Saturday, 3 October 2015


A few weeks ago in Sydney I discovered this amazing place on Victoria Street in Darlinghurst. Even though moments before we had been to Gelato Messina Dessert Bar and were extraordinarily full of delicious ice cream we were drawn into Kürtösh by the amazing smells. And then we couldn't believe our eyes.

So many goodies. Savoury

And sweet. Cake sold by weight. A fabulous idea so you can buy as much or as little as you want. And they have samples out for tasting!

But most of the aroma came from these beauties. A traditional Hungarian pastry called Kurtoskalács.

They make them to order. It's an intriguing process. They roll out a piece of pastry into a long strip, the wrap it round a large mould like a rolling pin- you can see some in the back of the photo if you can manage to look beyond the pastries displayed...

They are then coated in oil and sugar (I didn't say they would be good for you) and then baked in a special oven. The big rolling pin moulds are inside and those are handles of the rolling pins sticking out of the machine. You can glimpse some kurtosh baking inside. After they're cooked they  roll the warm pastries in the topping of your choice- sugar and cinnamon, most nuts.

Sadly we really were too full that day to try anything, but I had another recent trip to Sydney and I made certain that we made it to Kurtosh primed to partake and I'm so glad we did! This time we went to the Randwick store.

Our group managed to select most of the flavours. Naturally I got pistache...

I believe this is my sister's Nutella version. She even shared...

It turns out that one each is a bit much, so I'd suggest sharing. But not surprisingly they're all really good. It's so sad that it will be some time before my next visit.

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Friday, 2 October 2015

The Girl On The Train

I'm not sure why I had to read this book. Yes, I'd heard a bit about it around the traps. A modern Hitchcockian "Rear Window" vibe. "The new Gone Girl". Well, I didn't read that one. I wasn't overly interested at the time, but then I did see the movie, and liked it up until a point. But I bought The Girl On The Train a while ago, and suddenly it seemed like a good idea. And it was.

I know that I should read more adult fiction, but seriously I don't often get the time. But I usually enjoy it when I get there. Last week it seemed imperative that I read The Girl On The Train. So I did.

Rachel is the girl on the train, making her daily commute into London. She watches the houses on the way, but her attention is always held by the street where she used to live. She knows those houses not just from the outside, but from the inside as well. And of course she knows some of the people who live in those houses, and the lives they live there.

My head leaning against the carriage window, I watch these houses roll past me like a tracking shot in a film. I see them as others do not; even their owners probably don't see them from this perspective. Twice a day, I am offered a view into other lives, just for a moment. There's something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.

There are three narrators, all women. Rachel, Megan and Anna. All three are connected by geography, by the street, by the train line, and their lives are interconnected in ways that are slowly unfolded. I've always  liked a multiple point of view read, as long as it's well done. Here I really liked the structure of three intertwining first person voices, in a dated entries, and predominantly morning, evening entries. (Which naturally made me think of one of my favourite cheeses, Morbier- a classic French cheese made from morning and evening milk separated by a layer of ash. Traditionally made from cow's milk, I recently had an insanely good goat milk morbier. But I digress...) Each of the voices were not particularly distinctive in style, but all are clearly marked and it was always easy to tell who was speaking.

I really enjoyed The Girl On The Train. It's more suspense than gore and violence, which is more my preference these days, although I did like a good forensic procedural back in the day. I enjoy trying to work out who did what, and to who. Who is lying? And what are they trying to hide?

There is a movie version of The Girl On The Train on the way, but sadly, and rather predictably, the action is moving from London to New York. Even so, I will be interested enough to see it when it comes out.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Better Reading's Top 100

Australia's favourite 100 books as voted by the good folks at Better Reading. Apparently 5,000 Australians voted on this one. Yes it's a populist list, but we can't all be reading Patrick White all the time. Seriously, I got through one of his, and I think that maybe I'm done. If I only had Patrick White to read I just wouldn't read. This is clearly a list of books Australians like, not a list of Australian books.

