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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Sorry I haven't posted for a while... family wedding, Christmas... and the year is almost over!

Merry Christmas to everyone out there. I hope you have a lovely festive and "feast"-ive season!

Belinda xoxo

Monday, December 11, 2006

Random thoughts 2

You know that every now and then I just find odd things that I have to post about. What do you think this is?
Maybe it's the weather making me spot quite random things. About a month ago, snow was forecasted in the hills and I had my winter coat out... then this weekend we had temperatures of 37 and 41 celcius! Sadly fires are sweeping across our state and we're praying for rain and for those who have lost their homes to have hope that things will be OK again.

This sudden change in weather isn't helping our farmers. It's quite a sad state of affairs as due to the drought, I'm finding a lot of baby sized fruit. In this photo, the largest fruit is just an ordinary apple; the accompanying nectarines and cherries are absolutely tiny in comparison!

On a happier note for Melbournians: the Karachi tram is back! I was waiting for the tram and being tired after a long day at the office, I seriously thought I was dreaming when all this Bollywood music came towards me and happy smiling tram "conductors" (what do you call them when they no longer have to sell tickets and this tram is free anyway?) beckoned me to board.

Allen's brought out "Happy Feet" penguin lollies. They may claim to put in natural colouring and flavours (cola is a natural flavour?) but I found nothing natural about eating a penguin. Look at that detail... I had to flip the penguin over and close my eyes!

And did you guess what was in the opening photo? These are "Corn Chos", chocolate covered corn snacks! I walked past the Korean supermarket and decided to go exploring in there. They were, um, interesting. I thought they might be like chocolate covered Pringles but they were a bit chewy and the chocolate looked like it was just smeared on as an afterthought. I hope that doesn't say "MSG added" in Korean! :-)


A Menu for Hope

I hope you'll consider participating in A Menu for Hope. Congratulations to Pim for holding this fantastic campaign and Helen at Grab Your Fork for hosting the Asia Pacific region. Please go to those sites to see what this is all about.

Maybe like me you didn't have time to source a raffle item but we can all take part and make a donation, it's for a wonderful cause and some amazing people have sourced fabulous prizes. Hmm... cookbooks I could add to my collection, dinner at Felix in Hong Kong overlooking the harbour, a market tour in Florence, chocolate tasting kits...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Museums, museums, museums!

Art lovers who have roamed the Paris museums will have marveled at the array of options available. Although our Centre Pompidou expedition failed, there were so many alternatives it didn't matter - and so many that we wished we had several more weeks in Paris! I really recommend getting a Paris Museum Pass if you will be making multiple visits, free entry to other sites such as the Arch de Triomphe or the Notre Dame towers are also included but the biggest advantage is avoiding queues as most places have a dedicated queue for pass holders. Note though that due to security checks, some places don't have dedicated queues but the signs are pretty clear. Impressionists
Musée d'Orsay is a must for anyone who likes Impressionist/Post-Impressionist paintings however there is an immense wealth of works from 1848 to 1914 representing the period starting with the Second Republic through the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist eras of art, ending before the start of Wold War I. The museum has just turned 20 - Bon anniversaire! Opened after the transformation of the Orsay train station, the building itself is also a lovely space to walk around.We went straight to the top level where the Impressionist/Post-Impressionist works are and this was where we concentrated our time. It was such a treat to see the works of artists such as Renoir and Monet, and witness Degas' devotion to ballet (and ladies bathing!) but what really stood out for me were Seurat's "The Circus" and van Gogh's "The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise, View from the Chevet".

Make sure you head to
Café des Hauteurs for the spectacular view from the balcony and this view through the clock. It was a bit smoggy but in the right weather, you can apparently see Montmatre spectacularly.For more Monet, Marmotton is just on the edge of Paris.

