Coffee… Coffee… Coffee!

COFFEE... COFFEE... COFFEE!BELLANDA ®

COFFEE… COFFEE… COFFEE!
BELLANDA ®

I know that you are totally shocked that I, of all people, would choose to write about such a topic. Okay, maybe not.  It’s true, go ahead and laugh, but here’s the scoop for those who don’t know me very well. I’m having a real love affair with coffee.  Shhhh… don’t tell my partner… I’d hate for him to be jealous.

Despite my clear addiction, bias and love for a good espresso, I think it’s obvious that whether you drink coffee or not it is one of those subjects that you are sure to see in your Twitter or Facebook feed on an almost daily basis.  I can’t possibly be the only one who sees those tweets and posts begging for a coffee at pretty much any hour of the day.  Better yet, I love the posts with photos of cups of coffee that make us coffee lovers either drool with envy or motivate us to get up and make one for ourselves. Then, there is that cute little symbol some of you use that looks like a coffee cup.  c(_)   Truth be told, I’m actually guilty of all the above and I am not ashamed to admit it.  I love coffee!  I love drinking it, reading about it, tweeting, posting and now blogging about it.  It’s official, if by chance there was any doubt left.

That said, last week, I created a new blog that had nothing to do with coffee… or so I thought:  http://atelierbellanda.wordpress.com  It features a ‘Virtual’  Art Atelier, which shares the before, during and after creation process of my Oil Paintings and One of a Kind Photographic Art.  ‘Live’ sessions will be planned so that you can follow, interact and share in the online Atelier experience.  After my many visits to museums and galleries around the world, I had always wished that I could have witnessed the artists at work. The concept of my new blog was born with this thought process in mind, and yes, it was born with an espresso in hand.

Since the start of my Atelier Bellanda Blog, I’ve been asked by a few people how on earth I find the time to write books, screenplays, run two blogs, paint, do photography, be a social media manager for a French companies/Chefs, play with my little ones, run them around to activities, all the while being in a good relationship with a wonderful man. In response, I often make jokes about it being the effects of drinking way too much coffee… that, and the help of my Pink Super Cape that I take out in real emergencies.  Recently, a Twitter friend wrote, “I’m loving the new Blog… Keep drinking the coffee!!!”

Since then, I’ve been giving coffee a lot of thought.  Have you ever wondered how many careers were made while under the ‘influence’ of coffee?  How many deals were made over coffee?  How many books, scripts or blog posts were written with a cup of coffee in hand?  How many of you have ever tried to meet business deadlines or studied late nights with a fresh pot of coffee or cup of espresso?  The, “Let’s meet for drinks,” has almost been replaced by the, “Let’s meet for coffee.”  Oh wait, maybe that’s just because I am getting old?  No need to answer that by the way.

Anyway, I looked back at where my “espresso addiction” began and immediately began to laugh.  Of all places, it began in Paris back in the summer of 1990.  Okay, my head just began to spin when I typed that date.  (*Presently taking a deep breath with the confirmation that I’m no longer a spring chicken.)  Yeah, moving right along… It seems so appropriate and somewhat strange that this magical city I now live in, is the place of origin of my very first espresso!

I had always been a tea lover and although I liked the smell of coffee, I hated the taste.  It wasn’t until I arrived in Paris during a one and a half month European ‘self-discovery’ backpacking experience that my tea drinking days came to a screeching halt.  On one  gorgeous sunny but cool Parisian morning I asked myself, what better place to people watch than an outdoor café?  I found a wonderful little café.  There was an available table with the morning sun shining on it, so walked over and sat down with my little writing journal.

To immerse myself into a culture as much as possible, I often traveled alone.  As a result, I was also on my own when it came to trying to communicate with my either non-existent or little foreign language vocabulary.   Timidly, I uttered, “Un thé, s’il vous plaît,” with what was probably one of the worst accents the waiter had ever heard.  He looked at me with that puzzled, razed eyebrow expression.  Seriously, how could I get that wrong?  It looked like such an easy thing to order.  I spoke a little louder and he immediately started asking me what seemed like endless questions of which I had no idea what he was saying.  Even though there was a cool gentle morning breeze, I began to sweat.  I kept saying, “Désolé” (sorry) because that was one of the few words I knew.

