May 31, 2013

Three Unique Views of Rare Perfumes

Do you love perfume, but don't know anything about the art of perfume making?

Or does the thought of hanging around Place Vendôme and exploring some of the expensive-looking luxury shops nearby feel a bit intimidating to you?

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
If so, WICE has the perfect solution for you.  Recently, WICE members were treated to a special tour of three artisan perfumeries in Paris that specialize in rare and unique, hard to find fragrances.  In these boutiques, you will not find any of the popular mainstream perfumes that are typically found in department stores.

At Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, we were transported back in time with its elegant 17th century boudoir decor.  There, we learned all about the evolution of the different scents in a fragrance.  The top notes, middle notes, and base notes in perfume unfold at different rates, so it takes a bit of time in order to smell the complete fragrance.  This explains why initially smelling perfume in a store does not have the same fragrance as when you've worn it for an hour.  In fact, some flowers release many different fragrance notes over time, which makes the perfume's fragrance continue to evolve as you wear it throughout the day.    

With their focus on celebrating the history of perfume in France, Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier has a collection of historical perfumes that were recreated using old formulas from the past, such as one of George Sand's perfumes.   Perfumed gloves are sold in homage to the time when perfume and glove making went hand in hand.  They also offer ambiance perfumes for your home, including the one that’s used at the Ritz Hotel.  With this fragrance you can have the aromatic experience of staying at the Ritz, without breaking the bank. 

Frederic Malle
Editions de Parfums
Next we visited Frederic Malle's Editions de Parfums - a modern boutique with a masculine feel.    As the grandson of the founder of Christian Dior perfumes, Malle focuses on highlighting the creators of each fragrance.  Usually people love perfumes without having any awareness of the people behind them.  With Malle, each bottle displays the creator's name as an attempt to correct this oversight.  

Customers can sit down for a one on one consultation aimed at finding their perfect fragrance.  To ensure that they select fragrances that will also be loved once worn, part of the consultation includes the unique Smelling Chamber experience.   These floor-to-ceiling chambers block out all other odors and release all the fragrance notes at once. This allows you to smell the complete perfume without having to wait.  It's as if you get a chance to smell the fragrance trail that you will leave behind, as you walk down the street.      

Last but not least, we ended our tour at Jovoy, where the owner gave us VIP treatment in the store's back parlor area with coffee, tea and exquisite macarons. Unlike the other two stores that sell only their own fragrances, Jovoy has a large selection from over 70 different brands from all over the world.  Delivered with a great sense of humor, the owner gave us a 20th century history lesson of perfume trends in France, including the role of mistresses in the evolution of perfume use.  
Frederic Malle
Smelling Columns
Editions de Parfums

Different fragrances were presented, from various aroma families, including some higher price point perfumes and unusual scents like rhubarb.  At first this might sound strange but if your partner is someone who loves rhubarb-confitured tartines or rhubarb crumbles for dessert, then this might be a winner for you.   At the end of our visit we had the rare treat of receiving free samples of some of the enchanting perfumes that we enjoyed the most.   

What other opportunity would you have to walk into these high-end perfume boutiques, learn all about different fragrances, get VIP treatment and not have any pressure to buy?    After an experience like this, I feel very fortunate to be a WICE member!

Once WICE reconvenes after summer break, our expert perfume guide will offer more perfume tours and workshops available to members.  

**** Don't miss the upcoming workshop dedicated to discovering and learning about the perfumes of Chanel which will take place on Tuesday, December 3rd from 10am -12pm.  

Post and photos by Veronica Kugler

May 22, 2013

Exploring the Jardins Albert Kahn

© Anu Berghuis-Pohjola
When the Paris winter lingers a little too long, offering only precious few days of sun, the WICE Photography Exploring group must rise to the challenge.

© Ashley Frye Roukema 
Last week, the intrepid group wandered the Jardins Albert Kahn and found the essence—rich colors, strong lines, and elegant forms. As usual with a creative group, everyone saw something different, even though our paths overlapped and intersected.

© Geoffrey Kanter
The diffused light of the overcast day was the perfect complement to the layers of green and bursts of bright color.

© Nora Kanter

© Heidi Crooks
Even the raindrops provided graphic elegance.

© Linda Sterckel-Delno
Chapeau to the photographers! May you have many more rewarding explorations.

© Annette Van Cranenburgh 

© Bob Levy
© Lorena Coletta
Join the WICE guided tour of the Albert Kahn Gardens coming up on June 4. The roses will be in bloom! Check out the visit on the WICE website.

As of this writing, there is one spot left in the NEW "Exploring Paris Through The Lens" class that starts on May 28. Find out more Exploring Class

Posted by Photography Instructor Meredith Mullins.

May 13, 2013

Hot Pot, Can't Stop....a Culinary Experience

Do you know what Chinese Hot Pot is and where you can find it in Paris?

Chinese Hot Pot simmering on tabletop stove

Well, you’re not alone.  I didn't either.  At least, not before I recently went to one of WICE’s social events.     You might not know this, but in addition to classes, WICE also offers a variety of free social events for members. 

Stove tabletops
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the WICE event: Hot Pot - Can’t Stop.   Although I had never heard of Chinese Hot Pot cooking before, with this catchy title, I could not resist giving it a try.  On one of the rare
hot and sunny days in April, seven of us WICE Members met for lunch at a small restaurant called Au Ciel, in the 11th arrondissement.

Chinese Hot Pot (also known as Chinese Fondue) is a soup-like dish in which you cook all of the ingredients yourself, at your own pace while you’re eating.  It’s been around for over 1000 years and can be cooked with various combinations of all kinds of vegetables, seafood, meats, and noodles. 

At the restaurant, the conversation started off easily with the typical ex-pat conversation about where we all came from and why we had chosen to live in France.   Since most of us had never met each other before, it was fascinating to hear each person’s unique path to Paris.  After ordering, the server came to each of us, leaned over, and pressed some hitherto unseen buttons in front of us to turn on our individual cooking surfaces.  As newbies to the Chinese Hot Pot experience, we hadn't realized that our shiny black glass table where we had been casually resting our elbows on was also our stovetop.  

Table overflowing with ingredients  
Next, we each received a large metal pot filled with a savory broth, a plate of green leafy vegetables with uncooked noodles, a plate of sliced meats, and rice.   Once the broth started to boil, we could add our
ingredients as we pleased and cook them to our own liking.  Mid-meal the server came walking by with a humongous metal tea pot, stopping at every table.  Now I’m used to Chinese restaurants serving tea in small, dainty ceramic cups, so I wondered, “Just how thirsty does she think we are?”

Actually, she wasn't serving tea at all.   She was offering refills of the soup base for all our hot pots.  Because you let the pot simmer the entire time that you’re cooking and eating, the broth slowly evaporates.  You need the broth refills to continue cooking until you've had enough to eat. 

By the end of this meal, I was stuffed.  I’m definitely going to go back to try a new combination of ingredients from the extensive menu of Hot Pot choices.   This WICE event successfully delivered its promise of a good meal.  As an added bonus, I discovered a new neighborhood to explore and met some pretty interesting people.    How cool is that, for only 9€80 (the price of the lunch menu)!

Next time you’re looking for something different to do, try one of WICE’s free social events.

Post and  photos by Veronica Kugler