Grammar 101: Macaron vs. Macaroon

In this week’s instalment of his Grammar 101 series, Adrian Fernand (Australia’s most stylish Agony Uncle and commentator on etiquette, style and luxury) casts his critical eye over the latest trend in confectionery – the macaron. Check out his guide on how not to sound like a cultural philistine when discussing the French answer to the cupcake.

It might not be the second French Revolution, but it appears that macarons have usurped the cupcake as the dessert du jour. The French have been eating them for centuries, yet it seems that most of the English-speaking world only cottoned onto them in the last twelve months.

I shan’t be snide and say that I’ve eaten them for years. I shan’t be wicked and speak of their origins, including their being invented by Ladurée, the pâtissier of the French Imperial Court. Nor shall I indulge their candy-coloured hues that have inspired good living and decadence and an entire collection by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton! All I shall say is this: Learn how to pronounce them!

Please refer to our helpful diagram below:

Grace of Monaco

Grace of Monaco
Grace of Monaco stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly. The movie star who married a prince. It starts on a studio lot, I think it’s meant to be the last film that she shot before her marriage.

Grace walks to her dressing room and there are many flowers. Then it pans to a newsreel showing her marriage to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco (Tim Roth).

Mr Hitchcock arrives and visits Grace at her new palace. An aid tells him what he and can’t call her. He offers her a part in a film ‘Marnie’. After much debate, she can do the film, as long as she manages the publicity.

However, somebody leaks the story early that she intends to do a film. This causes a negative reaction in Monaco. The Prince is pressured to stop her and they have a bad argument at a dinner.

Can she be a movie star and a princess?

The trouble with the film was it was a bit long and bland. The main issue was the storylines; Grace rides a horse, Grace does a film, Grace takes ‘princess lessons’ from a Count etc.

There were some highlights, a rare comic moment in learning the language. When she does get tough, it’s in trying to find who is leaking stories to the press. This was very good.

Milo Ventimiglia appears as a sort of film studio liaison Rupert Allan. I didn’t really understand the point of the character but Milo does a very good job with the limited scenes he’s given. I was impressed.

Sadly, there just weren’t enough moments. There was no chemistry between Tim Roth and Nicole at all. It was like a marriage of convenience. Tim Roth seemed only to smoke his way throughout the film, just sitting about puffing away.

The film does not pretend to be an accurate account but simply exploring Grace Kelly’s decision. Whether a princess can hold a job and maintain a position in society. I felt this was a shame, if you’re going to cover a true story, you should at least do it properly. Even the director admitted in an interview he never intended it to be 100% true.

Frank Langella played Father Francis Tucker but I was unsure what the purpose of his role was. How did he end up as an advisor to the Prince? There was no explanation to the relationship. Furthermore, he left just after halfway through!

Some British actors got their oar in, but to no avail. The result was terrible accents and cringe-worthy scenes!

Due to the lack of effort about the history, the blandness of most of the cast and there being no real moments of joy. This gets a 6/10 from me.

Image reproduced from wikipedia.com
Trailer reproduced from Warner Bros. UK Trailers

La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim – Alsace

Dating back to 1957, La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim is a co-operative of 230 growers based in the sunnier, warmer part of southern Alsace that typically produces riper, fuller wines.

Alsace, with its Germanic heritage, generally produces single-variety wines labelled as such – these two wines, however, are blends with generic names.

Priced as everyday wines, both have a beautifully ripe-yet-dry easy-drinking style that will match well with a range of foods – the only question, then, is “Who’s more bootlicious ?”

Who is more bootylicious?

Black Tie (€10 ex-cellar)

A blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling, this wine shows off the character of these two grapes with the racy minerality and ripe citrus fruit of the Riesling and the ripe orchard fruit  and spiciness of the Pinot Gris.

With sweet-sour citrus, good minerality and savouriness, it is a somewhat Mosel-esque lovely drinker.

Match with Alsatian cuisine, such as pork, tarte flambee or coq au Riesling.

Pfaff Gentil (€6 ex-cellar) 

An undisclosed blend, this has the raciness of Riesling, the spice of Pinot Gris and just a touch of heady Gewurz perfume.

Golden, sandy yellow in the glass, on the nose there are ripe orchard and tropical fruits and a hint of spice.

The palate is ripe and spicy with good, rounded acidity – a zingy mouthful of luscious exotic tropical fruit and spice. Good savoury underpinnings too – and a perfectly balanced finish.

