• Apron Optional: Sandwiches in Paris

    Hey everyone! Still in Paris!

    Though I have been out on the streets all day frequenting museums and eating everything in sight, I have been very fortunate to be staying in an apartment with a working kitchen. Since my family is up and running pretty early, it’s great to be able to make something to pack up and take on the go.

    For a while now, I’ve wanted to talk about the importance of ingredients. Sometimes, the simplest foods can be the most delicious and presentable. The difference between just another lunch and something memorable can be as simple as the quality of what you put into it.

    Before getting to France, my family had anticipated cooking a few meals while we were here. The kitchen works, but it is definitely lacking in a lot of areas: there are only two dull cooking knives and the electric stove is temperamental to say the least.

    Because of this, we have had to alter our plans a bit to compensate for the lack of baking capabilities. Honestly, I’ve never been a huge sandwich person (pizza, either — I know, I’m a freak). There is just something so mundane about the sandwich — it’s more of a means to an end than an experience.

    However, of all the sandwiches I’ve had, the handful that stick out are all high quality but incredibly simple. For the past few days, we’ve gotten a morning baguette at the bakery down the street and I have made sandwiches to go with some pancetta from a local charcuterie (the fancy word for a meat shop) and some obscure soft cheese (the name peeled off, but it is very similar to a rich brie) from a fromagerie (cheese shop) in the neighborhood. I can’t stop eating currants (and making puns about them), so I usually have some on the side.

    The great thing about Austin is that there are so many local shops that sell fresh and superior food products. The bevy of farmers markets, specialty shops and bakeries makes shopping for food fun and accessible.

    In simpler foods, the quality of your ingredients makes all the difference — you know, like the difference between eating a ham and cheese and enjoying a pancetta and brie.

    Next week, I will be back to my usual apron-enhanced cooking adventures, probably still reeling from French food withdrawals.

  • The Basement Tapes: Breanne Düren

    Breanne Düren just released her debut EP, “Sparks”, and is now the opening act for Owl City’s “All Things Bright and Beautiful World Tour.” Düren sights the excitement of touring with Owl City as inspiration for her EP. (Photo Illustration)
    Breanne Düren just released her debut EP, “Sparks”, and is now the opening act for Owl City’s “All Things Bright and Beautiful World Tour.” Düren sights the excitement of touring with Owl City as inspiration for her EP. (Photo Illustration)

    Seated in a blue armchair, tuning her guitar, pop singer-songwriter Breanne Düren doesn’t look like a celebrity, much less an opening act for Owl City’s All Things Bright and Beautiful World Tour. Her smiling eyes, Midwestern accent and buttery voice are just some of the immediate charms of her bubbly, yet down-to-earth personality.

    While in Austin for her Wednesday night performance with Owl City at ACL Live, Breanne Düren performed two songs from her debut EP, Sparks, for The Daily Texan’s music blog series, The Basement Tapes. She shared with the Texan her thoughts on working with Adam Young of Owl City (whom she has toured and performed with twice), being a young pop artist and the inspirations behind her music.

    Daily Texan: Can you tell me what’s the inspiration behind Sparks?
    Breanne Düren: I wrote the EP while I was on tour with Owl City, within the first couple years of doing that. And it was a really, really new experience for me. I had never toured before. I was able to travel to all these places that I had never dreamed of ever being able to see in real life. Meeting a bunch of new people. Being able to just have the incredible experience at such a young age that it was all really exciting, I think that excitement and energy was put into the songs I wrote. And so there’s definitely energy to it and innocence to it.

    DT: So what is it like working with Adam?
    BD: Oh my gosh, it’s been amazing. He is so talented. He is one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s just a great, humble, nice guy as well so it’s just a fun tour to be on. Everyone on the tour is great and we’re all really close friends and we’re just one big tour family.

    DT: What are some highlights of that first tour for you?
    BD: There had been some many incredible moments. We were able to play at
    Madison Square Garden. It was the Jingle Ball in 2009 and we were playing with a bunch of these huge pop stars — Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift, John Mayer and all these other artists. We were able to play a song, one song, and it was just a magical experience. I have been able to see places all over the world. Once we had a day off in Beijing and we were able to climb the Great Wall of China, so that was another moment of sort of “pinch me, is this actually my real life?”

    DT: Are you working on an LP right now?
    BD: Yeah, I am! Being on tour is a great environment for me to write. There’s a lot of creative energy floating around. I’ve already started recording some demos. Hopefully by early next year maybe we’ll be spending time in the studio or start wrapping up the full length.

