Saturday, March 23, 2013

Max Week & a 14-hour Brunch

So many things! First of all, it's important to point out that we did follow through on our agreement from Winter Formal.  Max brought in a bag full of clothes for us to wear all week, and while we passed on the khaki pants, Max Week (a full week of dressing & acting like Max) was a huge success. 

Shortly after Max week, I was invited for brunch by some great friends, Ludo & Svet.  We started at 1pm at their apartment for Champagne, olives, prosciutto, olive tapenades, and fresh twisty flutes of chorizo bread.  Around 3 or 4pm, we had a delicious, perfectly cooked roasted chicken with a special potato recipe by Ludo - thinly sliced potatoes covered in cream with prosciutto, a tomato & tabouli salad, and bien sur, a cheese course.  

Any time you are invited by a half Italian/half French person to dine, always always accept.  

I thought surely our brunch was coming to an end, but it continued into more chatting, somehow evolved to squeezing into the tiny backseat of Ludo's car around 7pm for a trip to Fouquet's on the Champs Elysee for a drink and snacks (round 3?).  We could barely fit our legs in back there, but we managed just fine.

Then suddenly 9pm dinner reservations were being made for Terroir Parisien.  A progressive brunch indeed.  

How about that mushroom ice cream.

We ran into a chef that Ludo & Nicolas knew, so he and his wife joined the table for dinner half way through.  Then of course, with new friends in tow, it was suggested that we return once again to Fouquet's, where a new set of dessert snacks were served, and where Ludo found himself a nice new hat outside.

All that to say...When you get invited to brunch by a French Italian, just be ready to leave in the morning, eat for 14 hours straight, and return when the Eiffel Tower has gone dark and most of Paris is asleep.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

First Annual Winter Formal

"You’ll have a ball in Paris. You’ll go to a party every night, drink nothing but champagne, swim in perfume and a new love affair every hour on the hour." 
-Fred Astaire

"You got that swag sauce, you drippin' swagu."
-Kanye West

No truer words spoken, Fred and Kanye. Thanks for summing up our lives.

Since the truth of the matter is that I haven't seen 80% of my coworkers in anything but a t-shirt, we decided to have a night where we would get all dressed up and go to a fancy cocktail bar.  And so a tradition was born: our First Annual Winter Formal!

Everyone was instructed to arrive strictly on time at our apartment and were allowed entrance only after saying the password.  ("Let them eat cake")

There were hats and suits, dresses and heels, ties and tuxes, even two top hats.

Then it was time for the revelation of Winter Formal dates.  All the ladies picked their corsage from the platter, which was a specific combination of flowers and ribbon colors.  Matching boutonnieres were waiting to be drawn in the most dramatic rose ceremony ever!

 The bowl of boutonnieres was passed around, and with each one drawn, a lucky lady had her Winter Formal date. You were to take official photos with your Winter Formal date and be escorted by your date when ordering a cocktail. Huge thanks to our resident photographer, Mr. Rick Alarcon, for our stunning Formal date photos.

We originally had an even number of guys and girls, but due to some last minute cancellations, two lucky ladies would have TWO dates.  Congratulations were in order to Sadie and Ellen for securing double date status.

Up next - the vote for Winter Formal King & Queen. Votes were cast for "most formal" and counted 5-6 times just to be sure.  Jillian announced our Winter Formal King, Mr. Gil Soltz!! And for Winter Formal Queen, a shocking shake-up, as Jillian announced: "For the first time in Fat Tire Winter Formal history...we have...a tie!!!"

Drum roll please....

Can you believe it?? Co-Queen of the Winter Formal!! It is an honor indeed.

The royal family, in all our royalty.

Official press photo

Please meet Cedric and St├ęphane, our luxurious furs. Jillian was kind enough to lend Cedric to me for the evening, as there is no better time to adorn yourself in jewels and fur than Winter Formal.

This is my Winter Formal Boo, Jonny. He was a perfect gentleman, escorting me through the treacherous hallways and stairs of the metro.

We made a reservation at an underground Speakeasy style cocktail bar called The Ballroom.  It just has an unmarked black door and a bouncer who judges you harshly, even if you have a reservation.  He eyes everyone suspiciously, then makes you wait while he goes inside to see if he could possibly let your lot inside.
After a little wait, he returns and agrees to lead you down a dark rickety staircase, through a specified hallway and into the area which he chooses. The interior is really nice with great music, and the bartenders all wear Prohibition-era clothing - long sleeved button-down shirts with vests, bow ties, hats.  All in all, it made the perfect location for our Winter Formal.

That's our king, keepin' it real.

I had a "Midnight in Paris" moment of sorts when I was looking at our group of 20 in their finest attire, chatting around candlelight on our corner section of couch.  Either I had gone back in time or we were some kind of fancy grown-ups.

There were three favorite moments of the evening:

1. When the surly bouncer from upstairs suddenly started dancing and handing out candy
2. When "All That Jazz" came on, and everyone instantly stopped what they were doing to perform their own rendition of the Chicago hit, as if it was the only natural thing to do.  
3. One of our guides, Max, agreed to eat two raw eggs if we agreed to have "Max Week" where we would dress and act like him for a full week.  (Max Week is currently in full effect.)

