Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Asian Food in Paris Sucks

So remember the post where I said I missed Asian food from New York? Apparently, I'm not alone. According to this article from the Atlantic (graciously shared with me by my friend Mollie), authentic asian is hard to come by in Paris for a few reasons, all of which surprised the author.

Reasons cited:

  1. Hard to source the ingredients. I think this is a lazy excuse, however, it does explain why it would be so expensive here. However, in my opinion, there are some 'westerner' substitutes that can suffice and as long as the spices are there, the food should work. NEXT
  2. The French are more about 'integrating' their emigrants into society, as opposed to just letting them maintain their heritage while living in France. This makes sense to me and I learned this in my multi-cultural training. If you live in France and you're an emigrant, you're French. The French encourage this (apparently it stemmed from when they lost so many lives in WWI and WWII trying to make up for population gaps. They still have the highest birth rate in Europe). Thus, when you're here it's VERY FRENCH despite being such a global city. In NY, we have china town, little italy, little korea, japan town, russian neighborhoods in brooklyn, etc in which you could live perfectly fine with only knowing you native tongue. Hell, I used to hear more Spanish on the subway than English. Not the case here (there are small patches of restos together, but rarely). This also stems to the food they are serving -- it's more 'french/asian' which means less spice, more sutble. Dont' get me wrong this happens in the US too (hellooo general tso's chicken), but in NY you can still find authentic food at a decent price (if not dirt cheap).
  3. It's a developing market. French diners love French food. They didn't grow up with all the choices that we have in the US, so the demand isn't there. YET. From what I've seen of the Paris food scene so far, it's infectious and trendy, and I think all it takes is one great restaurant, serving delicious (and spicy!) food at a decent price to tip this over the edge.
  4. Rent isn't that expensive apparently so maybe mediocre places can exist. So this isn't in the article and isn't corroborated, however, I learned the rent of a cute little resto in the 9th and was floored by how cheap it was. Like 1/10 what it would normally be in NYC. It was a fairly reliable source and it could be an exception, however, with the vacancy rates I've seen for businesses, as well as the number of seemingly crappy restos that stay in business (not to mention are barely open from 10-2, tues-fri), I wouldn't be surprised.
From all of this, I see an opportunity. Parisians love great food...Asian food is great food, and the Asian food in paris is not great. Now if only I could convince my favortie Sushi, Thai, Indian, and Korean BBQ to open Paris branches, we'd all be bajillionaires. Project for 2012? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fun Fact

Did you know there are 16 ways to say the sound 'o' in French?

Eau, eaux, au, o, oh, aux, aus...that's all I can think of at this point. My intercultural trainer (what does that even mean???) shared this fun fact with us this last week as an example of how French spelling is so hard. You're telling me! She said it's because French is a very regional language and when they came together to make it one common language they took the different endings from all over the place (like the Bordeaux O sound, for example).

And the bad news is that the French are very particular about their spelling.... so I'm seeing a lot of flash cards for memorization in my future. YAY!?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Learning how to be an ExPat

I had an 'intercultural' training provided by work yesterday, which gave me about 1 million ideas for blog posts. It was an interesting day -- we had low expectations (thought it would be cheesy), but overall it was enjoyable and I learned a lot.

Some high-lights which are blog-worthy, but not post-worthy, include:
  • Ordering soda with a meal is frowned upon in France. French people believe you should either have water (sparkling is okay) because it is natural and doesn't hinder taste, or wine which enhances. The sweetness of coke overpowers flavor and is thus, unacceptable.
  • You should never cut your lettuce. Which is confusing to me when I have a big honking piece of iceberg lettuce on my plate. Instead, you must fold the lettuce (using your knife, maybe) and then eat. Also, you shouldn't cut eggs (and cheese? something else...) with a knife. They say you should cut it with the side of your fork.
  • Parisians/French generally go home afterwork. It is very unheard of to socialize during the week. Thus,  this explains the importance placed on socializing at the coffee machine or at lunch, as that is the only time to really 'connect' with your co-workers.
  • Did you know the French like wine? Because they really do. It was reiterated one nore time in the training. Once again, the trainer was impressed with my knowledge of the regions (thanks Andrea!).
Anywho, lots of interesting stuff which I'll share in the upcoming weeks. Most notably that 'France is a country of exceptions' which can be incredibly aggravating for us anglos. Anywho, hope everyone is having a super happy thanksgiving!!!!!! We're doing our Turkey in France tomorrow with some new friends...our Kitchen is getting it's first road test.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Mexican food in Paris?! Oh my!