Well you can't go to Paris without setting aside time for the Louvre. Lots and lots of time if possible, we went on a Wednesday when it stays open later and spent 7 hours walking around. (We still missed 1 floor and 1 wing, and did selected viewings of the rooms we did get to!) Everything from Egyptian antiquities to sculptures to a wonderful collection of French (naturally!) paintings is there.
The "Mona Lisa" is tiny when you do get to it! We were lucky in that there wasn't a crowd 3 deep around probably the most visited work there but most people are there to see that and the others of the big trio, the "Venus de Milo" and "Winged Victory of Samothrace". Again picking my favourites, I was mesmerised by Canova's sculpture of "Cupid and Psyche" and the Etruscan "Sarcophagus of the Spouses". The latter was very moving and although rather morbid, the couple in a loving embrace expresses so much joy and love, you can't not be moved.

There are plenty of caf
é's where you can fuel yourself for more walking and we felt very sophisticated during our champagne break, enjoying the view of the nearby Tuileries Garden and the exterior of the museum. (And if you must, the Da Vinci audio guide is available for hire - the inverted pyramid is in the shopping centre part of the building that you enter from the métro exit.)

Le Royal
There are so many eateries open late it's great. Le Royal is close to the Louvre and has a very typical bistro menu. I had foie gras that was creamy and very yummy, but the sausages I had were like hot dog franks - I'm not recommending them!
Make sure you ask what the tart of the day is, this apricot one was delicious!

Musée d'Orsay
1, rue de la Légion d'Honneur
(Métro: Solférino)
(RER: Musée d'Orsay)
*Closed Mondays, open late Thursdays

Musée Marmottan Monet
2, rue Boilly
(Métro: Muette)

(Métro: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre station)
*Closed Tuesdays, open late Wednesdays and Fridays

*Current information only: always check opening times!

Le Royal
Near cnr of rue de L'Echelle and ave St Honoré


Friday, November 24, 2006

Parisian food

So what makes up a Paris food experience? Checked tablecloths, rude waiters, red wine and "pommes frites" with everything? We only had the rude waiter and tablecloth once but when I looked back at my food photos, I realised that I had a nice collection of classic French bistro dishes like boeuf borgignon and escargots. Almost everything came with chips and a basket of bread, good thing we were walking so much! Join me on my tour...
We'd taken a 7am flight from London to Paris. (If you ever do that, remember that you have to allow time for check-in and nothing runs that early in London! Good thing we decided to stay at a hotel near Heathrow airport the night before so that we could just hop in a cab and go to the airport.) Having showered and checked out our selection of TV channels, my friend arrived to take us out for the day. We strolled to the Arc de Triomphe and were walking down Champs-Élysées looking at the queue outside Louis Vuitton (it's an "art gallery" on Sundays) and admiring the car showrooms that sold lifestyles, when we felt lunch was due. We decided to be tourists and eat on the avenue.

Here's my moules et frites from the
Café George V. They were fiddly to eat but quite tasty and we had a lovely time sitting in the sun catching up and watching the world go by. I was too hungry to think about photographing the others' lunches, a very filling salad and boeuf borgignon. We had a very refreshing white wine which I scribbled down as "Ceserre" so highly recommend that. It is expensive on the avenue but glamour quotient is up! I didn't take down the exact address but if you're walking from the Arc de Triomphe, it's on the left hand side. Oh and don't expect too much of the service, the waiter came back 3 times to ask what we'd ordered!

Plat de jour
This is the cheapest way to eat out. Choosing the set menu ensures a speedy meal and is so much cheaper. After we found out Chez Stella was closed, we walked further down
rue Thérèse to the corner with rue St Anne and spotted this cafe "B/S". We must have been in an area with many Japanese expats as I spotted numerous Japanese restaurants from teppenyaki specialists to noodle bars and the friendly French café owner suddenly started speaking very fluent Japanese to a family. The meal was only 8 euro and I had my very French Orangina. (Did anyone who did French at school ever learn to order Orangina as well?) I had really yummy lamb with so-so zucchini and T had a great roast chicken.

