Independentista and blogger El Fem Fatal speaks Catalan not only to foreigners like me, but also to the inanimate objects in her home.
"Li fas plas!" she explained to me, flailing at her lightswitch. "You've gotta really slap this fucker!" is how I would translate that. "Plas" is a Catalan onomatopeia for "smack", and can be used to describe the treatment of intransigent electronics or people.
The pen name El Fem Fatal is, by the way, a pun; in Catalan it means "we do it all wrong" — and her blog is of course much more about delicious frustration than her own inevitable Catalonian charm). Fortunately for my education in this (soon-to-be-fully-legitimized-in-the-eyes-of-the-world?) language, she is hyperverbal and the inanimate objects in her house are rather uncooperative.
I stayed with her for a few days, and made note every time she spoke to/of inanimate objects.
* This was recently adopted by Catalans in order to keep up with the Galicians, who have long had such a term. Tipsy Pilgrim, however, endorses the Galician version, fuch fuch, for all anglophone fingerbanging.
Believe it or not,[*]. the French go through that same awkward, sexually anxious stage as the rest of us: adolescence. They need strategies, games and excuses to sneak that first kiss. Fortunately, they have oodles; some of the following popular strategies may sound familiar to you, others are uniquely French.
1. "On va pas payer le métro" — "Let's not pay for the metro"
There's various layers of subterfuge in this one. If you're taking the metro or train with your love interest, suggest hopping the turnstile. Once aboard, if you see the inspector coming, whisper, "Quick, let's kiss so he won't bother us to ask for a ticket." You then slobber on each other so passionately that, in theory, the inspector will feel too embarrassed to disturb you. (This won't work — French ticket inspectors are never this easily detered — but that's hardly the point.) You'll roll together the romance of a first kiss and the adreniline rush of trying to get away with something. Bonus points: Claim there's an inspector coming even when there isn't, and quickly grab your partner.
2. Les bises au revoir — Goodbye kisses
As you probably know, the French kiss on both cheeks for greetings and goodbyes. (In some regions, les bises can even consist of three or four kisses on the cheeks.) It's an opportunity to get close that is sorely missing in most anglophone cultures.
So. At the end of a night you're chatty, you're giddy, you're looking into each others' eyes, you're saying goodbye, and you do les bises. You touch your darling's shoulder, she touches your hand, and your "bises" are just a little closer to the lip region than usual. You look in each others' eyes and — this is important — start blabbing again about something or other. Then, finally, you have to say goodbye again, and do les bises again. This time your lips accidentally — but definitely — touch as you're grazing over to the other cheek. More timid couples may go in for three or even four rounds of les bises before the finally just suck and grope each other silly.
3. Action-vérité & tourner la bouteille — Truth or dare & spin the bottle
Where would teenagers be without these classic My-Very-First-Mixed-Gendered-Party Games? Choose between "action" (dare) and "vérité" (truth) to let your friends nudge you towards your future lover, or just spin the bottle and let chance decide. Since both young men and women in France (and especially in Paris) have significant difficulties in lowering their standards for each other, a few drinks and leaving things to chance can be very useful.
4. "T'as une miette." — "There's a little crumb on your cheek"
A gambit for the timid of both genders. Spot an imaginary crumb on the cheek of your darling and — slowly, slowly — brush it off. If he or she seems receptive, add "Attends ! T'en as encore !" (Wait, there's some left!), and attack it with your tongue.
5. La souflette — The backwards inhale
This one strikes me as fucking stupid for several reasons, but some French people swear by it. Put the lit end of a joint in your mouth VERY CAREFULLY and allow your love interest to take a drag on the other end. Perhaps your lips will touch! Or, perhaps you'll burn your tongue, fall to the ground sobbing, and have no sensation in your mouth for weeks. How romantic.
The lovely illustration above is copyright 2012 by Johanna Thomé de Souza.
*Yes, we know the French as irresistible charmers and also aggressive assholes — both descriptions basically denote the same behavior. But before they become these highly evolved romancers that give you a single look and te plaquent contre le mur pour un bisou (throw you against the wall for a kiss) they are, indeed, awkward fumbling teens.↩
When electricity runs out and the world descends into chaos, you'll presumably be soaking whatever coffee beans your slave scrounged up in the runoff from a sewer crater. A properly roasted, ground and pressurized espresso will seem a distant luxury. But not so for Nate Miller, who has perfected off-the-grid, gourmet espresso.
