Lifestyle

Caffè Lattes at Home

My friend treated me to a decaf iced latte with almond milk on an impromptu visit to Paris Baguette. Minimal caffeine and zero sweetener for me. As I admired the marbly collision of liquids through the clear cup, I wished that the drink would stay full. A never-ending cup of coffee—more Alice in Wonderland than real life. After I finished my iced latte, it stayed on my mind for days after. I bought another latte four days later, this time from Bluestone Lane, non-iced, decaf because I don’t tolerate caffeine, still no sweetener (not needed in my opinion). When the cup became empty, I began to look forward to my next one. I interpreted this as a sign that I should learn to make lattes at home. My new supplies should arrive any day now.

Works Sighted

How to Make the Best Coffee at Home (2022) // milk frother/steamer // table dustpan // glass cup // Lavazza decaf expresso bean // ice cube trays // 50 Italian Coffee Breaks (2022)

barista glass // coffee grinder // The World Atlas of Coffee (2018) // 50 French Coffee Breaks (2022) // caffe latte candles // glass mug

Simple Mills chocolate chip cookies // stainless steel straws // espresso maker // coffee canister // caffè latte & biscotti sweatshirt // engraved coffee scoop // The Curious Barista’s Guide to Coffee (2019)

Further Reading

How to Make a Latte” (A Couple Cooks)

How to be Italian: Eat, Drink, Dress, Travel and Love La Dolce Vita (2021) by Maria Pasquale

I’d say I’m more familiar with Italian culture than the average non-Italian American. I know that you won’t find Italian food at Olive Garden, San Marzano tomatoes come from Campania, my beloved arrancini is Sicilian, ciao means hello and goodbye, and, after the dough, there are exactly four toppings on a pizza Margherita.

My grandfather spoke fluent Italian and socialized in South Philadelphia circles. Unfortunately, that tradition wasn’t passed through the family. I was asked by a hostess at Gran Caffe L’Aquila how I arrived at the decision to read How to be Italian by Maria Pasquale. I’d taken the book to the restaurant to photograph it. I said that I was interested in Italian culture, but in reality, my purpose was stronger than that. Becoming acquainted with Italy makes me feel like I am reclaiming a part of my heritage.

How to be Italian: Eat, Drink, Dress, Travel and Love La Dolce Vita (2021). I knew that much of the information contained in the book wouldn’t be new news. August vacation is untouchable; it’s the same for the French. Italians express their feelings with hand gestures, value their family ties, and are superstitious. My aunt lived in Italy when I was young and told stories about how her doctor gave advice rooted in superstition rather than science. The Italian brand Superga is one of my favorites. As is Valentino. I’ve been to Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Although Pasquale’s book isn’t large like the ones commonly found on coffee tables, I believe it belongs there. The book is divided into nine chapters and is easy to read. The vibrant photographs, insightful quotes, and beautiful graphics drew me in. I found some elements surprising: the two playlists (one called “classic,” the other, “party”) and the glossary organized into eight categories: food, drinks, speech, community, holidays, life, ideas, places.

passeggiata – an afternoon stroll, usually with no destination, (210).
sprezzatura – the effortless elegance and nonchalance with which Italians carry themselves, (211).
Ciao bella!’ – ‘Hello beautiful!’ (208)

I made a Spotify playlist of Maria’s favorite Italian songs. Andrea Becelli’s “Con te partirò,” also one of my favorites, made the cut. I’m in an Italian mood. Fresh Severino linguine and all.

Muji Basics

I made my first purchase from the Japanese brand Muji in 2014: a card holder, pen case, and mesh pouch. In 2016, I got all three items stolen at a holiday party. The event was at the bar of a restaurant near my job. My group of colleagues and I were separated from other restaurant-goers by a rope…easily crossable.

I sat the tote containing my belongings under the bar and didn’t pay much attention to it throughout the evening. The card holder and pen case were inside the mesh pouch along with my ID and credit cards and pass for public transportation.

