Thursday, March 31, 2011

Souvenirs for His Wardrobe

After writing about some of the clothes I bought in London, a reader asked that I write about Nick's finds as well. Nick got two new shirts from Ted Baker, one of our favorite London-based labels. They are good for guys who need more slim-fitting items.
| left. Ted Baker, Mabley dogtooth print shirt | right. Ted Baker, Upping gingham check shirt |

What I love about Ted Baker are the little details they put into the clothes that you can't even see on the product photos on their website. One of the shirts has this pale purple stitching just on the inner edge of the collar and a tiny strip of lining with a floral pattern. Since it's a casual shirt for which you'd leave the top button undone, you can catch glimpses of the floral pattern when the shirt is worn.

| Photo Credit: top. See links provided; bottom. Me. |

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to Enjoy Macarons in Paris

The first night that Nick and I were in Paris, we stumbled into one of Georges Larnicol's shops, simply because it happened to be open. The shop had shelves and shelves of amazing chocolate sculptures and the walls were lined with bulk bins filled with various confections. They also sold petit macarons, which were exactly what we were looking for. They were being sold by weight at 4.50€ for 100 grams, which roughly translates to 70¢ each here, or a pretty sweet deal. Since there are a couple Maison Larnicol locations near Metro stops in central Paris, they became our go-to for macarons throughout the trip. We tried a handful of different flavors, with our favorites being the chocolate and the natural (plain marzipan) flavors. They were everything I'd hoped a macaron in Paris would be.

For comparison, we also tried a chocolate macaron at the world-famous Ladurée. The setting was much more posh, the macaron was a much higher price point, and we thought the Larnicol chocolate macaron was better. The chocolate is really brought to the forefront in the Larnicol macaron whereas in the Ladurée version, it seemed more like a macaron lightly flavored with chocolate.

In conclusion, my guide for how to go about enjoying macarons in Paris is as follows.
  • You still have to go to Ladurée and try at least one for yourself. The ornate interior at the Champs-Élysées location is already an experience.
  • Try one from the neighborhood bakery near wherever you are staying. Paris is all about appreciating how self-contained the neighborhoods are.
  • Get your fix at Maison Georges Larnicol where for a pocket full of Euro change you can get a handful of mini treats. Swing by on your way to a picnic, stock up on them as snacks for a day of sightseeing, and grab one last bag for the plane ride home.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Versailles

Nick and I were lucky enough to have great weather the day we visited Versailles. I think that if the weather is wet and dreary, there's not really any point in going because being able to enjoy the gardens is really the highlight of the visit. We didn't really have any plans other than getting on the train in Paris and heading over there, but I think by happy coincidence we ended up stumbling into the best itinerary.

Get there at around 10:30 in the morning and get the 18€ "Passport" from one of the ticket machines. At this time, all the tours will be packing into the main palace and the golf cart rental stalls will be open but not busy. Rent a golf cart ("electric car") from the stall in the Water Parterre area and follow the prescribed route to Petit Trianon, admiring the Apollo Fountain and the vast tree groves along the way. Don't worry about the amount of rental time you are incurring because, after all, you are on vacation and the fun you'll have is totally worth it (especially compared to riding the lame tram).

Pull over beside the field of grazing sheep in the hamlet for a photo op. Then make sure you get over to Petit Trianon right before it opens at 12. Hardly any visitors will be there at this point so you can enjoy exploring Marie Antoinette's little retreat in relative peace (and use the loo without waiting in a huge queue).

Get back in the golf cart and follow the route to the Grand Trianon. Since we were there during the off season, there wasn't really much to see botanically so this was just a quick stop for us.

Follow the route back and return the golf cart, then find a place to get some take-away food. There are a few places between the main entrance and the Grand Canal that have sandwiches, pastries, or ice cream for sale. (You can also get some picnic-y foods before you enter; we'd picked up a handful of petit macarons in the morning before the train ride.) Have lunch on the steps overlooking the grounds. (Unfortunately the majority of the statues in the garden were covered in bags when we were there; this was the only downer of the visit.)

