Tag Archives: Paris

I Don’t Want To Be An American Idiot…So I’m Soaking Up All The Culture I Can In Vienna!

14 Sep

Vienna was such an unexpected surprise! Aside from Paris, this may be my new favorite European city. In fact, Vienna is almost like a smaller, German-speaking version of Paris. The culture is so rich in art, literature, opera, and history. From the baroque architecture of the zoo to the classical musicians performing in the parks, it is evident that the people take great pride in sharing their search for beauty with any willing observers.

On our first day there, we had to of course snap a few photos outside of the beautiful Opera house, even if our two days in Vienna didn’t quite give us an opportunity to see one of their incredible performances.

Afterwards we headed over to the Naschmarkt Market for our first taste of Vienna. We skipped the delicious ethnic food restaurants in favor of trying some of the dried fruits and oil-marinated, cheese-filled vegetables at the numerous delicatessens.

The market had such an eclectic mix of people there to pick up their weekly groceries, meet friends for a meal, or simply wander around the market looking for an adventure. I think that this graffiti on one of the closed kiosks sums up the quirky, artsy, youthful vibe of the market itself.

Amazingly, the spice collection at the Naschmarkt Market was even more diverse than the one at the famous Turkish Spice Bazar! Seeing all the exotic spices, fresh produce, and other fun ingredients made me want a kitchen to cook with them, or at least more room in my suitcase to bring the yummy goodies back to my own kitchen.

I absolutely adore this sign outside of one of the vendors at the Naschmarkt Market. Too cute!

These little Viennese Hummel figurines are the sweetest playthings ever! American children with their barbies and transformer toys are missing out on these adorable porcelain figures.

Watching a wave of nostalgia wipe over my mom’s face as soon as the clock chimed and the bird popped out of these cuckoo clocks was one of the highlights of the trip for me by far. It’s amazing how simple objects can bring people instantly back to a specific moment in time. There’s nothing quite like watching your mom become a little girl all over again!

When I first saw the bold mosaic work of this building, my initial thought was that it had to be a Gaudi building, but to my surprise St. Stephen’s Church dates back to the 12th century. While the tiled roof was a post-WWII upgrade after a fire, it still bears no connection to Gaudi.

I love the beautiful details of ancient European churches, and the ornate windows on this Gothic church were no exception.

As we were wandering back to our hotel after an exciting first day in the city, we stumbled upon these talented classical musicians setting up shop to share their art with anyone willing to take the time to listen. The taste and refinement of their music is such a far cry from the goofy street performers back in LA!

This spectacular wedding dress cake outside of Demel made my draw absolutely drop! It looks so real that it is near impossible to imagine anyone ever eating such a work of culinary mastery. It would break my heart to ever cut into a cake as spectacular as this! 

When I saw the perfect little frosting shoes, I knew that we would have to come back the next day to try something from the sweet geniuses at Demel. unfortunately the sweets did not live up to the extraordinary expectations that the dress/cake had ingrained in our imaginations. The Imperial Torte at Cafe Imperial far surpasses the desserts here (or anywhere in Vienna for the matter).

Other than the Imperial Torte, this would have to be my favorite thing that I ate in Vienna. It was perfectly charred pieces of octopus accompanied by tangerine segments and jicama wasabi rolls. Yum! It was the perfect salty-sweet-sour-spicy combination.

Just a short metro ride away from the city was the beautiful  Schönborn gardens. The curvaceous intricacies of the greenhouse and dainty landscape designs made me giddy as soon as we stepped into the park. 

Here’s a close up of the gorgeous architecture!

Just past the green house is the incredible  Schönborn Zoo. They had such incredible animals including Lesser Pandas (such a mean name) and nearly a dozen species of monkeys. Check out the beautiful Victorian architecture of the monkey habitat. It is the most stylish zoo I’ve ever seen!

I love this sweet image of two elephants fighting/flirting. I’ve never seen two elephants interact so intensely, so this was a real treat for me to observe. Don’t they look so in love ?

Even in Austria, german pretzels were all the rage. They sold these massive doughy treats throughout Vienna, so of course I had to snap a picture of this one that’s the size of my head for my pretzel-loving boyfriend!

 Here is the stately Schönborn Palace around which the green house, zoo, running paths, train, and play labyrinths revolve. The cheery yellow and vibrant colors make the place feel so joyous and carefree!

After climbing up the hill for about 10 minutes, we received this incredible view of the entire  Schönborn Palace grounds. So lovely! I simply could sit on this bench and stare out of the beautiful city all day.

Here’s a better look at the incredible view we had of the Vienna skyline. While we didn’t have a full day to travel out to visit the place where The Sound Of Music was filmed, this view seems pretty spectacular to me!

