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Il a finalement neige chez nous ! Posted by Picasa

Wine tasting is so passe ! If you have ever had any doubt, go ahead read chocolate reviews.
They now read like wine reviews.
They talk about aroma, flavor, aftertaste, color, notes, sensations, texture, and contrasts.
They talk of melt. They talk of “crus“, they talk of cocoa beans origins, of vintages, (shouldn’t it be bean-ages?:-), much as a sommelier would when talking about wines. They talk of origins, of “plantation” or “estate” beans from cocoa beans coming from one farm. Hence the Premier Cru de Plantation Mangaro Lait chocolate of Michel Cluizel

They talk about the chocolate as one would talk about one’s lover:

Madagascar is truly a beautiful young virgin bride in her wedding dress” (on Amedei’s Madagascar).

Yes, for those of you who have been living in a cave and have not realized it yet : Madagascar is fashionable among chocolatiers. All the chocolatiers who have ambitions to greatness have products based on Madagascar cocoa beans. I got curious to know if one could tell a Madagascar chocolate from say one of the other greats, a Venezuelan. Well no, a chocolate sommelier says that he can tell which chocolate comes from which continents, but he’s still working on the countries.

Still according to the reviewers, chocolate made from Madagascar cocoa beans is typically light brown, much like dark milk chocolate. Madagascar chocolate is often difficult, but when done right, the beans yield supremely delicate yet forceful taste. Its flavor is typically woody, highly fruity with hints of coffee. Texture is lighter than other single origin chocolates. Indeed Madagascar chocolates are typically light bodied with fruity notes. As described here :

“It starts out with the most powerful citrussy/orange flavour to be found in any of the single-source Madagascar bars, the one flavour most closely associated with Madagascan origin. Next comes an equally strong clove and nutmeg taste, along with hints of beef bouillon similar to the aroma. In the finish the flavour settles into a decisive coffee, very dark and bold. Texture is interesting. It’s very smooth and nicely creamy, but seems light, almost watery. “

(on Malagasy – Moramora)

As I read more on chocolates, I learn that organic chocolate is not to be preferred. Cocoa pods are easily spoiled and chocolate made out of organic cocoa are not highly rated by professional tasters.

Want to know how to taste chocolate like a pro?
– make sure to have your chocolate at room temperature
– texture should be smooth and shiny, color can be almost black
– good chocolate snaps clearly and should not smell overwhelmingly of vanilla when rubbed, instead expect aromas of flowers, fruit, mushrooms.
-let the chocolate melt in your mouth for about 15 seconds. The notes should come to you : earthy if the cocoa beans it’s made of are forastero cocoa beans, brighter flavors if the beans are of the criollos or trinitarios variety.

Wines are so passe !

Petite balade en famille le dimanche apres-midi. Papa, maman et les enfants s’en vont passer du “quality time” ensemble. Les traditions familiales se reproduisent avec entetement, ou que nous soyons. BandyKV et moi nous sommes epanches avec une nostalgie teintee d’ironie sur nos dimanches apres-midi ou nos parents nous emmenaient faire le “mitsangatsangana“. Direction Ambatofotsy : mais grilles et fraises en saison. Ou sur la route de Tamatave: on contemple les rizieres, les villages, on se lamente sur ce qui reste des forets et on retourne avec des fleurs, des litchis en garaba et des champignons …

De Black Broadway…
A defaut de litchis et de forets tertiaires a contempler, papa, maman et bebe se sont retrouves dans U Street, le quartier historiquement noir de Washington, ou Billie Holiday et Duke Ellington trainaient leurs papattes dans les annees 30. U Street a ete la capitale noire americaine avant d’etre detronee par le Harlem de New York. Ca a ete surnomme a un moment le Black Broadway et c’est vrai qu’il y a de nombreux theatres dans le coin.

…a Little Ethiopia?
C’est maintenant surnomme officieusement “Little Ethiopia“, au vu de nombreux restaurants et autres business ethiopiens qui occupent le quartier. Les Americains noirs de souche ne sont pas trop d’accord sur le nom. Apres tout comment appeler Little Ethiopia un quartier qui accueille le “African American Civil War Memorial and Museum“, le “Black Fashion Museum”, et le “Lincoln Theatre” ou se sont produits Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, Billie Holliday et Sarah Vaughn. En avril se tient le “Jazz Appreciation Month“. Ca se celebre en beaute dans U Street, au Center for Preservation of Jazz and Blues ou on peut venir ecouter du grand jazz et ramener sa propre biere (bon d’accord, je suis pas trop jazz).