After lunch, pack up your dessert and head over to the Grand Canal. By this time, the rowboat rental stall will be open. Rent a rowboat and make your way to the middle of the canal where you can eat your dessert among the swans and watch little doggies playing in the grass alongside. Just remember that the farther you drift out, the farther you have to row to get back.

By the time you've returned your boat, the bulk of the tour groups will have dissipated and the main palace will be much much less crowded. Finish up your visit there and you'll be nice and close to the main gates, where you can exit and be on your way.

Here is a helpful website detailing the rentals available at Versailles.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Restaurant that SF Needs to Import from London

Amongst posh boutiques and little bakeries on Marylebone High Street there is a restaurant where even in the rain, there is a queue outside on Saturday morning waiting for it to open. Getting in line made me feel a little like I was back at home in SF—where all the beloved brunch spots have a wait on weekends—but the food at the Providores and Tapa Room was unlike anything I've ever had before.

Nick and I managed to get a couple of the best seats in the Tapa Room—the ones at the window facing out onto Marylebone High Street. I got the Turkish eggs, which were two poached eggs atop a bowlful of thick, whipped yogurt and melted chili butter. Never in my wildest poached-egg obsession would I have thought to serve them in a bowl of yogurt and butter but ever since I've had them I seriously cannot stop fantasising about this dish, with its buttery yogurt and its spicy and buttery butter. Nick got the Thai basil and lime waffles that were topped with a perfectly complementary jalapeno chutney; savory waffles are another thing I need more of in my life. A menu like this is exactly the sort of thing that SF foodies would queue up in the rain for. Readers: Do you know of anywhere in San Francisco where I can get Turkish eggs or savory waffles?

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Friday, March 25, 2011

Going to the Market in Paris

In Paris, it seemed that little fresh food markets popped up in every neighborhood. I am so jealous of this and desperately wish there could be a little farmers market every week in Potrero for me to get my week's cheese and veggies. This is the market that appeared one morning a block away from the apartment we were renting in the Bastille neighborhood.

Another market we visited in Paris was the one right under La Motte-Picquet/Grenelle Metro station (open Wednesdays and Sundays). Unlike the Portobello Road Market, where there are distinct sections for antique housewares, vintage clothing, or food, at the Marché de Grenelle everything is jumbled together—at one stall could be baskets of bread; at the next, some leather coin purses; and the next, piles of fresh fish. Our pointing and hand gesturing skills were really put to the test here where all the sellers we encountered only spoke French. We shared a good-natured struggle with a nice old lady selling olives and dried herbs as we tried to convey how much tapenade we wanted to purchase. In the end, she kept pointing at the receipt and the tapenade and talking excitedly in French, which we could only take to mean she had given us a break on the price on account of taking pity on us, because the tapenade was ridiculously cheap.

The best part about the Marché de Grenelle is that after you make your lunch purchases, it is only a short walk to the Eiffel Tower, where you can enjoy a lovely picnic on the grass (as seen here). We bought a loaf of bread and a small wheel of soft cheese to go with our tapenade and ate everything with our hands because we forgot to bring a knife from our apartment. Nick and I agreed that the picnic was our favorite part of our visit to Paris.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Souvenirs for My Wardrobe

Several people who have seen my trip photos on Facebook have asked me about the clothes I am wearing in them. It seems that my friends are more interested in looking at my outfits than at the places I visited, which is why I love them. Here are some of the clothes I purchased while in London.

| left. French Connection, Mine and Yours dress | middle. Zara, Pleated Skirt | right. H&M, Striped Dress |

These are all available in the States right now as well. For labels that are based in the UK like French Connection, buying in the UK is a better deal than getting what's imported here. The dress above retails for £135 (currently about $220) in the UK with the tax already added in; yet, in the States, it retails for $258 plus tax, which I think is a little overpriced. For other European-based stores like Zara and H&M, cost is pretty much the same whether you buy in the UK or here.