Eventually, the waiter held up his hand as if to say, wait a minute and walked away.  He came back with a box filled with a variety of tea bags, milk, lemon and sugar and looked at me with a smile and an okay, what do you want kind of expression.  I thought, my savior!  I smiled timidly, as I could feel myself blush with embarrassment.  Who would have thought ordering tea could be so complicated?

After making my tea and sugar choice, I sat back relieved that this chapter in my journey was over.  Just then, I noticed a man sit down at the next table.  He looked at the waiter and said, “Un café, s’il vous plaît.”  The waiter nodded his head, and brought him a café.  He placed it on the table and that was it!  There were no questions asked… no need for further discussion.  I think my mouth literally dropped open as I thought, I can do that!  Thus began the birth of my coffee obsession.

I must admit that at first I needed to add several sugars just to get it down, but hey, that’s the price to pay when one has the courage to travel alone, yet doesn’t have the courage to ask for tea.  Go figure!  Over the years, my tastes have refined and I have even left a bad cup of coffee untouched after a sip. Admittedly that doesn’t happen often because I hate to waste coffee, but it has indeed happened as I search for the perfect espresso.

Since Paris is the place that introduced me to coffee, I thought it only fair that I introduce you to one of my favorite coffee places in Paris.   STAY TUNED… a future blog post will do just that!

Until then, feel free to add your favorite coffee stories or locations across the globe in the comments section below.

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UPDATE:  My favorite Paris Coffee Café Blog Post is almost done! The photos have been taken, and the article is in the making.

Just when we were getting ready for spring in Paris, it snowed!

Paris Snow in March 2013 - Photos/Graphics by Bellanda ®

Paris Snow in March 2013
Photos/Graphics by Bellanda ®

Surprising March view of a Paris park in the 12th District.Bellanda ®

Surprising March view of a Paris park in the 12th District.
Bellanda ®

Oops! Perhaps someone should have closed the roof to this glassed-in café?Bellanda ®

Oops! Perhaps someone should have closed the roof of this ‘enclosed’ café terrace?
Bellanda ®

This is an adorable little children's attraction in Paris, 12th district.  The sign says, Attraction open every day.  Don't think they envisioned this snow storm either.Bellanda ®

This is a cute little attraction for kids in Paris, 12th district. The sign says, Attraction open every day. I don’t think they envisioned this snow storm, either.
Bellanda ®

Cool sculpture in a Paris 12th district park, St Emilion, surrounded by a partially frozen pond.Bellanda ®

Cool sculpture in a Paris 12th district park, St Emilion, surrounded by a partially frozen pond.
Bellanda ®

Paris, 12 DistrictBellanda ®

Paris, 12th District… Very pretty but not exactly ‘walking friendly’
Bellanda ®

Lone bench in Paris... We didn't really need to sit there anyway.  Opted for a nice hot chocolate... indoors.Bellanda ®

Lone bench in Paris… We didn’t really need to sit there anyway. Opted for a nice hot chocolate… indoors.
Bellanda ®

"Look! The water is frozen." ... "Do you think we can walk on it?"   Yikes!Bellanda ®

“Look! The water is frozen.” … “Do you think we can walk on it?” … “Well, the snow isn’t sinking, so I think so.”    Me, “NO!”    Yikes!
Bellanda ®

Paris, Chinatown – Letting you in on our favorite restaurant and pastry shop!

Feature Photo for Chinese New Year Resto picks 2013

Images/Graphics by Bellanda ®

I have been going back and forth on the subject of revealing some of my favorite places to eat in Paris ever since I started my Twitter account (@BellandaInParis).  At the time, I was rather reticent.  I’m a private person when it comes to keeping my family life and my public life separate, and believe it or not this subject actually became a household one.  There was even a fleeting moment during the discussion in which I was horrified to discover that I have a selfish side I never knew existed.  What if everyone found out about these places and there were no tables left for us?  I was appalled!  Could I be that selfish?  I quickly tried to push that thought out of my head as my dear man and I decided that it would be best to keep the places we frequent to ourselves.  At the time I convinced myself that I was just protecting my family.  That seemed to ease my conscience, somehow… that is, until the day when I started my blog.

