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More on the Marais

Writing on the potential for dinner in the Marais reminded me of some of my favorite stops in that neighborhood.

First, I strongly urge you to visit the Musée Carnavalet, the former hôtel particulier of famed 17th c. letter writer extraordinare the Marquise de Sévigné. Not only do you get a feel for the aristocratic lifestyle of that era, it’s also one of the city’s best museums of the revolution.

The lovely Place des Vosges was built in the early 1600s by Henri IV as a model for further city planning, to provide established merchants, court officers and upper-middle class Parisians a comfortable, elegant home. Today the lower levels are filled with cafés, wine shops, gift stores, etc. One of Grace’s favorite restaurants in tucked into one corner of the Place (19 Places des Vosges)…ask her to tell you the story about Ma Bourgogne some time!

For a different kind of culture, stop into Merci, a three-story shop run by the former owners of ultra-luxe children’s brand Bonpoint. It’s the latest hot-spot “lifestyle” destination, all more or less inspired by Colette, but what makes Merci different is that all profits from its mix of home goods, fashion, giftware and more are earmarked from a Madagascar-based women’s charity.

And in my mind, no trip to the Marais would be complete without a stop at Entrée des Fournisseurs, one of the best shops in the city for buttons, ribbon, trims and more. The fact that’s it’s located in a charming little courtyard off the bustle of rue des Francs Bourgeois only adds to the allure. Although, unlike many Marais shops, EdF is not open on Sundays, on the plus side, they do web orders and overseas shipping, so if you absolutely can’t make up your mind, you can also order later…

Now I have ribbon shops on my mind, so I’ll list a few others, not in the Marais, but worth noting on your agendas…

La Droguerie at 9 rue du Jour near Les Halles is famed for its enormous selection of both new and vintage ribbons, buttons and trimmings. They also have a concession at Le Bon Marché, way up on the top floor, so stop in the wonderful LBM foodhall for a snack first!

I think there’s a Mokubo ribbon shop somewhere around here also, but I can’t find an address for it in my files…Also note, rue du Jour is a great street for jewelry findings, beads, chains, etc.

UltraMod is open only during the week and is actually two related shops. One is true haberdashery supply shop, which sells to Givenchy, Lanvin and Jean Paul Gaultier among others. The second shop is a more retail oriented, but still overwhelming in the number of buttons, ribbons, embroidery threads and more. And the name is incredibly deceiving, as the ambience of the shops is very vintage, with wood shelving and work tables, a big ol’ cast iron cash register and more. 3 and 4 rue de Choiseul, in the 2nd.

31 December 2009 at 1:44 pm 1 comment

Sunday Best

While Paris is known for great food, finding a good meal on a Sunday, when most shops and restaurants are closed, can sometimes be a bit tough. Here’s a short list of recommendations in and around our neighborhood.

Bistro Christophe, a small, simply decorated place where the owner/chef is truly passionate about what he puts on the table. 8, rue Descartes in the 5th.

Fógon specializes in Spanish food, perhaps a welcome break from all-French, all-the-time meals. 45 Quai des Grand Augustins, 6th.

Au Coin des Gourmets is a bit of IndoChina in Paris, but this is isn’t gloopy sweet&sour pork in a white cardboard box! 5, rue Dante, 5th.

Ambassade d’Auvergne features the hearty, homey fare of this western mountain region, including the aligot, a whipped potato specialty with the tasty addition of cheese curds and garlic. 22 rue du Grenier-St. Lazare, 3rd.

La Père Claude on the other side (from us) of the Champs de Mars is an ideal spot for the classic Sunday French dinner of roast chicken. 51 av, de la Motte-Picquet, 15th.

Le Rôtisserie du Beaujolais is another great roast chicken option, and a bit closer to the hotel at 19 quai de la Tournelle, 5th.

Fish la Boissonerie is a fun, lively spot so so close to the hotel at 69, rue de Seine, 6th.

As Deb mentioned in our webinar, one neighborhood that does mostly remain open on Sundays is the Marias, likely because of its long history as the “Jewish Quartier” now mostly occupied by trendy boutiques and hotels. Instead of listing the many options, I’ve linked to an article that came out right after my last visit to Paris listing eight different options in the area, but many more can be found.

And finally, when all else fails, there are plenty of basic bistros where a light dinner of omelet et salade with a glass of wine all tastes perfectly fine.

Bon Appétit!

31 December 2009 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment

Paris Taste Treats: Macarons

Ok I promised more information on some other ideas for great Parisian gifts and mementos. I’m going to concentrate on one particular food-related gift (I know, again with the food?!) in this post.

