Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cannes Do Glam

I have arrived in Cannes to work on Born to Shop Provence Plus (which includes Provence, the French Riviera, Barcelona, Geneva and maybe Morocco) and get an advance peek at what's new and what's been happening since I was here last year, during the Festival International du Film ...called FIF here.

So far, the two knock-outs have both been hotels -- one of which I just visited by way of the lobby. (Keep reading, I'll tell you everything.)

The other, Hotel Palais Stephanie, is where I am staying -- the newest luxury hotel in Cannes (50 La Croisette; and one of the biggest renovation stories in France after sixty million dollars was poured into a older and very eighties OTT hotel (the Noga Hilton) and made into this new, luxury palace with a 5-star rating and a special homage to the stars of past Film Festivals. It's the only modern, glam, hot and trendy palace in town; promising to set the Hollywood crowd on their tiaras in mid-May.

Located directly on La Croisette, overlooking the sea, the Palais Stephanie's rooms are uphosltered in cognac Italian leather with zillions of sleek options and technological details. Regular rooms have coppery mosaic tiles and tubs ...while my room, a suite (hey, it's out of season -- I got upgraded) has a Philippe Starck tub set into an alcove overlooking the sea... and more sparkly copper shimmery tiles.

Each bathroom has a separate glass wall Italian shower (read-- no door!) as well as a dual flush toilet, to save water. The hotel has also chosen to give up bidets in order to save water, so only the important and very grand suites have them (my suite is sans-bidet).

I am left to wash my underwear in the sink. Oh yes, I wash my underwear with the most chic bathroom amenities I have ever seen-- provided by the Swiss jewelry/ watch company Chopard, which is obviously going after the Bulgari bathroom business.I have never before seen Chopard hotel amenities, so I am one of the happy few who can bathe with azure blue glycerin soap.

The lobby has a giant atrium, filled with a golden Palme d'Or leaf branch, a larger than life version of the award given away here at FIF. There's also a restaurant with terrace, La Scena, that serves a mixture of Italian, French and Japanese food -- again, overlooking the sea...and all the street action. Does anyone need more than a view to the sea, a blue sky and a pizza?

You can get a full lunch or dinner at a fixed price of 25 euros, which is very low for Cannes and for all of France. I went for the 3-course lunch (30 euros) and had a crab-avocado salad, grilled fish over truffled risotto and a grand marnier souffle. Ohlala! Then I walked around town before falling into my bed.

Behind all beds, and in most public spaces, there are vintage black & white photos of stars at previous Film Festivals. I am in residence with Gina Lollabridgida. Brigette Bardot is just down the hall from me.

Yet there's more to oogle in Cannes.

Around the corner from this hotel, there's the new 3-14 Hotel, 5 rue Francois Einesy. It's set back one block from the sea, but is a must-do stare at me hotel because of the drama of the tiny lobby. It is small and very unusual, so this is not your basic Hollywood glam spot; I couldn't stop giggling as I stared at the lobby.

The hotel has purple carpet out front (who needs red, even in Cannes?) and inside has two contemporary art sculptures, one of a life sized turquoise cow with a gnome on top; the other, a turquoise Venetian glass fountain with glass birds and a gnome on top. You will be looking for Amelie toutes des suites. The rest of the lobby is upholstered in turquoise plush. You will never see the likes of this kind of kitsch in your life.

From the brochure, the rooms look quite normal. No Brigette Bardot anywhere. So please stop by the lobby before you return to the surreal world of the rest of Cannes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Any Fleas Today, Lady?

It's hard to find a shopper, or much of any traveller to France, who doesn't like flea markets.

But here I am to say, whooooaaaaa -- there's better bargains to be had in France. I have become spoiled by vide greniers and Emmahus. To me, many flea markets, especially The Big Flea in Paris, are too touristy and too expensive.

It's Springtime now in the South of France, and so the season begins. There are, of course, indoor events during winter...and many Paris flea markets continue their cycle throughout the year. But here, in the South, the vide greniers have just begun. Ww have mimosa. We have forsythia. We have lift-off.

Vide grenier (empty attic) is a tag sale. But individual tag sales are not allowed in France. Instead, the village has a one-day one-off event, usually just once a year, and every person in the village can buy a space for 10 euros (or less) and get rid of 'junk'. One man's junk is my treasure, you know.

Actually, most of my homes have resembled flea markets when I was finished 'decorating' them ...and my fondness for the U.S. chain of stores Anthropologie is based on their ability to re-create my own home within their stores. Beyond my urge to own everything I see, there are deeper social implications.

