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Cheese Festival

6 Jun Gorgeous Cheese Display by Dominique Bouchait
Mariners' rest, a lovely little bar

Mariners' rest, a lovely little bar

Today marks the last weekend of my last academic summer holiday in my LIFE. :O Good thing I didn’t quite waste it. On Saturday, I attended a cheese workshop at Hullet House. The workshop was part of a 5 day festival organized by One Minute Before called Cheese Refiners Days. They invited 2 cheese refiners from France, Philippe Marchand & Dominique Bouchait, to give a series of talks.

Hullet House

Hullet House

In addition, Chef Philipe Orrico of Hullet House and Food Designer Loïc Serot also took part in the festival. More information on this site. I miss French cheese soooo much I had to join!

As my sleeping schedule was so screwed up for the past month, I couldn’t sleep until 5 am, but had to wake up at 9:30 to get to Hullet House in time for the 11 am workshop. :S I had a massive headache that morning, but thankfully a lot of good cheese and wine woke me up.

The Masters

The Masters

First of all, Monsieur Marchand gave a talk on the origins of cheese. He identified the different categories of cheese, which I don’t really remember, but looked it up on his website afterwards. They include:

1) Les pâtes fraîches: fresh cheese

2) Les pâtes molles à croûte fleurie: soft cheese with a bloomed rind

3) Les pâtes molles à croûte lavée: soft cheese with a washed rind

4) Les pâtes persillées: blue cheese

5) Les pâtes pressées non cuites: pressed cheese which is not cooked

6) Les pâtes pressées cuites: pressed and cooked cheese

7) Les pâtes fondues: cheese fondue

8) Les recuites: cheese made from cooked whey (which is called lactosérum in French…that’s so cute! haha. it DOES look like sérum)

9) Les fromages de chèvre: goat cheese

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The End…For Now

29 Apr

So here I am, on my last day of my stay in Paris. My flight’s at 1 pm tomorrow, and I still haven’t packed at ALL. :S FML….like yesterday, I spent the whole day at the hospital doing surgery. Also said all my goodbyes to the nurses at the clinic, to the interns, the doctors I met, the OT nurses, the professor, secretaries. Delivered my Berko cupcakes to the clinic nurses which were well received. Took lots of photos, wanted to cry. Sigh…I hate goodbyes. I’LL BE BACK, PARIS AND HOPITAL SAINT-LOUIS!

After that, went to the Grands Magasins (again) to get more souvenirs (again). I finished off the macarons I bought which were supposed to be smuggled back to HK for my family and me…….whoops. So I bought more. And bought extra so I wouldn’t have to steal from the boxes. I wasn’t really in an eating mood (surprising, eh?) tonight as I was feeling so sad. 😦

Starbucks Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

Starbucks Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

So I got something from Starbucks. Cheesecake from Starbucks. What was I thinking?? Well…Berko was closed by the time I got back to the Beaubourg area, so I couldn’t end my trip with an amazing piece of Berko cheesecake. Yes, I was very, very sad. This Framboise-Chocolat Blanc Gâteau Fromage was so bad I didn’t even finish it. For one, the texture is all wrong. I think gelatin was used, which makes it a bit-jelly like. Not as bad as the Hong Kong style cheesecakes, but definitely not creamy like cheesecakes are supposed to be. Also, I couldn’t taste any white chocolate OR raspberry. Starbucks fail.

Goat Milk Chocolate Pudding

Ewe's Milk Chocolate Pudding

Also bought a bunch of stuff from the gourmet deli near my home, including this interesting pudding made of ewe’s milk (brebis). I was expecting a stronger, more gamey taste. Unfortunately, it only tasted like a very smooth chocolate pudding. It was the texture of warm ginger milk pudding…just at the border of liquid and solid. Actually, I think even HK style milk pudding has a stronger gamey taste than this.

