Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN!

Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN!
Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN!, watercolor on paper, 12" x 15"

Everyone raves about Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN.
So on my last day in Paris I thought I better do due dilligence and eat one.
Better arrive at the shop as they open the doors at 10am, unless you like waiting on line...

Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN!
The Ispahan is composed of 2 almond (à la rose) macarons, raspberry gelée, + fresh raspberries. Hermé has made quite
a few versions of this combo... Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN! "Mr H Ispahan"(c) arrived perfectly intact back to my hotel room.

No berries decided to walk in transit as they had on someone else's creation :)

Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN!

I kept seeing versions of the Ispahan where ever I looked in Paris...This table again :)

Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN!

On rue de Seine, another version...what do you think?

no longer Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN

An older version... Hermé created the Ispahan when he was still working at Ladurée. But some say it lacks his finess now.

NOT Pierre Hermé's ISPAHAN I was lucky to see the original version of the Ispahan in Jahan square before Persia/Iran closed it's doors. I wondered what was the relationship? Color or shape..?

It's the Persian Rose syrup that makes the Ispahan Ispahanian!

I'm sorry to report that "last-day-in-Paris-angst" made me wolf down this petit-four too quickly.
I'll just have to go back and conduct a more leisurely tasting of this famous treat...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rouge Et Noir...

I bought this pomagranete to go with the Hediard tin of tea in my still life on rue de Seine... Rouge Et Noir..., watercolor on paper, 12" x 15"
While painting Russian illustrations, you become acutely aware of national color combinations. In Russian folk art, red, yellow and green are used over and over. When I think of France I see bleu.
But this October Paris windows and streets were full of red and black. Hediard is the classic example of a red and black brand, that just always looks tres classe.
Galeries Lafayette knows how to throw around red and black and there was plenty in their windows. Other windows too were pairing these two up.

The classic black French wine bottle with the red capsule is always a standard of elegance. No one does it better. Lots of the Paris cafés are done up totally in black, but can you count the number of people wearing touches of red with their black outfits to add some zip?
I'm convinced this all-red café is saving itself for those customers wearing only BLACK!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Still in Russia...

Almost done... I'm still on Russian turf and it isn't The Russian Tea Room, malheureusement.
But I should have finished my illustrations and be back in macaronland or wind-up birdland by tomorrow... à tout à l'heure :)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My Camera...

Mr. Canon meets Monsieur Escargot A few of you have asked what camera I use? Here is my best friend, Mr. Canon PowerShot A510 (with just 3.2 pixels). I don't believe in all this pixel nonsense. You can get perfectly good pictures without going overboard in the pixel area. When I bought the Canon, a pro told me not to go for the big numbers -> you get less pictures. I like to shoot a lot, so I keep my settings low too. My painting teacher, Susanna Coffey, always said go for quantity and the quality will come.
My lovely brand new PowerShot sat in it's box for 2-3 months. Then Annie came to town with the same camera and showed me how ridiculously easy it was to take a picture.

I think it's useful to have a number of cards. This last trip I went daily to the Odean photo shop, unloaded my picts onto a CD, cleaned my card, and was ready for the next day. They have machines in France that spit out your photos in seconds too. I would love one of those...
New birds in the house sitting on unused Sony..I did buy a back-up camera, a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S90. It's got a huge LCD window 2.5" vs the Canon's 1.8". I made sure to take it out of the box. But I have not shot a single pic sorry to say :(

Now if Annie would just get a Sony I could get cracking on it :)

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Russian Tea Room

I'm doing illustrations for a Russian-themed Xmas book at the moment. So when Louise and Merlin invited me to Thanksgiving dinner at the newly reopened The Russian Tea Room NYC, I did a spirited Kazatska (a Russian Sailors' Dance).

The Russian Tea Room NYC

It was pouring last night but that made not the slightest dent in a delightful evening. The RTR is next door to Carnegie Hall and later you can see New York's big Xmas shiney star hanging at the intersection of 5th avenue and 57th street..

The room is as lovely as ever - full of warm golden light you look your best in, reflected off the gold leaf ceiling. Note the gold firebird relief sculptures in the back, Russian ballet drawings and paintings cover the walls, and the orchids on the front table. So atmospheric...

The Russian Tea Room NYC

The food was exquisite, with excellent chef, Gary Robbins at the helm. Louise, Merlin and I shared these 3 lush desserts. Or should I say fought over :)
The Russian Tea Room NYC

The gorgeous brass tea samovars are still all over the walls... The Russian Tea Room NYC

They still serve tea in a glass Russian style.. I'm going to paint this soon.