| Photo Credit: See links provided. |

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Going to the Market in London

One of my favorite things to do when traveling to a foreign city is to go to the local open-air markets. To me, this is a fun way to see a part of what the locals are up to on a regular day. These photos were taken at the Portobello Road Market, which is a huge open market with vintage items, fruits and veggies, prepared foods, and antiques. (Thanks for the recommendation, Gabe!) Since it claims to be the world's largest antiques market, it does get a little touristy, but that doesn't mean that the fruit and flowers for sale do not still look beautiful. Get there at 9:30 on Saturday morning, when all the antique dealers have already set up shop and the food stalls are almost ready. By 11, hordes of people will be gravitating to the area.

After getting a morning snack at the Portobello Road Market, I highly recommend heading over to the Borough Market for lunch. The Borough Market is a vast food market in the most perfect setting for such a thing; the market is under railway viaducts super close to the London Bridge and right behind the Southwark Cathedral. It is so packed by lunchtime that in some areas it is hard to move, but here, you can find everything from freshly-pressed pear-and-mint juice to cheese that's been soaked in red wine to meringues the size of your face. From a stall right next to the gateway between the market and the grassy courtyard of the cathedral, I got this amazing "toasty cheese sandwich" with leeks, scallions, and a huge pile of cheese inside.

After you get your food, eat it in the courtyard while admiring the trees and the architecture of the Southwark Cathedral. Then walk it off along the River Thames. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An American in Paris

There's been a stereotype that French people are snooty and rude, and that they are unfriendly towards Americans; I was a little bit worried about this before I left because I don't speak French. The most useful piece of information I read before visiting Paris was that in reality, French people value politeness so greatly that it is a huge insult to accuse someone of not being well brought-up. French people are absolutely super polite. At every restaurant and shop I entered, each staff member I made eye contact with greeted me with a bonjour ("good morning"/"good afternoon") or bonsoir ("good evening"/"good night") and merci, au revoir ("thank you, goodbye") when I left. People who even just slightly brushed past one another on the Metro would say pardon to each other.

I think that keeping these customs in mind will definitely make your visit to Paris a very pleasant one. Saying bonjour/bonsoir with a big smile whenever you make eye contact with someone is visibly appreciated there. To order something, say je voudrais ("I would like") and follow up the item with s’il vous plaît ("please"). For less basic communications, I asked parlez-vous anglais? ("Do you speak English?") and most people replied that they knew a little, and didn't mind using it since I'd already tried speaking in French. Follow up everything with a smile and merci.

Now that I am back, it's actually kind of weird to have to re-adjust to how people don't smile at one another nearly as much here. That's definitely what I will miss the most about Paris.

| Photo Credit: N. Morello, in collaboration with me. |

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hello! I'm Back.

I'm back from my exhausting but fun vacation in London and Paris. I'm still sorting through all the photos and collecting my thoughts, but I'll be rolling out the details of my trip and travel tips for these cities over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here is a photo of the little picnic we had right in front of the Eiffel Tower. I am so happy that we had nice enough weather to do this.

| Photo Credit: N. Morello, in collaboration with me. |

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dear Kate Spade, Please Give Me a Job

Remember when I did this post on pops of pink and how they are totally the flavor of the day? Well lo and behold, fast forward to a few weeks later and this is the latest email ad from one of my favorite labels, Kate Spade.
See how the headline matches my post practically verbatim? Here at The Yuppie Lifestyle, it is certainly a goal to keep readers prepared for upcoming trends, so it's nice to see proof I am doing my job. Don't forget that you read it here first!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hello! I'm Going on a Vacation.

Here are some photos I took around my neighborhood as practice for becoming a tourist. This will be my last post for a little while, because I have some other things to take care of before I dash off to London later next week. Updated on 03|05|11: Just kidding!

I hope that you'll all stay tuned for when I return and report back on living the yuppie lifestyle in London and Paris. In the meantime, here are some things to entertain you while I am away and help you partake in the spirit of my trip.

