Friday, May 23, 2008

Ups and Downs

It's been nothing short of hectic in recent times, with many ups and downs. The "Ups" include having my friends and my dear sister visit, a sojourn to America's best restaurant, Alinea, seeing my cousin graduate and catching up with her family in Boston, running along the magnificent Charles River and having my business plan enter the final round of competition at Northwestern University. Unfortunately, the "Downs" were plentiful also. My camera died when I was at Alinea, resulting in no pictures from a wonderful evening of Chef Achatz's degustation. My business plan didn't place at all in the competition. And I think I'm hit the hardest by the fact that a lab technique that I've been working on the last year or so is just not working. This means that I will probably have to use the service of a core facility to develop it for me. Now, why didn't we do that in the first place? That's another long story that boils down to economics.

I'm sorry for being such a downer. I think I feel so down just because I haven't been spending as much time in the kitchen as I would like to. Oftentime (maybe too often), I question my career decision again and again. Maybe I should've gone into something simpler or more structured, like medicine or business. I admire those who instead of fretting about the challenges of science, actually relish and enjoy it, saying that the things that are worth doing are the most difficult ones. It's just difficult for me to have that point of view when graduate school has just been beating me down for the past few years. Is it too much to ask for a little bit of success in my experiments? Is it?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Paris in Spring 4 - the (last) little bits

I didn't want the luxurious culinary experience in Paris to end, so I bought a few tidbits that would allow me to prolong it (though not as well, obviously).

One of the little bit of Paris I don't regret getting is the Ispahan tea, from (where else, but) Pierre Herme. Heady with joy from being able to taste the Ispahan from his store, I was addicted. As some of you know, I love love love tea also. So combining one of the most exquisite flavors and tea makes me very happy!

The leaves are basically a combination of Darjeeling and Kemum, scented with rose, lychee and raspberries. The tea was totally different from the original Ispahan, but it was very nice and pleasant. I can definitely smell the rose but not so much the raspberries and lychee.

I also purchased a little box of Ispahan nougats from the same store. Studded with rose-pink flecks reflecting its flavor, the nougats are little individually-wrapped mouthfuls of joy. For Ispahan overdose, one can have this with the tea I just mentioned above. Ho ho!

I especially adored the bag of lavender that I bought in Montmartre. I haven't opened it yet but it gave my luggage such a wonderfully pleasant scent. I can't wait to browse for recipes to use these beauties. Got any ideas to share?

At the airport, I bought this pack of madeleines for the plane trip back to the US. I only had a pistachio madeleine and was hankering for a cakey yet bready treat. Even though it looks like some cheesy, inauthentic French pastry, it was surprisingly delicious. They were moist, very buttery and decadent. Maybe it was my relatively low expectation from buying it at a convenience store at an airport, no less.

Thanks to a fellow blogger at Chocolate and Zuchinni, whose posted on Pierre Herme's source for rose syrup, I hunted down a little Indian shop about a mile away from the hotel we stayed at for Natco rose syrup. Supposedly, the legendary PH uses this rose syrup for his Ispahan creations. I can't wait to use this! Some ideas I have include ice cream, possibly cupcakes and maybe (dare I say) macaroons?

Besides food items, I bought a beautiful pair of vibrant red ballet flats. It was a bit of a necessary impulse buy (if one can call it that). One fine day in Paris, I wore a pair of sexy boots that have heels that are just a tad too high for comfortable sightseeing. After close to an hour of torture, I chanced upon these at a United Colors of Benetton store and snapped up a pair of the right size. Ahhhhhhh, pure sole heaven :)

While in was there, trenches was the "in" thing with it being spring and all. At the same time, the color grey was also ubiquitous in clothing shops. I fell in love with this hip-length grey trench at a Naf Naf store in the St. Germain area and just had to have it! I know, I know, it's a pretty impractical buy for me because spring in Chicago lasts for like, 15 minutes! Well, at least I'll look comfortably stylish for 15 minutes *winks*

Overall, Paris was beautiful and I enjoyed myself throughly, though a bit on the pricey side (that damn euro!). It was a sweet just-us-sisters springtime in Paris. I can only hope that it won't be our last excursion together.

Anyway, if you notice a slight improvement with the pictures for this post, it is thanks to my new homemade toy. Voila! The magic of the homemade (read: ghetto!) light box. I've been hankering for one of these babies but a professional light box easily costs a few hundred bucks and the best ones out there are a few thou! I stumbled upon a really cost post about making your own lightbox for under $50 and it was the perfect weekend project. It would also be perfect for the photos for my upcoming business venture. Check it out!

It was waaay larger than I expected and it's now occupying the whole dining table, which is fine because I don't really dine on it. However, if I were to do it all over again, I would use smaller poster boards. Now, the only problem is, my white background is turning up light blue. It's not something that I can't fix with image editing software but I would really like it to be super white by itself. Any ideas?

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