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Paris via New York: Paris Refashioned at FIT

 

Paris Refashioned 1957-1968” at the Museum at FIT (7th Avenue at 27th Street) examines the influence of popular culture on the Paris fashion industry during those pivotal years – 1957 being the year Christian Dior passed away and was succeeded by Yves St-Laurent, and “soixante-huit” the year that ushered in a period of social and political ferment not merely in Paris, but everywhere.

Those heady in-between years marked the shift from the haute couture house to the ready-to-wear boutique, spurred on by couturiers St-Laurent, Givenchy, and Cardin, and giving rise to exciting new designers such as Courrèges, Ungaro, and Emanuelle Khanh.

“Blast from the past” highlights include Courrèges’ famous white leather boots and white sunglasses, a Mondrian-inspired geometric dress from St-Laurent, and an elegantly pared-down black suit and black quilted bag with gold chain by Chanel.

Show runs from February 10 to April 15, 2017.

Merci beaucoup to frequent contributor Betty Guernsey for this review!

 

Paris via Vermont: Beau Butchery and Bar

 

A surprise and a delight on an unassuming side street in Montpelier (Vermont), Beau Butchery and Bar reminds me of a Paris wine bar, where high quality food and drink are served simply, and the clientele are regulars.

I return most often for the charcuterie. One night recently, my husband and I tucked into silky chicken liver pâté, traditional pork rillettes, and marvelous house-smoked salmon, accompanied by a lesser-known French wine from the Jura mountains.

Nearby, two women gossiped over plates of French Kiss oysters and glasses of cava. One of the women works down the street, and stops in at least once a week.

Across the narrow room, a couple who had left their young kids at home sat at a table fashioned from an ironing board. They celebrated their freedom with mid-century cocktails, oysters, and bowls of long-simmered beef broth, brimming with noodles and fermented cabbage. Beau is their favorite date-night spot.

Home cooks came and left in a steady stream, lining up at the meat counter for dry aged, pastured pork, cut-to-order Vermont beef steaks, locally grown roasting chickens, hand cut bacon, and jars of nutrient-rich broth. Jules, Beau’s co-owner and affable butcher, offered cooking tips and asked after friends and family members.

With seating for 10, shelves of vintage glassware, bovine artwork, and stacks of meat-centric cookbooks for browsing, Beau is indeed beau — beautiful — a bit of urban Paris in small town Vermont.

Are you interested in exploring French cuisine in Paris or Montreal? Check out our Montreal Gardens and Gastronomy weekend in June, and Authentic Flavors of Paris tour in October!

The Best Croque-Monsieur in Paris

The croque-monsieur — a gloriously crunchy, salty ham and cheese sandwich, filled and/or topped with béchamel, and brushed with butter before grilling — is one of my favorite café/bar foods. It’s a classic comfort food, and it’s trending.

Chefs are tinkering with traditional ingredients — substituting comté cheese for the classic gruyère, and using bread from celebrated bakers and surprise additions, like truffle salt.

These three cafés have croques to savor.

• At Café Trama, near the Bon Marché, sel de truffes (truffle salt) is the transformative ingredient. The aroma is both delicate and intense, and the cheese-ham-truffle combination sings. The bread comes from artisan baker Jean-Luc Poujauran (who delivered croissants daily to President François Mitterand).The addition of a lightly dressed salad and slices of house-pickled onion turn everyday bar food into something special (pictured above).

• With blue velvet divans, brocaded stools the color of soft gold, Christofle cutlery, and arched windows overlooking the Tuilieries, pâtissier Sebastian Gaudard’s new salon de thé is a study in refinement. His croque-monsieur is equally sophisticated: three golden, crustless sandwiches contain tender white ham from the Aveyron region and creamy comté cheese from the Jura mountains. The bread comes from wunderkind baker Rodolphe Landemaine, and in place of béchamel is crème pâtissière salée, a savory custard. The sandwich is crunchy, tender, rich, and light — and the whole experience très élégant.

