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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lang Lang master class

I considered myself extremely lucky to grab a front row seat for the Lang Lang master class this afternoon. I had an exceptional view. Luckily though, the concert was filmed in its entirety and placed online for free - so you can watch it without coming to Paris. In fact, you'll have an even better view than I did - thanks to multiple camera angles.

Here are a few photos from my seat:

Lang Lang's mother was there too - sitting in the second row not far from me.

You can watch and listen to the entire concert here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Authors evening - part 2

The AAPA meeting that I described yesterday was hosted by John Morris, graciously offering his home in the Marais. As a novice photographer, I was unfamiliar with the work of Morris, realizing only later his role in the rise of photojournalism. At 93, Morris has known 17 U.S. presidents, and as photo editor for Life Magazine, the Washington Post and NY Times, he shepherded some of the 20th century's most iconic images and most well-regarded photographers. You can read more about him here.

Morris spoke this evening about an upcoming auction in Paris of his Photo Diary - 225 photographic prints including rare vintage works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and many others. Here is a flyer describing the auction.

This is just another example of the rare and wonderful encounters I've experienced while living in Paris.

Authors evening

As an aspiring, but not yet published writer, I was thrilled when my friend Harriet Welty Rochefort invited me to attend an Authors evening of the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris (AAPA). The panel discussion addressed the practical questions and issues related to book publishing, along with the evolution and consolidation going on in the publishing business.

Gerry Dryansky, Harriet Welty Rochefort, Peter Gumbel

Each of the seven panelists shared opinions and war stories, touching on copyright issues, contracts, royalties, translation, and movie rights. Opinion was unanimous that writing books will never make you rich - but all continue to write no matter the return.

Discussion was brisk regarding the challenges and opportunities presented by electronic publishing. Kindle royalties may be lower, but the reading public may be far more likely to download a Kindle version with less forethought than that required to go to a bookstore, order a book, and then wait. Instant gratification sells books!

Self publishing, marketing and the use of social media represent huge changes in the publishing business. Authors can no longer expect traditional publishers to take full responsibility for book sales. If you want your book to sell, you have to evolve with the times and to take some responsibility for getting the word out.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I saw this Romanesco cauliflower in the market and just had to take a picture.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Eric

Today is my son Eric's 33rd birthday. He was born on the 26th of March - an ordinary day this year - but in 1978 it was Easter Sunday.

Here is Eric shortly after his birth

And almost two years old

With Philippe - maybe in Jamaica?

Eric with a beard.

With Philippe and Charlie at Philippe's wedding

Eric in the Tuileries garden in Paris, Oct 2010

With two of the books on Chinese medicine that he's edited.
Paris bookstore, 2010

Eric with girlfriend Jocelyn on top of the Eiffel Tower, Oct 2010

Eric will be busy teaching classes in Taiwan on his birthday this year. But I'll be thinking of him and looking forward to seeing him on MY birthday next month in Boulder.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I got lucky. One of our book club members was going out of town and had a concert ticket to sell. Lang Lang, the sensational young Chinese pianist, was in Paris for a sold-out performance with the Paris Orchestra at the Salle Pleyel. I jumped on it.

Lang Lang's performance of Beethoven's Concerto for piano #3 was fabulous. The dialogue between soloist and orchestra was delicate and balanced, weaving a melodic partnership that ranged from the softest pianissimo to a heroic fortissimo. The acoustics are sublime in the Salle Pleyel, and even from my seat in the balcony, I could see very well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wine class

I've been drinking wine with dinner for decades now, but I've never actually taken a formal wine tasting class - until last week. We swirled and sniffed, slurped and chewed our wine - releasing aromas, flavors and textures. We analyzed appearance, nose, and finish - all the while looking for balance, concentration, complexity, and personality.

Hmmm. Interesting. But for me, wine is all about the food that it accompanies. So I trust what Francis tells me when I'm at the Cabane a Huitres and he has only one wine selection to go with the oysters (a local sauvignon blanc). I also trust his judgement when he suggests that I try a sweeter wine with the foie gras or a Medoc with the brebis cheese. Only one type of cheese - only one wine. Easy.

Another option when you don't know what type of wine to serve with your dinner? I turn to my local caviste (wine guy). I can always trust Gwen (yes, it's a man's name in Brittany) to make an excellent suggestion based on the occasion, the menu, and the budget.

Albert Kahn garden

The first day of spring was sunny in Paris - a good day to search out a garden that I'd heard about but never visited. The Albert Kahn garden is a lovely, peaceful oasis on the edge of Paris. My favorite section was the Japanese garden. Perhaps you can see why in the photos below.

Besides the colors and designs, I was entranced by the sound of the water flowing.

The gardens appeal to all ages

I intend to go back to the garden often as the seasons and colors change.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Le Bon Panneton

Eric Brunet, owner of Le Bon Panneton, combines the best qualities of artisanal baking - respect for quality and tradition - with a keen business sense. During my visit he explained in depth how the life of the baker has changed, and how product offerings have evolved in response to changes in taste and demand. His team works like a well-oiled machine, seamlessly moving around each other in the crowded space below the shop upstairs.

Emmanuel arrives each morning at 4AM to begin baking the day's breads. He uses a machine to make the regular baguettes:

But the "Traditional" baguette is formed entirely by hand and from a different recipe:

Whole grain breads are popular now. Eric puts the finishing touches on several varieties before putting them into the oven.

Beyond bread and pastry products, the Brunets have added sandwiches and salads for the takeaway lunch crowd. Wife Mireille manages sales of the finished products.

If you come to Paris, you can find Le Bon Panneton on the corner of rue Saint Charles and rue de l'Eglise in Paris' 15th arrondissement. Tell them I sent you!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pastry chefs

Eric Zezette is the master of pâte à choux - that's the pastry dough used to make éclairs. He's also the resident clown downstairs at Le Bon Panneton - laughing his way through a shift that begins at 2AM. In between jokes, he's all concentration as he creates the small hats of the "religieuses."

Manuel takes over the pastry station after Zezette leaves at 10AM. His responsibility? Pies, cakes, and macaroons. Here he's preparing an apple dessert.

He'll have to wait till this afternoon to make macaroons - he'll need the pastry ovens to himself so that he can control the temperature. Macaroons need a very different temperature than the other pastries.

And the end result of all this work?

The religieuses are second from the left - next to the eclairs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pain au chocolat

My son Eric's first words in French were "pain au chocolat." He was eight years old when we brought him back to Paris for a visit. His breakfast each morning and snack each afternoon was pain au chocolat. I thought of him as I began my behind-the-scenes visit to my local boulangerie.

Stephane's hands were a blur with the expert tuck and roll of a man who's been creating croissants, chaussons, and pains au chocolat for 22 years. I was entranced watching the speed with which Stephane rolled, sliced, and tucked the dough - preparing ready-to-bake extras for tomorrow, his day off.

As he worked, I learned more about Stephane's background and his family. His wife is Japanese - she's a pastry chef at the Ritz. They are/were planning a trip to Japan in two weeks. Will they still go?

Soon, a tray of pains au chocolat comes out of the oven.

I am handed one - still steaming, its chocolate still slightly molten. As I bite into its heavenly, buttery, chocolately center, I close my eyes, smile, and think of my son Eric. I wish he were here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Almost spring - part 2

Almost spring

The trees are starting to bloom

and the forsythia is exploding

Spring is just around the corner.