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Bonjour! I’m Erin.
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Every morning, without fail, I drink tea. On days I don’t have work, I make a full pot; Jamal bought me a Forlife glass teapot a few years ago, and it’s my most used kitchen appliance, right after our tea kettle. On the days when I don’t have time to steep loose leaf tea and enjoy several cups lazily on the sofa, I’ll drink a single mug with a teabag. Drinking tea is as much a part of my daily routine as, I don’t know, brushing my teeth. I’d never leave the house without doing either.
So when Andy Hayes, fellow tea aficionado, Paris enthusiast, and founder of the Portland, Oregon based tea company Plum Deluxe reached out and offered a few samples of his artisanal loose lead tea, I knew I was in for a treat. I welcomed Andy’s offer with open arms (and an empty teapot).
After living in Europe for several years, Andy started Plum Deluxe in honor of his mother, “who lost a brave 6-year battle with breast cancer but never forgot to enjoy “the little things” in life. Paris was her favorite city too, and she spent her final days there.” That I, too, lost a parent —one who also adored Paris— to cancer, only made the tea Andy subsequently sent me that much more special.
My mom taught me that no matter your circumstances, you can choose to create moments that matter, every day. And some of the most enjoyable moments are the small things – time to sleep in, relaxing in a reading nook, going on a neighborhood walk, or catching up with an old friend over a cup of tea.
That’s a lovely sentiment with which to start a company, isn’t it? Hand-blended in small batches, with ingredients sourced from the PNW where possible, all of Plum Deluxe’s unique tea blends are organic, non-GMO, and free of chemicals and sulfites. Andy’s care package arrived in the most delightful plum packaging (I’m a sucker for good packaging), with the teas cinched in a linen drawstring bag. Each individual tea bag comes printed with the full list of ingredients –including ingredients like, “Marigold. Apricot Essence. Love. Gratitude.“– and directions for steeping.
Spoiler alert: they’re delicious. Andy sent me the Self Care Blend, an herbal blend of elderberry and apricot; Coconut Macaron Dessert Tea, a mix of black tea and honeybush, with real coconut bits; and Mindful Morning, Plum Deluxe’s take on Earl Gray. Rationing my stash so I had enough to photograph was torture.
Plum Deluxe offers individual tea orders, weekly newsletters “filled with positive messages and creative ways for living a good life,” a supportive, online tea community, tea accessories (including honey straws and vintage teacups!), and mindful meditations. But what most grabbed my attention was their monthly tea subscription service. For $10 a month, you get 1-2oz. of a limited-edition tea, as well as free samples, access to a private Facebook group, and other surprises. Hint hint: this makes a thoughtful (and easy!) Valentine’s Day present, for those of you who need last-minute gift ideas!
Merci beaucoup, Andy & Plum Deluxe!
This post was not sponsored. I was sent samples without any contingencies, and all opinions expressed are my own.
February 12, 2016 / eat / drink /
If Wednesday’s post was filed under “The Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Read in a While,” then today’s should be filed under, “The Sexiest Thing I’ve Ever Seen,” cross-filed under “I Totally CAN,” subcategory, “Gimme Gimme Gimme.”
Friends, fellow carb-lovers, insatiable inner-fat-kids, lend me your ears. I present to you: the world’s longest baguette, measuring in at a delicious, drool-inspiring 400ft (!!!):
LOOK AT IT. FEAST YOUR EYES UPON THIS MAGNIFICENCE. (But only your eyes, because if you try and touch what is rightfully mine, I’ll bite you.)
So here’s the backstory, if you can wipe the drool from your chin long enough to focus: Earlier this month, at the Milan Expo 2015, French and Italian bakers set out to beat the previously held record of world’s longest baguette (364ft. I call that a ‘mid-morning snack’ around here). They worked at a rate of 20 meters (66ft) per hour, sliding the dough through a portable oven that cooked it in sections, and fighting against the elements (cold weather! breakage!) like the brave, heroic souls that they are. The whole enterprise was monitored by the Guinness World Record Committee, and sponsored by Nutella. Repeat: SPONSORED BY NUTELLA. So you know what happened after they set the 400ft record, don’t you? DON’T YOU??
Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” started playing in my head immediately upon seeing this photo. Oh, how I wish I’d been in Milan for this! Because expo-goers got to eat pieces of it after they had finished. We’ll ignore the fact that it looks less like a crispy, crunchy, traditional French baguette, and more like a slightly burned Italian roll, because honestly, it’s bread of an endless quantity, covered in Nutella. If there is anything sexier than that, I have yet to find it.