• For a no-frills croque-monsieur in an upbeat brasserie setting, eat at L’Entracte, in the luminous shadow of Opéra Garnier. It’s a bustling place with tufted red banquettes, lamps resembling bunches of grapes, and tall windows overlooking the stunning opera house. The clientele is a mix of tourists, locals settling into their preferred spots, and students, performers, and spectators from the Opéra. The café’s traditional ham and cheese sandwich is served on grilled Poilâne bread. This tangy, crumbly sourdough is another Paris tradition, made from stoneground flour in wood-fired brick ovens. 1, rue Auber, 9th

Where did you last enjoy a croque-monsieur?

Paris via Montreal: Chagall at the Musee des Beaux-Arts

Russian-French artist Marc Chagall is known for his striking images and vivid colors, but less well known for his love of music. “Chagall: Music and the Rite of Colour,” the current exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal (Montreal Fine Arts Museum), aims to change that.

The show explores a large and diverse body of work, paying special attention to its musical connections. Nearly 400 pieces — book illustrations, stained glass, full size stage sets, dada-ist ballet costumes, ceramics, and paintings that range from simple watercolor portraits to icon-filled larger works — have music as subject, or have been designed for musical venues.

The pièce de résistance is a detailed video of the ceiling at the Paris Opéra Garnier, which Chagall painted in 1964. I’ve attended many performances at the Opéra, and have hung out over the balconies looking at the ceiling. But it’s still so far away — the video, zooming in on details, made me feel like I was back in Paris.

If you live in Vermont, and would like to see this exhibit, I’m leading a Montreal day trip focused on the show, Saturday, May 6. This full day of looking, listening, and learning is designed for artists, art lovers, and art educators. Click here for the itinerary and details. Transportation is included.

 

Paris via New York: Sel et Poivre

Mille fois merci to regular contributor Betty Guernsey for sussing out this little bit of Paris in New York!

Set on a strip of Lexington Avenue filled with old-fashioned pharmacies, corner stores, hardware stores, and newsagents, Sel et Poivre “A Taste of Paris on Lex” feels like a microcosm, a taste of what French restaurants in New York City used to be like pre-millenium.

And it’s kept its old-fashioned neighborhood ambiance. White linen tablecloths, black and white photos of Parisian street scenes on the walls, and a menu that includes à la carte delicacies seldom seen in Manhattan these days, such as frog legs in pernod sauce, escargot with garlic butter and herbs, terrine de foie gras with red wine grapes, duck pâté à l’orange, and sweetbreads.

That said, it also has reasonably priced prix fixe menus at both lunch and dinner, popular with Upper East Side locals. Though it’s been around only since 1989, it has the air of having been there forever – 853 Lexington Avenue, near 65th Street.

Paris Book Review

Merci mille fois to regular contributor Betty Guernsey for this Paris book review!

At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails” by Sarah Bakewell is a highly detailed and complex account of the history of existentialism and its protagonists, focusing on the impact of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir over their Parisian and fellow European writers and theorists.

The legendary duo had an extremely long relationship, lasting from 1929 to Sartre’s death in 1980 – they worked side by side, told each other every detail of their lives, and are buried in a shared grave in the Cimetière de Montparnasse. (De Beauvoir’s groundbreaking book “The Second Sex”, published in 1949, may be the single most significant work to come out of the existentialist movement.)

Writers at the time were forced to spend long hours in cafés because they had heat and kitchen facilities, whereas the apartments or hotels where they were living had neither. The cafés — usually the Flore or the Deux Magots — governed their social lives, were places to talk, work, and meet acquaintances such as Camus, Genet, Giacometti, Picasso, and Juliette Greco, though seldom over apricot cocktails – hence its fascinating title.

Paris for Lovers—Grand Coeur

Part of the romance of Paris is discovering hidden spaces. And when that space serves market fresh food on marble topped tables surrounded by tall windows, antique mirrors, and exposed stone walls…well then… tant mieux. All the better!

Restaurant Grand Coeur shares a cobble stoned courtyard with a dance studio just off rue du Temple, in the très chic Marais. In summer, it has one of the nicest patios I’ve seen.

