From Fashionland to Rue Tatin
[Special note: Photos from Rue Tatin taken by various members of the group]
It’s Fashion Week in Paris (March 2-9), obvious by…all the tall skinny (and usually not so pretty) women slinking around Le Marais in very high shoes…hoards of ‘fashionistas’ who are often grossly overdressed and obvious that they don’t really live here…the pop-up showrooms at every turn morphing abandoned spaces into creative galleries of garments and accessories…battling a busier and louder-than-usual ambience at Café Charlot…and happening upon some of the parties…oh, ah, the parties!
Maybe I sound a bit cynical, but the truth is that it’s really a ball to be engulfed in it all, even if one doesn’t give a happy rat’s ass about any of it. It’s a blast to watch it unfold and then recoil back to normal life when they all pack their over-stuffed suitcases and head home to New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Milan or wherever.
The New York men’s wear designer, Jay Kos, an old friend via my daughter in New York, who works out of his posh boutique on Mott Street (between Houston and Prince at number 293), surprised me last week at Café Charlot with his entire family in tow — his three kids and wife, Amy, wearing deep red kangaroo leather jeans (with the hair still on it but without the pouch), one of his gold embroidered jackets and draped in jewelry mostly fashioned after his signature monkey motif. The next day the whole crew came over to Chez Leeds for a brief visit before dinner and then they surprised me again by all showing up at Club RaYé Friday night.
The whole Kos family is a walking work of art thanks to Jay, his style and his outlook on life. Don’t go walking in his door without a barrel of money, because his monkey costs a pretty penny…but there’s only one Jay Kos and those who follow his lead, take the lead in style. I often wish I were a man just to be able to wear his luscious leathers and furs — python, alligator, kangaroo, mink, beaver and lord only knows what else he stitches together to make up the pants, jackets, bags and hats he has on his body, his kids’ bodies, for sale and on display, each a work of art unto itself.
I have fallen in love with Jay and Amy’s children, each smarter and more full of personality than the next. He spoils them rotten with love and praise and all that life has to offer and it shows. Seven year-old Luke is a 30 year-old in disguise, as much a fashionista as his father and destined to rule the world before he celebrates his 8th birthday. I begged him to come live with me and leave that ‘wretched’ life in New York (!), but he’s too devoted to his dad, so he told me.
American-owned Club RaYé in the Montorgueil district was hoppin’ Friday night with the cool-of-the-cool in from fashionland. Kelley Black, of Balancing the Executive Life, author of This Luscious Life, and resident of New York, met us there to party in fashionable style. Local “chanteuse” Caroline Nin was at the mic. Her voice was smooth and she was hot. My Part Time Paris Life Lisa Anselmo, also a trained soprano from another life, was singing gently with her from the sidelines. Caroline generously invited her to join her on stage and together the “two drifters, off to see the world” crooned “Moon River” spontaneously and totally unrehearsed, bringing down the house with their harmonic voices.
In keeping with Fashion Week, we paid Iris Apfel a visit at the Bon Marché. Iris is a New York fashion icon who has been surprisingly unknown outside of New York until now. She “is an American businesswoman, interior designer, and fashion icon.” (Wikipedia.org) Now in her mid 90’s, Iris, always a prominent member of the fashion community, and her husband, Carl (who died just last year at the age of 101), ran a textile firm until about 25 years ago when they ‘retired’ and began to travel and collect “non-Western, artisanal clothes.” Iris’ incomparable look, fashion sense and style along with her sharp wit, has started a new trend in the world of fashion proving one doesn’t have to be young to be hip.
Paris’ Bon Marché is hosting a special tribute to her with samples of some of her collection on display and film snippets of Iris herself wearing the same outfits. It just opened February 27th and is on through April 16th. A documentary about Iris was released in 2014 casting her into the mainstream and out of the boundaries of Manhattan. Both the exhibit and the documentary are MUST-SEES. (See the trailer of the documentary about Iris Apfel and where to find it.)