At the three vide grenier I went to this weekend, I noticed an inordinate number of plastic water bottle/statues from Lourdes. I suddenly realized that the vide grenier is the last step in the cycle of life. Get sick. Go to Lourdes. Die anyway. Family dumps stuff at vide grenier. And the world turns.

The best things to buy are baby items, as they are never worn out. I am not buying much of anything now, because I am about to move house and leave France, but I look nonetheless. Hey, you never know.

I admit to being mesmerized by the small selection of naked plastic doll-babies available at one family stand. Two of the three dolls had penises. I know it's been a long time since I've seen a doll, but I didn't know that anatomically correct dolls were so easy to come by that they are selling for a few euros each in the outskirts of Roaix.

More importantly, I made yet another discovery (aside from the Big Picture and the Small Penis) -- vide greniers are enormously less expensive than flea markets... but Emmahus is less again by as much as half the price.

Emmahus is the French equivalent of Goodwill. It was begun by Pere Pierre, who took in homeless men, housed them, fed them and put them to work either repairing or selling donations. The donation sorters are now so sophisitcated that they use eBay and the Internet to price each item.

Still, feve sized santons (for the galette du roi at Epiphany) at a vide grenier cost one euros for five. And no Baby Jesus. At Emmahus, they were ten for one euro. (Still no Jesus.) A wooden high-chair, maybe from the early sixties, was 20 euros at Emmahus, 40 euros at one vide grenier and 60 euros at another. Go figure.

The Emmahus that I have been using for many years is near Orange, about 20 minutes from my house. There are branches all over France, even in Paris. I've checked out a few in Paris, but they were not good, and I've never seen another rural branch-store.

"My Emmahus" is a small village. It takes a village to make a bargain. It has one bulding filled with books (in English and in French), casettes (10 for one euro), disques (vinyl) and graphic novels. There's another building for electronic equipement; another for kids' items, another for womenswear, two for furniture (large, gorgeous amoire, 1000 euros) and my favorite of all, Vintage and Bibleot --which are two different rooms in the same trailer.

'Vintage' is all old linens, vintage clothes, hats, fur coats, buttons and trim. 'Bibleot' is dishes and object d'art, including a complete African Section.

My best buy this past weekend came from the outdoor tables, where the true junk is piled higher and deeper (everything, including kitchen sink) -- here I found something unique for my mid-sized collection of nains (gnomes) -- a plastic gnome who requires batteries so he can sing. Now that's an important work of art.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Seasons & Epochs

My mother died in the season of the forsythia. She died on March 8, of course I remember the date. And I know that forsythia has a different bloom period in different climates. In Texas, it blooms in early March.

I date many times in my life by the season rather than the physical date. I remember my shock as a child when my grandmother told me that she did not know her birthday. She was born on the first crescent moon after Passover. When she was sent to the U.S. as a six year old, they made her birthday March 31. Yet now, I remember her birthday by Pesach -- next week, not a specific date.

My gradnfather died ont he first light of Channukah. I do not know that date.

I mention the time of the forsythia because when I arrived here in Provence, I wanted to fill my window boxes with bright pink and orange geraniums as I do each year. But there are few geraniums available now; it is not quite the season. Instead, there's forsythia...and various root stock.

Needless, to say, I bought a forsythia plant and put it in the window, in a carved yellow, very deep ceramic tub from China. I usually have a blue wheelbarrow in the front window for my plants, but it is too large for a lone plant.

I placed the little tree into the jar and forgot about it, except to reflect on my mother each time I pass my front door. She is dead 29 years this March.

Today I watered the plant and noted with amazement that it is growing -- it has root coils and new green buds and shoots coming out of the dirt. I do not have a green thumb, so I am shocked that anything would grow.

But it is the growing season in France. At market, there are tables piled with root stock, so you can start your own vineyard from a few little plants. It is illegal to bring these into the U.S. or I would add to the 150 vineyards in Paso Robles with my own Suzienne.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Poulet in Every Pot

A few years ago, while on a visit to Paris, I complained to a French girlfriend that the poulet roti at the bio-marche in the 6e (Sundays only) cost an otrageous 20 euros ,,,for a singlechicken. I further remarked that I was paying between 12-15E at grocery stores and 9E at the secret gas station store at the Shell in the 7e.

She explained that things are now so expensive in France that her family can no longer afford to buy a poulet roti; that they make their own.

