21 January 2019

Louvre to myself

Anyone who's ever visited (or tried to visit) the Musée du Louvre, the most famous if not biggest museum in the world, knows about the endless crowds, the lines, the mayhem, the coveted skip-the-line tickets.

But last week, thanks to an unexpected invitation, I found myself in the surreal position of being practically alone roaming its vast halls, galleries and sumptuous rooms and, as in the epilogue to The Da Vinci Code, surrounded by "masters' loving art."

Below: the Louvre Museum as few will ever see it
(click to enlarge)

More in February newsletter

19 January 2019

Tiny trees

A tiny Christmas tree is attached to each of these rainbow parasols in the Marais district.

Below: a street view

18 January 2019


 Hot chocolate, coffee, and tarte tatin warm up a late winter afternoon.

Above: add crème chantilly and it's viennois

Café de Flore
172 Boulevard Saint-Germain 75006

17 January 2019

A bagel in Paris


Years ago living in Spain I taught myself how to make bagels. Quite simply, I craved them - and couldn't find any to my liking. I'd been making my own breads for awhile and found the entire process - measuring, mixing, kneading, letting the dough rise, baking (or, in the case of flatbreads, rolling out and pan grilling) - a relaxing way to spend a weekend afternoon.

For bagels I'd get up early, and as the morning edged towards brunch time there would be drop-ins, music, a glass of something and, in cold weather, a blazing fire, and in no time at all the bagels were ready. They were water bagels - boiled before baking - and when finished we'd split them open and toast them, open-faced, then pile alongside a huge platter of smoked salmon, smoked whitefish, flavored cream cheeses (home made), thinly-sliced tomatoes, red onions, some capers, olive oil, lemons, salt and pepper. Champagne with a splash of Cointreau, a "French touch" (thank you Ralph), was the standard accompaniment. And Moroccan spiced coffee. Making bagels from scratch meant I could control every aspect: size (I prefer smaller), types of flour, ingredients, and toppings - which changed with every batch depending on what I had on hand.

So where is my favorite bagel in Paris? As of this posting, and as far as I'm concerned, chez moi. BPJ

Above: whole-wheat bagel tartines topped with chicken salad made with a light dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, chopped mint, salt, pepper

Topping: black sesame seeds, fennel seeds, coarse salt, za'atar (Middle Eastern mixture of thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac. Make your own or buy at Lebanese market stalls)


[Photos were forwarded by dear friends to a cousin whose brother was Barry of Barry's Bagels in Ohio and, I am told, they "made his mouth water" - and that's good enough for me.]

- Recipes in February newsletter -

16 January 2019

12 January 2019

Miró Miró on the wall

Since the September rentrée Paris has been awash in heavy-hitter artists - Picasso, Basquiat, Schiele, Giacometti, Mucha, Klimt, Hundertwasser, Caravaggio, more - and now, Catalan artist Joan Miró, who few realize was a prolific sculptor as well as painter. 

An impressive representation of his work from the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona and private collections will be in Paris for three more weeks.

"Miró Rétrospective"
Ends February 4, 2019

Grand Palais

11 January 2019

What were they thinking?

In case you hadn't heard January 2nd marked National Cream Puff Day in France.


Above: It was a few days before Christmas and the end of a long splendid lunch. We were three, and decided to order "profiteroles for one" for dessert as we'd just gorged ourselves on foie gras, cassoulet and roasted duck. Sharing this bistro classic - usually three or four small puffs of choux pastry filled with whipped cream (or vanilla bean ice cream) and drizzled in melted chocolate - would be a great finale, we agreed, to such a filling meal.

But what arrived to our table resembled a lopsided slowly melting hatbox that made us wonder if Salvador Dali had taken over the kitchen. It was so monstrous, so un-French, that diners at adjacent tables stood up to take photos with their cellphones. At first we thought there'd been a mistake but were told that that really was a single serving! After one taste our initial shock turned to awe and we ended up polishing off every last bite. BPJ

Comptoir de la Gastronomie
(restaurant/épicerie - reservations recommended) 
34 rue Montmartre 75001

9 January 2019

Vendôme #2

Two more trees on Place Vendôme.

In France it is not unusual to see holiday decorations until the end of January.

7 January 2019

Galettes de foie


Foie gras, that is: This weekend, while traditional galettes des rois were flying off pastry shop shelves, their savory cousins - foie gras galettes and terrines-en-croûte - were taking center stage at a gastronomique gathering on the Left Bank.

As Champagne flowed and groups of men burst into spontaneous song, talented chefs toiled away preparing foie gras tartines, canapés, and lovingly slicing showcase terrines. A giant galette de roi was distributed at the end and, flutes in hand, we strolled through narrow streets to the cheers and thumbs-ups of well-wishers on café terraces. And it was barely 11 a.m.

All this to support a noble cause: childrens' charity POIC.

MERCI Dominique, Alexandre et al., and til the next time....

6 January 2019

Feast of Kings

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, and in France it is celebrated with a galette des rois. The tarte-like cakes begin to appear in pâtisserie and boulangerie windows in December and children adore this tradition where the youngest goes under the table and calls out each person's name to receive a slice. Whoever's parte contains the coveted fève - usually a small porcelain figurine of one of the gift-bearing Magi (although there are now many variations, including cartoon characters) - he/she will be crowned King or Queen and get to crown his/her King or Queen of choice, so every cake is (or should be) sold with two crowns. 

The galettes usually contain almond cream, crème frangipane, but upscale bakers have been creating away with pistachio cream (my current favorite) and other fillings trying not to stray far from the original. I've also made my own in the past - it's not difficult - and like to serve the cake warm, heated for a short time in the oven, never micro-waved so its crispiness remains intact.

Above: galettes des rois galore at Pâtisserie Gérard Mulot - 76 rue de Seine 75006


In Spain, La Fiesta de Los Reyes Magos upstages Christmas and is the big day of gifts for children. When I lived in Cadaqués, a magical white fishing village of artists and writers near the French border, from my balcony overlooking the bay we'd watch The Kings arrive by boat - Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar - where excited children would be waiting on the shore with lanterns then follow the Kings like The Pied Piper to the main plaza where, to music, dancing and feasting. the "kings" would distribute small gifts. BPJ

Below: bay of Cadaqués Spain, evening; at a Los Reyes festival

5 January 2019

Schiele Basquiat Gehry

Extensive works of two ground-breaking artists at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Egon Schiele - til January 14, 2019
Jean-Michel Basquiat - extended til January 15 - 21, 2019

Architect: Frank Gehry

Fondation Louis Vuitton
8 avenue du Mahatma Gandhi 75116

See link for info re late hours, shuttle, more

4 January 2019

Castle en ville

 A medieval castle in the center of the Marais district.

Grand Palais on ice

Only days left: a museum turned into the world's biggest ice skating rink. Fantastic.

Grand Palais
3 avenue du Général Eisenhower 75008

Ends January 9, 2019

Click here for info

3 January 2019

Pas pressé

A toast to the New Year with small group from my press club.

Above: Champagne is always at the ready in the Salon Proust

Hôtel Ritz
Place Vendôme Paris 75001

At the Ritz, nobody pushes you.
Marcel Proust


MERCI Xavier

1 January 2019


Atop beautiful Montmartre, home base in Paris for many years.

Above: evening on Place du Tertre before heading off to celebrate