Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Picard for a New Generation

It's time I talked about Picard. Not Shakespearean-trained Patrick Stewart's Captain Picard, but the greatest frozen sensation since, well, the freezer.

Picard is a retail operation throughout all of France that exclusively sells (gulp) frozen food. Yet, this stuff is so yummy, so you-can't-even-tell-it-was-frozen, that they have a word for it: surgelés, which comes from the verb for to deep freeze, but now can be defined as: “a really tasty alternative to a home cooked meal and way better than take-out.”

The concept: source high quality and diverse food and deep-freeze it to lock in the flavor, pack it up nicely, and sell it via highly accessible (through location and friendly hours) shops. To boot, Picard has a helpful and ready staff, they’ll even bag your purchases (something you're hard pressed to find in any grocery here).

It looks and feels a little retro-futuro, like what they thought the future would look like in the 1950s. You don't see any food upon entry, for they use horizontal freezers that are more energy-efficient. The freezers are typically aligned as a single path with sale items in front, then starters and mains, and as if you're in a veritable Candy Land, the desserts are at the end. True, it can get tricky if you realize you forgot that side of gratin dauphinois you wanted and are forced to retrace your steps, but you manage. A cashier is at the end with a ready smile and a "bonjour" and some plastic bags (while freezer-friendly bags are also available for a chanson).

Everything I've ever had from them is delicious - from ingredients like raspberry coulis and frozen chopped garlic, to full on chicken tikka and croquant chocolat. That have a lot of Bio (organic) options, too. Among my circle, its everyone’s dirty little secret how much Picard one consumes over homemade meals.

I’ve often thought about exporting the concept to the States, but I think there is too great a stigma against frozen foods, and it’s hard to compete with a 24 hour food cycle. But here you can see a steady stream of Parisians, including many well-heeled ones, popping into Picard to fetch that evening's meal. As a colleague of Franck's once quipped, "Parisians have a €50,000 kitchen in order to heat up Picard in the microwave."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Whirlwind

When I moved to France back in 2006, I spent my first weekend visiting my in-laws in Normandie. I walked into my husband's childhood bedroom (his closet still filled with bad jeans and sweatshirts from his high school days), and on the bed lay a CD of Jeanne Moreau; it was a sweet welcome gesture from my mère-in-law.

Despite my francophile ways, I hadn't heard of her before, although she remains one of the most celebrated and ubiquitous of French celebs. I've since become enamored with her and can barely pass a day in Paris without coming across her
visage gracing the cover of a magazine or seeing her on one of the many French talk shows. (NB: Her name came up more recently after Natasha Richardson's tragic accident- Natasha's dad left her mom, Vanessa Redgrave, for Jeanne).

Perhaps Moreau's most famous film is Francois Truffault's Jules et Jim, a story of a very complex love triangle. Here is a scene from it where Moreau, as Catherine, is singing "Le Tourbillon," or The Whirlwind, which I find utterly charming. It includes English subtitles. I practice my French trying to sing it.

She's lost her voice now, thanks to the many french fags she smokes, but still sings and remains one very cool cat. meow.

photo by Dusty Groove America

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The French invented the tongue"

I'm a big Bill Maher fan. He's a little obnoxious, sure, but he's spot on I believe re: politics (although he does seem very conservative re: the use of Rx products). I listen to podcasts of his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, the best part is his "new rules" (a favorite of mine: "New Rule: Yoko Ono must stop saying 'this is what John would've wanted.' I'll tell you what he would've wanted: a divorce and Lucy Liu."). French friend Laurence recently posted this video on Facebook re: his take on France. I heard it when it was originally aired around the French election, but it cracks me up just the same now, and sadly, still remains relevant in the context of the healthcare debate back home.

I love how guest Sean Penn is trying to keep it together, but can't help cracking up. Even Bill M. himself cracks at the end. This one had me at "France."

Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville, Robert Doisneau (1950)