Curvaceous and beautiful, yet also lithe and athletic, match with a fish carpaccio – gravadlax or, even better, tuna with chilli and ginger.

GingerLove – From Belgium With Love

At City Connect, we’re always looking for new and interesting food and drink from the UK and further afield which will tickle your tastebuds and please your palate. So when we heard about GingerLove drink from Belgium, we just had to share it with you. After all, if GingerLove is enjoyed by the likes of Sting and Jamie Cullum, then we think our City Connect readers in Belgium, France & Luxembourg should try it too. And for everyone else, watch this space… GingerLove deserves to go global!

Read the Press Release below for more information on the gorgeous GingerLove drink…

Next time someone asks you to name five famous Belgians, make sure to add spice to your list. Make sure to mention the coolest hot shot in town: a newcomer that is stirring quite a commotion among aficionados of good taste that gather from all corners of the world to savour its heartwarming sensations.

But guess what: this golden boy is a beverage. No, actually, it’s an experience. No, it’s what people who know what’s good for them are craving for in Antwerp these days. And in Paris, and soon, in the rest of the world. It’s called GingerLove and the only way to find out just how delightful it is, is by allowing your taste buds to soak in its golden aroma and indulging in its soothing playfulness.

Already awarded as MOST INNOVATIVE DRINK, GingerLove is “The New Hot Drink” never tasted before. Based on ginger & fruit juices, GingerLove revives you with the extra health kick to keep you going. This warm frothy drink is caffeine free.

GingerLove took its first zesty taste in Lombardia, the organic & vegetarian restaurant since 1972 in Antwerp. Lombardia’s food creator Alain Indria is the founder of GingerLove and has excited the world many times with his creative food & drink inventions.

Rock stars like Sting, Moby and Jamie Cullum adore GingerLove and even Sting says it’s good for your voice!

GingerLove is a way of living and has a strong marketing backbone. The concept exists out of extended marketing material for the food service and retail industry.

To enjoy the lively aroma of GingerLove, we’ve even designed the perfect cup. The only thing you need is a sachet of GingerLove, to which you add boiling water. Stir or shake, and your own GingerLove is ready to drink!

GingerLove is as comforting as it is enticing, as exhilarating as it is sexy. So be warned: when drunk hot, it is known to go straight to the heart. Lovingly made by a connoisseur of soulfood (Alain Indria of bio store Lombardia) and now ready to take on the world. Prepare yourself for a taste of what the future has in store for you!

For more information about GingerLove and where you can buy it in Belgium, France & Luxembourg, please check out their website: http://www.gingerlove.be/

Text taken from GingerLove 2012 Press Release
Images courtesy of GingerLove

Alpine Antics in Courcheval

What do you think when you hear the word ‘seasonnaire’?  Someone staggering around beach resorts trying to organise bar crawls and wet t-shirt competitions?  Posh girls named Isabella working in a chalet?  Jack Wills reps encouraging punters to get drunk and buy some, like, really cool stash?  All of the above might apply, but having worked as a seasonnaire in Courchevel for the last four months, I can safely say that these stereotypes are more often than not very far from the truth.

"seasonnaire", "France skiing", "skiing", "chalet girl", "piste", "apres ski"

Fair enough, we seasonnaires do party hard.  Après sessions that result in people skiing off bus stops or running down a red run in the dark are commonplace.  Our days off generally start at 9pm the day before: drinks, heavy night out, beer for breakfast, skiing, après bar, collapse.  But one of the main reasons for this play hard attitude is that, believe it or not, we do actually work hard for the rest of the week.  Before I came out to the Alps, all of my previous customer-facing roles had been ones where the customer leaves after a few hours.  If you have a tricky customer in a restaurant, it’s bearable because you know they’re going to leave at the end of the evening.  Out here, this is not the case.  These people are here for a full week, and when your job description dictates that you are ‘on call’ 24-7, the work takes on a new dimension.