First, to my mind there are no two more French treats than macarons and pâte des fruits. First, for those who might not yet be familiar with these ah-may-zing delectables, a little info.

I mean, how pretty are these? And soooo good with a café au lait.

A French macaron consists of a layer of buttercream, ganache or jam spread between two meringue disks. The inventor of this pretty little taste treat is generally considered to be Pierre Desfontaines, a distant cousin of Louis Ernest Ladurée, founder of the famed pâtisserie. And for nearly 100 years the classic flavors of vanilla, chocolate, coffee and almond defined the universe of macarons. But in in the 1990s Ladurée began to work with Pierre Hermé, a pastry master, who developed a range of modern flavor combinations–lime and basil, olive oil vanilla, black current and roasted chestnut—that got the attention of tout Paris.

Fortunately for my addiction Ladurée now sets up a little cart at the entrance of hall 5 at Maison&Objet. And, as Deb mentioned, both the St. Germain and the Rue Royale branches of Ladurée are amazing to visit for their beautiful settings, and the macarons are worth buying for the packaging alone. (Seriously, you don’t want to know how many different versions of their pretty boxes I’ve collected!) But the stores are also worth a visit for the other items in the display case, in particular the scented candles, in elegant porcelain holders that make a wonderful gift. I especially love the brioche candle.

I have the black and gold, the classic green and gold, a pink and gold, a purple and gold....

But Ladurée doesn’t have the macaron market all to itself. Today Pierre Hermé has his own pâtisseries (check out the one near our hotel at 72 rue Bonaparte) where he continues to develop amazing flavors, for example, he’s one of the chefs credited with started the salted caramel craze with his macaron buerre salé. If you decide macarons aren’t your thing, he’s also regarded as one of Paris’ premiere chocolatiers. (But chocolate? That’s a whole ‘nother post, or two, or more…)

Other macaron stops you might consider:

Carette: one of the oldest and most old-guard of the salons, Carette also offers news flavors each season. 4 Pl. au Trocadero in the 16th.

Macarons & Chocolat: Here experimental ingredients (lily of the valley anyone?) are lined up next to the classics. Chef/owner Arnaud Larher received a best-of-Paris award for his macarons not so long ago. His pistachio-cherry is a signature flavor. 57, rue Ramrémont in the 18th. So if you’re up near Montmartre…

Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki: “Traditional in recipe and modern in the Japanese touch” according to chef Aoki. Among the more unique flavors you’ll find salted cherry flower, yuzu and sansho, a type of Japanese pepper. 35 rue de Vaugirard in the 6th

Dalloyau: The ancestors of this company served Louis XIV at Versailles, but they’ve kept up with modern times. Dalloyau is actually a bit more comparable with Fauchon, a full service prepared food purveyor including salads, sandwiches, patés and pâtisserie. And while their macarons are very tasty indeed, I personally stop by Dalloyau to buy an assortment of pâtes des fruit, the sugar-coated jellied fruit squares that one (ex-) boyfriend jokingly referred to as “expensive jujubes.” They are absolutely NOTHING like that! The best pâtes des fruit (and I consider Dalloyau’s the best) capture the essence of fruit in one sweet little nibble. The main store is at 101 rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré but there’s also an outpost right off Place Edmond Rostand, where rue Soufflot runs into Blvd. St. Michel.

Perhaps not a "typical" French pastry treat, but I love pâte des fruits and it's something that rather difficult to find in the States.

If you can’t find time to get to all these place individually, fortunately the food hall at Galeries Lafayette has outposts of almost all of these…and it’s also one of my favorite places to visit. 40, Blvd Haussmann.

I’m off to my parent’s for the holiday break and will have limited internet access, but I’m working on a few more pieces that I plan on posting as soon as I return to high-speed access. Enjoy your holidays everyone!

18 December 2009 at 5:20 am Leave a comment

Our Big Day in Cologne

Okay, this is exciting! We’ve just received confirmation from IMM Cologne on the date and time of our group’s press event. Here’s what’s going to happen on January 20:

• 10:00am, our group will meet with the IMM Trend Board prior to its presentation on the 2010 trends. The board members will available for questions and interviews.

• 10:30-11:30am, the Trend Board makes its presentation to the international press, including our group

• 11:30-12:15, our group will present “FutureVision 2020: Insight Into the U.S. Interior Design Market” immediately following the Trend Board presentation.

