Friday, July 27, 2012

Le Télescope

Hello again from Paris, but really, I'm in San Francisco. Going to Paris for a week really helps with rolling out the blogs though. I'm in no way at a loss for words or images! One of the highlights of my trip was stumbling upon what many hail as the best coffee in Paris. I say stumbled because you can look and search and hunt for a spot you've heard about, you can turn a map every which way, you can ask directions in broken French/English, but sometimes you go cross-eyed and your feet can't always get you there. 

I was about at the end of my rope when I finally found Télescope, a small, intimate coffee shop in the 2nd. This place, which I'd call a hole in the wall, may have never come into my world had it not been for my beautiful friend Joanna, who, in preparation for my trip to Paris, sent me this link. Cool friends read about cool people who like cool things, apparently.

I spoke a bit with Nicholas, who co-runs Télescope with his craftsman-in-crime David. He was very chatty and made me the best drink in the house: a Cappuccino.

I love drinking coffee in Paris and it's rare that I'll go to an actual coffee shop. Though they had a few sweet treats out for the taking, this place was all about the coffee. No distractions here, just roasty, toasty, delicious brew.

I admired all of the unique traits of this charming spot, which, by the way, would fit in just fine in San Francisco. I'm hesitant to use the word "hipster" while describing Télescope but I will anyway. Hipster.

After learning that they had completely renovated the space, I had a new found appreciation for the design. For example, the ceiling and light fixtures...

...and the small intimate details -- like the baby sized water glasses. Nicholas gave me a list of his favorite restaurants, bars, and patisseries in Paris, but had to cut our talk short because they were, in that very moment, receiving a delivery of 600 kilos (!!!) of coffee! Their 3rd delivery in 4 months of being open.

It was a holy moment, so I sat back and enjoyed my delicious cup of coffee. A few locals popped in and out...

Quite well dressed I may add. It's official: I've named 5 rue Villedo the friendliest spot in Paris. Thanks to Nicholas and David for making the afternoon so charmingly caffeinated!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Paris Food

As you can imagine, I had some pretty outrageous meals in Paris. Food love is some of the best love and, luckily, in a place like Paris you don't have to worry if the feeling's mutual. French cuisine loves you back. It loves you back in a major way. One of my favorite petit dejeuners in Paris can be found at Café de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Whatever you order, a platter of four croissants appears at your table. Problem? I think not. When breakfast begins there, you can't go wrong with the rest of your day. Here are some other meals that shined for me in the City of Lights.

 Dinner at Grizzli Café on 7 rue St Martin, in Beaubourg. Fresh asparagus and sun dried tomatoes on a bed of feta and phyllo. Drizzled with a balsamic glaze?  Perfection.

Two fantastic meals at Café de la Mairie at 8 Place Saint-Sulpice, around the corner from my little hotel in Odeon. For lunch, I had their salade Niçoise which was the best I've ever had of its kind.

Don't forget breakfast! My favorite meal in Paris is without a doubt a jambon and fromage sandwich. (please excuse the Frenglish). I think I lived off of these when my family traveled to Paris when I was a little girl and was indeed quite the picky eater. Feasting on one of these brings back wonderful memories of my first time in Paris.

A new discovery was Rose Bakery on 46 Rue des Martyrs in the Marais. I can't take credit for the discovery of course. It was recommended to me by friends living in Paris, as well as the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow on her website GOOP. It was everything it's cracked up to be - local, organic produce, creatively prepared salads, deliciously wholesome sweets, and a cozy atmosphere. I would recommend this to anyone in need of a break from pastries on their Parisian food fest.

For the best Falafel in Paris, I went straight to the counter of L'as du Falafel on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais. It was about three layers of goodness and plentiful enough to feed both one's lunch and dinner. No harm in going for the gold though, especially in the foodie paradise that is Paris.

Finally, my last meal in Paris was possibly my favorite. Once again, I found myself on a cozy street in the Marais at Robert et Louise. This little restaurant is small, romantic, and cozy -- with a wood burning oven in the back. I was advised to order the steak and mushrooms. I threw in the potatoes and a glass of Bordeaux for good measure. I say, save the big meals for the final night. Between the savoring and the longing for that first day again, every bite will be enjoyed until there is nothing more than a empty plate and wine glass. Alright, alright, I couldn't finish it all -- but it was hard to say goodbye.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where I've Been

Paris! Had a very exciting past week in the City of Lights, the City of Love, the City of Sights. Oh, wow, was it a dreamy time. More to come, but for now: how about this view from the top of the Centre Pompidou? Possibly the best in Paris? (feel free to disagree with me Francophiles!) Anyway, be back soon with lots of posts on the food, the fashion, and the fun. xo

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Herbal Medicine

After a musical fall and spring, performing with the San Francisco Lyric Chorus, I decided to take the summer off from singing. This doesn't mean of course that I'm not still belting out tunes on long car rides—ever heard this or this? What it does mean, of course, is that I have an extra free night every week. Oh, the possibilities! I played around with a few ideas—an Intro to Ceramics class being one of them, or maybe throwing another yoga class into my weekly routine. I decided to go with pursuing an interest I've slowly been developing over the past year or so: holistic health. I did some research and found a class at the Ohlone Center for Herbal Studies: welcome to an Introduction to Herbal Medicine.

First, here's a quick overview of the class that I pulled from their website:

A class for the beginner who wants to bring herbs into their everyday life.  We will explore the many facets of herbs and herbal medicine.  Class will cover basic human physiology and common herbal remedies for each body system.  Students will learn to prepare a number of herbal products, including herbal extracts, salves, lotions, syrups and teas. This class includes an herb walk to a local natural area.

