Saturday, February 25, 2006

"Save a horse, ride a cowboy"

Gee, is it just me or was Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke's freestyle on Thursday night's Dancing with the Stars absolutely the hottest dance of the whole season? Cheryl, hands down, has got to be the strongest, most imaginative choreographer on the show and the rapport that she and Drew share as dance partners is undeniably palpable.

If they don't win that hideous disco mirror-ball trophy Sunday night, there is something rotten in Denmark!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How to Drink to the Wolf

From How to Cook a Wolf (1942) by M.F.K. Fisher:
A Mr. Furnas, who writes more wisely and less pompously than most other men about other men, bread and destiny in a book called Man, Bread and Destiny, discusses at some length the various prescriptons throughout the ages for love potions. He mentions all the known ones, like Spanish fly and pork-chops-with-pepper, and a great many less prevalent charms. Finally he decides, and almost with a sigh of relief, that probably the best excitant in the world is sweet music and a moderate amount of alcohol! [Just lately I heard a modern lover state his vision of pure bliss, unconscious of his parody of Omar Khayyam: "A horn of gin, a good cigar, and you, Babe!"]

When he writes so sensibly, it is hard not to say, along with the Governor of South Carolina who was talking to the Governor of North Carolina, that it's a long time between drinks, especially when there is sweet music and your love and good liquor. Then you can raise a glass to the wolf with impunity and a courage that is real, no matter how alcoholic, and know that even if you regret it tomorrow, you have been a man without qualms either amorous or budgetary tonight.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I love Dick!

American figure skating legend Dick Button has returned to the air on NBC for a final time as a commentator on the Olympics. On ice himself, since the last time ABC aired the Winter Olympics way back in 1988, it is refreshing to hear him analyze the current crop of skaters and the mystical new scoring system decreed by the IOC after the Salt Lake City pairs debacle of 2002.

The Washington Post ran an interview with Dick in the February 12 Style section (Ranking the Rink And Vice Versa, With Dick Button by Libby Copeland) that, I must admit, took me aback as much as making me laugh. Somehow my image of Mr. Button as the sophisticated man in the tuxedo offering up his skating expertise to the rest of us is quite at odds with some of his comments recounted here. On the other hand, these are somewhat more expected:
In addition to being the patriarch of figure skating analysts and a two-time gold medalist from more than half a century ago, Button, 76, may be the coolest guy here at the Winter Olympics. He is at once crass and brilliant, invoking composers Verdi and Ravel, leaping from a discussion of the golden mean to the way U.S. competitor Sasha Cohen executes her spiral -- the perfect proportion between leg and back.

...He adores painting and theater. He speaks crudely. (It's important to relax just prior to a competition, he says, and "if that takes getting laid, it takes getting laid.") He orders a sandwich without the bread and then veers toward the dessert counter, grabbing something that looks like a lemon bar and asking, "Do you want one of these disastrous things?"

...When Button is pleased, he is as generous as he can be tough. One skater is "balletic," another is "marvelous." He praises skaters who have "ice sense," who know where in the rink to place their tricks. He dismisses those who "do a long edge into the lutz and jam it into the corner." When we leave the rink, he has us stand on one leg on the sidewalk and we attempt to achieve Cohen's perfect proportion and posture. We do not.

Button is disheartened by young skaters who seem to have time only for competing, who neglect their studies, who don't understand the importance of being well-rounded. And he is saddened by what he sees as an emphasis on tricks over graceful skating. The gym where Button works out has a rink and sometimes he watches young people on the ice trying to do fancy moves.

"They don't basically know how to skate," he says. "You know, nobody's teaching them stroking. And speed. And -- see the way these people are? Now just watch a minute and I'll show you."

A couple has hit the ice to practice for the pairs competition. We watch for mistakes, but all we can see is impressive speed and elegance. Button sees something else.

"See? That's not beautiful. That's just cut-cut-back. You have to be kind to the ice. You have to caress the ice . . . Skating is all about flow, edging, the beauty of the motion."

He pans their "dinky steps," their "forced" bows. He sees the performance the way a hunter catches sight of animal tracks in the forest. The rest of us see only the trees.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Mary Goes to Paris, Day 9 - Gimme Shelter!