Nate is an expert in "micro-living". Aside from its obvious survivalist appeal, it offers the possibility of a high-end lifestyle on very little resources, leaving a small ecological footprint. This post will focus on his scheme for getting the top-notch espresso of a $1000+ home setup (typically: $300 roaster+$500 espresso machine+$250 grinder) for under $200, and without all that electricity. At the end of the post, we'll talk about the wider implications of "micro-living" and take you into to Nate's all-around amazing home.
As a long-time friend, I'm totally biased here, so I'll let Nathalie Frank, a French gal who met him while backpacking across the US, back me up. "The coffee was amazing!" Nathalie says. "This guy has a beautiful art de vivre — homemade coffee, wines, cuisine, and a great love for city life."
I’ve asked Nate guest blog his recommendations for off-the-grid, gourmet espresso partly as a window into a certain sliver of American culture (who says Americans never appreciate fine food and drink?), and partly because this espresso setup is fucking awesome, and we should all do likewise. (Unfortunately owning ANY equipment is not quite compatible with my presently unsettled, tiddly lifestyle, but someday soon...)
Enter Nate Miller:
The origin of your coffee makes a difference. There is a wide range of quality out there, but look for shade-grown coffee produced on volcanic soil. For the home roaster, Sweet Maria's is the number one place to go for beans, equipment and advice.
If you forgo roasting yourself, find a local roaster that knows its stuff. I happen to work for a source in Chicago that I'm happy shamelessly plug: Misericordia. It's actually a home for adults with developmental disabilities, but I run a workshop where we package coffee for our own label as well as for Crop to Cup, a company based in Chicago and New York that buys coffee pretty much exclusively from small family farms in rural east Africa. Crop to Cup invests in good relationships with their farmers, who often live in politically and economically unstable areas. They're also areas with lots of rich volcanic soil, which creates some of the tastiest coffees around. My personal favorite of their offerings is a Ethiopia Sidamo; it's from the birthplace of coffee and has really strong fruit notes.
Fresh-roasted is the number one concern for the espresso nerd. About 2-3 weeks after roasting, the coffee begins to oxidize and lose much of its flavor and mouthfeel. Plus, with stale coffee you will have a heck of a time getting any decent crema (the layer of foam that tops a proper espresso).
Of course you can buy freshly roasted beans, but to be truly in the spirit of off-the-grid micro-living, you will roast your own, thereby guaranteeing freshness for yourself and saving bundle of money. Paying $1 an ounce for roasted coffee doesn't make a lot of sense if you can buy green beans for about $5 a pound and have extremely fresh coffee all the time. Coffee roasters enjoy a certain mysticism around their work that enables them to charge these prices, but roasting your own coffee is really not that difficult.
There are all kinds of high-tech electronic gizmos for roasting involving digital readouts and precise temperature controls. However, being an incorrigible cheapskate and luddite, I prefer the stovetop method. My first experiments with home roasting involved nothing more sophisticated than a wok and a wooden spoon. This method works, but it also makes YOU work. The key to having an even roast is constant agitation, you want to avoid burning one side of the bean while leaving another side incomplete.
For this reason, I decided after a few roasts to upgrade to a device called an aroma pot coffee roaster (sadly, it's not currently available, but this is a good alternative). Its design is based on a 19th-century home roaster, from when farmers' wives ordered green coffee from a catalog to roast at home.
Stovetop roasting should last roughly 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat and it is imperative that you actively agitate the beans the entire time. I find it is also necessary to occasionally shake the pan to redistribute the coffee. You will know that you are almost done when you hear a cracking sound, not unlike popcorn popping, and a small amount of smoke starts to appear.
They say you should have a hood vent above your stove. However, I don't, and I find that the smoke is only minor annoyance. Turn off your smoke alarm and enjoy the wonderful smell. I recommend roasting before entertaining guests!
I always get the best shots from coffee that I roasted the day before (sometimes I get anxious and brew the same day as roasting but ideally it should have some rest time).
The most frequently overlooked element of this process is the grinder. Your standard electric rotary grinder will result in an uneven consistency. This means that when you apply hot water and pressure you will achieve what is called “channelling"; a mix of courser coffee and finer pieces will create a tiny delta inside your portafilter, forcing coffee quickly through the larger bits and not allowing it to infuse properly with the smaller ones. You will not get a nice even pour; it will sputter and probably pour too fast, resulting in a bitter, weak brew. You need a grinder that creates easily calibrated, extra fine, consistent coffee that will be infused uniformly and create a homogenous puck (the disk of grounds through which the espresso is forced).