My job title is ‘resort rep’, which in a nutshell means that I am the point of contact for my company’s customers in resort.  Our week starts on a Saturday, where we ship all outgoing customers to the airport, and bring the new ones back to resort.  Sounds fairly simple, you might say.  Now add in factors such as snow, fog, ice, missing skis, and an airport that is essentially a large shed and requires a special pilot’s license to land there.  You might begin to understand why out here we have a completely different kind of ‘Friday Feeling’.  Once everyone has finally got on the coach to go to resort, you then have just over an hour to speak to all fifty-plus of them, and sell them their lift passes and equipment hire, all the while trying not to be flung down the aisle as a crazy French driver barrels his way along mountain roads.  By the time everyone has finally been delivered to their hotel or chalet, the work is far from over.  The weekend continues with getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday and delivering everyone’s lift passes, smoothing out and problems that may have arisen with rooms or similar, making sure everyone gets to ski school and basically running around resort like a headless chicken.  This is generally where one encounters the clientele that are going to make the next week something of a nightmare.  Rooms aren’t big enough, view isn’t good enough, speck of dust on the carpet…  These are particularly fun to deal with when it’s peak season and the whole of the resort is fully booked.

Admittedly, it’s not all stress and tantrums.  Once Sunday night’s accommodation visits are over, the rest of the week can go very smoothly.  One great part of my job is ski hosting – taking groups of guests skiing around the Three Valleys and getting a free lunch.  At this stage of the season, the sun shines all day every day, and life doesn’t get much better than sitting on a sun terrace on top of a mountain thinking ‘I’m getting paid to do this’.  And then there are the days where we’re not required to do anything until the evening, and can spend our days skiing some of the best runs in Europe.

So as with any job, the life of a seasonnaire has both highs and lows.  There have certainly been some weeks where a customer drives me to the edge of quitting, but then a blue-sky powder day turns it around again.  It’s certainly harder work than I was anticipating, and I’m not sure if I’d do this job again.  But for now, I’m living for days like the one I’ve just had – sunshine, snow and après.

Image courtesy of the author

April Fools’ Day & Spaghetti Trees

April Fools’ Day is celebrated in many countries around the world on April 1 every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day, April 1 is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day when many people play all kinds of jokes and foolishness. The day is marked by the commission of good-humoured or otherwise funny jokes, hoaxes, and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members and people known to the prankster.

A typical example is sending the “victim” of the prank on a so-called fools’ errand… my personal favourite was told to me by an old friend whose father sent him to the ironmongors for a “long weight”. The ironmongor (who was in on the joke) told the boy to stand in the corner… after 30 minutes of being stuck in the corner twiddling his thumbs, the ironmongor told the boy he could go back to his father because he’d had his long wait!

Traditionally in the UK the jokes only last until noon. Elsewhere, such as in France, Italy, Germany and America, the jokes last all day. In France children and some jovial adults traditionally stick paper fish on each other’s back as a trick and shout “poisson d’avril!” (translated as April fish).

But where did it all begin? What are the origins of April Fools’ Day?

Precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held in March , and the Medieval Festival of Fools, on 28 December still a day on which pranks are played in Spanish-speaking countries.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. May 2, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “March 32”, i.e. April 1. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In 1508 French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April fish”), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day”, the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on April 1. Many writers suggest that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates.

One of my all-time favourite April Fools’ Pranks was in 1957 when the BBC fooled the nation with a report on the current affairs programme Panorama about a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the fictitious spaghetti tree.

"April Fools Day", "spaghetti tree", "panorama hoax", "BBC hoax"

Woman harvesting the "spaghetti tree"

The 3 minute clip was broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not widely eaten in the UK and some people were unaware that spaghetti was in fact a type of pasta. The broadcast of the Swiss Spagetti Tree hoax was described by CNN years later as “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.” See the clip below that fooled a nation!

Video reproduced from YouTube / aptsarchive
Image reproduced from Wikipedia Commons
Content partly reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Review: The Six Nations 2012

With The Olympics and the UEFA European Championships just around the corner, there is a lot to be said for 2012’s sporting calendar. However, whilst the anticipation of the summer’s events rises, the first sporting major event of the year came to an end this weekend – the thirteenth year of rugby’s Six Nations.  Pulling in an average of 4.6 million viewers, the showcasing of talent was an event that enthralled and excited, aggravated and frustrated several different players, fans and nations alike, as, once again, for the eighth time in thirteen years since its amalgamation, it was a British team that took the spoils.

But, whilst Warren Gatland’s Wales reigned supreme, taking third Grand Slam victory in eight years, there were a lot of positives for every country to take from the seven-week event, producing players that lit-up the tournament, whenever they had a chance.

Scotland

As the firm underdogs of the tournament up until Italy’s inclusion in 2000, the Scottish team were unlucky not to win a game this year. Albeit their play is usually quite stinted, with short passes never equating to much ground made, they are always a team that will scrap their way to victory. Something they proved this year after narrow defeats to France and England – two games where the result could have gone either way.

