Monday, July 31, 2006

Piscine St-Germain Glacée

There are other ways to keep cool besides stuffing your face with ice cream.
 You can take a dunk in one of Paris' public pools. But NOT in the Jardins du Luxembourg Fontaine Médicis.
That's an artwork.
There are many, many superb public pools in Paris and throughout France. The Bordeaux community pool is not to be believed-actually 5 pools under 1 sunroof.
 AND you don't have to be a citizen or resident to use the pools. Just pay the fee (tarif - 2,60 euros).You can buy a carnet of 10 entrées just like on the Metro and pay even less.You say you'd love to go swimming but you left your cap, your goggles, your bathing suit at home. Not to worry.
There are POOL VENDING MACHINES!
They sell all this stuff and more at the entrance of the Piscine Municipale Saint-Germain in the 6ème . I bought a pair of swimming gloves (lower right) and one of those little cloths that dry you off quickly (not shown). Everything is 10 euros and most items are 5 euros and under.True the hours are limited depending on the day. Weekdays the scolaires get the most access. Weekends are open all day to everyone. And the schedule can change too, holidays etc. But there's a printed leaflet explaining all. The pools have private changing cabines and you turn in your clothing and valuables to the clothes check and get a red rubber bracelet in exchange. Showers are unisex. No big deal. The St.- Germain pool is huge, very clean and very refreshing. My only gripe, perhaps, is the French do not swim in an orderly manner. They haven't heard of circular swimming like at the Y. Nor waiting to take your turn in a lane. It's a free-for-all. I do water exercises rather than laps these days.
I HEART WaterGym.
I was happy to find a cheap flotation belt at GO SPORT down the street from Fauchon at the Madelaine - see lower left in above shot.
Back in my Astoria pool I watch the clock constantly.
In Paris I was too busy watching out for flailing arms and legs, so the hour sped quickly by. This is a plus. Well sort of...Please read what Put Your Flare On says about French swimmers here.

You can still get some crème glacée after your swim. Hey you've earned it and even worked off the calories in advance. Well sort of...BTW www.France2.fr is a terrific site to sharpen your Fr. speaking skills and comprehension. At this link click on the Vidéo to see the latest glace fashions in French restaurants.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Wayne Thiebaud Glacée

This ink drawing came from the now out-of-print Wayne Thiebaud sketchbook. If you want to paint desserts you better take a good look at Thiebaud. He's the master of dessert still lifes - his images of ice cream, cakes, pies, candy are the best.
Thiebaud paints with thick brilliant oil color and strong shadow shapes against a white ground. Geometry plays a big part in his paintings: spheres, cubes, triangles (as it does in most of the top Paris pastry chefs creations, but more about that later...)
Cezanne said, if you can draw a cube, a sphere, a pyramid...you can draw anything. And desserts tend to take the form of strong abstract geometric shapes more than steaks, chops or mashed potatos...or broccoli.

Matcha Trio, watercolor, 10 1/2 x 7 1/2"

Since I love painting round things anyway, cups, saucers etc., I picked ice cream "dixie" cups this time. Not really a big hardship :)

Dixie Couple, watercolor, 10 1/2 x 7 1/2"

I thought I'd stick with green tea flavor, since there's a nice Japanese store in the neighborhood, Family Market on 29-15 Broadway.

Melting Matcha, watercolor, 12 x 10"

They melted really fast in this heat, so I had to eat them quickly. Spoiled food and all that..Course in my rush, I forgot to mix up that special yellowy-greyish green tea color first :(

After a day of painting I ran up to the MOMA to catch the DADA show. In the steamy hot garden they sell dixie cups of il laboratorio del gelato. There was no green tea flavor so I had to settle for Dark Chocolate. This has to be the BEST STUFF ON THE PLANET! You can get it on 95 Orchard street too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Aquarelle Glacée

Painting ice cream cones like painting chocolate is "no piece of cake". First of all the logistics of getting this threesome home in decent shape was a challenge. But I improvised a Dunkin' Donuts coffee holder that worked fine. My biggest problem, aside from dripped-on toes, was finding a way to place these 3 in the freezer so they would stand upright. They kept resisting and toppling over. Why they don't care to sit in a freezer on a hot day I can't figure out...
These cones are NOT New York's finest.
There is a Cold Stone Creamery in Astoria, but they don't open till noon. I had to get what was in the neighborhood and there's no Il Laboratorio del Gelato or Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory or The Chinatown Ice Cream factory or Ciao Bella or Cones out here.

