31 January 2010
On the way back to Paris on Friday, when I finally found the Delta counter (Delta took over the Air France route between Paris and Philadelphia. Not a good thing), the rep asked me if I had already checked in. No, I didn't remember to do the advance check in on-line, so had not checked in at all. But we have you checked in with three bags? No, really no. So he checked me and my 2 bags (only one on the way over, the 2nd mostly bike stuff!) and that was that.
While I was still trying to settle into my seat on the plane, another woman came up and said she had 2A, my seat. No, 2A is definitely my seat. She got the flight attendant, who looked at my boarding pass and her boarding pass. Both said 2A, and both had my name on it. I don't know what the other woman's name really was, but mine is unusual enough that hers definitely was not identical.
They shuffled her to another seat (or maybe off the plane?) and asked for my bag claim checks to make sure the bags were labeled correctly, and the flight attendant apologized to me: "that doesn't usually happen on international flights."
So- the rep at check in did not get the right name from her passport, and checked her in under my name. Then the how many checks through security did not pick up that her boarding pass and passport did not match? But if I bring a bottle of anything greater than 3 oz. I'm a security risk? Please.
30 January 2010
29 January 2010
The first descent on the lap is a pretty intimidating sight when you're the first to roll up to it...
It was tackled a lot of different ways during the day, riding, running, and plenty of hybrid technique. This is the U23 race.
In addition to this pajama-wearing oompah band, there was a drum corp at Roubaix. Overall, there was more silliness and a more relaxed vibe.
Some things, like curry ketchup, you don't need to taste to know not to eat. But being slower than the average guy, I exercised some regrettable judgement and tried it on my frites.
The Roubaix train station is handsome and in excellent repair, though there aren't many trains through here anymore.
It wasn't all like familiar, though. The Grand Place (hotel de ville) on our walk from the train station to the velodrome was a striking, and very European, sight.
Safety Jogger work boots is a major sponsor for many of the 'cross series. As Karen has said, it ain't a cross race without the inflatable boot.
One guy who isn't getting dirty is Sven Nys. In this promo in Roubaix, pictures of muddy Niels Albert, Lars Boom, and friends, and a sparklingly clean Sven Nys, have been photoshopped together. There's no shortage of pictures of Nys in the mud, so the use of this one is perplexing.
Czech sensation Zdenek Stybar won the men's race convincingly, and World Champion and crybaby Niels Albert, who had until that race been leading the World Cup, had a tough day of it and finished well back in 8th place. sniffed after the race that with the broken ribs he suffered the week before, it wasn't possible to "defend my chances in a fair way." Having suffered through some busted ribcage myself in the past 12 months, his toughness is not in question in my book-- I can't imagine the pain of piloting a bike around the slop like that on freshly broken ribs. Chapeau, monsieur! Maybe there's something that happens in the translation from Dutch, but he just can't seem to help but whine in his interviews. There must have been something in the air, though, as even the normally stiff-lipped Sven Nys groused that day, saying that whereas the Czech champion had the luxury of training in Majorca the previous week, he, as the Belgian champion, had Obligations including an early-week race and a team event. Poor Svenny. It's such a burden to be so good.
Daphny Van den Brand got back up a couple of moments after her hard fall, but somebody apparently forgot to tell the emergency crew, who struggled to get the yellow backboard, stationed up at the top of the 2 treacherous descents, down to the velodrome through the thick mud, but not arriving until at least 5 min after she left the velodrome.
A guy who seems to be having a rough time for much of this season is American Jonathan Page. A good technical rider, it seemed like every time up this run/ride up at the soccer fields, somebody was running into him. On this lap, it's Ondrej Bambula (#28) with his shoulder in Page's ear.
Mongolian U23 team member Baasenkhuu Myagmarsura pushing through the slop.
28 January 2010
27 January 2010
I decided to make duck prosciutto for the first time. I don't have a recipe, but how hard can it be? Salt (and season) duck overnight, wash off salt, hang duck until it has lost about 30% of its pre-hanging weight. Salting darkened the meat (salted and rinsed on right, raw counterpart on left).
They say the flavors of the great hams are derived from the air they dry in, the sea air or other flavors of nature imparting flavor to the fat and meat. Our duck dried in the rare av Henri Martin air, a mixture of smog (the air quality in Paris over the 8 days it hung was among the worst since we've been here, according to the papers) and ubiquitous cigarette smoke. I drew the line at the funky stinky mold on the rolling wooden shutters-- we had the door cracked open during the day all week to keep the temp around the duck a little low, but at night when that shutter was down, the door was sealed tight.
