Sunday, April 27, 2014

In search of the perfect macaron.

Eldest Daughter loves these meringue layered cookies, often seen in pastel colors.

They are becoming so mainstream that there is a spread on them in the current issue of Food Magazine. If these are not the national cookie of France, please tell me what is.

Laduree, founded in 1871, has long been considered the best maker of macarons. However, David Lebovitz, our favorite food blogger, thinks that Pierre Herme gives Laduree a run for its money. Pierre Herme was founded in 1998, the same year Eldest Daughter was born.

Eldest Daughter was up for a comparison.

As it turns out, both Laduree and Pierre Herme have London outposts. We visited both shops there and Eldest Daughter liked Pierre Herme much more. It was the same in Paris although we did bring back macarons from both plus another patisserie.

Her favorite flavors were rose and salted caramel from Pierre Herme and rose from Laduree. In Paris I dragged her into Fauchon, the luxury foods store that's been around since 1886 and that Dave and I like best, and forced her to try the macarons there. There she liked one that was mostly vanilla except for a tiny chocolate bar tucked into the filling. To be fair, she also sampled lemon, vanilla and several kinds of chocolate.

Although you can buy macarons individually, she mostly bought them in boxes of seven as the boxes are works of art in and of themselves. I love how she shot pictures of them all.

We had a blast exploring pastry shops in Paris as it was also the week prior to Easter and beautiful sculpted chocolates were in every window and display case.

Monday, April 21, 2014

In the Beginning

Eldest Daughter and I headed to London and Paris for Spring Break this year. My close friend and her family moved to London and I both missed her terribly and had also not been to London in 19 years.

In all seriousness, the best parts of this trip were the little moments: the observations Eldest Daughter and I had while seeing the cities through a different viewfinder, really catching up with my friend and her husband while walking their dog, seeing how happy their son is at university, the tulips in bloom. Their home is in Kensington, and while in the middle of it all, was far enough off of Tourist Central to recover from the frenzy of seeing Westminster Abby, the Tower of London, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye.

While Eldest Daughter slept in the first day, my friend and I took a tour of the five West London Sunday markets. Ruth, our Context Travel docent (I swear by Context Travel!), told us how the city grew and changed in this area, first with the arrival of the Hugonots then the Jews, thus explaining the proliferation of markets on Sundays. I wish we'd had more time at Spidalfield's Market and at the Columbia Road Flower Market. Her son, Eldest Daughter and the husband (who is also my friend) met us for lunch at the Sunday Up Market off of Brick Lane where I ate the best fish and chips ever made and they ate Ethiopian and Venezualan food. The son gave us a tour of his school.

Not far from there is Shoreditch and Boxpark, a funky area with live music and stores in shipping containers. That was fun, visually interesting. Eldest Daughter bought a gorgeous sundress. We then went to the flagship Top Shop store on Oxford Circus. Top Shop = Nordstrom Brass Plum. After helping the economy there we did the same at Miss Selfridge's. Bonus points to the husband for shopping with us. And for finding Pierre Herme, which I'll cover in another post.

Eldest Daughter and I explored Knightsbridge and Chelsea, went to the theatre (she chose Mamma Mia, which was well done except for the woman who played Donna singing off key half of the time), ate lunch in restaurants every day, and took in the sights at a leisurely pace. We found the house where The Parent Trap was filmed. We had tea at The Orangerie at Kensington Palace, the same palace where Kate, George and Will make their home.

We climbed the London Bridge and saw the exhibits there then walked along the Thames past Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and crossed back on the Millenium footbridge at the Tate Modern. We toured Westminster Abbey, built in 1245 and seemingly not given a thorough cleaning since, filled with so much history that we stayed far longer than we had planned. We saw the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. 

On our last night there we went for a drink at Oblix, on the 33rd floor of The Shard, a Renzo Piano-designed building in the London Bridge District and which has views city-wide. And then I cried myself to sleep knowing I wouldn't see our friends again until summer, when they visit the US.

Great visit. Too short.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Trifecta

I must preface this blog post by noting that Dave was out of town last week.

On Tuesday night I worked late in Palo Alto. And when I came home at 8:30pm and was upstairs with all Three Pinks, the garage door opened. We fled the house for our sweet neighbors' and I called the police. With the help of a big dog and his powerful nose, two men packing heat searched the house top to bottom, and then the garage and the yard. Eventually they declared it safe to return. We went to bed late. In my case, getting into bed did not translate to a good night's sleep.

On Thursday night I went to an NCL meeting, leaving The Pinks with instructions to turn on the alarm after I left. What I did not leave them with was an understanding of the Stay vs. Away alarm settings. And so an hour later one of them tripped the alarm and again, the neighbors came to the rescue. One came over immediately. A different one was there when I got home 30 minutes later.

And then there was Friday. Eleven hours of this day was spent in the ER. Where Liberty came to the conclusion that she prefers female doctors and male nurses. I do have to admit the department manager nurse who came to her rescue when the first nurse collapsed a vein while running her IV was awesome. He was gentle and fast with needles, and entertaining as well.

On Saturday arrived Fabio, a gift from a friend. I'm going to leave him on the front porch for a while.