Month: November 2013

Partaaaay

 A few weeks back, Pau and I once again hit a 1 year mark on our progression through time. To celebrate being now ridiculously old, we dressed up in our finery, and danced around the apartment.

Which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, as long as you remember to invite some friends.

The theme was Movies and Music.. I’m something vaguely Gatsby, and Pau is Sandy, from Grease.

(I should note that about half the photos below are taken from Pau- Thanks Pauli!)

Andy, complete with Energy Dome, went as one of the members of the band Devo. Which no-one knew, so he spent the whole evening singing ‘Whip it‘ to anyone who would listen

Harry Potter:

Napolean Dynamite. Complete with Tatertots (a.k.a- pretty much the best birthday present I’ve ever been given)

and moon boots:

Adam also spent the night discovering that Napoleon Dynamite is less international than he had thought.

A very beautiful fairy:

Some cat-women

Marylin-Marylin Manson:

And Brian Molko from Placebo:

And this very charming couple:

(Heidi and Seal)

Alice and some friends:

and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

A dinosaur a dinosaur!!!

And these two- who make up my favourite photo of the evening:

(Dr Zhivago and his lady love)- I have never seen anyone rule a mustache quite like Anna did that evening:

(and yes, that includes you Heidi Klum).

Although The Dude also had pretty cool facial hair going on:

On with the photos:

Thanks for all the fun everyone- I was super impressed that you actually all bothered to dress up!

Paris I

Day One In Paris

I hope you know us well enough to guess that we left the whole ‘booking’ thing until the very last of minutes…

But it turned out quite well. We came up against the option of paying x euros per person and being thrown into the smallest of rooms in the oldest of hostels in the furthest corners of paris, or paying x+ a little bit more and staying in a shoebox apartment in the 9th (the ”burbs’ in Paris go clockwise out from the centre).

It was a pretty cool locale, not just in terms of location, but also in that it was one of these apartments that was originally for the maids and butlers- hidden on the hidden 6th floor (which you literally got to by pushing a wooden panel, ducking through this secret door and hiking up tiny rickety steps). Super cool!

Tiny- but perfect! I’m standing in the kitchen area, which came complete with all the necessities including stove and microwave, the toilet is behind me, and the rest is what you see (the couch folds out into two single beds). Looking back the other way:

Plus, in the evening, you could see Sacre Coeur from the window:

.. and in the mornings it was all sunshine and light and that beautiful architecture:

On the first day we did what by this time I can comfortably refer to as our traditional walking tour, which had us roaming around the city, peering at buildings and giggling at over-exaggerated history.

 

Paris is a much more beautiful city than Berlin- which seems to be mostly due to a couple of reasons:
a) the did a major city overhaul at some time in history and set the whole thing up in a logical and united way (of course to the loss of the masses who lived in the city- many of whom could not afford the re-mod)
b) it did not get bombed to oblivion in the war (although Hitler ordered it to be raised to the ground when he realised his imminent defeat, apparently this guy disobeyed the orders- most likely to save his own neck).
c) communism with its delight in grey, concrete and pre-fabricated uniformity, did not get such a hold. I mean check out this comrade- sure, dismantling the church and giving the money to the poor is a great idea, but can we start with NOT the really beautiful 100 year old marvelous beauties?

I’d probably let this one hang around too:

But not with the ugly viewing platform, which is meant to give people ‘a new perspective’ on the building.

These Parisians are so artistic.

Notre Dame for those of you playing at home- the original hang-out spot of my beloved Mr Hugo’s hunchback.

The river Seine. When my cousin, sister and I used to act out Les Mis in our living room (I was of course Gavroche, because he’s the only one with any balls in the whole piece) we all thought it was hilarious that Javert went insane and jumped in the river Seine. 

Not that the suicide part was funny- although the way I acted it (I was also Javert- there were only 3 of us after all), it was probably more comedy than provoking heart-breaking realisations and deep existential thoughts.

Hoho! What’s that peaking out in the distance there?

