Thursday, October 29, 2009

Little Honey of Bohemia

I am so very heavy with grief this week. I am mourning the loss of my dearly loved Napoleon and I cry every day several times a day, as does my Mom. We really miss our little boy, who was part super-companion and part devil. We will miss him for a long time and always keep him in our memory. I want to rush home every day like I usually did to let him out, walk him and play games, and then let him lay on my lap and stroke his ears, then I remember he is gone. I see his toys and especially his "dog toy" (he knew this phrase, for a stuffed animal Yorkie that he loved to chew on), his minky dog bed, and it makes me so sad. I miss feeling the weight of him on or next to my feet in bed.
My Mom has been thinking of a new dog for about a year, and I generally nix her suggestions as not appropriate for her; too big, too hairy, health problems, too hyper, too dumb; on and on. Always I find an issue. I have wanted the "perfect" dog for her, as she keeps telling me she wants "her own dog." Napoleon was definitely "my dog" but secondarily my Dad's as Napoleon thought my Dad was the big Alpha. He loved to roll on and lick my Dad's bed pillow. Like a devotee of his Guru, Napoleon wanted to be like and smell like his Grampy. And of course Grampy fed him beef jerky every day; they had a little routine where Napoleon would get in the car when my Dad came home and would bark three times and paw at the glove box until it magically opened and the bag of beef jerky came out.
This week I was spending a whole lot of time looking for my perfect dog, when by chance I found a dog that is perfect for Mom and that I would also love to have for myself: a Norfolk Terrier. I have known a few dozen Norfolks, all in New York area. I have seen one on the west coast, Jackie's beloved Blossom (there are only about 300 Norfolks born in the US each year so they are relatively rare and breeding is tightly controlled). But the ones I know have been very consistent across the breed: very stable, very loving, highly intelligent and excellent companions. Not physically demanding as they get older but full of life and love as puppies, both great for my Mom. After looking at many dozens of breeds, I can't find any objection when it comes to this breed. I will post more on the breed later. I did not expect to find our perfect dog so soon, but here she is and she is indeed perfect for us. And we need her now. Maybe she is heaven sent to us..??
I had the pick of a litter, from the Czech Republic. A European dog! My dream! I chose the pup on the far right, which is appropriate for Mom as she is Far Right Republican, and we are naming her Honey. I am officially calling her Little Honey of Bohemia with a nod to her forebears. I have been to the former Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. It is a fascinatingly beautiful land; the people are real, the landscape is beautiful; I remember the towering silver aspens in the wind and the rolling fields. The language was foreign to me but I had a true connection there; they are really good people and this is a wonderful place for a puppy to come from; I am going to make her a bed of a cloth I bought in her country.
The only thing that can fill our void and ease our grief is a new puppy. She will arrive in the next few weeks and the expectation of this little bundle of joy has eased our pain; this is a little dog that I will be able to train to the hilt and Mom will be able to love to bits.
Many thanks to Donna for all her help.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Napoleon est Mort

Yesterday I had to put my beloved terrier Napoleon to sleep after about a month of being sick and a steep decline in his health over the weekend. I wouldn't wish that vet experience on anyone; I would call it very traumatic, and I spent most of yesterday morning sobbing my heart out, the same heart that this little dog quickly made his way into when he was a tri-color puppy 13+ years ago.

I got home last evening and the reality that this little face was not eagerly waiting looking for me started to set in. No dog to be with us in the evening, no dog to let out or take for a walk this morning. Napoleon was just a puppy when I moved back to New York City the last time, and he loved to play in the Hudson (if it were clean!), not to mention go to the beach here and run into each wave and dig like crazy in the sand. He and I were out for our walk on 9/11 and just missed the first plane, but he went nuts when we heard the second plane hit; that told me something big was up. He stayed outside with me and saw the towers fall, and he was my sole companionship for the next few days when the city was in lockdown.

