Friday, January 29, 2010

Long live the little shops in Granada

Twice a week, my mornings are spent in the streets and shops of Granada. I go to my favorite paper shop, Papela, then to my favorite haberdasheries, near the cathedral; I discover new florists; I enter feverishly in Zara home promising myself I will not feel weak in front of the embroidered linens. Granada is becoming a great place to shop....clothes, especially. The giant Spanish Inditex group which owns various brands among which Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Bershka just to name a few, is present in all the main streets of Granada. Although, I appreciate the fairly good price/quality rate of these fashion industry dinosaurs, I miss the little intimate designer's shops were products are designed by young creators trying to break through. At least, the little food shops or kiosks still survive and hopefully will stay for ever.
If you lived in Granada, wouldn't you like to buy your morning paper, at Prensa Manolo ?
or buy your bread or churros at Enriqueta's, fresh from the baker and wrapped up in brown paper, like in the old days ?
or buy a good piece of manchego cheese in this old dairy shop ?
The dried red pepper garland is for me the culinary symbol of Andalusia. You see it in all the food markets, or hanged outside in the patio in village houses. It contains all the sun which shines on this land and is a fabulous ornament in the kitchen.
I kept this photo for last, because it is really my favorite shop in Granada. Small, with wooden panels, a high ceiling and a very charming seller who is too shy to be photographed. So I acted quickly, this is why the pic is blurred but I guess you can feel the ambiance.

Have a very sweet week end !!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Adios Ferran...adios El Bulli....

A food post wasn't on my mind today, well, unless Monchéri could be considered as some kind of food but I just learned the news today that Ferran Adrìa, possibly one of the best chefs in the world and the father of what he calls "creative avant-garde" in the gastronomy sphere is going to take a break for at least 2 years and.... might not return...

Well too bad...I will never be able to taste his very unique cuisine. Adrìa says he needs a break as he finds it really hard to work 15 hours a day and still be creative....fair enough. He broke the news at the Madrid Fusion conference yesterday, also confessing he contemplated other projects, among them, academic research for Harvard...
I feel a bit frustrated but the man is right, like he said, "even the Rolling Stones don't tour all the time now. This is an opportunity to be self-critical rather than going round saying I'm the best." Very well said !

Here are photos of his fabulous creative food which thanks to Internet, we can still enjoy virtually

couscous with cauliflower
photo credit Francesc Guillamet

A very amusing homage to Spanish artist Tapiès
photo credit Francesc Guillamet

quince paste of red fruit with curd
photo credit Francesc Guillamet

frozen air of parmesano with muesli
photo credit Francesc Guillamet

mango and vanilla ice cream roll
photo credit Francesc Guillamet

Going to El Bulli is a culinary experience I will miss, believe me. I've been procrastinating picking up the phone to make a reservation for an improbable date in the far future. Monchéri never agreed on spending approximatively 200 € per head in a restaurant. I saw it more as a culinary adventure, something you do once in your life. I guess, one needs to be a foodie to understand this !

pics by Francesc Guillamet, exclusive photographer for El Bulli

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ay que bueno el Spanish chocolate !....

How could I have ignored these two brands of Spanish chocolate, for so long ? Well to be precise Simon Coll and Blanxart are Catalan companies which have been making chocolate bars and products respectively since 1840 and 1954. Right now I'm tasting some 50% cocoa dark chocolate, the one on the left - please don't hate me - and it has a very nice almost imperceptible hint of vanilla. The one on the right with pistachio is not bad at all either.
I bought them at one of my favorite shops in Granada, on via San Anton. I don't know the exact name of the shop but you can recognize it easily for the coffee sacks and tea boxes outside.
I'm fascinated by packaging and especially loved the logo and typography used by the Blanxart brand. I started to take pictures of the products on shelf until I heard the gentle voice of the seller behind the counter saying : "humm....chica, por favor, no tomes fotos !". I must say, I don't quite get the reasons why taking photos inside a shop is mostly not allowed. I always try to explain that, it should be considered as flattering and not systematically an intent of industrial spying...But no, rules are, no photos allowed and that's it.
White chocolate doesn't appeal to me but the one with strawberry looks quite interesting.... about this one....white chocolate and Madras curry...sounds like a good marriage, doesn't it ?
Back home, I checked both companies websites and was very happy to see that they also sell worldwide. So if one day, you happen to see these products in your nearby delicatessen, please treat yourself to some Spanish chocolate !

this small shop is in via San Anton and mostly sells teas and coffees.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The old olive mill.....

