Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hélène Darroze

On Friday evening I enjoyed one of the most delicious, luxurious and expensive meals I have ever had. Perhaps simply the best.

Hélène Darroze is a young chef who recently received her second Michelin star. I may be wrong, but I think Pic in Valence is the only other woman who has received this accolade. OK, she is now a trendy name in the gastronomical world, and she has prices to match, but I really believe it is worth it.

We decided to go for the tasting menu with a delectable selection of 7 courses. After our scrumptious pink champagne apéritif, we started with small lobster slices and vegetables, drizzled with almond gazpacho. The second starter was foie gras with asparagus and crispy artichoke. This was followed by an aubergine caviar ravioli with sheep's cheese, with tomato and basil. Then came the fish course, which was a fantastic tuna fillet which melted in the mouth, surrounded with a duet of piperade and balsamic vinegar sauces. The meat came in the form of a stuffed tomato, but here the stuffing was duck confit and foie gras. The cheese trolley came next with a selection from the south west and then the grand finale began with a panna cotta with strawberry sorbet and strawberries and a final chocolate grenache with raspberries. Coffee and delicious truffles followed, as well as macaroons and nougat of all kinds.

The experience of this dining extravaganza will stay with me for a long, long time. I did wonder if it would be worth the price tag, and of course there is an argument which says that a month's rent should be spent on housing and not splashing out, but it was such a pleasure to treat my parents to this experience that I think it's worth the pasta and butter meals I'll be eating for the next two months...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Keep on Rockin'

35 guests, a room rather too much like a church hall, and a very unclear "client" meant that the Mumblers' latest gig did not go as swimmingly as we would have liked.

We spend on average 6 hours a month in rehearsal, practising chord sequences, backing harmonies and rhythms, to get the songs up to a performable standard. We were feeling quite confident that we would play well. What we weren't expecting was the atmosphere of absolute calm which settled in among the party guests.

First of all it wasn't a wedding, but a one-year after party to celebrate the wedding that happened twelve months ago. So there was no real post-wedding cheer in the air. Secondly we'd been told to play "whatever" we liked, and thirdly, we began playing and dinner was served.

Our repertoire contains gems such as "Hot Stuff", "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" and "I Will Survive"; hardly dinner music to say the least. The guests gave us half-hearted applause with a glass of wine in one hand and prawns in the other.

There was a brief twenty-minute interlude which got people on their feet, and we were able to put our usual energy and bounce into singing, but "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" - as well as we played it, unfortunately put them back into their chairs, and there they stayed for the rest of the evening.

Several people thanked us (not the groom though...) and despite a few rather irritating requests for salsa, polka and tango (what are we - a juke box?) the whole thing was wrapped up nicely.

I'm really looking forward to Saturday 21st June, when we do a gig outside at the Café d'Orléans in Paris. We've been to that same bar every year for the Fête de la Musique, and the audience is always large, cheerful and willing to dance. Here's hoping!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Concert Fever

It's that time again. It doesn't feel like five minutes since I was complaining about not getting enough sleep and two years later here I am again, using that as an excuse for why my little blog has been neglected like an old shoe for the last few weeks.

The month of June is always so packed with work (the French realising that it's about time they got on with something before the holidays start again) and concerts (everything comes grinding to a halt in July and August so June's calendar is always jam-packed). This month I have three concerts to do, last month there were two and I'm trying to run a business and hold down my day job as well. The old biological clock doesn't even get a look-in.

It's all change in September though. Our choir director Bonnie has decided to leave for a year to go to Cambodia to help people; a brave and daring venture for anyone. So we're getting a new director who seems to be extremely gifted musically, but I haven't got to know him yet. Anyway, that's all to be discovered.

The band is also 'disbanding'. We're shutting shop for a variety of reasons and I'm quite relieved that I don't have to make the decision myself. Concerts are lots of fun and practices are usually pretty enjoyable, but our opinions on repertoire, direction and organisation are fairly disparate to say the least.

We have a private gig tomorrow and then the last gig ever of all time on June 21st. So, come down to the Café d'Orléans at Mouton Duvernet (line 4) from 8.30pm to see the Mumblers' finale concert.

OK, I'm going back to dreaming about my "Epicurean" week in the Caribbean planned for July.... watch this space.