Sunday, September 23, 2012

French Gastronomy Fair-September 22-23

This weekend, France celebrates its gastronomic heritage.  This is the second edition of this new annual event that takes place throughout France.  This follows the UNESCO's 2010 designation of the French gastronomic meal to the list of World Intangible Heritages, which honors the traditional social practice for celebrating with  meals moments in life-- birthdays, births, anniversaries, weddings, achievements or the customary sunday lunch at maman et papa.  It is a celebration in the art of good eating, drinking and togetherness.  A proper French meal includes a careful selection of dishes, the purchase of fresh locally grown products bought at the local market, pairing the food with wine and the setting of a beautiful table.  It usually starts with an aperitif and "amuse gueules" (nibbles), proceed with a starter ("entree"), a main dish of fish/or meat with vegetables; salads with cheese, dessert and coffee with an after-meal liqueur.  This year festival's theme is French Terroir whereas the local cuisines of the different regions of France (27 including Corsica and overseas territories) will be celebrated in their own unique way.   Here are five regional specialities I or someone with me especially enjoyed. Bon Appetit!

Escargot de Bourgogne
Choucroute d'Alsace

Cassoulet de Toulouse

Mussels of Arcachon-Aquitaine

Tarte Tatin- Sologne (my absolute favorite!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Flying Carpet has Landed at the Louvre !! New Islamic Arts Center

Musee du Louvre- Philippe Rouault
Islamic Arts has a new showcase and it is at the Louvre. This week the Louvre inaugurated its long in coming Islamic Arts department.  As a brainchild of President Jacques Chirac, it took 10 years from the time of inception of the project till its completion.  Architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti designed a glass and gold metal canopy reminiscent for some of a  dragonfly wing and for others a flying carpet. The building is located between the ornate and recently restored neo-classical facades of the  Visconti Courtyard and offers 2,800 m2 of exhibit space to house some 3500 works of Islamic art  many of them never exhibited before. The collection spans 12 centuries from the 7th to the 19th centuries and includes mosaic, carpets and textiles, ceramics, glass works, manuscripts and books.  The collection displayed cover  widely diversed islamic cultures ranging from the Egyptian Mamluks to India Mughal dynasty  and from  Iran to  Morocco, Medieval Spain, and Central Asia. The Louvre holds an estimated 14,000 artworks and artifacts many held for centuries in the royal collection among them is the Baptistere of Saint Louis, a 14th century bronze vessel inlaid in gold, silver and nielo used as baptismal font for the royal children since Louis XIII.   Other priceless treasure on display is an Egyptian Mamluk  porch -an ensemble of 300 stones that once formed the entranceway to the home of Mamluk ruler at the end of the 15th century. 
The Islamic Arts center project costs $125 million and was in part financed by the French Government and by governments of countries like Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Oman and the Republic of Azerbaijan.  
The Louvre Islamic Arts wing opens to the public  this Saturday, September 22. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Paris Island -Where it all started

Paris' humble beginning started on an island on a wider bend of the Seine river.  The ancient Gallic tribe, the Parisi settled here in the third century BC and lived on wooden pile structures alongside the muddy banks of the river.  The Romans conquest of Gaul in the first century BC, let Emperor Julian to found Lutetia (the ancient name for Paris) on the Ile de la Cite in AD 358.  So smitten was the emperor  with the pleasant climate, the pure water of the Seine and the vineyards on the island, that he sojourned there three years making Paris de facto capital of the Western Empire. Ever since, the heart of the geographical Paris is on the Ile de la Cite.  Centuries later, the island became the seat of Royal power. The Merovingian King Clovis  moved to Paris, made it the kingdom's capital and changed the name from Lutetia to Paris.  His son Childebert built a palace and throughout the Middle Ages, Capetian Kings resided on the Ile de la Cite.  Successive kings enlarged and embellished the palace. Louis IX (Saint Louis) built the Sainte Chapelle to house the Crown of Thorns relic. But, in the 1338 the Valois king, Charles V abandoned the palace and moved to the Louvre.  Over the centuries, the palace served as prison and was called La Conciergerie.  During the French Revolution, it housed the unforgiving Revolutionary Tribunal that tried and then sent over 2600 prisoners to the guillotine including Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, Danton and Charlotte Corday.  The Palace still stands alongside the Seine, its elegant medieval gothic architecture adorning the river bank.  Have you ever noticed the oldest clock in Paris.  It is located on the face of one of the four towers in the Palais de Justice complex and dates from the 14th century (1338).  Until the French Revolution its silver bell announced royal birth by pealing continuously for 72 hours.  It was taken down and melted during the reign of the Terror.  Today you can visit the Palais de la Cite and notably the gem-like Sainte Chapelle, the Palais de Justice (Law Court) and the former prison where you can view Marie Antoinette's cell.  Other landmarks on the Ile de la Cite includes Notre Dame Cathedral and the Hotel Dieu- Paris' oldest hospital.  This will be for another blogpost.

Join Paris Through the Ages Tour -November 4-10 when  we will visit the ile de la Cite and recount its colorful history. Visit for more information.