Make Like a Parisian; Visit a Park

Jardin Luxembourg

A trip to Paris would not be complete without a park visit. Even though it’s January, watch the sunset in Jardin Luxembourg  while sipping champagne and tasting the famous French bread and fromage.The premier people-watching park of Paris, dominated by the pond and its circles of chairs, perfect for seeing and being seen by the hordes of strollers who make their way to the tennis courts, chess tables, puppet shows, and boule games which make this such a lively spot. Métro: Luxembourg.

But if you have time in your schedule; visit one or more of the other parks Paris has to offer. One of my favs is Parc Monceau. Susan and I picnicked there last September after a visit to Nissin de Camondo ( a great museum) and of course you are in the Tuilleries if you visit the Louvre.

Here are some more suggestions from one of our Favorite Parisian bloggers:

Paris parks and gardens are the ideal way for overtaxed travelers to “make like Parisians” by observing “real Parisians” at play while seated in one of the iconic green chairs so thoughtfully scattered throughout Paris parks. Paris is almost as well-known for its parks and gardens as for its food and architecture. One of the great treats of walking around this city is to discover these leafy retreats, grand to miniature, that provide a moment of pastoral pleasure or rest for the weary.

Parc Monceau

Parc Monceau

Within walking distance of the Arc de Triomphe, this lovely gem of a park is filled with magnificent trees and plantings, arranged in the natural English style, with little grottoes, a quiet water garden, scattered sculptures of famous French figures and even free WI-FI. Plus, the most ornate restrooms I have ever seen. Nissim de Camando adjoins the Parc.  Métro: Monceau.

Parc Monceau

Bois de Boulogne

Bois de Boulogne

The Bois (Woods) makes New York’s Central Park seem like a small-town playground. The 2,000 acres on the western edge of the city bordering the Seine is vast, with restaurants, gardens, museums, race tracks, lakes, sports grounds, a zoo and children’s amusement park plus wide-open spaces and dense woods interspersed with bike, walking, and horse trails.

During weekdays, you can glimpse tableaux in the Bois that make you shiver with recognition at this real-life composition of lovers wrapped together on the grassy bank, a scene you thought existed only on Impressionist canvases. And then there are Sunday afternoons, when the roads turn into speedways and the traffic on the bike trails suggests the Champs-Elysées.

Parc de Bagatelle at Bois de Boulogne Bagatelle is an exquisite garden created on a dare when Marie-Antoinette bet its owner, Count of Artois, that it could not be turned into a park in 64 days. She lost the bet. Today the City of Paris has restored the botanical gardens that showcase roses, irises and other flowers.

If you simply want to get some exercise, the best way to sample the Bois may be to rent a bike and follow the trails. In an hour or two, you can make your way around the layout and get a sense of what most intrigues you, whether it’s harness racing, miniature sail boating, sporting in the woods or eating a two-star meal.

You may arrive at the Bois on a rented Vélib’ bike or you can get one at the nearby Métro: Port Muette. The Bois also has two bike rental stations open during the day: one station is located at the northern edge of Lac Inférieur, on the east side of the Bois, across from the boat rental shed. The other is across from the entrance to the Jardin d’Acclimatation, a small zoo and amusement park for kids.

You may also rent rowboats for a leisurely (and on the weekends crowded) row around the lake, with the lovely island gardens as your vista. Boats accomodate up to five people.

Like many large parks in big cities, the Bois gets seedy at night, so plan to head out before sunset.

The Bois has two top restaurants, the Pré Catalan and La Grande Cascade, both of which are architecturally beautiful and very pricey. A more reasonable choice is L’Auberge du Bonheur, which is in an old coach house tucked away behind the glamorous Grande Cascade. You can reserve Sunday lunch or dinner at a lovely outdoor pavilion that offers simple grilled dishes. Tel: 01 42 24 10 17

Another romantic evening possibility is the Chalet des Iles on the island in the Lac Inférieur, with a small ferry to take you across. Reservations suggested.

Bois de Veincennes

Bois de Vincennes

This woods on Paris’s eastern edge is, like the Bois de Boulogne, a huge expanse of woodland punctuated by a variety of attractions. Among them is the 15th-century Château de Vincennes. There’s a horse-racing track here, along with a wide range of sports facilities and Paris’s biggest zoo. Various fairs are held here periodically. Métro: Porte Dorée. The Château, dating from the 15th century, is best reached at the Métro: Château de Vincennes.