In winter the large windows and artful lighting make the interior welcoming; smiling staff in long aprons recommend wines from the copious wine list and describe the preparation and provenance of dishes like line-caught sea bass à la plancha, tarte aux cèpes with hazelnuts, and orzo with Cantal.

Their 30€ prix-fixe lunch menu makes it even sweeter.

For dinner, count on about 70€ per person for three courses and wine. If you’re in the area mid-afternoon, they’re open between lunch and dinner for a glass of wine and small plate.

Get the Most from Your Paris Museum Visits

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Paris museums are a high point for many travelers. Here are 3 tips for getting the most from your visits.

• Save time. A Paris Museum Pass puts you on the fast track to the permanent collections at many museums. Enter where signage indicates Paris Museum Pass, or “reservations” to avoid waiting in long ticket lines. If you plan to visit a museum several times, check out their yearly membership for even quicker access, plus other benefits, such as free entrance to temporary exhibits and other museums. Memberships at the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, for example, are very reasonable.

For temporary exhibits and private museums without a membership (these are not included on the Museum Pass), buy your tickets on-line before you go. But beware: not all tickets can be printed at home or picked up at the museum. Clarify this before you buy.

• Learn more. Plan for a maximum of 2 hours in a museum—even the most avid art lover can’t absorb information after that. In a large museum, choose a section of the museum, a movement, or a time period. Focusing your attention this way helps you explore a subject in depth, and since it covers less physical space, keeps you from getting lost.

If you want to cover more ground, check to see if the museum offers a guided tour. Guides put the artwork in context by discussing selected works; they answer questions, and keep the directionally-challenged found.

Audio guides also provide information with a focus, and you can proceed at your own pace. Private tours are more expensive, but a wonderful investment of money and time, particularly for children.

• Stand tall. Even when I follow my own guidelines, standing continuously on a hard floor looking at art makes my lower back hurt. The last time I asked my physical therapist to untangle my knotted muscles, she taught me a new way to stand: knees soft, seat tucked under, and head lifted to lengthen the neck, as if I were a painting hanging on the wall.

And sit when you can. Many museums allow visitors to carry small folding chairs; check before you go.

Do you have other museum tips? Let us know!

Bonne visite!

Ambali Women’s Wear — Elegance in the Haut Marais

The sculptured coats and dresses in the vitrine of Ambali called to me from rue Vielle du Temple, in the Haut (northern) Marais. Inside, the boutique was lush: peach carpet, walls alternating light blue paint and spattered wall paper, heathered wool dressing room curtains so soft I envisioned a coat made from the fabric.

At first glance, the women’s ready-to-wear line by Mikako Ishii is all about luscious femininity. But what won me over is its pluck.

The tulip cuffs and asymmetrical closure on a hip-length wool jacket were both elegant and edgy. Delicate pleats across the back of a winter coat whispered confidence. Origami-like elements — the folded belt cinching the waist of a green dress, the rolled collar on an ecru silk blouse — brought whimsy, precision and resolve to soft, classical lines.

Ambali is an address to watch, and a pleasure to shop.

Paris via NYC: Chez Josephine

Frequent contributor Betty Guernsey has a great eye for all things Paris in NYC! Merci mille fois, Betty, for this recommendation!

Chez Josephine has never been quite the same since the death of its flamboyant host/owner Jean-Claude Baker in 2015, but the spirit of both the legendary St. Louis-born chanteuse and her thirteenth adopted son (one of the famous “rainbow tribe”) lives on in a restaurant and piano bar in the theater district that’s reminiscent of Paris in both their heydays.

Picture lush red velvet banquettes, crystal chandeliers, white linen’d tablecloths, walls blanketed with posters and portraits upstairs and down (don’t miss the superb mural of Baker in her famous banana skirt, and original sheet music of her most popular hits in the loo).

These days open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, it boasts a menu that’s not only elegantly French, but that’s maintained its high standards over the years while remaining on the whole reasonably priced – including Baker’s favorite, very meaty Spaghetti Bolognese, and intensely chocolate Délice Josephine.

If it sounds like fun, it is — New Yorkers place it high on their list of Theater Row favorites. 414 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues.