samedi, avril 21, 2007

CarlaVisitAgain Day 8: Departure and Decompression

After a night of partying, I got home around 6h00 and got ready to take Carla to the airport. I picked her up from her room and we headed over to the métro station. After the nightmare of her departure last time, we were determined to leave terribly early and avoid any potential problems.

Mercifully, there were no problems on the métro or the RER, so we got there by about 7h30 and headed over to her terminal. Once we got to the Air Canada checkin, the person at the desk told us that checkin for the Toronto flight wouldn't start until 8h30, which meant that we were looking at about 1 hour of waiting in line on our feet. While I got in line and waited with her luggage, Carla "worked the system" by going over to a set of self-serve checkin machines to print out her boarding pass. When the machine didn't print out her connecting flight to London, Ontario, Carla went to a service desk nearby and inquired about it. At first, the woman at the desk declared that Carla's connecting flight had been cancelled, and she wasn't listed for the Toronto flight. This was despite the fact that Carla had a boarding pass for Toronto in her hands. After several minutes of confusion, the woman discovered that the ticketing system had automatically dropped Carla from her Toronto flight when her London flight was cancelled (which is the stupidest thing ever), so the attendant quickly added her back to the flight (thank goodness we were here early!) and gave her tickets for another connecting flight to London.

From there, we headed over to the luggage drop-off, where the man at the desk protested that he couldn't take her luggage before 8h30. This seemed silly, so I played up Carla's sciatica and told him that we had come so early precisely to avoid forcing Carla to stay on her feet for hours. After a bit of quibbling, we got his permission. The woman at the actual drop-off counter put up similar resistance, but the "my sister is gimpy" line of argumentation worked again.

With her bags finally dropped off, we headed to a nearby café and ate our final batch of Hermé macarons along with some coffee and some rather underwhelming coffee cake. After that, I deposited Carla off in the security line and headed back home to crash. The entire ride home, I had to struggle to keep from falling asleep and missing my stop. Not even really loud music from my iPod helped. By the time I got home, however, I had woken up and needed a little while surfing the net before my body began to shut down again. By noon, I was finally asleep.

I woke up around 17h30, still horribly tired, and decided that today was not going to be a productive day. I grazed on some cheese and salad, watched music videos on YouTube (including this and this and this).

Oh, and here's some pictures I took during Carla's visit. I don't think they need much explanation, but feel free to post questions in the comments.

vendredi, avril 20, 2007

WE: Lee van Dowski, Be My Chose and Art Now

0h00-2h00: Art Now

As I mentioned in my blog post about my daytime activities, I totally overate at dinner, and by the time I was heading out for this party, I was still stuffed full of food and a bit uncomfortable. Clearly, my dancing would be a bit less exuberant tonight.

I arrived on the scene at La Scène Bastille shortly after 1h00, in time to avoid the longer lines that would no doubt develop later in the night. Even before checking my jacket, I had already run into Clothilde and Nathan (of Be My Chose, as well as the instigators of this event), and by the time I had made it to the bar to buy drinks, I had run into Laurent and his label-mate, C. Both of them were apparently having a drinking contest tonight, although it was hard to determine who was winning--or, rather, what constituted "winning." I hung out with them for a while, until I realized that I was "on the job" and should be taking some pictures.

Now, let me say before you read any further, that the lighting that evening seemed deliberately designed to thwart my every attempt at photography. The lighting tended toward dim red underlighting that totally messed with my exposure settings. Perhaps if I had a hot SLR camera and access to the stage, I might've got better pictures, but I worked with what I had. So, when you look at the images below and think, "Jeez, these are underexposed and/or blurry!" just keep in mind that these were the best pictures from a batch of nearly 80 images! There were a lot of completely useless images from this roll.

Anyway, Art Now's set succeeded in doing what it needed to do, which was warm up the crowd for Lee van Dowski. I wasn't totally thrilled with his set, which wandered too far into Trance (as a genre, not as a state of mind) for my tastes and I found to be a bit too noisy. Nonetheless, the room filled up and people kept on dancing, so I can't fault him on his ability to move a crowd. Below the pictures, I've included a video excerpt as well, which should give you an idea of what he was spinning.