EAT-IT-ALL, watercolor, 7 x 9 1/2"

My NY critic says I leave too much white paper around the subject creating islands that don't relate to the outer edges of the paper.
Sardi, who teaches photography at S.V.A., says food shots have to be anal -> everything MUST be PERFECT!! No crumbs much less tons of drips.
Pam, from watercolor class, says I should crop in more. Lauralines paints her still lifes from a "bird's eye view". I have yet to try this...so this is a work in progress and my 1st ice cream paintings.

Too bad my food stylist is out of town..only kidding.
These guys did this all on their own with no help from me.
Natch I HAD to eat them after that...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

MITSUWA Glacée

I'm sticking with ice cream until the weather cools. I got this green tea ice cream at the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater NJ. It's made by Ito-en and they don't make it available anywhere else. This is criminal! Because it's amazingly refreshing and delicate - not too sweet either. The only bad thing was I had to share it...next time I'll get my own. www.itoen.com/

Monday, July 24, 2006

Paris Crème Glacée

I took this in St. Jean de Luz before grabbing a delicious cone there.Then this morning France2.fr daily email arrived with a similar big cone sitting on the Place Tour Eiffel plastered across the front.
Irresistable! and titled, Glaces: une grande envie de fraîcheur - L'EAU A LA BOUCHE (mouth watering...?) I'm ready to think about ice cream and nothing else for the moment - a bit of relief from the current bad news and heat wave / la canicule.
There are 9 ice cream articles here + a good list of 13 Paris addresses, links to their web sites, and lots of simple recipes like adding fruit or crushed nuts to a good softened ice cream or making fruity popsicles. You can easily translate the articles by clicking on this link [
Translate this page ]
Down the street from my 6ème studio was Amorino at #4 rue Vavin. It's one of a chain of 7 Paris gelato shops. Of course I went there my 1st day in Paris. You could stop in at chocolatier, Jean-Paul Hévin (who has take-away lunch items like salmon quiche + a chocolate bar etc) at #3 rue Vavin. Then get your cone at Amorino and head for the Luco (Jardin du Luxembourg) a few steps away for a picnique.
The Amorino gelato servers are Italian as are the terms and flavor names used here - To get you into the proper frame of mind...
It wouldn't hurt to bone up a bit on French flavors. They can be more exotic than straight vanilla, strawberry or chocolate chip though you will find the classiques too.
Here are some examples and get out your dictionaires:
Thé Earl grey, pomme verte, thym citron, mûres de framboisier, litchee, thé vert matcha, Noisette praliné, Café pamplemousse, Cannelle, pêche de vigne, violette,caramel au beurre salé, macaron pistache, l'armagnac-pruneaux, After Eight, safran,fleur de rose, tomate, avocat-guacamole, betterave, citron-romarin et citron-basilic.
And that doesn't include the endless fruit sorbet flavors. These always taste more intense to me over in France. I'll never forget a certain Pomme Grannie Smith sorbet I had at Brasserie Flo once...
Goyave, fraise et citron vert, Cassis, melon, pêche, abricot en juillet, framboise, cassis, myrtille en août, orange sanguine, ananas aux six épices, rhubarbe, mangue etc...
"Ice cream colors" describes colors that tend to be pastelly. They're called tints because they're made by adding white to pure color. Or with watercolor by adding lots of water to dilute the color to a thin wash.
They often connote a summery feeling, feminine, child-like or prettiness.
Some other useful ice cream words:
artisanal = small shops with less than 50 workers using traditional methods
une boule / deux boules = 1 dip / 2 dips
avec Chantilly = whipped cream on top
le cornet = a cone
la crème glacée = frozen custard

les glaciers = ice cream sellers
les granites = chipped ice with flavoured syrup on top
les bâtons glacées = popsicles
nos fraîcheur = our freshly made...
les parfums = flavours
une sorbet = fruit sherbet
By the way don't expect giant scoops of ice cream. The French diping scoop is about the size of a small apricot and easily 1/2 the size of US scoops. Unless you're at Amorino where they throw on as many flavors tulip-petal style as they can manage and you can eat!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Piu Piu - Pylônes - Piaf