Tuileries

Jardin des Tuileries

Another creation by André Le Nôtre, the famed landscape architect who designed the Versailles gardens and many other historic gardens. Flanked by terraces on the north and south, there are geometrical arrangements of trees and paths leading from the Carrousel of the Louvre on the east, to the main gate at Place de la Concorde on the west. The gate is flanked by the Jeu de Paume museum on the north and l’Orangerie on the south. There’s the usual merry-go-round, puppet shows and pond for toy sailboat rentals, but this is a park for resting tired feet after the Louvre or trek down the Champs-Elysées.

Parc Andre Citroen

Parc Andre Citroen

Opened in 1992, Parc André Citroën is a truly post-modern park, integrating a series of lovely glass structures with indoor plants, outdoor gardens with single color schemes relating to the five senses, and a lush, secretive wild garden. It’s punctuated with fascinating moving waters—little rushing water troughs, a great fountain of alternating water jet fountains that kids can’t resist, a canal and vista to the Seine. If you have the time to explore this very conceptual and sensual place, you’ll come away refreshed and excited about the future of parks. It is located on the Left Bank near Beaugrenelle, an ugly clump of out-of-place skyscrapers that are as depressing as the Parc is refreshing. Métro: Javel.

 

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29 November 2013 at 10:49 am Leave a comment

Paris: Needlpoint and Quilting Shops

For Devotees of Needlepoint and Quilting – Two Terrific Shops

By Diane Stamm   Via Bonjour Paris

When the average person walks into a shop, they see the merchandise displayed and the people behind the counter. Little do they know of the lifetime of experience, talent, devotion, and sheer hard work that have gone into making the shop a success. There are two shops around the corner from each other just off the Quai de Montebello on the Left Bank in the Paris 5th whose founders fit that mold. The first is Tapisseries de la Bûcherie, located at 2, rue du Haut Pavé, which is devoted to needlepoint; and the second is Le Rouvray, located at 6, rue des Grands Degrès, which is devoted to patchwork and quilting. Both shops were founded by women who are recognized as among the best in their respective métiers.

Tapisseries de la Bûcherie is owned and run by Madame Dominique Siegler-Lathrop. The shop derives its name from its first location on rue de la Bûcherie, where it was opened in 1990. It moved to its current location in 1995. Madame Siegler-Lathrop designs many of the needlepoint patterns for sale in her shop, and hires artists to paint her designs on canvas. She currently has over 2,000 designs in her catalogue. Madame Siegler-Lathrop, who was born in France, lived in the United States for 42 years and speaks English like a native. She thinks that needlepoint in the United States is different from the needlepoint she creates; in the United States, needlepoint is more a craft, whereas she considers her canvases more painterly and artistic. In fact, she considers needlepoint “painting with wool,” and the execution of the design is of the highest artistry and quality, as is the all-important wool she sells in her shop – 450 colors in all. It is made in Aubusson, the French town famously known for tapestry manufacture in the 17th and 18th centuries. Madame Siegler-Lathrop has authored two books on needlepoint. Her first, Les Secrets de la tapisserie à l’aiguille (The Secrets of Needlepoint: Techniques and Stitches), is unfortunately out of print in English, but her second, Tons et Textures (Tones and Textures), coauthored with Jeanne Mougenot, is due out in January. The text will be in both French and English. The website provides information on the decorative styles of the patterns the shop carries, which include French Medieval, Louis XIII through Louis XVI, Empire, and modern. Motifs include people, animals, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. The kits the shop sells contain everything needed to complete a needlepoint project – canvas, wool, needles, and explanations of stitches. All are also available on the website. Madame Siegler-Lathrop gives lessons, which can be arranged by contacting the shop, and the website contains several instruction videos that will help beginners get started and more advanced needlepointers complete their projects. Classes include the necessary materials – frame, painted canvas, wool, needles – and instruction. The class that teaches the French technique of needlepoint is 200 euros, and will give the student a solid foundation for making cushions, pillows, chair covers, and footstools. The class that teaches the Gobelin and Hungarian stitches is 150 euros, and will enable the student to needlepoint smaller items such as box covers, book covers, panels, and purses.