During his set, I also ran into a co-worker, G., and her boyfriend, F. I had suggested they come out to this party, because G. has been working on setting up a sort of "DJ exchange" between Paris and her hometown of Turin, Italy. They were both in good spirits, and it was kinda fun introducing them to everyone I knew at the party. Once Laurent and C. found us in our corner near the front of the stage, we had a little posse going.

2h00-4h00: Lee van Dowski

Lee van Dowski's set I liked quite a lot. As I mentioned to pretty much anyone who would listen, I loved how the bass was usually full and rounded, the middle frequencies were empty or pretty sparse, and the high frequencies here mostly these rather light, crystalline formations. LvD seems to have a very fine sense of balance, as I found the sound to be neither too heavy nor too light. Despite the fact that I was still really full from "dinner," I was inspired to dance quite a bit during his set.

Something about the backlighting and underlighting during this set made it nearly impossible for me to take a decent photograph. Nonetheless, I've compensated with four video clips! Unfortunately, I was too busy dancing during the best parts of his set to take video, but these clips should give a good idea of what I was enjoying in his set.

4h00-6h00: Be My Chose

Truth be told, there's nothing about Be My Chose that I can say here that hasn't already been said elsewhere in my blog, but I think it bears repeating. They're set was great, although in a different way from Lee van Dowski's set. Whereas LvD stuck almost exclusively to minimal techno, Be My Chose made broader excursions into electro and house. One result of this was that the sound was generally a bit more busy and noisy, and there was more emphasis on middle-range elements.

One person I was speaking with said, "I'm not as fond of this as Lee van Dowski, because I hear artificial elements in the track." At first this surprised me, since a great deal of techno's aesthetic rests on a fascination with sound synthesis and machine-assisted manipulation. What I think he was pointing to was the electro elements of Be My Chose's set, which tends to lean toward "glitch" aesthetics: sounds that foreground the sound of digital failures and accidents ("glitches"), such as deliberate digital distortion, stuttering samples, deliberately harsh edits, low sample rates, and heavily applied effects (such as vocoders). For him, interestingly enough, the sounds of LvD's set were "natural" in comparison.

Either way, I certainly enjoyed their set and got quite a lot of dancing done. In addition, I also had a very amusing moment with Laurent and a slightly confused stranger. If you've been reading much of my blog, you've probably come across my observations about physical intimacy norms in France (passim my entire blog, but especially here and here) and how a lot of it goes out the window between male friends at club events like this. In other words, physical intimacy and sexualized play between men in these contexts does not necessarily imply actual sexual relations/interest (nor does it preclude it). Add to this that Laurent and Nathan are both very physically demonstrative and affectionate (as mentioned here). So I'm chatting with Laurent about something, side-by-side with his arm around my neck and my arm around his waist, when a guy comes up to us, asking for drugs or rolling papers or a cigarette (I couldn't quite make it out). Before we could answer, he did a double-take and said in a surprised tone:

Stranger: "Hey, are you two lovers?" (Vous êtes amoureux?)

Laurent: "We're fond of each other." (On s'aime bien.)

Stranger: "Oh, OK."

And that was that. I thought that Laurent's retort made for a very classy sidestep; I like that he didn't really provide an unambiguous answer. It was also cool that the stranger was mildly surprised, but without a hint of scorn. I get the impression that, had one of us answered "Yes," he would've said, "Great! Good for you." Nonetheless, after all of my experiences with male-male intimacy in these spaces, it was funny to have something as platonic as arm-in-arm buddies mistaken for a romantic couple.

Well, I would've like to have stayed for the entire set, but I needed to take my sister to the airport immediately afterwards, so I left at around 5h30 and headed off to pick up Carla.

CarlaVisitAgain Day 7: Croissants, Opéra, Lalique and crêpes

Since Carla was going to leave the next morning, we front-loaded a lot of our sight-seeing during the day, with the expectation that the evening would be more low-key. Also, there was a club event being organized by the Be My Chose folks, and I wanted to be ready for that as well.

We started the day with a run to Pâtisserie Millet, which has become our favourite destination for croissants in Paris. After a croissant and a coffee (and the purchase of another two croissants "for the road") we headed over to Madeleine to buy a few pastries from La Durée. From there, we wandered over to the Opéra Garnier and finally did the tour of the building. The main auditorium was fortunately open today, so we were able to see pretty much everything. The interior was as ridiculously opulent as I had expected, although I was surprised that the ceiling of the auditorium had been painted by Chagall. An odd moment of impressionism / fauvism in what was otherwise a veritable palace of late-19th-century neo-Baroque craziness.

