Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Room with a View

Designed by chef Gilles Stassart and artist Laurent Grasso, this stunning glass box sits atop the 1937 Palais de Tokyo in Paris, which became a contemporary art museum in 2002. Called Art Home or Nomiya, it's an experimental restaurant serving prix fixe meals by reservation only. It's a cooking school, for adults and kids. It's a gourmet shop. And it's also a showroom for the newest Electrolux products. It's open only for one year and today is Day #183. I haven't been to see it or eat there but I definitely will next time I'm in Paris. Meanwhile you can get all the info and make reservations HERE. To see more great photos, click HERE.

Photos top to bottom: Nomiya incoming; in the afternoon light; two nighttime views.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Wines, Old Ways

Earlier this month, Time Magazine ran an interesting story about Jean-Daniel Schlaepfer (above) and other French winemakers who ferment their high-end wines in egg-shaped vessels based on amphorae — the clay jars used by the Romans centuries ago. Schlaepfer belongs to a growing number of producers who are "returning to the wisdom of the ancients in order to achieve the truest expression of a given harvest," according to Time reporter Jeffrey Iverson. The egg-shaped vessels are known as Nomblot Eggs and were created in 2001 by Burgundy-based vatmaker Marc Nomblot (, who now sells 250 of them each year.

Read the article HERE.

Photo: Jean-Daniel Schlaepfer of Domaine de Lauzières in Mouriès, Provence, with his Nomblot Egg fermentation tanks. Photo courtesy of Time Magazine.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Kevin Meredith via You can see many more of his whimsical and wonderful images there and here and here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Cocktail Drinkers' Guide to Gardening: December

Born in Hampshire, England, James Clay is an artist and sculptor who settled down (somewhat) in St. Remy close to 20 years ago. Over time, he lovingly created a gorgeous one-hectare garden filled with fruit, palm, pine and olive trees (he has 60 olive trees, all of them transplanted), plus many varieities of bamboo, flowering plants and shrubs. James knows everything about gardening in Provence. Plus, he likes to drink. So he combines both of his passions in this monthly column. It's a great idea, no? This month, the third installment, James suggests some great holiday gifts to delight the gardener in your life...and a classic cold-weather drink to go with. To read James' previous columns, click on his name in the labels at the very bottom of this post. Enjoy!

December: Manure and Mulled Wine

I don't know about you but I love both--and this is the season to enjoy them! Not only is it party time and I get to tell my "Joke of the Year" (as often as I can), but I get to spread manure too! I don't see why you should be spared my joke so here we go.

"What did the inflatable headmaster of the inflatable school say to the inflatable schoolboy who brought a pin to school?"

"You've let me down, you've let the school down and, furthermore, you've let yourself down."

I wonder why I like this joke so much? Probably because it sums up my educational background. School was such a letdown.

If you're a gardener then you already know why I love manure. If you're not, but your partner or friends are, then I have some original ideas for Christmas presents. Go along to your local nursery or garden centre and check out the manure they have in plastic sacks. Horse manure is the Rolls Royce of manures and is always generally available; if you prefer to make the grand gesture and can find a horse riding school, a small truck load of horse manure delivered to your loved one will thrill a true gardener to his or her core.

You'll be amazed by what we gardeners consider fantastic Christmas gifts...and here are a few more ideas. No gardener is complete without a good pair of secateurs; you can make up a basket of small gifts including seed packets, balls of string (I'm always delighted to receive string!), plant labels, bulbs, flower pots, etc. Don't forget the hyacinths, daffodils and narcissi that are already potted up and almost in flower.

We are lucky here in Provence to have great weather later in the year so we can still be outside enjoying the garden. My potted citrus trees have all been taken indoors by now to protect them from the frost. I water them very infrequently at this time of year but they still need a little now and again. It is worth cutting out any dead wood and then spraying them for red spider mite, which love citrus trees.

Like many French gardeners, I am totally won over by Bouille Bordelaise (copper sulphate). I'm sure you've noticed it everywhere in the region and afar. Years ago, I always wondered why some house fronts had a blue hue to them, not realizing that in fact the owners had sprayed their vines with "bouille" as it is commonly called and, by late winter, all the leaves had gone and exposed the stained walls. My first experience with spraying bouille was unfortunate as the wind changed direction and I found myself covered from head to foot in a heavy shower of blue.

At least I had the satisfaction of knowing I was safe from getting mildew. My gardener has taught me so much over the last 13 years and one of those things is that Bouille Bordelaise is indispensable, so add that to your Christmas shopping list!

