Ed Alcock for The New York Times
Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, a champion for the cause of imported beef, takes down a piece of aged British beef from storage.
PARIS — It’s easy to spend a lot of money here on a mediocre steak.
Just about every Paris bistro offers bavette with shallots, faux filet with frites, rumsteck with Roquefort sauce. Menus often identify the noble bovines that are the sources; most notably, the off-white Charolaise, the brown Limousine and the wheat-hued Blonde d’Aquitaine.
The problem is that much of made-in-France meat isn’t marvelous. So in recent years, a quiet revolution has been underway. Foreign beef — from the United States, South America or other European countries — is invading.
Etienne Laurent/European Pressphoto Agency
At the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday, French President Francois Hollande (center) gives a warm welcome to King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.
François Hollande is acting liberated now that he has dismissed his live-in companion, Valérie Trierweiler, and eliminated — Pravda-style — all traces of her as first lady from the official Élysée Palace website. The French president is smiling more, telling colleagues he feels “relieved” that his relationship is over. During a trip to Turkey last week, he bantered with French journalists. The next day he decorated the Turkish chanteuse Candan Ercetin as a knight of Arts and Letters, kissing her on both cheeks before gushing over her interpretation of Edith Piaf songs, including “Non, je ne regrette rien.”
On his visit to the United States that begins on Monday, he hopes to come across as reliably capitalist with American business leaders (even though he is a life-long Socialist) and serenely soigné in a tux at the White House state dinner (even though he will be going sans escort). “He is staging himself as manly,” says Éric Fassin, a sociologist specializing in gender studies. “It’s a new persona. He has stopped trying to be nice.”
For some, the French president’s secret romance with the actress Julie Gayet is a rite of passage that has transformed him into a seducer in the grand tradition of kings and presidents. “Who would have imagined that Hollande was a Casanova?” the former culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand told a Belgian interviewer. “It’s extraordinary, because he doesn’t really have the look; he doesn’t really have the physique. If you were looking for a character to play the role of a total womanizer, you wouldn’t pick a guy who looks like François Hollande.” Mitterrand — whose infamous semi-autobiographical novel “La Mauvaise Vie” (“The Bad Life”) graphically describes, through the guise of his narrator, paying for sex with “boys” in Thailand — could not control his laughter. On a television talk show, the writer Philippe Sollers praised Hollande’s Gallic display of strength and virility in remaking his personal life. “Bravo! The entire world envies us,” he said. “Men from all around the world are jealous.”
Not every museum in Paris is packed. Here, an installation view of “How Can We Know the Dancer From the Dance?” by Philippe Parreno, on display at the Palais de Tokyo as part of his “Anywhere, Anywhere, Out of the World” exhibition.
Paris is home to the finest museums in the world. Unfortunately, they are also some of the most crowded. Nearly four million people head to the Pompidou Center and the Musée d’Orsay each year. The Louvre receives more than twice as many.
My houseguests often return from one of these trio of giants with tales of woe: long lines, crowded corridors and obnoxious elbow-pushers. Then there is the security problem. Organized teams of pickpockets became so aggressive at the Louvre last April that its 200 security guards went on strike for a day, forcing the museum to close.
But there are about 175 museums in Paris, and most offer a stress-free visit. They can be modest, like the two rooms devoted to Edith Piaf in an apartment on the eastern edge of town; they can be grand, like the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale, just outside town, which displays 30,000 Gallo-Roman objects in a chateau rebuilt in the 16th century.
Continue reading “Letter From France | How to Visit Some of Paris’s Finest Museums but Skip the Crowds” »
An installation by lingerie designer Chantal Thomass for the 2013 Festival of Lights in Lyon, France.
Lyon, France’s third-largest city, was made for Christmas.
Like an average-looking woman who becomes beautiful under candlelight, the city becomes radiant for four days every December during the Festival of Lights. The event, which draws between three and four million visitors, shows off Lyon’s unique approach to lighting, a pointillist style that uses small spotlights to highlight elaborate decorations and details of buildings for dramatic effect.
This year’s festival invited Paris fashion designers to make magic, not on young models’ bodies, but on old buildings. Jean-Charles de Castelbajac created a mystical Garden of Eden called “Lost Paradise” among the columns and arcades of the courtyard of the 17th century City Hall. His son, Guilhem, a photographer living in New York, projected a constellation of stars on the ground. The lingerie designer Chantal Thomass brought springtime to the Place de la Bourse with “Serenade,” a 26-foot sculpture of a rose bouquet that was lit up with projections of her favorite flowers and tied in lace and satin ribbons.
Continue reading “Letter From France | In Lyon, Artists and Designers Light Up the City” »
Ed Alcock for The New York Times
A Chocolate Christmas in France: ‘Tis the season when France celebrates chocolate.