Brigid Delaney at The Guardian Australia got herself in quite a tizz about it all. I can't imagine that anyone really does imagine that this is the new canon. And what if someone did read all of these? Well, they'd have read a 100 books that they hadn't read before. I for one think that that would be a good thing. Although I do think we could leave 50 Shades of Grey off any list whatsoever.

1. The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay

2. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

4. Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

5. Cloudstreet - Tim Winton

6. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

7. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

8. The Potato Factory - Bryce Courtenay

9. The Bronze Horseman - Paullina Simons

10. The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien

11. Still Alice - Lisa Genova (see my review)

12. The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan

13. Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

14. Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James

15. My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult

16. The Lavender Keeper - Fiona McIntosh

17. The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion (see my review)

18. The Thorn Birds - Colleen McCullough

19. The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman

20. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

21. The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett

22. The Secret River - Kate Grenville

23. Personal - Lee Child

24. The Winter Sea - Di Morrissey

25. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

26. Life or Death - Michael Robotham

27. The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins (see my review)

28. Shantaram - Gregory Roberts

29. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

30. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)

31. The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

32. Hello from the Gillespies - Monica McInerney

33. Ice Station - Matthew Reilly

34. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

35. Hope to Die - James Patterson

36. Jasper Jones - Craig Silvey

37. Little Women - Louise May Alcott

38. A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

39. Breath - Tim Winton

40. The Great Zoo of China - Matthew Reilly

41. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

42. 1984 - George Orwell

43. Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

44. The Woman Who Stole My Life - Marian Keyes

45. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

46. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

47. The Notebook - Nicholas Sparks

48. Dirt Music - Tim Winton

49. Nightingale - Fiona McIntosh

50. Me Before You - Jo Jo Moyes

51. The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty

52. Only Time Will Tell - Jeffrey Archer

53. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

54. Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith

55. Life of Pi - Yann Martel

56. Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

57. Magician - Raymond E. Feist

58. It Started With Paris - Cathy Kelly

59. The Help - Kathryn Stockett

60. The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas (see my review)

61. We Need To Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

62. I Am Pilgrim - Terry Hayes

63. Inferno - Dan Brown

64. Chocolat - Joanne Harris

65. Lost & Found - Brooke Davies (see my review)

66. Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey

67. The Secret History - Donna Tartt 

68. The Street Sweeper - Elliot Perlman

69. The Tournament - Matthew Reilly

70. The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

71. Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

72. All That I Am - Anna Funder

73. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

74. Barra Creek - Di Morrissey

75. Cleanskin Cowgirls - Rachael Treasure

76. Elianne - Judy Nunn

77. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

78. Leap of Faith - Fiona McCallum

79. The Road To Hope - Rachael Johns

80. The Burning Room - Michael Connelly

81. Enduring Love - Ian McEwan

82. Desert God - Wilbur Smith

83. The Great Plains - Nicole Alexander

84. The Forever Girl - Alexander McCall Smith

85. It - Stephen King

86. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

87. The Harp In The South - Ruth Park

88. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin

89. Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel

90. The Collector - Nora Roberts

91. One Day - David Nicholls

92. The Escape - David Baldacci

93. Before I Go To Sleep - S.J. Watson

94. The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul - Deborah Rodriguez

95. The Daughters of Mars - Tom Keneally

96. The Shifting Fog - Kate Morton

97. Shopaholic To The Stars - Sophie Kinsella

98. Dark Heart - Tony Park

99. The Pact - Jodi Picoult

100. Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks


Many of these books are lurking in my TBR. Exactly when they'll get read who can tell? At least there's always something else to read.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Village By The Sea

I knew from the outset that this would be an unusual book. The back cover blurb set the scene:

With their mother ill and their father permanently drunk, Hari and Lila have to earn the money to keep house and look after their two young sisters. In desperation, Hari runs away to Bombay, and Lila is left to cope alone. 

Cheery stuff indeed. Yes, although the main characters are children, they hardly have child like concerns. Lila and Hari are basically bringing up their two younger sisters as their father is incapacitated by drink, and their mother by illness. I did wonder if the mother was depressed, and wondered if it was possible for a third world mother to take to her bed. Probably not. 

