Saturday, July 31, 2010

America Remakes French Films

It took me awhile to figure out that "Dinner for Schmucks," a new movie starring Steve Carrel and Paul Rudd, was more than just a summer comedy with an unappealing promotional poster.  It's also a remake of a very famous French flim called "Le dîner de cons."  In fact, haven't a fair number of French films been remade in America?  A few that quickly came to mind were:

Mon père, ce héros - My Father the Hero

La cage aux folles - Birdcage

Trois hommes et un couffin - Three Men and a Baby

A Google search turned up an article that better outlines this Franco-American cinematic phenomenon, lists numerous French films that have been remade in the States, and includes video clips.  Anything missing from the list?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The New York Baguette Search

It's the Holy Grail of French cuisine in the United States: An authentic baguette.  None of this dense, chewy, bland bread they sell in supermarkets or place on your table in restaurants.  I'm talking about a hurt-the-roof-of-your-mouth crunchy on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth airy on the inside, honest to goodness French baguette.  It's a difficult thing to find on this side of the Atlantic, but I'm betting that if they're anywhere, they're in New York City.  Because, really, this city has everything. 

With that in mind, I'm on a mission to find an authentic French baguette in the Big Apple.  My time here is quickly slipping away - only five weeks to go -  so I have to act fast.  If you know of any good places to get authentic French bread in NYC, I'd be happy to hear about it.  In the meantime, I'll be searching Google and the West Village for leads while toting around a jar of Nutella.  Just in case I find a baguette worthy of it. 
To be continued...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

French Women Don't Get Fat?

When Mireille Guiliano released her buzzworthy book, French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, back in 2005, I had not the slightest bit of interest in reading it.   At time I felt burnt out on tales of the French and their miraculously trim bodies.  Plus, I had already been to France and seen actual French women, so I thought, "Of course they don't get fat, they all chain smoke!"

Fast forward five years, and I know better than to think all French women chain smoke, or that there isn't something special going on in their country that keeps more of its citizens slim than we seem to be able to do here in the U.S.  So when I noticed Ms. Guiliano's book on my roommate's bookshelf I decided to put away my old hang-ups and take a look.

If you've read anything by Michael Pollan - the famous food guru of late - you'll instantly recognize some similarities between his message and that of Ms. Guiliano.   I just read Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, where he emphasizes the importance of eating real food (sans chemicals, additives, etc) and of avoiding "food" fads (margarine, anyone?).  In French Women Don't Get Fat (FWDGF), we learn that eating real food is one of the French woman's secrets to maintaining a svelte figure.  Mr. Pollan also highlights the role of relying on culture and history to guide our eating choices.  Is that thing on your plate something your great-grandmother would have recognized as food?  No?  Then don't even think about it.  FWDGF waxes poetic about French food culture and history and their positive role in shaping the choices of a hungry French woman.  Here's a quote from FWDGF that pretty much sums it up:

"French women don't get fat because they have not allowed new attitudes and modern theories of how the body uses food to overrule centuries of experience."

With her no-fuss, no-muss attitude toward food Ms. Guiliano won my affection.  I'm someone who's looking for a return to common sense at the dinner table, and that's what she's offering.  FWDGF did, however, irk me in a couple of big ways.  First,  Ms. Guiliano's assertion that French women don't obsess about their weight and diets like American women struck me as a bit overstated considering the number of pharmacy windows in France that are decked out in ads for everything from cellulite-reducing cream to tummy-flatting teas.  What's more, her disdain for working out at the gym or going for a run outside is very French, but I appreciate that some Americans (including myself) choose to keep fit this way, and there might just be a few French women (and men!) who could benefit from the same.

That said, I greatly enjoyed this book.  It's a fun, quick read filled with lots of easy-to-implement tips for daily life and down-to-earth stories about the author's own struggle with weight (she currently lives and works in New York City where she is president and CEO of Clicquot, Inc...get jealous).  Plus, it has recipes, and adding recipes to your book is a sure way to turn me into a loyal reader.

Have you read FWDGF?  What did you think?