As a pup he was very active, running laps around the house and running alongside me as I rollerbladed for miles. But as he got older, he was pretty mellow at home, and was my steady companion, following me room to room or laying down nearby in the sun if I were working in the garden. People and things come and go in your life, but you can always count on the unconditional love of your dog! I think it's safe to say that little dog lived to be with me; if he were home or at the kennel or in the car, he was always watching intently for my return, and no matter if it was 5 minutes or a week, he was crazy happy to see me come back! He was also a great little Houdini dog, able to get through several locked doors or out a high window; a few months ago I was working outside; he had escaped and just came up to me and lay down right next to me where I was working in the yard; just wanted to be with me....

Of course Napoleon lived up to his name; he was a terror to strangers at the house, and he didn't like tapping feet under the tables; it reminded him too much of a rat or a rabbit, I guess. He could go into a down-stay in front of a piece of food for 10 minutes if that's what I told him to do, but if there was something moving unexpectedly somewhere, all bets were off; instinct kicked in. And then of course there were other times, like when he locked me out of my running BMW at the Palisades park; he had stepped on the door lock and I was running around the car trying to get him to step on it again to open the door. People came over to help me and he was just going crazy that I was outside with strangers. And of course the time I came down the street in SoHo to see Napoleon ripping down the headliner of my parked Jeep; someone had their face to the window and he was just in a frenzy in the car. That was my crazy little Napoleon...

But to our immediate family, he was a little "racer dog" as a puppy, an expressive little clown who could walk across the room on his hind legs, and a dog with an extensive vocabulary of a few hundred words, at least. Just say the words "beef jerky" (his favorite treat from Dad) and he would lick his lips and be up off his bed. He was the smartest and most manipulative dog we've ever had; totally unlike our previous dogs, though he also caused the most trouble of any of our dogs. I remember when he was trained by Dan in NJ; he told me this was a super tough little dog; he "could have trained 10 dogs in the same amount of time;" but train he did, a series of hand and verbal commands that Napoleon could execute to perfection for his whole life.

I hope to find a new puppy in the next few weeks; the best therapy for losing a dog is getting a new one, I think, though I will get a female and one that can go to the markets with me. My little Napoleon will always be in my heart; rest in peace my sweet little puppet dog....

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Potted Pesto

Sometimes I just sort of fall into a blog post. I mean, it finds me and hits me over the head. This week I went up to a vendor who sells items inlcuding pesto; she was in conversation about a pesto, saying "they said it was too strong!" When that customer left, I asked her, "how could any pesto be too strong?" Well, turns out she was asked to make a pesto for a local pot dispensary. She used a base of a current pesto she has, and added pot, for those who can not smoke it. How would anyone know how to make that?? And who would have thought! It was completely incongruous with this vendor. ...I am still scratching my head over that one. I relayed the story to one other person today, and it took a few minutes to understand that someone had actually made pot into a pesto. She couldn't imagine that pot pesto would actually taste good; let alone "not strong." OMG! No good photo for this one, I am posting a shot from last fall from Calabasas.....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Witches in the 'Hood

Halloween is a very polarizing event in our family. My sister loves it and goes all out; the house is decked out with all kinds of decorations: pumpkins, tombstones, black cats and the like. She carefully chooses the costume that she will wear to work, and will host a "witches party" for her gal-neighbors.

As much as my sister loves Haloween, our Mom hates it. With a passion. When we were kids we had a lot of fun with Dad bringing the full skeleton named Joe Bones home from work, buckled in the passenger seat, and then putting him in the window and playing scary music. But now, she won't have any of it. I put major matching pumpkins on the pillars on the drive, and she has threatened to lasso them down. I got pumpkins to use for display at the markets, and put them at the back door during the week; she complains about them daily. I eased on the Halloween look and instead got a few whimsical scarecrows for the booth too, but she says when she looks out the back door at night she gets scared because she thinks there are real people lurking there, so I took them away....I can't win.

Our neighborhood gets in the spirit though. I went to drop a note off to Yvette, and was thrilled to see the witch she had put up. How did she get that up there? Fabulous! I drove by later, in the evening, and it's subtly lit. The Shea's have an enormous scary pirate skeleton hanging from their star pine; I think the eyes glow red at night! And every year a neighbor puts up this witch on the fence corner; I drive past it twice a day and each year I still think it's clever...