The Love Lock bridge. I think it’s Pont de l’Archeveche (insert appropriate accents in your own time) but I could be wrong. Internets says that this bridge is for your lover and the Pont des Arts if for long time love, but in any case this seemed to be the bride where it was all happening.

I just found some info about how horrible it is that the beautiful historical bridge is being ruined by locks. I agree that it might not be great for the environment, throwing hundreds of keys in the river and having rusty locks occasionally make their way in (although from the looks of the Seine, there are worse things floating by), but still- they look so pretty all a-glistening in the sunshine.

 Next stop, The Louvre.

Our guide- to be honest he was only ok.

And now for my favourite photo, ever:

We took a break and Andy stuffed himself with some Mc-Macarons, and I managed to rind myself a Nutella-almond-banana crepe.

Onwards with the travels!

/

These are in the Jardin des Tuileries, which is right next to the Louvre and holds the Orangerie and the photography museum.

I think the crow adds a certain something to the photo.

The tour ended by about 4, and we were both starving, so we followed the group into a little cafe and stuffed our faces for a long, satisfying period of time.

Andy ordered the snails, and spent quite a while trying to get the little buggers to stay on the tongs in a way that also made it possible to get them out of their shell.

I had the french onion soup, which was more bread than soup, and more cheese than bread. Together, we made for a rather hilarious lunch duo.

Ultimately, we both thought the snails were only ok- they probably needed more garlic- and while they worked well if you poured the snail and its associated herb butter onto some crusty french baguette, the actual snail part itself seemed to be more of a ‘medium’ than a ‘truth upon itself’… and not a particularly tasty or texturally delightful medium either.

We both had some sort of Boeuf Bourguignon for mains. It was lovely and tender, and very appreciated after a year of pork-chicken-pork-pork-potatoes-pork in Germany. Still, I suspect Ella (my sister) makes better.

We wandered around the city a bit more, and then, tired out by all the walking and eating, headed back to the apartment for an hour or two before dinner (more eating!).

Excited by the fact that Paris seems to be made up of people of more than a single origin, we stuffed our face with some sort of middle eastern fair, and made our way back to the apartment with these sugary delights:

Macar-Roaming around Paris

Last time I went to Paris (with Ashlee and Lauren), we were way too poor to even contemplate biting into ‘les macarons’….

…this time, I endeavoured to make up for that lack.

I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit where my first french macaron came from:

Andy had been prattling on for months about how he intended to eat Mc-arons and Mc-Donalds in France, and to tell you the truth we all thought he was talking bull. But lo! The mc-mass-produced mc-macaron:

And to be honest, they’re not too bad. Better than 80% of the stuff you could find in Perth a year ago when everyone thought they should try getting on this new trend and charging 3 bucks for stale/overbaked/flavourless biscuity things. Quite mild on the flavour with the pistachio, and perhaps not so melt-in-the-mouth as possible. But they have a range of the basics- chocolate, choc/orange, strawberry, pistachio, and they only cost 90c a pop.

Andy claims that they were his favourite out of all the ones we tried. But this is a boy who eats a Mc-double burger at least twice a week and who I’m pretty sure is being paid by the company to constantly sing their praise.

In keeping with the fairly unadventurous flavours, we shelled out for a strawberry-choc-lemon trio at the Lourve. I know that you can’t really expect the finest in pastries and baking at a mega tourist destination, and these settled fairly well into our expectations- mild flavours, ok, but nothing to write home about.

By the third day in Paris it became apparent that we just weren’t going to get enough Macarons into the trip by mere chance encounters. So, in order to up-the-odds and take a stab a the best of the best, we headed on a pilgrimage.

First up, Lauduree.

Which is all beauty and pastels and Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Unfortunately also very dim so hard to get good photos from the inside:

The world is divided into two factions: Sharks and Jets, Pepsis and Cokes, people who spell colour with a ‘u’ and people who are confused.

In the world of Macarons the lovers of Lauduree are pitted against the Pierre Herme gang.

 Slightly less fancy than the Lauduree setup.

We had to pass more hideous scenery to get to our final tour stop.

