Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Nothing Says Lovin’ Like Something from the Oven

I like looking at pictures of food. Give me a pair of glorious golden buns drizzled with something sweet and I'm practically foaming at the mouth. 

The other day one of my neighbours sent me over a box of warm freshly baked chocolate chip and pecan cookies.  This led to a violent brawl in my living room over who would get the last one. 

This got me to thinking. Why don't more people bake? I love getting my Delia on in the kitchen. On goes the novelty apron, hair in a topknot and little mushroom clouds of flour as you crack the eggs into the mixture. This is followed by the best bit and it smells of pure heaven.

I go to Joy the Baker for my recipes... Follow the link for a recipe for the most decadent Lemon Raspberry Breakfast Rolls. I also add some apricot or raspberry jam along with the fresh fruit, as I like it extra-sweet.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Sushi Fund

You know at the end of the month, when your scratching your head over why there's suddenly a big fat zero in your bank account? This  always seems to happen to me. Coincidentally it is ALWAYS around this time that there will be something that my happiness is dependent upon me buying. 

Going through my statements this month I realised that I invariably spend my dosh on two things

1. Sushi & frappucinos (kilos and gallons)
2. Travel

So these Terramundi pots are the perfect solution for item 2 on my list. Once the first coin is dropped the money pot must be fed until full upon which time it must be smashed whilst making a wish. It is customary to replace the pot and spend the money on 'good things', they bring good fortune.
Terramundi money pots are hand thrown in Italy and hand painted in London. Each money pot contains a separate fortune coin and each can hold approximately £200 in mixed silver.

Review: The Four Seasons, George V Paris

Usually I leave Monaco with a heavy heart. As the plane zips down the runway I issue a heavy and exaggerated sigh; if there’s someone beside me I’ll strike up a conversation, tell them in painful detail about my summer and how sad I am to be going home.  Throw in some gossip and scandalous anecdotes… and the flight home goes down as quickly as a tub of Ben & Jerries. There’s no better audience than a stranger, don’t you know.

However, this years victim received a markedly different account. Madame Duval was entertained with a lengthy narrative detailing my plans for Paris.

Then she asked me where I’d be staying. I told her. Her face changed. Her politely interested expression morphed into one of knowing pleasure and her eyes sort of lit up. She told me that it was in it’s restaurant that her “childhood sweet ‘art” proposed many years ago, where they started their honeymoon and where her own daughter got married.

The Four Seasons George V in Paris needs no introduction. It’s a heavyweight of hospitality, elegance and style.  The Zagat Hotel Guide has listed it as Number One of all hotels in the world.

I touched down in the city of many clichés: love, great food and berets. But my mind was elsewhere. I was très très excited about my stay. 

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

The Cinq was built in 1928 and is a nestled on Avenue George V just a stone's throw from The Champs-Élysées. It's historical yet understated opulence meant it quickly became a home away from home for rockstars and royalty: starlets and presidents: the great and the infamous.

 We walked across the marble reception, filled with the sweet lingering scent of the snowy hydrangeas arranged by the creative director for flowers, Jeff Leatham. Despite the grandeur of the property you never feel stifled and most of the guests were in fact 'off duty'; wandering out of the door into the Parisian afternoon wearing trainers and t-shirts.  

Of course, the staff at the reception desk were expecting us and we were ushered through polished corridors of wood, priceless orginal oils and 17th century tapestries: up to our room on the 7th floor. 

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We were staying in a Premier room with a private outdoor terrace, sun loungers and dizzying view of the courtyard below. The huge space was appointed in beautiful mint greens, creams and soft violets. Two chocolate opera cakes welcomed us with a sugary caress and fresh flowers by the bed made it feel like home.

I had the perfect mid afternoon nap, whilst mother headed to the spa. Four Seasons beds are unmatched for comfort and there's nothing quite like falling into a soft snowy mountain of Egyptian cotton after the day's exertions.

 My alarm went around 4pm, so I thought I'd have breakfast on the terrace. I ordered a warm goats cheese salad, some green tea and a generous portion of petite fours. The food arrived at lightening speed, the table was set; I plugged my ipod into the speakers and ate to the romantic Gallic whisper of Carla Bruni and rough bluesy tune of George Brassens. The food was as perfect as the atmosphere, which was as perfect as the view from my perch. 