It had never crossed my mind to make my own roast chicken. They cost $6 or $7 in the US and are usually great straight from the supermarket, especially when still warm.

She gave me the recipe she likes and I began to experiment, first in the US and now back home in France, where the Auchan in Lyon (Dardilly to be exact) had ready cooked chickens for 7,90, about $12.

My friend's chicken is stuffed with tilleul leaves, which I can only find in France since nearby Nyons is the tilleul capital of France. I had brought some paks back to the US and filled the first chicken with wet leaves and a lemon cut in half; quite tasty.

Now back in France, I am testing a vareity of types of chicken as well as cooking methods. You can buy two normal chickies, smallish, on promo for 7E the pair. A bird with a pedigree will cost 8-10 E per.

Chicken No. 1 was stuffed with a double package of smoked lardon, a pat of real French better (alors) and glazed with olive oil (fruitee) and lemon juice. Cooked for one hour at 200C -- the leg joints were pink inside, merde. The bacon bits were sensational mixed with the chicken in its juice.

Today was Chicken No 2. Cooked inside a clay pot with potatoes for one hour and then without the lid for another half hour until golden. Stuffed this sucker with the rest of the laurier leaves I found in my cupboard (I soaked them first) and a fistful of garlic gloves. Topped the bird with a specialty salt flavored with wild mushrooms.

This made a very good lunch and will probably be finished off as dinner. There is only one problem.

It's good thing I am alone here at the Internet Cafe ... and will be home alone tonight.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Perfect Market Day

I found myself too tense to sleep last night. I reviewed the possible problems and realized, no, I wasn't upset about anything except maybe giving up my house and my almost-adopted dog. I was excited because when I work up today (Tuesday) it would be Market Day in Vaison.

Market in VAison, especially in season, is a glorious thing. Today it was semi-glorious -- not in full throe since it is still March. But with perfect spring weather and streets crammed with locals and vendors, I made a few seasonal discoveries.
* The first French strawberries of the season have come to market. Spanish strawberries always become vailable more quickly and the French are quick to disdain them. These strawberries did not look too appetizing -- a weak red color with very white tops. I'd give it a month.
* Asperges is also jsut coming into season. The height of this season is actually in April, but there were several varieties available today -- msot were expensive since this is the first of the year. The French tradiiton is to make a wish each time you eat a fruit or vegetable for the first time in the new season. So I found some of the skinny asperges for 4 euros a boite and will make my wish tonight. Fatter asparagus and white asparagus were about $10 a bunch. Thankfully I don't like those versions.
* My regular 'chickan man' charges 7,50 for a poulet roti. This is a few cents less than at Aucahn. It does not pay to cook a chicken at home.
* Pirate and bootleg CD's are as popular as ever, but there is gaining momentum in 'disques' -- vinyl, which can't be faked in that format. Beatles album for 10 euros.
* Geraniums are not yet abundant. There are a few, but mostly it's still primroses and pansies.
* Dishtowels with embroidered symbols of Provence (lavender, cigalle, etc.) cost 15 euros for six. Down the road a bit, they are five towels for 15 euros. Did I spot a bargain right out of the box? Naw. The second guy had much better quality. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. Nevertheless, I am not going back to the vendor who announced 'Singer d'occasion'. I've done that and been there.

A Coupe Above

Like any woman who has ever had a crippling affair of the heart, I have just been to the hairdresser as a way of coping with my loss. After giving up Caramel, I have been blue -- so now I am red...or auburn. And looking like a middle aged Audrey Tatou.

Meanwhile, if you prefered the old shaggy/curly moi, be sure to tune in to HGTV on Thursday at 9pm EST and 8pm Central to watch a new show called Selling New York. The show debuted last week and garnered two different articles in the New York Times.

While you watch the property porn, you can discover how I came to be in Vaison now, awaiting the sale of my house here. My dear friend and broker extraordinaire Michele Peck toldme I should move to New York and give Manhattan a whirl. I flew there last fall to look at apartments -- and was trailed by Michele's camera crew. It seems it was her week to be the star of this new real estate saga, and so we gamely wore the same clothes for several days in a row and pretended we didn't even know there was a crew on our tails. We saw three apartments -- all are worthy of more than a New York minute or million -- but I fell so crazy in love with one of them that one the spot, and yes, on camera, I decided to sell the house in Provence.