Having said that I was to go macaron tasting, can you believe I only went to one place? Oh the delicate almond powder/sugar/egg white pastries and the soft creamy filling... hmm. I walked past Gosselin and got some of their violet and chocolate macarons. The violet was incredibly musky and really quite pleasant - although Niki describes the violet flavour as grandmothers and lavender! - and the chocolate was delicious. The macarons there are 4.70 euro for 100g. I was walking past La Grande Epicerie at the department store Bon March
é and it was too bad I didn't have enough time to shop because it is an incredible store of gourmet treats. The macarons there came in the brightest colours and I just wanted to taste the mint and berry flavours! Go there if you want to pack a picnic!

The Classics
Dinner in the Latin Quarter is exciting because it's such a vibrant area, forget that it depends on a tourist trade and just enjoy the great variety of cuisines. This is the university area and as with all student areas, there's something very bohemian about the place. We found this bistro right by the
Church of Saint Séverin (we didn't get there in time to go in but I really wanted to check out the palm tree pillars). I didn't write down the name of the bistro but they had a wonderfully Paris menu.

I handled my escargots well and there was no slippage!
The boeuf borgignon was melt in your mouth tasty and T said it was better than the previous one he'd had at George V.
And there's always room for dessert especially these scrumptious profiteroles filled with ice-cream!
As you can see the tablecloth was checked, we did drink red wine and the waiter was fantastically rude by doing things like tease us about how long we took to read the menu and asking if we were going to photograph our meals before I pulled my camera out!

Café George V
avenue des Champs-Elysées

Café B/S
Corner rue Thérèse and rue St Anne

Corner rue de Bellechasse and blvd Saint Germain

La Grande Epicerie
38 rue de Sèvres

Église Saint Séverin

1 rue des prêtres Saint Séverin


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Seafood Paella/Risotto

On Friday night we went to see Carole King on her Living Room Tour... I'm in my 20's and my colleagues said things like "Carole King, isn't she like really old?" or "She's from my generation, i.e. your mum's generation!" And yes she is! I found out that she's 64 but she is still going strong. You see when my Mum was carrying me and when I was a bub, we listened to a lot of Carole King. She still laughs thinking about how I just picked up the music and would sing along. It's funny because so many songs of hers have been covered, eg "Locomotion" isn't Kylie's and do you remember when Martika did "I feel the Earth Move"? Lisa Simpson sang "Jazzman" and everyone's heard favourites like "You've Got a Friend" and "Where You Lead" (the Gilmore Girls theme). I don't care if it was a bit daggy, I loved it and had a great time!

Now, this dish has nothing to do with the concert! I saw a prawn paella recipe of Donna Hay's from one of the Sunday paper magazines and it got my taste buds excited.

Donna Hay's Prawn Paella
6 cups Chicken stock
2 Tbl Olive oil
1 Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 small Red Chillies
, sliced
100g Chorizo sausages, sliced
2 cups Aroborio rice
2 cups Chopped tomatoes
2 Tbl Tomato paste
1 cup Dry white wine
18 Banana prawns
1/4 Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

1) Heat the stock and bring to a simmer
2) Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the oil, onion, garlic, chilli and chorizo. Cook until onions are soft and chorizo is "golden".

3) Stir in the rice, tomatoes, tomato paste and wine and cook for several minutes.
4) Gradually add in the hot stock, stirring continuously, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente.
5) Add the prawns and cook for a few more minutes until they are cooked.
6) Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and a lemon wedge.
Serves 6


1) I decided to use some squid so only used a dozen prawns and added a squid tube. Make life easier for cook and tasters, and buy shelled and pre-cleaned!
2) I forgot about the chilli but I had some green pepper/capsicum handy so added that in for a bit of colour and added a sprinkle of dried chilli for a bit of kick.
3) It's kind of hard figuring out how many cups of chopped tomatoes are in a can at the supermarket! I just used a 400g can, it seemed about right. (And if you don't make your own stock, a 1 litre packet = 4 cups)
4) There wasn't any lemon at the greengrocers and I haven't visited anyone with a lemon tree lately, but I used lime and it tasted great!