Fashion went out the window when we loosened our belts Sunday at the Normandy home of author and chef, Susan Herrmann Loomis of “On Rue Tatin” fame. Fourteen of us hopped on the train in the direction of Rouen, descending at Val-de-Reuil, then hopping the #1 bus to the town of Louviers where we filed into Susan’s centuries-old half-timbered house, once a convent and magically swarming with good ghosts.
Susan does these lunches every now and then, but she and I picked this special afternoon to host Parler Paris readers. It could not have been a more congenial group of Americans, two of whom discovered they had grown up in the same small Indiana town! The house itself is fairytale story material and Susan’s professional country kitchen is ‘to die for.’ Around the large center work counter where all her knives sit in special slots, we toasted and tasted four “amuses-bouche” while we talked and watched her effortlessly make her famous Tarte Tatin (after putting me to work peeling and cutting some of the apples).
Then she scurried us off to find seats at the large table in the dining room dreams are made of. With a roaring fire on one side (that we stoked using an old broken chair and pine branches) and a view on the old “Eglise Notre-Dame” on the other, watching the sunny skies turn to first rain then snow then rain again, we were served first a watercress salad with roasted beets, then chicken with braised endives, an array of Normandy cheeses and topped off by Susan’s famous Tarte Tatin. (It’s THE BEST you will have ever eaten, I can promise you that.)
Uncoincidentally, the name of Susan’s street “Rue Tatin,” has nothing to do with “Tarte Tatin” — as the dessert was a mistake made by Stéphanie Tatin when she screwed up the usual apple tart she made for her and her sister’s hotel guests (Hôtel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron in the Loir-et-Cher region) in the 1880’s only to discover how much better it was cooked upside down! The name of the street comes from a general in Napoleon’s army and I doubt he ever had a tart quite like this one.
After the sumptuous and wildly delicious lunch and a whole lot of laughter, many from the group did a quick tour of the town before we reversed our trip by catching the bus to the train and home again. By this time, the sun was out again in full force and our bellies extending our fashionable digs.
Just for the sake of making you eat your hearts out, here was our menu in French (with translation in parentheses):
Apéritif with Amuses-Bouche:
* Radis Noir au Beurre Doux et Fleur de Sel, Champignons au Chorizo, Foie Gras Sauté aux Pommes de Terre et Fève Tonka (Black Radish With Sweet Butter And Fleur De Sel, Mushrooms with Chorizo, Sautéed Foie Gras with Potatoes and Tonka Bean)
* Salade de Cresson de Rivière, Betteraves de Pleine Terre Roti, Amandes Grillées (Watercress from the Eure and Field Harvested Roasted Beet Salad with Almonds)
* Poulet Paysanne au Calvados et Pommes (Country Chicken with Calvados and Apples)
* Endives Braises aux Aromâtes (Herb-Braised Endives)
* Fromages Normands (Normandy Cheeses – Camembert, Livarot, Neufchâtel)
* Tarte Tatin (Caramelized Apple Tart)
Susan promised to offer a group course (six or more gets a special rate), so if you are interested in taking it or any one of Susan’s cooking courses…or attending one of her amazing Sunday lunches like we did, then visit her Web site or email her [email protected].
…You will never be happier or more fashionable!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(with Susan Herrmann Loomis)
Tomorrow I am speaking for THE FIRST TIME since it all began in 2003 at Parler Paris Après Midi on the topic of: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” This is your chance to learn how I got here, how I survived and prospered and how what I learned can benefit you! This was a presentation made to the Women’s International Club last September and tomorrow will be a repeat and better performance! Hope you can join us. It should be a blast! Visit Parler Paris Après Midi for more information.
P.P.S. If you have a property in France you wish to sell, don’t forget that we are now listing agents and can help you find North American and other Anglophone buyers that make the whole process a whole lot easier!