Girls Night

Who needs a focus group when you've got great girlfriends? Last night we went to Meriam's house and had a little party with sushi, white wine and a bunch of new merchandise. Everyone had great comments and it really helped me as I decide what to reorder for Christmas. Patti recently bought a small sample from me in Corona del Mar; a little bucket bag; she put a bottle of wine in it and gave it to Djive, who now uses it for her lunch bag and thinks it's very practical and a definite reorder item. Djive and I also spent some time brainstorming for a new product line that she will design and I will have manufactured in Madagascar. It was a very creative and productive night.
My favorite new bag is one of the samples I received, the satchel. As you know I have named all the bags after my favorite French places; this bag is special and it will have a special name: the Paris Satchel. I'm going to have a few improvements made to it; it will be awesome!
That got me thinking though, maybe I should have a little party every time my new arrivals are in. Do a little shopping, have a glass and catch up with my regular shoppers and friends and clients.....good idea!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Does a Menton Waiter Cross the Road...?

I got a nice email today from Karyn, who is with the Laguna Beach Sister Cities group. I used to have more time to go to the meetings, but not lately.
Anyway, Menton is the last French town before the Italian border, and it is suitably influenced by Italy. It is now tied with Laguna through Sister Cities International. But while I loved the ochre and Italian-influenced buildings, the citrus trees outside the train station, etc, what I remember most about Menton is the beach.
There are cafe's on the inland side of the two-lane coastal highway, with tables and umbrellas set up on the ocean side. Beyond the tables and chairs and umbrellas is the beach, which is pebbly not sandy, and full of umbrellas.
If you want a drink at the tables, you sit for a bit until the waiter arrives, and place an order. In our case, as it was full summer, the waiter arrived with a tray on his shoulder, in white clothes but drenched in perspiration. He had to cross the coastal road to get to our table; so he went in between the cars, jaywalking, as there is no crosswalk there. It would be like having the waiters go back and forth across Coast Highway non-stop to get from the restaurant to the tables. This of course makes no sense, but it is completely French and it works, there. I had no luck finding the fancy Mediterranean garden I was looking for, and the tourist office was closed for 2 hours at lunch as in France. I got my gelato, then sent the boys back to buy their own; they did the "point and grunt" thing and weren't totally sure what they were eating, but I figured next time they would come more prepared!

New Signage

I am going to have a few updated signs at my market booths. One of them will be regarding the MEA, and will read something like this:
"If a California city wants to ban single use plastic bags, it must complete an environmental impact report, or face legal action by the plastic bag industry. In 2009, the State of California began a Master Environmental Assessment (MEA) which could be adapted by all municipalities in the state to ban plastic bags. The State pulled its funding due to the budget crisis, but the project is now being completed with private funding from the following groups and was coordinated by Green Cities California:

City of Los Angeles
City of Manhattan Beach
City of Palo Alto
City of Richmond
City of San Francisco
City of Santa Monica
French Basketeer
Green Sangha
Earth Resource Foundation
11th Hour Project
Surfrider Foundation
Seventh Generation Advisors

The MEA is expected to be completed in March 2010, with bag bans to follow.
Please begin to find alternatives to plastic carrier bags….! "
I hope this is a more effective way for me to get the message out. Though I have a tabletop sign, I still have a lot of people ask me if I am selling washcloths or lingerie bags!!
The photos are from the central fountain in Arles. The head is spitting water, though you might not notice that at first.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quasi-comedic Cart Routine

I was in Palisades market this morning when one of the regular celebrity shoppers came up to my booth and said "Hi; I bought a rolling cart from you a little while ago." Me: "You did?" Her: "Yes." Me: "Are you sure you bought it from me?" Her, cheerfully: "Yes, I'm sure." It was a sort of an Abbott & Costello exchange, which went on for a minute, with me being the dumb one. Turns out there was a little issue with the cart, which is easily fixed and I will do next week, but it had me pretty rattled at first. I KNOW I would have remembered if she had bought from me. And if she had, I would have comped her or given it to her at cost.