The little guy sitting on the dollhouse sewing machine is called Piu Piu. He comes from Pylônes in Paris. Piu Piu is the nickname for little bird in France and Brazil and similar to our Tweedi Bird character.
If you're crazy, nuts for goofy chatchkes go to Pylônes.
There are 5 Pylônes shops in Paris, 6 in Japan and 2 in NYC.

I spotted Piu Piu in the window of the Marais' Pylônes on 13 rue St Croix de la Bretonnerie and it was instant love. I fell for the one on the upper left because of his complementary coloring and he was damn cute. A cook book author, was wearing this baublely illustrated necklace at a James Beard House event 10 years ago - I was a house photographer there for 7+ years. Each epoxy resin globe has silly illustrations inside: numbers, dog muzzles, faces, star fish, monkey twins etc. Next trip over I went to their tiny closet-size shop in Galerie Vivienne and got the necklace, earings, bracelet. I passed on the ring...

I've always had a thing for sparrows. They flit about when I walk to the pool at 7am and yack outside my window even earlier. So Piu Piu was an easy addition to my collection of what-nots.

When you bring home a new pet you should know something about him...
I didn't know this little guy was a working bird.
I didn't know he was a magnet for paperclips and straight pins until I wrote this post. I didn't know he would chirp non-stop once out of his box. See the white paper tab sticking out of the bird's bottom in the 2nd picture?

Pull the white tab -> the chirping begins.
I didn't know he was created by artist,
Ionel Panaït a Romanian designer living in France.

Piu Piu is a chirping color wheel for me.
He's made up of 2 sets of
complimentary colors.
RED + GREEN or/ RED + TURQUOISE a similar combo
YELLOW +
PURPLE
The 3rd set BLUE + ORANGE is missing on this little guy but I can live with that. Here's a watercolor tip for those inclined - When you mix 2 complimentary colors together you'll get some very handsome GREYS..much better than using Paynes grey or Davy's grey straight out of the tube.

Piu Piu, watercolor, 12 x 10"

Painting Piu Piu is an ongoing project for me. Here he is next to my La Vaissellerie tea pot...
French customs stopped me leaving
Charles de Gaulle airport for New York. I thought it was Piu Piu, chirping away in my purse like mad, but I'd forgotten to get rid of an AirFrance fork I'd snagged on the trip over. They didn't make much of a fuss and just giggled about Piu Piu. So he can be useful at customs too...a working bird.

The "Little Sparrow" or Petit Moineau has a new movie about her, LA VIE EN ROSE which means the sweet life). It's named after one of Piaf's most loved songs. The words in French are ( here. And in English as sung by Louis Armstrong are here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Chocolates For Breakfast