Les residences de Lillian Evans Tibbs, premiere cantatrice noire americaine de renommee internationale et de Mary Ann Shad Carey, premiere journaliste et avocate noire americaine sont dans le quartier. Le tout illustre l’importance de U Street pour la culture Noire Americaine.

Alors comment accepter de le rebaptiser “Little Ethiopia”?

D’un autre cote, il y a environ 100 000 Ethiopiens dans DC metropolitaine et les Ethiopiens aimeraient bien qu’on reconnaisse leur contribution a la renaissance du quartier. Et puis Ethiopiens nouveaux venus ou Americains noirs de souche, noir c’est noir, n’est ce pas? disent-ils.

Gentrification

Ce qui est sur c’est que les quartiers evoluent, il n’y a pas de status quo. Le U Street d’aujourd’hui, n’est plus vraiment a majorite noire, du moins sur l’artere principale.

Et la gentrification est tres apparente. Par exemple, je compte en l’espace de dix minutes deux Bugaboos. Le Bugaboo, pour ceux qui n’ont pas de gosses et ne connaissent pas, est une poussette d’enfant qui se vend a $700 dollars piece. Non, il y a bien deux zeros apres le sept, ce n’est pas une typographie. J’ai trouve que la presence de ces Bugaboos refletait bien la “gentrification” du quartier. Car si on trouve toujours autour de U Street des rues ou il ne ferait pas bon trainer la nuit tombee, le quartier arbore maintenant

  • de nouveaux lofts qui se multiplient comme de la mauvaise herbe,
  • des restaurants thais-afghans-francais-americains-chinois-…,you name it you got it,
  • des boites de jazz,
  • des boites tout court,
  • des boutiques de meubles modernistes,
  • un sex-shop pour gays,
  • des boutiques de tatouage,
  • des boutiques de lingerie fine ou il faut avoir plus de 18 ans pour entrer,
  • la patisserie “Cakelove” de Warren Brown, qui malgre son education Ivy League, a laisse tomber sa carriere d’avocat pour devenir patissier et fait pousse ses dreadlocks. Depuis il est apparu dans Oprah et aussi dans People Magazine en tant qu’un des Most Eligible Bachelors (c’est vrai qu’il est beau gosse!). Il a aussi son propre show sur Food Network. Ca s’appelle Sugar Rush. Ca paie de poursuivre son reve !

low fat delicious dog treats?
Aucune gentrification n’est complete sans la boutique de bouffe pour chien. Sur U street c’est une boutique de bouffe canine low fat, et en plus ils promettent que c’est delicieux :”low fat delicious dog treats” (On ne peut pas verifier la veracite de ces pretentions, n’est ce pas, il va falloir faire confiance a Fido).

Le tout semble s’etre refugie confortablement dans un decor de tracts gauchistes (variations sur “Miala Bush !”), d’architecture fin XIXe avec les rowhouses de type federal aux couleurs vives et des graffitis. Duke Ellington contemple le bouleversement de son quartier du haut d’un mur. Et il y a aussi un graffiti delave de ce qui semble representer Vladimir Ilitch !

Ca reste un peu boheme…
Il y a peu de gratte-ciels, la plupart des maisons ont trois etages maximum. Le quartier se gentrifie tout en gardant un petit cote “edgy” et bohemien que je trouve tres attrayant. Par endroits, ca rappelle un peu l’East Village de New York. Si toutes les couleurs de peau et toutes les orientations sexuelles sont representees, les grandes chaines de type Gap ou McDonalds sont absentes. Knock on wood. A la place on trouve plutot des boutiques vintage et je trouve ca tres rafraichissant : un quartier qui n’est pas encore otage des grandes marques de ce monde. Meme les bookstores ne sont pas des repliques des gigantesques Barnes and Noble ou Borders, mais des librairies specialisees : Lammas (feministe) et Atticus (bouquins d’occasion). Et pas loin se trouve Candida, “the international bookstore of DC, carrying titles in 15 languages from 40 countries worldwide”. J’adore !

