Archive for September, 2011

No Gnashing at Nanashi

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

A few months ago, Tom and I walked past a cafe that caught my eye and stuck in my brain as a “What is this cafe and should I go there?” kind of place. Completely coincidentally, a few days later I was reading a restaurant review on a Paris blog and realised that they were discussing the place we had walked past and its sister cafe in the Marais. The reviews were good. My mind was set – I would try it one day.

Yesterday was that day, as Tom and I met up with our friend Pip for our regular lunch and shopping outing. Nanashi is an organic Japanese fusion restaurant, describing itself as “Le Bento Parisien”. It is definitely a mix of French and Japanese food using the best of both cuisines and focuses on using wholesome, organic ingredients. I have sampled food from other Japanese  restaurants in Paris and all I will say is that it isn’t Japanese. There were cheese sticks involved and you can only buy meat-on-a-stick or sushi. The French are missing out.

Nanashi restaurant

I love restaurants with chalk board menus

The restaurant is modern and simple and the French aspect of the restaurant is easily seen in the grumpy waitstaff taking your orders (when they feel like it.) The menu is limited and you have a choice of three bento boxes – vegetarian, meat or fish. Tom and I both chose the fish bento (a salmon cake) and Pip took the meat (veal.) The first good sign was the delicious sourdough bread they gave us, upholding the necessities of free bread in a French restaurant. Sometimes it is a relief to not be served baguette.

Nanashi bread

Good bread

Our bento boxes arrived and they were amazing – my salmon cake was full of fresh salmon, potatoes and spices and then coated in a crunchy crust. The bentos came with a delicious quinoa and lentil mix, as well as three different types of salad. It was a meal that made you feel alive and full of goodness. I know some people will look at this and think it is toffee-nosed food for health-freaks but it was absolutely scrumptious and filling.

Nanashi Bento

My salmon bento

I had read about the desserts at Nanashi and wanted to try them so was relieved when my fellow lunchers wanted dessert as well. We each chose something different – Pip had a carrot cake, Tom chose the chocolate and ginger fondant, while I took a risk and chose the matcha (green tea) cheesecake. I am so glad I did.

Nanashi cake

Blurry photo but amazing cake

It was soft and rich and the bitterness of the green tea wasn’t overpowering but softened the sweetness of the cake. I don’t normally choose cheesecake as I find them too excessive but I am currently drooling and dreaming about the day I can go back and eat some more. With regularly changing menus I will definitely be revisiting this restaurant. Plus I have to go and try the original Nanashi which is only a few streets away from my apartment!

Anyone For Table Tennis?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Autumn has arrived in Paris with the trees shedding their leaves at rapid speed. However, the past week has also seen beautiful warm weather – perfect conditions for spending the day outside. A recent visit to GoSport (an awful store selling all your sporting needs) saw Tom and I investing in a table tennis set. We didn’t just choose the cheapest option either – we went for the ultimate in table tennis brands, Dunlop.

There are lots of table tennis tables spread throughout the city in local parks and along the canal, and they are in high demand on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But if you’re lucky enough to score one then much fun can be had. Ben, Tom and I took our new set out for a spin the other Sunday at a table situated next to a lock on the canal and underneath some beautiful chestnut trees. We encountered a few potential dangers – the table wasn’t in the greatest condition and appears to also be used as a beer table, drug exchange hangout and a homeless-person’s bed; the canal/lock was right next to us and any mishit balls would end up in the water (this happened twice); and the chestnut seeds are currently in the habit of bursting open and dropping large cannonball chestnuts onto our heads. They hurt! Trust me.

Table tennis

Table tennis by the canal

We struggled on despite these dangers and discovered a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. This last Saturday, Tom and I headed back out to have a hit and had to walk up and down the canal for over half an hour in order to find a table. There are clearly dedicated table-tennis-ers who concentrate on their game play, as well as families out enjoying themselves, and groups of friends drinking beer and having a friendly game. I think as the weather cools down there will be less competition for the tables but we will also freeze to death playing next to open water. That’s the life of a pro table tennis player.

