Saturday, March 24, 2012

Paris…You Make My Eyes Sparkle

I have been lucky enough to explore Paris on several occasions recently and fall more in love with this city every time I visit.

My eyes cannot stop wandering whilst I walk the streets. Paris with its endless beautiful buildings with the most intricate detail. 

My eyes sparkle…

Crepe stands, corner cafes, book stores, galleries, tiny streets, wide boulevards, cozy apartments, majestic palaces, museums, endless museums and a LOVE for food, fashion and life.  

Paris. Je t’aime.

Not sure if my life will ever take me to Paris to live but I will most definitely jump at every opportunity to explore further corners of the city…to go Mmmmhhh for the food, to go Ahhhhhhh at the architecture and to fall more in love step by step, twinkle by twinkle. 

Here are my tips on Paris so far: 
  • La Boussole Restaurant – A feast of flavours. Truly amazing food and wonderful service. In a lively area where you have abundant after-dinner drink opportunities.
  • La Maison Kayser – A Parisien Patisserie with THE best baguettes. The chocolate chip cookies are equally as ridiculous
  • St. Germain by night – Young, hip and lively. People-watch, catch up and have fun! The church of St. Germain is beautiful (on a side note).
  • Latin Quarter – I must admit that I had a blonde moment and thought this would be the Latino district with a lot of salsa dancing when I booked my hotel room for one of my visits. Wake up moment came when it clicked and I realized it was the ‘Latin’ Quarter – as in the Latin LANGUAGE. Great place to stay for travelers, easily accessible by Metro and close to enough pubs, bars and nightlife.  
  • Notre Dame/ Champs Elysees/ The Louvre – Do all of these. Do all of these twice, and three times. Not underrated by any means.

  • The Eiffel Tower - Go by day. Go by night. Watch it light up and sparkle. So romantic!
  • Route between Eiffel Tower and St. Germain – I ran this one morning and ran past beautiful Embassy buildings, corner shops, cafes, parks…a beautiful route.

  • Rue Cler – Want a local weekend morning experience in Paris. Then go down to Rue Cler on a weekend morning and enjoy a espresso at one of the cafes before grabbing some traditional cheese and other market goodies from the local producers. A small street, which gives you a taste for Le Vrai Paris…
  • Marais – A fun district, one of the oldest in Paris and home to great shopping. A good choice for hotels as it is a great location to reach all main sites of Paris.
  • Banks of the Seine River (Close to Notre Dame) – If you are into running, make sure to throw on your sneakers and go for a run along the banks of the Seine River. In the summer time, grab a picnic, a bottle of wine and some friends to laze on the banks of the Seine. You’ll even find dancing in some areas on weekend summer evenings.
  • Montmatre – A beautiful view of Paris on a clear, sunny day.
  • Pigalle – Pigalle is turning around and becoming a trendier neighborhood. It is known for its multitude of sex shops and got its nickname "Pig Alley" from British soldiers during the Second World War. Check it out and definitely check out Chloe's cupcake shop. A treat (literally) in itself. 

These are not my sketches but I loved them as they capture some of Paris’ beauty and culture through watercolours and pencil sketches. 

Audrey Hepburn put it right when she said…”Paris is ALWAYS a good idea.” I cannot agree more.

A bientot Paris…

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Dreamy Creamy Lemon Tart

I say, make a Lemon Cream Tart instead! Introducing THE Creamiest Lemon Tart you have ever tasted:

My picture definitely does not do this treat any justice. Claiming that this lemon cream filled tart is simply creamy is a profound understatement. The lemon cream is SO silky, SO creamy and SO smooth, it is heavenly, simply perfect. The recipe may demand a bit of patience but the result will be worth your while. Trust me.

So without much ado, here is the recipe to Pierre Hermes Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart, which I found in one of my favourite baking books: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Try it. You'll love it and so will those around you.

Pierre Herme's Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
makes 8 servings

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell

Making The Tart
Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.
3. As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.
4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
5. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth.

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the frige for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sydney Dreams

One day I will call it home. A city filled with abundant sunshine and joy.

The beaches, the cafes and the restaurant culture. The cosmopolitan lifestyle, the parks, the views and the nature. The sunshine, the ocean and an utter love for the weekends. Pure Joie de Vivre.

I’ve been lucky enough to explore Sydney on several occasions already but my most recent trip left a distinct mark and I have now begun dreaming…

Although my writing demonstrates a high level of passion for the city, I don’t know Sydney well enough to give you ALL of the insider tips. I can, however, highlight my favourites so far, which will, no doubt, be appreciated by anyone living or travelling there.  Here are my favourite:

  •         Day Activity
  •         Breakfast Spot
  •         Brunch/Lunch Spot
  •         Dinner Spot

Day Activity:
One of my favourite parts of the weekend was hiring bicycles at Circular Quay and jumping on the ferry to Watson Bay. The ferry is fast and cheap (leaves from Pier 4) but gives you a scenic ride, which you would normally pay a ridiculous ‘tourist’ price for if anywhere else. We cycled through beautiful neighbourhoods (Rosebay) and past dreamy houses all the way down (and up – there were a few killer hills J) to Bondi Beach. Bronzed, beautiful bodies, travellers, locals, longboards, shortboards, runners, cafes, smoothies, ice cream vendors, boutiques, and the list continues. A neighbourhood which provides a lovely blend of coast, beach, culture and style. Yet another upside to living in Sydney is that no one seems to work on a Friday! The beach was filled with people and most were definitely not tourists. I guess it is called Poets Day after all – Piss off early, tomorrow’s Saturday. The attitude that one feels in Sydney is that people understand the balance that is needed between work and play, a concept that can easily be forgotten in the Western world. Those that do work on a Friday are mainly based in the few high rise buildings in the CBD and they all stream to the bars around George Street after work to enjoy a few drinks with their colleagues. George street was buzzing with lots of chatter and laughter, which leaves you wanting to be amongst the crowds as well. On a sunny day, a perfect place for an after-work drink is the Opera Bar, a bar located right next to the Sydney Opera House, directly facing the Harbour Bridge. A spectacular view.

Breakfast Spot:
If you end up staying in the Bondi area whilst in Sydney, make sure to stroll over (or jog for those that love being active) to Bronte along the coastal cliffs. Another beautiful beach with an abundant supply of cute cafes. The Bogey Hole is a winner – their granola with yoghurt and fruit for breakfast…YUM!

Orto Trading Co.

Brunch/Lunch (or Dinner) Spot:
If you’re strolling through Surry Hills, a very cute area just out of the CBD area, make sure not to miss the adorable and tasteful cafĂ©/restaurant – Orto Trading Co.  The set up is beautiful, the food is tasty and the presentation is amazing. One of those places you want to Pinterest about!

Orto Trading Co.

Amazing Crumpets with Ricotta at Orto Trading Co.

Dinner Spot:
Looking for a great meal to end a fantastic day in Sydney? Check out Sake Restaurant in The Rocks, a Japanese gem.  Shaun Presland is the head chef -  he is famous, handsome and very talented at what he does.  The food is fresh, healthy and full of flavor and I wholeheartedly recommend the experience. I actually saw Shaun present on Masterchef Australia a few months before my trip over there and instantly jumped on the web to make a booking. My anticipation was high and expectations were definitely exceeded.

One day my Sydney Dreams will become a reality. Until then I will continue taking Europe by storm…

Until next time Sydney!

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