Saturday, February 28, 2009

Paris, Providence and Don's DNA is Zero percent

It's the last day of February; March will arrive tomorrow and so, it seems, will the lion. While temps were springlike yesterday and remain somewhat balmy today, Sunday is supposed to bring with it a snowstorm of some significance. (photo: Dad's high school graduation, Bement, Illinois, 1928.)

With March also comes Susie's departure for Paris on the 14th. I'll follow three weeks later. I'm ready to start packing a ton of chili for the freezer and get the Japanese movies in my queue on Netflix. That and working with Adobe's Creative Suite 4 set of programs -- I'm as near to heaven as I can get.

Well, OK, I won't really be in heaven until I join Susan Nell in Paris on April 4, that's true. And the cool thing is I can work from Paris. My job is shifting more toward image asset management and I'm pumped. It's more experience with Adobe software and images to boot. Not a bad thing at all. Anyway, I'm planning on getting a few hours of work every morning -- before the Parisians come to life and Pere Lachaise opens its doors.

Susie is prepping the staff at Gracie's, particularly Danielle and Mike who will be covering desserts while she's gone. She's working up a collection of recipes to make their lives a bit easier but these kids are pretty savvy and will have little trouble carrying the ball for seven weeks or so.

Aside from the gloom and doom in the world of high (and low) finance, aside from the abominable condition of our infrastructure here in Providence, problems which won't go away no matter how much stimulus money is thrown into the Ocean State, aside from the blinkered foolishness of so many of our compatriots who simply don't get it, that this world is changing mighty fast, aside from these things, life is pretty good.

Oh, about my dad. It seems my brother's DNA test came back yesterday as "0.00% probability of paternity." Just like mine. No surprise here.

No, the real surprise came last weekend. I was contacted by a man in Illinois whose family, it turned out, has experienced a similar problem in the misidentification of their father's remains. And yes, the same culprit is at the center of that at well. We hope to shed more light on this soon.

Of course, we now wonder just how widespread the problem is in Illinois. Only God knows. Well, OK, Him and maybe two or three others.

Take care, stay calm, keep warm and drop by here sometime; anytime but April, of course.

Hey, and no matter what happens, keep yours fixed on the prize, like the one below:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine’s Day in Providence and Gearing up for Paris

Well we got our January thaw in February. Better late than never I suppose. Anyway, it made many of us remember with fondness and longing that there is a season called Spring and it’s really around the corner. But, since the temps dropped back to a more normal range a few days back, that means we still have chunks of ice hiding here and there, camouflaged as curbing or sidewalk.

In less than a month Susie will be in Paris. That’s a fact. I’ll take her to Logan airport in Boston on Saturday the 14th of March and she arrives the following day after a quick connect in London’s Heathrow. I’ll join her three weeks later.

Her plan -- and already I envy this -- her plan is to go back to Alliance Francais on Boulevard Raspail in the 6th arr. where she’ll take French lessons every weekday morning for the first two weeks. On March 30 she begins “Entremets,” her first professional development course at Le Cordon Bleu.

I arrive on April 4 and on April 7 she begins her second course, “Chocolate and Confectionery" and the following week she tackles “Plated Desserts and Viennoiserie.”

Aside from a quick trip to Siena one weekend -- yet to be determined -- and a train trip to southern France to see Richard and Pauline in Mouchan, probably from April 27-29, at the tail end of our journey, we have no other plans. We return to the U.S. on April 30.

Already it doesn’t seem like enough time -- but how incredibly lucky we are to be going at all.

And speaking of luck, work at JWU has been good -- the university’s website keeps evolving and changing, which means there is work to be done. Like Brad says, websites are living documents and indeed they have the uncanny tendency to take on a life of their own. The web presents itself in print-like form, it is true, but it is so much more at the same time. Incredible evolution in our species I’d say.

Susie’s work has been very demanding lately, particularly getting ready for Valentine’s Day. The good news, for Gracie’s and for the local economy one hopes, is that the restaurant broke all their previous records on Saturday, February 14. More than 200 people came to eat, enjoy life and try to put aside the unpleasantness of the moment, vagaries of life that often bring discomfort.

Anyway, Susie’s piece de resistance was a dessert tasting for two consisting of:
  • Chocolate macaroons with salted caramel filling
  • White chocolate toffee espresso tart
  • Passion creme profiteroles
  • Dark chocolate raspberry terrine
  • Chocolate orange pot de creme

As for us, well we had a quiet meal at home that evening -- after more than 11 hours doing pastries I thought I would cook and let Susie relax and just BE. So I grilled a couple of filets, topped them with Stilton butter and we had a side of mini-casseroles of mashed potato, sautéed mushrooms with balsamic and bacon, layered into ramekins and baked off at the last minute. Paired with a 1996 Silver Oak, it was not half bad.