The Future

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Recently I had developed a dream-like world which I was quite certain would exist for me next year. I was going to extend my stay at Les Récollets and simply hop-skip-and-jump between France and non-schengen zone countries to avoid returning to Australia and applying for a new visa. Unfortunately, in the last few days, reality has hit.

It appears the “Schengen Zone” doesn’t want visitors, or people like myself who think they can avoid paper work by country-hopping. They have set a stupid rule that says you can only stay within the Schengen zone (an area of about 15 European countries who have formed a pact to keep the foreigners out) for a total of 90 days within a six month period. This would mean I would have to go to England or Switzerland for three whole months, which a. I can’t afford and b. I don’t want to do. Here lies Problem Number One.

Problem Number Two for my achieving my dreams for next year is that I am not allowed to extend my stay at Les Récollets. Dang. It turns out that a lot of people want to come and stay here (fair enough) and they have already been turned away and put on a waiting list. Basically, if I am allowed to stay here then I would be jumping the queue and really I shouldn’t even be staying here in the first place.

So there we are. My first reaction to all of this news was to break down and declare that my world was over. I then went for a jog, drank some wine, and slept on it and I have since realised there is potential in these new developments.

Potential Number One: It looks like I will have to go back to Australia (I’ll get to use my return ticket after all!) and apply for a new Visa. I am currently trying to find SOMEONE who can tell me if I can apply for a long stay visa in France. No one seems to know or be willing to divulge such information. I wouldn’t mind going back to Australia for February as that would mean I would get to see a REAL SUMMER instead of the rubbish summer Paris put on for me and I could go to a REAL BEACH. Plus I would have to then fly to Sydney to apply for my visa, allowing me to visit my best friend AND I’d be around for another friend’s wedding. So it ain’t all bad. Oh, and I could eat some of my mum’s cooking. Go chicken and asparagus!

Potential Number Two: We would get to live somewhere new. We haven’t entirely decided if we’ll stay in Paris and just try and find an apartment (a scary adventure in itself) or if we will change countries. I am still voting for staying in Paris as I’m not finished with this city and I haven’t written my award winning book yet, but this turn of events has made for a much more interesting spin in my epic tale! Other options include Germany or Holland. I have to say I love the Germans as they are already winning in the “Come and live here!” competition. I can apply for a travel work visa for Germany in France! I could even go to Germany and apply there! That’s amazing. But then I couldn’t go swimming at the beach. And I’d have to learn German. And I’d get fat from eating sausages and drinking beer.

Anyway, that’s how it is at the moment. Lots to think about. I am sad that I am going to be leaving the residency as I have made so many friends through it, however it won’t be far away and I know I’ll be allowed to come to all of the parties. I hope to find an apartment somewhere nearby as I really love living in this area. So much to see and do. But there’s a lot more of Paris to explore. Let the new adventures begin.

A Visit From Big Brother

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Last week saw the arrival of my older brother, Ben, visiting his little sis before heading to England to learn how to bake at the School of Artisan Food. Despite being siblings, we tend to get along quite well and have quite a few things in common, including a desire to make things. We went on an exploratory tour of Paris’s sewing and knitting shops and discovered a few new gems that I will return to another time to either undertake courses or buy fun things like knitting needles, wool and cross stitch patterns. We also completed two courses – a macaron baking course and a knitting course. Fun fun!

The macaron course was run by La Cuisine which delivers English courses on a variety of cooking topics. The course consisted of around 10 people and was run by Jenni, the woman who also happens to bake the cakes that I eat at my favourite coffee shop, Kooka Boora. The students were split into two teams – the other group made a chocolate ganache macaron, while Ben, Tom, another student and I worked on a salted butter caramel macaron. Despite the class only going for two hours, it was very hands on and it was up to the students to make everything. Jenni provided clear explanation and assistance while the students made mixtures, piped macaron biscuits and heated sugar.