Le Rouvray is owned and run by Madame Diane de Obaldia, who is American but who has lived in France most of her adult life. The name of the shop is derived from the name of a farm she lived near in Normandy – Le Rouvray – which itself is derived from the medieval French word, rouvré, which means oak. Madame de Obaldia grew up in Michigan and learned sewing from her mother, and from her grandmother in Tennessee she learned patchwork, which entails sewing “patches” or pieces of fabric together to make a larger project, and quilting, which is sewing the quilt layers together. She also modeled at Chanel, Pierre Cardin, and Dior. She had never dreamed of opening a patchwork and quilting shop, but life sometimes has a way of showing us what it wants us to do, and through a series of circumstances and luck, which you can read about on the shop’s website, Madame de Obaldia ended up not only opening such a shop – forty years ago – but also becoming one of the catalysts of widespread interest in patchwork and quilting in France. Le Rouvray carries several hundred high-quality French, American, English, and Japanese fabrics, including a number designed by Madame de Obaldia. They are all 100 percent cotton and come in various weights that can be used for curtains, clothing, furniture, handbags and, of course, quilting. The price is 18 euros (about $23) per meter (39 inches), and widths vary from 45 to 60 inches. Besides fabric, the shop sells kits for quilts, at 150 euros (about $188 dollars), and handbags, at 26 euros (about $33), and other decorative objects. All are available via email or telephone. Madame Obaldia works with several designers, and articles about them all appeared this spring in three quilting magazines – “Quilt Mania: Le Magazine du Patchwork,” “Les Nouvelle: Patchwork et Création Textile,” and “Magic Patch.” Because of the location of these shops – on the Left Bank just across the Seine from the southern flank of Notre Dame – both Tapisseries de la Bûcherie and Le Rouvray receive visitors from all over the world, testament to the worldwide interest in needlepoint and quilting. Because of the reputation of these shops among aficionados, many people make the shops a destination on their visit to Paris. Whether you are a beginner or expert needlepointer or quilter, or just looking for a unique gift for someone who is, these shops should be on your Paris itinerary. Tapisseries de la Bûcherie 2, rue du Haut Pavé, 5th In France: 01 40 46 87 69 06 03 47 80 87 International: + (33) (0) 1 40 46 87 69 + (33) (0) 6 03 47 80 87 Metero: Maubert Mutualité (Line 10), Saint Michel Notre-Dame (Line 4), Cité (Line 4) Bus: 24, 47, 63, 86 Open: Mon–Sat 2pm–7 pm Call or email for special appointments Website (in both French and English) Le Rouvray 6, rue des Grands Degrès, 5th In France: 01 43 25 00 45 International: + (33) (0) 1 43 25 00 45 Metero: Maubert Mutualité (Line 10), Saint Michel Notre-Dame (Line 4), Cité (Line 4) Bus: 24, 47, 63, 86 Open: Tues–Fri 1pm–7 pm; Sat 2pm–6 pm

 

14 August 2012 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Versailles Contemporary Art Exhibit

joana vaconcelos versailles   june 18th to september 30th, 2012

 

Paris-born lisbon-based artist joana vasconcelos is currently taking over the palace of Versailles in France with her large sculptural works as part of the château’s annual contemporary art exhibition. Installed within the state apartments and gardens of the expansive property, vasconcelos’ work creates a dialogue dealing with contemporary idiosyncrasies where the dichotomies of hand-crafted / industrial, private / public, tradition / modernity and popular  / erudite culture.

 

my work has developed around the idea that the world is an opera, and Versailles embodies the operatic and aesthetic ideal that inspires me. The works that I propose exist for this place. I see them as linked to Versailles in a timeless way. When I stroll through the rooms of the palace and its gardens, I feel the energy of a setting that gravitates between reality and dreams, the everyday and magic, the festive and the tragic. I can still hear the echo of the footsteps of marie-antoinette, and the music and festive ambiance of the stately rooms. How would the life of Versailles look if this exuberant and grandiose universe was transferred to our period?

Joana has interpreted the dense mythology of Versailles, transporting it into the contemporary world, and evoking the presence of the important female figures that have lived here, while drawing on her own  identity and experience as a Portuguese woman born in France.

 The south end of the palace’s ‘hall of mirrors’ where ceremonies and important events in the history of France were staged, hosts ‘marilyn’, a pair of high-heeled sandals constructed from the repeated arrangement of stainless steel pans and lids. the mammoth-scale high heels, standing within this vast hall, creates a Gulliver effect, and are an ode to women’s achievements both on public and private spheres.

