Letter From France | The Globalization of Caviar

In the kitchen at Petrossian in Paris, where the caviar is now sourced from Bulgaria, Italy, France and even California. Credit Courtesy of Petrossian


Caviar has lost its national identity.


Over the years, caviar-producing wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea have been poached, smuggled and overfished to the brink of extinction. Sturgeon fishing fell under a series of strict international quotas and in 2008 was subjected to a global ban by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The only caviar on the market since then comes from tame varieties farmed in concrete basins and cages. The result is a global free-for-all in which caviar’s country of origin has no meaning, and only the best eggs win.


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Scheherazade Slept Here

After Doris Duke’s honeymoon in 1935, when she traveled India, Jordan, Egypt and Indonesia, her architectural perspective was upended. She and her new husband, James Cromwell, had planned to build a Mughal-style wing on the grounds of Mr. Cromwell’s mother’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla.; it morphed into a five-acre Islamic flight of fantasy on Oahu. Credit: Linny Morris, courtesy of DDFIA.


HONOLULU — The honeymoon did it.


Doris Duke, the fabulously rich tobacco heiress, was only 22 when she married James Cromwell, an aspiring politician, in 1935. The newlyweds traveled through India, Jordan, Egypt and Indonesia, and by the time they reached their last stop in Honolulu 10 months later, Ms. Duke’s architectural perspective had been upended.


They had planned to build a Mughal-style newlywed wing on the grounds of the estate of Mr. Cromwell’s mother in Palm Beach, Fla.; it morphed into a five-acre Islamic flight of fantasy on Oahu, at the base of Diamond Head on the Pacific. For the next six decades, Ms. Duke poured passion and millions of dollars into the 14,000-square-foot white rectangular structure of modernity and magic that she called Shangri La.


She was driven by the pursuit of beautiful objects, not religious fervor. Cecil Beaton, who photographed Shangri La during Ms. Duke’s lifetime, called it a “really fabulous Arabian Nights dream Persian house.”

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The Risina Bean Is Worth the Hunt

Chris Warde-Jones for The New York Times

About 1 hour – About 2 cups cooked beans
The risina bean has taken considerable work to rescue, and it takes effort to track down outside Italy. But it’s well worth chasing the heirloom legume online, and most of your toil will be done because the beans are simple to prepare. La Boutique del Gusto (laboutiquedelgusto.com) ships Cuore Verde risina beans. In New York, the beans are sold at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria. This recipe, from the Umbrian couple who produce Cuore Verde risina, brings out the beans’ grassy flavor.
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Letter From France | The Paris Hotel Scene Gets a Glitzy New Player

At the new Peninsula Paris Hotel, not far from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, workers are frantically hanging paintings and placing umbrellas on the rooftop terrace in preparation for this Friday’s grand opening.


At the new Peninsula Paris Hotel, not far from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, workers are frantically hanging paintings and placing umbrellas on the rooftop terrace in preparation for this Friday’s grand opening.


The Peninsula combines two related trends in the Paris luxury hotel landscape, both brought about by the shifting desires of the hotels’ wealthy international guests, most recently those from China, who are coming in ever-greater numbers. For many such guests, the history, culture and class of the city’s old palaces are no longer enough. They also require bigness, brashness and glitz: spa suites with private saunas and rain showers, trendy nightclubs, private butlers and on-site contemporary art consultants.

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Made in House? Prove It

Owen Franken for The New York Times
Jean-François Le Guillou, the chef and owner of La Forge in Paris, says he will display a government-issued symbol on his door saying that all his dishes are made in house.


PARIS — The black-and-white symbol looks like a saucepan with a roof for a lid. And if it sits next to an entry on a restaurant menu, it signals that the dish is “fait maison” — house-made.


Or does it?

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In France, a Yearly Feast of Fish

Nanda Gonzague for The New York Times
The St. Pierre statue carried by the water jousters.


SÈTE, France — This Mediterranean port town is famous for its annual Worldwide Festival of electronic music, seven miles of glorious beaches and fish.