We then headed down to the Musée du Luxembourg for their special Lalique show. The exposition was beautiful, but all too short. The focus was on his Art Nouveau jewellery, which was mostly exquisite but far too over-the-top for most people to pull off today. Which I suppose is just as well, considering how much these pieces must cost now.

With that taken care of, we wandered over to Saint-Sulpice and over to Pierre Hermé's store for some more macarons (and pretentious service). From there, we wandered up rue des Canettes to that crêperie with the amusing name (La Crêperie du Clown or La Crêpe Rit du Clown). We had the usual lunch menu, which included a savoury and a sweet crêpe, plus cider. The meal was delicious as always, but a bit too heavy for a late lunch, so we crawled home and crashed out. I headed into Lila to find a traiteur (sort of like French take-out) for dinner, and picked up some salads and tabbouleh.

We ate dinner starting with sweets (after all, what's important here?), which involved plowing through a pile of macarons and pastries from La Durée. From there, we ate some salad and a couple of small quiches. As delicious as all of this was, I TOTALLY ate too much and was about to regret it when I went out clubbing.

Speaking of which, I'll post a review of my night out separately, since it may take a couple of days for me to put the piece together and post it.

jeudi, avril 19, 2007

CarlaVisitAgain Day 6: Museum of "First" Art, and Chez Denise

After a busy but at least brief day at work, I wandered back home to join Carla, who had been out walking through Le Marais during the day. After taking a few minutes at home to wind down, we headed off to the Musée du quai Branly. This recently-opened museum has had a pretty interesting history (see french Wikipedia article here); to begin with, the museum was a project (strongly supported by then-president Chirac) to deal with a fair bit of post-colonial guilt.

You see, after the expansion of the French empire into Africa and the Middle-East (and let's not forget America), Paris had accumulated a veritable treasure trove of cultural artifacts. The problem was precisely that they were treated as just artifacts: curious material evidence of "primitive" non-European cultures, of interest mainly to anthropologists and archaeologists. At the same time, there was virtually no representation of these creative works in the Louvre or any other important art museum. After efforts made by Jaques Kerchache in the 1990s to add a wing of arts premiers ("first" arts) to the Louvre met with resistance, he got Jacques Chirac interested in his project. When Chirac was elected president of France in 1995, he demanded that the Louvre add a wing for these non-canonical artworks (read: spoils of colonialism). The Louvre was having none of it, so he eventually announced a new project to create a museum specifically dedicated to these "first" arts.

Although this solved the problem of under-representation and allowed much of these collections to be appreciated as art rather than artifact, this new museum came with its own set of problems.

  • To begin with, consolidating all of these colonial collections in one place required dismantling and gutting several other collections, especially those in the Musée de l'Homme (which is the main anthropology / archaeology museum). This created a fair bit of controversy and resistance, especially since only a fifth of the "specimens" from the original collections can ever be on display at the Musée du quai Branly at any time (due to limitations of space).
  • Also, the use of the phrase "first arts" (arts premiers) is still reminiscent of the term "primitive," especially in French, implying that the artwork of other cultures somehow "precedes" the artistic developments of the Western world.
  • There have been problems of balance within the collection. There are tons of items from Oceania and Africa, but the Inuit are represented by one comb, and the native groups of Québec are represented by two woven belts.
  • The overall design of the building, although imaginatively done, preserves certain hints of "savages in the jungle" themes. The museum is actually a huge arch, allowing almost the entire surface area of the museum's grounds to be used for lush green gardens. The interior walls are a series of undulating curves that echo Gaudí's bio-morphism, and lush, jungle-like themes are present everywhere.
  • Imitating the practice of many art museums in the city, there are problems of decontextualization. Instead of the longer explicative texts common to anthropological museums, this museum usually provides no more than a paragraph of information on the articles it displays. In many cases, all you get is a terse descriptive term ("bone flute" or "totem pole") along with a list of materials used.

