Monday, January 29, 2007

Exhausted, proud, sad... Auriga: the end of an era

Sadly, very sadly, Auriga is no more. Vultures are already upon it, picking and scrutinizing the remains. Our last week was difficult, physically and emotionally. To call it stressful would be an understatement of the highest order-- we did a nearly unfathomable amount of business between Tuesday and Saturday, so much in fact that it was almost ridiculous. By the way, I'm going to take this opportunity, as this is my blog and my prerogative, to briefly say a big FUCK YOU to those involved in the gift certificate "scandal." I now have an even greater antipathy for Fox News (no big surprise there), as they may be largely responsible for the stampede of insensitive assholes who showed up in the last couple of days of business demanding reimbursement.... reimbursement for a GIFT, no less..... the definition of GIFT being something you have not purchased for yourself, but rather was given to you out of generosity and kindness. And here we are, over thirty people out of work, owners up to their eyeballs in debt and all kinds of hell, and these jerks show up asking for a check. For their gift. But.... those people are certainly not among the many wonderful folks who came by to show their support and wish us all well one last time this past week. My sincere thanks to all of you, especially the regulars who've been coming in for years, whether it be for happy hour pizzas or Catalan stew or even your weddings or whatever. I wasn't part of Auriga from the beginning, I've been gone for almost a year, and I only was back for one utterly insane final week, but I honestly feel like I never left.... Auriga had its own community, some of you knew that and some did not. But it was there and it was real. I hope we're all going to go on and do some great things out there, together or not. For my part, I am proud and truly honored to have landed --by chance-- in the midst of such a beautiful place. Auriga, you will be sorely missed.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Back in business!

I had my first day of official "work" in 10 months today, much of which was spent scribbling halfwit dessert code on several blank pages. Such is my feeble effort at organization. No, but really, things went totally fine. Planning aside (which is always perhaps the biggest challenge, whether a rookie or seasoned pro), I was able to execute a few simple things, thereby quelling the vague fear that the act of leaving France had vaporized my pastry skills... like a pumpkinized stagecoach after the glamorous ball. The very first thing at all that I attacked were the macarons...... yes, my old nemesis. It was a spiritual test: I knew that if I could successfully pull off a batch of those damned things right off the bat it would be a good omen. And lo and behold, the heavens opened up and showered macaron fortune upon me! Except that they're way too dry, but it's not entirely my fault as I wasn't able to steam them off the parchment like in France. Can we easily get sulfurized paper here? I don't know. And I haven't looked. But that's ok, the point is that my macarons should taste as good as they look after they've soaked up some humidity from their filling from a couple leisurely days hanging out in the fridge. A technique borrowed from Mr. Hermé, I might add. Anyways, if all continues as planned, the new menu should go up in its entirety this coming Tuesday, with potential early appearances by select items as early as Sunday.

It's good to be back in the land of crazy line cooks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A taste of Vietnam

It's so good to eat quality Vietnamese food again, it's almost unbelievable. How could I have gone so long without Quang's? Granted, I had no shortage of other delicious things available to me for the past 10 months, but Vietnamese food this damn good --and for this damn cheap!-- is sadly lacking, indeed, nonexistent, in Paris. And Quang's isn't the only choice here, of course. I've also revisited Pho Tau Bay, which is also very good, but in my opinion the real heavyweight contender for Nicollet Avenue Champion of Vietnamese is perhaps Bubble Delite-- not in terms of ambiance or service, but they have some damn good food, much of which seems a bit more authentic and less modified for Minnesotan tastes than some of the other usual suspects on that street. If only we could breed an all-powerful mutant baby between the ambiance and service of Jasmine Deli with both the authenticity and bubble tea selection of Bubble Delite and the efficiency and consistency of Quang's, I think the resulting bánh mì and bun thit nuong could crush capitalism, end global warming, reverse misogyny and unify all the races and religions in perfect harmony, bringing about a golden, utopic era for humankind!!!!!!!!!

Ok, at least it would be the best lunch in town.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The gentle tingling of.... culture shock!