The Russian Tea Room NYC

Here's the RTR's doorman decked out in a long red great coat. There's tons of history (architectual and theatrical) attached to The Russian Tea Room.

Taxi please...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving French-Style...

I see Fiesta ware, but no turkey!

Navajos dining at the Musée Des Arts Décoratifs,
Ah Ha! Thanksgiving French-style!
Where's the turkey you demand..?

These Proletarians, could they be vegetarien?
Is that turkey at the veterinarian's?
I'm working on this détaille...Your wish is my command.

Hello A wooden turkey? I don't think so...


Happy Holidays :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Les Animaux de Paris

I keep seeing all manner of This vache/cow in the fromagerie/cheese store on rue Montorgueil was busy wahching the passing ladybug. It wasn't just me noticing Paris animals.
this restaurant has snails attached everywhere. And rightly so, since they are the main focus of the menu. macarons
Another cow grazing just down from my hotel on rue de Seine in a Fromagerie..
animals in Paris, not just birds. A mom is walking with her little girl, who is walking her coccinelle/ladybug. The red wings flap as it follows her...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Feathered Friends

Feathered Friends..., watercolor on paper An older watercolor of Piu Piu... I saw birds and other animals all over Paris in the windows...
A sweet little birdie holding onto a bit of lace.

...a bit of lace undies. Finally a naughty picture at Paris Breakfasts!

This proud bird resides in the copper pot department at E. Dehillerin - the best Parisien professional kitchen supply house at 20, rue Coquillière, 75001.

A lucky duck at Dihillerin, this one in the window. Don't you love the jaunty red chef's neckerchief he's sporting..?

This wonderful sign on rue Montorgueil...

These two Magpies stopped me in my tracks at this left bank shop window! I did see a pair of giant black Ravens early one morning on Boulevard St. Germain. They were on the street, not in any shop window. Looking for a Paris breakfast croissant I guess...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Love Birds...

We're stuck on each other - the key to love Love Birds..., watercolor on paper
This is the week of the Thanksgiving bird, the BIG BIRD. Last July I was nuts for little birds, sparrows in particular. In May I found a Parisien bird to bring home - Piu Piu. So this last trip I went looking again...
Waiting for someone to take us home...
Back to the Marais Pylones, to find a friend for Piu Piu in New York.. We'd like to visit New York... But somehow these other Piu Pius (French for tweedie Bird) didn't do it for me.
Moi aussi... There were all manner of silly things to choose from: Bunnies, ducks, cats, elephants. But not my dream bird.

The perfect wind-up bird... I went to the newly renovated Musée Des Arts Décoratifs. There was "my bird" on the 2nd floor amongst the vintage toys, waiting. Luckily the museum shop had a similar one called Blue Bird made in China.
These two birds hit it off instantly. Piu Piu is magnetic and "Blue Bird" is tin and the rest is history. I used to collect vintage rubber duckies.
Then Rudi, my Belgian Sheepdog, in a weak moment, woolfed them down.
Guess they were like chocolate for him :)

I like the cut of your jib

Friday, November 17, 2006

Beautiful Chocolate Beans

Beautiful Beans..., watercolor on paper, 12" x 15"
In the US everyone asks me, "what's that big brown thing?" (in the upper left corner..) In France no one would need to ask. They know a cabosse (cacao bean, pronounced 'ka KOW') when they see one.
If you're really passionate about chocolate you should know where it comes from and how it's made. Not just whether you prefer dark or milk. Gérard Mulot's Paris window tells the story neatly, showing the fresh cocoa bean pods on the left, the dried pod on the right, chunks of couverture sitting amongst the dried seeds. Not to forget all the delicious end results..
At the Paris Salon de Chocolat you could buy a fresh pod from Michel Cluizel Chocolat. I bought one last year at the NY show. They told me, 'you better dry it PDQ or it will quickly rot'. After 24 hours in a slow oven I got the resulting "brown thing" in the above watercolor
Photos of bean preparation at the Paris Salon + a dried open bean.

At the Mexican stand in Paris they let me taste a fresh seed. Sweetish but definitely not chocolatie!

E.Guittard at the NY Chocolate show had educational displays with lots of tasting of all percentages of chocolate. Guittard helps small farmers in Latin America update their techniques and improve the quality of their beans. The end result is better chocolate for their bars and for US pastry chefs' desserts. There are plenty of books to read out there on chocolate. Or visit Guittard's website. Don't just eat and run. Get to know "beans about" chocolate. 
Ok, so here's a trick question.. Now what is that "brown thing" sticking out of the glass vase in this fantastic floral display in Gérard Mulot's window? You will be graded. Don't all shout at once.