She was on her way to take her sister to the airport, so she said she would come back later, or I suggested, early next Sunday.

I called my sister and my niece, who worked for me while I was in France. Did you sell to "so and so." You know, from this show and that show? No idea; but they described her current market gear to a T. So it WAS her, my family is just kinda lame at recognizing celebrities, and they don't watch much TV I suppose. I mean I don't watch TV a lot, but I know most of the major folks. And for sure Ronnie the Granola Guy was not next to them that week or he would have told them who she was.

Anyway, I am slowly becoming Basketeer to the Stars. I will take care of my celeb client next week. She happens to be very very into Green issues and I'll be sure to tell her I appreciate that....the photo is from the summer trip; while my niece was selling baskets to the stars I was at a WWII rememberance event in Arles, and this gentilhomme was there. It was like 100 degrees, but he was out in hat and suit and gloves. Vive la France!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bella & Lucy Go to Market

I forgot to charge my camera for today, and invariably when it's dead I miss a great shot or have to use my blackberry. Arrgh. Like today, when a young family came to the market; Mom & Dad bought an XL Eze-style basket for the market and beach, and Dad chose small baskets for each of his daughters, new merchandise with a leather zip-top. The girls had a pair of 8 week old Yorkie puppies, littermates Bella & Lucy, who were very happy to be carried around in their new baskets. The picture does not do the scene justice; I hope they will be back next week and I can get a better shot!!
I have been reading Carolyn Roehm's Passion for Flowers this week; we are lucky with our weather that we can get nice fresh flowers all year, and if you work at the markets you also get discounts :) It would be nice to have the cool New England weather, but I'll enjoy where I am for the moment... these dahlias, spider mums, tuberose, casablanca and oriental lillies are from David & Hector in CdM. I'll be enjoying them all week.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Authentic & Timeless Too

Rachel Ashwell has reopened a store in Los Angeles, in fact it is in the same location where she first opened Shabby Chic twenty years ago. I remember when Shabby Chic was the new "it" store in New York City; was it ever fun to go to Greene Street and plop down on that furniture! Unfortunately at that time one of the sofas or chairs would have consumed an entire room in our poor-starving-investment-banking-anaylst digs.
Anyway, I like very much that Rachel has stuck to her "look" over the years, which of course was a new take on classic English slipcovered furniture, but done in an oversized scale. She added lots of crystal chandeliers and Victoriana and softness: the tags for each piece of furniture used to be pinned on with a faded silk flower.
French Basketeer is still a very young company; 17 months now. But I am sticking to my "look" too and hope to not get into anything that is too "wierd" on the basket front. I thought it was interesting too that Rachel's new logo says "Timeless" and "Authentic". Hmm that sounds familiar: "Authentic French market French Basketeer brings this timeless chic to the United States." That makes me feel good! There is a good reason people like, buy and keep their authentic & timeless pieces!
I am also of course constantly looking at the examples of other female entrepreneurs; Rachel was brought into over-expansion mode with a new group of partners a few years ago, and now has come back to her roots. Based on her blog, Rachel seems to have kept everything in perspective and has kept a great attitude, now plowing herself into the new stores and lines. Of course I dream of having a store one day; look at Rachel's lovely storefront. Thank you, Rachel, for motivating and inspiring me!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Burgundy Wines 101