Since we’re staying off the grid we’ll skip the electric burr grinder (otherwise it's a fine option). Instead we'll go with the Hario Mill. These are hand-cranked Japanese ceramic coffee mills that can be adjusted to any fineness. They only run about $30-40. The slim model fits nicely right over the portafilter of the Presso, which is our next element.
The Presso a 100% manual espresso machine that uses two hand levers to create the pressure needed for good extraction. While it doesn't quite match a good italian machine, you can pull a nice shot with good crema from this thing, and it will only set you back about $150.
As with any unfamiliar espresso machine, there will be a learning curve. With the Presso it is no different; there are several tricks to get the most out of your Presso. The first and probably most important is to overfill the reservoir, so as to get the maximum available pressure. I have seen elaborate hacks to adjust for this, involving widdling your own custom widget to insert in the reservoir, but I find this unnecessary. Just fill the reservoir to the top rather than to the suggested fill lines on the plunger and you will achieve a significant improvement in pressure.
I would also recommend priming. Start with a dry run using the hottest boiling water you can get. This heats up the machine so it is ready to pour a nice shot.
As you use this setup, you will learn how to adjust your grind and the pressure you use on the levers to pull a decent shot. Too fine a grain will clog the portafilter, too course will cause the shot to pour too fast.
One thing I love about the Presso is its simplicity. Everything on can be taken apart by the consumer and easily replaced. (I cracked a plunger once when I was getting a little too ambitious with the pressure and when I ordered a new one online I was contacted by a customer representative who noticed I had just bought my Presso a few months before; he bounced the charge and gave the part to me for free.)
The Presso's instruction manual is worthless, by the way. I would recommend checking out the many blogs on how to get the most out of the machine, and coffeegeek.com is always a good resource for general caffeinated geekery.
I've managed to fit a queen-sized bed, a fully equipped kitchen and dining area, an office, artist's loft and living area for my girlfriend and I in one 12'x15' room with a 9' ceiling (the kitchen, squeezed underneath our bed, is pictured at the top of this post). We have a decent library of books and DVD's as well as a respectable collection of vinyl. I've got my espresso setup in the kitchen. Under the counter I keep four three-gallon fermenters for making my own beer, wines and hard ciders. There’s a full sized Yamaha keyboard in my office that’s mounted on a hinge so it can hide behind my desk (which is on casters) when not in use. My girlfriend uses our three windows to grow herbs and we are excited to have a go at cultivating mushrooms on a log suspended over the doorway this autumn. We keep our fridge stocked with home-cooked meals made up of organic ingredients (I was a professional cook in a previous life and have recently started a one-man catering service), and I pretty much always have a cranberry wine or hard cider on tap to help me unwind from a long day.
I once spent some time living on a 100%-off-the-grid farm in Costa Rica. It was a seven-mile hike from the nearest gravel access road and we had a little Coleman solar panel that could power a 40-watt lightbulb for approximately 3 hours. It taught me a lot about what is really necessary to live a good life.
I am convinced that while all of humanity need not go to quite such extremes as these, conservation is the key to our future survival on this planet. The rate at which we have been using non-renewable resources for the last 60+ years is criminal, so I try to enjoy life while using a little bit less of those resources.
More on Nate Miller and micro-living can be found at his blog.
Eating in Paris should be all about small, charming restaurants; exquisite chocolates; and bohemian bars — not the standard tourist nightmare of snarling waiters, seven-language menus, and bland food.
To set our readers straight, Tipsy Pilgrim is delighted to present a guest post today from Kristina Dekens, an American foodie who has lived in Paris for eight years, married a similarly food-obsessed Frenchman, and spent tons of time — but not euros — devouring the best that the city has to offer.
This subject isn't quite our usual charge (this time, there'll be no suggestions for Parisian street fucking, amusements or boozing), but here at TPHQ we're constantly approached for suggestions on "authentic" Paris eats, so we think this will be worth it. Plus, Tina's advice is quite romantic; if you prefer, dear readers, think of these of as places to put you in the mood before you bonk.
There's a Google Map of the addresses at the bottom of the post.
Et voilà, Kristina Dekens...