On the other hand, there were a few things I liked about it:

  • Despite the problems of representation, the lush green grounds are a pleasant sight in the forest of Haussmannian concrete buildings, and the interior is attractive in a rather modernist way.
  • As an ethnomusicologist, I was pretty impressed with their six-storey sealed glass "tower" of musical instruments. Whether intentional or not, it was a sort of monument to the dimensions of France's acquisitive power as an empire (if they could fill six storeys with instruments...). But I pity the poor sap who has to go in there and find something. Of course, you're only allowed to look.
  • Generally speaking, I was happy with the amount of video and audio used in the museum. Many of the exhibits had sound recordings (many by ethnomusicologist-grandaddy Hugo Zemp) that corresponded to the objects on display, as well as video that usually demonstrated how these objects were used.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to see the whole museum, because we had dinner plans with two friends at Chez Denise (previously here and here and here). We got there a bit before our other two friends, so we grabbed an apéritif and took a moment to wind down. Once the other two arrived, we ordered a plate of rillettes and some salad as appetizers. For our main dishes, Carla got the famous mutton and white beans, our friends ordered calf's liver and a strip steak, and I got sautéed and stewed veal in a rich red sauce. As usual, the stewed dishes showed up in huge tureens placed in the centre of the table, so everybody got to taste a bit. Which is a good thing, since the portions are huge. There's no way I would've been able to eat the whole thing.

After a good dose of wine, a bit of dessert, and a digestif, we wandered back out into the night and back to our respective homes.

mercredi, avril 18, 2007

CarlaVisitAgain Day 5: Belgian Beer, Food Shopping, modern art, La Brasserie du Dôme

After sleeping in to a reasonable hour, Carla and I got up and headed over to the Panthéon for an early lunch. We went to La Gueuze (previously here and here), where we each got a big salad and some beer. Carla tried the framboise / Frambozenbier, which is a tart lambic beer flavored with raspberries. Although Carla's not a big beer drinker, she really enjoyed this one (probably because it tastes like slightly alcoholic fruit juice). I had some gueuze to begin with, and followed it with faro (essentially, lambic beer sweetened with sugar).

After that, we headed to the ice cream stands next to the Luxembourg gardens for their violet ice cream, which was delicious and not soapy, which is a common problem with violet flavouring. After snapping a few pictures of me looking nonplussed (for Carla's co-workers, who demanded pictures), we headed off in the direction of the Grande Epicerie of Le Bon Marché.

At La Grande Epicerie, Carla did a bunch of gift-food shopping, especially of the chocolate kind. It seems that she has a group of co-workers that competitively compare the gifts they receive from her, so she had to make her selections carefully, lest she upset their hierarchy. Afterwards, we went by La Maison du Chocolat nearby for another few boxes of chocolates.

From there, we wandered over to Saint-Sulpice and headed to the store of candy store / bakery of Pierre Hermé to buy a box of his famous macarons. While La Durée may be the final word on "classic" macarons, Hermé features more adventurous flavor combinations, such as olive oil and vanilla, jasmine, lychee and rose petals, and apricot / pistachio. Hermé also seems to have a policy of only employing unbearably pretentious gay men, but they're mostly so over the top that they become part of the entertainment.

From there, we hopped on the subway over to the Opéra Garnier (the impossibly fancy opera house that is probably best known in North America as the setting for The Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately, the main auditorium was closed for rehearsals, so we decided to come back on Friday and try our luck then.

I knew that the museum of contemporary art kept extended hours on Wednesdays, so hoofed it over there. We took a moment to drink a coffee and eat our Hermé macarons on the patio at the Palais de Tokyo, and then headed into the contemporary art museum. There was a special exhibit of Fischli & Weiss (more complete entry in German), whose works went from beautiful multiple-exposure photography to hilarious and cute raw clay miniatures. One of the clay sculptures was called (roughly translated) "Mr. Spock looks out the window upon his home planet of Vulcan and, for a moment, feels a bit sad about not feeling anything." There was also this amazing, 30-minute video loop called "The way things go" (Der Laufe der Dinge), which is like a crazy combination of falling dominoes, Mousetrap (the game), Chemistry 101 and a carpentry class (see here for video). Carla and I both loved this picture, called "Masturbine", of women's shoes arranged into a spiky wheel (the real thing is in colour):

There was also an exposition for Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, called Expodrome, which we both liked less. A couple of the installations were interesting, such as Promenade, which involved an empty hallway filled with the sounds of outdoors. On the other hand, there was this other installation called Cosmodrome that involved a pitch-black room, filled ankle-deep with black sand, where you would sit through a sort of minimalist light show and a vaguely techno-y musical soundtrack. The lights and music were actually quite nice (if a bit reminiscent of "Pink Floyd laser show at the planetarium!!"), but there was this male-voiced spoken word thingy over top that was unbelievably pretentious and condescending toward the spectators. Meh, overall.

