kate's Project 30s: real perspective from real women who've reached that sense of self I've been told to expect in the next decade. I look forward to it like none other; being able to look back and realize the haphazard journey made perfect sense; wishing with all my heart that I hadn't worried so much about things falling into place.

This is not to say that everything's not still going really well right now--it is. Life is abundant. It's just awkward to be aware of the breadth of post-college trajectories, to know I'm living a pretty alternative one, and to be completely secure in it, day in and day out.

And, to be grateful at the same time, too. I appreciate how fortunate I am to have this time to experience more of the world. I'm thrilled to fiercely study my passions and prepare for a career I can believe in; especially paired with the love of one profoundly special family and friends upon friends scattered across the globe. There will be absolutely no regrets to be had.

I've evolved so much since I last visited K in Oklahoma. If you were a reader then, you may recall we spent our last night watching Like Crazy. What I also remember (and what I failed to mention here) is that I was the only one to desperately enjoy it. I'd needed to see the heartbreaking flaws in another promise. But, that was then, and this is now. A few days ago, I laughed when my 18-year-old sister told me she wants to get married at 26. "Aw," I replied, "just concentrate on happiness. Your love story has its own plan."

"Love will sprinkle itself into your life in little opportune tid bits that are most often completely inopportune and you'll have to choose whether or not you're willing to sacrifice that pride wall you spent all this time building.

. . .

So when the question is how do I find and choose love again, I think the answer is that it’s nothing to be found, it’s there, and choosing it is just very gently reaching out and holding its hand. It’s the most unexpected place and it’s the most overlooked. It requires you to understand that love is far more, far greater and far more poignant than a failed relationship or two, if not romance as a whole. And it requires you to not force it, not lament the certainty of it’s existence and not complain that it isn’t grandeur enough. It’s letting the very small whispers inside you become full fledge symphonies and never worrying that your song isn’t what someone else wants to hear. That’s what the real gesture is, and I hope you do choose to make it."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ten thousand hours

I've mastered very few skills in my life thus far. The "problem": my darling parents gave me the opportunity to try lots of things, so I did a bit of everything. I played piano, softball, and field hockey. I attended art camps, writing classes, and dance rehearsals. I sang in the chorus and performed in school plays. I was active in VIF (Valhalla International Fund) and Spanish club. Oh, and I was a Girl Scout, until the age of 18. Because of those many extracurricular activities though, I never had a chance to focus on any one in particular. I'm mostly okay with that. It set the stage, so to speak, for a dynamic interest set (and made for an entertaining yearbook biography). Yet it's also left me in complete awe of those who have dedicated years to becoming one of the best at... something.

Like, Macklemore, for instance. He's positively amazing in concert. I know this because I saw him and Ryan Lewis perfom live at Le Zénith two weekends ago, just strides away from the lawn I practiced yoga on this past summer. They opened with "Ten Thousand Hours." Please enjoy it as much as we obviously did. And forgive me for the obnoxious howling :). Consider it proof of a great time?
Lara, Tatenda, and I spent four hours on a Sunday night dancing like crazies and singing our little hearts out. Still, it's worth noting that I was most impressed by the content of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' music--real issues and tangible opinions. Take "Ten Thousand Hours": inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. (Random fun fact: I quickly skimmed through it on a Boston trip 3 years ago). Within it, he attributes roughly 10,000 hours of practice as the key to any success. "Achievement is talent plus preparation.” It may not always be applicable, but if that's what it took for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to produce The Heist, it definitely works.
So, it's extra incredible how long my cousins have been practicing. They've spent their entire lives cultivating their creative talent. Recently, they released their collaborative passion project, "Humble Beginnings", and I couldn't be more proud of nor impressed with Dylan and Bianca Golden. Way to go, familia! Share it with your networkstp? They deserve all the success in the world.
As for me, I don't mind being a "grown-up" with an appreciation for yellow bouncy balls for now ;). Mastery in _________ to come.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

capture the color

Publish five photographs which 'Capture the Colour'. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. In addition to having an artistic eye and access to expensive camera gear, pro-photographers are well-versed in editing software. The best are also magnificent curators, expertly choosing shots which best represent the beauty of a moment caught on film (or a memory card). I, my dears, am not a pro-photographer. I simply delight in manifesting visual memories of experiences I can later share with family, friends, and lovely people like you. But when both Sara and Robert invited me to partake in this year's Photoblogging Competition, I could hardly refuse...