Nothing suspicious was charged to my credit card. Maybe the thief valued free bus and subway rides above all else. I replaced my pen collection and mesh pouch but never bought a new card holder or pen case. Was the thief enjoying them?

On my last field trip to the Muji store in Chelsea, I made a mental list of all my needs. Then, in classic editrix style, I expressed them in a collage—card holder and pen case included.

Works Sighted

socks // fan // jute bag // sweatshirt

soup // atomizer // top // sketchbook // bag hanger

top // black pen // blue-black pen  // blue pen // card holder // pen case // open-flat notebook

LU Petit Écolier and MyPanier

I succeeded in returning to the U.S. with as many boxes of LU Petit Écolier, chocolate au lait as possible. I gave some to my friends and colleagues and, of course, ate plenty of them myself. Eventually, the supply I’d stacked on the dining room table disappeared. My hopefulness got the best of me, and I purchased a box from an American grocery store. It was black with a red stripe and had English text. The boxes I’d purchased in France were light blue and white with a splash of red and had French text. I was hopeful that the product intended for the American market would be the same as the one sold on the French one, but alas, it was not.

The biscuits I purchased at Monoprix were buttery, but not overly so, mildly sweet, and melted in my mouth. The chocolate melded seamlessly with the flour. The cookies from Heirloom Market were tougher, far from buttery smooth. The chocolate and flour didn’t meld.

I ran my findings by a friend with ties to France. “No; they’re not the same, but they’re still good,” he said. I disagreed with the second half of his response. The remainder of the cookies that were bought from Heirloom Market were donated to the communal office kitchen.

In my search for the superior Petit Écolier, I came across myPanier, curator of international foods. The company stocks and ships products from France, Italy, and other parts of Europe and the world across the U.S. I added my favorite biscuits, along with other French products that are difficult to acquire stateside, to my wishlist.

Works Sighted

LU Petit Écolier // LU Petit Beurre // buckwheat flour // unsalted butter

stain remover stick // maple soap holder // aluminum soap box // kitchen soap // kitchen knives // preserving jar // honey mustard

olive oil // jam // milk jam // butter rolls // melatonin spray // Marseille soap

honey // hollandaise sauce // blue cheese // asparagus tips

Reflecting on Paris

I’ve come to the realization that a trip to Paris is better than a jaunt to the world’s premier wellness retreat. All that is good for the soul—exercise, food, and conversation—came organically there. My apartment was on the 5th floor, what Americans would call the 6th. The lift would often get stuck; it made no difference whether a resident was inside. Taking the stairs was the safer option. In the beginning, I had to pause several times during the ascent, but eventually, I became accustomed to the climb and could make it to my door without stopping. This achievement gave me a sense of accomplishment. As did climbing the steps in the Paris Métro without becoming winded.

While conquering various Stairmasters gave me a sense of pride, I probably got most of my exercise through the French art of flâneur, which means to wander aimlessly. When leaving the apartment, I permitted myself to make detours en route to and returning from my destination. I discovered a few shops in and adjacent to my arrondissement this way. One of them being my local Pierre Hermé. For the record, Ladurée is the better of the two, but I wouldn’t have discovered this if I hadn’t stumbled upon 89 Bd Malesherbes after dinner one night.

My knowledge of French enabled me to engage with Francophones. These interactions mainly took place while ordering food and buying tickets for museums and other sites of note. My husband went to Paris with me, and speaking French for two people was a heavy lift. Successful, but heavy. The the first time we went to La Ripaille (69 Rue des Dames), we didn’t have a reservation. I knew this would make the conversation with the front-of-house staff more complicated. I prepared for the exchange by practicing “Est-ce que vous avez une table pour deux personnes?” and “Nous n’avons pas de réservation.” We were met by Philippe, the proprietor, who explained that his place was full but that a table may become available later in the evening. I said that we’d return another time, and two nights later we did.