    DT: What are some inspirations behind the materials you’re writing?
    BD: It’s definitely going to feel like an actual progression from the Sparks EP ... just the experiences I’ve had in these couple years that I’ve been living and growing. Just some bitter questions such as what does my future look like? What do I want for myself? And also, relationship things. They are always the first things I write about.

    Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: Pop artist possess 'Sparks' of inspiration

  • Weekend Recs: Ballet Austin, Vintage Vibe, Jazz Quintet, and Joanna Newsom

    In honor of the second annual National Dance Day, Ballet Austin is hosting classes for dancers of all levels, with choreography developed by “So You Think You Can Dance” and celebrity choreographers.

    WHAT: Ballet Austin’s National Dance Day 2011 Classes
    WHEN: July 30, all day (check schedule for class times)
    WHERE: Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center
    HOW MUCH: $5 minimum donation per class

    Vintage designers and boutiques — including Black Swan Theory, Goodie Two Shoes and Dog & Pony — will be showcasing pieces along with cheap drinks and complimentary massages and hair styling.

    WHAT: Vintage Vibe Two trunk show
    WHEN: July 30, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
    WHERE: Volstead Lounge
    HOW MUCH: Free

    Local jazz luminaries, who were featured in the 2006 documentary “Before the Music Dies,” will bring their crowd-pleasing horns to the Elephant Room.

    WHAT: Ephraim Owens Quintet
    WHEN: July 30, 9:30 p.m.
    WHERE: The Elephant Room
    HOW MUCH: $5

    The folk songstress and classically-trained harpist returns to Austin to perform from her musically ornate new album, Have One on Me.

    WHAT: Joanna Newsom
    WHEN: July 31, 7 p.m.
    WHERE: Paramount Theatre
    HOW MUCH: $33

  • Art in Translation: Canvassing the streets of Paris for art

    Adjacent from an old cathedral in Paris is well-known French street artist Jean-François Perroy’s composition of a bewildered man.
    Adjacent from an old cathedral in Paris is well-known French street artist Jean-François Perroy’s composition of a bewildered man.

    Bonjour from Paris!

    I barely had time to write this post. I’ve been ducking in and out of art museums and eating and drinking to my heart’s content, but no need to worry about my health — I’ve walked so much I can’t feel my feet.

    I had my hesitations about Paris. I have always dreamed of coming here and I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. Wrong. Without sounding like every other girl on the planet — I am absolutely in love with everything about it.

    While the amount of art here is making my heart swell (My favorite sculpture, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, is literally two blocks away from my family’s apartment at the Centre Pompidou!), I am always captivated by the way such old cities embrace cultural innovation.

    Until now, when I thought about the juxtaposition between classic and contemporary, my mind always went to New York City. However, after seeing such large-scale street art immersed throughout Paris, I may have to change my mind.

    I have seen so much art, but as I have left my handy copyright guide in the states and my Internet connection is sparse, I will be sharing my thoughts on the very first piece of art I saw upon arrival. Brace yourselves; Today, we’re looking at street art.

    This unnamed piece is actually by a well-known urban stencil artist named Jean-François Perroy, who tags his work ‘Jef Aerosol.’ Starting in the early ‘80s, he became an integral player in the first generation of street artists who elevated the style to a higher art. In other words, this isn’t just another neighborhood tag.

    I love this piece first for its scale. I don’t have exact measurements but the thing must be at least 50 feet tall. It struck me most because it is adjacent to an old cathedral, giving the piece a fascinating contrast between this bold, contemporary statement and the traditional French architectural landscape.

    A cropped black and white profile of man’s face, with a finger to his lips and his eyes bulging, forefronts a rainbow backdrop of splattering spots. His bulging eyes and their haunting expression are what draw you — equal parts cautionary and anxious. A red arrow pointing to the eye closest to the viewer suggests the viewer should focus on the emotion coming out of the eye.

    Street art is meant to be seen while on the go. The artist does not often expect people to stop and ponder the piece for long periods of time.

    Though this art style has been utilized internationally for several decades now, many people still don’t see it as art. That’s why it is so refreshing to see a city as old and historically rich as Paris protecting (and sometimes fencing off) such innovative creative works alongside their iconic classic treasures.

    Has any street art caught your eye?

    Until next time, au revoir! (I can barely pronounce that — did I mention I don’t speak any French at all?)