So there you have it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Village Idiot

So here I am at the Universe Cafe on a damp and gray Monday which has speeded up slightly now that it is late afternoon. Because this village is open on Sunday mornings, it's very dead here Monday mornings.

Dead was, in fact, the question of the day. I had to ask the vet to assure and then re-assure me that dogs are not euthanized in France. I brought BonBon home for home-care; changed her name to Caramel (Cara for short -- 'dear' in Spanish) and cared for her non-stop. The vet taught me how to give her the injections, so I practiced with the pain medicine first and then the antibiotics. Hey, I know what's important.

With three useless legs, she was a patehtic case. I put her in the baby crib in my room; snuggled her into two blankets I bought at Emmahus, found some dog toys and then did laundry again and again as she did dog business in her bed or through the spoke of the crib. Poor thing, it was heartbreaking. And rather amazing.

So was my emotional breakdown.

I suddenly felt like Juno but without the courage; a 16 year old who turns up pregnant and wants to keep the baby but knows she can't care for her.

With sobs, I gave Caramel to the vet today so they can transfer her to Isle sur Sorgue SPA. I did not save her life for them to kill her, but I have been told they won't do that. Of course I wanted to bring her back to America and care for her forever, but I know that's not the right thing for either of us.

I was told that she's young and cute and will be adopted as soon as she recovers. She needs a really nice family and farm ... and French ticks.

I have two lap dogs (aged 5 and 10) and a new life that is evolving. She's a young and crazy gal, born to run. Once her legs work. Her problems have overwhelmed me, so I have rendered back to Cesar what was Cesar's. Did you know that Cesar is a French dogfood?

Since I left the vet's,I have spent much of the day in a trance. Not France. Trance. I pray she gets a nice family. I feel her finla licks on my face. The sick-doggy smell of the house makes me yearn for her.

When I ventured outside a few minutes ago, I bumped into an acquantince of mine -- a guy who lives in a small studio down the street from me. I think he has Downs. I have been friends with him for years; we are four kiss friends, although I do not know his name. Have not known his name for the ten years I know him.

Nonetheless, when I told him I had sold the house and was cleaning and packing, he told me to please call him if I needed him to lend a hand.

I have been so taken with the kindness of my village people -- who either know me simply as Suzy or La Dame Americaine--that I feel like the village idiot for having sold this house. Alors.

Friday, March 19, 2010

They say you have to live with a man before you really know him. You have to live with a language before you relaly speak it. So today's verbs are:
* renverser
They are all rather common 'er' verbs. I just never knew them because I didn't need to.
renverse: fell down, collapse where you were standing
percute: hit from the front and knocked over
ecrase: smashed flat
I have learned these words because at 11am today I left my house in Vaison for the market in Carpentras, it being a Friday and all that. It was late for market, what with the 50 minute drive, but I figured traffic owuld have thinned out and I would find parking. I was craving orange-lavender confiture that you can only buy at that market.
As I approached the town wall, I remembered a truc that my old boyfriend Jacques had taught me, a way to get around the one way system in town and cut back and behind. Then I got to a rond point and took the wrong spoke. I knew this rather early on, but there was no place to turn until I found a tiny street, just wide enough for a U-turn.
There in the ditch, alongside this back town road, with travaux in progress, I saw a shaggy dog. So this is a shaggy dog story.
To cut to the chase, as we say:
* I could not leave her to die;
* Although she had no collar, most French dogs have chips, as required by law -- at the least, they have a tatou. I thought her family could be easily found;
* she was a she
* she was the right size to fit into my late dog Sam's kennel, which happens to be in Paris in my friend Dinny's cave. Not that I was thinking of taking her to America or anything.
I named her Bonbon in honor of the berlingot which is made in Carpentras and the fact that it was a good day for both of us that I could save her life. It would have been my faather's 92nd birthday today. I drove her back to Vaison to my trusted vet. I cooed to her in English and French.
The vet then informed me of the laws regarding such things. The vet was not allowed to do anything. I was not allowed to pay for the ver to do do anything. The dog was the responsibility of the mayor of Carpentras. I must wait ten days to hear if she is claimed. That should be around Easter and we will see if she is risen or not. She cannot stand up, so the rising part will be difficult.
She has one broken leg, no internal injuries (they allowed Xray) and open wounds on two other legs. She should be fine.
Part of me hopes she has a fmaily that has registered her missing and will be happy to find her alive. The other part of me wonders how much Air France charges for a one-way dog ticket to San Franciso and what Toffee and Junior Mint will think of a little Bonbon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beaune to Shop