The next day, we entered the restaurant, and Philippe greeted us warmly. After bonsoirs, I told him that we had a reservation and the time that it was made for. We were shown to a cozy table for two. The dishes were written in chalk on blackboards hung high on the opposite wall. Philippe informed me of the changes that had been made to the menu. I relayed all the information to my husband in English. If you book a table for dinner at a restaurant in France, it’s yours for the night. We witnessed the departure of other parties one by one and eventually settled into a long conversation with Philippe. I thanked him for the delicious and nourishing food. (Lunch and dinner in France are eaten in courses; you must do the same when there.) I told him how the food in America makes us ill and how living in France would be ideal for health reasons. We discussed other American peculiarities and laughed about how vieil, vieille, le veau, je vois, and la voix could be confusing for language learners. He complimented me on my French. I told him that I was fearless and that I had put in a lot of work. Our party was one of the last to leave. Besides the conversations I had with my Chanel fashion advisors, this was the longest time I’d spent speaking continuously in French during the trip.

The food in France is generally fresh, free of preservatives, and not overly sweet. I dined often and freely from the menus of the restaurants in and near my arrondissement. I even consumed dessert and bread without falling ill. Le Tourbillon, whose address in Paris recently closed, was one of our favorite places for dinner and mille-feuille. According to the website, diners will be able to find them at the restaurant L’abri Norrmand (47 rue de General De Gaulle, Gaillon) in September. It looks like a pilgrimage to Normandie is in order. Although, I don’t know if they’ll have mille-feuille.

Works Sighted: Palais Garnier // Saint James Galathee II // J.Crew Martie pant // Monoprix trench // Superga 2750 Cotu Classic Navy // Longchamp Le Pliage (small handbag)

French Revolution Paris Historic Walk: An Airbnb Experience

I first met Thierry Collegia in 2020. I’d embarked on an online tour of Paris and decided to attend the virtual Airbnb experience French Revolution Interactive Journey. A lovely married couple joined the host and me. They’d been to Paris somewhat recently and shared their vivid memories. I hadn’t been there since 2014 and couldn’t recall rich details like they could. I knew I would visit the Revolution-related sites Thierry transported us to via Zoom; I just didn’t know when.

Two years and a few months later, I attended French Revolution Paris Historic Walk. I joined the group in front of a bookshop in the Ier arrondissement. Thierry was outfitted with a microphone, small speaker, iPad, and trusty backpack. We greeted each other like old friends. The other attendees were surprised that we’d already met. I like when things come full circle. Judging by the Airbnb reviews, it is common for tourists to take multiple Parisology tours.

Although the experiences are geared toward tourists interested in history, others will find them beneficial. Any excuse to go for a walk in Paris is a good one. I saw the arcades of the Palais-Royal and the black and white colonnes de Buren for the first time. Le café Corazza, a former Jacobins meeting place, was a Manolo Blahnik. Inside, a slender customer modeled sparkly shoes. The group—there were about 11 of us—took a walk on Rue Saint-Honoré passed a handful of noteworthy brands: Castañer (#264), Maison Goyard (#233), Christian Louboutin (#400), and Longchamp (#404). The townhouse, turned hotel, that was once owned by the family of Adrienne de La Fayette stands at #211. Maximilien Robespierre’s former residence is located at #398.

In the middle of his story, Thierry assessed our tolerance for gore. I was reminded that the tour was about war and not window shopping. I told him that I was all in, and the others seemed ok with the decision I made for the group. We advanced to Place de la Concorde where Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and Robespierre were executed. I was immediately taken by the shiny golden plaque at the foot of the obelisk that pays homage to the king and queen.

Our two hours together came to an end. After a few photographs with the storyteller, the attendees said their goodbyes and left one family at a time until Thierry and I remained. We took some selfies in front of the obelisk to commemorate our first in-person meeting. Thierry departed to meet his next tour. I went to buy a new Longchamp. I knew we’d meet again; I just didn’t know when.