East of Paris Bookstore

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog Stats for 2011

While sipping champaign in celebration of the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, I am reviewing my blogging statistics.


I have surprised myself in that I have continued writing posts for this blog -- this is my 201st post. I remain most pleasantly surprised and happy that people read things I write.  THANK YOU!

While I track my readership statistics with two different tracking apps, which yield different results, the interesting thing for me is to see which posts are most popular. Sometimes I spend time and effort on a post that I really love, but no one else seems to.  At other times, a quick effortless post gets lots of attention.

The top 10 posts for 2011 (which include some posts published in 2010) are


  1. Esterhazy Torte
  2. Akhal Teke Horses
  3. Lomonosov Tea Set
  4. Paris - Flowers and Other Surprises
  5. Castles and Knights
  6. St. Nektarios
  7. Where I Write
  8. Monumental Architecture
  9. Tea a la Russe
  10. Poppy Seed Strudel
This is a rather eclectic list but fitting for my rather eclectic blog. Although my readers are from the US by a very long shot, I have gotten lots of hits from France, Germany, Canada, the UK, Russia, Australia and Italy. There are also visitors from   places as diverse as Latvia and Lebanon, Serbia and Singapore, and Poland and India.  I have also  gotten a few hits from "Other."  Hmm, I wonder where that could be?

A happy and prosperous New Year to all.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
Сретан Божић!
Joyeux Noël !
С Рождеством Христовым!
Wesołzch Świąt!    

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Luscious Cookbooks

In an era of ever more ubiquitous e-books, I still like the not-quite-old-fashioned hard-bound printed form.  This is especially true for cookbooks. Two early Christmas presents that I recently received are Turquoise  and Aromas of Aleppo.  These beautifully produced books with clear instructions and luscious photographs are simply wonderful.






In Turquoise, subtitled A Chef's Travels in Turkey, Chef Gregory Malouf and his wife Lucy travel in Anatolia and Istanbul finding interesting cuisine and then adding their own unique refinements and twists.  I made my own version of one of their salad recipes for a brunch last weekend ...
Aromas of Aleppo reminds me of my trip to Syria last year. Now, given the unrest and violence there, such a trip would be out of the question. But, I was lucky to sample the delicious and exotic cuisine of Aleppo and other parts of Syria. 



Aroma's of Aleppo, subtitled The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews, written by Poopa Dwerk who lives in the New York area, is also intriguing since it focuses on a culturaly unique and historic interpretation of Middle Eastern. I recently made my own version of one of her recipes for lentils with rice and caramelize onions and added salmon poached in red wine on top.

So, if anyone is looking for beautiful cookbooks with recipes that work on the first try, I heartily endorse these.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

East of Paris Bookstore

I have added a "Bookstore" to the East of Paris Blog.  The bookstore contains the books and films that I've mentioned in my blog posts.  


The Bookstore is located at the top of the page, just below the name of the blog.  If you want to buy a book or a film, click on the image and you will be directed to Amazon.  And, yes, I might earn a few cents if you buy via the Bookstore.  So, thanks in advance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BFF Strikes Again

"If I close my eyes, you can't see me!  Especially if my camouflage fur coat is the same color as Mr. Wonderful's sofa," says Draga, the doggie, also known as my BFF.
I don't know how she did it, but I ran for my iPhone so I could snap some photos before she moved and all the pillows fell off. May be, just may be, Mr. Wonderful had a hand in this staging. After all, it is his study.
Now that my BFF lost her other eye and is completely blind, she gets away with more than before. As long as she's happy and has no pain, the furniture can withstand a few comfy naps.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ladies Balkan Brunch

For years, a group of my friends with Balkan backgrounds have been gathering for brunch during the Christmas season. We are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds -- Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Polish (yes I know that Poland is not in the Balkans, but we're an open-minded group). We also come from a wide geographic area in southern California and Arizona.  


Initially, we'd have brunch at a restaurant and then go to one of our homes for coffee and dessert.  A few months before the event, there would be serious, but friendly, sparring about which restaurant to pick. Overtime, we decided that it was more fun to do a pot-luck ... we think our food is better and there is no pressure to vacate the table.


This year we trekked to Thousand Oaks ... and a good and caloric time was had by all.


The quiet before the storm ...
And, whether we call it lunch or brunch, the table is always heavy laden with food ...

Green bean, pepper, corn, and red onion salad in a lemon and sumac dressing
Roasted red peppers with a hint of garlic
Cucumbers with yogurt

Spicy homemade smoked salmon
Homemade "Kifle" 
Bite-sized "bureks"
Salmon with lentils, rice, and caramelized onions 
Spinach and cheese pita with homemade filo dough 
"Podvarak" -- pork with sour kraut
"London" bars rich with walnuts and meringue
Café à la Turque

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Time Out for Tomatoes

It may be December, but for those of us lucky to live in southern California, the weather has been sunny and warm. And, our tomato plants are still producing my favorite vegetable. Or is it a fruit? Regardless, when a friend surprised me with a bowl of heirloom tomatoes fresh from her garden, we took a pleasurable "time out" for a simple lunch:  toast and a salad of tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and basil topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
And for dessert, Napoleons from the local bakery and fresh strawberries with a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar that's been boiled down to a thick syrup. 
So simple and so good.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Champagne Souvenirs

Ever wonder what to do with a champagne bottle cap ... that little metal on top of the cork?  I thought nothing of them until we stayed at Hostellerie La Briqueterie in the village of Vinay in the Champagne region of France.  At this country inn, we saw special tables displaying a large variety of champagne bottle caps under glass tops.  
  
Mr. Wonderful and I would try and identify the brands and decide which variety to taste before dinner.


La Briqueterie is a comfortable, even luxurious, small hotel with a superb restaurant and cozy places to sit and read.
While the rooms were on the small side and the free Wi-Fi only worked in the public spaces, the whole effect was relaxing causal elegance.  No complaints from me.
One of my favorite places to sit and read was the garden room with its interesting light fixture made of milk glass shaped like vines and grapes.
Then there was the garden, perfect for walks.

Finally, after a long day of touring vineyards and sampling the regional cuisine, it's time for sleep.  At La Briqueterie, each room is named after a flower, painted on the door, so you can find y our room by number or flower.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Les Crayères

When in Reims tasting champagne or exploring the historic town, a great luxury is to stay or dine at Les Crayères. Located in the center of the city in a private 7 hectare park, this small chateau is famous for a wine cellar housing 400 different Champagne labels.


Everything about Les Crayères is elegant ...
except the marlin in the garden. That "artwork" didn't do anything for me as we sat on the terrace enjoying aperitifs in the soft evening light.
Fortunately, the dreadful marlin was quickly forgotten as we studied the menu.
Menus -- His & Hers
I find it both amusing and annoying that many places in Europe still give the man a menu with prices and the lady a menu without prices ... So, does that make my meal free?  Oh well, social observations aside, we began our dinner in the chateau's Le Parc restaurant. Delicious amuses bouches sustained us, while
we watched our waiter carefully pouring wine.
We stared with an artistically presented soup ...
next a bit of pasta and chicken or
pork,
followed by fruit (so healthy!).
Finally, I could not resist a desert that looked like a lounge-chair -- 
dense bavarian cream sandwiched in burned sugar and topped with ice cream and gold leaf.  Oh, la, la!
 A rather decadent end to a lovely day.
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