Lila went in with a tumbler of tea for her mother. She stopped to add a little extra milk to it. Then she went past the curtain in the doorway to the room where her mother lay on the string bed on some old grey sheets. She herself looked like a crumpled grey rag lying there. She had been ill for a long time. No one knew what was wrong. She had no pains and no fever but simply grew weaker and weaker all the time. Now she could not sit up to drink her tea. 

The family live in a small fishing village called Thul, and while just a few kilometres from Bombay, it is a completely different world. Hari is forced to take on the role of provider for the family even though he is still a boy. 

What could he do? He worked in the field, he climbed the trees and brought down the coconuts to sell. When he had time, he took a net and fished along the shore. What more could he do? He knew it was not enough but it was all he could do.

The Village By The Sea is a family story at its heart but it's definitely set in the harsh economic situation and environmental risks of the real world. Overfishing threatens not only the livelihood of the professional fisherman, but means that Hari rarely catches a fish near the shore. Overpopulation, the rise of consumerism, overt threats from the chemical industry, and the many other threats to the rural village way of life are all highlighted. But the need to learn, to change and adapt to be successful is quite a pervasive theme throughout the book. 

Hari is overwhelmed by his arrival in Bombay- as I'm sure I would be too. His employment at the restaurant whilst lucky for him is dreadful in its own way too. 

The work was not easy in that firelit kitchen of the Sri Krishna Eating House that seemed to grow hotter and hotter and never to cool down even at night. The eating house never quite shut and customers had to be served with tea and bread or bread and lentils whenever they demanded it, day or night.... What he minded was not being able to leave the eating house and go home when the work was done. He was confined to it day and night: he worked in the kitchen and in the front room, washed and bathed under the tap at the back, ate his meals at the table when there was no customer around, and slept on the bench or sometimes on the dusty back floor. 

My favourite passage naturally enough was about birds. 

'The birds are the last free creatures on earth. Everything else has been captured and tamed and enslaved- tigers behind the bars of the zoos, lions stared at by crowds in safari parks, men and women in houses like matchboxes working in factories that are like prisons. Only the birds are free and can take off and fly away into space when they like.'

At the beginning of the book we are told that Thul is a real village on the Western coast of India. The story and these characters are based on real people in a town where Anita Desai spent many holidays. In the end I'm not quite sure what to make of The Village By The Sea. I wanted to love it, I wanted to get swept up in the grandeur of India- the colours, a life complete unknown to me. But I never was, and to be honest I found it slow going and well, a bit boring at times. The Village By The Sea won the Guardian Childrens Prize in 1983. But I wonder what kids think of this book? Both the western children for whom it was presumably written, and Indian children too.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Simple Things

Don't judge a book by the cover they say. But how else do you judge it before you read it? And this one is so pretty, the colours so enticing, I was going to want to read it regardless of the CBCA nomination status. The Simple Things was Shortlisted for the Book of the Year Younger Readers 2015.

The Simple Things is a sweet, beguiling story. Stephen Kelly is ten years old. He's a bit of an awkward kid. An only child. He's shy, anxious, sensitive, not a risk taker. Imagine how pleased he is to arrive at his great aunt's house for a three week stay. Steve has never met his Aunt Lola before.

Ever since I can remember, at Christmas and on my birthday, Aunty Lola has sent me her love and ten dollars She's really my great-aunt, but her Christmas and birthday hards always say 'Love from Aunty Lola'. I've never met her before because she lives a long way from my home in the city. To me the most real things about her is that tend dollars. I always write back to say thanks, as soon as Mum reminds me. But I never send her any love. I don't want to lie. How can you love someone you don't know? You can't, not even for ten dollars, twice a year. 

They've exchanged cards before, but now there she is, expecting to be hugged. Could there be anything more daunting than an unknown, severe looking maiden great aunt?

And I don't want to make Aunty Lola feel bad. But I'm shy. You can't switch that off like a light. It's stuck on tight. I don't like hugging, except if it's Mum. 

Not a lot happens in this gentle story. Stephen gets to know his rather curmudgeonly aunt.

'You don't have parties at my age. You have funerals.'