Ready for eating-- now dark and decidedly prosciutto-y smelling, a bundle of salty ducky goodness. For the dinner, we served sliced with a timbale made of roasted turnips hiding a just-warm egg yolk.
I have yet to have a good duck confit in France. I know-- it seems wrong. Especially since it's easy to make. But every one I've had here have been tough and tasteless. So I made my own. Salt and season (I'm partial to ground fresh herbs, black pepper, and a little quatre epices) like this overnight, before rinsing off seasoning and drying.
Cover duck legs completely with the melted fat, cook really slowly (~180 degrees-- don't let it get above 200 or it'll toughen) for 8-12 hours. Cool in the fat, store for up to a couple of weeks. Yeah, right, like it'll last more than a day or two. For the dinner, we served crisped confit on top of confit'd (in sugar, not fat) orange slices with a celeriac and mustard seed salad.
Duck ragu is one of my favorites. This time I did it with black olives and served with chestnut pappardelle. We were eating this before the dinner, had it at the dinner, and have some left over, and wish we had more.
I had this idea a few weeks ago for poached duck breast (and of course later learned I was nowhere near the first). Duck breast is so often all about the skin, but I love the flavor of rare duck, so I thought I'd lightly cure it in salt and citrus peel and poach it in olive oil. Not so good-- the semi-cured duck just didn't do it (I thought it might be like a duck gravlax, but I was way wrong). So I poached the other one uncured in olive oil and served it with turnips "Anna" and crisped skin. The duck and skin were good, and the turnips tasted good but never got that crispy awesomeness that potatoes anna get. Back to the drawing board. Karen suggested crispy polenta as an accompaniment. Smart girl.
For the dinner, I poached the breast in clarified butter (may as well go big...) and served with garlicky turnip greens, crisped polenta with a bit of mushroom reduction, and mostardas of quince and parsnip. Like everything else, it could still use tweaking, but it was a step in the right direction.
The coffee noodles, however, were a terrible idea. Though they looked kinda like soy-soaked bean thread noodles, they looked a lot more like nasty worms. Fortunately, I had the good sense not to even try to find a use for them in any way.
Leftovers for lunch: north African-spiced chickpea stew with lots of vegetables and a bit of duck confit.
But none of that really explains the foot odor in the fridge. It wasn't the leftover wine (many French red wines are élevé en fûts de chêne, or as we surmised on our arrival last winter, "made with the feet of eleven dogs" (no telling where that 3rd dog's 4th foot went)), because we had no wine left over, despite starting with more than a bottle a person. I'm probably only still alive because our wiser-than-us guests turned down the offer of cognac after dinner, and I'd be really grateful if I'd stop feeling the effects of the night's excess before March. No, my refrigerator smells of feet because although I was content to serve the 7 duck courses and then dessert, Karen insisted that we do a cheese course, "because this is France." She's right, of course, this is France, for better and for worse, and a cheese course and the good cheese vendors here are definitely among the betterest things of France. So she went out and bought 3 delicious stinky French cheeses, less and less of which are still in there.
21 January 2010
When I moved to Paris, the office I was squatting in had its own Polycom- most of our meetings are with other parts of the global team and hence teleconferences, so my office becomes the de facto conference room when 2 or 3 of us from Paris join the global conversation. When the office's real occupant returned to Paris (she had been squatting in my Collegeville office for 4 months!) I got moved to another lesser office, on a different floor, and without a Polycom. The normal telephone in conference call mode does not work nearly as well. I asked for a Polycom, but there was no IT budget by that point last year, so the telephone it was.
Now that it's January, ie, a new year, I asked again. In French they are referred to as "pizzas". So this morning, the pizza delivery guy showed up and voila, I have my own pizza.
Life is good.
10 January 2010
We are very happy that we do not have a car in Paris. At home we live in Center City, and we undestand what a problem parking can be. We will avoid going places if we have a good parking spot. We never take the car out on a Friday or Saturday night, since it will take hours of driving around to find a spot again when we get home. It doesn't seem to be any better in Paris, although it is much easier to live without a car here (public transit is much more extensive).
For the hardy souls who do have cars in our neighborhood, the most impressive thing is the opportunities they make for themselves to park their cars. (Pretty much all of these options would generate a ticket from the only efficient Philadelphia city service, the Parking Authority, if tried at home.)
03 January 2010
Guess who found the prize!
02 January 2010
It is pretty amazing that you can fly half way around the world, and the airport terminal looks pretty much like any other airport terminal. But what really gives away that you are in a different country, is the restrooms.
And specifically, the toilet.
Here’s a pretty generic American toilet. Handle on the side of the tank, bowl full of water, a cycling magazine to read. [Hotel in Miami, earlier this spring.]