Happy weekend, kiddos! And I would wish you all a Happy Halloween, except I am not-so-secretly terrified of/hate Halloween. You can read all about that here, and see some awesome costumes I wore in my childhood right here.
Hat tip to my friend Herbie for sending me this story!
October 30, 2015 / eat / drink /
Just a few darling (mouthwatering, if you’re anything like me) photos of Ladurée from our trip to Italy this spring to start your weekend on a sweet note. I stopped at the Ladurée cart in the Charles de Gaulle airport on our way to Rome, and then also popped into the boutiques in both Rome and Florence, because when macarons are your favorite food group, you indulge in them whenever the opportunity presents itself. This store is such a jewel box of delicate delights, and if they allowed franchising, you can guarantee I would’ve opened a store in Philadelphia by now.
Artist Hayoon Kim has a doctorate in Ceramic Design (did you even know there was such a thing?) and since 2006 has been creating gorgeous, delicate bone china for art galleries, brands, and designer collaborations, through her company Twig New York, as well as teaching pottery to students in Seoul. I came across her work at a tea shop here in Philly and fell in love. Specifically, her ‘Petals’ collaboration with artist Brittany Jepsen, and my jaw hit the floor.
Kim has about 10 other collaborations with other, equally talented designers, but Petals spoke to me the most. They look three-dimensional on the plate, don’t they? I’m lucky I’m not the only one who finds these pieces so gorgeous, because most of the collection was sold out. Otherwise I would’ve had to buy everything, but especially those mugs. Mon dieu.
Last Wednesday morning I walked up Madison Avenue from our hotel at 57th and 6th on my way to breakfast and the Met. I knew this route would take me, teasingly, past Ladurée; I wouldn’t be able to stop in until later in the day, as you can’t bring food into the museum. And so I summoned all of my willpower as I approached 70th street to not stop or drool or faire du lèche-vitrines, a French term that translates to “window shopping” but that means, quite literally lick the windows. Being so close to macarons again after so long without being able to rush in immediately and buy any was a fascinating study in self-discipline. Sure, Jamal had brought me a large box back in November or December after a day-trip to New York for a meeting, but I personally haven’t been since Paris, and for all my suffering I deserve some sort of consolation prize. Ergo: macarons aplenty!
I came back after lunch with Lyndsey and, like the nerd that I am, whipped out a list I’d made days before, itemizing the flavors and quantities of macarons I needed (we’re well past the ‘like’ and ‘want’ stage of this game). I went with a box of 15 –including Vanille, Pistache, Rose, Citron (which the lovely girl behind the counter inadvertently confused with Yuzu Ginger, a limited edition flavor in the same bright yellow shade), and Framboise– and a fancier box of six, three each of Caramel au Beurre Salé and the seasonal, delicious Cassis-Violette because (and this would be embarrassing to admit were I not still so punch-drunk from eating 21 macarons in four days that I feel no shame) it would be prettier to photograph. Oy. It really was, though!
Until next time, Ladurée mon amour. I’ll see you in Paris in just a few short weeks.
You’ve heard me sing this tune before, but: Jamal travels a lot for work. A lot. Starting in the middle of February through the middle of April, for example, he will be gone an average of three days per week. For a host of reasons (my job, the dog, money) I never travel with him. The locales he visits aren’t always appealing options to spend my accrued vacation leave, either, even if I could plunk down money on a flight to loaf around his hotel room while he works; Cedar Rapids, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Mexico City, Minneapolis, and of course his quarterly trips to India. I’ve said that one of these days I’ll join him in Bangalore, and by “join him” I mean fly halfway with him and get off the plane on his layover somewhere in Europe, and by “somewhere in Europe” I mean Paris, obviously.
But this week he has a trip to New York City, for a lease accounting committee meeting or something (he’s told me a thousand times what it is precisely, but I’ve been so distracted by the proximity to Ladurée that I haven’t actually heard him). For a $7, 2-hour bus ride, I decided it was finally the perfect opportunity to freeload along. “You’re always welcome, you know that, but I don’t want you to be bored while I’m working,” he said. Uh, dude? Drop me anywhere within a reasonably navigable distance to macarons and a museum and we’re all good. My rough itinerary for the next few days looks something like this: macarons for breakfast, wandering the Met for hours, macarons for lunch, power nap, macarons for dinner.
This will also be the first break I’ve had since our honeymoon in early October. I’m beyond excited at the prospect of sleeping past 6:30 on a weekday, and maybe (maybe!) getting a bit of writing done. I’ll be back on Friday with some photos to share with you!