Today is a slow day. We finished lunch at 3.30 pm a bit later than usual. It seems like the rainy days are over and Monchéri said he might give a hand to a friend for the olive harvest. It's not been a good year, in our local area for the olive season. With constant rain, the olives which dropped on the ground got wasted so the production is lower this winter. I did some olive picking a few years ago on a friend's olive grove and I'm not too sure I'd be ready to do it again ! We spent the whole day bent on our knees to pick the olives on the ground...I've never assisted to the final process, when you take your harvest to the olive mill. Can you figure what it was like in the past to grind the olives in order to produce the coveted golden liquid ?
Not far away from our village is the village of Niguelas which holds one of the most ancient olive mills. It had been operating since the XVth century till the early beginning of XXth century.
The olives were deposited in these stone cubicles. They were numbered and assigned to the harvesters who would pour in a fixed quantity of olives (approx. 250 kg)

Then they were ground by a roller made of stone which looks impressively heavy.
Harvesters transported the fruit in baskets made of esparto. I so love this material. From time to time, we still see an old man on his mule transporting wood or herbs in big esparto baskets, slowly but gracefully interrupting the traffic.
Wishing you a slow peaceful week end !

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A little contribution to Haïti

Dear readers, my lovelies this is my little contribution to Haïti. I made a series of 10 little notebooks a few days ago to sell on my etsy shop. They are 5€ euros each, which is 7$ and I more than happy to send the proceeds of the sales to Haïti via a French organization, Have a look, choose the one you want for you or that special friend. Each of them is totally handmade and adorned with sewn little pearls. An oval cutout window shows a charming vintage Vogue cover. I sold 2 already to a friend of mine so there are only 8 left. They make a perfect little gift for you or your friends. They will look pretty on your dresser table or on your desk. I've just enlisted them on my etsy shop so here they are waiting for you !

ps : by the time, I'm writing this post, 4 were sold already...I'm so thrilled ! my aim is actually to make another series by the end of the week...

Monday, January 18, 2010

A sweet winter week end

Life is still good in Granada. The heavy rains had stopped and on saturday, on our way to Granada, we could admire the Sierra Nevada. I'm not really a snow lover but I can't help associating snowy mountains with smooth meringues.
On saturday evening, we went to see a play at teatro Isabel la Catolica, a brilliant adaptation of Heinrich Kleist's short story The Marchioness of O. (the story takes place in the XVIIIth century, in the North of Italy. The Marchioness of O. is a young widow who finds herself pregnant, after the city has been invaded by Russian soldiers. She had been the victim of a rape, while being unconscious and although she claims her innocence, her parents reject her, and she finally announces her pregnancy publicly, urging the father of her child to confess and admit his act).
After the play, like good Granadinos, of course we had to go for beer and tapas. As you can see, the weather was mild enough to drink outside.
On sunday evening, we had a sweet farewell dinner with our friends Tim and Lyn, and Gym. You already know Tim from the blog Mediterranean Life, Interior Design and Photography. After having spent 8 years in Andalucia, Tim and Lyn feel like a change. I'm so sad to see them go but well, c'est la vie as they say, and it will also be the opportunity for us to go and visit them in their new homeland....
We talked about many things, our life here, the little cultural things we will never be able to grasp totally, our projects, what we hoped for in 2010 and then we all agreed how lucky we were to sit around a table and share a meal and just be happy.
The conversation drifted to the incredibly sad tragedy in Haïti. We fell silent for one second. Gym shook her head and said she had donated some money. We gave her a warm look. I said I sent a bit of money too via a French organization but that may be I could do a bit more, via my little etsy shop.
Well, I actually wanted to wait until wednesday to announce it on the blog, because it's not ready yet but this is what I did : I prepared a little series of 10 very cute small notebooks which will be sold on my etsy shop and the proceeds of the sales will go to Haïti.

I know, it's a modest contribution but I can tell you, I was more than happy to give a few hours of my time so please stay tune and come back on wednesday !

In the meantime, please pay a visit to my dear blogging friends Se'lah and Agneta. Just love their today post !

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Will the lemons resist ?

Brave little lemons facing a hard Andalusian winter indeed ! Every morning I look at my neighbor's patio (mine is totally empty of plants or flowers at the moment) and the sight of the bright yellow lemons brings a smile to my face. They endure quite a lot these days : snow, rain and cold and they still stand proud. You know what I dream of right now ? A big bunch of mimosa flowers, the kind which smells very sweetly, to remind me of the sun....
Well, meanwhile I put a smile on Monchéri's face making a chocolate cake...It's a recipe I know by heart and of course the result is never quite the same. At times, it's very spongy, other time it's more like a brownie. But eh, it's the intention that counts ! You need : 100g of butter, 140g of chocolate, 4 eggs, 90g of flour, 130g of sugar.
you melt the butter with the chocolate. Pour the sugar. Add the egg yolks one by one. Add the flour.
Whisk the eggs white. Add them to the preparation and put it in the oven for 50 mn at 180ºC.
And serve with marmelade.
and enjoy with a hot cup of tea !