  • Listen to (Baby) Hold Me Tight by Kitty, Daisy & Lewis—a London-based sibling trio with old-school charm. I'll be rocking this on my iPod during the plane ride.
  • Pretend you're touring Versailles right alongside me, with help from the very cool Google Art Project.
  • Watch the video for the best Harry Potter fan tribute song I have seen to date: Like it's Quiddich.
  • Check out this cute little interactive map of the Boulevard Raspail market in Paris. I'm so sad I won't be there on a Sunday for the organic market.
  • Watch Jeremy Clarkson attempt to score a goal with a giant football (soccer ball) and a Mini Cooper at the beginning of this clip from BBC's Top Gear.
  • Learn about as much French as I know by watching Flight of the Conchords's Foux Du Fafa video.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Recipe: Apple Pie Granola

The other day I made my own granola. (I know, there is nothing more granola than making homemade granola.) Most recipes for homemade granola throw in a bunch of chunky dried fruits and seeds. Personally, I prefer my granola to have a more consistent texture all throughout rather than a potpourri of chewy, crunchy, hard, and things that make me need to floss immediately after. So, this recipe will give you chunky granola that smells like apple pie and is on the chewier side throughout—the kind you don't need to dissolve in milk first in order to bite into it. I adapted some proportions from here, and used this technique to make the granola chunk together. This photo is from when I turned out all the ingredients onto the baking sheet before smoothing out and baking, when the dried apples still had beautiful red tones that turned golden brown in the baking process.

Important but not pictured!: Tray should have been lined with parchment paper.

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups walnuts or walnut pieces
1 cup dried apples
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/6 cup vegetable oil
1 egg white

Preheat your oven to 300° Fahrenheit. Line your large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, which I clearly neglected to do above. This will salvage a handful of your precious granola from being lost to severe pan-sticking.

Chop your walnuts and apples to the desired consistency. (Do not use super crunchy apple chips for this recipe since you are baking the fruit into the granola. I got my dried apple pieces from Rainbow Grocery, where they are a soft, moist consistency like other dried fruits.)

Toss together the walnuts, apples, oats, both sugars, salt, and both spices in a large bowl. Add the oils and the maple syrup and stir thoroughly to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until it is frothy throughout. Add this to the mixture and fold carefully to combine.

Pour the mixture onto your lined baking sheet and flatten it out, making sure everything is firmly packed together but evenly spread. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Then break it into the desired chunks.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Scrabble Designer Edition for Designers

I cannot help but share when I find something on the internet that appeals to not just one, but multiple loves of mine. This proof-of-concept by Andrew Clifford Capener for a designer edition of Scrabble combines my love of wood grain, typography as art, and—of course—Scrabble.

I spent a lot of my spare time playing Scrabble when I was younger because I was a big nerd but this set makes Scrabble look way cool. You can see and read more on Andrew Clifford Capener's site.

| Photo Credit: Andrew Clifford Capener. |

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Yuppie Ice Cream Sundae

Nick and I often quiz each other on random factoids about ourselves, so that if in the event we spontaneously find ourselves on The Newlywed Game, we'll be totally prepared. The other day we made sure we could describe each other's overall favorite desserts. This was mine.

I only began experiencing this amazing combo very recently, in trendy Italian restaurants, but I don't think I'll encounter a better ice cream sundae combination than this. I know it sounds unconventional and potentially questionable to add oil on top of ice cream, but if you are like me and 1) like simple and good ice cream flavors and 2) prefer savory treats over sweets, then you must try it. The fruitiness of a good thick olive oil will coat your tongue while the ice cream melts in your mouth and the big flakes of sea salt will add a surprising flavor contrast whenever you scoop one up. You can get this with panna gelato in a big puddle of olive oil at Beretta or get the soft-serve version on Zero Zero's build-your-own-dessert menu (with a very generous serving of bacon brittle for an extra 50¢). I haven't tried this at home yet, but I plan to this summer when it's time to bust out our ice cream maker.

| Art Credit: Me. |