Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hôtel de Paris

There are some exceptional places which one day cease to be merely an address and become a legend. The Hôtel de Paris is one of them. This sumptuous palace is situated on the Golden Square of the Place du Casino and was the first hotel built in Monte Carlo in 1864. Russian Tsars, the Duke of Windsor and Winston Churchill stayed there to enjoy the splendour of the hotel itself and the stunning views of the azure blue sea.

This Limoges Box captures the elegance and ambiance of an European breakfast as well as the white glove service that one would find at such a sophisticated and grand setting.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Taste of Paris

A heavenly selection of teas, coffees and pastries from around the world can be found at Cafe Verlet, a traditional French Cafe and coffee emporium in the heart of Paris. Verlet, in business since 1880, is situated near the Louvre and the Palais-Royal.
This Limoges Box appears to be a French Apricot Tart baked to perfection. Below is Verlet's recipe for a similar
Apricot Tart provided by Epicurious.

Apricot Tart

For pastry
8 tablespoons (4 ounces; 12 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon (180 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely ground unblanched almonds

For filling
1/2 cup (25 cl) crème fraîche or heavy (whipping) cream
1 large egg lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons full-flavored honey, such as lavender
1 tablespoon superfine flour, such as Wondra
About 1 1/2 pounds (750 g) fresh apricots, pitted and halved (do not peel)
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23cm) fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Set aside.
Make the pastry:In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and the sugar, and using a wooden spoon, stir to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to form a soft, cookie-like dough. Transfer the dough to the center of the buttered pan. Using the tips of your fingers, evenly press the pastry along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The pastry will be quite thin.
Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake unitl the dough is slightly puffy and set, 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the bottom of the crust. (This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.)
Meanwhile make the filling: In a medium-size bowl, combine the crème fraîche, egg, extracts and honey and whisk to blend. Whisk in the flour.
Pour the filling evenly over the pastry. Starting just inside the edge of the pan, neatly overlap the halved apricots, cut side up, at an angle. Arrange in two or three concentric circles, working toward the center. Fill in the center with the remaining apricots.
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, 55 to 60 minutes. The apricots will shrivel slightly. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Place the tart on a rack to cool. Sprinkle again with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jardin de Paris

This Limoges Box depicts the famous poster
by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec that advertised
the debut of Jane Avril at the Jardin de Paris,
a café-concert on the Champs-Elysées. The
daughter of a demi-mondaine and an Italian
count, Jane Avril grew up poor, beaten, and
disturbed. She began her career as a dancer
at the Moulin-Rouge in 1889, developing a
relatively refined style that contrasted with
the vulgar exhibitionism of La Goulue.

A publicity photo of Avril performing
a high kick from the quadrille is thought
to have served as Lautrec's model for the
poster's preparatory oil sketch.

This piece, from Porcelaine Pierre Arquie,
is a limited
and numbered edition and inside the box
'Jardin de Paris' is painted.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Retailers - Eximious of London

The word Eximious is defined as "excellent, distinguished & eminent". In the 1980's, Josephine Louis founded a charming and elegant shop while she lived in England which she called Eximious. Ms. Louis was so inspired by this little shop which became famous for gifts & monogrammed accessories that she decided to open a catalogue and shop in the United States. Eximious of London has become synonymous with the understated good taste of British traditions.
At the heart of the catalogue, is the extensive Limoges collection. Eximious commissions artisans in Europe to produce unique and visually charming pieces that truly reflect a commitment to excellence.
It is with great sadness to report that on the Eximious website it is noted that they are going out of business.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Love Those Fruits & Veggies

Traditionally, most French vegetables are grown in family gardens or potagers. With urbanization many have fell by the wayside but can still be found in the French countryside. For the most part, French vegetables are grown on a smaller scale and tend to produce a tastier version.
A Parisian Farmer's Market of delectable fruits and vegetables at their peak makes a fascinating, rich & colorful display. There is no limit to the variety & selection, each one detailed in miniature perfection.
Here are some of my favorites: an artichoke, a shallot & an amazing purple plum. Bon Appetit!

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