February 24, 2011

Paris' Pere-Lachaise Cemetery

Here's a blog post I had to do for one of my classes--yeah we have our own blog, crazy right? I figured it would be a decent travel post here as well. Killing two birds with one stone FTW.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery is a sprawling 109 acre village of the dead and one of the most famous cemeteries in the world. The cemetery is named after the Jesuit priest Père François de la Chaise, confessor to King Louis IV, who led the reconstruction of the Jesuit Rest House completed here in 1682. The land was later acquired by the Parisian government. 

Located in the 20th arrondissement, this beautiful cemetery is the resting place for some of the most famous artists, musicians, and writers of our time. Housed here are the remains of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Moliere, Jim Morrison, Frederic Chopin, Victor Hugo, and the famous tragic lovers Abelard and Heloise to name a few. There are also emotionally moving memorials dedicated to the lives lost during World War I and the Holocaust. 
Due to the terribly overcrowded burial conditions within the city, in the 18th century the government decided to move their cemeteries away from the center of the city and placed heavy restrictions on burials inside parish churches. Because of the stench and fear of disease, many of the corpses of urban cemeteries were moved to what is now famously known as the catacombs of Paris. 
During this time, Nicholas Frochot, an urban planner, developed a hilltop estate on Mont Louis and opened it as Pere Lachaise cemetery in 1804. To increase the popularity of the cemetery(many did not want to venture so far out of city limits for funerals) Frochot persuaded the local government to move the remains of Moliere, Abelard and Heloise to Pere Lachaise. Soon after, Pere Lachaise became the most popular plot of land to be buried in all of Paris. Due to it's popularity the cemetery has been enlarged several times and now contains over 300,000 bodies and thousands more in ashes within the columbarium. 
One of the most unique things about Pere Lachaise at this time, was the fact that it was also a landscaped garden designed to commemorate loss and public virtue. Visiting last fall, I felt just how peaceful and hauntingly beautiful it really is and was fascinated by the maze of graves, old and new, colliding.  The cemetery is usually open from 8am-6pm Monday through Saturday; 9am-6pm Sundays. Be sure to grab a map, it really is its own city of the dead with street names and all. 

Auschwitz Memorial
New graves are being put in nearly every day
Winding paths make it easy to get lost...

Etlin, Richard A. The Architecture of Death. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984. Print.

"Pere Lachaise." Columbus Travel Media Ltd. 2010: Web. 23 Feb 2011. .

"Pere Lachaise: A Bit of History." Paris.org. The Paris Pages, 2010. Web. 23 Feb 2011. .

Strunsky, Anna. Violette of Pere Lachaise. New York: Frederick A Stokes Company, 1915. Print.

Photos by Me (Julie Mulvey)

February 23, 2011

Bocadillo de Tomate y Jamon

While visiting Barcelona, Spain last fall, we ate our fair share of paella, tapas, and the most revelatory for me, bocadillos. Although directly translated to English bocadillo means sandwich, they are far from the average. Every morning we would get lost(the best way to explore a new city btw) and on the way, find nearly every cafe serving bocadillos con tortillas(basically a potato fritatta), jamon(Spanish Serrano ham), or tomate.

How could something so simple be so perfect? The difference is they're only made with a baguette type bread and the tomato is rubbed into the bread rather than sliced leaving a beautifully pink acidic-sweet taste lingering on it's surface. I like to toast the bread first so it's easier to rub the tomato on the crunchy surface. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper complete this delicious Spanish sandwich. If you're looking for more protein, it's easiest to find prosciutto rather than Serrano but if you can get your hands on some, it's completely worth it!

February 22, 2011

Typical Day Off

Tuesdays are usually a day off for me and I feel no shame in sleeping in until noon, making a lazy breakfast(see tomorrow's post) and sipping coffee while watching back-to-back episodes of Barefoot Contessa. Since I work a somewhat laborious job, my feet and back need some recovery(I also need to get some better shoes) and I would rather stay home and do nothing(well, almost nothing). 
Today consisted of re-potting the herbs I've been growing into a larger windowsill pot whilst blasting a mix of Edith Piaf and Cee Lo Green. It works, trust me. 
There were also two cats following me around. 
Here's Toulouse, my 3 year old tabby. He's completely sick of having his picture taken.  
  Meet Oscar. A big, fluffy Persian-Siamese mix(at least we think so). I think this picture sums up his personality pretty well. 
Notice how Toulouse acts all cutesy rubbing his face on everything, making you think he's just so innocent. But I know better and so does Oscar. 
Two seconds later he's got his ears back, ready to pounce.
 They do this for hours, barely hitting each other with their fluffy paws. 
Rolling around until they crash on the dining room table.
I will also be enjoying this bottle of pear brandy I picked up at work(annual maintenance=clearing out booze=restocking my sad looking alcohol collection). Besides smelling like brown sugar, this beautiful bottle will be perfect for a singular flower next to my bed once the liquor is finished, of course. 