It took me days upon days to scour through my photo archives for five which (1) are predominately monochrome (obviously I wasn't entirely successful) and (2) "showcased the beauty of our planet's natural landscape, impressive man-made wonders and exotic cuisine, as well as animals, friends and once-in-a-lifetime experiences." As life's abundance often translates to a busy schedule, I figured I'd drop in now that I'm satisfied--enough--with my entry. Do you have a favorite? Thank you to Sara and Robert for the challenge! Now, it's my turn to nominate five more bloggers to join. I chose a few whose photography skills I especially admire:
Hope you can participate, ladies! If so, make sure to complete your entry with a tweeted link and #CTC13 to @travelsupermkt.

Friday, October 11, 2013

basic abundance

"Life feels so abundant right now." I can't even tell you how many times I've said that in the past few weeks, nor how happy my certainty of the fact makes me. The craziest part? Not much has changed since I felt so out of place this summer. I still spend most of my time interning, and the rest of it trying to enjoy life in Paris on a tighter-than-ever-before budget. Now, I just happen to have a thesis topic instead of a boyfriend. And much to my (relieved) surprise, that slight shift seems to have been the right one. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the serendipitous trip to Sweden that provided the mental and physical space to realize it.
I've been focusing on people who inspire and animate me, and directing my modest finances towards local treasures and quality meals. The one above, for instance: brunch with Gillian. It lasted five hours and Sol Semilla was only our first stop. Like I said, abundant; and on an individual level, too. I've been reading, walking, and cooking to my heart's content. I've also done some preliminary thesis research, and thus am over the moon with excitement. If I share something super fun (like a recent Macklemore concert), will you be patient as I geek out and tell you all about it? Maybe take the weekend to consider it? :) have a good one!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

château vaux-le-vicomte

French nostalgia gets to me sometimes. I'd like to say, “I get it, your ancestors created enviable restaurants, furniture, clothes, paintings, films, literature, buildings, and more… but you're not inherently cultured because of it. You do not have the liberté to look down on the origins of others nor a valid excuse for resisting innovation and alternative thought. Please refrain from reinforcing a stereotype of snobbery, okay?" But then I take a deep breath, get off my own high horse, and visit Châteaux Vaux-le-Vicomte...
And I get it. Such a gorgeous castle! From the architecture to the fabrics, it's my favorite thus far. And the gardens, oh, the gardens. Thank God for Le Nôtre and the acres of beauty he left us. What an extraordinary Saturday afternoon we had at Châteaux Vaux-le-Vicomte because of it... which brings me back to my original thoughts on French nostalgia. Appreciating the past can be so much more positive a force than that of discriminatory remarks. In fact, "nostalgizing helps people relate their past experiences to their present lives in order to make greater meaning of it all," (Huffington Post). French or not, we can better inform our future by keeping history alive and reveling in its aestheticism; a constructive joie de vivre, if you will. There are few things more worthwhile.

Monday, October 7, 2013

bonne maman

Friday night, moments after Lorelei and I enjoyed yummy tamales for a great cause, a cute guy asked me: "Why France?" He was wondering what made me decide on this country out of so many others as the place I'd purse a master's degree. "It was the safest option," I replied. And it's true. I love art, food, and wine. Also, I studied French in college, spent a semester living in Strasbourg, and knew I had the most wonderful French family who'd care for me like one of their own. Moving to Paris was scary, yes, but I had a familiar safety net to arrive to. This past Saturday, I took a break from the city spend the day with Marie-Christine and Patrick.
Almost immediately upon arriving, we took a seat here, in the living room, to catch up as we enjoyed a pre-lunch apéritif. (I haven't seen them since Marie's birthday!) Then we moved into the dining room for the weekend lunch above: leeks vinaigrette, stewed turkey with potatoes and mango, puréed celery root, brussels sprouts, lettuce salad, camembert, tarte aux pommes, and, of course, wine and bread. We finished the amazing meal with small cups of strong coffee. I doubt I'd be in France now were it not for the goodness of Marie and her family. And what a shame it would be to miss out on apéro plans with the aforementioned cute guy... ;)