Thursday, July 17, 2008

Laduree; morning tea fit for Marie Antoinette (not a real Queen!)

Oh, and I must tell you, I went on another café espionage journey on Saturday, with my sister and her boyfriend…Anth and I took them to Laduree for Jo’s birthday.
Oh it was so Frenchy, and fabulous. I felt like Marie Antoinette with all her extravagant sweets and goodness.
Imagine gold gilded walls and cornices, walls adorned with antique mirrors smuggled straight from some overlooked and underused chateau, that featured somewhere in the complex French history of monarchy’s and republics. Burgundy carpet, that sucked the noise of the anticipating crowd in the macaroon queue in the small store adjoined. We felt well proper in our summer frocks, afternoon tea-ing it up!
We all ordered eggs to start with, with some fabulous tea and coffee (didn’t catch the name of the tea, but I have had better so I didn’t bother!). The eggs took longer than necessary so the LOVELY waiter gave us 4 macaroons (their specialty) free.
The eggs were crap. The scrambled eggs were superbly crap. It really is amazing how easy it is for everyone to do really shit scrambled eggs – but it is like anything in life, patience makes the effort worthwhile. I wish they had learnt that at Laduree, because even though we waited a long time for the eggs, they weren’t taking the time to cook them, for sure!
But the pastries were great. I don’t know if it is unFrench to heat pastries, but they would have tasted better, in my opinion, heated…especially the pain au pistache et chocolat, and the pain au chocolat. But the viennoise abricot et pistache was amazing. It was so good but not too sweet as it was balanced by the slight tartness of the apricots. Overall it was a great place to visit, but apparently Pierre Hermes’s macaroons are better. So the next guest gets to come there with me!
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homely yearnings

(these kids made me miss home and all the little cousins!)

Funny how until you have a friend like you do at home (you know the ones, that you can whinge and whine to, tell them your deepest darkest secrets without judgment – that kind of thing)…well until you have one like that in a new place, you don’t feel like you’re at home.
Why is it, when you set off on a voyage across the otherside of the world, to discover the differences and the sweetness of something completely foreign, all you do is search out the things that make you feel like you are at home. I wonder if there is a foreign tolerance meter in our brain. Where everything is uber cool for the first 2 months, until the novelty wears off, and the bits that used to be exciting are just the things that you bitch and moan about but without the person that reminds you of home to bitch and moan to! So all in all everyone at home, if you think its WAY cooler over here than it is there, you might stop and think that all we are trying to do is recreate something of what we had there….
HHMMMM that sounds shit even to me! In fact I don’t even like admitting that aloud!
Truth be know, and I am going to defend myself now! I actually love many things about living over here. For example today, when I was swimming in the local very short pool, with my head fair up someone else’s backside, because everyone crams into the pool in the few hours a day when the lazy French deicide it is an appropriate non meal time to open a pool?! (still wondering how they choose these times myself!)
Anyways, I was in the pool, and I was in the lane they call “nager rapide”. You don’t have to understand French to work out that means FAST swimmers. An aside: another cultural difference I have uncovered (in a city that has been difficult to discover the cultural differences compared to Tokyo and Australia), the cultural difference being that fast swimmers in France are the learners in Australia…thanks to the many beaches we have access to I think.
That’s something I do feel good about; I might not be a size 10 stuffing 3 rounds of pancakes down my throat like some women can here, but I can certainly swim faster than them!
So I was in the fast lane, and this guy says to me, (as he panted at one end of the lane, clearly having a break, and I made a move to cut in front of him)…
"les gens rapides doivent attendent les gens lents”, naturally I said “I don’t understand!”, and he said in English “the fast people have to wait for the slow people”…now this is the moment that someone, who is constantly stuck and divided by a language barrier, come into their own…I responded, with a little more nonchalance than is usual for me as I had had a hard day at work “why, that doesn’t make any sense, if I am faster, I should go before you, why would I wait for you, and swim with my head up your bum…” It is moments like these when you know that they can't understand a word you said, as you said it fast, with a purposefully thick accent. Promptly I swam off ahead of him, while he still panted at the end of the pool, going nowhere, trying to work out what the “bleep” I just said!
I might be going round giving Aussies a bad name of arrogance, but I am living in the land of it, so it was probably just a usual response here!

So, after my 60 laps of the tiny pool, I ventured on my next excursion of the day…meeting a complete French stranger for wine…. as you do.
A few weeks back, a lovely woman came into the bakery. Turns out she is Turkish, but was raised in Paris. After I fumbled in my terrible French to serve her, with a big order of food that she had for a Vogue photography shoot (she is the assistant photographer), she asked me if I was studying the language (I guess it was a polite way of her telling me that she knew I wasn’t!). We exchanged numbers, and tonight, finally, we met for a language exchange. I always find these difficult, for many reasons:
1/ I can never speak as well in Frecnh as they can in English
2/ we aren’t forced to study another language at school, and therefore the little bit of study I have done is relatively shit, which brings me back to problem number one, plus being embarrassed that Australians are such ocean bound islanders that really don’t think much about the rest of the world!!
So I always speak about 10 minutes of French to the remaining 2 hours in English!
Great for her, crap for me…but I got a bonus today that I didn’t expect…. we were totally on the same wavelength, have a similar career/ studies at Uni / family and star sign…AND we both can talk the leg off a chair…many of you wont believe this, but I have actually found my match! She talked for 2.5 hours to my 40 mins I reckon, and it was great. I realized, I actually don’t have any problems (except for not having a French bank account and therefore a bunch of cheques but no money), and it was SOOOOO nice to listen to her problems, which she really let me in on. Like I said, I found a little bit of home I was really missing…relating with someone…like really relating. She was naturally apologetic that she had told me all this stuff about her family, but it was so nice to be a part of something, and to help someone. I felt normal again and flew over the big hill home, with a little smile on my face, which grew larger when the girl from our local beer place waved to me with a bog laugh. I was part of a community…a French community! HAHAAA I could leave now, and my mission would be accomplished.