Hôtel Chopin, 10, blvd Montmartre (46 passage Jouffroy), 9me arr.; Métro: Grands Boulevards

"Well, I'm leaving from here in a few minutes to stay at a new hotel, the Hôtel Chopin, located in the Passage Jouffroy. I've always wanted to stay here & I'm very gratified that I got 4 nights! They've given me a double for the price of a single - it's a blue room and anyone who knows me knows blue is my absolute favorite color, so I'm immensely charmed. :) The room looks over the center of the building, not at a courtyard but not exactly an airshaft; I'm sure this is why I procured a double at a price of a single but I'm glad to have the space nonetheless and a BLUE ROOM! :D

Le village, 20, rue d'Orsel, 18me arr.; Métro: Anvers or Abbesses

"I've been staying at a youth hostel, Le Village, in Montmartre. Great location, friendly staff, clean place. I've always wanted to stay in a youth hostel as I like to try new things but after 8 days of staying here I feel I need some space & peace & quiet. It would be nice to get ready in my room without the fear of disturbing everyone else. :)

Hôtel Henri IV, 25, place Dauphine, 1er arr.; Métro: Cité, St-Michel, Pont Neuf

"Also, I was able to get 1 night at the Hôtel Henri IV located on the Place Dauphine on the Île de la Cité! I've always wanted to stay here, too, just for the location. I don't know how I got so lucky but they gave me the top room with views of Notre Dame; the gentleman told me it was the best room in the house. I can't wait! I love views of Notre Dame. Which brings me to my next hotel...

Hôtel les Degrés de Notre Dame, 10, r. Grands Degrés, 5me arr.; Métro: Saint Michel or Maubert Mutualité, RER : B or C stop Saint Michel

"My last 2 nights I'll be staying at my favorite hotel in Paris, the Hôtel les Degrés de Notre Dame. This trip I finally get to stay in room 501 with its views of Notre Dame. My 1st trip I stayed here 2 nights & had room 47 with its lovely partial view of the towers so staying is 501 is thrilling to me. Some people want a hotel with views of the Eiffel Tower, I prefer Notre Dame. Don't know why. :D"

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Mary Goes to Paris, Day 7

"I [took] David Sedaris' advice & went to a place where they show old films on the rue des Ecoles in the Latin Quarter Friday night. Saw Niagara starring Marilyn Monroe. Seeing her genuflect on the big screen you immediately realize why she was a huge star. And David was right - everyone was completely quiet during the film. It was very loud beforehand, but JUST before it started, you could hear several people blowing their noses, then the movie started, the utter silent bliss!! WOW! I have to live in Paris just for that experience. :D I don't know about you but I have this remarkable ability to attract the loudest, rudest people in the movie people RIGHT BEHIND ME. No gentle reminders of shhhh ever generally works, so this quiet cinema thing reminds me that Paris really is the place pour moi. :) Totally cool."

Cinemas Action Ecoles
23, R. des écoles, 5me arr.
M° Maubert-Mutualité or Cardinal Lemoine; Place: 6,50€ TR: 5€

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mary Goes to Paris, Days 5 & 6

"After a day of walking around the 6th arrondissement looking up literary haunts (Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Richard Wright, etc.) I went to The Village Voice."

The Village Voice, 6, rue Princesse, 6me arr.; Metro: St. Germain des Près or Mabillon

"I wanted to check out if this was indeed the bookstore that was the basis for the poetry reading scene in Le Divorce. Indeed it is, per Odile, the owner. She explained that although the movie was not shot in her her book shop, the set was created to look just like her shop, which DOES because I recognized it the moment I walked in the door.

David Sedaris in his favorite Paris store.

"Anyway, it JUST SO HAPPENS that David Sedaris (who wrote Me Talk Pretty One Day) was giving a reading from his newest book! So cool. I was just telling Terry last week before I left for Paris about a David Sedaris story I read in a compilation book about Paris. It concerns David living in Paris, not caring about the sites but loving Paris cinema. Actually, he loves old American movies shown in Paris movie theatres. In the story, he creates his day based upon different movies that are shown in the city. Where someone else might create an itinerary going from site to site, he cuts his time close by going from one movie in one section of the city & then rushing to another section to catch another film! He says when people visit him that he doesn't show them the sites, he takes them to a movie.

"I met him tonight. Bought his book, he signed it. And then he asked me if I've seen any films. Not yet, I replied. He told me I need to run, RUN to the nearest cinema! Anywho, his readings are every bit as hilarious as his writings."

"This is my 4th trip here & I'm just now getting to the famous cafés. Today I had soupe a l'oignon gratinée & chocolat chaud from Café de Flore. Superb onion soup and great hot chocolate (although not as great as Angélina)."