The end results were quite impressive for a first attempt and everyone left with a box full of macarons to take home. While Jenni suggested we sample a macaron in its fresh state, she also suggested we leave the rest in the fridge over night as macarons are best served a day old. She was right – by leaving them to settle the outside shell becomes crisp while the inside softens and becomes chewy.

Macaron

Salted butter caramel macaron

It was a really fun experience and I want to take some more cooking courses. Soon I might rival my brother in his culinary abilities – it will be France vs England in the battle of the baked goods.

The knitting course Ben and I took was held at Sweat Shop, a local sewing/knitting/craft zone where people go and use sewing machines and learn how to sew. We took a two hour course with a very cool, knitted-sweater-wearing Frenchman called Sebastien who in two hours had taught us how to knit, purl, and knit with two colours. Ben was a bit more advanced than me, having learnt to knit in the past few months, but I managed to progress quite quickly which Sebastien was very happy to see. He showed us some of the other beginner students’ work and they were full of holes and generally useless. Not us. We’re pros. So now I have ordered a bunch of knitting books online and am eager to start a project. I’ll need to find some decent knitting needles but I don’t really know what size to purchase. I will investigate once I have a project to work on. I might knit socks and then turn them into sock creatures. That sounds like a good use of time.

Knitting at Sweat Shop

My knitting is just beginning

If you would like to see some more photos of Paris that actually feature me and you want to see what my brother is up to, check out my brother’s Flickr site and visit his website, abitofbutter.

 

Homage to Le Homard

Monday, September 26th, 2011

In the lead up to visiting my second and third cousins in Maine (I don’t really know the relationship, I just call them that), I had been told I would eat the local specialty – lobster. This scared me. I don’t particularly enjoy seafood outside of non-fishy-fish – prawns are alright but I’d never order them in a restaurant; scallops make me want to vomit; I don’t touch oysters; and anything with tentacles just creeps me out (although I have tried some very good octopus in Greece.) I can see half of you rolling your eyes right now in a “How can she say this? Seafood is wonderful!” kind of way and all I can say is that my decision to avoid eating it just means there is more for you! So honestly, the idea that I would be eating a large cockroach of the ocean didn’t particularly appeal but I was determined to give it a go.

My first encounter with lobster came in the form of a lobster roll purchased from a local gas station. We were out exploring and in need of lunch and the most obvious option was to grab a lobster roll. They are sold everywhere and are of varying quality but all contain REAL lobster, picked out of the shells by local de-lobster-meaters.

Lobster roll

It's a lobster roll

Our lobster rolls were made in front of us and were apparently a “good price” according to our local tour guides. The problem I found with the lobster roll wasn’t the lobster, but the highly sugared bread that had then been dipped in butter and “grilled” (I’d prefer to use the term “fried”) on one side, and the excess amount of mayonnaise added to the lobster. You couldn’t really enjoy the lobster experience and I don’t think I would choose to eat a lobster roll again.

The real experience came one evening when Bob (my second cousin-in-law) purchased 10 lobsters from a local fisherman for an astonishingly low price and then cooked them in sea water for dinner.

Lobsters

That's a lot of lobsters

Less than four hours had passed between the lobsters coming out of the ocean and them being thrown into boiling, death-inducing water so they were remarkably fresh. This is what faced me for my first attempt at lobster eating:

lobster

Hello food

After donning a lobster bib, taking deep breaths and being run through the basics of lobster dismantling, I attacked my little red friend. Her claws were the first to go. Tough little creatures with their hard shells and evil pointy bits just to make eating them more difficult. But once you’re in and you dip their flesh into molten butter and pop it into your mouth you discover a whole new world of shellfish. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I have never wanted to eat a sea creature more than I did with Pinchy-Lee. Her body meat was a bit more ‘fishy’ than the claws but I still eat every last bit. And when the offer of another claw came along I couldn’t say no.