Fromage Blanc Marron

Fromage Blanc Marron

This was something else I bought from the deli (yes I went crazy…it’s my last day after all). Chestnut flavoured fromage blanc isn’t something very common in HK, but I’ve seen it everywhere in Paris. Actually…getting this was a stupid idea…since it seems pretty easy to make myself. Good nonetheless. I’ve grown to really like fromage blanc…the texture is smoother than yogurt (which I find more watery), and the tartness isn’t overwhelming. It’s also usually made with skim milk!

On to the pastries…

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I’m Not Contemporary Enough

25 Apr

Last day of my Easter long weekend, and a busy day like the rest of my weekend! Woke up bright and early and headed to the first stop of today’s itinerary……..Eglise Saint-Eustache. Unfortunately, it was closed. Since it’s right next to Rue Montorgueil, I headed over there for some breakfast.

Stohrer's pastry case...well, half of it

Stohrer's pastry case...well, half of it

Stohrer again! This time my target was one of their éclairs…they’ve been voted as one of the best in Paris. I got a vanilla éclair as those aren’t very common. Let’s just say I’ve had better….the choux pastry was tasteless, dry, and the creme was kind of tasteless and too sweet too. I think my neighbourhood bakery makes better éclairs.

Pasteis, which wasn't very good...even KFC's is better

Pasteis, which wasn't very good...even KFC's is better

I also had a pasteis (de nata), which wasn’t very good either, much like the one I had at the Bastille market. I guess I shouldn’t complain as it’s my own fault for having a Portuguese pastry in a French shop?

So my next plan was to head over to the University area to check out the sights there. On the way, I passed by Saint-Chapelle, and noticed that the lineup was REALLY SHORT! Like 10 people short. It’s usually at least 3 times the length. I then decided not to miss this opportunity and lined up. I’m glad I did so, as the church was so beautiful.

The beautiful stained glass windows of Eglise Saint-Chapelle

The beautiful stained glass windows of Eglise Saint-Chapelle

I literally stood in the middle of the hall for a few minutes just to take in the beauty of it all. This was one of the smaller churches I’ve been to, as it’s mainly just for pilgrimage, holding the relics of the Passion, including the purported Crown of Thorns of Christ. Apparently, King Louis IX paid more for the relics than building the church! After being awestruck by the church, I headed next door to the Conciergerie, which was the Medieval royal palace of France. Later, it became a prison during the Revolution. I got to see the cell where Marie Antoinette was kept.

Then, finally, headed to my prior planned destination.

Took a look at the universities and the areas around it. Then I went to the Musée Cluny, which is actually the Museum of the Middle Age. The lady at the ticket counter was very nice and let me go in for free, even though supposedly only under-26s from the EU could do that! =D The entire building is very cool….built in the 14th century!! :O It used to be the town house of the abbots of Cluny. The entire structure was also built on the ruins of Gallo-Roman baths dating from the 3rd century!!!!!! Mind-boggling.

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Bastille Market

24 Apr Breton galette for meeeeee

Today I planned to wake up early to head down to the Louvre before going to Versailles (yes again) to watch an equestrian performance at the Grand Ecurie. Unfortunately, I’m just not one for waking up early and I woke up at 8:45, which would mean huge line-ups at the Louvre, especially since it’s Easter. I was planning to go to Sunday mass at Notre Dame at 10, and I didn’t think I would make it if I went to the Louvre. So I headed out for some early morning wandering instead…

All-You-Can-Spread at Le Pain Quotidien

All-You-Can-Spread at Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien is a chain store selling organic breads in “naturally” decorated cafés with lots of wood panelling, communal wooden tables, and lots of bread. But that’s not what made me happy. I ordered a croissant au beurre for here, and what was ON the table made me happiest. ALL YOU CAN SPREAD spreads!!! They had Brunette (hazelnut butter), Noisella (nutella dupe but organic), Blondie (white chocolate spread), Noir (dark chocolate spread), and various jams, but who cares about jams when you have unlimited chocolate spreads? Ok, just kidding, their cherry jam was excellent paired with the dark chocolate spread. So, for 2.20 euros, I had a croissant as a side dish to my million different kinds of spreads. And also went through my guidebook (which I only started reading today. Yes, my last week. lol) trying to decide where to go.

