Friday, August 16

I go to a party at Raquel and Deo's apartment.

Today's agenda: Drill myself on vocabulary. I've got 536 words in my Java program, and I need to know all of them. I'm disgusted with myself for not keeping up with this and rectifying this mistake will feel good. Later, go shopping for groceries and a couple of bottles of good wine to bring to the party tonight. Take the métro over to La Pâtisserie des Rêves to get the St-Honoré for the party. Then down to Deo & Raquel's for the party in the evening. No museums or jazz clubs are in the plans!

Now isn't this long weekend so far more fun than taking the train to Chartres to see YADC?

Les cheveux are getting really shaggy. Haven't gotten a haircut in months. Letting it grow out and it's all curly and bunchy around my ears and neck. Almost bohemian. Deo and I were talking about this problem, which he shares. We're both a little bit intimidated by the thought of letting a Parisian coiffeur cut our hair. At this point I don't care. I can get it cut when I get back to Chicago.

After last night I can't get Bill Haley & The Comets out of my head.

We're gonna rock around the clock tonight 
We're gonna rock, rock, rock 'til broad daylight 
We're gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight

There's a bar and wine store called "Au Doux Raisin - Bar, Cave à Vin et à Champagne" that I pass by all the time over on rue Descartes. Judging by the window display, it sells higher-end wines. I think this is an opportunity to try some REALLY good Bordeaux. Why not? I'll go over there when they open later this morning and check it out. 2 bottles should be enough for 6 people tonight so we can all have a nice taste. It was open yesterday when I passed by, so I think they're not on August vacation.

Alas, they were indeed closed for the rest of August. And my usual ATM was broken. Ended up at my backup wine store on the Mouf.

Wine for the party. Two bottles of Duluc de Branaire-Dugru Saint-Julien 2008, a Grand Vin de Bordeaux.

From the "wine searcher" web site:

Saint-Julien is a small but important appellation of the Haut-Medoc 
district of Bordeaux in south-western France. Its reputation is based 
on its status as a reliable source of consistently elegant, age-worthy 
wines.

Haut-Medoc is the large southern section of the greater Medoc district 
of Bordeaux in south-western France and also the name of the appellation 
that covers the vineyards here. It accounts for two-thirds of the Medoc
peninsula and produces more fine wine per acre than almost anywhere 
else in the world.

Went over to La Pâtisserie des Rêves and returned with this Saint Honoré for the party.

The pâtisserie has a cookbook. I was browsing through it while the clerk prepared my package. Wow. It has to be impossible to make these pastries at home though, without a huge kitchen very well-equipped with highly specialized restaurant-quality equipment.

From Wikipedia:

The St. Honoré cake is named for the French patron saint of bakers 
and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré or Honoratus (d. 600 AD), bishop of 
Amiens.

This classic French dessert is a circle of puff pastry at its base 
with a ring of pâte à choux piped on the outer edge. After the base 
is baked small cream puffs are dipped in caramelized sugar and attached 
side by side on top of the circle of the pâte à choux. This base is
traditionally filled with crème chiboust and finished with whipped 
cream using a special St. Honoré piping tip.

Le Bon Marché is right on the corner next to the pâtisserie, the world's first department store founded in 1850 (although some claim this distinction belongs to Bainbridge's of Newcastle upon Tyne in England). It's still the only "grand magasin" on the left bank. I stopped in just to take a picture for you, then left as quickly as possible. I find the grands magasins extremely intimidating.

The guys in suits and ties are employees. They are there to assist the customers. Mostly I think they just stand around and look imperious and important as a way to frighten away the riffraff gawkers who don't really have enough money to buy anything (like me).

But I was carrying my bag from La Pâtisserie des Rêves. That made me invincible.

The bicycles are for sale at ridiculous prices. They don't belong to customers (yet).

The party at Raquel & Deo's apartment. We had a wonderful time and got very, very drunk.

Compared to my apartment their place is huge. It's a fifth floor walkup (quatrième étage) down in the 13th in the neighborhood around Les Gobelins métro station. They even have a separate room for the bed, and a counter top in the kitchen, and multiple windows. A charming Parisian deux pièce.

I'll start at the right and work my way around. That's Deo from Brazil, married to Raquel on the couch. This is their apartment. Deo made sure that everyone's glass was full at all times. We had beer and port for an apéro, then moved on to rosé wine, and the bordeaux I brought later on, after it had the appropriate amount of time to breath. And I believe some Kir Royale was involved, but by that time things were getting a little blurry and I don't remember the details. I just remember Deo handing me shot glasses full of something.