Favorite photos:

Overall, it was a huge success and widely agreed upon to have been one of the most fun evenings we've ever had as a group, to go down in the books. We greatly look forward to next year's Winter Formal. There are even talks of a Spring Formal, in case we can't wait.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Eating & Snowing, Primarily.

The week before last was a busy one, characterized by two main themes: Eating and snow.

It started with a long meeting put on by the regional Tourism Office, where I pretended to understand everything that was happening while watching the guy in front of me draw doodles on his notepad.  Then I stood around awkwardly by myself afterwards at the cocktail reception waiting to talk to the Director of Something Something.  Later, it snowed like crazy and I went on the previously discussed Porsche date, where the week of eating out began.

A fun dinner with Maygan, Kyle, and two new friends at a little restaurant we like that specializes in duck.  Here you can see a wall (made of wine glasses) surrounding Kyle's dessert, which our waiter built in order to prevent Maygan from attempting to take a bite since she said she didn't want dessert.

But eventually he came around, bringing us tiny spoons that were meant to communicate the proportion of dessert we were allowed to partake in.  And he quacked every time he came by our table.

French onion soup with the French!  Nick, one of our guides, has a French girlfriend who organized a surprise dinner to welcome him back after a two month trip home to California.  Nick said one of the first things he wanted was French onion soup, and this restaurant, Pied de Cochon, is famous for theirs. 

The signature melted cheese came in three extremely different levels on the cheese melting scale: A soft melt, a crispy melt, and straight crispy.

Oh deliciousness, I have found you.

Just when I thought I couldn't handle any more deliciousness (not possible, obviously), we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant, Cacio e Pepe, to visit my friend Ludovic, who is one of the most fun and friendly people around.  Here you can find hands down the most delicious Italian antipasti platter on Planet Earth.  Don't look directly at the burrata, lest its creamy perfection overwhelm you.

On Friday, we celebrated one of my favorite French traditions, the Galette de Rois, which is where the Gulf Coast area gets the Mardis Gras tradition of King's Cake.  It always happens in January because this is when the Epiphany is celebrated - When the three kings brought gifts after the birth of Jesus.  You will see these delicious flaky pastries in all the bakeries this time of year.  It always comes with a paper crown, and there's a tiny figurine, "la feve", hidden somewhere within the dense bottom layer.  

The tradition is that everyone gathers around a table, and the youngest person gets under the table.  You cut the Galette de Rois into enough pieces for everyone, and the youngin' under the table says who gets the first piece, second piece, and so on.  When all pieces are distributed, we all eat together, and someone, upon finding the "feve", becomes King for a day.

Congratulations, your majesty!

By the time we left work, a nice layer of snow had already coated the ground, and it was still coming down.  It snowed a little the week before, but this as the first time we'd really seen it stick.  I kept giggling with excitement as we walked home, and for some reason it kept coming out as a high pitched "ho-ho-ho-ho!"  I've never done this before, but it KEPT coming out over and over, so we decided it must be my snow laugh.  I can identify with Santa more than ever.

It kept on snowing all night long in a steady stream, so it was fun to watch out the big window from my bedroom.  I chose to stay in Friday night considering the mass amounts of eating out that had occurred nightly up until this point.


And then...lo and behold...Saturday morning brought scenes meant for postcards.
It was unreal, and I'm kicking myself for only bringing my iPhone instead of my real camera.

These new Hunter Wellies (and their fleece linings) proved their worth as I ran around making marks in untouched sections of snow and sloshing through snow puddles on the street without a second thought.  

We had a lovely Sunday brunch at Chez Casimir, and I kind of pinched myself at the winter wonderland outside of the window while we dined on French cheese and omelettes and a dutch oven of slow cooked beef and vegetables in this cozy bistro atmosphere.  Pinch, pinch.

I started to ask at one point if they thought the icicles hanging from the awning outside were real, and then I realized that most people around the world don't decorate with fake icicles like in Texas, where we have to make our own winter.

I was happy to have a reason to be forced out into another neighborhood to see more snow-covered goodness.  More winter wonderland pictures can be found here.

Sunday night, I bargained with my friend Rick to come over and put together IKEA furniture in exchange for a fajita dinner.  A grill pan is the only way to go in a BBQ-less city.

Grilled peppers, onions, chicken fajitas, Texas salsa, and guac made for a great taste of home.

The results of Rick's IKEA craftsmanship...Ta-da!!  After 2 years living without a couch in either of my apartments, there's finally a place to sit.

AND somewhere to put clothes!  The small closet in our entry way is barely big enough to contain winter coats let alone my summer & winter clothes, many of which are hidden under my bed until we see sun again. These two additions to my room make for much, much happiness.  

"No money is better spent than what is laid out for domestic satisfaction." - Samuel Johnson

"...and baguettes and travel." - Julie Neis