I think part of the joy of eating lobster is the mess – we put down a special plastic lobster-eating table cloth and everyone was wearing colourful bibs around their necks. It soon became obvious why this protective gear was necessary as juice and sea water were squirting everywhere.

Corn

Super-sized corn cob

We ate the lobster with some locally grown, organic corn which was the biggest, yellowest and sweetest corn I have ever eaten. It was a dinner for the Gods and I think we were all quite disappointed when it was over. A big thank you to Bob, Marijke, Catrina and Nick for delivering one of the greatest meals of my life. And thank you, Pinchy-Lee, for being so damn delicious.

Nuts in New York

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

So I went to New York. WOW. What a place. I had been there once before when I was travelling on my own in 2007. Being there with someone else is a much better experience as it makes going out at night easier, plus it is such an insane place that you need to have someone around to say “WHAT ON EARTH WAS THAT?!” to.

My favourite day in New York was my birthday (surprise, surprise.) I woke up to a beautiful, sunny day and the sounds of taxi horns and general yelling on the street. Ahh… bliss. I had decided I would have my birthday morning tea at Baby Cakes (you can’t not eat cake on your birthday morning. It would just be wrong.) Baby Cakes is home to handmade cupcakes that are either gluten free or made with spelt flour. I had a chocolate spelt cupcake which started my realisation that I don’t actually like cupcakes. They are generally too dry and flavourless and covered in a huge lump of over-sweetened icing. My Baby Cakes cupcake was the best cupcake I ate in New York as it wasn’t too sweet (they don’t use sugar in their cooking) and it was a nice little bakery. I don’t think I’d have another one in a rush.

BabyCake Cupcake

Tom put a candle in my cupcake!

Post-cake we needed to go for a walk so I took us on the Flight of the Conchords walking tour which goes past all of the main sites of Bret and Jermaine’s world. It was awesome seeing all of the places in the tv show – the highlight was the New Zealand embassy building. I didn’t see Murray.

Flight of the Conchords

Bret and Jermaine live here!

Flight of the Conchords New Zealand Embassy

It's the New Zealand Embassy!

We had lunch at a nice little café near where we were staying before heading to MoMA – my favourite art gallery in the world. Big call. But so far it’s true. It is so wonderful to be surrounded by amazing art works from such great artists. I think I saw a famous actor but I’m not sure who she is. But still. Fame.

MoMA

Oh MoMA, I love you.

The afternoon involved a bit of shopping (for Tom) and then drinks and dinner. Tom took me to a great restaurant called Little Giant where we ate delicious food. See?

Trout

A whole baked trout

ice cream

Bananas with salted butter caramel ice cream for dessert

So that was my birthday. It was a great day. Now I am going to play table tennis. I’ll write more later.

What’s Been Happening?

Saturday, September 24th, 2011
Jess knitting

I've been busy knitting.

Grave apologies, friends. I know I have been terrible with my updates but I have been a little bit busy. When one is faced with the conundrum of sitting at home and writing, or finding new shops and art galleries in New York, one generally chooses the latter option. Of course I will now sit at home in Paris and tell you all about my latest adventures except I realise I have seen too much and done too many things. There is so much to tell you. So Step One involves you looking at my photographs that I have finally finished uploading on my Flickr site. Step Two involves me choosing specific things to tell you about, highlights of my past three or so weeks. So if we’re all willing to play our part we will catch up and be reunited in all that has happened in the World of Jess. Exciting times.

