Results tagged Cognac from David Lebovitz

Far Breton

Far Breton French pastry_-4

The other day, while minding my business, taking a casual stroll about town, I suddenly realized that I’d written “Bonne anniversaire,” or “Happy Birthday,” in French, here on the site. It’s an honest mistake because the happy (or bon, er, I mean, bonne) expression is pronounced bonneanniversaire, rather than bon (with a hard “n”) anniversaire, because, as the French would say, it’s “plus jolie,” or simply, “more beautiful.”

(And I’m pretty sure I got that jolie right. Since it refers to l’expression, which is feminine, it’s jolie, rather than, joli. Although both are pronounced exactly the same. And people think I spend all day making up recipes…)

I raced back home as fast as my feet could take me, shoving pedestrians aside and knocking over a few old ladies in my path, to correct it to “Bon anniversaire.” Then afterward, after I caught my breath, I did a search on some French grammar sites on the Internet and landed on one forum with four intricate pages of heated discussions on whether it was actually masculine (bon) or feminine (bonne). Everyone (well, being France, most people…) agreed that it was masculine – although curiously, it’s pronounced as bonne, the feminine, when wishing someone, or anyone, a “Happy Birthday.”

Far Breton

Just like you would never write, or say, ma amie (feminine) – even if “my” friend was a girl or woman, because it would sound like ma’amie, which reads like Finnish, and if spoken (go ahead, try it) sounds like bleating sheep. So it’s always mon ami, and mon amie, a gender-bending (and for us learning the language, a mind-boggling) minefield of a mix of masculine and feminine pronouns.

Another thing that confuses people is salade, which is what lettuce is generally referred to in French, when talking about the genre of lettuces. If it is a specific kind of lettuce – batavia, rougette, romaine, l’iceberg, etc, it’s often referred to by type. Yet the word salade is also used to refer to composed salads, like salade niçoise, salade de chèvre chaud, and salade parisienne. Hence non-French speakers are often confused when they order a sandwich with salade and find a few dinky leaves of lettuce on their plate, not the big mound of nicely dressed greens that they were hoping for.

Far Breton

Whew! After those first three paragraphs, I think you’ll understand why French is a tricky language to master, and even the French are at odds with how to say and write what. No wonder everybody smokes. #stress In fact, I think I also need to step outside myself after writing all of that.

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Rosé Sangria

Sangria

Summer in France means a lot of things in France. En masse vacations, a blissfully empty Paris, price increases (which notoriously happen during August, when everyone is out of town – of course), and vide-greniers and brocantes, known elsewhere as flea markets, where people sell all kinds of things. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the countryside, the brocantes are amazing. But some small towns in France also have little antique shops that are always worth poking around in. And when your other half has a station wagon, well, the possibilities are endless. (And sometimes voluminous!)

peach for sangria

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Vieux Carré / Nouveau Carré

Vieux Carré Cocktail

I know, I know. A Vieux Carré is supposed to have Peychaud’s bitters in it. As you can see, it was at the tippy top of my shopping list.

Vieux Carré Cocktail

But I went to four liquor stores that specialize in cocktail liquors and spirits and three didn’t have it. And the fourth, when I showed up, was inexplicably closed for some sort of fermeture exceptionnelle. There was no sign, no nuthin’, so I don’t know. I tried peering through the darkened window to see if they had the bitters but couldn’t tell and didn’t want to use up another precious day of my life since I had already spent three days on the “Peychaud’s Project”, and needed to move on with my life. Plus passers-by were starting to look at me funny as I began hoisting myself up on a fire hydrant and a drainpipe on the building, hoping to get a better look inside the closed shop.

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Lebanon

meat pastries

The Middle East is a pretty fascinating place, and on this visit – as well as others – I am constantly surprised by what I experience there. Although we often see snippets of it, our images of the region are usually negative; people are fighting or yelling or demonstrating. Glimpses of people going about everyday life aren’t especially easy to come by outside of these countries. Because situations change seemingly daily, it’s not always possible to go to certain places when you want to travel to them. But fortunately, the time was just right for me to go to Lebanon.

Lebanese woman with fruitlamb
green almondsLebanon beach

The first thing you notice in Lebanon is that the people are quite friendly and as I started writing this post about my trip, two young boys are playing around me at the airport while my flight home is delayed (for nine hours!), gingerly saddling up beside me, touching my computer screen with curiosity. In western countries, we are afraid of people and we’re told not to talk to strangers. And if someone came over to you in the airport and touched your computer screen, you might have a coronary. Or deck them.

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Monaco, Max, Martell, His Majesty, and Me

Monaco

I’m tired. Or as Madeleine Kahn more bluntly put it in Blazing Saddles, “G-ddammit, I’m exhausted.” The last few weeks I’ve been racing around Paris in my dusty clothes, trying to find things like electrical switches, bathroom shelves, and making a decision about kitchen cabinet knobs for much longer than any sane person would consider prudent. And I’ve been averaging about three hours of sleep a night. (I’m actually in bed for eight hours, but five of those hours are spent worrying about things.) Everything of mine is still piled up in boxes, including important tax documents (hello, April 15th..in just two weeks…), prescriptions that need refilling (hello, sanity…), and most importantly, a much-needed change of clothes.

I’d been invited to Monaco for the one hundredth anniversary of Martell’s Cordon Bleu cognac, which I had accepted, then wrote a message declining. But something in me prevented my twitching finger, which normally hovers over the “Delete” key, from hitting the “Send” button. And when I finally got to the point where I had to make an absolutely certain decision (with substantial prodding from Hélène), I hit that all-important delete key and instead confirmed that I would attend.

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Sprinting Toward the Finish…

mache

Everything is a mess, including my computer. I started writing this story, and lost it. (The story, I mean. I don’t mean that “I lost it” – although I fear that’s coming.) I have piles of paperwork stacked up all around my apartment, including on every chairs and the couch. Next to my kitchen counter is a stack of unfinished recipes I’m testing, with notes and corrections for the next trial batches. It’s just heaped up all around my place, with no escape or end in site. In spite of my panic, when I took a deep breath the other day, I realized the year was coming to a close and I should finish up all this unfinished business.

squash lettuce greens
belgian endive plantcognac barrels

The only problem was that this month got away from me, which I think is pretty common in December, and, well…here I go blaming others, or as we like to say—“C’est pas ma faute.”

(At a cocktail party last night, a French acquaintance that I hadn’t seen in a while remarked how fast I was to reply with a “Non”, saying, “You’ve become really very French, Daveed.”)

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Sidecar Cocktails

sidecar sidecar

For someone who doesn’t drink that much, I sure have a lot of liquor on my liquor shelf. I guess I should rephrase that. For someone who drinks an a lot of wine, but not a lot of liquor, I sure have a lot of liquor on my liquor shelf.

liquors

The French don’t have anything on us Americans when it comes to drinking cocktails, although that seems to be changing a bit. Fruity, sweet drinks won’t likely catch on around here, which I’m happy about, but minty Mojitos are popular, fueled on by their love of a fascination with anything Cuban. And one of my commenters got a big laugh out of me when I was explaining in another post the lack of ice cubes in Paris, and she said, “The only time you get a lot of ice in Paris is when you order a cocktail.”

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Cognac

How does Cognac get to this…

Frapin cognac

…from this?

Old cognac

I didn’t know, but I was determined to taste as many glasses as I could to find out.

The first thing I was asked before heading down into my first Cognac cellar during my recent visit was, “Are you afraid of spiders?”

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