Understanding the wines of Burgundy is like learning to read and being told to immediately tuck into War & Peace; like learning the piano and being asked to play Rachmaninoff. You get the idea....there are so many terroirs, the conditions of each year are so different. The boys told me they wanted to go wine tasting on the trip and to understand "the difference between an OK bottle of wine and a great bottle of wine." I said, "Oh, the difference is about $60, but we'll discuss it."
With little time, I did my best at a Wine 101 tour for the boys: two driving tours, north and south of Beaune, three tastings and a visit to Clos Vougeot.
A trip to Burgundy, for me, is not complete without a visit to a certain cellar where you can taste the best wine on offer from the best vineyards. Some tastings are of course only a single vinters production, but it's great to sample the same grape varietal in the same village from different parcels and different vintners and see how the terroir and human intervention produce different wine. Heavy on Puligny Montrachet and Chassagne Montrachet but many others -- the best-- are on stock at this certain cellar. Anyway, we took all afternoon and we went through the normal battery. First whites, then reds. I take notes on all tastings here, and as you can see I trained Dennis to do the same. This way we can decide what we like and keep a short list and then arrive at a final purchase list; the key details are written down: vintner, year, parcel, tasting notes and price.
In the end, we bought about 18 bottles in the Beaune area; all made it home except a half bottle. We came home with Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Clos Vougeot; it is all hidden away, ready for a fabulous Chrismas or something!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Career Advice & CakeWrecks

Today I gave a presentation (twice, in fact) to girls at the high school I attended. In New York in my early 20's, I revealed to my boss one day that I had graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school. "That explains a lot," he responded. I wasn't sure quite how to take that, but he did think I was a pretty buttoned-up and focused anlyst. Anyway, I did my little presentation today on how I started the basket business, and offered plenty of career advice. One of my tips was to keep your eyes open and pay attention to trends and interesting ideas or themes; you are never too young to be an entrepreneur.

The girls seemed a little surprised that I would suggest that they could be entrepreneurs. Just this morning I read a headline online about teen millionaire entrepreneurs. Here is a related post;

Jam? Who would have thought, right?

Later today someone sent me a link from the NY Times regarding a blog called CakeWrecks, see which is a very entertaining blog about cakes gone wrong; I've attached a few photos here. This blogger has moderated a wonderful blog based on submissions from followers; she has a book coming out and will be on tour, and as you can see, advertisers on her blog. I would call her successful, though I don't know her personal profile.

So, girls: keep your eyes open: cakes, jams, baskets. Who would have thought? Find something you love, find something that is interesting to people that they will want to pay money for, unless of course you aren't in it for the money in which case just have a fabulously interesting site and make of it what you can....

One of the students, Noreen, asked if I was "accepting interns." That was an unexpected question! Sure, I said. We'll see what little projects I can find for Noreen.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fancy Moroccan Slippers

My new supplier in Morocco also has slippers. Not just "slippers", they are buttery-soft-top-of-the-line slippers. Comfortable, leather and natural fiber, artisan-made slippers. I had them in the basket (as shown) today in Palisades, and I had 12 dozen people pick them up, though they were "for comment" and not "for sale." I have big feet, and none of the samples fit me; nor would they look as attractive in European size 42, but maybe on the next order :) I got another great pair of slip-ons (not shown) for R, who has a fat ankle due to a moto accident but loves all articles Moroccan, Chinese or Indian, especially if I procure them for him for free....

I also have a supplier who does inexpensive Moroccan slippers. At the end of the day today, I decided I can't sell slippers at the markets, but I will wholesale them as some stores ask me about them. I am in the basket business, not the shoe business; and shoes are a totally different beast. Still, these are all adorable, and the finest quality. Call me if you want a few pairs.....Euro size quotes only......

Just Add Dog, or "Laika"

Last weekend in Palisades I had a mother/daughter team of shoppers; Mom chose the mango Cap Ferrat tote, her adorable little daughter chose a small rose-pink Cap Ferrat. They were back today with their totes, and Mom looked very chic and very French all in black, with a fringed wrap because the weather was gray, and her French Basketeer tote. Note her cute little black flats and slightly flared pants; people tend to be either sporty or chic, and here you have Chic.
But her best accessory was her gorgeous Golden, on a Chanel-esque chain leash, who gave me a nice dog smile for this photo....dogs are not allowed to go through the market, but they can go behind our booths on the sidewalk.
The dog's name is Laika, which Mom told me was the first space dog (Russian) and that her young son is into space and astronomy so he chose that name. Upon further reading, I see that Laika was on Sputnik 2 in 1957, and unfortunately did not survive her flight due to a malfunction of thermal controls. Though of course at that time, no one knew if a dog, let alone a human, could even withstand launch. So this is why the Soviets took Laika 1, a stray, and trained her and eventually put her into orbit; Laika then made the ultimate contribution to space travel.
See, didn't I tell you these folks in Palisades are a pretty intellectual crowd (in addition to being snappy dressers and lovers of authentic French market baskets)? They name their dogs after Russian cosmo-canines!
PS, Mom, next week, come see me for a free cotton net produce bag; I can't stand seeing that plastic bag peeking out of your nice tote.....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Morocco Merch