These two unlikely friends do develop a bond with time, and there are some minor intrigues- what is in the room that Aunty Lola keeps under lock and key? And what rift has occurred with her neighbour Mr Smith?

One particular scene will stay with me for some time. Mr Smith the neighbour doesn't join in the fishing with the children. Mr Smith describes an incident from his youth, when he and his brother were "gun-crazy".

'I saw a bird land on a branch. Amazing colours it had. I didn't think twice. Took aim, squeezed the trigger- Bang!'
And then

'Well, before I fired, it was beautiful. Glorious. A moment later, as I stood over it, I saw all of its colour disappearing. It happened right in front of my eyes, Stephen. Its feathers became a washed-out, dirty grey colour. It was nothing but ugly. A pice of rubbish.'

Bill Condon was a new author to me. I'm interested in reading more of his work.

Monday, 28 September 2015

50 Things You Need To Eat In Paris Before You Die

I do love a list. Usually they're book lists I share here. But this list was something special, and you know this caught my eye immediately when I saw it on Facebook recently.

I think I've found a mission for my next trip to Paris, whenever that glorious day arrives. I did take up the My Paris, My Sweet Challenge back in 2013 (still only 90% complete sadly). So I know I'm up for it.

If it's in red, it's already done.

The photos are all mine.

My comments are in italics.

1. Steak Frites - Relais de l'Entrecote

Travelers and locals alike line up for this restaurant's only dish- steak frites. It's drowned in a mystery green sauce, and you'll be giddy as a school girl when they come around with a second portion. Do not refuse, for the love of all that is good.

Steak Frites is not normally my thing, but am willing to consider it.

2. Lemon Tart - Sebastien Gaudard

This elegant little pastry shop features killer pastries all around, but the must is the lemon tart. It's the perfect combination of sweet and sour, topped with a candied lemon.

I've had many a tarte citron, but not that one. Happy to fix that terrible oversight one day.

3. Chocolate and Pistachio Escargot - Du Pain et des Idées

This bakery makes magazine covers and TV shows, but it's not too trendy for us. Its chestnut flour bread is equally as noteworthy. But let's talk sweets; it makes some of the best buttery, flaky pastries around, and noone should leave Paris without trying its signature escargot, a spiral filled with pistachio paste and chocolate bits.

Du Pain et des Idées is already on my hit list for next time. I do love pistache anything so would likely have bought this anyway. Consider it done.

4. Ice Cream - Berthillon

It's the most famous ice cream in town. It's so popular that the main parlour actually closes down in the summer. Business must be good. One like of the salted butter caramel (caramel beurre salé) or strawberry and basil will make it obvious why this is the case.

Definitely all over this. Many, many times. It's one of the first things I recommend to anyone going to Paris. Every trip to Paris no matter the weather it must be done. Best. Ice Cream. Ever. I particularly like the framboise, pistache, and speculoos. Next time I need to make it to the Salon de Thé for some pain perdu or tarte tatin

5. Falafel - L'As du Fallafel

Alright, this is not French food, but it's completely Parisian. The world famous falafel is a favourite among locals and out-of-twoners, notably Lenny Kravitz. What more endorsement could you need?

Done. So different to an Australian kebab experience.

6. Eclairs - L'Eclair de Génie

Reinventing the éclair, this shop will break even the most diehard diet, with seasonal varieties keeping things interesting for repeat customers (read: everyone).

It was Choctober when we were there in 2014

A more summery selection in 2013
Oh my. So good. I might have been there a number of times. 

7. Roast Chicken and Fries - Chez l'Amis Louis

A favourite among those looking for a higher-end bistro- including Bill Clinton- it's known for its quality fare, especially roast chicken and some of the most perfect frites in Paris.

8. Bloody Mary - Harry's Bar

While frilly cocktails are all the rage, sometimes you want to get back to the basics. The Bloody Mary and several other drinks were all created at this old-time bar in the early 1900s. Interchangeable with the Side Car and Blue Lagoon, if you must.