For romantic Paris that maintains a slightly rural feel, head to Montmartre. There’s a fun restaurant for the adventurous, the Refuge des Fondues (17 Rue des Trois Frères, 18th arrondisement, +33 1 42 55 22 65). It is totally tiny and you have to actually climb over a table to worm your way into a spot. For 15 euros you get a before-dinner drink, a baby bottle of wine (yes, with a nipple), little things to eat like pickles, cheese and meat, and then a huge pot of fondue cheese and bread to dip in it. Or, you can get meat and potatoes that you cook in an oil pot. It's fun, but you may have to roll down the hill afterward because you are so full.
A few doors down there is a cute café called Au Progrès (7 Rue des Trois Frères, 18th arrondisement, +33 1 42 64 07 37). There are also plenty of cute boutiques and food shops on rue des Martyrs, rue Yvonne le Tac, rue des Abbesses, rue Houdon, rue Lepic — just wander around and enjoy.
The best pizza in Paris is hands-down at the AMAZING Pizzeria da Carmine (61 Rue des Martyrs, 9th arrondisement, +33 1 48 78 28 01), just below Montmartre. They change their hours a lot, so call to check before going. I recommend the parma (with parma ham) or the lucania (chorizo), which i get sans oeuf (without the egg).
Nearby, you have La Fourmi (74 Rue des Martyrs, 18th arrondisement, +33 1 42 64 70 35), a cheap, lively, funky bar/cafe.
L'Avant Comptoir (9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 6th arrondisement, +33 826101087) is a fun place for an apéro (pre-dinner drinks and hors d'oeuvres). If you don't want to have a drink and eat standing around at a bar, chatting and jostling with others, their neighboring restaurant might be more your style. The New York Times has a good take on this place. While you're in the neighborhood, be sure to walk down the old, tiny, and charming Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, a little pedestrian street.
My favorite place for a stroll that looks like the "real" Paris is the Rue Montorgueil (2nd arrondisement). Get out at Metro Sentier (line 3) or walk up from Metro Les Halles (line 4). It's a pedestrian street full of great cafes and shops, and, at the end, the beautiful Saint-Eustache Church. There are markets on Sundays and Thursdays. I love the Italian sandwhich place, Caldo Freddo (34 rue Montorgeuil, 1st arrondisement, +33 1 44 76 04 21). Or, there's a super yummy Libanese spot, Al Boustan (21 Rue Montorgueil, 1st arrondisement, +33 1 40 41 02 40) across the street, serving beef, chicken or falfel sandwiches for about 5€. A larger (and a little more expensive) menu is a available if you eat at the place.
Near the Opera Garnier at Metro Pyramides (lines 7, 14) is a little gem of a street, the Rue Saint Anne, full of Japenese noodle houses. Aki (11 Rue Sainte-Anne, 1st arrondisement, +33 1 42 97 54 27) specializes in the Japanese regional cuisine of Okonomiyaki — it's hard to explain but yummy and unique! And for really good ramen soup head to Higuma (32 bis Rue Sainte-Anne, 1st arrondisement, +33 1 47 03 38 59). You can get a huge bowl of fresh noodles and soup plus 7 Japenese ravioli for 10.50€. These are cheap and fun experiences with open kitchens so you can watch them cook up all kinds of crazy, steaming goodness!
Near the Beaubourg museum is l'Ambassade d'Auvergne (22 Rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare 3rd arrondisement, +33 1 42 72 31 22). Here you can have some traditional French cuisine gastronomique with an evening menu of more than you can could ever eat for 30€. Duck, aligot (think cheesy mashed potatoes from the gods), lentils, and a homemade chocolate mousse that comes in a HUGE serving bowl —enough for 8 people — and they tell you to finish it all. YUM YUM YUM!!!!
For a little taste of authentic terroir and family-style French cooking hit up the totally delicious and verrrryyy reasonably priced Le Petit Lyon (24 rue de Vintimille, 9th arrondisement, +33 1 45 26 31 19); the plat du jour is 11 euros.
Café Divan (60 Cité de la Roquette, 11th arrondisement, +33 1 48 05 72 36) is totally yummy, with great and cheap open-face toasted sandwiches. In the winter or cooler weather you could also try their pot au feu, a big traditional French stew. For dessert, go for the duo au chocolat — it is KILLER. This little partially baked chocolate masterpiece is filled with the most delicious carmel; it makes you want to cry. (This was recently missing from the menu — if it's not there, go for the mi-cuit au chocolat, a chocolatey, molten-lava cake.) If you go there at night for drinks they may serve your drink with a little dish of olives and a little plate of homemade potato chips — yum!