 

‘blue champagne’, a monumental work comprising two vertical twin structures and incorporating thousands of champagne bottles lit from their interior, stands on either side of the rectangular water parterres that stretch in front of the palace’s terrace. While respecting the architectural symmetry of Versailles, the structures introduce a verticality that contrasts with the immense horizontal lines of the landscape. Visible from inside the hall of mirrors, the two elements subvert the domestic scale of the referenced objects – candlestick holders or bottle racks –, while their shape and architectural dimension resemble the flamboyant verticality of the late gothic.

 

‘lilicoptère’ is a helicopter that has been decorated in the same vein as Versailles’s aesthetic universe, covered in gold leaf with thousands of rhinestone embedded on its exterior. The cockpit and blades seem to have been invaded by an extravagant and colorful coat of ostrich feathers that have been dyed in hues of salmon, pink and orange.

2 August 2012 at 5:57 pm Leave a comment

Steal This Idea

Recently Home Textiles Today asked their retailers at a series of roundtables what were their best and workable business ideas were.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; so borrow one or more of these ideas for your business in 2012.

1. Interior design services. An increasing number of retailers are saying they are thriving and surviving thanks to their interior design businesses. Sometimes it’s a design studio with a retail showroom, or a new design studio or gallery addition. Retailers are also moving from free services to fee-based with the addition of a licensed interior designer or two. Inviting customers to bring in their own digital photos, measurements and swatches is a great way to move more product. Accent Interiors, in Wichita, Kan., calls its design program Seymour Homes: “Seymour is the name of our digital camera that allows us to see more homes. We loan Seymour to customers who don’t have a digital camera to take photos of areas that they want to address. We print out the pictures, and with their swatches, our staff can help them with their projects without playing the guessing game of “it’s about this big” or “it is sort of this color.” They can bring their home to us courtesy of Seymour.”

Is your Retailer competition adding interior design services?  How can you make that threat an opportunity?

2.  Vendor trunk shows. Some retailers have told us their most successful store events and promotions featured a favorite product line, trunk show, or merchandising event hosted by the vendor or rep. Wyoming retailer Jody Horvath, owner of Reindeer Ranch in Cody, said one of her best retail ideas was a showcase of Pendleton Home. “We set three beds and merchandised blankets hung over the balcony railings. Pendleton is now my number two vendor.”

 What vendor(s) could you do an event with?  You don’t have to have a storefront- think unique venues or even online.

3.  Artists/author nights. Like vendor trunk shows, store events that bring artists and authors and their creative works onsite  are consistently bringing in first-time visitors. Why? Many of them actively blog and use Facebook to promote their products, as well as their upcoming appearances. “There’s added value in that the participating artists and authors are blogging and posting on Twitter and Facebook. It’s no longer just the store’s mailing list.  A percentage of sales went to a charitable organization, so they sent something out to their email list, and the artists sent something out, and it was really great for business.”

Selling custom products is a perfect fit for this concept- showcase artisans, workrooms and craftsnmaen and their stories.

 4. Focus on your brand. Now that marketing channels have grown to include social media, websites, blogs and YouTube, maintaining a consistent brand logo and personality is more important than ever. Susan Taylor, owner of Black-eyed Susan in Holicong, Pa., does it well with a simple line drawing logo (of a black-eyed Susan blossom) – easy for Facebook fans and Twitter followers to identify. She also plays off the theme with “Susan on Sale” promotions, a “Susan’s Pick of the Month” board showing new trends and colors, and an overall “Oh, So Susan!” merchandising style that sets her apart from her competition.

5.  Get personal.  Think local.  Get back to old school etiquette. Send birthday cards and thank you notes. If not by mail, then post it on the customer’s Facebook page, so all of the customer’s friends will see it. Mail gift certificates to new homeowners in the area. One California retailer sends a postcard and discount coupon to repeat customers, with the note: “I appreciate that you understand the importance of coming in and supporting your local shops. Instead of making a discount available to you during one event when it might not be convenient for you, here’s a little coupon to use at your convenience.” She says the response has been great.

6. Add categories. As a retailer said earlier this year, “Think Anthropologie.” Add interest with a few antiques, vintage, one-of-a-kinds and handmades. Mix it up with a few lines of books, accessories, jewelry even gifts.  

What would you add to shake up your product mix?

7. Let them take it home on approval. “We’ve seen a renewed interest in furniture, but we’re a very design-driven business. For a client who only buys the furniture, we drive a truck full of accessories and give it to them on approval. They often keep everything, and that easily adds several thousand to a sale.”  From letting clients borrow products for privacy and light control until their window fashions arrive or you offer accessories , accent furniture or soft furnishings on approval this could be a path to a new revenue stream.