My breakfasts of late have been full of theobroma. I'm sitting here with this lovely pile of bars from the NASFT Fancy Food Show and trying to write this post for days. Normally it takes 1-3 days for a PB post to evolve. Sometimes I wake up & it's like automatic writing -> et voilà. Other ideas come to me at the pool and get written on the subway.
This post on chocolate tasting - well I can't make it up or use le "trope" as Maitress calls my stream-of-consciousness skills. Theobroma excess is blocking me.
I don't know BEANS about Chocolate other than there are 3 major cacao beans:
1. Criollo - are difficult to grow and planted on a limited scale and produce few but highly-prized beans - valued for aroma and complexity.
2. Forestero - are easy to grow, fruitful, and produce 90% of the world's cocoa beans – but their flavor and aroma is less distinctive than Criollo beans.
3. Trinitario - is a cross between the Criollo and Forestero and named after it's original source, Trinidad. It's hardier than the Criollo with more intense flavour than Forestero.
Each one of this stack of Chocolat Pralus bars comes from a different region. Check out their amazing site. There are many other hard-to-pronounce names you'll stumble across when tasting bars.
Choco names can refer to the region of origin like Sur Del Lago or Sambriano. Or be proprietary names of a particular chocolate maker like Vahrona: Manjara, Guanajai, Pur Caraibe.
Or a plantation name like Cluizel's: Concepcion, Tamarina, Maralumi..
Or Domori's Apurimac, Carenero, Sambriano etc..
Do you love chocolate? If you're a big fan of Hershey's, truffles, or bonbons Please leave the room you're ready to move on to bars or les tablettes. BTW in France "les Tablettes" can also refer to a guy's abs or 6 pack... These exquisite minature Bonbons are from Altman & Kuhne of Austria...
But bars are the feast of chocolate purists so why not become a chocolate connoisseur? A terrific web site, 70% will help out with their list of 10 best bars and the reasons why. And many chocolate companies make tasting easier by producing mini squares - see the top photo.
Some like Cluizel have packaged different regional squares together and included tasting instructions. Enough! On to tasting.
This is from a La Maison du Chocolat tasting of ganache, a mix of equal parts chocolate and cream, so not relevant here but I liked the way they laid out the small-sized samples + water + chocolate nibs...
If you've been to even one wine tasting you're ahead of the game. You'll know that all your senses will be involved and to start with a clean palate.
1. 1st LOOK at the bar for color, sheen, texture
2. FEEL the bar - this you don't have to do with wine unless you're into Champagne baths..
3. Then break the bar to HEAR it's SNAP - a dull thud can mean too much fat/cocoa butter
4. SMELL the bar. This step is vital. Your nose can detect up to 200-300 aromas. A really good bar will have a distinctive parfum that should be savored before you place it in your mouth.
5. NO CHOMPING - (but you do want to chew when wine tasting)
6. Let a small piece MELT on the back of your tongue to get it's true flavor and MOUTH FEEL.
This can be the hardest parts of tasting chocolate - not chewing.
You may want to take some notes here (as with wine tasting) speaking of which...

As for painting chocolate bars - I'm sticking with tasting them for now. They're hard as HELL to paint. I like to paint round shapes, forget about square or rectangular ones. Plus

Monday, July 17, 2006

XMAS December Dessert Party

It's too hot to be talking about chocolat chaud... But I want to post about an Xmas party. David Dewey was my watercolor Prof for 12+ year at NAD, Parsons and summers at his Maine workshop. Annually David ran a Christmas dessert class that we all looked forward to. We'd bring in outrageous desserts and DD would set up a crazy, wild still life. We'd paint for 2 hours and finally eat the desserts and drink champagne to celebrate!This is an old Xmas demo of David's from 1996. Painting CHOCOLATE is no piece of cake...We were not supposed to use any "brown" colors. Instead we had to mix the chocolate color out of Indian Red + Pthalo Blue for example.I painted this at the 2000 dessert party. Pencil notes are all over it - overheard comments by David: "Frustration is healthy...you can always throw it away..continuity & change...what keeps you going - maintain interest...
trust the medium...be loose..."I did color swatches last week using Fancy Food Show choco bits. The trick is not to let the BROWNS go dead.
Go for a "chocolatie" feeling. "Organic paint" is when "pigments are allowed to mingle naturally on the palette or on paper wet-on-wet to describe three-dimensional form".
Taken from David's book, THE WATERCOLOR BOOK, one of the best.Some of my fellow classmates dessert paintings:Pam Fenwick did this painting last December.From Ruth J. BaronVivian Troy's painting.Last May David announced he was going off to Maine to paint full-time and he left our gang of 20 Tuesday-night-devotées.
Since then I've been painting chocolate and desserts 24/7!
What will I do next XMAS ?