What does an award-winning Italian chef make for his Christmas dinner at home? Why French consomme, of course! When I left for cooking school almost 3 years ago, I sold most everything - car, furniture, etc. - and gave up/away what was left including my apartment so whenever I come back to visit, I stay with my good friends M & B. I used to work with M at a Huge Software Company down on the Peninsula and B is the award-winning chef/owner Bruno Quercini of Pane e Vino Trattoria on Union & Gough. Needless to say I eat very well when I come home. Click here to read more about the extraordinary cuisine of one of San Francisco's finest...
self portrait, december 12th, 2005 2:15am, procrastinating packing....
Thank you all so much for your many kind emails of empathy, sympathy, and offers to try to fix my laptop. From what I can tell I lost most everything for the past 8 months, May 30, 2005 to be exact and that is the same day I installed AOL on my computer. I hope it is merely a coincidence as I don’t need another reason to add to my intense dislike of AOL.
It is also day I moved into Chateau d’Enfer (Chateau from Hell), that uber-swanky chateau I cooked at last summer that surreally (is that a word?) morphed into Amityville Horror only the evil ghosts were the proprietress and her sleazy sidekick. I mentioned it a bit last summer but the experience was just too dreadful to write about but hopefully now I can begin to tell the story, unravel the threads of this enigma without sending my blood pressure skyrocketing and me screaming to the therapist’s couch. But I digress...
Back to my Laptop d’Enfer. If you sent me an email in the past year, it’s gone, adios, sayonora, along with all my contacts and my calendar which that alone has sent me into a tailspin missing appointments, deadlines, etc a la gauche et droite (left and right). So if you have sent me an email or we have a lunch date, would you pleeeeeze resend me your email or remind me of an upcoming evenement (date) because if you don’t, guaranteed I won’t be there. Once I leaped into my 5th decade, the ol’ grey matter turned to a sieve and is cyphoning memory cells by the billions.
So my Laptop d’Enfer is in the (hopefully) capable hands of the Gateway elves who are (hopefully) rescuing my bits and bytes as I type. We shall see…… Until then, bare with me here on the other side of the world. Losing my laptop is like losing an appendage as I was glued to it. An acquaintance of mine took a picture of her husband’s laptop, wrote “The Other Woman” across the top of the picture, and stuck it on the fridge. Kind of like that....
I am typing this on the Eurostar (aka the Chunnel), slicing my way through the Normandy countryside after a day in London. Since moving here, I quickly grew to love the train system and would hop on a train over a plane any day. Heck, I would take a bike if I could avoid Charles de Gaulle airport, the most dreadful airport in a first-world country. Sorry, but I really despise that airport. It reminds me of the Habitrail I had for my hamster in 6th grade with all the tubes and ramps and wheels. Sorry, back to London.
I stayed at the Cumberland Hotel across from Marble Arch. I found it at the last minute on the Eurostar web site for £99 which has to be the best deal in uber-cher (expensive) London. The Cumberland was recently renovated and the lobby is more Museum of Modern Art than Hotel Lobby and the rooms were surprisingly comfortable, practical, roomy and chic. I straggled in late and exhausted so a quick call to room service for an also surprisingly good Caeser’s Salad and I called it a day.
You’re probably thinking “what does this have to do with the title?” Absolutely nothing. Laser focus is not my strong suit and am distracted by most anything. Undiagnosed A.D.D. no doubt. The title refers to my experience at Heathrow airport last week. I flew from San Francisco to London Heathrow and then was to connect to Paris. Our plane from SF parked at Heathrow's Terminal 3 and I had to transfer to Terminal 1 which required a near-2 mile hike then a bus ride across the airport dodging 767s, gas trucks, luggage trains, etc. I arrived at Terminal 1 after throwing out my back trying to yank my overstuffed carry-on onto the transfer bus. After clearing passport control and another ½ mile hike I filed in to the snaking security line.
I had a 3-1/2 hour layover and wanted nothing more than to collapse into a big overstuffed armchair in the red carpet lounge and have someone ask me if I’d like something to drink. It was not to be. When I reached the conveyor belt, I reached for my laptop.............and nothing. Check purse. Nothing. Check carry-on again. Nothing. OH. MY. GOD. WHERE WAS MY LAPTOP?!?!? OH MY GOD I LEFT IT ON THE PLANE!!! I FREAKED OUT! In a panic, I knocked over my carry-on that had a 6-inch file stuffed with scraps of recipes and food articles from the past 4 years. Papers scattered everywhere, followed by my leopard print bra, and bottles of wine and olive oil went rolling off through the metal detector. I burst into tears, mortified, and a barrage of profanity ensued that made even the cranky security guard's eyes big as saucers.
They practically carried me through security and I threw myself on the mercy of the United customer service agent, tears streaming down my face. She called the gate that I arrived in, gave them my seat number, and asked them to check my seat for the laptop. She then told me I had to wait a half hour. A HALF HOUR?! I’ll have committed hari-kari by then. She tried to reassure me but there was no comforting to be had. I asked her to call the United business lounge in San Francisco airport. I knew I didn’t leave it there but I had to do *something*. I just couldn’t sit around and WAIT. The amount of patience I have on a good day would fit in a thimble and today, well fugetaboutit. But wait I did as there was nothing left I could do other than get arrested or committed which wasn’t far off.