8. E-commerce. Some retailers are successfully selling online, others say they are content keeping their online catalogs just that – online catalogs. If you want to test the e-commerce waters without investing a lot of time or money, check out Big Cartel, a company we first wrote about in 2008. It’s a good way to go if you only want to sell a few products (up to 100) and can’t justify the expense of paying a Web designer to customize and maintain an Internet storefront for you. Several companies also offer low-cost e-commerce platforms for Facebook, like one we wrote about last year called Payvment that lets your customers shop right on your page, by clicking on an “Ecommerce” tab.

Do you have an e commerce platform?

9. Mobile Technology. Mobile technology is changing the way products are sold at every level. We’re seeing design professionals begin to test tablets, smartphones and kiosks as mobile cash registers, catalogs, shopping alert and coupon delivery systems, and product customization tools. Within our industry, the iPad is making it easier for vendors and reps to show and sell product to dealers, and for designers to show and sell product to consumers. We just did a series on the iPad  and it was the best attended webinar of the year. It is pretty amazing how some designers are leveraging the iPad for their business. We’ll continue to monitor the burgeoning technology and report on it.

How can you use this technology to be more efficient, dynamic and surprising to your clients?

10. Use a rewards program. One retailer said: “We offer $10 back for every $200 they spend. With a rewards program, it’s easier to ask for e-mails; not tomention keeping them and turning theminto influencers and advocates, There are customer rewards programs in Quickbooks software – it’s all free, but people don’t know it’s there.” Another is Square.

 

11 December 2011 at 8:19 pm Leave a comment

Maison and Objet in September

This September, the producers of Maison&Objet, one of the world’s most highly regarded design shows, will launch the first-ever Paris Design Week. Maison&Objet will run from September 9-13, while Paris Design Week will run from September 12-18.
Maison&Objet features innovative and stylish products for the home displayed in elegant booths in 8 separate halls including tableware, furnishing textiles, decorative accessories, giftware, arts and crafts, lighting, furniture. Maison&Objet is an ideal forum to discover the latest product, material, design and color trends, which is why some 1,500 buyers and interior designers from the U.S. currently attend. The addition of Paris Design Week is now extra incentive to visit Paris in September.
Don’t want to travel by yourself? Join us . We’re taking a Decor Tour to Paris in September for M&O and Paris Design Week.
For discounted admission to Maison&Objet, good through August 3rd, 2011, CLICK BUTTON and use the following info:

Login: MOPARIS

Password: PEAN1A

24 July 2011 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

DBRx Interview on Design Biz Radio

http://www.talkshoe.com/resources/talkshoe/images/swf/lastEpisodePlayer.swf?fileUrl=http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-92881/TS-452455.mp3

22 February 2011 at 11:57 am Leave a comment

Design Biz Radio presents: DBRx at Vision11 Interview

 

It’s just what the doctor ordered – the Design Business RX Workshop Series at Vision11.

Join Design Biz Radio this Thursday at 11am CST for a special show highlighting the “Design Business RX Workshop Track” at the Vision 11: International Window Coverings Expo.  Design experts Deb Barrett, Susan Schultz, and Vickie Ayers are sharing a preview of the Vision11 Expo and the Design Business RX program from April 25-28 in Las Vegas.

Vision11 is the window covering industry’s annual conference and trade show – and this year there is a highly interactive workshop series for design pros.  The DBRx workshops provide an opportunity to receive specific advice and information for your design business. These business-changing strategy sessions are intense, detailed and focused on YOU, allowing you to leave Vegas with pragmatic action plans that will grow your business.

Tune in for this exciting preview of Vision 11 and the Design Business RX Workshop!

Design Biz Radio show details:

When: Thursday, February 17 at 11am CST
Call-in #: (724) 444-7444 Call ID: 92881
Listen Online: Design Biz Radio Online

14 February 2011 at 9:11 pm Leave a comment

DBRx Launches New Workshop Track at Vision11



The small-group, consultative approach of the Design Business Rx sessions run by Deb and Susan at the Vision shows have proven to be both extremely popular and incredibly fulfilling for the participants. So, in the spirit of DBRx, there is now an entire track of small-group workshops, focused on key topics past attendees have requested. Presented by acknowledged industry experts, the DBRx workshops provide an opportunity for you to receive specific advice and information based on your interest and needs. These business-changing strategy sessions are intense, detailed and focused on YOU, allowing you to leave Vegas with pragmatic action plans that will grow your business. 