You have to practically get into a fist fight with Deo if you want to leave. If he had his way I think we'd still be partying. When I finally left in the middle of the night he walked me down the stairs (a long journey) and insisted on calling a cab, but I fought him off and told him I was in just fine shape for a little walk home. At least, that's what I remember. It's a little vague.

Next to Deo there's food on the coffee table, Brazilian appetizers of beef, chicken, and cheese. Tasty. Enhanced by some very strong hot sauces, and that's a little story. In class Wee Ling (in the middle on the couch, we'll get to Wee Ling in a minute) gave her exposé. The most important object in her life was a bottle of Tabasco. Where she comes from they like their food spicy, and the Parisian food is too bland for her, so she always pours tabasco sauce on her food here. So of course we were all pouring hot sauces on our little appetizers, in her honor.

Next up is Joel, in the blue shirt with the iPad. He's 28, from Sweden. A very intelligent young man who I always enjoy talking to. Joel had some kind of meeting or appointment and showed up late. We were all asking "où se trouve Joel?" and "Joel est en retard!". Finally the doorbell rang. We greeted him with a thunderous and enthusiastic welcome and told him he had a lot of catching up to do. It didn't take him long. Joel and I smoked cigarettes together by the window. He's here in Paris with his copine (girlfriend), but we haven't met her.

The iPad that Joel is holding supplied the music for the evening. We took turns making selections, mostly YouTube videos. We started with bossa nova from Brazil. When my turn came I selected a video of the French pop star Alizée singing her hit "J'en ai marre" (I'm fed up). Wee Ling couldn't believe that I even knew who Alizée was, much less liked her music. Her husband Jordi (in the next picture, not visible in this one) was a bit disgusted, and when asked about her would only say "Oui, elle est bien connue" (Yes, she's well known).

Raquel is next, at the right end of the couch. Very sweet and funny. Married to Deo, poor thing. She knows how to drink. Deo says it's because she's Italian, but that's only 1/4 true - her grandmother is Italian. Seems to be a joke between them. She does a super job of tolerating Deo's off-the-charts exuberance. They must be in love or something, that's the only way I can explain it. She kind of crashed and burned and was more-or-less passed out when I left. Raquel has visited Chicago and said she really liked it, especially the bean.

Wee Ling is in the middle on the couch. She's married to Jordi who you'll see in the next picture (just his knee is visible on the right in this shot). They live in the suburbs but are looking for a new apartment. She was enjoying herself rather immensely and did not want to leave at all. Jordi kept trying - "on y va!" but she refused and wanted to stay and party. But he insisted because they have three apartments to look at tomorrow and she needs to get some rest and sober up and look her best for that. Totally charming and beautiful young woman, a great drinking companion. She sent email the next day saying "Je confirme la kir royale est dangereuse." Kir Royale is a French cocktail made with crème de cassis and champagne.

Hiroshi from Japan is next to Wee Ling on the couch. Very charming and friendly gentleman. I don't know why he's here learning French. Also a good drinker! He helped me serve the pastry. I was in the kitchen cutting the slices. He handed me the plates and delivered them to the people.

Above the couch you see a few of our wine bottles and the red box containing the pastry I brought. That was a big hit. Super! Délicieux! Incroyable! It was indeed incredibly good and very special.

And finally we come to Wee Ling's French husband Jordi. He's actually from Catalonia in the south of France, a very distinct region with their own language and culture that straddles northern Spain and the far southwest of France. How cool is that? He's a young lawyer, super smart and friendly and incredibly interesting and fun to talk to. He and Wee Ling brought various kinds of cheese and he kept going around with a plate of bread and cheese to keep us all supplied with food. He very much approved of my pastry and was quite concerned that maybe we should put it in the fridge because it was quite warm and it was important to treat it properly, with the respect it deserved. Same with the wine - very important to let it breath properly before drinking it. And it was very important to drink the rosé first, and save the bordeaux for later. The order matters. It's terribly uncivilized to get this wrong. So French.

He was complaining because his fromagerie is closed for the month and he had to buy the cheese at a supermarché. LOL. I told him I had the same problem with my favorite marchand du vin. We agreed that this is quite aggravating.

More party pictures.

The party made me think of drinking with my friends back in college. Definitely better booze. And a rather more diverse set of people (understatement). Conversation a bit more adult and sophisticated. In French. In Paris. Not too shabby. Wonderful people and a splendid evening.

There's a gesture in France where you make a fist, put it up to your nose, then rub it around in a circle. It means I'M SO PLASTERED. We were all doing it and laughing until it hurt. J'ai un verre dans le nez (I have a glass in my nose), or J'ai un coup dans le nez (I have a drink in my nose).