Café de Flore, 172, Blvd St Germain, 6me arr.; Métro : St-Germain-des-Prés

Buy Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris from

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Vive les Violettes!

I have always had a special place in my heart for that lowly little flower, the violet. Perhaps I trace it back to the unexpected gift from my college beau, Ritchie Alexander — a miniature bandbox full of candied violets from France.

Or maybe to that tiny tin of violet flavored pastilles — Flavignys de la Violette.

So I was pleased as punch the other day to come across an article about a town in France which is set on reviving the use of violets in the fragrance industry.

I remember a violet essential oil from my hippie period, so sweet and delicate, and several years ago, on a visit to New York, I made a special pilgrimage to Barney's just to purchase a bottle of Creed's hard-to-find Fleurissimo, a potion fit for a princess: in fact, it had been created for Grace Kelly's wedding to Prince Rainier in the 1950s. It has a certain ladylike elegance and I live for that first whiff of violets when I wear it.

This was the same trip that I discovered violet flavored gum at a newstand in Grand Central!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mary Goes to Paris, Day 4

"Had breakfast at Le Sarrasine (egg, cheese & ham crepe)"
Le Sarrasine et Fromentine, 6, r. Grégoire de Tours, 6me arr.

"Walked around Île St Louis, the quais, then up on the streets"

"bought soap (Violette & Jasmine, I think) at a pharmacy"

"then long lunch at Le Flore en l'Île (chicken livers salad with walnuts), roast chicken & frites, chocolat gateau, vin chaud (wow). It was nice!"

La Flore en l'Île, 4, r. du Bellay, 4me arr.; Metro: Pont Marie

"Then I walked around the Latin Quarter."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mary Goes to Paris, Day 3

"I had lunch [in the Restaurant de l'Epicerie at Hédiard] - cheese tarte & green salad, Evian,

then Thé Jasmin - the best jasmine tea I've ever had!"

"Today I picked up your Confiture Peche et Fruit de la Passion--they were actually a smidgen cheaper than you quoted - about 6.20€! Oh, and I bought you some baby miels. Only .50€ apiece from Hédiard."
Hédiard, 21, place de la Madeleine, 8me arr.; Métro: Madeleine

"Then I picked up your Cassis de la Dijon moutarde at Maille where I took some photos. A 4€ size is a nice little size!"
Maille Boutique, 6, place de la Madeleine, 8me arr.; Métro: Madeleine

"Later today I'll get your frites sauce."
McDo, multiple locations

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mary Goes to Paris, Days 1 & 2

My friend Mary left Friday evening on her fourth visit to Paris. I will be blogging about the sites she is seeing periodically, based upon the e-mail I receive from her. So far, it goes like this:

A visit to Le Grand Epicerie at Le Bon Marché looking for Christine Ferber confitures 38, Rue de Sèvres at Blvd. Raspail, 7me arr.; Métro: Sèvres-Babylone

A stop at the patisserie, Miss Manon, in the Marais for a heavenly pistache-framboise macaron! Corner of Rue Saint-Antoine & Rue St. Paul, 4me arr.; Métro: St. Paul or Bastille


People watching at Le Café des Phares and taking photos of feet!7, place de la Bastille, 4me arr.; Métro: Bastille

A leisurely croque-monsieur at La Tartine, after viewing the Tinguely and Nikke de St-Phalle sculptures outside the Pompidou 2, rue Brisemiche, 4me arr., Métro: Hôtel-de-Ville

Lillian Hellman's Pot Roast

Yes, she was a great writer. Yes, she and Dash seem an odd couple to me. But, yes, and most important today, she is also the acknowledged originator of "Lillian Hellman's Pot Roast"--at least as found in Nora Ephron's thinly disguised roman a clef, Heartburn. Its aromatic fragrance is wafting toward me from the oven as I write this, seeping through the lid of its heavy, enamel-clad iron Dansk casserole. I alter this recipe slightly when I make it, adding a bed of chunks of carrots and potatoes before adding the beef, as well as halving the quantity of meat. As the cliche goes, this is even better upon re-heating. And that's a good thing for me, since it will be my dinner for several days!
Lillian Hellman's Pot Roast

4 - 5 pound pot roast
1 10 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 empty can of red wine
1 empty can of water
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil

Put pot roast in an ovenproof casserole. Combine all other ingredients. Pour over meat. Cover with lid and bake at 350 degrees F for 3 1/2 hours.

Purchase "Heartburn" by Nora Ephron at