Deb and Susan along with industry experts Melissa Galt, Vita Vygovska and Vickie Ayres will be presenting the following workshops:

  • How to Ignite Demand in YOUR Client Base
  • Fame 101
  • 5 Marketing Mindsets to Make YOUR Design Business Profitable
  • She Told Two Friends: Developing a Powerful Client Referral Systems
  • QuickBooks Deep Dive
  • Love Your Business Twice as Much—And Get More Done in Half the Time!
  • From a Whisper to a Shout: Social Marketing Secrets for Designers
  • The Power of Packaging: Bundle your Services & Build Sales

DBRX@Vision11 is a series of educational workshops that will run as an adjunct to the Vision 11 seminar program in Las Vegas. Unlike the general seminars, these will be highly focused, more advanced sessions, where a small group of attendees will walk out the door with something—a marketing plan, a press kit, a new target market,  improved customer service techniques, etc. etc.

You’ll be working in sessions with 10 people, at the most, in order to give you  the time and expertise necessary. This will most likely require pre-show and post-show homework on your part.  Each workshop notes any additional preparation, exceptions or materials.

 

7 February 2011 at 2:37 pm 2 comments

La Belle Juliette – a conversation with Anne Gelbard

La Belle Juliette – a conversation with Anne Gelbard.

28 October 2010 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

L’Epicerie de Bruno

Post Via Vingt Paris

Walking past the trendy boutiques of Rue Tiquetonne, you’re likely to see some storefronts that will grab your attention: Freakish mannequins dressed up in cleverly arranged runway hand-me-downs, hipster vintage wear that walks the fine line between “ironic cool” and “grandma,” or perhaps a water scene of octopi floating up in plastic bubbles. The latter, however, is not the window of a fashion boutique. It’s a spice shop called l‘Épicerie de Bruno.

“Muriel used to work in fashion. She’s very creative with the window displays,” says Bruno Jarry of his collaborator as he surveys his small kingdom of over 150 spices and other accoutrements for the gourmet. “And I was working in banking, which also has nothing to do with this.”

So how did a banker wind up as one of the top purveyors of herbs and spices and exotic foodstuffs in Paris? “I’d always been traveling and I love food. I was interested in all kinds of cooking, all over the world. And I found there was no place in Paris where you can find all the ingredients, the spices,” he recalls. “So whenever I traveled, I always brought back some spices as a souvenir.

“And my parents were chemists,” he continues. “Old fashioned pharmacists who made their own medicines for customers, and there were spices and herbs in what they made. And my grandparents and great grandparents and great great grandparents were grocers in Brittany. So, logically, I decided to get into the business.”

L’Épicerie de Bruno’s appeal comes not only from a strong lineage of épicerie, but a thorough understanding of origin and what it means to how things taste.

Peppers “Take pepper, for example,” he says, pointing out a wall with a variety of peppercorns most people likely don’t know exist. “Most people don’t know how it’s grown, yet – as with wine – the soil and climate are important. Nowadays, when people buy beef or vegetables, they want to know where it comes from. Spices, I think, are one of the only food products where people don’t know or don’t care, and the origin isn’t indicated on the package.” On the other hand, Bruno does know, he does care, and he’s happy to dispense his vast knowledge to those who seek it.

Working directly with small or family-owned producers, Bruno gets to know how they work, and he collaborates with them to bring good, 100% natural products to market. “I work with hundreds of farmers in Kerala, India, for example, and encourage them to grow and sell us excellent products, and pay them a very good price, so they’re not simply growing and selling in volume to big wholesalers. Even French ingredients, like the Piment d’Espelette [a mild chili from the Pyrénées-Atlantique region], we source directly from a small, family-owned producer. Same for Fleur de Sel: We know the individuals harvesting the salt.”

These principles are balanced with pragmatism. When you start to think of the origin of spices and seasonings, it seems counter-intuitive to the current trend to buy locally. “If you want to eat things that are harvested or grown within 50km of Paris, it’s going to be very difficult. There are a lot of things you simply won’t eat: Fish, dairy, most fruits… But I support this, especially when it comes to seasonal vegetables. It’s a good initiative. However, in France, we can’t cultivate pepper, for example. There are many spices we can’t grow here. So I support the concept – for products that are possible to acquire in France.