Easter Sunday Mass at Notre Dame

Easter Sunday Mass at Notre Dame

I decided I would head over to the Île de la Cité a bit earlier in case there were lines at Notre Dame, and thank god I did, as the lines were SNAKING. Ah spring break. Fortunately, I got into the cathedral just as the Gregorian mass was about to start, and attended my first mass in…many years (not since I switched high schools from a Catholic one to a secular one I believe). It was calming, and I must admit I sort of missed it. 🙂 Not to mention the venue was gorgeous and it’s breathtaking to imagine mass a few hundred years ago here. The picture above is of the English mass, after the Gregorian mass, which I snapped as I was leaving.

My next stop was the Bastille market across the street from the Opéra Bastille, a starkingly modern structure in contrast to everything else in Paris. I actually read about the market in the guidebook this morning, and I’m glad I did. Or else, I would’ve missed the chance to experience an outdoor market!

Bastille Market

Bastille Market

It was bustling and lively. There were stalls selling all kinds of things: raw meats, rotisserie, fresh oysters, Breton specialties, North African goodies, Greek deli items, Italian stalls, cheap clothing, shoes, fruits, vegetables, Chinese food, Bob the Paella guy (I think it’s a franchise), breads, LOTS of cheese, Portuguese food, and street musicians. Oh, and underwear. Yea. Kinda reminded me of 女人街, except the food they sell is a lot classier.

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Good Friday

22 Apr Love the top...and the fresh tasting apples are probably what I like best about this cake

Today, none of the other externs were at the hospital except for me. I later realized it’s Good Friday and perhaps they thought it was a public holiday? Helped out in another surgery again…breast reduction. I kept on violating sterile rules in the beginning and had to changing my gown and gloves several times…I felt so stupid 😦 and the OT nurse looked so impatient with me. But then most OT nurses are grumpy. Hmph. Nonetheless, I’m learning more and more. So sad it’s almost time to go home. After watching one and helping out with one surgery, I headed out as I wanted to do more exploring. I went to Sacre-Coeur, and it was filled with people waiting for Good Friday mass. Outside, on the steps, was a guy playing guitar with tons of people watching him sing classics like Hotel California, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, etc. A little lower, a guy was putting on a puppet show. Below all that, one can see a birds’ eye view of Paris. Montmarte is a really cool place…actually, so is a lot of other places in Paris. ARGH IM GONNA MISS THIS PLACE.

Basilique Sacre-Coeur

Basilique Sacre-Coeur

They changed their wrapping paper!

They changed their wrapping paper!

Rocher

Rocher

Just before I got home, I was really craving chocolate, so I dropped into Boulangerie Beatrix and David again, which is downstairs and oh so convenient. I actually asked for Croquechoco, which looked like a version of the popular cake that Tony Wong makes. When I got home, I found out the salesgirl gave me a Rocher instead. Oh well, no worries, it’s still chocolate. The Rocher is basically a giant Ferrero Rocher. The whole thing is covered in real milk chocolate studded with salty nuts. For some reason, it didn’t taste like hazelnuts…it kind of tasted like peanuts. Need to double check tomorrow by going back to the boulangerie and looking at the sign.

Chocolate coating, noisette mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate hazelnut mousse, feuilletine

Chocolate coating, noisette mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate hazelnut mousse, croustillant

Inside, from top to bottom are the noisette mousse, a thin layer of chocolate cake, chocolate hazelnut mousse, and then a croustillant layer. I could taste a little coffee in the noisette mousse…don’t know if it’s just my imagination as it’s coffee coloured. The biscuit provided a nice textural difference and separation between the 2 mousse layers.It seems like the French people really enjoy croustillant and hazelnuts, as it’s featured heavily in many stores pastries. This was satisfying. I mean, the combination of chocolate and hazelnuts is really hard to go wrong. Also, like their Paris Brest, the mousse is very light, while still satisfying due to its creaminess.