I wept when I first saw the vines.
Now then, it's possible I wept because I'd flown for ten hours to get from SFO to CDG, retrieved a rental car from Terminal 2 after arriving at Terminal E, managed the peripherique and then sped breezily along the A6 at 140kph until I got off at Beaune Centre, in the heart of Burgundy. Maybe anyone would have wept...from sheer exhaustion.
But the vines have always touched my soul. The day has been hazy but spring-like. The fields are yellowy green and the vines are still dormant. Once you've taken the ticket to enter the A6, the drive south is a breeze. Here and there the soil was tilled a warm red brown; not deep and dark like in California. Off to my left over a crest I'd see a castle or a chateau or a medieval village, little changed to date.
I did not make a hotel reservation before arriving, not knowing exactly where I would want to spend the night. Alas, this is a country of traditions and so I stuck with mine -- when driving south, overnight at the Hotel de la Poste in Beaune. When driving north, overnight at the Hotel de le Cloche in Dijon. I could have booked this hotel in advance for 130euros but I thought that was over-priced and sheesh, on a Wednesday night in the middle of March, I could just waltz in and pay 100 euros.
Ha. One room left. 160 euros please. Merde.
I was too tired (and too weepy) to go elsewhere. Besides, I had already done an online search on prices at the other two hotels I like in Beaune (Cypre and Cep -- these are two different places) and both were higher than the de la Poste.
So my room is very sweet -- small but intime with gorgeous furniture and a deep bath tub. There is an ecologically proper soap dispenser on the wall of the tub/douche. This may be green and may in fact save the earth, but there are few amenities in the bathroom and none to 'steal'. It's also very hard to squeeze and wash at the same time.
I took a fast shower as soon as I arrived. After all that travel I was feeling more French than is ever proper. There was no shower cap in the bathroom but when I stepped under the hand-held I remembered:
A) it's hand held, you can avoid getting your hair wet rather simply ... and
B) even when attached to its post, the pommeau du douche is still way too low to ever get my hair wet. French people are much shorter than I am.
Town is as charming as ever, although there are a lot of empty storefronts; Recession has obviously come to even the cute towns of France. Real estate prices don't seem to be too affected. Cute little cottages, far cuter than my house in Provence, begin around 300,000 euros -- almsot twice the price of my house. I guess this is the zip code to own in.
Certainly it's the place to drink. The wine shops do not seem to be hurting from Recession and the town center is crawling with tourists (mostly British) buying up burgundies. Me? I'm just brushing up on my French. I have to have mis-translated when I saw the sign for a vineyard that appeared to be named Patricide (see above).This wine from Solvang, California -- OK, that's clever. But here? I must be very tired.

Flashdance From Air France

There is no photo with this post because even I, sometimes called brazen, know that it is rude to take pictures of your fellow flighties, especially when they are sleeping.
Nonetheless, I thought it important to tell you about the man sitting across the aisle from me, in, uh, 30C, to be exact. We never spoke. I know he is French because I heard his accent when he spoke to the flight attendant and no Anglo has an accent that good, not even Alec Lobrano.
Besides, this isn't about who he is or what he had to say. It's about the look; his look -- which I think is the look for tomorrow or maybe today, if I am totally behind the times. Men's fashion doesn't interest me that much; but street fashion fascinates me. Voila!
He was in his mid-30's I'd say, blonde-ish with cropped short hair buzz cut, like the cute guy on NCIS LA. Now here's the important, part: his outfit.
* Good quality pink cotton dress shirt with French cuffs. Cuffs not encumbered with cuff links and therefore dangling, loosely, from sleeves.
* Sleeves were part of the zip front, gray pull, with an unfortunate Tommy Hilfiger logo on it. I'll allow that as I congratulate Mr. Hilfiger on his sale. Gray zippy thing is not zipped all the way up, thus revealing some of pink shirt at neck. But not much because...
* White linen gauze scarf double knotted at neck, sort of Lawrence of Arabia gone to Gap.
The rest was as anticipated, jeans and orange and beige stripe Kappa trainers.
God, I love France.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The View From Here

I'm sure its not odd to you, or to be considered much of a personal confession, if I admit that in fits of boredom or depression, I go to the drug store for an emotional pick me up, and a new lipstick or something.