PARIS — A large flat box arrived by messenger the other day from Alain Ducasse, the French chef with 17 Michelin stars. It contained six disks of chocolate studded with nuts and dried fruits; a chocolate base, pole and triangular crown; a pair of white cotton knit gloves, and instructions on how to turn the chocolate pieces into a Christmas tree.
This is the season when France celebrates chocolate, its fail-safe, last-minute, all-purpose, ever-elegant gift. Every December, just about every restaurant chef, pastry chef and bonbon-maker feels compelled to do something — simple, spectacular or silly — with the substance.
Hugo & Victor, the Paris chocolatier, has transformed the bûche de Noël, the traditional spongecake bound with chocolate butter cream and shaped like a yule log, to look like a two-volume antique book set. It is made with six different chocolates and includes a chocolate biscuit as a base, a Tanzanian chocolate mousse, a Peruvian chocolate cream filling and nougat puffed rice. The hard chocolate casing is decorated with gold lettering. The cake is gluten free. It costs more than $100.
Continue reading “Making Christmas Sweet” »
Ed Alcock for The New York Times
Élisabeth Quin and François Armanet, the authors of “The Killer Detail,” discuss the secrets of style at the Brasserie Le Vaudeville in Paris.
PARIS — Ask an elegant Frenchwoman the secret of her style, and she will give you two words: balance and detail.
Wear a vintage Chanel jacket — with jeans. Wear a little black dress — with flaming red stilettos. Never dress yourself from head to toe in one designer; never wear everything new.
François Armanet and Élisabeth Quin, two of the best-known (and best-dressed) journalists in France, have turned this concept into a photographic and psychological study of the allure of 126 male and female writers, artists, performers and fashion figures of the 20th century.
Continue reading “In the Book ‘The Killer Detail,’ Considering the Essence of Chic” »
Carole Bethuel/Sony Pictures Classics
Bérénice Bejo Stars in Asghar Farhadi’s Film ‘The Past’
PARIS — When Bérénice Bejo talks about her 2012 Oscar loss for her performance in “The Artist,” she admits she was disappointed.
She is less disappointed that she didn’t win than that she didn’t lose to Meryl Streep, who won for “The Iron Lady” in the best actress category.
It seems that Harvey Weinstein, who bought the French film, decided that Ms. Bejo would have a better chance at an Oscar if he slotted her in the supporting actress category. He was wrong.
Continue reading “Peppy Speaks! (And Gives an Interview)” »
Damien Lafargue for The New York Times
It’s Hunting Time in France: Autumn signifies the opening of the six-month season, when chefs compete to transform quarry into gastronomic bliss.
PARIS — The chef Alain Dutournier was so excited about the first game meat of the season that he transformed the reception area of Carré des Feuillants, his two-Michelin-star restaurant, into a still life.
Then again, “life” may not be quite the right word.
He covered a large table with the leaves of chestnut and plane trees, then grabbed the feet of two 12-pound hares from Alsace and two small rabbits from Sologne and laid them on the leafy bed. After that came five mallard ducks from Brittany and 10 gray partridges from Champagne, whose heads he draped delicately over the table’s edge so their necks stretched long and their beaks pointed outward. For the final touch, he added color: chestnuts in their prickly casings, walnuts in their shells, a platter of cèpe mushrooms, a bowl of seven Italian white truffles, red-orange kuri squashes and bouquets of beets.
Continue reading “Turning the Hunt Into a Trip to the Market” »
Elaine Sciolino, au micro d’Edwige Coupez © Radio France – /C.R.
Actualité oblige, la journaliste américaine qui a couvert les événements au Moyen-Orient pour le New York Times, revient d’abord sur le coup de fil historique entre Barack Obama et Hassan Rohani, le premier après un silence diplomatique de plus de 30 ans. Selon Elaine Sciolino, c’est un symbole important.
Elaine Sciolino retrace son parcours de journaliste américaine. Elle revient sur son attachement à la France, où elle est arrivée juste après ses études, où elle vit aujourd’hui avec son mari américain.
Princess Minnie de Beauvau-Craon has ruled over the Château de Haroué in the Lorraine region of northeast France since 1982. Gabriela Plump for The New York Times
The French village of Haroué does not have much to offer. There’s a bakery, a pharmacy, a tabac, a restaurant, a police and fire station, a doctor’s office, a retirement home, a church that’s rarely open and a population of fewer than 500.
But Haroué (pronounced ah-rou-eh) does have an 82-room chateau with its very own princess, Minnie de Beauvau-Craon. Everyone here calls her “Princess Minnie.”
The princess, who is 59 and divides her time between the French countryside and an apartment in London, has ruled over the Château de Haroué in the Lorraine region of northeast France since her father died in 1982. Only 29 at the time, she inherited both the joys and the financial challenges of keeping the place going. In a country where the revolution overthrew the monarchy more than two centuries ago, “princess” is really just a charming honorific. But Princess Minnie takes her job — if not the title — seriously.