Friday, August 31, 2007

Fete de la Fleur, Bordeaux

Every 2 years a huge international wine exposition takes place in Bordeaux
The crowning event at the end of the expo is a grande soiree,
La Fete de la Fleur
Only the creme de la creme in the wine trade attend:
chateau owners, distributors, celebrities etc.
Each year it's held at a different grand chateau in the Medoc..
The year I went, it was at the lovely
Chateau Cantenac-Brown.
I wrangled an invite by suggesting I should take photographs
for Wine Enthusiast magazine. A tradition at the Fete is the prestigious awarding of new memberships intoLe Commanderie du Bon temps du MedocNew and old members get to parade about in claret red velvet robes..
Hugh Grant was a recipient, but alas, I did not get his picture.
Here are the St. Emilion Bon Temps members parading.After Champagne and hors d'oeuvre on the grounds
there's a grand dinner inside. In 1997 it was held inside a tent in case of rain. Between courses there was Cirque du Soleil-style entertainment. Performers on stilts dressed up as Bon temps members paraded.
Acrobats decked out as corks flew through the air to keep us amused.
I did this party doodle after the Fete.

The dinner menu served was quite simple - just 5 courses.
After all there were 1500 guests attending!
But I was amazed to see the cheese course/fromages served to each guest individually by special cheese servers, rather than 6 cheese chunks sitting on a plate.
The piece de resistance was of course, the wine menu shown here.
13 wines served to go with the 5 courses!
I noticed while sitting at the Wine Enthusiast table,
quite a bit of tipping of the waiter to get very large glasses refilled
with some of the world's finest wines.
Hmmmm...
Here is the sad secret that has kept me from following in Ms. P. Hilton's footsteps.
My alcoholic capacity is about 2 THIMBLES FULL.
THAT IS IT!
Anymore than my quota, say 3 thimbles full
and I am known to become dangerously flagrant or fall asleep a table.
Plus I suffer massive hangovers.
So I did not get to leave the soiree drunk and disorderly.
But I did get a very nice claret red umbrella (it started to rain)
with the insignia of Le Bon Temps Commanderie on it!
And the truly amazing fact is
I still have this umbrella 10 years later!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

J'adore Les Cupcakes!

J'adore les cupcakes sounds so...
Well, FRENCH!
I was the "picky eater" in the family.
I refused to eat cake, including birthday cake and
CUPCAKES!
I mostly played with my food, lining things up in rows, making designs etc.
How I wish I was still a "picky eater"...
Photo by Helene of http://tartelette.blogspot.com The French really do adore the American cupcake.
Look at these unique
cupcake/cones from Helene of Tartelette!
Helene took this beautiful photo too.
I found this interesting 2-layer birthday cupcake from Robyn of
The Girl who Ate Everything.
Photo by Robin Lee of http://www.roboppy.net/food/I love the anatomical view that Robyn took of her own birthday cupcake!
I'm not the world's biggest cupcake eater,
But when ParisBreakfasts reader, Paige L. wrote me,
You don't like cupcakes?

But they're cakes made for one!
You can put them on little pedestals with glass domes...
And, they can sit out in view all day without going stale, so the anticipation builds.
They're art!
So I had to go out and get a CUPCAKE! for Gawd's sake
...
and paint it...

Just around the corner IL BAMBINO has CUPCAKE ART
on their walls.
Plus trays and trays full of CUPCAKES.
I think I may be fonder of the Crayola birthday candles than actually
eating cupcakes.
I must admit they are fun to paint :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pigment Stores in Florence...

Late last night I got a comment from michael...
He said...What a wonderful pleasure to stumble upon your blog
while researching for pigment stores in Florence...(know any?).
Your blog is beautiful!
Naturally, being of an impulsive nature,

I had to find the name of that pigment store in Florence tout a suite...
ZECCHI!
I started pawing through my fat file on Italy - mostly Tuscany
Such yummy Tuscan earth colors...
I could do a post on that I thought! I'm easily influenced.
Camille Corot went to Italy to paint for 3 years in 1825, and everyone followed.
I got to Italy for wine adventures, shoe design
and a 3 week artist residency in Poppi.
Ideally, I would really like a Fullbright Scholarship researching Gelato...
So far I've heard niente/nuttin'...
Painting while on the train is a fun thing to do in Italy.
There are tons of trains and the landscape is perfect for sketchbook recording.
And sometimes the trains go very slowly.
You can't think about Tuscan colors without thinking of painter, Piero Della Francesca.
His deep reds, ochres, siennas are the archetypal Tuscan colors that always come to mind.
You better come prepared with those Tuscan earth colors in your paintbox
or just stay home!
True, you can always pick them up in ZECCHI's in Florence.
Well, I hope I answered your question Michael :)
And Grazie tanto for giving me an idea for today's Paris Breakfasts post!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Lions of Bordeaux...