Monday, January 11, 2010

My first book of the year : Leo Castelli et les siens by Annie Cohen-Solal

One thing I love is to start the new year with an inspiring book, a story which transports me, gives me new horizons. It could be a good novel or thriller but I was quite eager to discover this book Leo Castelli et les siens (Leo Castelli and his family) by Annie Cohen-Solal. It is the biography of famed New York art gallerist Leo Castelli.
The author met him in New York 1989 when she worked as cultural counselor to the French Embassy. She fell under the charm of this elegant man and intrigued by his background, set to the task of writing the story of his life which begins in Trieste in 1907.
Annie Cohen-Solal does a super job at describing the social life of this town, and goes back further to the XVIIth century to introduce us to Leo's ancestors. At that time, Trieste was a thriving austrian-hungrian port.
We travel from Trieste to Vienne, where Leo Castelli lived during the first world war, then on to Paris and finally New York in 1940.
I will not bore you with details. What I actually find amazing is the fact that Castelli, besides being an aesthete, but knowing nothing about the art world, opened his art gallery at the very ripe age of 50, in 1957. He felt a true admiration towards artists and often helped them by giving them a regular salary. But mostly, he understood what needed to be done to promote an artist. In that sense, he was a great defender of American art, Andy Warhol, Joseph Kosuth, Jasper Johns and of course Robert Rauschenberg who was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, in 1964.
According to Cohen-Solal, Castelli's accountant was always on the verge of despair because Castelli never quite made money as the earnings were immediately invested in new artists.
This is what I call a true patron of the arts !

I still have a good number of pages to go as it's a thick book of 500p. and since it's cold and wet outside, I don't mind reading most of evenings.....

So tell me, what is your first book of the year ?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Making collages while it's cold outside...

Well when it's cold in Andalucia, it's not much fun to hang outside except if you love snow and skiing which unfortunately is not my case. So I stay warm at home, trying to finish decorating the house, a time-consuming task indeed. Below is the little sitting room on the landing in cream tones. We don't use it in winter and we pompously call it the "antesala" (antechamber). On one end, it leads to the patio and the workplace and the other end leads to the first floor where the main living space is. My decorating project at home is a bit time consuming because I love doing everything myself, like sewing covers by hand. The high chairs were prototypes designed by my dear friend Kaki. We used to be neighbors in Paris and these chairs are a gift from her. Of course with time, they aged a bit so I made these covers with a very soft blanket and stitched the sides with thick cream and brown wool. I still have to make covers for the arms but I'm taking it easy. The Morrocan bed is also covered with a cream white blanket waiting for a dark brown satin ribbon to be sewn around the edges. I'm also planning to make another collage to place next to my porteuse d'eau "carrying water woman".
I am so obsessed with the carrying water woman theme for a collage that I started two other ones to hang in the living room upstairs. I placed them on each side of a wide entrance. They do look simpatica !

Monchéri just came in with the mail and hourray my first book of the year has arrived ! It's about the very interesting life and destiny of famed New York galerist Leo Castelli, Leo Castelli et les siens by Annie Cohen-Solal....Will tell you more about it next monday !

Have a great week end and keep warm !!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A very wet start of the year

On this rainy cold monday, I can't help digging up pictures taken last year of a bright sunny Andalusia. We had nothing but rain these last weeks and here our little villages are just not prepared for it ! Although, we do welcome the rain, everyone has a story to share about roof leaks, rising damp, wooden doors which after days of constant rain refuse to shut. A few days ago, I noticed water leaking through the stone wall downstairs.
Oh well...never mind, let's say rain is also another kind of good weather !

So this winter, I guess we'll go more to the movies to be warm and entertained. On saturday, we went to Granada to watch the last fabulous movie of Alejandro Amenabar, Agora which actually made me discover Hipathia, the first mathematician woman.
And apart from visiting friends and sharing a nice meal, we just enjoy staying indoors. I started making some collages to hang in the living room and Monchéri likes keeping busy in the kitchen (the funny hood is because he discovered one hair in his preparation the other day...not too sexy but surely funny!)

Hope you're starting 2010 all fresh and new !
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