• 1:30, a tour of the new Pure Village section of IMM Cologne.

The interviews and presentations will take place at the staging area in Aisle A of Hall 3.2.

Later that day we get on a train and head to Paris for the last leg of our tour.

Oh, we’ve also been told where the opening night Cologne Design Party is to be held, at a great looking lounge, Alter Wartesaal, right by the main hauptbahnhof. This is scheduled for 7:00 pm on January 18. So our time in Cologne looks to be busy, busy, busy!

If you’d like to get a copy of the full press release on our Cologne presentation, it’s available here.

18 December 2009 at 4:32 am Leave a comment

Paris Markets: Round 2, Vanves

So, as I started to say in my last post, before I started talking about food(!) was that as much as I love Clignancourt, I find it to be a bit too rich for my budget. When I go to a flea market, I want to to feel like I scored a deal! And, although I was having lots of fun discovering different French cheeses and sausages and other treats at all the marchés, I really missed poking around at old stuff to see what I could find. Because each trip to Paris I only have limited free time–I am there to cover M&O and it’s a big show–plus there is usually correspondence and other work to catch up on with the home office when back at the hotel, it means making some tough decisions about what to really look into each trip.

Anyway, before I get off an another tangent about some of my “old reliable” places to visit, back to the fleas…

One trip I finally made it my mission to visit one of the other fleas, and decided on Vanves, at the opposite end of the city from Clignancourt. It meant a transfer at the massive Montparnasse that seemed to take for-ev-er, but I stepped out of the Porte de Vanves station (line 13) into a quiet residential neighborhood. A bakery was open so I nabbed a fresh from the oven croissant (seriously, I saw the baker bringing up the tray from the ovens in the basement!) and made the short walk up to Ave. Marc Sangnier to find heaven! Banged-up folding tables, crates and boxes all filled with goodies–jewelry, industrial items, lighting, tableware, textiles, flatware, clothing, books, décor and of course bric-a-brac–everything that to me makes a great flea market.

At the corner, the first stand I saw, had tables with old letterpress forms...

...and I knew I had come to the right flea for me.

In addition to the atmosphere, which is much more casual and low-key, the vendors at Vanves are also more laid-back than at Clignancourt. For the most part they sip their coffees, chat with their neigherbors, read the paper, etc. but answer questions in a friendly manner, even when asked by an American 😉

There are a couple of different vintage button dealers.

There are several jewelry vendors to be found, with products ranging from junk, to mid-century costume, to Deco and a few pieces from even earlier.

The mirror was thoughtfully provided if you wanted to try on a necklace, a hat, etc. It was also for sale.

The Vanves market is larger than it looks at first glance. There are vendors on both sides of the broad sidewalk of Av. Marc Sangnier that runs alongside a public school. This section is about 1 mile or so, when you get to the food cart at the intersection of Marc Sangnier and Av. Georges Lafenestre, you’re a bit more than half-way through.

There are some vendors that I now specifically come for. At the very start of the market, at the corner of Sangnier and Rue Raymond Losserand is a table that has vintage letterpress forms, nice selections of vintage café au lait bowls and other intriguing (to me) stuff. About a quarter of the way down there’s one of two large button vendors, with just the most overwhelming assortment of vintage buttons, many still on their original cards. Around the same area but on the opposite side is vendor who specializes in vintage linens…embroidered oversized napkins, tablecloths, bedding and more. There are also several good custom jewelry dealers, tabletop (crystal, glassware and china) and of course, your usual odd assortment of “stuff”.

This shot sums up for me the atmosphere of Vanves, with that lovely little chandelier hanging in the corner of the carrier truck.

One of my absolute favorite stands, and I’m not alone in this, is a booth called Missy ( run by Julia. Her usual assortment includes a mix of vintage labels for wines and cheeses, pharmacy packaging, vintage fabrics and trims and much more. I could spend over an hour just at her stand! She’s usually on the right a little more than halfway down Marc Sangnier. In fact, Deb just recently used some of the labels we picked up from her for a client. I have a bunch of these now that I’ve collected, just because, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do with them. I have scanned them all as high-res, so I can either make copies of them to experiment with, or eventually get around to framing the originals. I did buy a set of vintage bobby pins, still on the original sell sheet, that I remove carefully to wear and then put back, so not everything is a “someday” purchase.

The "Missy" stand is typically a mix of vintage ribbons and other sewing and hat trimming elements, vintage pharmacy packaging...

...vintage wine, butter and cheese labels...

...vintage fabrics, primarily smaller pieces of lightweight upholstery goods, tablecloths, etc.