Food I miss from New York:

  • Mexican food (mainly chipotle, let's be honest)
  • Sushi (there's a ton here, but I haven't found a good place...or a cheap place)
  • Thai Food (same as sushi comment)
  • Indian Food (apparently hard to come by)
  • Hamburgers (I'm on the prowl, I think I've found a good place. Can Shake Shack travel?)
Basically, I eat a lot of bread and cheese. Which is FABULOUS. However, I need me some spicy food in my life. In honor of this request, Andrew made Fajitas last night using a handy 'french' fajita kit that looked eerily similar to Old El Paso. You know the one -- bright yellow, chicken just oozing out the sides (see above). Fajitas from a box may not be gourmet, it may not even be Mexican, but it is a tasty treat and just enough Mexican spice to kill my chipotle craving (who am I kidding, it's a fire that can't be extinguished!)

We also made our own chips (yay deep frying!) and guac. One thing I've never understood is why Mexican food doesn't travel well the further you are from Mexico (even those from Cali/Texas would say the New York food isn't 'really' mexican food). We had this issue in Asia whilst travelling-- mexican food just didn't taste right and I did not get it. All of the ingredients exist, hell, all the ingredients in all mexican dishes are exactly the same, yet it doesn't taste the same in other countries. One of the world's biggest mysteries, right up there with stone henge and the pyramids to be sure :-)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Macarons & Cupcakes: NY vs. Paris

I found another favorite NY vs Paris poster:

However, I believe the lines are blurring on this one. Ladurée, the amazingly famous macaron patiserrie in Paris, has recently opened in NYC and Cupcakes are increasingly popular in Paris. To be honest, Ladurée is not my favorite macaron....and if you want to know a little secret my favorite Macron isn't even in Paris (although all macaron places in Paris have not been exhausted). When I lived in Long Island City in Queens, I had a little bakery in the bottom of my building, appropriately named Little Oven. And honestly, these are the freshest, most delicious macarons you'll ever encounter. They also have very fun flavors (try the earl grey tea, passion fruit, and salted caramel for sure!). Also, my favorite NYC cupcake is not's another little place called Baked By Melissa. Her cupcakes are deliciously miniature, with fantastic flavor offerings (my favorites are cookie dough and red velvet cake YUM).

I also have noticed cupcakes in Paris are on the up and up...There was even a cupcake camp recently...What is a cupcake camp? Good question. According to the website "nearly 500 people descended on Le Comptoir General to eat around 2600 cupcakes made by 60+ professional and amateur cupcakers." That sounds like just the right amount of crazy and yummy.

Alors, this post has made me very hungry for something sweet :) Bon Weekend!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Le Baron Bouge??!?!?!

So you may recall a post about one of my favorite bistros Le Baron Rouge a while back. APPARENTLY, according to my "Authentic Bistros of France" book, the Baron Rouge is actually called the Baron Bouge. This completely blew my mind so I have started an investigation. It began on the internets, in which case I've come across a trip advisor page for the Baron Rouge and the Baron Bouge, pointed to the same place. However, the Rouge one has 15 reviews, while the other 9...Point 1 for Rouge.

Further desk research, found this blog in which the blogger claims they changed the name due to copyright infringement from some "member of the public." However, according to my book, it's because the neighborhood was originally sort of bouge-y and the clientale fit the mark. It also is a clever play on words.

Looking closer at the picture, the B from Baron and the B from Bouge definitely don't match. The R was clearly changed to a B and if not it seems like an odd design choice. Who to believe?!?!?!

Really the only next step is to go and investigate myself...and perhaps have 6 oysters, a cheese and meat plate, and a bottle of muscadet 'just to make sure' everything is in order :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Antoni Gaudi: Te Quiero

To say that I love the work of Gaudi is only one part of the story. I am incredibly inspired, moved, and touched by his work, more so than any other architect I've encoutered thus far (keeping my mind open!). Seeing the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, and Parc Guell were definitely the sites I was looking forward to the most in Barcelona, however, in many ways I was scared to go back because of how much I loved them 10 years ago. Boy, they did not disappoint.

