Posts by isabellesteichen:

Articles By: isabelle steichen

I was born in Luxembourg where I lived until I was 19. Then I moved to France to study political and social sciences at Sciences Po Paris, before leaving for the US and discovering the excitement that NYC has to offer. I spent a year at Hamilton College where I fell in love with the US. Back in Paris, I am currently finishing my master's degree in urban planning, focusing on very large cities outside of Europe. I love to travel and explore new cultures and new food. I am also passionate about arts and yoga.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and student Arianna Francisco have a vegetarian meal together on Tuesday at PS 244. Photo credit: NY Daily News.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and student Arianna Francisco enjoy a vegetarian lunch at PS 244. Photo credit: Kendall Rodriguez.

The United States might be the country with the highest number of obese people, and especially children are increasingly concerned, but it is definitely also the country with the most innovative ideas to resolve that problem. Healthy nutrition has been a priority for the Obama government. More locally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is known as a fervent supporter of more or less aggressive health policies, his latest controversial decision being the ban of soda drinks. So it is almost no surprise that this week the first all vegetarian school lunches have been introduced in the U.S., more precisely at PS 244 in Flushing, Queens.


Smorgasburg_Untapped_New_York_Isabelle_Steichen_First_Day Apr 6, 2013 11-44 PM Apr 6, 2013 11-44 PM

Since its creation in 2011, Smorgasburg has creation quickly become one of the hippest places to hang out and get a bite. Little did we know about the creative minds behind the market and that’s why our meeting with one of them, Jonathan Butler, on a fresh April morning, was full of surprises.

The location is slightly different this year, as the Saturday market now takes place at the East River State Park in Williamsburg. The Sunday market is still at the Tobacco Warehouse in DUMBO. What changed as well, are the vendors, as there are over 20 new ones. From Monsieur Singh’s Indian Lassis to The 3 nuts, offering delights such as Salted Caramel Peanut Butter, to Orwashers with their traditional NYC bread loaves, there is something for everybody.


Today, in the series of notable Parisians who changed their career in order to follow their passion, let me introduce you to: Lise Bienaimé, the founder of La Chambre aux Confitures, a shop dedicated entirely to jams.

Lise decided about a year ago, after more than 10 years of experience in marketing for famous beauty companies, to quit her job and start her own business. The courageous woman, who would never have thought about one day having her own store and brand, follows in her great grandfather’s footsteps by opening her own ‘épicerie fine’, specialized in jams (and all that is related to them in taste, color and texture).

The idea of ‘épicerie fine’ is a very French concept; at the beginning of the 20th century very small specialty ‘supermarkets’ started developing in French cities. There was no self-service at the time. Instead, what was important was the direct contact with the costumer, the guidance and advice on different products and the quality of the merchandise. The hectic pace and the stressful lifestyle slowly transformed those places in simple proximity supermarkets, that are often more expensive than the big chains, but useful in emergency cases. Today, with the slow food movement and the re-appreciation of food and taking time to eat, the traditional ‘épicerie fine’ celebrates a real comeback.

Lise Bienaimé decided to specialize in jams, as it is one of her personal passions. As a gourmand and a gourmet (a gourmand is someone who loves to eat and a gourmet someone who loves the good quality of his food), she appreciates the quality of food, as well as its celebration. She takes time to develop every single one of her recipes together with specialists. The jams are guaranteed homemade, without artificial ingredients or funny chemicals. Lise says that jam is a food that we often link to our childhood, but even as adults we can appreciate it. It has many facets, which permit playfulness and creativity both in its making and its use: you can eat it by the spoon, put it on your baguette in the morning or integrate it into your cooking for appetizers, mains, desserts or cocktails.

Lise had a pretty original idea opening a jam store, as it is currently unique in France. The originality also lies in the fact that you can open and try all the products, in order to make the right choice. The stores offer a huge variety of different jams (according to seasonal preferences), chutneys, special jams to go with cheese, fois gras and other salted dishes, as well as chocolate and caramel creams. A must is also the ‘Friponne’, which is specially designed to be eaten directly with a spoon out of the jar; ‘châtaigne faà§on marron glacé’ (candied chestnut) is my personal favorite and absolutely addictive!

Lise isn’t thinking about opening more stores yet as her priority is to guarantee the quality of her products, which is not possible if she expands too much. For now she is content with her two Parisian stores of La Chambre aux Confitures,  exporting to Japan and of course, the United States. New Yorkers seem  to love ‘les confitures’ and so do I, so I recommend you to visit Lise and try her latest Christmas specials!

If you start getting really bored by the growing number of concept stores, with their often relatively impersonal and sometimes even artificial atmosphere, you are ready for something new, something different, something authentic:  Le Rocketship Boutique Café. Easily accessible by hopping on line 12 and getting out at Saint Georges, le Rocketship Café, with its Brooklyn flair, is somehow unexpected in those little streets of the 9th arrondissement in the north of Paris.

Benoît Touche, the creator and owner, opened this little shop about a year ago, after having decided to radically change his life and career. He says that Le Rocketship Café is both the fulfillment of an ‘envie’ (desire) that he carried with himself for a very long time, but it is also a counter-reaction to what he experienced during his career in marketing. His job was often impersonal and socially not very fulfilling. His café-store is the exact opposite. You come in and find a wonderfully designed little bar, behind which Benoit gladly serves you an espresso (pure deliciousness by the way!) and chats with you about his passion for music and the objects you can find in his store. Benoit wants the Rocketship to be a social place, where customers can meet him, other customers and the artist behind the objects that he sells.

Benoît’s store is offering an abundance of creative decoration objects and present ideas. The owner knows every single item he carries in his store and he can tell you something about the artist who made it. The products come from local artists that live right around the corner, as well as European and international creators. All objects are hand-picked by Benoît, who spends a lot of time on blogs in order to broaden his horizon and that of the store. One favorite is definitely the very special lamp by Dyland Design Co., that was made by an American artist named Tony Oliver.

Why Le Rocketship Café? There are two reasons for the name: first of all, it is the name of one of Benoît’s favorite songs, ‘Rocketship’, by Ouest Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Yes! Don’t worry, I also never heard of them before Benà´it played the song for me. The other reason for naming his store a Rocketship is because you enter a little universe in which you can go around the entire world within a couple minutes, by discovering the creations of these artists, coming from all over the globe.

Benoît would like to expand. Together with his brother, a graphic designer, they already started creating prints and two different logos for the store. He also loves spending his time looking for antiques at the Parisian flea markets. Hopefully he will soon start reproducing selected furniture objects and launch their distribution in his and other stores.

Benoît’s store is a wonderful proof of how taking a risk to do what you really love and what you are really passionate about leads to success.

The beauty of living in Paris is that things just happen to you, especially when you expect them the least. On a quiet, sunny Saturday morning after having taken my yoga class in the Marais, I walked down the street, determined to catch the next metro in order to get home. But then, suddenly, a couple featureless walls right in front of me caught my attention. It was mainly the exotic smell that made me want to discover what I could find behind those walls. I took the left side entrance and suddenly found myself in the middle of a sizzling little world, full of market stands, people and food. The smell of the fares was overwhelming and I started walking around and following my nose. I had just entered the Marché des Enfants Rouges, which was originally located close to an orphanage, from which it inherited its name and became a market in 1615.  (more…)