From there, we headed home and took a break, before putting on our nice clothes (yes, I actually wore a suit) and heading over to La Brasserie du Dôme, near Montparnasse. This place was recommended to me as the best place in Paris for seafood, and it did not disappoint. Well, actually, their smoked salmon hors d'oeuvre was a bit lackluster, but I think that's because we've been spoiled by BC pacific salmon in Canada. Nonetheless, the appetizers were delicious (green asparagus from Saint Vincent with mousseline sauce for Carla, salmon and sea bream tartare for me), and we ordered bouillabaisse marseillaise for our main dish. This is a colossal fish stew, usually made by cooking several different kinds of fish for a long time over low heat, with a complex mixture of herbs, spices, orange peels and saffron. The fish and the broth are usually served separately, although in this case they brought both to the table separately, then ladled some of the stew over the freshly filleted fish. Either way, the fish was delicious (if loaded with pin bones) and the broth was fantastic. This, combined with the spicy rouille sauce (bread crumbs, olive oil and chili peppers) is the sort of thing I could eat all day. My only complaint--and this is a common one for me here in France--is that they didn't need to put so much salt in it. In many ways, this reminded us of Peruvian chupe, but without the cream (recipe here).

When I ordered the wine, Carla and I had decided on having an Alsatian white, because it had been a long time since either of us had enjoyed its strongly perfumed flavour. However, when I tried to order the Gewürztraminer from the waiter, he said "Really? With the bouillabaisse? I don't know..." He was of the opinion that the flavor would overpower the fish, so he made a few other suggestions, including a white Châteauneuf du Pape (Côtes du Rhone region). I didn't even know that Châteauneuf du Pape made white wines, so we gave it a go. It was like a milder version of a Burgundian white, with the perfumed overtones of a Riesling grape. It went really well with the bouillabaisse, so I'm glad the waiter intervened in our wine selections.

After a bit of sorbet to cleanse the palate, Carla and I trotted out of the brasserie and out into the open air.

mardi, avril 17, 2007

CarlaVisitAgain Day 4: Work, La Duree, and Terra Nera

I came in a bit early to work, expecting to leave early and join Carla, but something came up and I was there about 2 hours longer than I had hoped. Although work was unpleasant and rather busy, I managed to bargain my way into taking Wednesday off, so it was ultimately a wash.

Nonetheless, I came home in a foul mood, so I just hung around at home and did some of the work that I had hoped to do at the office. Carla had been out shopping that day, and she brought back some lovely macarons and a religieuse a la violette from La Durée, so we had something to tide us over to dinner.

Dinner was a Terra Nera, a neapolitan restaurant that has appeared on this blog several times (here and here). Carla's dietary restrictions prevented her from completely indulging in the piccata alla gorgonzola that she ordered, but by all accounts it was delicious. I was especially impressed with her appetizer of oyster mushrooms fricassée, which was deliciously simple. I started with a simple salad of bitter greens and parmesan (a bit heavy on the balsamic vinegar, but lovely), and moved on to a plate of penne alla boscaïola, which seemed to involve lots of bacon and fresh cream. Dessert was this thing called mystère, which was essentially meringue covered in ice cream, covered in crushed nuts. Carla and I split one and regretted it all the way home. It was fantastic, but we could barely walk to the RER station nearby.

lundi, avril 16, 2007

CarlaVisitAgain Day 3: Falafels, Walking, and Walking

I went in to work today, but arranged to leave early. At around noon, I met up with Carla, who was just coming out of the Centre Pompidou. From there, we walked across the river to the Latin Quarter for some falafels. Now, I know what you're thinking: the only good falafel is one that is bought in the Marais (in the old Jewish quarter). While I don't necessarily disagree, I had heard of a falafel stand in the middle of the Huchette/Harpe area of the Latin Quarter (i.e., the crappy tourist-trap restaurant area), which was compared favourably to the falafels of the Marais. This I had to see.

So we headed over to Maoz, which is one of what is apparently a Pan-European chain of falafel joints. Although the presentation was kinda ghetto (which is in keeping with the food, really), the falafels themselves were surprisinly tasty. Especially good was the "Salad Box" combo, which gave you a drink along with a plastic box with 3 falafel balls, that you fill with veggies from a self-service salad bar. It was actually a perfect, light midday meal for a hot day like today. That it only cost 3.50€ was even better.

