Monday, December 14, 2009

Food for thought

Winter has officially hit Paris. My widget forecast is predicting temperatures near freezing every day this week, and rumor has it that Sunday’s early risers got to see a few lone flocons (snowflakes). Pretty good timing, if you ask me, as I’m currently five days away from being in Madrid (50 degrees) and nine days away from home and my heavier winter coat.

In the meantime, if I’m posting less it’s because I’m enjoying my life here more and more. I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with new friends from the building, who come from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities but are generally pretty laid-back and delightfully quirky. Since several of them are on the house’s activities committee I’ve also been attending more of our in-house events, including a catered Thanksgiving dinner, Sunday morning croissant meet-n-greets, and last night mulled wine and carols. Fun fact: the French lyrics to “Jingle Bells” are completely different…the repeated line is “Vive le vent d’hiver!” (loose translation “yeah winter wind!”) and the chorus ends with “Et bonne année grand-mère” (“And happy new year, grandma!”)

I’m also starting to really take advantage of the culinary options a large metropolitan center like Paris has to offer. We four lit students have made it a weekly tradition to go out for a late afternoon pint (or several) at least one day a week, which is a great way to unwind a little and discuss what we’re studying in a more informal setting—not to mention a chaotic metro ride home at rush hour takes on a whole new dimension when you’ve got a slight buzz going. After exhausting the offerings around Passy (the NYU center) and the Bibliothèque Nationale (French university) we’re starting to expand our brasserie horizons, metroing to find newer, cheaper hole-in-the-walls.

Restaurant-wise, I’ve been turned on to the Belleville area and am absolutely in love with its collection of cute bars and (predominantly Asian) restaurants. We did an NYU happy hour at a bar called “Assassin” a few weeks ago, whose burgers are bested only by their 3 euro/pint DELERIUM, which they have on tap! I was back not long after for a Thai dinner with a bunch of friends from Cité (menu: ceviche-like “raw” prawns in a lime and chili marinade and coconut curried duck and bamboo shoots) and then again a week later to a Vietnamese place for authentic pho with all the fixins.

On Saturday night I joined a bunch of friends on a pilgrimage to a Columbian restaurant to celebrate Tom’s birthday. The food was good (chicken and fried plantains in a mango sauce), but more than anything I enjoyed the fun group of people and how invested they all were in making sure Tom had a good time. He received not one but three cakes—including an unpronounceable Greek cake (that tasted kind of like rice pudding with filo pastry) and an unbelievable tiramisu from a Luxembourgish friend. The night also included one of the more amazing “small world” moments I’ve had in my life—one of the Greek girls invited for the ride recognized me as one of her fellow participants on a week-long summer program we did three years ago. The program involved a small, eclectic group of students from all over the world, so the odds of EVER running into each other again, much less through mutual friends, should have been unbelievably low. And yet, there we were, sharing a bottle of wine and arguing with a French guy about the difference between lemons and limes (in French, they’re the same fruit: “lemon” and “green lemon”…silly, really.)

Oh life, how strange and delicious you are.

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