Monday, July 19, 2010

McDonald's at the Louvre

One of my favorite television shows, CBS Sunday Morning, ran a story this weekend about the McDonald's that will soon open in the Louvre's food court.  Not that there were any decent choices there to begin with (France commits its own special culinary sins, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise), but the appearance of "MacDo" seems to be stirring up some ire.  All of this despite the fact that, as the report points out, after the U.S., France is the largest consumer of McDonald's in the world.  Bon appetit!

You can read the full story on their website, as told by a reporter the show calls "Our Man in Paris."  Maybe they need an "Our Woman in Paris," too? 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cheap(er) French Wine

I just found my new favorite store in New York City.  It's called Warehouse Wines & Spirits, it's at 735 Broadway, and it's amazing.

The fortuitous discovery took place while on a Bastille Day wine hunt.  I just moved to a new neighborhood in Manhattan (The East Village, was previously in Brooklyn) and hadn't stumbled across a liquor store yet.  Then, on my way to the gym I saw this store's enormous yellow sign and knew I was on the right track.  But I didn't know that it was a discount wine store selling everything from Côtes du Rhone to Champagne at very agreeably marked-down prices.   A bottle of Moët for $35?  Check.  Pinot Noir from Burgundy for $13?  Yep.  Row after row of French wine (with a surprising number of bouteilles for $10 or less), helpfully organized by region and thoughtfully described on accompanying note cards?  Oui.  Maybe I'm out of touch with wine prices, but I they sure seemed like good deals to me. 

The store also has a large clearance rack (one of my favorite places to stock up), friendly, helpful staff, and (this is New York City, after all) a considerable number of shady looking characters scraping together pennies to buy cheap rum and vodka.  But they're harmless.  If you're in town and in need of recession-proof St.-Émilion you can't ignore Warehouse Wines & Spirits.  I'll see you there.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Le 14 Juillet

Two years ago today I was sitting under the Eiffel Tower enjoying a baguette/cheese/saucisson picnic while waiting for the sky to light up with Bastille Day fireworks.  This year I'm in NYC, and since I was in LA during last weekend's local French fête, I'll probably just celebrate by opening a nice bottle of French wine and sharing it with my roommates while we escape the opressive heat in front of our window unit air conditioner.  Sure, it's not like being in Paris, but hey, there's wine.  I can live with that. 

Are you doing something super chouette to celebrate Bastille Day?  Last week I asked Parisian Spring readers to enter the first Parisian Spring Bastille Day Contest by sharing their July 14th plans.  Responses ranged from making macarons to reminicing about fabulous Parisian vacations gone by.  But there can only be one winner, and after completing my ultra scientific selection process (ok, I randomly drew a name out of a hat), the winner is...

Blue Penguin

Félicitations!  I'll be sending you a copy of David Lebovitz's "The Sweet Life in Paris" as well as a mousepad featuring a French WWI propaganda poster (but first you have to send your mailing address to me at

Thanks to everyone who participated.  Happy Bastille Day! 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review: jetBlue

In the span of about three weeks I will have flown jetBlue no less than four times: NYC-SEA, SEA-NYC, NYC-LAX, and LAX-NYC.  I will also have crossed the entire United States four times, which is no easy feat considering I could probably have gotten to London in the time it takes me to get to the West Coast, so it has been a relief to spend those airborne hours in the comfort of my leather, satellite TV-equipped, leg room a-plenty jetBlue seat.

If you've enjoyed flying with Virgin America, you'd enjoy flying with jetBlue.  They're similar in their laid back approach to air travel and their serious efforts to give fliers a few welcome perks.  Both offer satellite TV (free) and a handful of movies (pay), which are a lifesaver when you've got time to burn on a transcontinental flight.  They both also offer a wide selection of decent-for-airlines food for purchase, and they keep their fares competitive with deep discounts for flights purchased well in advance and regular sales.  But jetBlue goes even further by offering free snacks (your choice of cookies, terra chips, cashews, animal crackers, and often a few others) and one free checked bag.  It's a bit sad that we consider a free checked bag to be a perk when recent memory tells us all airlines used to check our bags for free, but in today's pared down flying climate we travelers take what we can get.