I got several hundred new pieces in this week, and am just rolling them out. If you are on my list, I call you and let you know when the new stuff is in and you get first dibs; then I get it out into the markets and certain private clients. My client "P" for example came by and bought for a gift for tonight and let me know she wants the baby baskets (photo) for her Christmas gifts; the good stuff goes fast, and it's limited. If you are not on my list and want to be on that list, please email me immediately...:) I have a few sure winners in this new batch, which is very consistent across the line and very very high quality. My supplier also sent a few samples, and many of those went right away to my retail clients. Unusual shapes, handmade, organic. OK more later; here are a bunch of photos. Today we were in CdM and tomorrow in Palisades farmers market and Studio City Farmers market. will post tomorrow. I have just one of the giant satchel left; Kelly the Pasta Lady loves it, and here she is as my model. It's unusual and very large; another retail client took the smaller version; you could carry your life in this bag!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New media

I have contracted with a great PR firm to help me revamp my materials, including line sheet, PR kit, postcard and social networking. It's really incredible, when I think about it: some of the publications I really love have gone under: House & Garden, Gourmet, Domino. Who would have thought that Domino would have had a problem with ad revenue? I loved that magazine! I support the publications I love: Coast Magazine, Romantic Homes, Coastal Living. The net can never replace some of those print mags....
But undeniably, the growth is in the electronic media. We will soon launch on Etsy, and I will revamp my other electronic media. I follow a few dozen blogs, my favorites being Things That Inspire and allthebestblog and velvenandlinen and will keep improving my blog. Different from print, bite-size and wonderful to read. More info later.....right now I am just concerned with the new order arriving tomorrow...!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Julia's Paris, on a Shoestring

Julie & Julia is going to continue to provide me with some great fodder for blog posts. I think this is #3 or 4...

There is an epicurean tour company in New York that gives a tour based on Julia's life in France. You get 7 nights of hotels, including the hotel where Julia and Paul stayed when they first arrived in Paris, and several nights in the south of France. There is the possibility of visiting her country home in the south of France. A cooking lesson at the Cordon Bleu is included. You get to go on several walking tours of Paris, and see the markets where Julia shopped and get restaurant recommendations for "the type of restaurants that would have inspired her." The price? Starting at $2,150. Not too bad, eh?

Until you read the fine print. What is included: A glass of champagne upon arrival in Paris, 7 nights of lodging and a one-way TGV ticket to Avignon. What is not included: airfare, meals, wines, minibar, tips, insurance, the return train trip from Avignon (this is implied), airport arrival and departure fees, and oh yes, a guide. This is an unguided tour for $307 a day; so you get lodging and a written itinerary to follow around Paris. Of course you can pay for a guide, but that is extra and the price is not quoted.

As I have said before, reading a list of what to see and do in Paris is like reading a list of missing persons; you hope to God that you are not going to find a name you know. They omitted the cook supply store that I know she shopped at. Thank you!

I dunno, this doesn't sound like such a great trip, nor does it sound like a very good value. I'd start my own French travel biz except I'm kinda busy with the baskets. Still, feel free to email me if you need any French travel tips....