9. Financier - Eric Kayser

While his bread and pastries are all fantastic, monsieur Kayser makes absolutely killer almond tea cakes called financiers. His mini versions, flavoured with chocolate, vanilla and pistachio, and mandatory for anyone in Paris.

Breakfast of champions. Also their chocolate chip biscuits are divine. And the chouquettes- I'm a great fan of chouquettes- those balls of deliciousness studded with sugar. Bag of mini financiers a bargain at 7€ in 2014. 

10. Savory crepe - Chez Alain

Inside the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the eccentric Alain makes savoury crepes (and sandwiches) in a way that will test even the most patient of eaters. But the wait is worth it in the end as you bite into the salty concoction with meat, cheese and veggies wrapped up in a perfectly browned buckwheat crepe.

11. Macaron - Pierre Hermé

Macarons are everywhere in Paris and beyond, but the most innovative and elegant examples are found here (sorry, Ladurée). If you want a real macaron, Parisians will tell you to pay Pierre Hermé a visit.

Yes I know it's PH vs Ladurée (and I think I might prefer Ladurée), but you know Gérard Mulot is possibly my favourite. And I've been to see them being made.

12. Baba au rhum - Stohrer

The oldest pastry shop still operating in Paris, Stohrer is also home to the rum-soaked baba au rum. They still do a bang-up job with it, all these years later. Best served with a dollop of whipped cream.

I've had their éclair and am keen for their puits d'amour next visit. A rum baba is never high on my list but I just might be willing to try one- purely in the name of research mind you.

13. L'hamburger - Le Camion Qui Fume

You didn't come to Paris for burgers, but we're not going to lie- they're worth it. Head to the now-famous truck that started the food truck trend in the City of Light. The burgers are still some of the best in the city and pair nicely with a movie at the theatre located conveniently next to the truck's location.

14. Duck - La Tour d'Argent

While not the cheapest meal in Paris, the duck is meant to be the standout dish here, in the restaurant where the French royalty allegedly first used a fork. You pay extra for the history.

It's always advisable to order the duck/canard anywhere in France. I'm sure La Tour d'Argent is no exception. Have toyed with the idea of going there several times, but not made it -yet.

15. Croissant - Blé Sucre

Saying that any one place makes the best croissant will get you in trouble in Paris, but many locals agree that Blé Sucre makes a mean one. If you can't make it to this bakery, you'll probably be able to find another good one somewhere in the city.

I've been to Blé Sucre for their madeleines, which David Leibovitz recommends as the best in Paris. It is hard to get a bad croissant in Paris- and cheap! They're usually around a euro.

16. Chocolate - Patrick Roger

The basil and lime ganache and the hazelnut- filled praline are two of the many reasons to stop by this artisan chocolatier. Patrick Roger makes buying chocolate feel like shopping for an engagement ring, though with slightly lower prices.

One of those incredible boxes on the right
made it back to Australia last trip!
Be very careful as under the chocolates
the box was lined with chocolate!
The adults nearly missed it.
Eagle-eyes Master Wicker was onto it though..

Patrick Roger is one of the uber famous chocolatiers of Paris. His stores are particularly cool, and he does absoultely incredible chocolate sculptures. But Jean Paul Hévin was my first Parisian chocolatier love, and remains so.

17. Oysters - Le Mary Celeste

Though it's become a bit of a scene at Mary Celeste, the oysters here are as good as its cocktails. A variety of options awaits those hungry for a taste of the ocean, with just a squeeze of lemon.

18. Choucroute - Bofinger

This Old- World brasserie, like many others, serves up traditional Alsatian choucroute, an assortment of pig products served with tangy sauerkraut. It's the best you can get without going to Strasbourg.

19. Fig Gelato - Pozzetto

The most delicious Italian gelato in town is easily found at Pozetto. Seasonal flavours like pumpkin and candied chestnuts keep customers surprised. And the fig one is simply terrible (amazing) as the French would say.

20. Profiteroles - Profiterole Chérie

No fresher profiterole exists in Paris, as this tiny shop pops out new pastries every hour or so. Ice cream versions and more innovative cream-filled profiteroles are on the menu- so go crazy with lemon curd or hazelnut cream.