Lots of fish.

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Letter from Umbria | A Storied Ceramics Workshop Where Visiting Artists Can Get to Work

Elaine Sciolino
At the Rometti ceramics workshop in Umbria, Jean-Christophe Clair, the factory’s artistic director, works on his “Birili” collection inspired by ancient and primitive shapes.


You won’t find Umbertide, Italy, in most guidebooks. This town in northeast Umbria has little to recommend it: no churches with vibrant frescoes, no hilltop vistas, no Michelin-starred restaurants, not even a first-rate pizzeria. Umbertide is so ordinary, in fact, that “The Companion Guide to Umbria,” the 1969 classic armchair reader on the province, singles it out as the only second-tier town in the region that is not worth even a short visit.


What Umbertide does have going for it is Ceramiche Rometti, a ceramics workshop, showroom, retailer and museum (okay, it’s just several dozen objects displayed behind glass) on the edge of town. Since 1927, Rometti has been turning out fine hand-painted ceramics and sculptures of clay mined from a local quarry that dates back to ancient Rome. Among its collaborators these days are Chantal Thomass, the Parisian queen of lingerie, and Roche Bobois, the high-end French furniture and interior design company. Through the latter, Rometti also has made large vases with designs by the 20th-century artist-writer Jean Cocteau with the authorization of Pierre Bergé, the longtime personal and business partner of Yves Saint Laurent.


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Ode to the Classic Bistro

Ed Alcock
A pair of extra-large organic hard-boiled eggs served with homemade mayonnaise from Bistrot Valois.


PARIS — It is a question I have come to dread: Can you recommend the perfect bistro?


The reason it’s so hard to give my visiting friends a good answer is that the Paris bistro scene is in full transformation. And the trends are moving in contradictory, and worrisome, directions.


On one hand, there’s a lot of really bad bistro food these days: dishes like onion soup and blanquette de veau that are mass-produced at large industrial sites, shipped to kitchens and reheated just before serving. If you’re not careful, you can end up paying serious money for a meal that was vacuum-packed or frozen just a few hours before.


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Capturing the Spirit of the Tattoo

Marc Garanger
The French photographer Marc Garanger’s 1960 portrait of a woman whose village was destroyed during Algeria’s war of independence.


PARIS — Tattoos are beautiful; they are crude. They are declarations of protest, politics, beauty, religion, mourning, hatred or love. They have been used to identify, cure, honor and subjugate those who wear or are forced to wear them.


At the Musée du Quai Branly here, an ambitious new exhibition, “Tattoo” which opened Tuesday and runs through Oct. 18, 2015, grounds the tradition of tattooing in antiquity, follows its myriad expressions around the world and showcases a new generation of artists whose medium happens to be marking human skin.


Tattooing dates back more than 5,000 years. The exhibition notes that the remains of Ötzi, the Neolithic iceman found in the Alps in 1991 was covered with 57 tattoo marks. Two-thousand-year-old mummies discovered in Egypt and Syria carried tattoos of mythical monsters and animals.


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Lingering Power of Hostage Crisis Short-Circuits Iranian Nominee

Associated Press
A day after taking hostages at the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iranian students ripped an American flag in November 1979. The political memory of the 444-day crisis is still powerful.


PARIS — When Iranian militants seized the United States Embassy and took dozens of Americans hostage on an overcast Sunday morning in November 1979, I assumed it was just a brief anti-American sit-in. My main concern, I told my editors at Newsweek, was not how dangerous Tehran would be. It was whether it would still be a story by the time I arrived there from Paris the next day.


I sure got that wrong. The “Iran hostage crisis,” as we called it, lasted 444 days. And as demonstrated by the powerful opposition in Washington last week to Iran’s choice for its next United Nations ambassador, it is not over.


During the crisis, President Jimmy Carter froze Iran’s assets, broke diplomatic relations, changed his re-election strategy and ordered a failed military rescue mission that left eight American servicemen dead. The hostage ordeal helped get Ronald Reagan elected as president.


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