The Story of Grand Marnier

There was a good crowd at the latest event in this year's programme from the Cercle français de Belfast  when "yours truly" gave the talk on Grand Marnier.  As usual the Dark Horse Coffee House in the Cathedral Quarter matched the proceedings perfectly.
I decided that it might be a fun idea to do a kind of Who Do You Think You Are? approach to the subject.  The concept of the popular BBC ancestry programme has made it into French, in Canada at least, where it is known as Qui Êtes-vous?
The first part of the enquiry then looked into the origins of the drink and focussed on Jean-Baptiste LAPOSTOLLE who, in 1827, set up a distillery to make fruit liqueurs in Neauphle-le-Chateau near Paris.  The story moved to his son Eugene who returned from travels with bottles of "burnt wine" - brandewijn - from the Cognac region.  He is said to have offered a taste to his friend Louis-Alexandre MARNIER who hit upon the idea of adding his recipe for bitter orange curaçao to the cognac.  A perfect marriage.
Louis-Alexandre joined forces with the LAPOSTOLLE family business and also married Eugene's daughter Julia Regina.  The alliance of Marnier-Lapostolle is still confirmed by the red seal and ribbon on bottles of Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge as you can see from the above picture.
At the time of the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1889, the drink was still referred to as Curacao Marnier, that was until Louis-Alexandre's friend César RITZ brought his marketing skills to bear.  As someone who could spot a quality product likely to appeal to the rich and famous he prompted Louis-Alexandre to rename it Grand Marnier.  The "grand" prefix went against the trend of the time in referring to things as "petit" - Le Petit Journal, Le Petit Parisien, Le Petit Palais etc.  It caught on, quickly adopted by a well-to-do clientele.  Among these was the then Prince of Wales, Bertie, who went on to become Edward VII and who would have a considerable part to play in the building of the Entente Cordiale.
Our story took a brief aside to look at the career of César RITZ and his colleague Auguste ESCOFFIER.  There followed an appreciation of Crêpe Suzette with different suggestions as to how that dish originated and indeed how it is made.
We later considered how helpful Louis-Alexandre was to Ritz in helping him acquire premises in place Vendome to set up the famous Paris Ritz hotel.
The evening wouldn't have been complete without une dégustation and soupçons of Cordon Rouge were passed round for a sniff or taste.  That provided an opportunity to look at some contemporary marketing of the product including a video on mixing a long drink cocktail.
Members were delighted to see examples of some of the specialist bottles produced by the company and the blue bottle of 2012 depicting the Parisian Skyline was a hit!
One of the members, Sandra, had brought along her bottle - in case it was needed -  and we had a little more fun deciphering the number code on the bottle neck.
The first two digits indicate the year, in our case '13; the next three the day number of the year, so the 15th day of the year is 15 January and the last two digits show the hour in which it was bottled, in our case after 16h.00 and before 17h.00
Try this next time you pick up a bottle. It turns out that Sandra's Grand Marnier was in the bottle at 10h.00 that same day! Older!

Of course, we covered plenty more.  Members talked about how they preferred it as a straight liqueur, no ice or how they used it in cooking.  Some said that they had a bottle at home and knew precisely what they would be doing when they got back after the talk. Do you know we had exactly the same idea?

Were you there?  Anything you would like to add? What liqueur should we talk about next year? Bénédictine perhaps?

More information?
Check out the Grand Marnier website here.   Remember to drink responsibly and with style! Santé!

The Parisianer

Spending a bit of time browsing recently I came across a post on the Lost in Cheeseland blog.  It related to a creative arts project that needs funding to ensure its success. No different, you might think, from any other project but what I liked in addition to the theme itself was its funding model.  More in a moment.
The project is called The Parisianer and the idea is that 100 artists/illustrators will share 100 pictures capturing the essence of Paris.  At the end of this year there will be an exhibition, a book and posters of the artwork.