Aligot...so stretchy!

Aligot...so stretchy!

Earlier in the afternoon, after visiting Sacre-Coeur, I ended up at Champs Elysées just to have a walk. I visited a small shop called Aubrac Corner, which is a takeout store belonging to the restaurant Le Maison de L’Aubrac next door. Aubrac is a region in the South of France, and their specialty is aligot, a mashed potatoes, cheese, and butter concoction. I bought a box to have tonight. As I was too lazy to cook it on the stove, I just microwaved it, then mixed and mixed and mixed like the traditional way. It reminded me of natto, getting stickier and stretchier the more you mix. After having the mashed potatoes from Le Meurice, I’ve been spoiled; and this is a microwave version…still, it was interesting. Tasted like potatoes and cheese. The interesting thing is mostly the texture, which was super, uber, duper, stretchy and chewy. You can keep on twirling it around your fork. This is thanks to the addition of a special type of cheese called Tome cheese. Traditionally, aligot is served with wild boar sausage, but I don’t think I could finish a sausage with this rich dish. So instead, I also bought some cheese at Lafayette. As if cheese isn’t rich.

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A Royal Visit

17 Apr

I woke up early this morning to go to Versailles. Took the bus to Saint Michel-Notre Dame RER station, and boarded the RER C to Versailles Rive Gauche. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that the line splits after Champ de Mars, and I stayed till the last stop on the other line. The driver of the train, when he found out I wanted to go to Versailles, was like “oh….c’est très loin, très très loin….” and shaking his head. I had to go back all the way from Pontoise to Champ de Mars, then back to Versailles. Haha…instead of taking half an hour to get to Versailles, it took me 3 hours. Whoops. Fortunately, on the way back, I had a really cute kid (he looked around 5?) who got on the train at Pontoise sitting next to me. He kept on chatting to me in French, and I answered him in very bad pronunciation which he obviously didn’t understand, but he kept on talking to me anyways. Then, he refused to sit with his dad and wanted to sit next to me, and on the way he kept on pointing things out the window. And we played with his toy cars. There was one point where he kept on saying “qu’est-ce que c’est?” while handing me one of his cars, and I’d answer “C’est une voiture!” everytime. Then I did the same back to him. His dad was laughing…oh I love kids. He also had a little brother (looked around 3 years old) who repeated practically EVERYTHING his older brother was saying…word for word.

LeGay Choc

LeGay Choc

Well, back to what food I had that day. Breakfast was a croissant aux amandes from LeGay Choc (gotta love that name…pronounced as: Le Gay Shock). Apparently they also sell dick shaped baguettes on Saturday afternoons. Gotta check it out next week.

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A Day with an Old Friend

16 Apr

Today I hung out with my friend from Vancouver who moved to Paris. Her parents are French, and she moved to Vancouver when she was 18 months, then moved back to France 3 years ago. What a lucky girl! We went to lots of places, including the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides where Napolean is buried, L’Arc de Triomphe, Galleries Lafayette etc. She also brought me to less well-known places, including some far off arrondissements and the covered passages. (Photos to follow…too lazy to edit them now.)

After the long, long walk throughout half of Paris, I needed my nourishment! As our walk ended at Rue Montorgueil, I headed there for more amazing food shopping. I wish we had something like Rue Montorgueil in HK!! I guess our wet markets are something like that…where you can find veggies, meat, and bakeries all in one spot. But everything is so much more “gourmet” in Paris sob sob.

First stop: Stohrer. This time I took a few photos of the interior. As you can see, the ceiling is beautiful. The guys working at Stohrer are also very cute and très sympa aussi. I think I mentioned that before? Heh. They immediately switch to English if they sense that your French is moyenne. Of course, for someone who wanted to practice her French like me, that could be bad 😛

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