On the other side of Bastille there is a tiny, rather hidden bar à vins, Bubar (3 Rue des Tournelles, 4th arrondisement, +33 1 40 29 97 72). It's open only at night, and there are nibbles at the bar (nuts, olives, peppers) and and good wines from Chile, South Africa and Argentina.
The Marais (4th arrondisement) is Paris' hip, funky, gay, jewish neighborhood. It's a sweet place to wander. Be sure to visit the very cute Rue Saint Paul and the village Saint Paul, a tucked-away area with shops, galleries and restaurants.
On Rue Saint Paul at the corner with Rue Charles V there is an AMAZING, AMAZING restaurant…perhaps my favorite in the city. It's an Italian place with very haute cuisine called l’Enoteca (25 Rue Charles V, 4th arrondisement, +33 1 42 78 91 44). Weekdays at lunchtime there is a menu with a first course, main course and wine for just 13 euros. At night there are menus for 28 and 43 euros with a first course, main course and dessert — the more expensive option includes a wine pairing with each course, which is great as this place is famous for their wine. The atmosphere is lovely and the food is divine.
Anahuacalli (30 Rue des Bernardins, 5th arrondisement, +33 1 43 26 10 20) has really good Aztec/Mexican food. It made NY Times list of top 100 restaurants in the world and was pretty much the only one that cost under 100 euros a plate. A main course is about 14-18 euros. The magahritas are pricey though (9 euros). The hot chocolate is killer. Click over to their site for another location in the 6th arrondisement and their taqueria in the 10th.
Another place I'm really excited about for Mexican food is the Candelaria (52 rue Saintonge, 3rd arrondisement, +33 1 42 74 41 28). There's a picture of us above enjoying their lunch menu; this is a great place for taquilla and REAL fresh Mexican food.
I love the Rose Bakery, an organic deli with tons of fresh yummy food and a very English feel. Great photos, a review, and addresses for all three locations are here.
Chez Papa (206 Rue la Fayette, 10th arrondisement, +33 1 42 09 53 8) has traditional Southwestern French food. There is a fixed-price menu for 9.95 euros on weekdays. I get the hot goat cheese salad (salade au chevre chaud) and the assiette canatalaise which is potatoes, ham, a mushroom sauce and crazy-good cheese. But the whole menu is great — lots of duck and cheese and potatoes.
In this neighborhood you should stroll along the gorgeous and happening Canal Saint Martin (10th arrondisement). Near the corner of the canal and the Rue Eugene Varlin are two good little French restaurants: Le Valmy (145 Quai de Valmy, 10th arrondisement, +33 1 42 09 93 78) and, just up the street, L'Ecluse Valmy (153 Quai de Valmy, 10th arrondisement, +33 1 42 05 89 16). Both are very reasonably priced and have good food and nice atmospheres. Ecluse Valmy is a little fancier and Le Valmy has more of a fun, cosy café ambience.
If you want to experience Paris' more high-end eats without breaking the bank, fixed-price lunches are your best bet. The New York Times has a great roundup of top addresses for this.
Mose again, with just a few things to add.
What a list! Looking back, I've visited a good number of these over the years, almost all thanks to Tina dragging me to them. These are great, great addresses.
When you're done eating, David Lebovitz has compiled a list of places for Paris' best espresso. I've tried most of these and generally concur, but he managed to leave off the very best, Terres de Café (32 rue des Blancs Manteaux, 4th arrondisement, +33 1 42 72 33 29; also at three other locations listed on its site).
For falafel, guidebooks direct folks to L'As du Fallafel (34 Rue des Rosiers, 4th arrondisement, +33 1 48 87 63 60) in the Marais. Hoards of tourists dutifully form a line down the block for this, the "authentic" and "best" falafel sandwich, but the neighboring, line-free restaurants are just as great — it's not a difficult recipe and they've copied it exactly.
Finally, Tipsy Pilgrim's favorite Parisian (non-music venue) dive bar is, without a doubt, Les Pères Populaires (46 Rue de Buzenval, 20th arrondisement, +33 1 43 48 49 22). It's dirt-cheap, a calm spot to write during the day and a suitably fun and convivial place in the evenings.
And for more listings of cheap, hip Paris Bars, head to the Bituroscope (in French, but mainly just pictures and addresses). Just call to check before going; many now-closed venues are still on their rolls.
Disagree? Feel we've missed something important? Let us know in the comments. Bon ap'!
A Google Map of the locations listed above.
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