21.  Baguette de Tradition - Le Grenier à Pain

This bakery won the title of best baguette de tradition in Paris twice, and as the current title holder, it's the bread that anyone who loves carbs must surely try. The rule is that you tear into it immediately upon leaving the bakery and get crumbs all over yourself. Seriously.

22. Café Crème - Belleville Brulerie

The new- wave coffee scene is spurred on largely by this local roaster that sells its coffee to the trendy shops around town that brew it for you. Head to the source and see what the fuss is all about.

I don't do coffee at all so this one is off the list for me. 

23. Hot Chocolate à l'ancienne - Angelina's

The pot of molten chocolate served with a bowl of whipped cream is nothing if not decadent. If there's a line, you can cheat and go to its smaller location by the Luxembourg Gardens. The end result is still a chocolate coma.

Hot chocolate with a Paris-New York 2014
a pecan riff on a Paris-Brest

Angelina's has quite a few locations now. The original store of course on Rue de Rivoli favoured by the stylish such as Audrey Hepburn over many years. To dine there is to take part in history. Their meals are nice, but do pick something small as you definitely want to leave room for a hot chocolate and one of their sensational pastries. I'm rather partial to their Mont Blanc, but their eclairs are fabulous too. Last visit I sampled the absolutely incredible chocolat chaud at Jacques Genin Salon de Thé- I'm now torn. Both quite different- is one better than the other? Je ne sais pas. 

24. Cheese Platter - Astier

Finish off a delightful dinner with the requisite cheese platter at Astier, which features one of the better ones in our humble opinion. Take a bit of everything- leave no cheese untasted.

Cheese in Paris, and indeed in France is amazing it's true. And a cheese course at a good restaurant is a thing of beauty that you will remember forever. I really wouldn't take the advice to try everything, much as you might want to- it would be considered badly. 

25. Salted Butter Caramel - Henri Le Roux

The only thing that can make French butter better is sugar, and Henri Le Roux nails it. This guy perfected (and trademarked) the salted butter caramel in France. Try the original as well as the green tea, chocolate, and other seasonal varieties.

You know that I've been there right? The birthplace of CBS. You can never stop at one. 

26. Basquiat Pizza - Pink Flamingo

This Franco-American establishment has some of the oddest pizzas, and the Basquiat, with Gorgonzola, dried figs, and French country ham is a best seller. You won't find this on a slice in New York, that's for sure.

It's a very French combination, a riff on a salad I think. I'd definitely line up for this one. 

27. Local Beer - Brasserie La Goutte d'Or

Paris is growing into a beer scene after years of being out of the game. one of the few microbreweries, this is one of the best. Try its smokey Charbonnière or tis chai infused La Chapelle.

28. Sole Meunière - Chez Georges

Start your meal off with buttered radishes, just like famed client Julia Child once did. Then get one of her favourite dishes, sole meunière, fish cooked in a butter sauce. Simple yet perfect.

29. Cheese Fondu - Refuge des Fondus

Delicious cheese fondue is deliriously served with baby bottles of wine. What more could a glutton want?

More wine? Oh wait it's not baby sized bottles, but bottles with which one would normally feed a baby. Hmmm, not so sure about that. 

30. Tasting Menu - David Toutain

Toutain is one of the newest Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, and its tasting menu is nothing short of mastery. Innovative, playful, and relatively affordable, the tasting menu at lunch or dinner is the only way to go.

Going to a Michelin-starred restaurant is always a treat in Paris and a highlight of any trip. We've been to L'Astrance. L'Arpege. Le Jules Verne (three times now- first, second,  and third, but I don't seem to have shown you that yet). Even if you can only afford to go for breakfast it's definitely worth it- like our experience at Le Meurice

31. Pralines - Mazet de Montargis

This storefront sells pralines- French ones, made from almonds and sugar, not pecans- that they have been making just south of Paris since the 1600s. Sample the wares first. Don't be shy.

32. Southwestern Salad - Chez Papa

This place serves up authentic southwestern French salads, featuring lots of duck products, fried potatoes, cheese, and foie gras tossed in with lettuce. You know, to make it feel healthy.