U street n’est pas pour nous !
Les quartiers populaires d’Adams Morgan et Dupont Circle (le quartier gay de DC) sont tout proches , et puis il y a un supermarche Safeway pas loin du tout, d’apres BandyKV qui connait le quartier mieux que moi. Ca me dirait bien d’habiter dans un de ces jolis Federal rowhouses aux fenetres en couleurs tres vives, bleu electrique ou orange incendiaire. Et les messages affiches dans la rue refletent des opinions que je trouve sympathiques. Ca me conviendrait bien a moi. Je mentionne ca a BandyKV. Le hic c’est qu’il n’y a pas de bonne ecole publique dans le coin pour ZazaKV (raaaaaaaaaaaaa! que je suis devenue … suburbanite!). Et ca, c’est une condition non negociable… Est-ce que bohemien et bonne ecole publique ca se melange ou ca se decante forcement? On decide de discuter cette question interessante avec un bon hotdog de chez Ben’s Chili Bowl, pour une revue, visiter dcfoodies . Il y a une petite queue car le resto est une institution de U street au meme tire que le Lincoln Theater. Ca fait cinquante ans qu’il sert des hotdogs, des burgers et des shakes. Rien de tel qu’un ventre plein (de chili dogs) pour bien aider a reflechir…

Rowhouses in the historically Black neighborhood of U Street. Posted by Picasa

Happy Chinese New Year ! 恭喜发财
Happy Tet for the Vietnamese!
Happy Sol Nal for the Koreans!

According to the Chinese lunar calendar we are starting the Year of the Dog today and we are now in year 4704. Doesn’t it sound great to be alive and well in the Sci-Fi like year of 4704? It sounds like a year where Harrison Ford would be hunting down humanoids, but it’s just the year where they will introduce Smart Cars in America. What a let down.

My work place prides itself on being diversity friendly, meaning respectful of all cultures and backgrounds. So the cafeteria celebrates all kinds of holidays, among them the Chinese New Year (since it’s celebrated by Mongolians, Koreans, the Miao , the Vietnamese, Tibetans, the Nepalese and the Bhutanese, shouldn’t it be called something else? The ever diversity respectful company has thought so too and rebaptized it Lunar New Year).

Today there was red and gold decoration on the walls and on the tables: firecrackers, cute little lanterns and umbrellas, “Lai-See” or red and gold envelopes. The menu too was “Chinese”. There was a gigantic line in front of the “entrees” area. By entrees Americans mean pieces de resistance. One of those faux amis, you know. By contrasts, they call the entrees appetizers. On the Food Network channel, they call the appetizers hors d’oeuvres when they want to be a little bit fancy. It is hilarious when the chefs add herbes de Provence to their dishes and call it French. One day a very well known chef even told his admiring audience that if you added saffron to a fish soup it made it a “bouillabaisse“. His pronounciation of the word made it slightly libidinous and if you speak French you know what I mean.

Anyway to return to our sheep … 🙂

People were lining up for Fried Rice and General Tso’s chicken. There were shumais, potstickers and Korean BBQ-ed chicken wings. Even the sandwich stand had chicken satays with peanut sauce (which are Malays or Thais, but who cares?), along side with your ordinary cheeseburger. The soup of the day was egg drop soup with spinach which I tasted. Very salty and absolutely dreadful.

Oh well… The cafeteria gets points for trying not hard enough.

I got some potstickers ($0.50 each. Highway robbery!) and heard loud noises coming from the lobby. Lots of people had gathered in a circle.
Five guys wearing read t-shirts saying “Chinese Boxing Association” were banging drums. In case you are wondering I believe it is the boxing that was Chinese, not the guys, because they were in all colors : Black, White and Asian. Then a big lion with a bopping head came in and danced around the room, undulating its head and tail. It was quite enjoyable to watch. I’m not sure purists would have found authenticity there though. Then one senior Vice President (an Asian one) came in and started a speech. I have an acute aversion to speeches given anywhere so I did not excuse myself and left to enjoy my potstickers.

And that was how my workplace celebrated the Chinese New Year !

San Francisco which hosts the largest Chinatown outside of Asia has a proper 15-day long celebration of the Lunar New Year, as it should be celebrated. And SF’s public schools are closed on this day. My own city won’t hold its American style Chinese New Year parade until Sunday.

To learn more about Chinese New Year as celebrated in American cities, click here.

I hear Asian communities are pushing to have Chinese New Year marked as a proper American holiday.

And again 恭喜发财 !



  • Anonymous: Michener, le grand romancier historique raconte dans sa fresque sur l'Afrique du Sud (je ne me souviens pas du titre) la vie d'une esclave Malagasy
  • Anonymous: mahagaga fa misy album nataon'i nicolas vatomanga izay tany amin'ny taona 1999 tany fa tsy nivoaka ilay izy : redalandy (red island) no nataony anaran
  • Zanatany: j'ai hérité (de mes grands parents qui vivaient à Mada depuis 1927)d'une oeuvre phénoménale de Maurice Le scouezec peinte à Madagascar (Mahamas)

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