It’s funny how a blog can put a whole new perspective on the way you look at things.  In addition, there is a lovely relationship developing with those of you who follow my blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts that I never imagined.  Your tweets, comments and interactions have touched me greatly, and the tremendous support I have received on my relatively new blog has amazed me.  It feels much like a ‘family’ the way you share your stories and experiences in the comment section of this blog.  I love what is developing here… and it seems only normal to share with you.  I mean, how could I not let you in on some of these places?

On one of our last visits to Paris, Chinatown.  I just had to share this wonderful experience with you.  The restaurant that I am going to let you in on is called “La Lune.”  At first sight, you might walk by this place… but don’t!  We have tried many places over the years, but have been going to this little ‘find’ for the last seven years.

Images/Graphics by Bellanda ®

Images/Graphics by Bellanda ®

I couldn’t stop myself from taking pictures for you and wouldn’t let anyone eat until I had taken at least one good shot of a few of our favorite dishes.  I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, which can be slightly annoying if you are hungry and the person standing between you and the food is taking their time to carefully place the dish, moving it around in such a way so as to show the food as it should be presented.  I have to admit, I’m lucky.  I think my little ones and sweet man are starting to go with the whole photo blogging flow of things… but after a while the kids were like, “Okay, Mom, can we eat now?”

The food is the best we have found in Paris, Chinatown to this day.  No, we haven’t tried everywhere, but it did take us 3 years to find this place and we have no intention of going elsewhere.  I think you will understand why when you see the photos.

Nems, as they are called here.  I can feel my mouth beginning to water for these crispy delights!

Nems, as they are called here… They are crispy delights!
Photo by Bellanda ®

Spicy Caramel PorkPhoto by Bellanda ®

Spicy Caramel Pork served in the pan it was cooked in!
Photo by Bellanda ®

Let me start by saying, no, they are not worms!  This is a sort of country style pasta that goes amazingly well with our usual Spicy Caramel Pork.Photo by Bellanda ®

Let me start by saying, no, these are not worms.  This is a sort of country-style pasta noodle that goes amazingly well with our Spicy Caramel Pork.
Photo by Bellanda ®

As we were leaving the restaurant, the owner gave us each an orange for luck and wealth in the New Year of the Snake.  With stomachs full and a happy heart, we walked down the road to our next favorite spot.  The sights were wonderful to see.  We happened upon some of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Images/Graphics by Bellanda ®

Happy New Year and Good Health Banners lined the streets as local merchants prepared for a parade.
Images/Graphics by Bellanda ®

For us, no visit to Paris, Chinatown would be complete without stopping off at our favorite pastry shop.  It’s not surprising to find a line, but we definitely believe it well worth the wait if you are looking for delicious traditional Chinese cakes, cookies and pastries.

Images/Graphics by Bellanda ®

Images/Graphics by Bellanda ®

Take a look at some of their specialties!

On the left, you will find a vanilla cake that is cooked using vapor.  At first I cringed at the idea of a cake being cooked by vapor, but am happy we listened to the wonderful sales lady who recommended it.  One little detail not to be missed is that this cake can only be found during the Chinese New Year season.Photo by Bellanda ®

Photo by Bellanda ®

On the left, you will find a moist vanilla cake that is cooked by using steam.  At first I cringed at the idea, but I am happy we listened to the wonderful sales lady who recommended it.  Oh, one little detail not to be missed is that this cake can only be found during the Chinese New Year season.

Candied Coconut and Candied Lotus Seeds are also Chinese New Year treats found once a year.Photo by Bellanda ®

Candied Coconut and Candied Lotus Seeds are also Chinese New Year treats found once a year.
Photo by Bellanda ®

We obviously haven’t tried everything, but have every intention to do so.  With each visit, we add something new to our ever-growing list of favorites.  And yes, we wait impatiently for the ‘coco confit’ each year and have added the moist vanilla steamed cake to the list of New Year’s treats.  If you are like us, we stock up and fill up to help us wait it out.  In the meantime, their various other cakes and cookies fill the void perfectly.

There you have it!  Now that I’ve revealed our two favorite Paris, Chinatown locations… the only request I make is that if by some chance you happen to be at the restaurant… and there are no tables left for us… would you mind sharing yours like one big happy family?

Somehow I feel I might need to apologize for this blog post.  As my mouth waters and my stomach growls, perhaps I should have warned you that reading this would lead to the possibility of making you hungry for Chinese Food.  I don’t know about you, but I know what I am going to eat as soon as possible!