With the British Lions on tour next year it is the Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg that would be most disappointed if he were to miss out on a call-up. Adding an amount of flair and panache that usually lacks in the Scottish team, Hogg’s formidable gift for running rugby is one that should, soon enough, end Scotland’s long-running losing-streak.

Stuart Hogg slices through the defence

Italy

Italy have developed in leaps and bounds over the past thirteen years. Most notably seen by their unfortunate defeat at the hands of England, after they went in at half time leading by twelve points to six, it seems that inexperience is not longer a problem.  Finishing off the tournament with a (scrappy) win over Scotland, it seems only a matter of time before they start scratching more W’s on to their results board.

If it weren’t for the replacement of ever-reliable kicker Kristopher Burton, the Italians would have embarrassed England in the opening weeks of the tournament, as his absence between the posts lost them the game. A face, and foot, to look out for in the future, as Italy continue look to stamp their dominance on the game.

Kristopher Burton keeps it cool

France

As always, the French produced some beautiful rugby. Fine lines of running, well placed kicks and monstrous tackling were all on the menu whenever Les Bleus took to the field. However, after a crippling draw with the Irish, the French team began to act accordingly, losing their tempers and, subsequently, the following two matches.

Once again the French showed that they do running-rugby better than most, most poignantly proved by their new centre, Wesley Fofana. Finishing the tournament with five caps and four tries, Fofana is definitely a name that will be revered in the future, as experience will only add to his plethora of skills and talents.

Wesley Fofana makes it four from four against England

Ireland

Ending as the tournaments top try scorers, Ireland were, once again, unfortunate not to finish higher up the table. Their dominance in the pack, despite a hiccup against England, was a constant threat, with their backs constantly tearing up opposition defences at breakneck speeds. Yes, their heyday of talent may be coming to an end, with many of the Grand Slam victors of 2009 nearing retirement, but the new wave of talent is developing in abundance, promising to be a danger to any team that comes up against them.

This year, Ireland’s lucky star was shining in Tommy Bowe. Despite a questionable decision taking away a tournament-record for the winger, denying him his sixth of the year, he was always a constant threat for the opposition. With blistering pace, a fantastic chip-and-chase and marvellous covering tackles, Bowe has several years left in him to reach that try-scoring goal.

Tommy Bowe bags another

England

Coming off the back of a disgraceful World Cup, England saw a complete turnaround in personnel. Several uncapped players graced the field in the opening game against Scotland, as England produced one of their more questionable victories. However, the weeks went by, and the nation’s wariness of the team seemed to disperse. England’s new blood fought hard against the French and the Irish, securing victories that would dismiss any uncertainty that lay there before the tournament.

Yes, new boy Owen Farrell was a great asset to the team, scoring an impressive 63 points in 5 games, however it was Stuart Lancaster’s inclusion to the squad that made all of the difference. The question of who should be next England manager has surely been answered after three away wins in the tournament – a record held by no other man to take the reigns of England’s team.

Stuart Lancaster has the players' support

Wales

Another scintillating tournament from the Welsh side saw the team take their Grand Slam, after a final victory in Paris. Perhaps a bit of poetic justice following on from their dismissal at the hands of Les Bleus from the World Cup last year, however a marvellous all-round performance nonetheless. Several players have marked their desire to feature in the Lions’ tour next summer and, with Welsh coach Warren Gatland set to take the helm there, too, it would be astonishing if a lot of the Welsh players did not feature.

With a powerful line-up, their backs averaging an astonishing weight of 1.92m and weighing in at 112.9kg, it was one of the smaller Welsh players that packed the most punch. 5ft 10 fullback Leigh Halfpenny is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to running, tackling and, as he proved in the dying minutes against France, kicking. Pegged as a new JPR Williams, Halfpenny was definitely one of the best things to emerge from this tournament, with his astounding talents helping the Welsh to victory in almost every aspect of their game.

Leigh Halfpenny puts the boot in to France

The tournament itself may have had some negative points; games were not as enthralling as they have been in the past, scores were not as high. But what is certain is that the progression of talent and skill is clear from all nations, proving that the annual event should not be frowned upon, but welcomed by every team looking to develop their reputation in the rugby world.

Images reproduced from belfasttelegraph.co.uk, connector.tv, smh.com, universityobserver.ie, telegraph.co.uk and rbs6nations.com