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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quote | Working

You cannot be creative if you are working all the time.

- Richard Rogers

I am finally taking a vacation.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Two

Ava turned two and we had a small birthday party for her at our apartment.



As with Vera's birthday last year, I made the birthday cake. Again, I went with a recipe in Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. This time I chose the Perfect Party Cake: a lemon scented layered cake slathered with buttercream and coconut powder. It is not a difficult recipe and allows for a lot of variations. Since I didn't have any berries, I played it straight using raspberry jam and buttercream between the layers. The cake turned out quite well.

Since I wasn't sure if Ava would like the cake, I baked another one that I know she likes to eat - Banana Cake; the recipe is also from Greenspan's book.  

Ava seemed to enjoy her party, let's just hope she won't be too terrible in the upcoming year.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Le Pain Flamand

Due to the FIFA World Cup, Boulangerie Paul in Taipei is having a two-week long promotion for its Pain Flamand. Typically the bread sells for NT$600, but with the promotion there is a 40% discount if one buys two at a time. With a price of NT$360 one would think Paul is being generous. That is until a quick search on the internet shows the same bread costs 3.50 euros (roughly NT$135) in the Brussels branch of Paul. Even with the discount the bread still costs 2.6 times more in Taipei.

I am not sure why Paul in Taipei needs to charge NT$600 for a loaf of bread.  I understand the bread is made from a central kitchen in France and airfreighted to Taipei, thus there is a premium associated with that. However the bread is probably 80% baked, cooled, and shipped as a frozen bread. While I actually have no problem with parbaking, I cannot understand charging customers in Taipei more than 4 times the price in Europe. After all, it is a relatively simple bread, not a luxury item.

The pricing of Le Pain Flamand is particularly jarring because while the other items in Paul Taipei are more expensive than in Europe, none of them has such a crazy premium. For instance, a tartelette frambroises costs 3.1 euros (about NT$122) in Paris and NT$155 in Taipei, a premium of 27%; a croissant is .95 euros (about NT$37) in Paris and NT$48 in Taipei, a premium of 30%; the big macaron is 2.8 euros (about NT$110) in Brussels and NT$250 in Taipei, a premium of 127%. All this pales in comparison to the 344% premium for the Pain Flamand.

Nevertheless, with the promotion (167% premium), I bought a couple of breads to try: Le Pain Flamand aux 2 Olives and Le Pain Flamand Emmental Mimolette.  It is unfortunate Paul chose to translate Flamand phonetically. In Chinese, Flamand becomes the more romantic 法藍夢, which sort of means French Dream; maybe Paul is being honest that with the price of NT$600 per loaf, it is a dream, though not a particularly good one. Flamand is French for Flemish, so the bread is just a simple Flemish bread.


The breads are actually pretty good and flavorful. The texture is dense and chewy. However, it is not something to write home about and probably not worth the price even with the discount.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

SANAA in Taipei

SANAA: Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa had an exhibition of their architectural models at 士林紙業加工間 in Taipei a couple of months ago. By chance the exhibition coincided with the announcement of Sejima and Nishizawa receiving the Pritzker Prize. Therefore, the show was elevated to a higher profile and took on more prominence than perhaps it was meant to be.

Before going, I certainly had high hopes for the show. Generally I like the works by SANAA, however the show in Taipei was a disappointment. To start, the space was essentially an abandoned factory. I understand the appeal of a rough and old industrial structure, but I expected a little bit more transformation than hanging a few fixtures and putting in a scrim to separate the reception area from the exhibition space. A new finish for the floor would have been welcomed, at least to prevent any tripping accident.

As for the models by SANAA, it was sort of a combination of study and presentation models and objects, with materials ranging from wood, plastics, metal, and cardboard. The models tended to be abstract and rough, and would have come across more as art objects in a pristine setting, perhaps like a typical SANAA designed space.  Instead, in the borderline dilapidated space, the models looked less like they were in an exhibition but more in a generously-spaced storage. What made things worse were many of the models were dirty and dusty with parts either detached or coming unglued. Since the show consisted only of models, it was quite minimal. Unfortunately the show didn't project the refined minimalism that one has come to associate with the works by SANAA.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

e-book

I have the Kindle app from Amazon on my iPhone, but the screen is too small for me to read books comfortably. With the iPad, I can now read e-books more like a physical book; who said size doesn't matter?

The first e-book I bought is The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain. It was on sale at Amazon for US$3.32 with no sales tax and no delivery charges; instant gratification.