The jetBlue terminal at JFK offers additional extras like charging stations for your electronics and a chic bar with small bites and a decent wine list.  All in all, jetBlue is an affordable, comfortable, and, dare I say it, fun airline.  Like Virgin America they fly limited routes, but if they're flying yours I recommend you book a flight and, while you're at it, join their TrueBlue rewards program.  You'll be back.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Parisian Spring Bastille Day Contest

Bastille Day may be France's national holiday, but people all over the world seem to enjoy celebrating 1789's most infamous prison break.  For example, cities all over the United States (even Milwaukee!) hold block parties,  stage Bastille-storming reenactments, and drink plenty of celebratory wine.

For my own July 14th celebration I'm hosting the first Parisian Spring Bastille Day Contest!  You could win one of my favorite books about the City of Light: "The Sweet Life in Paris," by David Lebovitz.  His observations on life in Paris among the Parisians will ring true to anyone who has spent time there (or inspire anyone who hasn't spent time there to buy a plane ticket already), and the recipes that accompany each chapter are easy and delicious.

Of course, Bastille Day isn't really about food, but it is largely about the French military (see: impressive military parade on the Champs-Elysées), so I'll also throw in mousepad with a World War I-era French propaganda poster.  Vive la France!

You know you want to read up on la vie Parisienne while baking a French gâteau and gazing at your tri-colore and Marianne inspired mousepad, do you enter the Parisian Spring Bastille Day Contest?

It's easy!  Just leave a comment below telling me how you plan to celebrate Bastille Day.  And since this French-inspired contest is blissfully free of French bureaucracy, I'll accept any comment that has any French theme you can think of.  Not celebrating Bastille Day?  Tell me what you love about France, or a French word you know, or a French city you'd like to visit.  No red tape here, just prizes.

A few important details:

1.  The Parisian Spring Bastille Day Contest starts today and ends at noon EST on July 14th.
2.  I will select a winner using the tried and true method of picking a name out of a hat.
3.  Be sure to leave your email address with your comment so I can contact you if you win.
4.  If you also tweet this contest and mention @TanyaBrothen I will enter your name into the hat twice.
4.  I will ship the prizes anywhere in the world.
5.  Have fun!  We are celebrating libertéégalité, and fraternité, after all.

So, what are you doing this year to celebrate Bastille Day?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ladurée in Los Angeles

This week, I'm back on the West Coast to celebrate our nation's birthday as well as my own. For the first vacation breakfast we headed downtown to a French restaurant in a section of Los Angeles that is well into a much-needed revival: Bottega Louie. The first thing you notice about Bottega Louie is that it's enormous. The interior has soaring ceilings, kitchens that open onto the dining floor, and multiple seating arrangements, including a full bar, a section of café-style tables, and a formal dining room. The second thing you notice about Bottega Louie is that it feels a lot like like a certain Paris-based Macaron Mecca called Ladurée.

Like Ladurée, Bottega Louie makes and sells a range of colorful macarons that are packaged in pastel colored boxes created to induce delighted oohs and aahs when revealed to the lucky participants of whatever dinner party, work gathering, or birthday celebration they attend. If macarons aren't your thing (guilty as charged), Bottega Louie also offers a full range of French-inspired tarts, éclairs, breads, beignets, and croissants. I picked up a $6.00 fruit tart with a Tahitian vanilla filling. In my opinion, it's the cream filling that can make or break a tart, and this particular rendition did not disappoint. Bottega Louie's breads and breakfast (we had lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry syrup and an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich) all hit the mark.

The main difference between Bottega Louie and Ladurée, other than geography and celebrity, is atmosphere. Bottega Louie is French-inspired in its menu, but American in its atmosphere - it's lively, friendly, and decidedly West Coast-relaxed. In contrast, dining at Ladurée is an exercise in proper Parisian behavior. The dining rooms are quiet, the servers aloof, and the portions minuscule. But they do make a mean pâtisserie.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

I've never been to Canada and I'm not sure why. I grew up a mere 5 hours from the Canadian border, it has a French-speaking province, and I've heard nothing but good things about the people, places, and culture of our neighbor to the north. So I really have no excuse.

What's more, Canada has never been anything but good to me. According to Parisian Spring statistics, a large portion of my readers hail from Canada. So I'd like to take the time this July 1st to wish all of my Canadians friends out there a very happy Canada Day. Thank you so much and merci beaucoup for being such loyal Parisian Spring readers! I look forward to that splendid day in the future when I finally make it across the border.