So, here's some initial perceptions I've been having as I go through the wacky mind game called Reverse Culture Shock (uh, is that a real term?). Are any of my observations especially revelatory (or, for that matter, accurate), whether being compared to France or not? No, I certainly don't think so. But judge for yourself.

*Americans are LOUD.
This is more what I'm used to now... BUT HERE EVERYONE SOUNDS LIKE THIIIIIIIIIIS. I find many "indoor voices" --which is to say, for speaking with someone right next to you-- here to be at the volume level I might use for communicating amidst the quickening gale of a level 3 hurricane.

*Kids are bratty. Granted, French kids can definitely be bratty, but they're generally much less so (and quieter!... see above).

*Strangers are friendlier here, which is nothing new considering this is Minnesota. I'm no longer used to looking people in the eye and simply saying "hello," or even smiling, as I walk down the street.

*American TV, advertising and basically most media is such sickening, repulsive and mindless garbage that I can hardly even believe it-- although I already had thought in a less alarming extent that before leaving. Don't get me wrong, a lot of mainstream French stuff is pretty bad too, but here....... it's..... well, just take a look for yourselves.

*Our public transportation in pitiful for a metropolis of our size and population density. Again, I already knew that, but the feeling has been reinforced exponentially.

*It feels as if there are no grocery stores. It's like I should be taking a team of camels on a fortnight's expedition to get my provisions, which must then last me until the spring.

Well, those are just a few, and let's just say that they are the milder, edited ones. And thus begins by attempt at readjustment.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

From international metropolis to in the middle of the Midwest

White Castle, down the street. Photo from Wing Young Huie's Lake Street USA project.
May Day 2000. Can you spot me??
On the 21 bus. Photo from Wing Young Huie's Lake Street USA project.
Mon quartier.
Anodyne, down the street.

Shockingly, impossibly, I suddenly find myself once again in my hometown of Minneapolis, and obviously also in my greater homeland, the US. Home, home... the definition blurs when you adopt a new one. In the short time I've been back, everything is somehow familiar and foreign at the same time, like in a dream where you know it's your house but the appearance is warped and alien. Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but anyone who's gone through a similar cultural shock can understand. As certain storefronts have changed, moved, or been somehow otherwise altered, it lends the landscape a very confused feel to my mind... "ok, this I recognize, that I recognize-- hey, what the hell is that doing there?!"

But overall, compared to the bustle and clamor of Paris, it's almost as if I'm half-expecting a tumbleweed to float dreamily down my street. It feels unnatural to call and order a pizza, let alone in my native tongue. I have to consciously stop myself from using my automatic "bonjour/merci/au revoir." I have developed a schizophrenic Franglish inner monologue. Spaciousness is also a major change.

Readjustment will certainly take some time.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Breaking up is hard to do.

Il faut que je te laisse pour l'instant. Prends soin de toi.

Je t'aime. Je reviendrai.

A la prochaine, Paris.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


My celebratory parade. Really.

Freshly diploma-ed, I feel like a woman reborn! Ok, maybe not exactly, but it feels pretty good nonetheless. It was an enormous relief to finish my exam, from which I will post some photos soon. Things went pretty smoothly for the most part, until a slightly mad dash at the end which was still not a huge ordeal. My viennoiserie turned out very very well, my macarons also, and aside from a few other small problems things worked out ok.

Only few short days left now before I leave, during which I will be trying to enjoy Paris to the very last moment.....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Adios 2006, the future is now! And what better way to start out the new year than with my final exam, which I began today and will finish tomorrow. My morning got off to a rough start when I woke up at 4:00 in the fitful throes of Macaron Anxiety Dreamland and could not get back to sleep. This episode was later followed by the the semi-realization of those dreams when I flunked my first batch of the fussy little cookies early on in the morning. I did, however, make a rapid recovery, after which everything went fairly smoothly. Needless to say, I'm a bit tuckered out. Hopefully I will be able to report news of success tomorrow afternoon...