Vienna seems like such the perfect intellectual city. People simply sit around reading parks and cafes. It seems like the most whimsical, carefree way to live. Books beat TV and facebooking any day!

All good things must come to an end, so my Dad and I took a lovely even stroll through Vienna, soaking up all we could of the beautiful city. I love the way that the setting sun reflected off this gorgeous glass Palmenhaus restaurant.

Have you been to Vienna before? Did the city steal your heart as easily as it stole mine?

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Exploring Paris, The City I Love With The One I Love

15 Jul

I shared with you my tips for an alternative visit to London already, but now I want to tell you about what I have planned for my few precious days in Paris. Goose will be joining us for the last leg of our European travels, so I’ve been fine-tuning our itinerary so that hopefully he has as much fun in the city of love as I know that I will! Today is our third anniversary and I couldn’t be happier. I truly am the luckiest girl in the world. I can’t wait to celebrate in Paris with you, Goose!

Arc de Triumph

Dine on gourmet goodies at Pierre Herme: VIsit one of his seven Parisian boutique to sink your mouth into any of his inventive confections including the Ice Mosaic (swirled pistachio ice cream with tart cherry sorbet), Croissant Ispahan(Flaky croissant stuffed with rose-flavored almond paste and raspberry-lychee gelée and topped with candied berries), Tarte Peche, Rose & Cumin (Pâte sablée, almond-rose cream, fresh peaches and sugar spiced with cumin). Also make sure to try an assortment of his world-famous macarons in flavors such as Isphan (rose, lychee, & raspberry), Infinment Jasmin (jasmine flower & jasmine tea), Creme Brulee (vanillas & caramel bits), and Infinment Caramel (salted-butter caramel).

City View

Spend an afternoon enjoying Parc de la Villette: Let children and grown men alike indulge their curiosity at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Europe’s largest science museum, watch an outdoor movie at Cinéma en plein air or catch a concert at either Cabaret Sauvage or Le Trabendo. While you’re there don’t forget to admire the deconstructionist musings of architect Bernard Tschumi and the other contributing designers, as represented in the 20 themed gardens throughout the park. Use the 35 deconstructionist follies to help guide you throughout the park as well. The architect intended for the odd amalgamation of design to serve as a background for cultural interaction.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica by Montmarte 

Art and Literature buffs need to visit Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore for a piece of history: Not so much for the food, but rather for the historical significance, make sure to visit these two rival cafes where Paris’s intellectual elite gathered in the 1920s. Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, and Pablo Picasso favored Les Deux Magots, while  Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre visited both of these intellectual meeting places.

Metro Station

Evade touristy crowds with a visit to Paris’s up-and-coming South Pigalle: Just as Echo Park is starting to replace Silverlake as the new ultra hip, indie neighborhood because Silverlake became too mainstream, South Pigalle is replacing Marais as the new cool neighborhood for youthful, artistic crowds. SoPi, as it’s commonly called is a great place for unique vintage finds, fun clothing boutiques, and even yoga!

Eiffel Tower

Enjoy a memorable dinner in Paris without shelling out bucks for one of the fancy restaurants: Enjoy a romantic evening of gourmet pizza in inventive flavors (like La Ghandi- pizza with spinach sag, mozzarella, and baba ganoush) alongside the Canal Saint-Martin form The Pink Flamingoon Rue Bochat, where upon placing your order you receive a pink balloon that helps delivery men locate you when your pizza is ready. Or soak in iconic Paris with a picnic in the Champ de Mars while gazing at the Eiffel tower. Pick up an assortment of drool-worth picnic basket goodies from anywhere on Rue Cler, Paris’s most famous market street or on Wednesdays or Saturdays get your feast from the Pont de l’Alma Market.

  Me with Monet’s Water Lillies at the Musée de l’Orangerie

Enjoy the best of Parisian art at the Musée d’Orsay or the Musée de l’OrangerieAt the Musée d’Orsay, check out an incredible assortment of impressionist, post-impressionist , and art-nouveau works of art without the overwhelming masses of the Lourve. The architecture of the former train station is almost as breath taking as the art itself. It is just a short (and scenic) walk from the Eiffel Tower. While making your visit to the Jardin des Tuileries, make sure not to miss the intimate Musée de l’Orangerie, hidden in the garden’s southwest corner. Monet’s massive water lily paintings fill two custom-designed rooms, on a scale so large that it is sure to leave you breathless. The hidden-away museum also features an assorted art gallery below. The Musée Picasso, Musée Rodin, Musée Marmottan Monet, and Dalí Espace Montmartre are also popular art museums that are still far more manageable than the ever-looming Louvre.