5) I have "risotto" in the title because to bring my stock up to 6 cups, I added water... and then forgot I'd done that and added another 2 cups in. So by the time I wondered why the rice gluggier than paella and I realised what I'd done, well... but it was still really delicious!
6) I know it says serves 6 but by the time 2 people have dinner and seconds, you've only got enough for 2 generous lunches!!

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Les Îles de Paris

Spending time on the islands of Paris was such a pleasure. Like everyone else, visiting Notre Dame Cathedral on Île de la Cité was high on my list of things to do but on my list of recommendations is also Sainte Chapelle for the stunning stained-glass windows that bathe you in a multitude of colours. (French monuments site.)

Sainte Chapelle

Walking over to Île St-Louis, you suddenly reach residential calm - the exclusive 17th century townhouse kind of residential calm! Walking down the main street of rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Île, you will find quaint boutiques, epiceries (look at that window!) and the Île St-Louis institution of ice-cream, Berthillon. As with our other Paris food adventure stories, Berthillon is closed on a Monday and Tuesday and we were there on a Tuesday! Do not fret, plenty of other shops sell Berthillon glace!

Whilst deciding which ice-cream shop to go to, we realised it was past lunch time and saw that this restaurant served meals and ice-cream. Perfect! What a lucky find, the waiter at Les Gourmands de L'Île was friendly and the service efficient. So he must have been catering for tourists? No, locals ate there complete with dogs sitting patiently in their carrier bags and they had a 3 course lunch menu for under 20 euros. (I did write it down but can't find my notebook, I think that is a blurred 13 on the board?) The interior is very Parisian chic with candles, gilded mirrors and plush red banquettes and chairs.

Having been disappointed with the Parisian "French onion soups" up to this stage, Les Gourmands delivered this excellent soupe
à l'oignon. Thanks to these tourists for a good giggle: having loudly read through the menu in French commenting on what traditional dishes her friends should try, one lady asked the lovely waiter "Your onion soup, it's French right?". I applaud his composure as her friend chastised her for being "an idiot and a total embarassment"! :-D

You'll see the glass of cider in the background. That was *the* best cider I've had, I don't know what brand or type it was but it so beat the cider I last tried at the Slow Food Festival!!

A selection of pastas was on offer for mains and I had a yummy lasagne, but most importantly was the ice-cream that finished the meal! The intense colours and flavours are apparently what is typical of Berthillon, and this cassis (blackcurrant) sorbet and praliné glace left me wanting more, more, more! The sorbet was an intense hit of natural flavours and the ice-cream was so creamy.

I heard the waiter telling someone that they'd only opened in August. Good luck to them!

29 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Île

Les Gourmands d'
54 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Île

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Climate Change

Not really related to my holiday or food but November 4th is the International Day of Action Against Climate Change. Unfortunately I couldn't make the Walk Against Warming but it looks like plenty of people did in Melbourne. If you missed the walk, you can sign the online petition.
You don't have to be a "greenie" to realise what risks we face. I recently watched An Inconvenient Truth and thought it was such a powerful way to drive home the message; I was also damn scared by it! Hopefully most of you would have watched it but if you haven't, I really urge you to.

The photo above was taking on Mt Titlis at the start of October on my trip. We were
3,000 metres above sea level and at this height there is year-round glacier skiing. It was magnificent up there and it was such a thrill to be so high up, but when I saw the photos of how far the glacier once spread it was terrifying to think how much temperature change must have taken place.

Maybe stopping the glaciers melting by wrapping them in foil will work, maybe it won't, there's got to be at least one thing we can each do to reduce our impact!

Added 7th Nov
We're smart people and most of us know about things like recycling and energy efficiency but I thought I'd post up some links (
Australian) for further things for which there aren't common signs to remind us about. Consider:
- switching to green power
- offsetting emissions, e.g. by contributing towards renewable energy projects