33. Couscous - Chez Omar

With so many North Africans in Paris, you have to try some couscous with meats like spicy merger sausages. Chez Omar is a popular spot for it in the trendy Upper Marais district.

34. Coq au Vin - A La Biche au Bois

This place just screams Paris, and diners will want to try the perfectly cooked coq au vin, a sort of chicken stew that comes out in its own pot.

35. Meringues - Aux Merveilleux de Fred

These little meringues covered in chocolate and nuts are the lightest, most guilt-free dessert in Paris. Until you end up eating a box of six. No judgement.

These fabulous looking meringues have been in my sights for two years now, but I still haven't made it there.... C'est la vie. 

36. Ham and Cheese Sandwich - Any bakery

The only way this sandwich could get simpler is to take out the cheese and add butter instead, making it a jambon-beurre instead of a jambon-fromage. Either way, as long as it's on a fresh baguette, you must have one, unless you don't eat ham, then, well, just cheese for you.

It is quite unbelievable how good these are. And they're cheap, just a few euros.

37. Roquefort with Quince Paste - Laurent DuBois

This top French cheese maker has a shop full of stinky, hard, soft, gooey, and utterly mouth-watering cheese. One of his specialities is Roquefort layered with quince paste, which looks like a slice of birthday cake. No need to wait until you're a year older though.

It is important to seek out some of the extraordinary cheese shops in Paris. It will blow your mind. Laurent DuBois is not a cheesemaker though, he is a cheesemonger and affineur (ager of cheese) of the highest level. He is a coveted MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) in aging and selling cheese. I have visited Laurent, but not had this particular cheese. Another favourite fromagerie is Quatrehomme. But if you're on a very tight budget you can buy amazing cheeses at the frequent outdoor markets (like Marché Biologique Raspail), and even the supermarket cheese in France is better than you're used to. 

38. Sweet Crepe - Princess Crêpe

These Japanese girls have a tiny shop in the Marais decked out with pink frills and stuffed animals. It's kitsch to the max. But its sweet crepes, filled with ice-cream, fruit, and a variety of sauces are no joke.

Argh. I stayed a block from here last year. 

39. French Onion Soup - Au Pied de Cochon

This 24/7 restaurant once nourished the market workers at the old food hall. Today, it's still an institution, serving up its famous onion soup covered in gooey cheesy goodness.

40. Cupcakes - Sugar Daze Bake Shop

How does an American make cupcakes in Paris? With Nutella, speculoos cookies and salted butter caramel, and other local ingredients mixed with good old-fashioned American recipes. These ones are  worth the trip.

41. Cream Puff - Popelini

A store dedicated to cream puffs? Heaven. They're filled with creams like raspberry, rose, pistachio, coffee, and lemon, so you'll be hard-pressed to choose. A suggestion? Don't. Get one of each.

There are several shops in Paris dedicated to cream puffs. And no don't get one of each. Even I had to decide. Pistache, caramel and cafe. 1,90 € in 2014. 

42. Foie Gras - Au Petit Sud-Ouest

Foie gras in Paris is rarely bad (it's basically pure fat, so how could it be bad?). This specialty restaurant, however, excels in the often controversial product. If you're not morally opposed, this is the place to try it.

I have eaten foie gras in the past, but find it increasingly difficult to do. I avoid it where I can now.

43. Praluline - Pralus

This unique pastry is one for the history books. A butter brioche filled with little pink candied almond needs only a black coffee to have the trappings of a very happy breakfast. You won't find it anywhere else. Accept no imitations.

I know everyone raves over this, but I just didn't get it. I think to be fair I need to try it again. 

44. Beef Bourguignon - Josephine "Chez Dumonet"

This classic bistro makes the simple beef stew that Amy Adams' character tried so hard to perfect in the film Julie & Julia. Fortunately they never screw it up here.

We stayed very close by in 2013. That's the trouble with Paris- too much to do.

45. Frogs legs - Le Grand Colbert

This iconic bistro still serves up traditional dishes that people imagine Parisians eat all the time, notably frog legs, Provençale-style with herbs and fresh tomatoes. Taste like chicken.