The Left Bank

Act like a true Parisian by vacationing on the temporary beaches along the Seine for Paris PlagesEnjoy the 10-year old tradition of transforming the Seine into faux beach getaway complete with sand, deck chairs, ice cream, beach volleyball, free book rentals, lake kayaking, and free concerts. It starts on July 20 and lasts for four more weeks as an attempt to keep the locals from fleeing the city during the hottest few weeks of the year.

Notre Dame

Make sure to visit all of Ile de la Cité’s offerings when you come to see Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle: Admire the old-school charm of Ancien Cloître Quartier, the oldest remaining residential quarter on the island. Feel free to meditate with your thoughts or enjoy a novel at Place Dauphine, a small, uncrowded residential park on the island. Buy plants, seeds, and beautiful blossoms at the daily Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market) and on Sundays check out the Marché aux Oiseaux (BIrd Market) as well. Before heading back to the Paris mainland via one of the bridges, make sure to try one of the 70 ice cream flavors at Berthillon, Paris’s most famous ice cream shop.

**I took these photos on my last trip to Paris, but I will make sure to share new photos in just a few weeks when I return!

Halfway Cookie Bars

17 May

Recently I’ve been reading Amy Thomas’s dessert-filled memoir, Paris My Sweet in which she describes her journey to track down the most delectable sweets in Paris. I am so impressed by how simply through her mastery of language, she can make my mouth water! I’ve had an insatiable desire for an indulgent treat ever since reading Thomas’s description of macarons as “firm but tender, shiny yet rigged ,with ethereally light shells and heavy middles [that make them] miniature studies of contrasts-and deliciousness.”

While these Halfway Cookie Bars definitely lack the delicate refinement of macarons, they make up for it with their melty chocolatey deliciousness.

Cookie Dough

Press it into the pan: Layer one done!

I’m warning you now…these cookies are addictive. Make them at your own risk. Luckily for me, I made them and then was immediately able to dispense them among ravenous friends, our high school’s victorious baseball team, and much-deserving teachers.

Chocolate: layer two

These things are ridiculously good! If chewy chocolate chip cookies and fluffy meringue cookies had a love child, this would be it. These bars consist of a classic cookie dough base topped with a layer of chocolate, and then finished off with a meringue coating. The lightness of the meringue makes it so that you can scarf down two or three of these bars without going into a butter-induced food coma.

Whipped Brown Sugar Meringue

Scoop all of that fluffy deliciousness on top of the cookie dough and chocolate…what could be better!

Three layers complete. Add the sprayed parchment, then into the oven they go!

My little sister helped me make these scrumptious treats, and while they do require quite a few steps, none of them are that difficult… except for the last one.

 

Halfway Cookie Bars

Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, separated
  • 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chunks
  • Canola oil cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cover a 9 x 13 inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving some extra foil to  hang over all four sides of the pan and spray the foil with cooking spray. This will ensure safe removal of the bars after they cool.
  2. Make the cookie dough by whisking together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl. Then use a mixmaster to blend together the butter, the granulated sugar and just 1/2 cup of the brown sugar until it’s smooth and creamy. Slowly mix the egg into the sugar-butter mixture until it is completely absorbed, then mix in the water and vanilla. With the mixer at a low speed, add the flour mixture and beat gently until all the flour has been absorbed and the dough looks crumbly.
  3. Gently press the cookie dough gently into the pan with your hands, making sure the surface is even.
  4. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and chocolate chunks on top of the cookie dough and use your palms to press them slightly into the dough. This will help keep the chips from moving when you add the meringue.
  5. Start making the meringue by whisking together the two egg whites in the mixmaster in a clean bowl with a clean whisk attachment. Gradually increase your speed to medium-high. When the egg whites are very frothy and look like loose foam, start adding the remaining half cup of brown sugar a little at a time. Continue increasing your speed to the highest setting. When all the sugar has been added, continue whipping the meringue until it holds firm peaks.
  6. Use a spatula to gently spread the meringue on top of the chocolate layer. Star by dumping the meringue in the center of the pan, and gradually spreading it out towards the edges.
  7. Coat a piece of parchment paper with cooking spray, then lightly press it on the top of the meringue to protect the meringue from scorching. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the parchment. Continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the edges look toasted and are pulling away from the sides of the pan.
  8. This is the most difficult step of the entire process, but do your best to wait until the pan is completely cook before lifting out the bars and cutting them into pieces.

Optional Variations:

  • Add some espresso powder or cocoa powder to the top merangue layer for a more pronounced flavor
  • Swap some or all of the chocolate chips for butterscotch chips or toffee pieces
  • Replace the chocolate layer with a fresh fruit preserve layer
  • Replace the classic cookie base with a peanut butter cookie base
  • Add old fashioned oats and coconut to the bottom for a bar reminiscent of Hello Dolly Bars

Or try anything else you can think of, the sky’s the limit!