Now that the subject of manure is out of the way, then let us turn to something that smells sweeter: mulled wine. This recipe is by the bottle of wine so just add more bottles to cater for as many people as you invite over.


3 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
12 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 lemon peel
1 bottle of red wine
1/4 cup of brandy

Bring water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel to a boil in a stainless steel pot, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the wine; now bring back to a drinking temperature BUT DO NOT BOIL. Then add brandy.

Season's Greetings!

Photo by Karen Trinko. To see and purchase her work, click here or go here:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Success and Savoir Faire

Mireille Guiliano, who wrote French Women Don't Get Fat, is one of those women who just do things with more grace and style than most. Lucky for us, her newest book divulges more than a few of her secrets.
The author of the bestselling French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for all Seasons, Mireille spent more than 20 years as the CEO of Clicquot Inc., the American division of the celebrated French Champagne company. Under her leadership, the brand grew from less than 1% of the US market to more than 25%. She's a champion of women in business and a tireless mentor.
Mireille retired from Clicquot a few years ago to write, consult, lecture, travel and explore new opportunities. And just as she made headlines with her pleasure-oriented, common sense approach to weight control, her new book emphasizes the joie d'vivre of finding joy, balance and success in the working world. It's called Women, Work & The Art of Savoir Faire (Atria Books; $24.95; October , 2009).
Mireille is a friend of mine and I'm a huge fan. At a time when she could kick back and just coast, she's working harder than ever, always on multiple projects at once. Much of what she earns--or all of it, for all I know--goes to charity. Mireille has a complicated busy life, dashing between homes in New York, Paris and Provence, and yet I've never once heard her complain: about a delayed flight, a missing suitcase, bad meal, bad day. She maintains a huge network of interesting, artistic friends and hosts a large pack of them in Provence each summer, pampering everyone with great food and drink, delicious excursions and elegant evening parties. Plus, she has what looks like a supremely happy marriage to a man she obviously adores: Edward Guiliano, a university president. And she always looks great, of course.
Mireille's newest book has received wide publicity for its warm, no-nonsense approach...and has already been picked up by a dozen foreign publishers. It provides strategies, examples, anecdotes and valuable lessons in an easygoing, chatty style. It's an easy, fun read...a couple nights is all it will take. In it, you'll find solid tips on everything from acing a job interview to surviving the indignities of a long business trip to hosting a dinner in a restaurant...from someone who views herself not as a management consultant or career guru but rather an accomplished professional with a uniquely female perspective on business in both America and abroad.
Depending on where you live, order the book from, or For more info on Mireille:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Macarons: The New Cupcakes?

Remember how, a couple years back, cupcakes became the new new thing? Just last month, in fact, I spent $5.25 on one in a tiny and very posh cupcake boutique called More in Chicago because I just had to know what a bacon-and-maple-syrup cupcake would taste like (answer: good). But now, in terms of foodie lust and adulation, I'm seeing cupcakes being nudged aside by macarons. Have you noticed? I'm seeing them everywhere, including--wait for it!--at Starbucks. Yep, from Sunday Dec 13th until Dec 26th, 3,500 Starbuck's coffee shops across the U.S. will be selling this 12-piece selection, made in France by Château Blanc. The box includes two pieces each of coffee, pistachio, raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, and lemon. I can't imagine they would give either Pierre Hermé's or Ladurée's famous ones a run for their money but you gotta give Starbuck's an "A" for effort, no? The packaging is pretty, the "limited time only" implies freshness and, considering les macarons sell in chic Parisian patisseries for 1 or 2 euro each, this $9.95 box is a pretty good deal as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Postcards from Provence

If, like I am, you're a fan of the work of Provence-based artist Julian Merrow-Smith, you can now own a lovely 160-page book containing 140 full-color plates of his paintings.

Merrow-Smith is a British artist based in Bedoin (near Avignon), whose still- life paintings are inspired by objets trouvés, pottery and seasonal produce from local markets. His landscapes, meanwhile, represent scenes within walking distance of his studio.

The inspiration for his Postcard from Provence painting project and website came in 2004 with the arrival, deep in the French countryside, of a high-speed internet connection and Duane Keiser's "A Painting a Day" blog. The daily painting blog format has since been taken up by hundreds of artists attracted by the commitment a daily practice demands and the opportunity to share their work with people all over the world. Postcard from Provence has gone on to receive international acclaim in the media being featured in The New York Times, The London Times, USAToday, The Sunday Telegraph and The Guardian.