“What’s interesting is that this is very much an urban phenomenon: Paris, London, etc. But I was born in Brittany, where it’s not new – we only ever ate fishes that were caught locally, or we’d buy butter from a local farm. So when you can, try!”

Vanilla

Trying is the essence of Bruno’s. There’s so much to try, that one could come back seemingly every day and not exhaust the palette of flavors on hand. Various spices, dried herbs, leaves, and flowers line the walls. There are 25-30 different kinds of peppers on display at any given time. Black Penja pepper from Cameroon, white Kampot from Cambodia… Over 20 kinds of chillies, running from 0-10 on the Scoville scale, 0 being no heat at all, and 10 being the maximum, like habaneros and some Indian chillies… Vanilla beans of all kinds in small test tubes… There are specific spice blends, some made on premises and some by Bruno’s growers themselves: Blends for European cooking, Arabic & Iranian cooking, South & Central American cooking, and all of the Southeast Asian and Indian/Sri Lankan/Pakistani cuisines. “We even have some blends that some of the Indian shops don’t carry because they’re not popular enough to sell!”

One should not, however, mistake L’épicerie de Bruno for a specifically ethnic shop. It’s for everyone.

“The idea isn’t just for people to come here because they want to make Indian or Iranian dishes, per se, but to take these spices and apply them to things like barbecue, to go outside the traditional uses of ethnic herbs and spices. People often ask questions like, ‘I want to cook duck, but differently – what would go with duck?’ and we’ll advise them.” 

It’s also a source for transplants to get a taste of home. “We get many people who’ve moved to Paris from other countries. Americans, for example, are accustomed to hotter foods and come in seeking hot sauces.” (Bruno himself likes spicy foods, but not past 9/10 on the scale.)

The shop is also a good resource for those who aren’t allowed salt or sugar. “Each spice has its own character and subtleties,” Bruno explains. “These characteristics are particularly good for people on restricted diets. For instance, if you can’t have sugar, you might use some cinnamon to remind your palate of sweet foods. Or if you can’t have salt, a little bit of something spicy can recall salted foods.”

Also available are a variety of rices (the shop was originally going to be called “Epices et Riz” – say it out loud) of numerous origins, accessories (“The tortilla press is always out of stock!” Bruno says, pleasantly surprised) and “kits” or pre-assembled spices to make quick work of meals.

“When I was working in finance I had long work days and I’d still want to cook a good dish quickly. So we have kits for making various rice dishes easily. And we’ve created kits for Mexican cooking. And various curry pastes. All with 100% natural ingredients. So in 20 minutes you can make a Thai green curry by yourself, which will likely be better than what you can get in most Thai restaurants here. Most people don’t have time to cook except on weekends, and they want to make quick things, but good things. And this way, it’s less expensive than going out or buying frozen meals.”

With so many choices, a visit to the shop can be daunting. Luckily, Bruno can (with a little prompting) narrow down his favorites: “Madgascar white pepper for every day. White pepper from Cambodia for fishes, it has a bit of a pineapple note! Arabic blends. Curry à l’ancienne (a more coarsely ground curry powder). Basic spices like cumin and cloves that are rich in essential oils.”

Muriel recommends Ras el Hanout (a Moroccan blend), Mélange du Trappeur (a savory/sweet Canadian blend used for grilling, which she likes on pineapple), green cardamom, and cinnamon. 

For those visiting Paris temporarily, a spice fix is still available via Bruno’s online store long after the holiday is over, and for those who want a more lasting souvenir, his book Épices (in collaboration with photographer Thomas Dhellemmes) may be of interest. The book features 50 different spices (no herbs, no flowers, just spices!) and a number of accompanying recipes. It’s available at the shop, but widely distributed elsewhere. In fact, a Michelin-starred New York chef saw the book at the nearby culinary bookstore Librairie Gourmande and came right over to pick up some of Bruno’s goods for himself.

In a nutshell: Bruno offers you ethically grown and procured spices, rices, kits and accessories, with the expertise of someone with generations in the business and the knowledge to write a book on the subject, all at the quality demanded by famous chefs.

L’Épicerie de Bruno

30 rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris

01 53 40 87 33

Open Tuesday – Saturday, 

10:30am-2:30pm and 3:30pm-7:30pm

A themed apéro is held each month with an invited speaker/presenter to talk about their product(s).

10 August 2010 at 8:54 am Leave a comment

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