I just don't think I could. I've never even seen frogs legs on a menu.

46. Croque-monsieur (or madame) - Café de Flore

It's a magnet for tourists- both the spot and the sandwich- so just go with it. The grilled ham and cheese sandwich that everyone learns about in their high school French textbook is alive and well at the Flore, and is one of the better ones in Paris. Fry an egg on it and it turns into a madame. Clever, eh?

47. Escargot - Carette

Located near one of the best vantage points for the Eiffel Tower, this place also serves up the most French of French dishes- snails.  The garlic and herb-covered gastropods are always averrable here, and they're delicious. When in Paris, right?

I've eaten one escargot on my first trip to Paris, and I think that excludes me. I've done it. I'd get the Salmon Tartare and Tarte Citron instead. Oh wait. I did. In the wondrous Place des Vosges.

48. Ile Flottante - Café Constant

A baked meringue floating in a pool of crème anglaise is one of the best ways to finish off a meal in Paris. The dessert resembles a floating island that will quickly sink to the bottom of your stomach.

I had one Ile Flottante in 2013, it wasn't all that. Sadly not at Café Constant, which is another place that has been on my radar for some time. I'm willing to pursue my Ile Flottante dream. 

49. Absinthe - Cantada II

Absinthe was all the rage among artists during the Belle Epoque,  and now it's back in fashion. With over 65 varieties to choose from, head to Cantada II and take a visit to see the green fairy. Go on now.

50. Steak Tartare - La Rotonde

Your food doesn't always have to be cooked to be delicious. Raw beef, an egg, and other ingredients are mixed to make this iconic dish... so you don't want to trust any old cafe with questionable hygiene to serve  you raw meat. La Rotonde serves one of the best in town.

Lest you think I never eat savoury.
Saumon Tartare at Carette

I'm all over Saumon Tartare, and have had many. All of which were fabulous, and just what I wanted. I'm less keen with the beef, but probably should try it some time. 

I don't do coffee, and will never do coffee, and can't really come at foie gras or snails any more, so excluding #22,  #42 and #42 I made 11/47. There is clearly much work for me still to do in Paris...

I'm Dreaming of France alright. 

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 

Sunday, 27 September 2015


I hadn't heard a lot about Oddball before we went to see it the other day. But I knew it was about a cute dog and some even cuter fairy penguins. I knew that it was based on a true story. And what a wonderful story it is.

Oddball tells the slightly modified story of how an unconventional free-range chicken farmer saved a penguin colony from foxes. The fairy penguin colony on Middle Island at Warrnambool in Victoria had been depleted nearly to extinction by foxes who had learned to cross to the island- either by walking over at low tide or even swimming over. Baiting wasn't working, neither was trying to shoot the foxes.

Swampy Marsh used Maremmas on his chicken farm to protect his flock from foxes, so when he heard about the plight of the penguins he knew that his protective dogs could work wonders, and thankfully they did.

Of course there are other plot lines in the movie, some of which work better than others, but I'm really glad I went to see it. Shane Jacobson known to many from his sterling work in Kenny is endearing as Swampy. It took me a while to recognise Frank Woodley (yes I was just talking about him the other day as an author) as the dog catcher- he does sport one of the most unflattering hair cuts ever known. Naturally the dogs and the penguins steal the show. Warrnambool comes off fairly well too, with lots of atmospheric coastal shots, and I'm sure the movie will do great things for tourism there. Thankfully lots of Australians are heading out to see Oddball this school holidays.

Yes the movie is a little bit hokey. And it's a bit predictable. But it's sweet, and uplifting, and it's important. There aren't all that many good news stories on the conservation front. Polar bears are starving. The last male Northern White Rhino will die in the next few years. Tasmanian Devils are under threat from the devastating Devil Facial Tumour Disease.

But with this great program, just by putting a few dogs on an island to guard the penguins, that penguin population is making an incredible recovery. Sensibly there is a pozible campaign to raise money to train the next generation of Maremma dogs to stand watch over the penguins of Middle Island. Perhaps this is exactly what the Sydney penguin colony needs too?