About 20 minutes later the customer service rep motioned me over to the desk. I bolted over. She told me they found the laptop and that I had to go back to Terminal 3 to get it. Heck, I would have gone back to San Francisco’s Terminal 3 to get it, I was so elated. At the United Customer Service desk in Terminal 3, the agent kept telling me over and over how lucky I was, how most people never get their laptops back, blah blah blah. Did I need to hear this? NO! Just give me my damn laptop and let me get a cocktail!
So why all this drama over a laptop that crashed, you ask? Well, this isn’t my laptop that crashed. It isn’t my laptop at all. It is a loaner laptop that a software company I am consulting to loaned me until I could get mine fixed and it took no less than 4 days and 38 emails back and forth between the SVP Marketing and the CFO. I was finally granted permission to leave the premises with a laptop after the SVP Marketing personally vouched for me as well as the VC partner that funded them! So can you IMAGINE if I had to go back and tell them that I LOST their new laptop?! I would have rather died....hence the melt down in the security line. That and the fact that I slept a total of about 8 minutes on the 11-hour flight and in the previous 24 hours. I tried to take a sleeping pill but it fell on the floor and I couldn't find it so I knew right then it was going to be a l-o-n-g flight.
In case you picked up on the word 'consulting' as opposed to 'cooking', I am sacrificing myself to the hi-tech gods to finance my culinary career that has cooled quicker than crème fraîche. I naively thought I could live on minimum wage and while my life is far from extravagant (other than the city I happen to live in) and I sure as the devil don’t shop like I used to, actually I really don’t shop at all other than for new silicon molds, cookbooks, cooking magazines or various and sundry other kitchen gadgets, but there is no way I can live on minimum wage again.
Actually that’s not true. If I had to, I could do it and I did do it. On less actually. I lived on 8 euros a day including phone and subway my first few months in France but to have and to want are two diametrically opposed forces and, had I moved to New York as planned, would have had to share an apartment in the Bronx with 8 people. Fine at 20. Unacceptable at 40. I’m just too old to live like I’m back in college nor do I want to. By the grace of God I didn’t have to as The Man called me over the holidays and offered me a consulting project that I couldn’t refuse.
So every morning I thank the Good Lord for providing me with such abundance, put a smile on my face, and remind myself that this is, as my friend Christine says, just a seat in a game of musical chairs and once in a while we just have to sit down. So cooking is relegated to evenings and weekends for now until my pocketbook can once again bare the burden of a culinary salary or no salary at all as is most often the case in this métier (profession).
The moral of this story? Aesop would have a field day with me here..... Well there are a few. 1. Don’t leave your laptop on a plane. duh. 2. Back up your computer at least once a month. duh. And 3. if you plan on doing the quixotic and leave your steady, well-paying job for a life of culinary adventure, have at least 3 years of saving stashed away unless of your course you can move back into your old room at the folks, or have a friend with a 6,000 square foot house with a wing of guest rooms or are 20 years old and can live with 8 people in the Bronx.
After I retrieved the loaner laptop, I trekked back to Terminal 1, went through security again (they saw me coming and cleared a path to my friends at the conveyor belt scanner who I could tell were ready to alert security should I have another melt down) and high-tailed it to the BMI business lounge where I poured myself a big fat martini straight up extra dry and chased it with 2 beers. Cheers!
The Blue Screen of Death greeted me Sunday afternoon when I turned on my computer. It then followed up with the following message:
"All files being systematically deleted"
I immediately shut it off and took it into the IT group who after a day and a half of trying to fix it, actually they weren't even able to get it to turn on!, resigned with the explaination that they'd never seen this problem before. Fabulous. So if an entire hi-tech company's IT team can't fix it, how does Microsoft and Gateway expect a mere mortal to do it?! Net net of this little "set back"? Lost everything. Moral of this story: Back up your computer! and get a Mac!
Known as the inside-out building, the Centre Pompidou at the time it was built was hailed as both a marvel and a catastrophe (pronounced cat-a-STROF) when it first opened its doors in 1977. The dream of then President Georges Pompidou, he commissioned an “original cultural institution in the heart of Paris completely focused on modern and contemporary creation, where the visual arts would rub shoulders with theatre, music, cinema, literature and the spoken word”. This marvel also has a restaurant, Restaurant Georges, on the top floor serving some of the most spectacular views in Paris. Click here to see what else they dished up....
Bonjour mes amis. It's that time of year again when all the patisseries are chock full of the sweet flaky Galette des Rois, puff pastry "pie" filled with frangipane or almond paste. Epiphany celebrates the 3 Wise Men arriving in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus though I don't know how wise they were if they arrived 10 days late... they no doubt got lost and didn't want to ask for directions, but I digress. Back to Epiphany. It is quite a celebration here in France, so much so that at work today we all stopped for and hour to share a few Galettes des Rois and sparkling cider. A little trinket or feve (bean) is in each one and the person that gets the trinket in their slice of Galette is crowned King or Queen for the day. Click here for the Galettes des Rois recipe...and to explain the title of this post. Bon Appetit and Happy Epiphany :-)
I arrived in Paris just in time for New Year’s Eve and a blizzard of huge floppy snow flakes that cloaked the city in a dazzling white. My luggage however did not arrive but I had eleven people showing up for dinner so luggage be damned, I had to get cooking, regardless of the fact that the bag with *everything* important in it was the one that took a detour in Chicago. For days I tossed and turned and fussed and fretted about what I was going to cook. At 6:30am on Saturday morning the 31st after not sleeping a wink all night, I placed a desperate S.O.S. call to the states and one Italian chef in particular, actually the best Italian chef in town..... Click here to read the rest of this fiery adventure....