I used to go to the Long's Drugs near Sarah's house; this branch in Mill Valley. Then it got taken over by CVS and while I still go there, I miss my old Long's Drugs and don't take as much joy in a plain old CVS. Even if they do carry Lierac skin cream from France. Usually, I leave unimpressed.

Until yesterday. I went to a different CVS while waiting for Papa Murphy's to whip together our pizzas. At the far end of the CVS in Greenbrae, there was an open door marked 360 Degrees. OK, I thought -- I'll bite. After all, pizza was in the air.

As it turns out, this is a new company co-ordianted with CVS to represent the inner Sephora in all of us. There are currently 16 storefronts dotted around the US with more coming. The brands are chosen for their name status and their quirks ... and/or cult status.

There's a small fragrance bar with unusual scents. I spritzed Fleur du Rocaille, one of my old favorites (this is the perfume from The Scent of a Woman), but I could neither find the price nor the stock. Since I'm going to be in a duty free tomorrow, I decided to move on.

There was a small amount of hair care and much makeup and skin care. Brands included Paula Dorf and Mario Badescu. I touched and sampled everything; refused the offer for a free makeover or an official appointment for a facial with their expert and instead wandered back to the mass market brands in the other part of CVS. There I decided to test the Mabelline gel-format eyeliner and a new lipstick. They're in the middle of a buy one, get the second for half price promotion. Who could ask for anything more?

Film at 11.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Toast

Well guys, I am filled with excuses for not writing-- they are lame. Like I have been trying to get Born to Shop California Wine Country finished so I can get on a plane and fly to France and close up my house which has been sold. Then my computer died. Then the dog pee'd on my homework. You get the drift. Lazy. Not organized. But I'm baaaaack and will be doing regular reporting from France after March 18, 2010.

But first, that toast I promised. Jill Parsons Stern, who was the first editor of the Born to Shop series back when it was created (1984) and sold to Bantam Books has been taken (so to speak) -- Sarah and I have won her over to the red side (we all drink red, not white) and Jill will be editing the next four Born to Shop books. Born to Shop California Wine Country should be available on by mid June.

Jill came to Tiburon to go over the pages and help us get organized; we felt that she needed at least a day in the vines to really 'see' the book. (Think Avatar; I see you.) That made us compose one perfect day in the vines.

We didn't want to do too much schlepping around, so we drove up Route 121, looked at The BlueTree at Cornerstone Galleries, then turned onto Highway 12 until we got to Domaine Carneros, the Taittinger owned chateau on a hill that now presides over a park filled with cherry blossoms. At 11am there weren't too many people and we could enjoy the view and the bubbly. By noon it was jammed and we ran out of there screaming, "we're not with the tourists."

I drank a coupe of Le Reve, the premium pour and it was indeed dreamy-- and far superior to what the other girls tested. Jill had an OK-enough pink sparkling but Sarah's blanc de noir was very disappointing. The winery offers a 3-glass tasting of these varietlas ($15) so you can see for yourself. I'd suggest you just go with the dream.

Still sober, we sped off to Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena. The Napa branch at Oxbow would have been closer, but we wanted Jill to get the whole experience, or asmuch as you can get in a drive-by. We stoof in line at Taylors (as is almost always the case) then dined inside a clear plastic heated tent that has jsut been erected for the spring crowds. I had my usual rare burger with garlic fries; Sarah had her usual loaded cheeseburger with sweet potato fries and Jill went for fish tacos, which she claimed were excellent.

The original Taylor's Refresher, on the edge of downtown St. Helena, is not much more than a stand or 60's style diner-- it's famous for gourmet burgers and easy eats. They also serve local wines. They are located on Highway 29 -- the main drag through all the Napa Valley communities-- and are in fact almost directly across the street from the new eatery Farmstead, which is busy, a little bit pricey and the place to be seen these days. I thought that Taittinger and Taylor's was the right combo.

We prowled downtown a little, marveled that soap at the Napa Sopa Company costs $8.95 a bar before taxes, then drove south toward home. Our final stop enroute was Fruit Basket, one of those giant farmstands that sells a little of everything. We were in the wrong lane of the highway to get to Marie Calendar in time to grab dessert (big sale on razzleberry pies) and I was hoping that Farm Basket sold fresh made pies from a nearby ranch, but alas -- nope. I got some fusili instead. But not for dessert.

We got home, dove into the pages and totally re-organized the front of the book, wine glasses in hand. Not to break the Napa spirit, but to go with the intent of book editing, we poured Candor, a $10 a bottle wine from Paso Robles, L'Chaim.