It sounded new and different, but also quite helpful. For a long time there I didn't know that there was an alternative to Western medicine and, of course, in certain life threatening situations there is no alternative.  However, when it comes to specific cases (such as chronic condition, or skin disorders, or even the common cold) I believe there can be a cleaner, more intuitive approach.

For example, I have developed exhausting allergies over the past year. Clariton is great and all, but do I have to take it every day during allergy season for the rest of my life? This is the type of question I began asking myself. When I discovered this class I figured I might get some answers. 

Last week we had our first class and it was like nothing I could have imagined. Herbal Medicine is an art and a science (and for someone like me, who struggled with science in school and would consider myself more of an artsy type, this was good news). For the first half, we covered two systems of the body: the Digestive System and the Nervous System. I took copious notes. My mind was blown when one of our teachers said that most disease begins in the gut. In a way, we interact with the world through this system, so it makes sense. It's little nuggets like these that make this class so interesting.

Then, our teachers passed around different types of herbs: Dandelion root, German chamomile, Mugwort, Ginger root, Cinnamon bark. We tasted them in their dry form, and also as tinctures (a liquid extract that is part herb, part liquid). A great way to incorporate tinctures into your daily routine is to put a few drops into a small class of lemon water or, better yet, put into your honey when adding to your tea.

Much of what we sampled had a bitter taste, and some were sweet and spicy. Cinnamon bark, for example, made my mouth feel dry. It has an astringent effect, sucking water out. Not to be too graphic, but can you guess how this could help with certain digestive problems? But that's what I love about this class. We speak freely (we are a small group of women) and we are open about common ailments and the strong desire to soothe the pain or discomfort we feel. An approach of Western herbal medicine is not to fight the disease, but to work with it. Given that it's part of our body, why would we want to be at war with ourselves? I find this all fascinating. Do you?

Our homework assignment was so make hot and cold infusions of two different herbs: Dandelion root and Chamomile. Dandelion root, or as the herbalists call it "Dr. Dandelion," is a sweet, bitter herb. It helps with digestion by producing excess saliva, which is essential for the breaking down process of digestion. Chamomile, also bitter, is an aromatic herb that also helps with digestion. It stimulates the enzymes in saliva that help move the process along. And here I thought it was just a soothing tea to drink before bed. Oh, the many uses of herbs!

So begins the medicine making. Cold infusion! I measured out my Chamomile. The general ratio for a cold infusion is 1 tsp - 1 TBS (yes, it's a large range but, remember, it's an art AND a science) to 1 cup of cold water.

I had a lot of Chamomile, so I used 2 TBS to my 2 cups of water.

I put some ice in my water to make sure it was extra cold.

Once all the dry herb is submerged, you cover the jar.

For a minute or two I just watched the Chamomile soak in the water. Can this really be medicine? I wondered.

The next step is letting it "steep." I placed the jar in a cool, dark place (aka my kitchen cupboard) and left it there overnight. The next morning I strained out the herb, retaining the liquid of my cold immersion. I sipped on it after my lunch, noticing and experiencing any feelings I had. I noticed my stomach grumble a lot and I also noticed a swirling sensation in my head. When you're asked to feel it all, why not feel it all is what I want to know?!

Anyway, loving the class. I adore the idea of making remedies from herbs in my kitchen, and am now inspired to start a garden of my own.

Side note: in preparation for my class, Heather bought me this Herbal Remedy book in Santa Fe on her recent visit there. It's written by Michael Moore, the famous Southwestern herbalist. There's so much to learn and so much to experience. I hope to share more as the class continues!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Monte Rio

It's always a fun experiment when you start a blog post listening to Joni Mitchell and then you switch over to the Roots. I wonder how it will affect the tone of my writing. Let's see shall we? So, I have a dream: of one day owning a cottage on a lake or a river, with enough kayaks, canoes, and beds for my friends, family and any visitors that come my way. Alas, this city girl can dream.

Or, until the dream is done, I can take advantage of San Francisco's close proximity to many a lake and river nearby. And what better time than the present? Last weekend, two girlfriends and I rented a cabin on the Russian River. We packed our bags and left the city just as is it was getting dark. We traveled through fog on the Golden Gate Bridge, watched a beautiful sunset as we entered Sonoma County, and watched it get dark on the Bohemian Highway. As daylight left us, the trip began with mystery. What will it look like when we wake up?

Well, it wasn't ugly. In fact, we were pretty shocked and amazed with how beautiful this place was. After a perfect night's sleep in a cabin surrounded by trees, we awoke to the stillness of the river and calm, quiet melody of bird song. Early to rise, we picked our jaws up off the floor and explored the town. First off, we ventured a few miles to the town of Duncan Mills.

Along the highway we spotted many vintage cars outside of river houses in the woods.

The view of the river from the bridge to Duncan Mills.

First stop: coffee and sweets!

The town was full of colorful shops... antique store full of previous finds...

...and the cutest tea shop I've ever seen. Oh, my, what an inspiring collection of vintage tea pots and tea cups it had!

Of course, there was the Rodeo...

Let the games begin...with California representing.

As for rodeos, it was my first.

After lunch, tea, and rodeos, it was time to go back "home" to our cabin on the river. Speaking of "on the river," it was about time we did just that. A sunset kayak is possibly my all-time favorite Saturday evening activity. Winding down from the day and giving in to relaxation, you literally are going with the flow.

Team Russian River!

Sunday came all too fast and soon it was time to head back to San Francisco. Luckily, Wild Flour bakery was on the way home (how often do you get to say that?). We got sweet treats there...

...and again in Sausalito where we dined for lunch at Fish. Obviously, a seafood meal isn't complete without raspberry cheesecake. Isn't that how all trips should end? Thanks to my girls for making the weekend so magical, xo!