We headed over to Ile Saint-Louis to shop for soap and skin products at l'Occitane, and took the opportunity to stop for some Berthillon ice cream (again). This time, I had their coriander-praline ice cream, which was surprisingly delicious.

From there, we wandered over through the Marais, stopped for coffee and tea at Place des Vosges, and then continued on past our old apartment on rue Filles de Calvaire, and eventually back home from République. After a couple of hours of downtime, we headed back out for dinner to Le Marsangy (previously visited here), joined by DJ (recovering from a head cold, the poor thing).

Although Carla didn't have an entrée, DJ started out with some marinated sardines, and I ordered the crevettes grises vivantes, poêlée en beurre salé--in other words, live shrimp fried in salted butter. Yes, I know it's not nice, but I had never tried it before and I was thinking that it might be tasty. Anyway, the shrimps came to me as a pile of somewhat dry grey little creatures, with their legs, heads, tails, eyes and even shells still on. Pretty much, they had been pulled out of the water and put into the frying pan. While I'll admit that I've never eaten anything so shrimpy and tasty, the mouth-feel of chewing on shrimp exoskeleton and antennae was pretty damn disgusting. Nonetheless, I ate most of them like a good trooper (although I left the heads).

Both DJ and I had the sesame-encrusted salmon, while Carla had the roasted eggplant stuffed with seared lamb. Both were very tasty, although I was really impressed with the lamb preparation in Carla's dish. For dessert, DJ had the berry crumble, while Carla had a poached pear in caramel sauce and I had apple and mango slices stuffed in phyllo dough and baked until crusty. Very tasty!

Throughout the meal, our server was this very nice but also odd young woman whose manner of speaking was very much like a French Marilyn Monroe. Add to this her tendency to smile (which I liked) and her tendency to utter only sentence fragments (which I didn't like), and you had a rather odd dining experience. Nonetheless, the food was great and I'd happily eat there again.

As has become a bit of a repeating trope of the last few weeks, we all left stuffed, a bit tipsy (again, I had to drink the bulk of the wine), and rather tired. After an amusing ride on the métro (man-boobs and plunging v-neck shirts...WTF?!), we landed at home and crashed out for the night.

dimanche, avril 15, 2007

CarlaVisitAgain Day 2: Off to Market

Sunday was a bit of a marathon for us. Carla's leg was feeling good, and we wanted to stock up on some good fresh produce, so we headed off to my local Sunday market at Place des Fêtes and filled our cart with deliciousness. I bought nearly 1kg of various cheeses, Carla bought three bouquets of flowers (lilacs, white roses, fire-orange tulips), I bought an endless string of vegetables and fruits, and we also picked up two fish filets (grenadier [a deep-sea fish] and redfish/ocean perch). Afterwards, we wandered home, fried up some fish, and had a bit salad of lamb's lettuce (mâche).

From there, we headed off to the marché aux puces in St. Ouen (previously visited with Kristy and Iyn last week), where we spent a good amount of time wandering around and looking at stuff we couldn't afford (although this is an open-air market, it's one of the world's biggest and most important antique centres). Also, I finally got my old American cellphone unlocked. Yay! Now I can use a decent cellphone with a good keypad, rather than the ancient Nokia brick-phone that I was using up to now.

By the afternoon, it was HOT and sunny and we were tired, so we braved the subway to head over to Ile Saint-Louis and wait in line for Berthillon ice cream. It was delicious, as always, but we were exhausted by the effort and headed home for a moment to decompress.

Later that evening, we headed off to Le Boeuf Couronné (previously visited here) for dinner. Carla had a plate of white asparagus as an appetizer, while I had Os à la Moelle (bone marrow and bread, essentially). For the main dish, Carla had the fatty duck breast (magret de canard), while I had the sirloin steak in pepper sauce. All of it was delicious, although a special award goes to my steak. Carla had the "anti-stress" for dessert (3 different kinds of chocolate-dessert preparations), while I had the berry crumble; the crumble was nice but rather dry, and Carla's anti-stress was delicious but rather heavy.

By the time we were done that evening, we were both very full, very tired, and I was just a wee bit tipsy (Carla can't drink much alcohol, so it falls to me to finish the bottle of wine...).