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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paris Couture Umbrellas from Alexandra Sojfer

So round 2 of my Paris holiday blog, and without wanting to sound to negative, it was a slight disappointment. My plans were to check out vintage stores, markets and fashion museums but they were all pretty much shut. No markets at all, one tiny fashion exhibit thing all in french in an out of way place and the only 2 open vintage fashion stores full of overpriced handmade stuff and the designer store near the Louvre Didier Ludot was incredibly rude and to be honest full of designer labels but lacking in the style stakes. It was not like I didn't have lots of fun with my mum but we both got a bit tired of dragging around to find things had closed, moved without notice or a bit of a let down.

 The French go on holiday for the end of July for most of August, we just didn't expect it would be THAT bad. Obviously the macarons and chocolate cheered me up enormously but there was one extra special highlight for me, the beautiful Parasol shop of Alexandra Sojfer.

'Alexandra Sojfer's grandfather, Georges Gaspard first started handcrafting umbrellas in Paris in 1937 after moving there from Hungary – incidentally he was the one who invented the “frou-frou”. It was close to Madeleine Gely, the oldest umbrella shop (founded 1834) in the heart of the district of Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris. Today the family business merged with Madeleine Gely, and workshops are at the same address as the store, at 218, boulevard Saint-Germain: "repair, restoration, rehabilitation of umbrellas, parasols and canes ; Sale of canes ancient and contemporary, umbrellas, parasols and to fashion accessories . "

The masts of umbrellas and parasols are made ​​of various fine woods, the handles are horn or natural silver. Crystal Swarovski hand sewn adorn the paintings. Alexandra Sojfer uses all types of fabrics for her creations: Silk natural cheese cloth, organza silk, twill fabrics, etc.. All creations "Alexandra Sojfer" are handmade in the Parisian workshop' -Thanks Wikipedia

Her service is second to none. Just so classy, something even the best stores around Paris could not match, in that French confident way that people talk when they know when they can answer every question 'is this real silk?' is this part handmade' with a simple 'Of course madame!' she enthusiastically told us about the history of the shop and the special construction of each handmade piece. Not having much luck with any other shopping plans I decided this was my treat. After all returning to the UK I need something to make me super excited about the rain (which I am!)

So this was my pick of a vast array. The second she opened it I knew it was the one, I love the bright colours.

Its has matching silk tassel, removable hook (which sits perfectly on ones arm!) and a double canopy make of bright purple tulle.

Not only that but it comes with its own snazzy ring to close. They are super strong, and if anything breaks, well just send it back to the store in Paris and it shall be repaired as if by magic! Now that is service, not to mention the little cafe set in the middle of the tiny store where my mum got to rest her feet and got offered Perrier!

Now as I said I was not being negative, other than the pointless walking that blistered my feet to limping status, just being surrounded by the wonderful building in Paris was great enough!

Everything was very big and impressive, you can tell its from and era when they tried to do that beat the Jones thing with the UK in the good ol' historic rivalry.

And although rather disappointed to see a huge lack (zero) fashionable folk in town I did have fun wearing all my favourite dresses!

Best thing about Paris? Seeing glimpses of these amazing buildings down little streets when your walking around, they just spring up from everywhere!

And finally! Not one to be beaten by a challenge this is my 3rd attempt at macarons, and they are FANTASTIC! I only just finished them tonight and you need to leave them filled for24 hours but I was naughty and tried one. The filling is a vanilla white chocolate ganache and is identical to the ones I had in Paris from Laduree. 

Vanilla Macarons

The macaron could be improved as a little grainy, I need to learn how to use my insane blender to grind the almond meal finer without turning it into butter, but the taste is great. I was working in 1/4 batches while I master the technique so not to be too wasteful (first 2 straight in the bin) so think working with larger amounts will also help. They look a little brown as using bean essence rather than waste money on real vanilla beans while still learning.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Laduree: Since 1862, Best Macarons in Paris

Okay so I have not been blogging for a while, with holiday distractions, jet lag, and a general awkwardness in getting back to my daily life in Australia made blogging the last thing on my mind, but I thought I would get back into the swing of things by sharing my Laduree experience with you.

I have never had macarons before I went to Paris, but am now so addicted that I have even tried to master the art of it myself (I havn't yet, just turned the first batch in the oven and half of them look like little mountains) but after trying these I am hooked.

This is their very fancy building on the Champs Elysee.

Laduree have been going since 1862 and still has a shop at the original bakery at 16 rue Royale in Paris. They are said to have some of the worlds best macarons, but I also tried some by Pierre Herme which are also pretty famous, Pierre had a better caramel as enjoyed the whipped center but overall I preferred Laduree on all points: variety flavours, decor and choice of other yummy things.

I had the good fortune to try their limited edition guava macaron and it was my favourite, light as air and so tasty. The vanilla was also pretty good. I really loved the presentation and the pretty boxes and bags.

This strawberry cake is just a work of art. Its made of a very airy sponge and strawberry moose and is utter heaven. I have no idea what the coating is but it looks very cool and was impressed to get ours across Paris back to the apartment totally undamaged.

Another highlight was the best vanilla ice cream I have eaten in my whole life. Each one had a matching macaroon shell on top and I couldn't get enough of these. I really wish I lived next to a Laduree shop.

but maybe a bad idea as here is me stuffing my face outside their St Germain Shop.

and again at another biscuit shop near the Sacre Coeur. See a running theme here? No wonder I have got a little pudgy and probably a good idea I cocked up my batch of macarons.

However for those of you that fancy making some macarons I found some great sites with recipes and advice but its back to the troubleshooting page for me.

Bake it Off a great review of Spanish, Italian and French methods with various tips.

Not So Humble Pie which has a fantastic troubleshooting page.

Now I found heaps of exciting things, especially when back home, and since been back but I feel very unmotivated. I think that the excitement of being home, knowing where I want to be, and aiming to be back there fairly soon to open my shop I sort of want to keep some of the exciting things as a surprise when I open my official website, however I have 4 big name British designers from the 60s among them!

I have added one little find that I picked up last week now back in Australia, I very cute little 'porthole' hand carved wooden money box.
Rabbit Money Box

I hope you all have had a great month, and more posts from my holidays coming soon!