To succeed the project needs financial backing and rather than chasing grants or money from other sources it uses the concept of CrowdFunding fuelled by social media.  People share details of the project on their social networks and if they are so minded contribute to specified subscription ranges. When the project is realised they are sent the items listed for the respective price bands.
If insufficient funds are raised and the project does not go ahead any monies contributed are returned. Progress is recorded on the website to show how much has already been raised and how many days remain for contributions. The service is provided by KissKissBankBank and it is encouraging to see the number and variety of creative projects being financed in this way.

Of course, I signed up. I definitely would like to have that book.  Although I've written about books on Paris before, I got to thinking - what captures the essence of the city?
The monuments? The cafes and restaurants? Light? The Bridges?  For me, walking along the Seine would be high on the list.
What captures its essence for you?

Like to know more? Check out this link to The Parisianer project.

Sculptor of the Wallace Fountains

A supplement to last post on the repositioning of the Wallace Fountain in Lisburn, to acknowledge the handiwork of Charles-Auguste Lebourg, a sculptor from Nantes, commissioned by Richard Wallace to design the famous water fountains.
Read more at Wikipedia here.

Wallace Fountain, Wallace Park, Lisburn

The Wallace Fountain that previously stood outside the Linen Museum in Market Square, Lisburn has been moved to a new position in Wallace Park.

Refurbished Wallace Fountain now standing in Wallace Park, Lisburn
The colour is not the dark green as I remembered it before but is very close to the colour of the one standing at Hertford House, London.  The colour of Les Wallace was the subject of a previous post that included a link to comments on a story in Le Parisien. Most people there liked the traditional livery.

It's great to see that the tap has also been restored although sadly, given the origins of the fountains, it doesn't appear to be plumbed to supply water. Wonder why?
Wikipedia has an interesting article on the history of the fountains along with a listing of where to find them in Paris, other cities in France and world-wide.  The article points out that many of the Parisian fountains deliver eau potable and is often the only source of clean drinking water for the sans abri, homeless people.

Check out the article on Wikipedia here.

CFB opening night

Enjoyed last night's Cercle Francais launch of the new season.  Plenty to keep us going until May 2014. And already some suggestions for the following year's programme.
Technology worked okay and as ever The Dark Horse in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter contributed its own unique ambiance. French talks just work in this grand cafe styled coffee house.
The programme available at promises a treat for the senses and the sense of smell was activated last night as participants were scented with a tiny blast of  Chanel No:5 and that's because Coco features in this season's programme.
It was nice to greet a strong contingent of French nationals who for the time being are making their home in Belfast. Long may that continue!

Napoleon's last strand at Mount Saint Michael

Our touring holiday in Cornwall brought us to Mount Saint Michael at Marazion, near Penzance. Like its more famous relative Le Mont Saint-Michel it sits offshore and is reached by a rock causeway when the tide is out. We made the steep ascent to the castle home of the St Aubyn family who still live there today. It's open for tours and there is plenty to see.
If you do visit and make the short tour of the castle then look out for the framed relics of Napoleon which include a lock of his hair and a remnant of coat sleeve.
You can check out things to see and do at Marazion here.

Paris Tales

Paris Tales, translated by Helen Constantine, Oxford

A friend suggested I read this book of short stories. And I am enjoying doing just that. The collection comprises 22 stories by writers that include Maupassant and Colette and take the reader from mid-19th century to a future undated time - I particularly liked that one, Manuscript Found at Saint-Germain-des-Pres by Frederic Beigbeder.
The works have been translated by Helen Constantine who also provides a personal introduction and notes that she has "not chosen these texts for their social or historical interest, but because they evoke particular places."  She has helpfully included a map of the Paris Arrondissements annotated with a numbered reference to each of the stories.  That makes the collection perfect for taking along on that next trip; stopping at a cafe and reading.  Short stories for a short break?
Like books about Paris?  Check out this post from a while back.

On a roll: Souvenir

 A carefully stored bread roll from a get together at Le Grand Villalin, Quincy, Cher. A few years old now, preserve dried with the memory of friends, music, food and wine.