Our final stop was Sadaharu Aoki, famed for it’s adventurous use of flavours. Unsurprisingly, the set up here was more Japanese: beautiful in its order, everything in its place (the macarons were organised in a spectrum!), and slightly more sterile. I snuck this photo in before they banned me from any more:

We sat in the sun in a park, and settled into our Macarons.

First up, Sadaharu Aoki:

We bought Macha (green tea), Earl grey, Sesame, Japanese citrus (Yuzu) and Wasabi.

I really enjoyed the experimental quality of the different flavours. All of them tasted pretty good- even the wasabi, which was only mildly flavoured with the horseradish tang neatly cutting through the sweeter filling. Macha (green tea) and Earl grey were also pretty amazing- the sweetness counterbalanced by the bitterness of the teas. Generally the texture was great, although less delicate than other macarons. These were instead beautifully chewy, with the fillings very much a ganache or even fudge.

My favourite was the sesame- which had a dark, rather potent centre to counteract the sugary shell.

All in all: I would definitely return to try out some of the other flavours, they had a genmaicha and maybe one or two more ‘interesting’ ones as well as the traditional range. They’re also a bit cheaper than the other two brands (I think 1.65 each?).

(The black sesame- amazingly good!)

Next up, Pierre Herme.

I’m not entirely sure of the flavours, here, because it didn’t come with a wee booklet and it’s rather difficult to find a flavour list online. hmm.

So:
Passionfruit and chocolate (‘Mogador’)
Pure Venezuelan dark chocolate
Rose and Lichi
Yogurt and Banana
White truffle
and something else that I feel might have had some pistachio in it? but was clearly unmemorable as a flavour (Andy confirms on pistachio, and on the lack of impression the whole thing left).

We were both a bit underwhelmed by these. Generally the biscuit was a bit too crispy on the outside for my liking- almost dry, and with a small air gap underneath instead of melt-in-your-mouth macaron.

The flavours were definitely inventive, but not always in an amazingly synergistic way: the passionfruit/choc tasted a bit like the fruits were old so that this macaron first tasted offputting (before you realised that that weird flavour in the background was passionfruit), the chocolate ganache was rich, but too hard for my liking- it was really a solid mass and not a ganache, the litchi flavour was too faint to properly grasp, the yogurt/banana tasted like candy…

None of them really caught out tastebuds.

Not to mention that the white truffle was the most horrible thing I have ever put in my mouth. Which I guess is a matter of taste, but I feel also amounts to the fact that they overdid the flavouring. By the end of the day all our remaining PH macarons were completely contaminated with truffle flavour.

I should also note that the PH macarons top the price list at 2 euros each.

On to our final player: Lauduree. They had a fairly disappointing range of flavours- mostly the standards with only a few creative options. We went for the coffee, the blackcurrent and violet, the Pink peppercorn and the gingerbread.

I didn’t think I’d be that into the blackcurrent, but it came pretty closely behind the sesame as far as favourite flavours go- the filling was a fresh jam- not to sweet, and potent enough to be present against the almondy background of the shell. The gingerbread, which had a more buttery filling, was also exceedingly delicious- top 5 for sure.

And I was amazed at how well the peppercorn worked- even for someone who doesn’t like the flavour of pepper (I keep it away from my food), I was impressed by the delicate balances between the sweetness and spiciness of the filling. The creaminess also played a role- and I found myself much more impressed by the delicate smooth texture of this filling over the rock-hard ganache of the PH chocolate macaron.

So, I liked the Lauduree macarons (1.85 each) for texture and would like to explore their more classical range, but found their range of flavours limited enough that I would definitely stray more often to Sadaharu (for the Sesame and Macha- and because I really actually enjoy the chewier macarons with solid centres- even if this is not as ‘technically macarony’ as some people would prefer)… to be honest I would even return to PH if they introduced something new and thrilling, but with lower expectations and with intent to stay far, far away from anything flavoured by earth fungi.

Andy, of course, votes McDs number one, but I suspect he’s not cultured enough for his opinion to count in this matter.