So on the cooking front. It’s going ok. I am learning a lot more about people and personality management than anything else. Not really cooking…except at home. Made a cute banana bread the other day, and laid an entire banana straight down the middle, which makes it super cute to cut. Great idea I thought, and that’s a keeper for the café. Especially when I told the pastry chef about it, and she thought it was a great idea too (wouldn’t be surprised if that one turns up in the bakery!)

I did get told by the main kitchen chef the other day, that maybe I would get to go in on Mondays, (the prep day when the bakery is closed), and I would be in charge of making one thing – like curry sauce or something, and she would guide me through it, from the beginning to end. IO would be in charge of creating that, for 1-2 hours and then I could still have the rest of my day off, but I get to learn from her at the same time.

I am also noticing that I am picking up really handy little things everyday. Like when the counter looks great, and when it looks average. It is all about colour, and the look of the vegetables. For example, today we had 8 salads, as usual, but among them, there was a rice salad, cabbage waldorf, cous cous, and pasta salad. The others were roast and fresh vegetable with life and colour. But you can probably see what I thought the problem there was…1/ there was too many carbohydrates, and 2/ the presentation of these grainy salads can sometimes look drab and lackluster…and the cabbage waldorf tastes great, but looks like shit, soggy and limp. I am not saying I know a better salad, just that I noticed it was this type of thing that makes a counter look average instead of amazing. I think there also needs to be more discussion between the pastry kitchen and the main kitchen, to see what colours and flavours are coming out between the two as well. As the days where the counter really sings, are the days when the pastry kitchen chooses fruits of synchronizing colour to the vegetables in the salads.

Everyday, I pick up a little hint here or there about pastry handling (my favourite pastime – making pastry). I learnt a recipe for a grated pastry base that comes out looking a bit rustic, and can be spread with anything like cream cheese, or the like.
The pastry chef also explained how when you are using the food processor to develop the dough, don’t over work it, so that there are still nice big lumps of butter in the mixture, for our famous tartes. But the pieces of butter shouldn’t be like chunk, still thick, but more like wafers, so thin. This makes the wonderful texture of our pastry in the tartes, that doesn’t feel like a mountain of pastry sitting in your guts, but tastes like it!
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making our own fun

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four burner magic


2 chefs hovering over the four burner convection stove doing 150 covers on a weekend...nothing short of a miracle!
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Bakery: an unassuming exterior, half an hour before the absolute madness of Saturday brunch begins.
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Thursday, July 3, 2008

the unannounced unofficial assistant manager (or as the staff see it: waitress on a power trip!)

I am in the hilarious but proud position at The Bakery, of being "assistant manager"... I put this in " " because I think really all it means is that I am the one that takes the blame when things aren't right...then I try to delegate to make things right...which is often met with resistance from the staff because there is only so much one human being can do...and given that we turn the 36 seat restaurant over 3 times a day on the weekend, and rotate between 3 kitchens with four dockets for each order.... our limitations are stretched at the best of then I try and do it all myself! Which is funny too, cos that is actually the WORST thing I could do, as it only causes more dramas; like forgetting orders...then we are back to square one! but I still love it....because this is why I am learn. How is the quality kept so high in such a busy place, how do the cooks cope with 20 orders of eggs on a four burner electric stove... and how do you remain calm and loving to a customer when you know they have waited in line for 30 minutes to get a table, waited to order for 15 minutes once they are at the table, and then have to break them the news that all the fantastic salads we serve have sold out by 2pm, cos the place is so unbelievably popular!
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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

the start is a grand place to start

I have given in to peer pressure and I am publishing some of my musings on food, world travel, cultural funnies, and documenting my very personal, but purposeful career change into food.

For years I have worked in TV, radio and marketing in the arts. Different programs/jobs gave me varying degrees of satisfaction, but like many food passionados out there, the one thing that I hold dear, and look forward to everyday, was cooking dinner with a glass of wine in my hand and some chilled out music in the background. If work was sucky that day, then dinner would be extra special!
Cooking eases me, soothes me, and I have to admit, I really LOVE people's expressions when they eat, especially if i cooked it! HAA! So something you will learn about me quickly is I am honest! I like it when people like my food! - there I said it!

So my husband and I have lived all around Australia, and now Paris (via Tokyo for 7 months). One thing, no matter where we stopped in our van around Australia, or villages of Japan or France, one thing I find myself seeking out every time, is the, restaurants, cafes, cooking schools, wholesale stores...I frequent these places like a normal tourist would a museum.

I also like to write...details...i love them.
When I get home I plan to make a great big "Carnet de Voyage" with all the little scraps, tickets, food packaging, photos... and if i could... the 'smells' of the places we visited.
THEN...with all that inspiration in one place, I will strip back the unnecessary stuff, to find the essence of a foodstore that will be my first tangible foray into the food industry...first of my own -that is!


So right meet me in Paris...I kept a lot of writing from Tokyo, which, as this blog develops, you might be privy too...but this blog is primarily to document my discovery of my new life...the one where I say to people, "I am in the food industry" rather than, "i worked in TV then Arts, but I really love food and one day I want to blah blah blah"...right now you are watching a little worker bee, gathering the pollen that I need to make one great big pot of sweet hunny when I get back home...
I hope you enjoy the journey...
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