It's interesting because back then I could not articulate how, or why they moved me--I just LOVED the buildings and could spend hours there. I remember taking picture after picture (rolls of film at that time, can you imagine? ha) and although I always loved photography, the details that I kept finding and the angles I was using taking the photos were unlike anything I had done before. Gaudi had inspired me. Although I've never considered myself an artisic person, I like to think I'm a perceptual artist. I can appreciate art, design, and am interested in it, but never feel entirely compelled to create. However, Gaudi changes all that in me and I've walked away from this weekend incredibly energized.

In my day to day, I am helping to support and inspire innovation. Gaudi, like other geniuses, is an innovator. He didn't invent the Catholic cathedral, but he innovated it, much like Jobs didn't invent the smart phone, he just made it better. The Sagrada Familia has all the elements that you would associate with a brilliant cathedral, but he's turned most of them on their head. Cathedrals are generally dark, somber places -- Sagrada Familia is filled with light. Cathedrals are generally inspired by the church ("it's a grander church"), whereas Sagrada Familia was inspired by Nature. Gaudi saw God everywhere, particularly nature, and tried to bring that into the structure. He also thought about all the amazing details, from acoustics, to the symbolism of every statue, to the the celestial proportions. All of this really makes me look differently at 'a bloody cup of yogurt' (as a previous manager has said) with a new light asking "What rules can I break, but keep the essence of yogurt?"

It's amazing to me when my personal interests and what I get paid to do intersect. I feel really lucky that with 99% of my day to day I'm doing things that I actually enjoy. All geniuses, like Gaudi, Picasso, and Jobs have one thing in common - and that is passion. And although I never strive to be a genius, I do strive to find passion in what I do. And I thank Gaudi, among others, for the inspiration.

Here are some pics iPhone using Instamatic. I'm quite obsessed with that App.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Picasso: He's not like us

Apologies for the lack of content this week ....I've been overdosing on jamon and manchego cheese in Seville at a conference for work. I swear if I didn't have salted meat until the new year I'd be totally okay with it. There I said it.

Anywho, I'm extemely excited that my amazing friend charisse from new York is joining me in Barcelona this weekend for her early 30th birthday activities. I'm in Barcelona now anxiously awaiting her arrival. In an effort to pretend I'm cultured I just spent a couple of hours at the picasso museum (side note: does it really count as you going to a museum if you don't tell someone? ). It's actually a really awesome exposé on his life and work. There are some oil paintings he did whilst he was 12 which will blow your mind. (I believe my mother has kept some of my artwork from my childhood...abstract may be an appropriate way to describe it)

Anywho, one of the coolest things I saw was a video of some of paintings towards the end of the museum. It showcased the original las meninas painting by valezquez that picasso based an impressive 57 painting on. The cool thing was it overlayed picassos work on the painting so you could see the inspiration and get a glimpse into picassos brain.

Im doing this on my phone so I'm not sure how the pics will upload but I'm hoping you can see the picture of the little girl and then picassos interpretation. It's quite extraordinary. I'm sure I'll have more Spain stories to tell but so far Barcelona is as amazing as I remember and am looking forward to the weekend!

Ps for those of you wondering why I'm not working, it's remembrance day in France. Yay holidays.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bikes in Amsterdam

How many bikes are fished out the canal in Amsterdam?

Answer: A LOT
Look at that claw!! It's huge, sort of like those games at the carnival.

I have never seen as many bikes as I've seen in Amsterdam. And where do they park them all?

Answer: In a bike parking garage of course.
Incredible. I love that city.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wine poker

So I'm in Amsterdam for an innovation summit the past two days...this city is amazing. I can't believe I haven't been here before.

Anywho, the important story is how I won 'wine poker' last night. We were at a 'bonding' event (love corporate culture ha) and one of the games was to correctly identify 6 wines made by the same grape. Full disclosure; it was multiple choice. HOWEVER, I'm quite proud that I got all 6 right. Around the table were 3 guys from France, a girl from Belgium, another from Austria and one from England. One of the French guys got all 6 right as well so we had a 'smell off'. We were given three bottles with different scents and we had to properly identify them. The first was vanilla (easy) the second was toast (I said chestnut) and the third that gave me the win was pineapple. I'd like to go ahead and thank the country of Thailand for introducing me to that beautiful fruit.

The Europeans were unimpressed that my palate was a tad more discerning than theirs. Apparently Cabernet Sauvignon is tough to identify (for some ha). And in typical American fashion I gloated the whole night about my win. My parents would be proud.