When I visited the chateaux and vineyards in Bordeaux
I was knocked over by the profusion of stone lions everywhere.
No wonder!
The kingly lion is sitting right on Bordeaux' coat of arms.
As well as guarding so many entry ways of the finest chateaux..
For example at Chateau Haut-Brion...
Now here's a funny thing...
Where I live, in Astoria, NY

(just 9 minutes from Bloomingdales on the N train
and the most multi-culti town in the USA)
there is a profusion of stone LIONS!
38th street is particularly littered with these stone lions!
Only between Broadway and 34th Avenue,
in case you should go looking for a pride or two...
This has set me thinking...
Have some Bordeauxoise winemakers moved to Astoria
? ? ?
Will we soon see some vineyards springing up on my turf?
Did I mention that Bordeaux is also inundated with stone sphinxes?
The French sphinx has a coiffed head and the bust of a young woman.
Often she is wearing ear drops and pearls

and her body is naturalistically rendered as a recumbent lion.
Chateau Margaux has an impressive pair guarding their stairway entry.
Chateaux de Malle makes a lovely Sauturnes, well protected by
a brace of sphinx.
I'm wondering when, exactly an infusion of sphinxes are coming to Astoria?
Could they please come to my street?
We could definitely use a few sphinxes on 31st Avenue :)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Champagne Days


Yesterday K & S said...you've had the coolest jobs! You ain't seen nothin' Sweetie Darling.

Paul Bocuse, Champagne Mumm's spokes person,
suggested I do some artwork for them and made introductions.
They gave me a test assignment: Come up with a big group drawing of tons of celebrities drinking Mumm that they could gift to all their employees.
Can you spot Kate Moss? And there's one of the Seagrams brothers embracing the big bottle. Please note everyone is holding their glass by the STEM. Never hold a champagne glass by the "bowl". You must not warm up the bubbles.


That group drawing led to a portrait promotion program. They thought I should paint the portraits directly onto the Mumm bottles?
I imagined a sea of Mumm jeroboams in my living room. The last minute I dreamed up the idea to print their label design on my watercolor paper and I ended up with just stacks of nice neatly printed Champagne labels
One of the perks of this career was I got to stay at the Mumm mansion in Reims.
 
The countryside in Champagne is magnificent and there's a new fast train from Paris that gets you there in an hour. Don't miss it!

I got to stay a week in Verzy at Veuve Clicquot's country estate.
It was just me and a refrigerator full of
jeroboams.
They said, "Help yourself" Right! :)
Someone did pop in to deliver petit dejeuner in the morning and the rest of the time I communed with the grapevines. They still use straw baskets to pick the grapes in Champagne.


There's a lot of partying in the Champagne Biz. These pourers are dressed up as old fashioned "cellar men". They used to turn the resting bottles.

They're fun to sketch... This is not me embracing the big bottle, that's my French boss at Mumm.
This is me partying at the Chelsea Arts Club Belle Epoche Ball held at London's Albert Hall... Well there is a Champagne bottle in the picture. We had to show up outfitted from Degas and Lautrec paintings. I chose a Degas dancer. 
Roger Terry, the club concierge, told me,
"If you add one more satin bow to that outfit, you'll look like a dog's dinner."
Don't you just love the Brits!
Pass the Bolly Sweetie Darling!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How To Peel A Grape...

No, this is an Asian pear sitting on 2 chopsticks.
Or rather it's a "spot" illustration of an Asian pear.
For three years I did line illustrations for the the Q & A cookery questions - in the back of the book (as they call it) at Gourmet Magazine.
The idea is - they send you the text and title,
and you come up with an amusing way illustration, almost like a mini-cartoon.
For example: How To Peel A Grape. It's called conceptual illustration. Kind of like being on the couch (the shrink's couch)
but they pay you to free-associate.
As one who free-associates all the time, this was right up my alley :)
You just take the words in the title and see what comes to mind.
Words, images any thing will do, but it should be fun!
I can't remember how many times I've used a French beret to solve an illustration problem - was it a precursor of what was to come?
Frenchiness that has taken over my life.
If you do spot illustrations, eventually you get to illustrate some cookbooks. That means you actually might have to cook, or at least photograph some setups that look like you're cooking. These are from an Italian cookbook...
Here's what a page of conceptual doodles would look like.
They don't have these in Gourmet anymore. A regime change and out went the little drawings
and in came the glossy photographs.
Meanwhile I sold my appartment and started to "play" the stock market. I found I could make the same money in a few minutes while day trading. And lose it even faster too :(

So that was the end of my spot illustration days. But next time you bite into a pita think camel, think dessert,
NO, wait no I mean DESERT!
Oh whatev...