It would be an understatement to say I look forward to Cookie Day every year the way some people do the Super Bowl. My Mommom, my aunt, and I spend a day together, baking hundreds of cookies in various Christmas-y shapes. From my post two years ago: “This is my favorite family tradition, and I look forward to her green cookies every year. My mom-mom is probably my favorite person on earth. She’s so sassy.” Nothing about that statement has changed!
Growing up, these cookies appeared at Christmas for me to devour, without an understanding of how much work goes into making them. And then a few years ago, I started helping. My Mommom makes the dough a day or two in advance of Cookie Day, and then the three of us spend a day baking them. Tradition dictates that we first have a big diner breakfast, to fortify ourselves for the long day of standing at an assembly line like little elves: someone stamps the cookies onto the baking sheets (using a cookie press), someone decorates, and someone monitors the oven, rotating sheets and putting the cookies on a cooling rack. We listen to Christmas music while we stamp out little green Christmas trees and little red wreaths.
Oh, did I mention we’re Jewish?
We love Christmas, but more specifically, we love cookies. Even more specifically, I love these green cookies. Sure, nothing about them is remotely healthy (I like to picture my insides turning green when I eat them, which is a likely consequence considering your tongue actually does if you eat enough in one sitting) but since when are the holidays about moderation?
Christmas Butter Cookies (or Mommom’s Green Trees)
1/2 lb. softened butter
3oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. sifted flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat butter until whipped. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Mix while adding sugar. Blend egg and vanilla.
3. Add food coloring if desired (pretty much mandatory).
4. Slowly add flour, with mixer on lower speed.
5. Use cookie press and decorate.
6. Bake 10 min, until bottoms are light brown.
Behold my restraint: I didn’t go to Ladurée until last week, after I’d been here for four whole days! Like everything else in this city, get there early. I walked by the Rue Royale store one afternoon around 4pm and the line was down the block.
Behold my lack of restraint: I also went yesterday morning to the Rue Bonaparte store in Saint-Germain. And both times, I ate the whole box (only eight macarons) in one sitting. Non, je ne regrette rien!
There are multiple locations throughout the city, some with attached tea salons where you can sit and have a petit goûter. That’s been on my to-do list; I hear their French toast is amazing (side note: do they call it French toast in France? Or is it just toast?). I’m a creature of habit with my macarons, though on a whim I tried the Marie-Antoinette flavor (the teal and tan colored one in the box) and, well, it was love at first bite. It tastes like earl gray tea.
I know you all need another gift guide like a hole in the head this holiday season, but I couldn’t resist. I have at least two cups of tea every day, including our nightly cup of decaf while we read on the sofa. Usually, my cup at work is an unfancy affair: a regular tea bag and some hot water from the cooler in the kitchen. But on the weekends I break out the loose leaf tins from Mariage Frères, either Paris Breakfast, Montagne D’Or, or Vanille des Îles. I love tea. For the tea lover in all of us, here are nine fabulous gifts:
1. Monogrammed Mug / 2. Mariage Frères Bonbons / 3. Teapot / 4. Diptyque Candle / 5. Artist Tea Bags / 6. Mariage Frères Black Opera Tea / 7. Mary Cassatt Painting / 8. Black Tea Lip Balm / 9. A Brief History of Tea
If we filed last Friday’s Paris-tidbit under “Weird Things I Never Knew,” then this week’s should be filed under, “Things I Kind of Suspected”: Georges restaurant in the Centre Pompidou (the ugliest building in the universe) has been accused of seating more attractive people at the front of the room, and hiding more, um, unattractive diners in the back. The restaurant has an open layout, and is visible to museum patrons. A former hostess has spilled the beans of the owners’ preferred seating arrangements in the French paper Le Canard Enchainé this week (which, it should be noted, is a satirical publication; however, when asked about the allegations, the restaurant would neither “confirm or deny” the rumors).
“‘There are beautiful people, you put them here. There are not-beautiful people, you put them there – it’s really not that complicated,'” the former hostess quoted [owner Gilbert Costes] as saying.
But what about prospective diners who made phone reservations? Fear not, the owners had a plan for that, too!
The staff were taught to look for certain “linguistic clues” which might give away whether the voice on the other end of the phone belonged to one of the “beautiful people” or not. According to the former worker, the staff would usually tell callers they would “do their best” to find them a table, then decide if they were “fully-booked” or not, after taking a look at the would-be diners when they arrived.
This is the most absurd thing I’ve read in a while. Though again, I sort of suspected this might be in practice in certain places, especially in Paris, where there is no shortage of outside dining and the tables always seem to be filled with pretty people. I’m tempted, on my next trip back (WHEN WILL THAT BE?) to test this theory and ask for a table for two. Though maybe I don’t want to know.
Thanks to Audrey for sending this story to me!