Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The French have been using violets for centuries to flavor everything from cough syrup to bonbons. During the middle ages, when sugar was still very rare and reserved only for the elite of society, apothecaries were the principal creators of sweet treats that were supposedly recommended for health problems. It was at this time that the druggists concocted violet syrup which was believed to smooth the voice.

Violets were Napoleon's favorite flower and in the 19th century a thriving violet agriculture began to take hold in France, notably in the area around Toulouse. The flowers were used for their perfume, but they also were used in French cuisine.

Every February in Toulouse, the violet festival honours this famous fragrant fleur with showcases
of the best bouquets as well as a violet market and
violet-based sweet treats.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Berthillon - The World's Best Ice Cream

Berthillon is widely believed to be the best ice cream in France, and according to many ice cream fans, possibly the best in the world. Berthillon has been making ice cream since the 1950’s when Monsieur Berthillon started selling his homemade ice cream out of a small shop in the heart of Paris. Today, that same ice cream shop
started by Mr. Berthillon is still open and run by his descendants.
The Berthillon ice cream shop is located on the popular
little tourist destination of Ile Saint Louis,
or Saint Louis Island. Ile Saint Louis is
actually a real island located in the middle
of the River Seine which divides the city
of Paris in two, creating the famous left and
right banks.
Like most things European, ice cream is served in smaller portions that you get in the US. But what some might think is lacking in quantity is definitely made up for in quality. The proof is that no matter what time of year or time of day you go to the Berthillon ice cream shop in Paris, you’ll find a queue of customers waiting to try the famous French ice cream. What makes Berthillon particularly appealing is that the ingredients are all natural. There are no preservatives or artificial flavors that you find with other ice creams.
Perhaps this ice cream cone box was inspired by
the famous Berthillon. Made entirely of porcelain but
so deceptive that it looks and feels as if the wafer cone
is real. The pistachio and chocolate swirl looks creamy
and luscious.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Art Appreciation - Venus de Milo

Both the Artist and the lover of fine art will delight in the beautiful hand painted miniature Limoges Box reproductions of the great masters such as Renoir, Monet & Van Gogh.

This statue of the Greek goddess of love, currently on display at the Louvre in Paris, France, was discovered on the island of Melos in 1820 ( Milo in modern Greek). The Marquis de Rivière presented it to Louis XVIII, who donated it to the Louvre the following year. The statue won instant and lasting fame. The Venus de Milo is famous for its skilled rendering of the female form, imbued with sensuality and nobility.

The goddess is shrouded in mystery. The missing pieces of marble made the restoration and identification of the statue difficult. According to whether she held a bow or an amphora, she was Artemis or a Danaid. She is popularly thought to represent Aphrodite, because of her half-nakedness and her sensual, feminine curves. She may have held an apple — an allusion to the Judgement of Paris - a crown, a shield,
or a mirror in which she admired her reflection.
However, she might also be the sea goddess Amphitrite, who was venerated on the island of Milo.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The French Baguette

Here we have a porcelain example of that sinfully delicious baked treat - the French baguette. French "une baguette" is translated into English as "stick" which truly describes the unique form of this most popular French bread. French law governs on what can actually be sold as bread, i.e. it only contains flour, salt, water, and yeast.

The real baguette is a small pleasure and a huge part of French culture. France eats approximately 30 million baguettes a day. Wow! (that's a half a baguette for everyone every day).

What makes a great baguette?

The first sign of quality is a hard crust of a rich, dark caramel color. A flimsy crust, a pale, straw yellow color and an underside marked by tiny dots all indicate that the bread has been cooked in an industrial oven often from frozen dough.

The inside (or "mie" in French) of a good baguette should be a creamy color with large irregular air holes. The industrial loaf, on the other hand, will be cotton white, with tiny, regular air holes.

The texture of a good baguette should be moist and slightly chewy with a full, almost nutty flavor. The industrial version is cottony, tasteless and dry.
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