Sunday we hosted a small family get together at our place for dinner: Susie’s sister Mary and her daughter Mallory, and Dick and Dorothy. Dorothy brought a tasty peppers and feta cheese salad, followed by my salty-sweet flank steaks on the grill with potato galette and a Brunello di Montalcino.

As for my dad's saga, we have agreed to have my older brother Don tested, just to rule out any mathematical issues. That will happen in the next week or so. Closure, for want of a better term and that is a pretty good one, closure is at hand we think.

Life is, all in all, pretty good right now.

Life is good indeed, but life is short.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Les Cocottes

"Les Cocottes de Christian Constant" on rue Saint Dominique. This happens to be a "cocottes" of crispy cod. I can't even begin to tell you how delicious this was -- sitting at the counter, sipping a crisp white wine from the Loire and an incredible lunch in Paris.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Champs Elysee

The obvious . . .

. . . and the not so obvious:

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snow, ice, no thaw, Napoleon and Paris of course

January gave us no real thaw. In fact, due to to the frigid temps that held New England hostage for much of the month, the large mounds of snow that hit us early in the New Year simply turned into small mountains of ice. Even with a hint of bright sun and warmish temperatures on the 1st of February, there was really little thawing. (photo: Susie's passion-cream-filled profiteroles.)

Many sidewalks throughout the city remain quietly dangerous and of course the streets have seen minimal attention for the past month. Besides being incapable or unwilling to clear and remove the snow, the city of Providence seems equally incompetent in keeping the roadways repaired.

But, Rhode island is a small, family run operation. Sort of like a Mom-and-Pop version of state government.

Susie and I are well and still, as Carroll O'Connor put it, "blessed with work." In fact, work for both of us remains challenging (a good thing) and exciting. I'm hoping to learn Adobe's Creative Suite 4 beginning this week (believe me this is much more fascinating than it sounds), and Susie is putting together her St. Valentine's Day Dessert: a five-some that I'll talk more about as the day gets closer.

And speaking Susie's desserts she made us a praline cream Napoleon for Sunday night dessert. She wanted to try the new quick-puff pastry to make sure it was working properly -- and believe it's working just fine! Decadent! (photo: Susie's macarons.)

The only dark cloud hanging over us -- aside from the greed of investment bankers of course -- is the remaining uncertainty about what will happen next in the ongoing saga of my dad's remains.

We had hoped the DNA test would have put this to rest one way or the other. But Rush Medical College, in a burst of anti-scientific inquiry, seems adamantly committed to their visual test. Odd, we thought. After all, visually the world looks flat, but scientific inquiry and method has disproved that notion.

On a much happier note we both have our tickets to Paris and an apartment to stay in; on rue General Renault in the 11th, a 10-minute walk from Pere Lachaise. The only downside is that we will be traveling separately, at least on the outbound leg.

Susie leaves March 13 and I join her April 3 -- for the month of April though, which is a great and good thing indeed. Anyway, I'll drive her to Boston Logan's Airport and then return home and work for another couple of weeks before taking the train to Logan and then British Airways to Paris. We are both scheduled to return home on the same flight, though.

I plan to talk at some length next time about exactly what we both hope to accomplish on this next Paris trip. They are substantial to be sure -- but we are more than ready.

Susie will be taking a couple of weeks of language at Alliance Francaise before taking the plunge into the world of professional pastry and baking courses at Le Cordon Bleu.

We had hoped to meet up with Richard and Pauline in London on the outbound leg but that's not going to happen now. Still, we might see them either in London -- a short trip on the Eurostar train -- or perhaps in the south of France.

(You notice no one ever says they're going to "the north of France"? It's almost as if that direction, in France at any rate, didn't exist. Well, it is much colder up north, eh?)

Anyway, we certainly look forward to seeing both of them in June right here in Providence. Richard and I met at the International House School in London in late summer of 2005. We were both studying to become teachers of English as a second language to adults, and Richard actually found work doing just that in the suburbs of London. (photo: Susie's almond cream-lemon-mascarpone tarts.)

As we all know, we at last have a real president for the first time in eight years. Markets will rebound, business will grow and flourish -- people will come and go. Life goes on. Life is good.

But don't wait too long to realize your dream. Life is good but it is also unavoidably short.

Best to you this winter -- stay well and keep warm.

Steve

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Jardin du Luxembourg slide show

If you ever needed a reason to go to Paris: