I don’t mind spending part of my winter this year in New York. Even though it was one of the coldest winters in history, and on the first day of spring, we had a snowstorm, the beautiful snow blanketed everything in a thick white layer, which reflects the light and kept my mood cheery and optimistic. It rarely snows in Paris and la grisaille (the gray skies, sans la neige — or without snow), can augment the sullen mood around town. And the only people who you’ll see braving the cold are the hardy smokers, God love ‘em, clustered in the doorways of buildings and businesses, trying to get as many puffs in as possible before they can’t take it anymore and head back inside to the cozy warmth, with the rest of us.
Results tagged ice from David Lebovitz
I usually have to spend a lot of time speaking in the conditional around here (using “it could be said that”, or “in most cases”…which is starting to make me sound like a politician) because there are always exceptions to every rule. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that one rule that is almost steadfast in France is that glasses are rarely filled more than half-full. (Noticed how slyly I popped in “almost” and “rarely”- which are obvious proof that it’s going to be a hard habit for me to break.) It was never explained to me why, or in the case of a glass being half-empty, why not. Yet I think it’s one of those “only in France” rules that gets implemented because a full glass is simply pas joli, or not attractive.
It’s a hard concept for us Americans to fathom, a place where full=better, and an oversized steak hanging over the edges of a plate is more appealing than a few slices of beef neatly plated up and arranged on the plate. And it amuses me that many people judge the quality of a restaurant by how full they are when they leave. Probably the biggest complaint, in fact, you hear coming from people when they didn’t like a place was because they left and weren’t full.
I don’t know how that’s possible because when I go back to the states, I can barely make it though my main course because the appetizers are about the same size as a French plat principal. And I am bound to be stripped of my San Francisco stripes because I can no longer make it through a Mission burrito. But when it comes to wine, I somehow find the willpower to get through whatever is put in front of me.
Whew! It feels good to be back. I go caught up on a whole bunch of stuff. But boy, do I need a drink. Good thing I have this barrel of Negronis on hand. I featured my rotund wooden beauty in a recent newsletter, although I was concerned about mentioning my Negronis on social media because I often get in trouble with auto-corrected text. But there’s nothing to “clean up” after a few Negronis except perhaps you, and your guests.
I am in love with my barrel and was delighted when a friend in Paris saw it in my newsletter and called right away to tell me she had an old barrel holding up a bookshelf in her house, and brought it by as a gift the other day. However when I filled the it with water, it became what is probably the first indoor water sprinkler, with water spraying everywhere from between the bulging staves. So I’m glad to have a “pro” model to fall back on.
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!)
When I was in London, it just happened to be Wimbledon weekend and even though there wasn’t a tennis ball in sight where we were, all we wanted were pitchers of Pimm’s Cup. To our dismay, a number of places didn’t have them, and at the one restaurant that did, we were unimpressed. (So much so that the waiter took it off the bill.) Since it’s the perfect summer refresher – and it’s nice to serve drinks by the pitcher, so you can spend more time with your guests – I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a batch as soon as I got home.
I hit a couple of liquor stores in my neighborhood and, of course, no one had Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. One vendor confessed that he did know what it was, but that he didn’t carry it. So I made the inevitable trip over to La Maison du Whisky, which may be my new favorite place in Paris (they have everything!) and picked up a bottle of Pimm’s – as well as a few other things to keep me well-stocked for summer.
I know tequila fans like to have their say about what tequila is best for margaritas. But as I’ve learned with just about everything, the buck stops here. Ok, just kidding. (Actually, I’m happy to let it stop somewhere else.) But I was having drinks made by a well-known bartender a while back and a few people pointed out online that I wasn’t drinking a margarita, which was a surprise to me because that’s what the bartender told me it was. And one thing I’ve learned is never to argue with someone serving you drinks. Or food, for that matter. So I decided to let the buck stop with him – and if anyone wants to argue with a Parisian barman (or anyone in Paris, for that matter), you have bigger couilles than I.
(And if you fit that bill, please be in touch because I have a couple of other things that I could use some help with around here.)
I recently went to a tequila tasting of a top-quality tequilas made by a Frenchman who told me of his uphill battle in France was convincing people that tequila could be a liquor worthy of serious consideration. Helping to overcome that image, I went to a tequila tasting at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Paris where there were many varieties of tequilas to taste and compare. Unfortunately the downside of a tequila tasting is that you don’t remember what you had, especially when the tasting is followed by an open bar. (Which might lead some to conclude that some of us aren’t doing much to help the image of tequila.) But all the drinks were excellent – whatever you call them – and I’m more and more inclined to drink a little more tequila these days, namely in margaritas.
Whew! It’s been quite a year. There were some ups and a few downs. Looking back as the year draws to a close, I’m not sure they balanced out this time around. I had my share of moments when I just had to stop, take a deep breath, and do a little reassemble and reassess. One highlight might include the day at the mobile phone office when I purposely drew my head back then banged my head on the counter. (And no, repair of forehead dents isn’t covered by the French sécurité sociale, the national health insurance.) Another was when someone explained to me – and yes, with a straight face – that they don’t have USB ports in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
There were a host of other things that were a little more serious, that I won’t inflict upon you. But I am pretty sure there are enough to stories from this year to fill a book. But I am also pretty sure that no one would believe me.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when one needs a Manhattan. And during the past few weeks, that time had come for me. Actually, it came for me several times. I’ve recently been turned on to rye whiskey, and although folks online spoke up about various brands they like when I mentioned my sudden craving, I learned that it’s not something that one comes across every day in Paris.
I went to three wine and liquor stores in my neighborhood and none of them had any on their liquor shelves, and none of the salespeople had ever heard of it. One offered me Scotch, which was kind of funny and someone on Twitter suggested that I explain to them that that’s like offering something sparkling wine because, really, it’s the same thing as Champagne*.