And just lots of other great stuff to poke around in!

What else have we found an Vanves? My sister picked up a very pretty bracelet for 10Euro that she always get compliments on and looooves to tell how she found it at “the Paris flea market”. Deb nabbed a fantastic brown leather doctor’s satchel that looked as if had hardly ever been used. In came in handy on that trip as she needed an extra bag to get her stuff home! She also found a great “fromage” id sign, the kind used in a grocery or at the marché, from when everything was still priced in francs. I’m a packaging person–I’ve found I’m attracted to vintage enamel graniteware French lunchboxes–in addition to my long-standing love for vintage boxes, tins, bottles and labels.

My last visit there, I found a great selection of vintage washing machine labels. I bought 10 different brands, in a whole range of colors and design styles.

So, I love Vanves, but perhaps it’s time to branch out again and next explore Montreiul? It’s so hard to choose between old loves and new adventures!

For Vanves, however, here are a few tips:

1) Get an early start. Vanves opens about 7.30 am on weekends only and the vendors start packing up around noon to make way for a second wave of sellers that deal in 30Euro leather jackets and such.

2) Carry cash. Unlike the dealers at Clignancourt, most Vanves dealers only except cash, although there are few exceptions. And, unlike Clignancourt,where the dealers are experienced at arranging shipping, if you see something you must have, but it can’t go home with you as checked baggage, you’ll probably need to figure out that on your own.

3) Bring along an extra bag or two. Most of these vendors will only offer flimsy plastic bags, if that, to carry away your newly-found treasure.

4) Take notes along the way. There are several vendors that sell many of the same type of items, so don’t buy the first version that you see. Take a note of the price, the condition, etc. and be ready to compare and perhaps bargain when you find something similar.

5) Know your French numbers, or be prepared with a pen and notebook for the vendors to write the price down for you. Most do speak English, but if you want to bargain and don’t feel comfortable negotiating in Franglish, a pen and paper goes a long way, as does a sense of humor!

Practical Info:

Metro, Porte de Vanves, line 13. Get out at the Blvd. Brune exit and there should be a Société Générale bank at the corner with an ATM if you need some more cash. Right around the corner and on your way to the market is the bakery where it’s worth stopping for a little something to munch on (as you took point 1 to heart and got an early start!)

13 December 2009 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Paris Markets: Round 1

First-time travelers to Paris are always urged to visit the famed flea market–and for most that means the Puces Saint-Ouen with its permanent halls, stands and stalls filled with an overwhelming variety of covetable goods. My first visits to Saint-Ouen (also known as Clignancourt) were just about learning to navigate the rather grotty route from the Clignancourt metro station (end of #4 line) to rue des Rosiers, where the good stuff can finally be found.

This was one my very first shots taken at Saint-Ouen and I was so excited to begin exploring...

It wasn't like any flea market I'd ever been to...

It was beautiful, inspiring and filled with treasures...

I’ve returned several times to Saint-Ouen, awed, envious and inspired with every visit. Some of the permanent stands are amazing in terms of their displays and no matter what your interest–jewelry, fabrics, lighting, mirrors, seating and more, more, more–there’s always so much to discover. I know Grace returned several times to a vintage jewelry dealer, who specializes in costume jewelry from the 1950s, and has a few smaller chandeliers she found from another dealer now installed throughout her house. Deb is partial to a few dealers where she’s priced vintage posters, another where she scooped up a few original Van Cleef & Arpels gouaches, and yet another where she looks for vintage decorating books and illustrations. But me? I never bought a thing. It was all a little bit too pricy for the things I fell in love with and well, it just didn’t feel like a real flea market. Too settled, too permanent.

If you look long enough, you can find almost anything...

And believe me, I looked, l loved, but I never bought...

I've used Saint-Ouen more for visual inspiration, because some of the traders there have aah-may-zing display and presentation ideas!

Instead I started spending my early mornings discovering some of the many fabulous food markets to be found within walking distance of my Left Bank hotels. There’s the Marché Rue de Buci, open daily starting at about 7:00 am and winding down around 2:00 pm. For our January 2010 trip, if you only visit one open-air food market, this should be the one, as it’s only a 5 minute walk from our hotel!

I've always wanted to rent an apartment for a Paris trip, simply as an excuse to finally cook with some of the fantastic fresh seafood, shellfish and meats you can find at these markets.