February 17, 2011

White Bean Bruschetta

There's nothing like a fresh loaf of rustic sourdough bread. I seem to remember the first half of this loaf slathered in salted butter(or was that just a perfect dream?) and the rest with this more substantial bruschetta. Creamy cannelini beans, fresh tomatoes, peppery arugula, and some brightness from lemon juice make a perfect salad atop some grilled bread.  

White Bean Bruschetta 
rustic sourdough bread
1 can cannelini or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 lemons, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of dried oregano
pinch of dried thyme
arugula or mixed blend salad greens

Drizzle a bit of olive oil over your sliced sourdough. Grill on high heat until the bread is nicely toasted with those pretty black lines(they also give tons of flavor).
Combine the rest of the ingredients through the thyme in a medium bowl. Toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top your bread slices with the beans and a pile of peppery arugula to finish. 
Serve with a glass of sparkling wine or refreshing rose and you've got yourself a new best friend. <------Me!

February 15, 2011

Taco Tuesday: Vegan Tacos

Vegan food gets a bad rep sometimes. Now, I'm not sure about all those processed soy products claiming they're "cheese" or breakfast "sausages". But I do love the fresh, clean flavors vegan cuisine can provide...not to mention the whole good for the environment and animal friendliness thing. A simple mix of vegetables can create a delicious and filling meal without any cravings for meat! In my opinion, the best way to bring out the most flavor in vegetables is to roast them at a high temperature in the oven. You can use pretty much any vegetable but for these I picked up a nice variety of bell pepper, red onion, zucchini, and cremini mushrooms. To garnish I topped them with avocado, tomato, and homemade cashew pesto. 
 (I completely forgot the shrooms in this picture)
Vegan Tacos
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 zucchini, cut into wedges
1 red onion, cut into wedges
a handful of cremini mushrooms, halved 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 tomato, diced
1/2 avocado sliced
corn tortillas
salsa or cashew pesto(see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place sliced pepper, zucchini, onion, and mushrooms on a cookie sheet(lined with foil if you don't want to clean up the mess). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Toss to coat then roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning half-way through. Heat the tortillas and top with a variety of vegetables, avocado, tomato, salsa or cashew pesto(if using). Serve with a side of black beans and you've got yourself a meal!
For the cashew pesto, combine 1/4 cup of raw cashews, 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves, 1 clove of garlic, and about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season with salt then blend in a food processor until smooth. If the mixture seems thick, add more oil or a splash of water to loosen it up. 

February 14, 2011

Golden Gate Park Haiku Collection

Since we've had such a strangely warm winter this year, some of the cherry trees are blooming in the park. Golden Gate Park that is. I hear it's similar to New York's Central Park(although I have yet to visit myself) but even bigger and most likely better, but I'm biased. A wildlife haven on the west side of the city going all the way to the beach. Gardens galore, art and science museums, lakes with row boats, and Japanese pagodas fill this mass of green with life. With some of that Japanese inspiration, I've written some award winning haikus in 6th grade style. 

Paradise for birds

Whomping willows protect art

Fat feasting squirrels

 Wander through gardens

The public flock for freedom

Cherry blossoms bloom.

 I know, my poem skills are almost as good as my free-stylin'. 
...I won't quit my day job.

February 13, 2011

Chocolate Almond Torte

Happy Valentine's Day y'all. This torte is about as much celebrating as I'll be doing this holiday since I've got a date tomorrow night with the rest of my finance class. Not to mention my significant other is about 10,000 miles away(just for fun, type in San Francisco, CA to Melbourne, VIC and look at #30). Luckily the Kiwi just got his visa into the country for the next 4 years and that was celebrated in excess just last week(remember that tequila? I don't.)
Just jokes! But back to the torte...which is basically a fancy word for a cake made with ground nuts instead of flour. It was love at first bite. Dense, chewy insides, crispy souffle exterior, chocolate-almond-orange goodness. It was also a good excuse for me to use these adorable new plates I got from my aunt and uncle during the holidays. Thanks guys! 

Chocolate-Almond Torte from Food Network Magazine
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for greasing
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate(use something dark), chopped
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 large eggs, separated, plus 3 egg yolks
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup almond meal or flour(found at Trader Joe's or make your own)
Confectioner's sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl(ie metal or glass) set over a sauce pan of simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted then remove from heat. 
 Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan with butter then coat with 1 tablespoon flour, tapping out the excess. 
Set aside 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Combine the 6 egg yolks with the remaining sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment(or a hand mixer). Beat on medium-high until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. 
Add the orange zest, rum and salt, then beat in the chocolate mixture until smooth. Mix in the ground almonds until just combined.
 In a clean bowl, beat the 3 egg whites with a mixer until foamy. Gradually add the 2 tablespoons of sugar on high speed until almost stiff. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate batter, then gently fold in the rest. Spread the batter in your prepared pan and bake until the top is firm and cracked, 35-40 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes then run a knife around the outside edges and remove the ring. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dusting of confectioner's sugar. Add a dollop of fresh whipped cream or scoop of your favorite ice cream, if desired. 

When cutting, make sure you wipe your knife after each slice. This will ensure a pretty presentation since the sticky cake will like to clump. 

xoxo -J