What is less exciting is that this morning I finally sat down and researched visas for next year and what I need to do to avoid being sent home. The results weren’t good. Apparently I can only be in the “Schengen Zone” (an invisible, make-believe area of land that was invented by nincompoops just to upset me) for 90 days every six months. That is RID-IC-U-LOUS. Sooo the idea of country hopping has been crossed off the list. I can’t renew my visa, so that isn’t an option. Problem is that I also don’t want to leave France. So we are faced with a bit of a problem. Looks like I might be going home at the end of January as the stupid French government wants me to and then I will fly to Sydney to get myself a “Long Stay Visa”. It is all just a ridiculously expensive way for them to give me another piece of paper. Problem is that I don’t really know who to talk to in France to ask questions like “Do I really need to leave France?” and “Can’t you just give me the piece of paper here?”. If anyone knows, please tell me.

Anyway, go and look at my photos and I’ll start writing things. See you soon.

Jess and Yannick

I've been busy hanging out with hippy ex-tennis players who now sing

I’ll Be Back

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Fear not, kiddies. I have been away, I have been absent, and, yes, I do apologise. However, I will return tomorrow (22 September) with news of my recent activities. Let’s just say it has been eventful. For those who can’t wait for a word-based explanation, there are photographs

on my Flickr site.

Until tomorrow…

Macaron course

I've been busy.

Mackerel in Maine

Monday, September 12th, 2011

A very quick post just to inform you of my brilliant fishing skills. We are currently in Georgetown, Maine, visiting my second cousin and her family. The past few days have involved a fair amount of fishing as this area of the world is fishing heaven. Tom is beside himself. However, today while out on the boat we fished for mackerel and before starting Tom and I declared it was a competition to see who could catch the most (it started off as the biggest but all the fish were about the same size so it turned into quantity over quality.) Final score? Tom: Two. Marijke (my second cousin): Two. Me: Eight.

In other news, we eventually made it to the airport in New York to catch our flight (Tom got stuck in a water-clogged underground for a while) which was then delayed and then cancelled for a second time as we were sitting on the plane being told the safety instructions. The crew had clocked off the number of hours they’re allowed to do and decided to tell us when we were already on the plane. We were going to have to wait until the next day to fly but then they decided that another crew flying in on another plane could take us so we had to get off the plane, wait for the new crew to prepare the plane (again), get back on, be re-told the safety instructions and then finally it took off. We were supposed to leave New York on our original flight at 3.30pm. We actually left at midnight. We weren’t very impressed. Tomorrow we are placing a lot of hope and trust into Delta once again to deliver us back to New York in time for us to transfer airports and then fly to Paris. If they fail I will be REALLY REALLY MAD.

So hopefully next time you hear from me I will be very sleepy but in Paris, waiting for my brother to arrive.

Stuck in the Big Apple

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I’m glad I wasn’t in New York when Hurricane Irene hit – this city must have completely shut down. I am supposed to be thousands of metres into the air at the moment, flying towards Portland, Maine. Instead I am still in New York, I am still in my apartment and it is raining. I received an email from Delta this morning, about 30 minutes before we were about to head out the door and go to the airport, to tell me that our flight had been cancelled. We had been rescheduled onto the later flight at 9.45pm. We called Delta to ask why exactly it had been cancelled and they said it was due to the weather. We looked out the window…

Yes, it has been raining all day but it has just been a constant drizzle with no threatening qualities apart from making my pants and shoes wet. I could have quite easily flown a plane in this weather. No other airlines have cancelled their flights – just delayed. Why we had to wait an extra 7 hours until we could leave, I’m not sure. I am suspecting an undersold flight. Not happy. This means we’re getting into Portland after 11pm and hence missing a dinner organised for us by my family who we are visiting. I don’t know if I can claim “personal disappointment” on my travel insurance but Delta owes me a family gathering.

I am now just hoping that our next flight leaves on time. I already feel bad enough that Marijke and Bob (my mum’s cousin and her husband) are driving to Portland to pick us up and now they’ll be doing so late at night. Curses to you, Delta! In addition to all of this, they’re probably going to charge us excess luggage because we decided to only bring one suitcase and it is going to be over their 23kg weight limit by about 2kg. There will be words, if it comes to that. And they won’t be nice words.

P.S. New York was AWESOME! Check out some of my photos here.