The 8½" x 10" book will be printed on acid free heavyweight Japanese art paper and published in Spring. When it's released, the price will be €24.95 ($34.95) +shipping but Merrow-Smith is now accepting pre-orders of signed copies for €19.95 ($29.95). If you pre-order, shipping is free. And if you decide to make a holiday gift of a pre-ordered signed copy, in addition to free shipping Merrow-Smith will send a 'Postcard from Provence' card from you to a special person in time for the holidays.

The artist is also offering free shipping on all prints.

To see details, paintings, info on ordering and more, go to:

Monday, December 7, 2009

This Week on the Web...

There's lots of fun stuff online this week about our favorite place. Here are a few things you might enjoy...

The First Lady of France donned a blue jumpsuit and visited the aerobatic squadron Patrouille de France at an exhibition in Salon-de-Provence on Friday. Go here.

And here's the Daily Mail on those pesky Carla rumors. (Isn't the whole "is she or isn't she?" thing sort of like buying a ticket to the circus and being surprised to find elephants?)

Canadian journalist Todd Babiak, his wife and their two young daughters are spending an educational year in France. Here, they travel to Strasbourg to explore French culture through its holy sites and cuisine.

This is fun, from the Telegraph: Anthony Peregrine tells all about leading a guided coach tour of Provence.

And from the same writer, a lovely piece about spring in Provence.

Some yummy reasonably priced rosés are reviewed in the Washington Post.

While we're on wine, the French government has approved wine tastings on university campuses.

Chefs love the breads from this French-style bakery on Manhattan's Lower East Side, with a name that channels Provence. Now Pain d'Avignon offers retail as well, baking 50 different naturally fermented types each day.

On the blog MyMelange, guest blogger Cherrye Moore shares her early expat experiences in Paris. Read it here.

And here are Peter Mayle's thoughts on, um, corkscrews.

Our favorite local body care company L'Occitane plans to go public.

The Ottowa Citizen talks about renting a villa in Provence.

The blog Why Travel To France has some cute sidewalk graffiti.

Here's a very cool new Provence tourism website. Make sure to click on both the left side and the right.

And finally, some news on endangered French cheeses. (Should you see one in your garden, don't shoot!)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pompeii...the Easy Way

Google’s Street View, which lets you zoom into Google Maps and stroll through city streets in 3D, is amazing in its own right (they've done a pretty comprehensive survey of Provence, by the way). But it just got even more amazing with the addition of the ancient ruins of Pompeii.
Pompeii —the partially buried Roman city near Naples, Italy — is one of the most amazing sights one can see in one’s lifetime. The city was destroyed during an eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., but after it was rediscovered in 1738 and excavated in the late 19th century, it became one of the most important archaeological finds (and tourist attractions) of all time.
Now, you can explore it in 3D via Google’s Street View. Check it out here. And thanks to the great tech website Mashable for this story.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Saturday in Avignon

If you'll be in Avignon Saturday Dec. 5th--perhaps to visit the charming Christmas market on the Place Horloge--you might want to check out one or both of these English-speaking events.

The first is the monthly BookShare rendezvous, when members lend and discuss current English-language books. It's 4 to 5:30 pm and visitors are welcomed. It happens at the Zeste Cafe, 62 Place des Corps Saints, Avignon. For more info, contact Dennis Shibut:, or

Then in the evening, Democrats Abroad France and the Avignon Chapter of Democrats Abroad will co-host a dinner with guest of honor and speaker Curtis Roosevelt, grandson of President FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt. (Yep, that's him with grandpa, above.) All are welcome.

Roosevelt's career has included several executive positions with the United Nations and educational institutions, as well as TV documentaries and writing. He currently acts as historian for the Roosevelt family, lives in retirement near Avignon and will soon be on a U.S. tour to present his latest book Too Close to the Sun.

Roosevelt grew up in the White House with his grandparents, and was witness to many momentous events of the period. He'll address the theme: "Comparing the Political Dynamicsof the Mid-1930’s with 2009: Presidents Roosevelt and Obama," or, more informally, "Comparisons are Odious--Let’s Have Fun!"

The event will be at the Hotel Cloitre Saint Louis (Avignon) starting at 7:30 p.m. There will be 3-course prix-fixe menu, preceded by an apéritif, and with wine and coffee, for 40€ per person.

To RSVP: or 04 90 86 20 64.