Naples Botanical Garden

French Basketeer baskets & totes are now going to be available at the Naples Botanical Garden; with the addition of Florida, our products are now carried in 18 states nationwide. I've lost count of how many states we have shipped to for retail purchases, but it's more than 18! Thank you to clients this week: Terri in NY and one of my favorite repeat clients, Nancy in WI...
Anyway, the Naples Botanical Garden is 170 acres of world-class gardens among a series of lakes and lagoons. It was started in 1993 and has been under additional renovation; my photo for this post is obviously during the construction stage as it's under "Garden History" on their site, but I love the allee of giant palms. They have seven ecosystems and 300 species of native plants.
The nice thing about constructing a new botanical garden is that you aren't burdened by the legacy the Garden has created all of its buildings according to LEED certification standards. I think they said the plan for the certification was 50 pages, so this has been a lot of work! It also includes a goal of 50% reduction in irrigation through rainwater collection, plant selection and "efficient practices." You can read more about the specs here:
Thank you to the Botanical Garden for the order...I'm looking forward to getting feedback on sales....

Passing the Test

On Saturday morning I went to Starbucks to pick up some beans for my Mom. I don't go to Starbucks very often, usually it's to get something for my sister or beans for Mom; frankly I like Peet's coffee better because it doesn't taste so "burned".
Anyway, I walked in and was invited to do a blind taste test of their new instant coffee "Via" vs. brewed. Of course, I was able to tell the difference...the instant isn't bad but it's definitely thinner than brewed. When I asked how many people got it right that morning so far, the barrista told me 1 in 5 could correctly identify the instant. Really?! Anyway, this has nothing to do with baskets or France, I know, but I was happy to be in that 20% group, I guess! The best little coffee discovery I've made lately is Francoise & Bob's coffee maker in Paris; it makes a single cup of coffee or single or double espresso from whole beans, and also has a nifty little steamer attachment that runs for exactly one minute. Francoise is back this week; I'll have to get the info from her. So there, a French tie-in....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A real "Fun Guy"

Today I was in Palisades market in the morning, while I had the Laguna eco-Fest staffed. It was cool, breezy and mild; a perfect early-fall day. I was glad to discover a new seasonal vendor in Palisades; his name is Dirk, and he is a specialist in all kinds of mushrooms. It's very rare to see these kinds of mushrooms in a farmer's market, but of course Palisades has a great upscale clientele and I've also met my share of personal chefs. Dirk delights in telling you, in English with a heavy German accent, that he is "a real fungh-guy." It was a sense of humor I don't think of as typically German, but I got a good laugh out of it. Anyway, the real treasure in Dirk's booth was a jar each of fresh Italian black and white truffles, stored as they should be in rice. I smelled first the black, then the white, and told him I preferred the white. He pronounced me to be of excellent taste, then proceeded to tell me that the white were more expensive and better (I knew that...). A moment later a woman came up and gave him an enormous hug; "is that what we do to get a discount on white truffles?" I wondered? In any case, I bought half a white truffle for the same value of my weekly floral budget, and he threw in the cremini mushrooms that I had also selected (see the photo below of the half truffle and a guava I also bought today). I was going to put the fresh truffle in mashed potatoes tonight, but instead I decided to maximize the little morsel, so I quartered it and put it in a jar of olive oil as soon as I got home, so that I can have some truffle oil; and at some point in the fall or winter I will use some of the truffle itself for some great mashed. For the rest of the day my neighbors were smelling the truffle in the tiny brown paper bag Dirk gave me, and I got a kick out of their reactions. Ronnie thought it smelled earthy but sort of like pot. If you do a google search on white truffles, you will see that the price is worse than drugs: $3,000 per pound for white truffles!?? In the end it was an extravagance, yes, and I hope it turns into many nice dishes this fall.....

If you have followed my blog, you know my photo I have used of the mushroom vendor in Beaune; I buy dried cepes from her that I use in the states because you can not find fresh cepes here. Btw I have never seen fresh truffles for sale in any French market, at least that I remember. I will have to go back to talk to Dirk again next week and post more.

In other news, I saw something I have never seen before, a young girl walked through the market with an enormous hotte on her back; this is the type of basket they used in France to harvest the grapes, though I don't think they use them much now. This one looked Asian and not at all European. It was interesting but very odd, and I can't imagine how she would put items in the hotte without some help, but at least she did not seem to have any plastic bags on hand....