I was rather enjoying my self indulgent afternoon and so on went the cozzie and down to the spa I trundled. Of course, they had thought of everything. I sat in the serene reception area flicking through Vogue. The allure of the snack station was overpowering and I soon had a plate of goodies (dates, pecans, fresh fruit) to add to the day's deliciousness. The receptionist took me through the treatment list and we decided on one which I booked for the next day. I then jumped in the pool... bobbed in the jacuzzi... steamed in the sauna.. and fell asleep (again) on a chaise longue in the relaxation area. 

I woke up. I was beginning to see a pattern. This was followed by even more food and music. 

Fast forward a few days and I am getting increasingly agitated about the prospect of going home. Mother has commented on how well I'm looking and in all honesty, she ain't looking half bad herself. We decide between ourselves to make this a yearly 'mother-daughter' tradition.

Every aspect of the stay was faultless. Staying at The George Cinq is being cocooned in the flawless pristine crepe of wonderful food, impeccable service and relentless beauty. No request was too big or too small. I wanted strawberry juice for breakfast. I got strawberry juice for breakfast. Tickets to a show? No problem. Three hypoallergenic pillows? Yes mam (or rather Mademoiselle). They do everything that other Parisian hotels do, but they do it better. 

Another thing that sets The Cinq apart is that despite the opulent surroundings, it's a hotel without airs or graces: welcoming like a home, no hushed whispers and genuine concern for every guest.

It's time to go home. I am distraught. I walk out the door and  feel like I'm waving goodbye to a lover. "It's only for a little while" I tell myself. Adieu and farewell, till we meet again.

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Monday, 20 August 2012

Antique Ghosts: Les Puces de Saint-Ouen

Welcome to Paris' most famous flea market and the largest antique market in the world. Rosie mentioned it on her blog and since it had her seal of approval, I decided to check it out (The Londoner). 

The market is spread across a whopping 7 hectares and is open on weekends until 6pm. As you can imagine, given its size, there is a lot to see.

I wandered, cafe creme in hand, past countless stalls of relics and retro. I love the weird and the wonderful, so for me this was ideal hunting ground. 

Then I saw him and fell head over wedges for a ceramic bust of Mao Zedong. But try as I may, I couldn't haggle the vendor down; she must have loved the Chairman too, as in her estimation he was worth more than a Ming dynasty vase.

I felt sad. I ate a crepe. The crepe was good. I felt happy. Make sure you try it.

140 Rue des Rosiers  93400 Saint-Ouen, France

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Saturday, 18 August 2012


Today it's the birthday of the blog's most devoted reader. My grandmother. Actually, she just looks at the pictures because being a Russian speaker, la lingua franca is not her strong suit. Luckily, she has my mum to translate my bumbling musings, as she no doubt will with this post.

 It would be pointless trying to articulate just how much she means to me and perhaps inappropriate to display such depths of affection on such public a forum.. but it goes without saying that she's my number one.

I've never been one to give my affections on the assumed intrinsic worth of concepts such as 'family' or ancestry. So my relationship with my grandmother is based on far more than her place in my genealogy. I admire her more than anyone; for her boundless wisdom, spirit and goodness.

She was born in the frozen depths of Yakutsk, Siberia during some of Stalin's worst purges . Her father was exiled to a Gulag when she was four because his own father, Gasan Bek Adigezalov was a famous anti-revolutionary who had led a bloody uprising against Bolshevik forces when they tried to seize control of Ganja in Azerbaijan in 1918. 
My grandmother's childhood and the story of her growing up is an extraordinary one, reading somewhat like a Tolstoyen page turner.

She has always been fiercely intellectual and had a distinguished career as a leading Soviet chemist in the field of quantum mechanics. She was also beautiful and played the lead in a 50s film called 'V Etom Yujnom Gorode'(The Southern City), directed by her cousin Eldar Kuliyev. Below are photos from her wedding day, which was the first society wedding to be broadcast on the television. I love how chic and elegant she looks, with her hair in a Bardotesque beehive (I know, Bridget came later) and an embroidered white dress, with a full skirt cut just above the knee and emphasising her teeny waist (all very Alaia).

But I'm straying off the point. I'm blessed to have her and don't know where I'd have been without all the wisdom she's given me over the years. She's amazing. Not your typical 'bake you a pie/ knit you a jumper' variety of nan. She's taught me more than she'll ever know and still keeps me in check when I need it! Love you Granma. Happy Birthday!