The next market I explored was Marché Mouffetard, a bit of a longer walk, as it’s over in the 5th (metro Censier-Daubenton) It’s open every day except Monday and weekend mornings are especially lively as the many bakeries and cafés that line the street service both the vendors and their visitors.

Instead, I "settle" for trying delicious cheeses--hard and firm or super soft to runny, my goal is to try them all!

If you’re at Mouffetard on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, just a bit of extra walking will get you to Marché Place Monge. This is a smaller market than most of the others, but if you’re in the area, why not stop? From Place Monge, it’s not far but a bit of a wandering route to get back to the Luxembourg B station for the train up to the show.

Most markets also sell fresh flowers, plus jams, honeys and other condiments, and wonderful "french-milled" soaps. So think of stopping off at one for a wonderful souvenir!

Back in the 6th, try Marché Bd Raspail, between rue du Cherche-Midi and rue des Rennes. It’s open Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, with Sunday being a “bio” market, and if you can ID any French celebrities, this Sunday market is supposedly a celebrity draw. Also, famed French bakery Poliâne is nearby at 8 rue Cherche-Midi, and yes, it’s open on Sunday mornings.

Hey, now you know for sure that the sausage is fresh, or at least freshly cured. And if you get to market early enough, the bread is still warm.

If you’re up for a slightly longer walk in the morning before heading to the show, try taking the Pont Neuf and keep going straight all the way through the pedestrian mall of Les Halles. On the other side of Les Halles is the Marché Montorgueil, open Tuesday-Saturday 8am-1 pm and Sunday 9 am – 1 pm. Bonus points for stopping at 51 rue Montorgueil, Pâtisserie Stohrer, to pick up a lovely treat to have with your afternoon café! Then backtrack to Les Halles to pick up the B train to Parc des Expositions.

Finally, I suggest a trip to the Marché d’Aligre, over in the 12th. There’s no super easy way to get there from our hotel (my suggestion: walk to Metro Hotel de Ville, take the 1 to Bastille, transfer at Bastille to Ledru Rollin and walk the few blocks from there) but it has a old covered market, plus over a mile of food vendors as well as a rather tatty flea market set up right in Place d’Aligre.

The Marché Beauvau is a covered market at one edge of Place d'Aligre. There's a fishmonger, several cheese counters, several different butchers, regional specialities (Italian, Asian, etc.) a flower market and a couple of counters to have a café and croissant.

But for me, in the winter time, the best part of a trip to Marché d’Aligre is a crisp vin blanc and plate of incredibly fresh-from-the-Atlantic-earlier-that-morning huîtres (oysters) at the hugely popular bar au vin Baron Rouge. I “heart” oysters! (Oh, and I could do a whole other post on just the some of the few bars au vin I managed to find!)

An old-fashioned neighborhood wine bar, Baron Rouge services locals by filling up their empty jugs from huge barrels of the house wines; a once-familiar process that is now rarely found in Paris.

As charming and cozy as the interior of Baron Rouge may be, even on chilly winter days, much of the action takes place outside, where post-market visitors balance glasses of wine and plates of paté and cheese on a few barrels and many car hoods!

But the super-fresh, still tasting of the sea oysters are what I crave every January.

There are several other marchés in all different arrondissments, so if you’re off exploring other neighborhoods, check out this handy list.

Why make the extra effort to hit one of these markets before a long day at the show? Because when you pull out your petit baguette or brioche, your wonderful fromage, a lovely piece of fruit and perhaps a bit of sausage or a delicious pastry at the show, you’re having a tastier meal than you’d be able to purchase up there, as well as experiencing just another little bit of Paris!

I’ve rambled waaaay too long on just the food markets, so I’ll talk about the Vanves marché aux puces in my next post.

à beintôt!

8 December 2009 at 2:39 pm 1 comment

Extras, Extras From IMM Cologne

The show team at IMM Cologne just announced a great tour that will introduce English-speaking visitors to some of the off-site “mini design centers” that have sprung up around the city in recent years. The tour is arranged so that in a half-day, you’ll get to see three of the locations, multiple showrooms at each, have lunch and still end up across the street from the main show by mid-afternoon, leaving you plenty of time to explore the vast halls of IMM Cologne for even more design goodies!

The stops on the tour include: RheinauhafenSpicherhoefe and ending up at Design Post which is a year-round showroom destination right next to IMM. Some of the many showrooms you’ll be able to visit on this tour include: Boffi, B&B Italia, Moroso, Kvadrat, Nya Nordiska and many others.

For more information on the tour, contact the U.S. office of IMM Cologne.

Hope to see you there!

7 November 2009 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

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